The impact of migration on culturally-embedded and subjective perceptions of habitability in a context of environmental change: A case study from Northern Ghana

Jan-Niklas Janoth, Mumuni Abu, Patrick Sakdapolrak, Harald Sterly, Simon Merschroth

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed


Environmental change is increasingly challenging the habitability of places around the world, particularly with regard to resource-dependent rural areas in the Global South. Apart from objectively measurable, bio-physical indices, it is likewise important to look at individual and group-specific perceptions of habitability, which are embedded in their respec-tive socio-cultural context(s). Migration as a well-established household risk diversification strategy has the potential to increase people’s adaptive capacity, their well-being, and can shape the way people perceive the habitability of places. This study utilizes a human-centered approach in order to unravel the impacts of migration on culturally-embedded and subjec-tive perceptions of habitability in a rural community in Northern Ghana which faces increasing pressure of environmental changes. Based on qualitative empirical research, we utilize place attachment, social status, and community cohesion as exemplary socio-cultural dimensions with particular relevance in this specific local context to showcase 1) the subjectivity and cultural embeddedness of habitability perceptions and 2) the respective potential of migration to influence such percep-tions to both positive and negative ends. Positive migration impacts on the underlying socio-cultural context(s) can serve to undergird (collective) responsibility and adaptive action towards improving local habitability in parallel to encouraging efforts that strive to maintain cultural integrity. Integrating this knowledge in future habitability assessments can pave the way for context-sensitive and locally-adjusted resilience-building strategies that take the potential benefits and disadvantages of migration into account.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-55
Number of pages21
JournalErdkunde: Archiv für wissenschaftliche Geographie
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2024

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 504017 Cultural anthropology
  • 504021 Migration research
  • 509023 Development research


  • Habitability
  • migration
  • environmental change
  • socio-cultural context
  • Northern Ghana

Cite this