DSA2016: Politics in Development
- Kees Biekart (Erasmus University Rotterdam) email
- Peter Knorringa (Erasmus University Rotterdam) email
- Wendy Harcourt (EUR) email
Civic innovation is a different way of thinking about social transformation. This panel invites papers to discuss how innovative civic practices (such as solidarity economies, local social movements, or rights movements around body and sexuality) trigger imaginaries for new political opportunities.
Civic innovation is about focusing on what is positive, creative and imaginative in the face of a world that seems beset by crisis narratives. As development researchers we see the mainstream development community responding with difficulty to these crisis narratives - awkwardly speaking of the failure of the Millennium Development Goals while setting up a new set of Sustainable Development Goals. Underlining these discussions are deep concerns about the viability of the development project in the new conditions of today. In exploring the term civic innovation we suggest this helps us to give a useful alternative to overwhelming crisis narratives. We are not looking for a new theory and practice that will lead to a grand transformation of neoliberal capitalism but rather at how to build a mosaic of responses by looking at what is happening on the ground where people are living the contradictions of development. We argue that we need to question pre-determined ideas of what measures to take and go beyond universal policy solutions, in order to look with openness at the actions on the ground. This also means going beyond the strictures of development aid and its logics. We invite papers that discuss how innovative practices of community and solidarity economies, sometimes in alliances with transformative empowerment strategies in global value chains, local politics of social movements and rights movements around the body, gender and sexuality are allowing new imaginaries of well-being and possibility to flourish.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
The Meaning of Civic Innovation as Social Transformation
Civic innovation is a novel, but also complex concept. It has to be unpacked to grasp why it has this rich value-added to analyzing social transformation at multiple levels. The paper introduces a new edited volume on civic innovation and examines three recent examples of social transformation.
This paper examines the meaning of the concept 'civic innovation' and serves and an introduction to the panel on 'Civic innovation and social transformation'. Civic innovation is about focusing on what is positive, creative and imaginative in the face of a world that seems beset by crisis narratives. As development researchers we see the mainstream development community responding with difficulty to these crisis narratives - awkwardly speaking of the failure of the Millennium Development Goals while setting up a new set of Sustainable Development Goals. Underlining these discussions are deep concerns about the viability of the development project in the new conditions of today. In exploring the term civic innovation we suggest this helps us to give a useful alternative to overwhelming crisis narratives. We are not looking for a new theory and practice that will lead to a grand transformation of neoliberal capitalism but rather at how to build a mosaic of responses by looking at what is happening on the ground where people are living the contradictions of development. We argue that we need to question pre-determined ideas of what measures to take and go beyond universal policy solutions, in order to look with openness at the actions on the ground. This also means going beyond the strictures of development aid and its logics. The paper examines the meaning of civic innovation by highlighting three recent examples: the Fair Trade moment, feminist movements at Tahrir Square, and Occupy Wall Street.
Being a citizen without a state - Applications of the civic innovation concept in conflict settings
Civic innovation presupposes a strong state which citizens can challenge when aiming to bring about societal change. But what if that state is weak, had to be fled from, or has a parallel state? The paper explores civic innovation dynamics in such contexts, drawing on DRC, Turkey, and refugee camps.
From a political perspective, civic innovation presupposes the existence of a set system, most often one strong state, which active citizens will challenge more or less radically with the aim to bring about societal change. A clear target towards which the citizens can shoot their arrow. But what if this target is already shattered, out of focus, or if there are several of them?
This paper adds to the mosaic of civic innovation responses, focusing on three configurations of the 'citizens without a state' context:
- The Democratic Republic of Congo as a weak state (post-conflict setting), in which non-governmental organizations take over governance functions of, sometimes shattered or illegitimate, local to national institutions;
- Refugees now based in camps in Greece, Jordan and Lebanon, in which they are sometimes treated as 'clients' rather than citizens;
- The Kurdish region in Eastern Turkey (low-intensity conflict), where citizens are caught between opposing parallel state-like sets of strong institutions.
Reviewing these cases, we confront civic innovation and the associated beacons of positive thinking and innovation to intricate crisis situations, highlighting the concept's potential, but also limitations. How do these 'citizens without a state' view their citizenship, what are their expectations from 'authorities', how do they frame and forward their claims? In answering these questions, the paper directs our gaze beyond the typical understanding of citizenship, and uncovers arrow trajectories which are not always straightforward.
