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Adapting to Crisis

Migration Research During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Aydan Greatrick, Jumana Al-Waeli, Hannah Sender, Susanna Corona Maioli, Jin L. Li, and Ellen Goodwin

This article draws on our experiences of carrying out PhD research on migration during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all involved with the University College London Migration Research Unit (MRU), and our PhD research explores the lived experiences of migrants and people affected by migration. This is the first of two articles in this issue of Migration and Society addressing the implications of COVID-19 on migration research from the perspective of postgraduate researchers. In this article, we firstly reflect on how “crises,” including the COVID-19 pandemic, inevitably shape contexts of migration research. We then share how COVID-19 has shaped our relationship to “the field” and our formal research institutions. Finally, we share how we have adapted our methodologies in response to COVID-19 and, considering the complex ethical and practical challenges posed by this context, reflect on what it means to make methodological “adaptations” in times of overlapping crises.

Open access

Algorithmic Intimacy

The Data Economy of Predatory Inclusion in Kenya

Kevin P. Donovan and Emma Park

English Abstract: Kenya is a frontier market for ‘financial technology’, or FinTech. This industry – which merges mobile telephony and digital data with commercial lending – has grown spectacularly, with millions of Kenyans borrowing for household, emergency, and commercial expenses. This industry’s frenzied growth has been fuelled by not merely the pursuit of profit, but also a decidedly more developmental aspiration, namely ‘financial inclusion’. This article analyzes the curious merger of public good and private gain, the technological innovations, and sorts of knowledge work that undergird this field. It particularly examines the novel manner in which digital lenders capitalise on intimacy, converting practices of kinship and entrustment into frontiers of extraction. Personal and social data are translated into credit scores, extended family networks are mediated by financial services, and interpersonal relations subsidise risky lending decisions. In contrast to a view of capitalism as abstracting and alienating, this analysis foregrounds the sorts of personal relations, sentiments and obligations that are incorporated. Through fieldwork with borrowers, industry members and regulators, we show that digital lending relies on a conversion between different registers of wealth – in people, in things and in knowledge – and we track the ethical negotiations and anxious attachments that constitute this curious utopia.

French Abstract: Le Kenya est un marché frontière pour la « technologie financière », ou FinTech. Cette industrie – qui fusionne la téléphonie mobile et les données numériques avec les prêts commerciaux – a connu une croissanc spectaculaire, des millions de Kenyans empruntant pour des dépenses domestiques, d’urgence et commerciales. La croissance frénétique de ce secteur a été alimentée non seulement par la recherche du profit, mais aussi par une aspiration résolument plus axée sur le développement, à savoir « l’inclusion financière ». Cet article analyse la curieuse fusion du bien public et du gain privé, les innovations technologiques et les types de travail de la connaissance qui sous-tendent ce domaine. Il examine en particulier la nouvelle manière dont les prêteurs numériques capitalisent sur l’intimité, convertissant les pratiques de parenté et de confiance en frontières d’extraction. Les données personnelles et sociales sont traduites en scores de crédit, les réseaux familiaux étendus sont médiatisés par les services financiers, et les relations interpersonnelles subventionnent les décisions de prêt risquées. Contrairement à une vision du capitalisme comme étant abstrait et aliénant, cette analyse met en avant les types de relations personnelles, les sentiments et les obligations qui sont incorporés. Grâce à un travail de terrain avec des emprunteurs, des membres de l’industrie et des régulateurs, nous montrons que le prêt numérique repose sur une conversion entre différents registres de richesse – en personnes, en choses et en connaissances – et nous suivons les négociations éthiques et les attachements anxieux qui constituent cette curieuse utopie.

Open access

Between Tyranny and Self-Interest

Why Neo-republicanism Disregards Natural Rights

David Guerrero and Julio Martínez-Cava Aguilar

The first contribution of this article is a politico-philosophical map that, drawing upon two common sets of arguments against modern natural rights, might help to explain the prevailing neo-republican position on natural rights. Under the label ‘abstraction argument’, we explore the view that natural rights are a metaphysical construct that usually ends in a violent application of speculative principles to society. Under ‘self-interest argument’, we discuss the notion that natural rights endorse an atomistic and selfish conception of the human being. Second, we show how Cold War authors replicated these two arguments, conveying a biased, largely anti-republican and anti-democratic view of natural rights to the twentieth century. Third, drawing on these two arguments, we critically assess the narrow view of natural rights inherited by neo-republican scholars.

