Panel 15

Contested flows of people, policies, concepts, discourses and images

Panel organisers: Jónína Einarsdóttir, University of Iceland and Pétur Skúlason Waldorff, University of Iceland.


Policies, concepts, discourses and images flow around the globe, within and across communities, countries and continents, as do human beings, adults and children alike. Concepts such as community based management, development, empowerment, participation, rights and sustainability circulate within the web and networks of global governance. Global governance in times of an emerging multiplex world involves public, corporate and private global institutions, and their values, rules, regulations and management procedures permeate the global arena. This panel aims to explore how individuals, local communities and groups of people adjust to, reformulate and contest such governance, its policies and attached discourses, concepts, ideas and images.

How do the roaming images of, for instance, children, youth, ex-combatants, disabled people, women, peasants and nomads inform concepts and approaches advocated to deal with each group? Why is community based management, empowerment and participation particularly relevant for those discriminated against and the rural poor? Does ownership belong to state authorities and elite groups? Did the rural populations, the informal sector and those who are unemployed have voice in formulating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? Do the SDGs address the interests of these groups? How do children deal with measures, rooted in ideas about their rights and vulnerability, that nonetheless, restrict their movement in a search for better future? How do the varied forms of migration, forced, illegal or free, shape the life and identities of individuals and groups? On what grounds do rich countries claim to be good examples of success for Africa?

Approved abstracts panel 15

Session 1

1. The productions of mobility (from) inside Uganda’s Nakivale Refugee Settlement

Author: Jolien Tegenbos, Department of Conflict & Development Studies, Ghent University, Belgium.

I present in this paper my ongoing research about conflict mobilities from Nakivale, one of Africa’s oldest refugee settlements in Uganda. In Central-East Africa, policies, rights, camps and settlements administered by UNHCR make up a structure of governance for millions of people. To a large extent, these refugee/IDP/returnee policy structures have taken a far more than temporary character in many situations. Starting from a refugee settlement in the south of Uganda, this paper takes a look at people who move within (and sometimes beyond) this network of policy structures in order to better understand the impact of this protractedness on the reformulation of concepts like ‘refugee’, ‘returnee’ and ‘refugee camp’. It looks at a world that connects many refugee-settings in countries across Central-East Africa, but of which most people were ignorant of its particularities until they entered the reception centers. At the same time however, refugee trajectories also indicate that it is a world out of which many people seem not to be able to get out (easily). This paper therefore focuses on how people’s trajectories, experiences and practices challenge the concepts’ official meanings and eventually reformulate them. Fieldwork takes place by looking into refugees’ trajectories and camp histories, and by accompanying camp inhabitants on their circular movements between Nakivale and places of origin.

2. Becoming somebody: Bissau-Guinean talibés in Senegal

Author: Jónína Einarsdóttir, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, University of Iceland, Iceland.

The parents of allegedly trafficked children are mostly ignored or represented as cruel, naïve, or desperately poor in mass media and reports published by global and local institutions and NGOs. This presentation gives voice to Bissau-Guinean Fula Diabe (e. Fula captured) parents who are descendants of former slaves who aim to raise their social status by sending their sons to Senegal to study the Quran. While no parent argues they are forced to send away boys to have fewer mouths to feed, they lament few educational opportunities in their villages. The parents, more concerned with their discrimination than poverty, send their favorite son abroad hoping he will return to the village to teach children the Quran, and become a respected citizen. To the outrage of the parents, global institutions and NGOs classify the practice to send the boys to Senegal, that includes crossing of borders and begging, as child trafficking. Anti-trafficking activities are ongoing, including repatriation of boys from Senegal, something seen as degrading and patronizing. Parents see repatriation of their chosen son as the worst outcome and a proof of their discrimination. Yet, the parents are resistant and continue to send their sons to Senegal to seek knowledge and fight “ignorance” through religious education.

3. Why do the anti-trafficking measures fail to prosecute the West African “unscrupulous” marabouts?

Author: Hamadou Boiro, National Institute of Studies and Research (INEP), Bissau, Guinea-Bissau / Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, University of Iceland, Iceland.

According to the Trafficking in Persons report 2017, in many West African countries masters of Quran schools, often referred to as marabouts, are identified as traffickers of their students, named talibes. Efforts to eliminate the practice in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria Benin, The Gambia, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau have not been successful. In Guinea-Bissau, never has a person been prosecuted or convicted for trafficking, yet “unscrupulous” marabouts increasingly recruit boys from rural areas and force them to beg. How comes? In this presentation, the aim is to shed light on the historical background to the emergence of marabouts and Quran education in West Africa. Then, through the voices of Bissau-Guinean Fula marabouts the presentation describes their own Quran education and later carrier. The results emphasize the learning process of the Fula marabouts, especially the so-called Fula captured, who use Quran studies to enhance their social status within their ethnic group, the Fula of Guinea-Bissau. The marabout is an important figure that deserves more attention in order to understand the phenomenon of the talibe in Guinea-Bissau and in the sub-region. The NGOs, backed up by global governance, including international conventions such as the Palermo Protocol, and funds from the international community strive to define what accounts as proper upbringing, education and place for children. At the community level, the marabouts are the religious specialists and community leaders of the parents. Bourdieu's thoughts on power, capital and reproduction serve as a theoretical basis to understand how the marabouts have managed to appropriate and circumvent the anti-trafficking measures for their benefit. Empowered with symbolic capital, they adjust their strategy to the dynamism of repatriation as a social space, aiming to keep their position as the masters of the game.