Land reform, land grabbing and the Filipino peasant women' struggles
Looking at two case studies,these show how landlordism persists and the peasant women at the forefront of the struggle.
They lead the struggle yet not necessarily claiming gender justice.
The Philippine land redistribution remains a struggle in the country and now exacerbated more by the continuous and internationally expanded land grabbing.
In many cases even agrarian lands that were 'redistributed' remain under the control of the landlord, contested or (re)concentrated to the landed elite - landlordism persists hence the peasants remain dispossessed.
The continuous landowners' resistance to land reform often result to different forms of violence up to the extent of killing or murder of farmer leaders.
The landlords are able to master the evasion of the land expropriation.
In many cases, using the schemes of lease contract, leaseback, stock distribution option, legal mechanisms, and even using other individuals and institutions to either retain or re-concentrate the control over the land.
A contemporary form of land grabbing in the country today.
Looking at two case studies, these show how landlordism persists and the farmers' everyday form of land struggle which require them of 'peasant initiatives' and the peasant women at the forefront of the struggle.
The peasant women lead the struggle, moreover, it is not necessarily conducive to gender justice.
The gender equality remains a marginal concern.
Even the peasant women themselves have yet to challenge the existing gender inequality and norms.
Contesting the State: Egypt's Committee Movement
Egypt's local committee movement embodies unique patterns of urban activism, with diverse ideological framings and contrasting strategies of engagement with power-holders following January 25th uprising. Committees opened space for new practices of citizenship at the local level.
Egypt's local popular committees spontaneously emerged in response to governance vacuums in urban spaces following the January 25th uprising. Hailed as potential "spaces of possibility," committees were viewed as enabling citizens to not just transgress positions as passive recipients and assert their rights but even to engage in contestations over 'governmentality' (Ibrahim and Singerman 2014; Sayigh 2012). Yet little comparative empirical work has been done on the actual patterns and evolution of this unique form of activism, or on its transformative impacts. What are the characteristics of popular committees as a form of activism? Specifically, what are their internal structures and claims to legitimacy? And, how far has this form of civic activism served to fundamentally challenge neoliberal development practices and power hierarchies in the city?
Based on original fieldwork conducted in 2013-2014, I take stock of Egypt's committee movement. My comparative analysis of three neighborhoods in Greater Cairo (Ard El Lewa, Imbaba and Omraneya) shows that committees diverged in their ideological framings, internal structures, as well as relations with political actors and civil society groups. Their links to the market, as well as their adopted collective forms of action vis a vis state authorities seemed to differ depending on their ideological framework, and access to media. While my focus group discussions with residents reflected widespread ambivalence on the future role of neighborhood committees, I demonstrate that committees planted the seeds for restructuring state power at the local level in the post-Mubarak era by redefining citizenship practices on the ground.
Theorising Active Citizen
This paper explores the theoretical understandings of what it means to be an active citizen and whether active citizenship offers community led new social and political opportunities and innovation in contexts of both developed and developing countries.
Conceptualisations of citizenship can be located to Aristotelian ideas of moral consensus, ethics of self-cultivation for personal excellence, human flourishings and insights into deliberative powers. The concept has been and continues to be the subject of intense debate in moral and political philosophy while inviting an equally vigorous discourse in social science. This paper explores the theoretical understandings of what it means to be an active citizen and whether active citizenship offers community led new social and political opportunities and innovation in the contexts of developed and developing countries. The study is based on the 'Active Citizens' project supported by the British Council in several countries. The present paper draws on the findings from the project participants in the UK, Bangladesh, and Jordan.
The purpose of the paper is four fold. First, to seek theoretical insights into active citizenship locating it in the literature that takes forward citizenship to active citizenship, drawing out key thematic domains of this transition. Second, to examine the 'Active Citizens' project within these key themes and extend the theoretical boundaries to capture and analyse the data. Third, to explore why some members in communities become active citizens and to identify the drivers of active citizenship in different contexts. Fourth, based on the primary data from the project, identify pathways that lead to positive outcomes, social novelties and achievements of the active citizens.
