Decolonizing Drylands

Nomadic pastoralist with his sheep in the mountains of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province, Iran
Nomadic pastoralist in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province, Iran

A long-term multimedia project documenting the social and ecological legacy of colonial assumptions and narratives about the world’s drylands.

Since the colonial era, assumptions and misconceptions about the world’s drylands — that they are “barren” or “worthless” “wastelands” — have been used to justify policies and programmes that marginalized and impoverished Indigenous people, and led to the expropriation of land and resources1

Through in-depth reportage and photography, this project explores the long-lasting social and ecological consequences around the world of colonial assumptions and misconceptions about drylands, as well as who wins, and who loses, when drylands are cast as barren, worthless wastelands.

By questioning colonial narratives of ecological destruction, what knowledge we choose to value and how we talk about the planet’s arid lands, this project attempts to make a humble contribution to the decolonization of environmental knowledge in the drylands. 

Inspiration & Resources:

  1. The Arid Lands by Diana K. Davis