Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology & History, University of Michigan

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2018
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Interdepartmental Program in Anthropology and History, University of Michigan
States of the Sky: Meteorology and Rainmaking in Uganda, ca 1860-Present

My dissertation examines the dynamic and recursive relationship between meteorology and rainmaking in Uganda from the 1860s to today. The core research period is 1930 to 1980; during which time meteorology, or the science of atmospheric processes, expanded under the colonial British East Africa Meteorological Service. I examine the social and political implications of meteorological practices, content, and ideology by analyzing meteorology alongside the ethnographic history of rainmaking in the western region of Tooro. Precolonial rainmakers were political authorities responsible for ensuring the well-being of their polities in exchange for tribute. In the colonial era, an array of European state and non-state actors sought to undermine rainmakers to assert their authority and vision of the natural world. My dissertation asks how this process of marginalization unfolded, and how Tooro rainmakers and their patrons engaged, refused, or dissented from these efforts. Further, I ask how meteorological work produced new hierarchies of knowledge and climatic subjectivities. To this end I document how thousands of Ugandans from a wide array of classes, ethnicities, and occupations engaged in meteorological work over the course of the 20th century. This research is significant because though rainmakers remain important figures in Ugandan agricultural life, they have systematically been excluded from state logics and politics. By critically examining the coloniality of meteorology's long history in East Africa and the epistemological exclusions upon which a meteorological conception of climate has been premised, my research seeks to understand the limits of contemporary climate adaptation schemes and how they might better incorporate rainmakers' knowledge.