Institutional Bricolage and Civic innovation: the case of community-driven 'appropriation' of Water Users Associations in rural Morocco
The paper explores community-driven appropriation of Water User Associations as a form of local civic innovation in the field of natural resource management. Using two case studies from Morocco, this paper aims to show how local collective action can produce effective institutional change.
During the last decades, Community-Based Natural Resource Management programs have been an important attempt to involve local communities in the governance of natural resources. In particular the establishment of Water User Associations (WUAs) has been considered as a means to promote more inclusive and participatory local forms of irrigation management. These institutions have had mixed results. Therefore, recently it has been questioned to what extent these institutions have enabled communities to gain voice and decision-making power and, more broadly, whether WUAs are adequate institutions to represent and address local needs. Going beyond the debate about success or failure of WUAs as donor-funded water management institutions, the paper discusses two case studies from Morocco and analyzes how forms of local collective (community-driven) action have transformed and re-configured WUAs institutional arrangements. In both cases, the community-driven action led to innovation in the institutional domain, producing hybrid modes of governance through an institutional bricolage that combines administrative norms with local socio-cultural rules and practices.
This paper explores the local appropriation of WUAs as a form of civic innovation in the field of water governance with effects on local participation and deliberation. In certain cases this appropriation opens the possibility for co-production of knowledge and for the introduction of technical innovations, such as the adoption of drip irrigation. The paper concludes by showing how local collective agency reshapes externally imposed governance models.
Mapping sex workers' struggles for labor rights
In this paper, we map sex workers’ organizing, activism and advocacy in the past decade. We pay special attention to the role of neoliberal governance of (labor) markets and financial crises for sex workers’ labor precarity and their collective responses.
In a context of global restructuring, sex workers face both similar and particular challenges compared to other precarious workers around the world. This leads Sanders and Hardy (2013) to label sex work as "the ultimate precarious labour".
The stigma and illegality of sex work that prevails in many contexts, and the moral debates about the very legitimacy of acknowledging sex work as work, presents sex workers with additional challenges in their struggle for labor rights' guarantees. Even though sex workers' labor conditions and the effective guarantee of their labor rights intersect in crucial ways with questions around (changes in) the social organization of labor, and social constructions of gender and sexuality, sex workers often find themselves excluded from labor, feminist and sexual rights movements, and relevant advocacy and (policy) debates.
Despite - or maybe because of - this adverse situation, sex workers around the world have organised in diverse and innovative ways. For instance, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects represents more than 237 sex workers' organisations in over 70 countries. Building on previous work (Heumann et al., forthcoming), in this paper, we map sex workers' organizing, activism and advocacy in the past decade. We pay special attention to the role of neoliberal governance of (labor) markets and financial crises for sex workers' labor precarity and their collective responses. We approach this mapping as a meta-analysis of published academic and grey literature from labor, as well as gender and sexuality studies, including material produced by sex workers organizations themselves.
The Chinese Dream - Industrial worker relationship to entrepreneurism - A viable solution to reduce precarity or only a mirage?
How does entrepreneurism for workers in Southern China affect their ability to reduce precarity? This paper will explore how workers are trying to use entrepreneurism as a method to overcome a plateau in precarity reduction and the prospects for long-term livelihood security.
The World Bank and other development agencies often tout being an entrepreneur as a fundamental component of improving a countries ability to develop. China has embraced these policies wholeheartedly in fact at the essence of Xi Jinping's Chinese dream project, is an emphatic reliance on entrepreneurism to encourage citizens to pick themselves up to create a better future for themselves. An emphasis on entrepreneurism is having mixed effects on reducing precarity for industrial workers in Guangdong. On the one hand it is providing hope for workers to find an alternative to the immobility of low paid factory work. On the other hand, due to the relative simplicity of becoming an entrepreneur, entrepreneurism is an important factor undermining the formation of a strong collective working class movement. The absence of a strong working class movement fails to provide sufficient resistance to the dominance of capital and a growth at all costs mentality thus re-enforcing precarity for industrial workers. In this paper I will draw on my 2014 fieldwork in Guangdong where I conducted more than 60 interviews with workers, employers and other key informants. I will analyze the subjective experiences of workers' relationship with entrepreneurism and how this relationship informs precarity.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.