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Laborers, Migrants, Refugees

Managing Belonging, Bodies, and Mobility in (Post)Colonial Kenya and Tanzania

Hanno Brankamp and Patricia Daley

This article examines the ways in which both colonial and postcolonial migration regimes in Kenya and Tanzania have reproduced forms of differential governance toward the mobilities of particular African bodies. While there has been a growing interest in the institutional discrimination and “othering” of migrants in or in transit to Europe, comparable dynamics in the global South have received less scholarly attention. The article traces the enduring governmental differentiation, racialization, and management of labor migrants and refugees in Kenya and Tanzania. It argues that analyses of contemporary policies of migration management are incomplete without a structured appreciation of the historical trajectories of migration control, which are inseparably linked to notions of coloniality and related constructions of (un)profitable African bodies. It concludes by recognizing the limits of controlling Africans on the move and points toward the inevitable emergence of social conditions in which conviviality and potentiality prevail.

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Lessons from Refugees

Research Ethics in the Context of Resettlement in South America

Marcia Vera Espinoza

Refugees are the main experts on their own experiences of displacement. They constantly challenge academic research practice and ethical guidelines, as their own lives are under study. This article shares some reflections from research with Colombian and Palestinian resettled refugees in Chile and Brazil, shedding light on refugees’ agency in determining what constitutes safe and ethical research practices.

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The Limits of Liberal Democracy

Prospects for Democratizing Democracy

Viviana Asara

This critical commentary discusses Stephan Lessenich’s recent work on democracy. It argues that—to understand the structural boundaries of welfare capitalist democracy—we must critically unearth the limits of liberal democracy. This article first maintains that the absence of an economic democratization dimension is an outcome of liberal democracy’s shrinking of the meaning of the political. It next claims that defining democracy in terms of rights does not duly consider how these unfolded historically and recently, nor clarifies their relation with negative freedom. The article then contends that the environmentally destructive dialectic of democracy and the belittlement of reproductive work stem from the constitution of a narrowly defined economic sphere, from which “reproductive activities” are excluded. Finally, the text reflects on what “democratizing democracy” should entail.

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Lines in the Sacred Landscape

The Entanglement of Roads, Resources, and Informal Practices in Buriatiia

Anna Varfolomeeva

This article discusses how transportation routes affect local relations with place and resources while being simultaneously shaped by the landscape. It focuses on Okinskii district (Oka) of Buriatiia in southcentral Siberia. The Mondy-Orlik road, which connected the district with the rest of Buriatiia, offered extended opportunities for the development of extractive businesses and tourism in the district. For many residents, the greater accessibility of Oka connotes a threat to local traditions and beliefs. The article examines the interconnectedness of economic, social, and cultural changes that the Mondy-Orlik road brought to Oka. The article demonstrates how the new road became entangled with the lines that previously existed in the landscape, the connections between human and nonhuman actors, and the patterns of informal jade extraction.

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Listening with Displacement

Sound, Citizenship, and Disruptive Representations of Migration

Tom Western

This article puts sound at the center of migration. Auditory cultures develop in displacement, while sounds are enrolled in regimes of citizenship, playing a key—but unheard—role in debates about freedom of movement. These ideas are presented through research in Athens, Greece, where people assert sonic belonging in the face of denied asylum, racialized persecution, and EU border politics that play out in urban space. I argue for listening with displacement. Such practices can amplify the creativities of people crossing borders, disrupt normative narratives that present migration as a problem, and challenge representational practices that reify ideas of “refugee crisis.” Migration is a sonic process. Sounds are always moving, and can help us rethink society itself through movement.

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“Litigation Is Our Last Resort”

Addressing Uncertainty, Undone Science, and Bias in Court to Assert Indigenous Rights

Bindu Panikkar

The permitting of large-scale industrial mines is often controversial and litigious. This article examines three legal battles over the exploratory permitting of the Pebble mine in southwestern Alaska to examine the logics and rationalities used to legitimize the permitting, the alternate epistemic arguments made by the resistance movements to redraw state-constructed boundaries, and differing definitions of land-based resources, pollution, and bias. It asks how conflicting knowledge claims and epistemic injustice are debated and settled in court. All three legal cases observed demonstrate conditions of scientific uncertainty, undone science, and bias, failing to hold space for diverse representations within legal claims. Citizen science is partially successful in addressing epistemic injustice, but to effectively mediate justice, law must distinctively question both knowledge construction and phronetic risks, including values, intent, bias, privilege, and agency, and take into consideration the ontological multiplicities and civic epistemologies of the parties within legal claims.

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Living Through and Living On?

Participatory Humanitarian Architecture in the Jarahieh Refugee Settlement, Lebanon

Riccardo Luca Conti, Joana Dabaj and Elisa Pascucci

In this article, we examine the school project implemented by the architecture charity CatalyticAction in the informal refugee settlement of Jarahieh, in the Bekaa, Lebanon. In doing so, we propose an approach to participatory humanitarian architecture that extends beyond the mere act of designing “together” an “object building.” We see participatory architecture as a process that develops incrementally through the socioeconomic life of precarious communities—through what we call the “living through” and “living on” of participation. While remaining attentive to the infrastructural and political limitations to architectural durability in refugee settlements, we foreground the social life of architectural forms, and consider the built environment as not simply “used,” but produced and (re)productive through time, beyond, and often in spite of, humanitarian interventions.

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Heather Wurtz and Olivia Wilkinson

Power dynamics of global decision-making have meant that local faith actors have not been frequently heard in the context of refugee response. The development of new global refugee and humanitarian frameworks gives hope that there will be greater inclusion of Southern-led, faith-based responses. A closer look, however, demonstrates discrepancies between the frameworks used in global policy processes and the realities of local faith actors in providing refugee assistance. We present primary research from distinct case studies in Mexico and Honduras, which counters much of what is assumed about local faith actors in refugee services and aid. Interventions that are considered to be examples of good practice in the global South are not always congruent with those conceptualized as good practices by the international community. Failure to recognize and integrate approaches and practices from the global South, including those led by actors inspired by faith, will ultimately continue to replicate dominant global power structures.

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Managing a Multiplicity of Interests

The Case of Irregular Migration from Libya

Melissa Phillips

Libya is a significant transit country for irregular migration to Europe and is therefore the site of much effort by external policy makers, notably the European Union. External actors have been unable to formalize workable agreements with Libyan authorities to address or stop onward migration to Europe. Instead, they have been forced to develop arrangements with Libya’s neighboring countries to work around this impasse. This article examines the rhetoric behind efforts by individual European countries and the European Union to implement externally produced migration policies. From crisis narratives to invoking a humanitarian imperative to “save lives,” it is argued that these tropes justify various, at times competing, agendas. This results in almost no tangible improvement to the situation of irregular migrants or the capacity of authorities to deal with irregular migration, with one exception being that of the Libyan coast guard.

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Jillian Schwedler

How has the Jordanian state sought to police protests through control of material space? How have other changes to the built environment limited possibilities for protests? This article articulates the beginnings of a new typology for understanding how changes to the built environment can create obstacles to protests. I identify three distinct changes that have affected spaces of protest: (1) the spatial expansion of the city to accommodate population growth, absorb two major waves of refugees since 2003, and facilitate massive foreign investment in urban megaprojects; (2) infrastructural development, including urban sprawl, new bypass roads and overpasses, and the services necessary for the construction of megaprojects; and (3) the policing of spaces where protests had previously taken place, in part by rendering them inaccessible. I draw on archival material, elite interviews, and ethnographic observation of protests in Amman, Jordan.