EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006


Europe in Africa – Africa in Europe: Borut Brumen Memorial

Location Victoria LT
Date and Start Time 20 Sep, 2006 at 11:30


Dmitri Bondarenko (Institute for African Studies) email
Petr Skalník (University of Hradec Králové) email
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Short Abstract

Political institutions born in Europe (parliaments, parties, etc) were implanted in Africa on a very different cultural soil. How do they change African societies? How are they changing in Africa?

The purpose of the workshop is to take critical stock and initiate a broad programme for a new anthropology of Africa based on relevant research priorities which include close cooperation between African and European researchers.

Long Abstract

Today almost all African states possess a set of political institutions born in Europe, such as political parties, parliaments, etc. All these institutions once appeared in Europe, in the context of her socio-political development, and turned out compatible with European cultural foundations. They were brought to Africa in the process of the continent's integration into the world community, despite the African societies' socio-political and cultural background, which is very different from the European. The contemporary African states arose as a legacy of European nations' colonial possessions and inherited their heterogeneous nature in many respects, including in the sense that they integrate peoples with different political cultures and traditions, now in most cases living in multicultural states. The imposition of the Europe-born political institutions influences African cultures in many respects, first and foremost in the political sphere. How do 'modern' Europe-born political institutions operate under such circumstances and influence African cultures' transformations? In particular, how do they cope with such problems as inter-religious and interethnic tolerance? Do they manage to gain the loyalty of most citizens at the face of local 'traditional' institutions and, hence, what is their role in the nation and in civil society building in African countries? What is the role of education in them? Although they have the same form as in Europe, does the nature of these institutions stay the same in the African cultural milieu? Is it actually possible to speak about the originally European institutions and African political culture(s)' mutual adaptation in contemporary Africa? Papers based on field research in any African state or culture are welcome, as well as papers devoted to historical aspects. Such issues as the role of 'traditional' rulers, religion, ethnicity, education, etc in the respective processes are to be covered during the workshop.

The workshop is intended to gather those anthropologists of Africa working in Europe who are open to the challenge of joint projects of research and teaching on Africa. The discussions at the workshop should lead to the formation of a group of researchers committed to the idea of cooperation between anthropological Africanists both in Europe and in Africa in order to forge a new phase of scholarship dealing with Africa. Anthropology of Africa in Europe has a long tradition of objectification of Africa and African people for the sake of one-way appropriation of knowledge, i.e. from Africa to Europe. This, at best, treated African data and their evaluation as means to enhance the home careers of the European researchers. Only quite rarely have the end products such as books, articles, ethnographic films or lectures been taken back to Africa. Thus the feedback was rarely if ever used as a bridge of understanding between European and African anthropologists. This one-way movement was further fortified by the post-colonial reaction in Africa against our discipline. True enough, European anthropology of Africa was for long decades employed as a tool of domination because it supplied evidence for hierarchical order, which both historically and structurally gave preference to European ways over African ones. Anthropological data were commissioned and used by colonial administration and later European development involvement in Africa. The pattern of superordination of Europeans and subordination of Africans in research (researcher versus her/his research assistant), which emerged when the first Africanist anthropologists from Europe began their stationary research in various local communities, never really disappeared with independence. The theory of the post-colony, as it was presented on the grander scale of the continent and whole societies, has been valid for anthropological research as such as well.

Chair: Dmitri Bondarenko and Peter Skalník
Discussant: Pauline von Hellermann, George Klute


Africanistic experiments on the periphery of Europe

Author: Sarah Lunaček (University of Ljubljana)  email
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Long Abstract

In Slovenia, despite politically unsupportive environment a group of enthusiasts is still developing an utopian idea of creating a programme of African studies. After first scruples about the problem of employment of future »experts«, the idea of importance of knowledge prevailed.

As knowledge is unavoidably created in a certain social and political environment, I propose to take into consideration the development of possible advantages conditioned by particular historical context of non-colonial past of Slovenia and its position of non-alignment state as a part of ex-Yugoslavia. In any context, I see as an important challenge, how to further develop the concept and praxis of shared anthropology (proposed by Jean Rouch). It is about overcoming the hierarchical aspect of relation between anthropologist and his or her field asistant in favor of dialogic process, and I am speculating even to 'de-throne' elitist aspect of academia with the belief that anyone who shows enough interest is able to understand anthropological endeavour.

Then the presentation will engage in the rather particular case study of Amajeg friend from Niger visiting anthropologist on the periphery of Europe, with the aim of putting up a photographic exhibition and organising discussions on the topic of changes and challenges in lives of Kel Tamashek (Tuareg). It is an experiment in shared as well as visual anthropology, using photographs as methodological and (re)presentational means. How to leave the discursive place open to constantly reshape it in dialogic relation, questioning the (im)possibility of view from inside and truthful representation? How to take into consideration the particularity of hybrid personal situation of living everyday life between Sahelian city, taking care of herds and knowing European approaches? Alongside the photographic camera is being further used to develop material for discussion on changing perspectives on lives in Europe on the basis of experience.

