Connecting with Africa

Anne Santiago, Political Science

From an early age, Anne Pitsch Santiago had ambitions to get out of her small town in Wisconsin and explore the world through the Peace Corps. During college, she became passionate about human rights, and during graduate school, she found herself fascinated with Africa. This led to an application to and acceptance by the Peace Corps to spend two years in Mauritania, West Africa. That experience led to a love-hate relationship with the continent, a realization of the role of culture and experience in forming one’s worldview, and a desire to learn more about the world. After her time in the Peace Corps, Santiago returned to graduate school to earn her Ph.D. in Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. There, she was fortunate to work with one of the foremost authorities on ethnic conflict, Dr. Ted Robert Gurr, becoming the project coordinator of his multi-year, multi-million dollar project called Minorities at Risk. Santiago learned much about conflict, about Africa, and about conducting research while on this project. She spent two months in Ghana collecting data for her dissertation, and after graduating, had the opportunity to work on a USAID contract that partnered the University of Maryland with the National University of Rwanda. For three years, Santiago traveled back and forth to Rwanda as the Conflict Management Coordinator of the UMD-NUR Partnership. After taking a break from full-time teaching and research to start a family, Santiago has returned to her interests in Africa, conflict, and development, and is beginning a long-term research agenda in Africa focused on large-scale land leases.

Since the 2008 global food crisis, there has been an increasing interest in large-scale land leases within the developing world. The two main objectives of large-scale land leases globally are to grow food for consumption in the leasing country, or for the production of crops for biofuels. The main concerns are that large-scale land leases lead to large-scale displacement and food insecurity for local populations. In turn, displacements and food insecurity can exacerbate tensions and lead to conflicts. In many developing states, the redress of conflicts often does not take place within the context of established rules, norms and laws, and thus can lead to violence and instability. Yet, we cannot assume that the impact of the phenomenon is necessarily negative for the local community until we examine individual cases of large-scale land lease. Hence, the objective of this research project is to take the first step in understanding the policy process, the winners and losers, and the consequences of a single large-scale land lease in Africa. Because this phenomenon of large-scale land leasing is becoming more and more prominent in the international arena, there is a growing need for more attention to the phenomenon from both a theoretical level, as well as through a case by case examination. Ultimately, the goal of the research is to provide insights into the phenomenon in the hopes of informing the policy makers to improve the conditions of those most negatively impacted by the land leases.

In addition, this project is a step in furthering the institutional relationship that the University of Portland has with other Holy Cross institutions of higher learning, particularly Notre Dame and Uganda Martyrs University. Collaboration across these institutions fits the Holy Cross Mission, and vision of Fr. Moreau, of cultivating the mind, heart, and hands in a collaborative effort across institutions of the CSC, and amongst CSC and lay people. The hope is that advancing this collaboration will open up opportunities for both students and scholars to work in the developing world. In support of this institutional collaboration, Santiago, along with Dr. Kate Regan (International Languages) is traveling to Notre Dame in October to meet with Fr. Bob Dowd, who visited UP this past spring, and his colleagues to advance collaboration between our two universities and to learn more about opportunities and research in developing states for students and scholars. In February, Santiago will accompany two UP students to Notre Dame to attend their annual Conference on Human Development. Initiated by Fr. Frank Murphy on our behalf, these collaborative trips have been funded by the Apostolic Fund of the CSC. The collaborative work is part of an effort by CISGO (Collaborative on International Studies and Global Outreach) to increase Comprehensive Internationalization at the University of Portland.

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