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N. Thomas Håkansson

Education and Positions

Ph. D. 1987, in Cultural Anthropology, Uppsala University, Sweden.
Professor Emeritus, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Adjunct Professor of Anthropology, University of Kentucky.

Research interests

My research interests encompass political ecology, economic anthropology, and historical change in land use.

  • In the 1980s, I conducted field research in western and eastern Kenya focusing on economic aspects of kinship, marriage, gender, and social change.
  • Since 1989, my research and field site is in the Pare Hills, northeastern Tanzania, where I have investigated how long-term changes in land use are related to political-economic processes in regional and world systems. This research also focuses on the historical and contemporary role of how livestock in East Africa as economic and social assets affect land use.
  • I have extended these research interests to a global comparative study of the emergence of intensive cultivation in non-industrial settings, the theory of landesque capital, and the socio-ecological correlates of world-systems and prestige goods exchange with special emphasis on the ivory trade in the Indian Ocean.
  • I also maintain a long-standing interest in Viking Age Scandinavia and the processes of centralization and expansion of Norse political systems.

Selected Publications

2022 Cattle, Climate, and Caravans: The Dynamics of Pastoralism, Trade. and Migration in 19th Century East Africa. In Migration in Africa. Shifting Patterns of Mobility from the 19th to the 21st Century. de Haas, Michiel and Ewout Frankema (eds.). New York: Routledge.

2019 Criticizing resilience thinking: A political ecology analysis of droughts in nineteenth-century East Africa. Economic Anthropology 6 (1).

2017 Inequality and the return to structure in anthropology. Reviews in Anthropology 46 (2-3) 106-124.

2014 ed. with Mats Widgren, Landesque Capital: The Historical Ecology of Enduring Landscape Modifications, Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press

2014 World Systems Terraces: External Exchange and the Formation of Landesque Capital among the Ifugao, the Philippines. In N. Thomas Håkansson and Mats Widgren (eds.) Landesque Capital: The Historical Ecology of Enduring Landscape Modifications. Pp. 98-116. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

2012 Ivory: Socio-Ecological Consequences of the East African Ivory Trade. In Hornborg, Alf, Brett Clark, and Kenneth Hermele (eds.) Ecology and Power: Struggles over Land and Material Resources in the Past, Present, and Future. Pp. 124-142, London: Routledge.

2008  Widgren, Mats, N. Thomas Håkansson, and Lowe Börjeson, eds. Special Issue: The Political Ecology of Trade, Food Production, and Landscape Transformation in Northeast Tanzania: 1850-2000.  International Journal of African Historical Studies 41 (3).

2008 Regional Political Ecology and Intensive Cultivation in Colonial South Pare,Tanzania. International Journal of African Historical Studies 41 (3):433-459

2004 The Human Ecology of World Systems in East Africa: The Impact of the Ivory Trade. Human Ecology 32 (5): 561-591. 

1994 The Detachability of Women: Gender and Kinship in Processes of Socio-economic Change among the Gusii of Kenya. American Ethnologist 21:516-538.

1988 Bridewealth, Women and Land: Social Change among the Gusii of Kenya. Uppsala Studies in Cultural Anthropology 10. Pp. 1-237. Stockholm: Almqvist &Wiksell International/ Philadelphia, PA: Coronet Books.