Dr. Rachel Elbin, Sociocultural Anthropology

Rachel Elbin

Dr. Rachel Elbin’s dissertation, “Tumesahaulika (We’ve Been Forgotten): Performing Development in Post-Conflict Mtwara”, explores how Tanzanian political leaders and residents of the southern region of Mtwara have defined and contested “development,” “the state,” and “citizenship” and the relationships among them across time. As Tanzania achieved independence, its first president promoted a socialist development state that would provide development to citizens who supported African socialism and pan-African solidarity. Citizens of Mtwara sacrificed in support of both visions but were disappointed when development resources did not flow to their region. Subsequent administrations adopted neoliberal reforms, refocusing the state on establishing regulatory frameworks to facilitate foreign investment. When natural gas deposits were discovered in Mtwara in the 2010s, residents expected new economic opportunities. However, plans for a pipeline that would move the gas to more developed regions of Tanzania for processing sparked outrage in Mtwara, which was met with military violence. Dr. Elbin’s dissertation examines the subsequent political contestation over gas extraction and development.

Dr. Elbin’s dissertation committee Chair, Dr. Laurie Medina, commends how she skillfully navigated the politics surrounding the sensitive topic of energy infrastructure development during her year of field research in Tanzania. She engaged with actors across a wide range of social strata, including state officials at multiple levels, NGO leaders, and community- or village-based actors who represented a range of relevant economic and social categories. Based on these diverse perspectives, Dr. Elbin provides an insightful analysis of the contested processes of resource extraction and development.

To read the full newsletter, click here.