Research Projects

This page presents research projects dealing with Western Sahara issues and involving OUISO members.

Project : “An Analysis of the Management and Exploitation of Natural Resources in Conflict Situations: The Western Sahara Case”.

Funding: Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness.

Code: CSO2017-86986-P

Amount granted 38.720 EUROS

Period : 2018-2020

Principal investigator : Raquel Ojeda-García


A previous research project “Territorial Policies and Processes of Colonization/Decolonization in Western Sahara” made several key findings, including the end of the stalemate in the conflict and an evolution in the involvement of the actors in the form and content of the claims being made. These new forms of approaching the Sahrawi people’s sovereignty over their land have been constructed upon the recognition of their right to use and exploit the natural resources there. According to international legislation, Western Sahara is a non-self-governing territory under occupation by Morocco, which is exploiting and managing these resources (fisheries, agriculture and phosphates).

The project is designed to answer three questions:

1) what brought about this change in the Sahrawi people’s claims to their right to self-determination –something traditionally managed by the Polisario Front– towards increased demands and a greater defence of their right to exploit the natural resources in their territory or, a least, to be consulted and benefit from the operating profits?

2) why did this change occur?

3) what actors have intervened in and/or benefitted from this process?

OUISO members involved in the program :

Isaías Barreñada

Joanna Allan

Vivian Solano

Sébastien Boulay

Raquel Ojeda-García

Angela Suárez Collado

Scientific officer: Francisco Freire (CRIA, Lisbon)

Centro em Rede de Investigação em Antropologia (CRIA), Lisbon, Portugal (

Description :

CAPSAHARA proposes an analysis of the reconfigurations established in the socio-political vocabulary of the western Saharan region from the “post-empire” to the contemporary period. The project should produce an analysis of the social and political structures shared in the region, of the local variations of those structures (based on case studies), their specific configurations based on social markers such as gender, age, and class; in order to understand the recent articulation of the region’s social and political structures with broader and often exogenous political vocabularies. The project’s results should enable the different contexts under study to be integrated into the wider maps of current scientific research, providing, at the same time a dissemination of its outputs to an extended audience. The project is methodologically based on readings associated with different social sciences, with a particular focus on anthropology.

Program website:

OUISO members involved in the program:

Juan Carlos Gimeno Martín

Alberto Lopez Bargados

Enrique Bengochea Tirado

Sébastien Boulay

Yahya Ould El Bara

MINWEB “Minorities, digital identities and circulation of political messages on the web in the Sahara”

Scientific Manager: Lafay Marina (CEPED)

Members of OUISO participating in the project: Boulay Sébastien

Funding: City of Paris (Emergence program)

Duration: 2014-2017


Although it is now well developed in the North, the theme of digital identity (Georges 2009) and dialogical productions via the web remains a subject under investment in other continents. Yet the recent events of the Arab Spring have raised questions about the issues of the use of ICTs in political conflicts over the dissemination of information (Gonzalez-Quijano, 2012).

The communicational approach and the anthropological approach each benefit from knowledge and tools to address this topic, one on the communication process and the interactions mediated by internet, the other, on the way in which individuals and groups , represent, appropriate and mobilize the web tool in their political projects (Keck, Sikkink 1998, Tarrow 2005).

In this context, the multidisciplinary project Minweb proposes to question the production, the circulation and the reception of the political messages on the web (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, official site of these liberation movements, site of national newspapers on line …), in the context of two current conflicts in the western Sahara where the protagonists use the web extensively to spread their political messages, promote their cultural specificity in their quest for regional and especially international recognition of territorial sovereignty. The first case study is that of the Western Sahara conflict.

Stories and poems circulate (via YouTube and Facebook, also via mobile phones) to fight the Moroccan integration project and encourage the Saharawis to continue the struggle of independence. The second case study is that of the political crisis currently shaking northern Mali.

The MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) as well as the “Islamist” movements (Al-Qaida, Mujao and Ansar ed-Dine) competing in the control of this vast Saharan territory use the internet to spread their political and identity messages largely intended for the international community.

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