Changing spaces for rural and urban civil society movements in Africa
Date and Start Time 29 June, 2017 at 16:00
This panel addresses the debate on changing, i.e. shrinking, shifting, and enlarging spaces for civil society and social movements in Africa. How does social change, notably related to urbanization, affect civil society movements? How do urban and rural movements relate to one another?
This panel addresses the current debate on changing, i.e. shrinking, shifting, and enlarging spaces for civil society, social movements and political protest in Africa . Core questions are: How does social change, notably related to urbanization, affect civil society movements? What are typical urban and rural movements, and how do they relate to one another? In how far are urban elites able to mobilize both the popular classes in the cities and poor people in the countryside? What role do emerging middle classes play for democratic participation and political protest? Both theoretical papers on space, participation and social mobilization, and empirical studies of historical and contemporary civil society, social movements, and mobilization are welcome.
Chair: Bettina Engels
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Frontier spaces - shrinking spaces? Commodity frontiers and civil society actions
Do commodity frontiers constitute a specific type of shrinking spaces? It is one of the state’s central tasks to facilitate the accumulation process; frontier spaces therefore constitute a site of increased state presence and increased repression against civil society organizations.
So far the term shrinking spaces has mainly been used to express concern about increasingly restrictive laws and regulations regarding civil society activities put through by authoritarian regimes such as Ethiopia or Cambodia. The notion of shrinking spaces generally refers to restictive national laws and regulations as well as repressions by national governments. In this article I want to argue, that we need to take the concept of space seriously when we discuss "shrinking spaces". The room for maneuver does not shrink necessarily for all civil society organizations in a given country at the same time. Civil society organizations work on vastly different topics at various geographic locations and at different scales.
In the context of the recent commodity boom, new frontier spaces have been opened up. Central question of my presentation is whether commodity frontiers constitute a specific type of shrinking spaces. I argue that since it is one of the state's central tasks to facilitate the accumulation process, commodity frontiers constitute sites of increased state presence. To secure the control over a specific territory, protest actions by civil society organizations and local communities are increasingly controlled and repressed.
Taking the example of the fairly liberal democracy of Senegal, I will show that shrinking spaces cannot be observed nationally. However, new commodity frontiers related to the expansion of mining and agro-industry seem to be characterized by shrinking room for maneuver for civil society organizations.
Pokot's Public Spaces - a Case Study for Rural Civil Society
The paper challenge the notion of urban civil society and asks -Is rurality a space for civil society? What qualifies a rural civil society? It is based on field study within the Pokot in Northern Kenya and serve as a case study to research current civil society in Kenya.
The academic discussion on 'civil society' nurtured during the 1980's and looked at state- society relations (Young, 1994). Comprehensive scholarly studies exists on civil society in Africa, as an 'arena for public life' (Migdal, 1990) as a political space (Barkan, 1994) and an autonomy sphere from the state (Bayart, 1986 ; Bratton, 1989; Chazan 1990 ;Diamond 2008 ) .
African civil societies were comprised of; Workers and trade unions, women, youth and students organizations, human rights organizations and many others. Their focus was towards state and government offices- mainly in urban centres. Not much has been written on civil society spaces and actions outside urban setting.
The paper aim to challenge this notion of urban civil society and asks -Is rurality is a new space for civil society? What qualifies a rural civil society? And is it different and how, from urban civil society?
The proposed paper is based on empirical field study within the Pokot area in Northern Kenya ( July- Aug. 2015 ) and serve as a case study to research current civil society in Kenya.
Collective actions used by Pokot people as ethnic associations, social organizing for mutual aid and social organizations for more general aims- are at the centre of this research. It will cope with the known dichotomy of Urban- Rural, the ethnic character of associations and its implication, and ask for the presence of civil society in peoples' lives outside the big cities.
Gendering the Extraverted State: the Politics of the Kenyan Sex Workers' Movement
Due to the gendered nature of Kenyan state’s extraversion processes and the resulting dual accountability to national and foreign sovereigns, its approach to gender issues is inconsistent and results in gender rights movements being both included and excluded from the national political scene.
The Kenyan Sex Worker movement occupies a peculiar place in Kenyan politics -it is an important partner in different programs and policies in the health sector, but individuals selling sex still disproportionately suffer from different forms of state and public violence and are often marginalised. This article argues that due to the gendered nature of Kenyan state's extraversion processes and the resulting dual accountability to national and foreign sovereigns, the Kenyan state's approach to gender issues is inconsistent and thus produces a situation where social movements with a gender rights agenda can be both included and excluded from the national political scene. The article also explores how the sex worker movement builds on this duality of the Kenyan state when making its strategic choices about engagement with national policy bodies.
Resistance, adaptation or co-option: The case of Egypt's women's rights organizations
This paper explores how some Egyptian women's rights organisations, movements and groups in rural and urban areas experienced the openness of the 2011 uprisings and the current state repression and how they are responding and adapting to it.
Under the authoritarian regime of Hosny Mubarak (1981-2011), many of Egypt's women's rights organizations were co-opted under the leadership of Suzan Mubarak except for a few independent ones. Following the Egyptian uprisings of 2011 and the fall of Mubarak's regime, the Egyptian civil society witnessed an unprecedented level of openness and freedom to organize. As a result, there was a proliferation in the number of independent women's initiatives and organizations that opened all over the country adding to Egypt's 48,000 civil society organizations.
Six years after the uprisings, the openness dissipated and today's civil society faces, directly and indirectly, different forms of state repression; violent and non-violent. The response of women's rights movements and organizations in urban and rural areas was not uniform. These movements and organizations are not a homogenous group; some are radical organizations that resisted co-option and chose to challenge the state and its consecutive regimes, others are associated with the state and aligned with its interests and some are not concerned with agendas and focusing on women and girls in their local communities away from formal NGOization and politics.
Following an exploratory approach using case studies and semi-structured interviews with women's rights-based groups, movements and organizations in the cities of Cairo, Aswan, Assiut and Qina and the villages of Minya and Giza, the proposed paper explores how such movements and organizations are affected by the ever-shrinking space to organize and the ongoing state repression and how they are adapting and responding to it.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.