Panel 37

European mobility towards Africa: Power, identities and post-colonial encounters

Panel organisers: Lisa Åkesson, The Nordic Africa Institute, Sweden and University of Gothenburg, Sweden and Carolina Cardoso, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

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European human mobility towards former African colonies has increased over the last years, driven by a variety of factors. Many move in hope of economic gains and upward social mobility, and their movements sometimes take place against a background of globally changing economic power relations, with recession in parts of Europe and economic growth in some African countries. Other Europeans in Africa are motived by a search for adventure and new experiences, and their mobility may be of a more temporary character. Yet other Europeans move to African countries in order to study or as representatives for the development industry.

This panel focuses on encounters between Europeans and Africans in the wake of these contemporary movements. In particular it welcomes papers that discuss changing power relations and identities, and explore how these are related to continuities and ruptures with the colonial history of European-African relations. The panel is open for papers discussing the integration of Europeans into African countries of destination, as well as papers critically exploring these persons’ potential contributions to social, political and economic development. Contributors are encouraged to apply an intersectional perspective and pay attention to variations that have to do with understandings of race, gender, class and generation. Theoretically, the panel aims to combine post-colonial perspectives with research on integration and on the migration-development nexus.

Approved abstracts Panel 37

1. ‘Back to the Future’: Angolan-Portuguese workplace grievances and inequalities in contemporary Angola

Author: Pétur Waldorff (The Nordic Africa Institute and The United Nations University Gender Equality Studies and Training Programme)

The new Portuguese migration to Angola represents a reversal of historic and conventional patterns of migration with citizens of a former European colonial power seeking employment opportunities and improved conditions in an ex-colony on a large scale. It evokes new configurations of power between ex-colonizer and ex-colonized. From a macro-economic perspective, the tables have turned between oil-rich and ex-colonized Angola and recession-struck ex-colonial master, Portugal. It is a postcolonial context, in which an estimated 100 to 150 000 Portuguese nationals have migrated to Angola to work side by side with Angolans as co-workers, employers, and subordinates after 40 years of Angolan independence from Portugal.

In this postcolonial context disagreements arise, as well as cases of suspicion of intent, and outright accusations of re-colonization, in addition to accusations on both sides of arrogance and racism. The experience of many Angolans’ can be described as reliving ‘colonial encounters in postcolonial contexts’ which brings up allegations and concerns over (post)colonial inequalities and segregation in contemporary Luanda.

This paper investigates Angolan-Portuguese workplace relations based on ethnographic fieldwork from 2014 and 2015. It focuses on Angolan grievances, feelings of precarity, and anger towards the recent Portuguese labour migration to Angola. Analysis of the data shows that workplace inequalities epitomized in salary disparities and workplace segregation, in which Portuguese employees keep to themselves and eat and socialize separately, are among the grievances most commonly mentioned by Angolan informants working with Portuguese nationals in contemporary Luanda.

2. Portuguese labour migrants in Angola: Postcolonial notions of work

Author: Lisa Åkesson (The Nordic Africa Institute & University of Gothenburg, Sweden)

When the financial crisis hit Portugal in 2008 the economy was booming in the former colony of Angola. In the years to come, unemployment and drastically decreased salaries pushed people away from Portugal. This paper sets out to analyse the often strained workplace relations emerging in the wake of the Portuguese labour migration to Angola. A key area of tension is identities in relation to notions of labour and work ethos. The paper demonstrates that the Portuguese - resonating with colonial discourses - portray themselves as superior particularly in terms of diligence, responsibility and organizational skills, while simultaneously describing Angolan colleagues as idle and in want of rational thinking and organizational capacity.

The paper argues that the images and tensions around work have to be understood in relation to the crucial role of labour in the Portuguese colonial empire, where forced labour was both more widespread and later abolished than in other European colonies. Consequently, ideas about Angolans as incapable of working independently are an intrinsic part of the Portuguese colonial library.

Angolan informants’ narratives on labour and work ethos are often quite complex and contradictory. Many lament discrimination and the overvaluation of Portuguese skills. Yet, some said there is a need for experienced Portuguese as there is a lack of people with good education and professional experience in Angola. Such statements can be read as an implicit critique of the Angolan party-state and its failures in bringing justice and development to the country. In resonance with the narratives of many Portuguese, others described themselves as “lacking a working spirit”. The paper argues that this ambivalent position reflects the complex and often contradictory workings of colonial memories and discourses and is marked by how in Angola “labouring for someone else” continues to be associated with suffering and subjection.

3. Hierarchies of struggle: Gender and nationalist cosmopolitanism in Ije (The Journey)

Author: Senayon Olaoluwa (University of Ibadan, Nigeria)

Too often the calibration of gender relations and the struggles in which women are implicated towards the dismantling of hierarchies of patriarchal values glosses over the fate of African women who in their bid for survival engage in transnational migration out of the continent into the western hemisphere. The apparent escapism of their response doesn't of prove to provide adequate insulation in the western nations that they imagine to offer respite from exclusionary patriarchal structures. What are the socio-cultural patriarchal instigations for their transnationalism in the first place? How have transnational African women in their various migration forms coped with the challenges of patriarchy? How does the structural patriarchy of the African homeland find collusion in the structural patriarchy and racism of the West against African women's struggle for honour? What is the place of marriage in the manifestation of the transnational ordeals of African women? How have all these and more found expression in contemporary African cinema/film from the Cape to Cairo? What are the emerging trends in the representation of transnational African women in these films?

4. Reviving paternal and cultural legacy in the “Alt-Nollywood” works of Zina Saro-Wiwa: Illustrations from Sarogua Mourning and Karikpo Pipeline

Author: Fella Benabed (Badji Mokhtar – Annaba University, Algeria)

Zina Saro-Wiwa, a film-maker born in Nigeria and raised in the UK, rose to fame in 2010 when she had her first art exhibition, Sharon Stone in Abuja, in Soho, New York. She is now an Afropolitan artist touring the world to present what she calls “Alt-Nollywood” experimental cinema. She uses the techniques of Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry, but subverts some of its characteristics, mainly its representation of women. Her father, Ken Saro-Wiwa, is an iconic writer and grassroots activist who created the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People and led nonviolent protests against multinational oil companies. He was executed by the Nigerian government in 1995. Zina Saro-Wiwa’s work is partly devoted to reviving the legacy of her father whose death was, according to her, “the culmination of many unspoken forces: historic, futuristic, political, economic, racial, personal and spiritual.” Her ambition is to experiment with these forces in order to create a connection between the geographical landscape and the emotional landscape (her own and her audience’s). Her work is also partly devoted to reviving the African cultural legacy, by finding inspiration in the wellspring of myths and legends, and casting on them the critical gaze of an educated cosmopolitan woman. Sarogua Mourning (2011), inspired by her incapacity to mourn the death of her father, gives her an artistic opportunity for cathartic relief. She reveals that after the execution of her father, she could not cry for ten years because she believed his tragedy belonged to the whole world and not to her. In this short video, she shaves her head and performs the ritual of a traditional Ogoni mourner. In Karikpo Pipeline (2015), she borrows the Ogoni masquerade to describe the vestiges of the oil industry in Ogoniland with a drone camera. These two works are part of her quest journey of cultural discovery and personal recovery.

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