4. Conceptualizing politics: The flowing meaning of “politics” amongst Burundian (ex)combatants

Author: Guðrún Sif Friðriksdóttir, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, University of Iceland, Iceland.

Politics is an important part of (ex)combatants’ lives both during armed conflict and in its aftermath. In this paper I discuss the flowing meaning of the concept “politics” amongst Burundian ex-combatants. Many ex-combatants joined the armed struggle due to ideology and politics and their interest in political activism doesn’t necessarily end when their lives as combatants comes to an end. Ex-combatants taking part in political activism in the aftermath of war can thus be viewed as business as usual. Whether this political activism takes violent or peaceful forms seems in many cases to be dependent on external factors other than the interest of these individuals in violence. My interlocutors’ relationship with politics was however complex and sometimes contradictory. Many of my interlocutors resented what they called politics, meaning politicians and the way politics are played out in Burundi. Their opposition against “politics” however is usually very political. Politics in Burundi continue to be a dangerous affair, sometimes even lethal. Those that wanted to distance themselves from politics spoke of the dangers of politics and their wish to be considered neutral, to be able to converse with all sides. Achieving the perception of being neutral is not necessarily possible for everyone and requires clever social navigation, a strong social network and relatively high socio-economic status.

Session 2

1. Barricades against Insurgent Transhumance. The Human Ecology of Securing Occupational Space for Nomadic Cattle Herders in Parts of Nigeria’s South and Middle Belt

Author: Okechi Dominic Azuwike, Department of Geography and Environmental Management, Imo State University, Owerri, Nigeria.

In Nigeria, pastoral people in nomadic cattle herding appear pressured for, and seek land particularly in the Middle belt and South where they had only fleeting pastoral activities. The communities they encounter in these forays reject the idea of land grants to these groups. Pastoralists cite ECOWAS transhumance protocol to justify their quest and have killed several thousands in the campaign. The federal government, sympathetic to pastoralists’ desire to continue with the transhumant culture, proposes to secure a 6000km grazing route across the country for herders’ exclusive use involving recovery of colonial-era grazing routes lost to landscape evolution. The people of the South and Middle belt raise barricades to ‘alien’ pastoral practice including laws banning open grazing. In identity terms, herders suffer image of outsiders for whom some sacrifices are prohibitive. Religious differences, political irredentism involving a Fulani Diaspora, and questions of cultural integrity colour an issue that is otherwise a matter of resource contestation. This study aims to find out if transhumant grazing forays in the affected areas have acquired the attributes of insurgency. It relied on in-depth review of literature and media documentations on the subject. Focus group discussions illuminate local agency at curtailing debility. Results show: diversity of barricades - lore, laws and actions (militancy); herders’ agency to scale barriers using negotiation, peace overtures, payments, attachment to military formations, midnight journeys, localization and violence. It shows that the pastoral trade is tolerated at heavy cost of cattle nuisance, water pollution, land appropriation, security concerns, crop losses, cultural loss and carnage. The paper recommends Nigerian government’s acceptance of ranching and setting up grazing reserves only in volunteer states.

2. The contestation and making of post-colonial urban spaces: looking through the lens of local development brokers in Durban, South Africa

Author: Erik Lønne, Department of Social Anthropology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway.

In the course of the last twenty to twenty-five years, there has been a considerable fragmentation and decentralisation of the global aid and development arena. This is partly due to the factor of state withdrawal, which in turn creates new spaces of contestation around the practice and discourse of development. In these new development spaces, there is a growing proliferation of influential intermediary actors, what some have called a new social category, namely local development brokers. These brokers utilise the dissonance and incongruence between states and civil society, and become vital and important actors in this field.  If one is to properly understand, on a local level, how cities — perhaps first and foremost in the setting of post-colonial urban spaces of the global south — are built and developed, this social category of brokers must be a part of the discussion. Based on ethnographic fieldwork with a local NGO (non-governmental organisation) in Durban, South Africa, I examine in this presentation the organisation’s role as a local development broker. Through a practise they call «inclusive urban design» the NGO works to address a “widening gap between the city government’s urban agenda and the realities faced by Durban’s inner-city informal workers.” With the increased fragmentation and distance between government and the daily working lives of people on the streets, how are new ways of shaping and reshaping urban spaces taking place? And, what specific role do the local development brokers play in this development?  The paper and the wider study attempts to widen the scope concerning methods of empowerment, inclusion of informal workers in physical interventions in the rapidly urbanising inner-cities of South Africa. All through the lens of the local development broker.

