Daniel Thompson

Cohort: 2014


  • MA, Geography, University of Miami
  • BA, Religion, University of Miami


While spending my childhood dragged by my parents through the forests and swamps of the southeastern United States, I developed a fascination with exploration and travel that might go some way toward explaining my falling in with pastoralists and refugees in South Africa and East Africa over the past five years. Beginning in 2009 with fieldwork on religious identity and ethnic conflict in South Sudan (then southern Sudan), my research and work has focused on ethnicity, human migration, local economic development, and geographies of violence. While working toward my M.A. in Geography at the University of Miami from 2010-2012, I studied the ethnic economies and business networks of East African refugees in South Africa. From 2011-2013, I also worked as a graduate assistant and subsequently as a consultant for the Carter Center Conflict Resolution Program, mapping and analyzing environmental fluctuations and armed conflict dynamics in Sudan and South Sudan.

My anticipated research in East Africa draws together themes of my past work, focusing on transitions in livelihoods and economic dynamics among traditionally pastoralist Somali communities in East Africa. M-Pesa mobile money transfers, eco-tourism, the emergence of an “African middle class,” and illicit flows of money, drugs, and arms are only a few examples of dramatic changes taking place in the region. Even in post-conflict areas where rural-urban ties have been disrupted by violence, financial flows as well as human migrations intertwine the city and the countryside in specific ways. Among the questions that I hope to address in my research are: how are financial flows and human migration changing the relationship between the rural, the urban, and the global in Somali communities, and who is benefitting from these shifts? How do communities that traditionally rely on herding utilize technological and financial networks and business diversification to navigate environmental changes and increasing territorial restrictions? How are state and local institutions approaching governance over growing towns, mobile populations, and networks like remittances?

Advisor: Dr. Little