Open access

Beyond debt and equity

Dissecting the red herring and a path forward for normative critiques of finance

Aaron Z. Pitluck

A recurring theme in academic, moralizing, and religious discourses laments the individual and societal perils of debt and praises equity. Contemporary Islamic banking and finance is one conspicuous example. This article recontextualizes this conversation by demonstrating that since the 1980s financial practitioners have been interpreting debt and equity as increasingly illegible cognitive schemas that nonetheless retain their historical and moral connotations. This line of argumentation suggests that normatively contrasting debt and equity is a red herring—a literary device and theoretical construct that misleads and distracts from the fundamental discussion of what constitutes salubrious or odious finance. Little will change in social life if we seek to replace “debt” with “equity.” Rather, since all financial instruments describe social relationships, our conversation should turn to normatively proscribing the kinds of financial instruments that match our normative values for contractual relationships.

Open access

Beyond Deliberative Systems

Pluralizing the Debate

Hans Asenbaum

Normative democratic theory with a focus on civic engagement is increasingly interested in how participatory instances connect into democratic systems (Dean, Rinne, et al. 2019; Elstub et al. 2018). The deliberative perspective has pioneered this debate and proposes a systemic view that observes how everyday talk and media discourses connect deliberative forums including parliaments, mini-publics, and protest formations (Mansbridge 1999; Mansbridge et al. 2012). While various approaches within the deliberative systems debate can be differentiated (Owen and Smith 2015), they commonly understand deliberative qualities as distributed within a broader system and focus on scaling up democratic deliberation through the transmission from the public to state institutions (Chambers 2012; Dryzek 2009).

Open access

Beyond Failure

Bureaucratic Labour and the Will to Improve in Kenya’s Experiments with Universal Health Care

Ruth Prince

English Abstract: In a radical move that recalled the egalitarian promises of Kenya’s post-independence years, the Kenyan government recently made all public healthcare free, for residents in four counties, for a period of one year. Drawing on ethnographic research on these ambitions for ‘universal health coverage’, this article follows civil servants tasked with the delivery of public services as they attempt to translate an experimental policy into practice and encounter repeated and ongoing failure. These officials had long experiences of health system failures and did not expect success this time either. Yet, they planned and delivered interventions in a hopeful mood, maintaining a sense of purpose and bracketing a sense of doubt and cynicism. Utopian projects like universal health care offer interesting sites for ethnographic research – not only because of what they set out to achieve, but because of what they generate along the way, including hopeful engagements. I study how bureaucracy may be a site of hope and optimism in the post-colonial state’s capacity to improve lives, even while bureaucrats have ample experience of its failures. I explore how bureaucrats sought to engage failure and success as partial and productive, allowing a space in which they could deliver some form of public good.

French Abstract: Dans un geste radical qui rappelle les promesses égalitaires des années post-indépendance du Kenya, le gouvernement kenyan a récemment rendu tous les soins de santé publics gratuits pour les résidents de quatre comtés, pendant un an. S’inspirant d’une recherche ethnographique sur ces expériences ambitieuses de « couverture sanitaire universelle », cet article suit des fonctionnaires chargés de fournir des services publics alors qu’ils tentent de mettreen pratique une politique expérimentale et se heurtent à des échecs répétés et constants. Ces fonctionnaires ne s’attendaient pas à la réussite et avaient une longue expérience des échecs du système de santé ; pourtant, ils ont planifi é et réalisé des interventions dans un état d’esprit marqué par l’espoir, en maintenant un sens de l’objectif et en mettant entre parenthèses leurs doute ou leur cynisme. Les projets utopiques comme les soins de santé universels offrent des sites intéressants pour la recherche ethnographique, non seulement en raison de ce qu’ils visent à réaliser, mais aussi en raison de ce qu’ils génèrent en cours de route, y compris des engagements pleins d’espoir. J’étudie comment la bureaucratie peut être un lieu d’optimisme dans la capacité de l’État post-colonial à améliorer les vies, même si les bureaucrates ont une longue expérience de ses échecs. J’explore comment les bureaucrates ont cherché à engager l’échec et le succès comme partiels et productifs, permettant un espace dans lequel ils pourraient fournir une certaine forme de bien public.