Other bodies: FGM in a migratory context

Author: Carla Pasquinelli (Università L'Orientale Napoli)  email
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Long Abstract

Female genital mutilation (Fgm) which encompasses a range of procedures including the abrasion of the clitoris (sunna), the partial or total excision of the clitoris (clitoridectomy), and labia, and the stitching and narrowing of the vaginal orifice (infibulation), is a culture practice that gets its meaning inside a complex system of gender identity construction, community belonging and marriage strategies, based on the payment of the bride-price.

My research into Fgm in Italy aims to analyse how, and to what extent, immigration can change or at least influence, for better or for worse, existing attitudes, behaviour and value concerning a traditional practice that is still deeply ingrained in many African ethnic groups.

But I am also concern in the challenge that they represent for our respect of other bodies and other cultures without denying human rights statement.

Education and tolerance in contemporary Tanzania: the ethno-racial and religious aspects

Author: Dmitri Bondarenko (Institute for African Studies)  email
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Long Abstract

The increase of education level in the country is a priority task for the Tanzanian state. However, how real is the scenario that the growth of national consciousness, as a result of the education system's development among other factors, will lead to the growth of xenophobia towards the non-African minorities (Arab, South Asian and European)? We argue that, the generally high degree of the ethno-racial and religious tolerance of Tanzanians of all educational levels, the tolerant (at least at the moment) politics of the sate being taken into account, the negative scenario is hardly possible in the foreseeable future. The presence of a bigger per cent of people, not so tolerant towards the immigrant minorities, among highly educated Tanzanians than among less educated citizens (note that in absolute figures the number of such people remains small for highly educated Tanzanians too), may probably be considered as an inevitable but reasonable price for the benefits the society and the state can get from the formation and strengthening of the social positions of the stratum of highly educated citizens.

Traditional culture and the conception of nation in contemporary Tanzanian cities

Author: Oleg Kavykin (Institute for African Studies)  email
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Long Abstract

The paper will be based on the results of fieldwork in the Russian Anthropological Expedition in the United Republic of Tanzania (spring 2005). The author asserts that the Europe-born conception of "Nation" as a culturally integrated community of all citizens of a state is widely spread among Tanzanian city-dwellers. On the other hand, various conceptions of the "Nation" as a heterogeneous unit consisting of many ethnic cultures were displayed by respondents, too. The author intends to examine the influence of the inclusiveness of Tanzanians of local (non-immigrant) origins into their original cultures in the context of the mentality pattern, usually attributed to, and associated with the civil society: on the one hand, the majority of the respondents have demonstrated loyalty to the ideals of civil society and civic nation, in particular, by disapproving benefits of hypothetical emergence of the ethnicity- and religion-based political organizations; on the other hand, those very few of them who have argued the desirability of such political organizations have also turned out deeper attached to the original cultures, particularly, by more active participation in the acts of traditional healing, the ancestor cult's rites performance, etc.

The study was supported by the Russian State Foundation for Humanitarian Research (grant # 05-01-18010е)

The politics of charity: Ghanaian NGOs and political culture in Ghana

Author: Thomas Yarrow (Durham University)  email
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Long Abstract

The recent proliferation of Non Governmental Organisations in Ghana, as in other parts of Africa, has tended to be seen either as the inappropriate application of European norms, values and ideas or as the strategic adaptation of elites to new kinds of resources. In the former position, NGOs are seen as conduits of the globalization of originally European political values, whilst in the latter such values are imagined to be a tool that elites simply employ and exploit in the pursuit of resources that feed distinctly 'African' forms of patronage. In this paper, I call into question both approaches, through an analysis that draws on participant observation amongst a variety of NGOs in Ghana. The paper suggests that whilst the discourses that accompany such NGOs appear to turn on familiar western terms, the meanings and uses attached to these are always specific. For example, the apparently globally inspired concept of 'indigenous knowledge' plays into longstanding disputes about the political and economic role of chiefs, whilst ideas of 'civil society' are appropriated to longstanding political projects within the country. This however, is not to suggest that such practices, understandings and relations are distinctly 'African'. Whilst an opposition between 'African' and 'Western' or 'European' was often employed in NGO workers own accounts, the social and cultural use of this opposition is not reducible to the opposition itself.

Changing conflicts and conflict resolution in the northern region of Ghana

Author: Giulia Casentini (University of Pavia)  email
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Long Abstract

My paper focuses on my experience in Ghana, Northern Region, between October 2005 and January 2006.

During that period of fieldwork I tried to understand on one hand how people live the chronic inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic conflicts which deeply affects the social and political life of the region, and on the other hand the reasons they themselves give to explain such situation, and the possible solutions they foresee for a peaceful future.

From 1980 to 2002, the Northern Region has been struck by numerous ethnic conflicts, principally caused by disputes over land ownership among the different groups, and chieftaincy problems.

I concentrated on the current perceptions of the Guinea Fowl War of 1994, which broke out in Nanun and then spread out all over the Northern Region (especially in Dagbon), but also on the 1981 clashes between Nanumba and Konkomba in Nanun.