3. Borrowed Skylines: Tracing the Origins of Tanzania’s New Master-Planned Cities Through Urban Policy Mobilities

Author: Joanna Ondrusek-Roy, Department of Geography, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

As urban populations continue to outgrow existing infrastructure, African governments are opting to build new master-planed cities from scratch, in the hopes of ‘fast-tracking’ their economies and making a place for themselves in the hierarchy of ‘global cities’. These new city visions of tall gleaming skyscrapers and luxurious villas, all draped in eco-utopian rhetoric stand in stark contrast to local realities of urban poverty. In Tanzania alone, eight new city projects are planned for construction on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Dodoma and on the island of Zanzibar. While many of these cities have been planned for several years, little has been physically built. Therefore, my research is situated in the gap between planning and implementation, where most of these cities currently exist only as visions. By drawing on themes from transnational urban policy mobilities, this study seeks to explain how urban visions of the ‘global city’ are internationally circulated, locally re-assembled, legitimized by politicians, and ultimately transform the urban landscape. Several of Tanzania’s new cities are being planned by international planning consortia, which bring together planners and consultants from Milan, Istanbul, Beirut, Seoul and Dubai. By focusing on the role of such transfer agents, this paper seeks to outline the networks of policy transfer and the regional and international icons Tanzania’s new cities seek to emulate. Through interviews with local government officials, planners, developers and third-sector organizations, this study will determine how these urban policy mobilities shape Tanzania’s new city visions, as well as how these visions are locally perceived and responded to.

4. The Alma Ata Declaration: Implementation of Community Health Care in Guinea-Bissau

Author: Sigríður Baldursdóttir, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, University of Iceland, Iceland.

This presentation examines the implementation of community-based primary health care in Guinea-Bissau, as laid out in the Alma Ata Declaration in 1978. It is based on ethnographic fieldwork during Oio Region as the main setting, the focus is on the challenges and the interplay of global governance, policy-making and community participation. Data was collected through participant observation, formal and informal interviews, surveys, and group discussions. In 1977, a community health program was initiated in Guinea-Bissau with the assistance of donors. Village health units were constructed and staffed with volunteer community health workers and traditional birth attendants. In the 1990s, villagers in Oio Region appreciated community health care and its implementation was seen as successful. Due to a range of circumstances, including shifts in donors’ priorities, aid shock, and a military uprising in 1998, the first decade of the 21st century is characterized by degradation of community health care. Villagers, without access to basic health care at village level, had to navigate a health system characterized by increased privatization and user fees. In 2010, in collaboration with donors, the Ministry of Health elaborated a new community health policy that emphasized professionalization of community health workers who should get salaries whilst traditional birth attendants were to be excluded. The Ministry of Health was to lead the implementation process, but due to a military coup in 2012, it was bypassed by donors with NGOs taking on a prominent role. Theories on global governance and anthropological perspectives on aid, policy, indicators and friction among stakeholders give some understanding of the complexity of policy and practice in community health care. The health policy of Guinea-Bissau has been influenced by swift changes in global health policies and priorities. Due to its aid dependency, the country realigned its new community health policy with global trends hoping to improve its indicators for the Millennium Development Goals. However, the policy did not take local realities into consideration, leading to friction and discontent among villagers who were not consulted. This study shows that despite the appeal of volunteer work and community participation, community health care is neither cheap nor easy to implement.

5. Iceland and foreign aid: from recipient to donor

Author: Geir Gunnlaugsson, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, University of Iceland, Iceland.

Iceland came under the jurisdiction of the Norwegian King in 1262 to later become a colony of Denmark for about 500 years. Already in the second half of the 18th century, Danish kings initiated actions that aimed to improve the precarious situation of the Icelandic population. After independence in 1944, Iceland enjoyed the highest per capita support of the Marshall Plan (European Recovery Program) following World War II. Thereafter Iceland received aid and loans from the World Bank according to which Iceland was a developing country until 1974. In 1981, the Icelandic International Development Agency (Iceida) was established, substituting the office for Iceland´s Assistance to the Developing Countries, and since 2013 it is a formal member of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the OECD. Iceland has in recent years been engaged in bilateral collaboration with mostly three countries, one of which is Malawi. The aim of the presentation is to describe and analyze the transformation of Iceland from a net receiver of foreign aid to a donor country, with particular attention given to its involvement in Mangochi District in Malawi in Southern-Africa. On the basis of achieved results along the years of collaboration, it is concluded Iceland can constructively contribute to international development in the new Global Agenda 2030 era if due attention is given to the needs of poor people. Finally, it is argued that in addition to multilateral assistance, Iceland on the basis of its history and economic strength can play an important role with partner countries in bilateral collaboration that addresses sector-wide issues of importance in the daily lives of poor people, as currently is the case in Malawi.

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