Open access

Dominik Austrup, Marion Repetti, Andreas Avgousti, Th. W. Bottelier, and Antonin Lacelle-Webster

William A. Galston, Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018)

Gergana Dimova, Democracy Beyond Elections: Government Accountability in the Media Age (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)

David Stasavage, The Decline and Rise of Democracy: A Global History from Antiquity to Today (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2020)

G. John Ikenberry, A World Safe for Democracy: Liberal Internationalism and the Crises of Global Order (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020)

Cristina Lafont, Democracy without Shortcuts: A Participatory Conception of Deliberative Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020)

Open access

Adriane Costa Da Silva, Heike Drotbohm, Leah Eades, Alessandra Gribaldo, and Emre Keser

Keys, Barbara J. (ed.) 2019. The ideals of global sports: from peace to human rights. Philadelphia, PA: Pennsylvania University Press. 248 pp. Pb.: €40.00. ISBN: 9780812251500.

Scott-Smith, Tom. 2020. On an empty stomach. Two hundred years of hunger relief. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 288 pp. Hb.: US$35.00. ISBN: 978-1501748653.

Maffi , Irene. 2020. Abortion in post-revolutionary Tunisia: politics, medicine and morality. New York: Berghahn Books. 218 pp. Hb: US$135.00. ISBN: 9781789206906.

Tauber, Elisabeth and Dorothy Zinn (eds.) 2021. Gender and genre in ethnographic writing (Palgrave Studies in Literary Anthropology). London: Palgrave Macmillan. 235 pp. Pb. €114.39. ISBN: 978-3-030-7172

Mol, Annemarie. 2021. Eating in Theory. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 208 pp. Pb.: US$24.95. ISBN: 9781478011415.

Open access

Carrie Ann Benjamin, Heike Drotbohm, Carolin Fischer, Witold Klaus, Alexander Kondakov, Annika Lems, Yelena Li, Nina Sahraoui, and Ioana Vrăbiescu

ADVENTURE CAPITAL: Migration and the Making of an African Hub in Paris. Julie Kleinman. 2019. Oakland, CA: University of California Press. 224 pages. ISBN 9780520304406 (hardback); ISBN 9780520304413 (paperback).

PAPER TRAILS: Migrants, Documents, and Legal Insecurity. Sarah B. Horton and Josiah Heyman, eds. 2020. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 264 pages. ISBN 9781478008453 (paperback).

ARC OF THE JOURNEYMAN: Afghan Migrants in England. Nichola Khan. 2020. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. 288 pages. ISBN 9781517909628 (hardback).

EU MIGRATION AGENCIES: The Operation and Cooperation of FRONTEX, EASO, and EUROPOL. David Fernández-Rojo. 2021. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 272 pages. ISBN 9781839109331.

Queer Migration and Asylum in Europe. ed. Richard C. M. Mole. 2021. London: UCL Press. 262 pages. ISBN 9781787355811.

FINDING WAYS THROUGH EUROSPACE: West African Movers Re-Viewing Europe from the Inside. Joris Schapendonk. 2020. New York: Berghahn. 230 pages. ISBN 9781789206807 (hardback).

ILLEGAL: How America’s Lawless Immigration Regime Threatens Us All. Elizabeth F. Cohen. 2020. New York: Basic Books. 272 pages. ISBN-13 9781541699847 (hardback).

THE OUTSIDE: Migration as Life in Morocco. Alice Elliot. 2021. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. 204 pages. ISBN 9780253054739 (hardback).

WASTELANDS: Recycled Commodities and the Perpetual Displacement of Ashkali and Romani Scavengers. Eirik Saethre. 2020. Oakland, CA: University of California Press. 252 pages. ISBN 9780520368491.

Open access

Bridging “green” asymmetries through crises

How a Chinese green bond has landed in Portugal

Giulia Dal Maso

The article examines the first Chinese green bond issued in Europe to explore how a green bond is created and how it can be issued across boundaries. Raising questions of “green” valuation at multiple scales, it follows the way the bond’s proceeds hit the ground in Portugal, refinancing wind farms previously built under a Feed in Tariff (FiT) regime. It shows how if on the one hand green bonds are designed as abstract and fungible instruments, then on the other they are spatially situated and predicated upon the larger dynamic of global financial accumulation with its recurrent and contingent crises. In this context, the rush over renewables intersects with expansive Chinese financial monetary policy and the EU austerity process.