These have been inter-ethnic conflicts, which have seen on one hand Nanumba and Dagomba, population politically and socially organized in a hierarchic way structured on chieftaincy institution, and on the other the Konkomba people, a so-called "acephalous" society, which doesn't have any political representation at local level.

A land ownership problem has broken out among these groups, who live in the same region, which is strictly connected with a process of reassessment and reconstruction of the concept of autochthony.

This process is done in order to establish the ones deserving the "right" to be considered "indigenous" in that territory.

The process of legitimation passes through the possibility of being politically represented at village, district and regional level, and create in the "acephalous" groups the will to have a paramount chief, in such a way rebuilding the social structure.

In this situation of strong tension, I couldn't release myself from considering the opinions and the worries about the inner conflict which tear the largest ethnic group of the region, the Dagomba people, and which broke out in march 2002, after the murder of the Ya Naa (ruler of Dagbon).

This fact is the expression of complex Yendi skin (symbol of power) succession problems, that have been shaking and destabilizing Dagbon for a long time.

The complex relation between the traditional political system and the "European-born" political institutions, after the colonization, comes out in a very clear and unequivocal way working on this field.

After the independence, indeed, an unavoidable interconnection between the two different powers took place and caused an escalation in the succession crisis in Dagbon.

The reaction of the people to these two problematic themes that inflame the region is on one hand, to give the responsibility to the government for not being able to face the situation and for leaving the Northern Region in an economic and political marginal position, and on the other, to self-organize, somehow, in order to try to face the difficulties and the domestic conflicts, that are constantly present in everyday life, among families and neighbourhs.

To this purpose I've lived directly the experience of peace-building workshops organized in the Damongo diocese, with the purpose of containing violence at grass-roots level.

The workshops prepare chiefs, imam, teachers, priest and nuns of any ethnical group to work on their own villages and community encouraging a non violent training.

Forest, land and power: the 'real' life of Okomu forest reserve in Edo State, Southern Nigeria

Author: Pauline von Hellermann (Goldsmiths)  email
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Long Abstract

The creation of forest reserves was the cornerstone of colonial forest management in Southern Nigeria, as they were deemed essential for forest protection and for the practice of scientific forestry. To colonial foresters, it was a great success that by the early 1940s, 80% of the land of the then Benin Division (today's Edo State) was reserved. But whilst such extensive reservation had a huge impact on forests and people, and continues to do so today, this impact has in many ways been quite different to what colonial foresters had hoped for. This paper seeks to juxtapose colonial visions of proper forest and land management with the 'real' life of reserves by focusing on Okomu Reserve in Edo State. It discusses how it was local political strategies that enabled such vast scale reservation in the first place, and how reservation reshaped local ecology and land management practices. It then looks at what reserves have come to mean today: rather than protected forests, they have become land reserves that are now more accessible than non-reserved community land. Okomu Reserve is used as a source of patronage by politicians, and rubber and oil palm plantations are expanding rapidly, most significantly large scale foreign managed ones. Local communities, too, use the reserve strategically in different ways.

These processes are often regarded as the collapse of proper forest management, but this paper argues that their roots lie in the creation of reserves themselves, which already fundamentally changed power dynamics around land and forest.

Diaspora, cyberspace, and dissent: the public sphere in the shadow of violence

Author: Victoria Bernal (University of California, Irvine)  email
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Long Abstract

This essay explores the significance of the spaces of diaspora and of

cyberspace for political expression in the context of Eritrea's histories of violence

and tightly controlled public sphere. These extraterritorial spaces appear to offer relative freedom from state control and political violence. Eritreans in diaspora have used cyberspace to express unofficial views, produce alternative knowledges, and to conduct political conflict without violence. The paper draws on my research on Eritrean discussion websites, the Eritrean government's website, research in Eritrea, and interviews with Eritreans in diaspora. I connect my analysis to current theorizing about sovereignty, biopolitics, and Mbembe's notion of necropolitics to consider how geographic mobility and the internet create new contexts for political expression and new relations of sovereignty and citizenship.

Biopolitics and the developmental state in Eritrea

Author: David O'Kane (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)  email
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Long Abstract

The revolutionary nationalist regime in the Horn of Africa country of Eritrea is engaged in a process of state intervention in society with goals of national development. This paper describes the critique of this process and its attendant problems for the human rights of the people of Eritrea using the concept of biopolitics. Based on the work of Michel Foucault, the concept of biopolitics refers to the way in which modernist regimes make life itself the object of power - a classic example is the policy of eugenics, which was by no means confined to fascist regimes in the twentieth century. The Eritrean state does not engage in eugenic measures, but it acts to (at least partly) ensure food security through state aid programmes, increase access to health care, and to regulate, discipline and mobilise the population of Eritrea through (for example) compulsory military service and a national (and nationalist) state education system.

Thus, the contemporary Eritrean experience represents an example of the introduction of political methodologies orginating in the modernist regimes of twentieth century Europe into a twenty-first century African society contending with the problems of underdevelopment, poverty and the ever-present threat of external aggression from its larger neighbour Ethiopia. This paper outlines the ways in which this state project of biopolitics has affected Eritrean society.