New forms of dependence in rural Africa?
Date and Start Time 01 July, 2017 at 16:00
The panel would like to explore the new forms of dependence in rural Africa. It assesses how current (neo)liberal policies tend to promote individual empowerment and autonomy, and then redefine or reproduce dependence lines amongst peasantries, within agrarian economies and towards the state.
The panel would like to explore the new forms of dependence in rural Africa. In dominantly rural societies, peasants have long been subjected to various systems of dependence (towards the state and/or within their own communities), and dependence has been a means to secure material benefits and a basis for achieving social personhood (Ferguson 2013, 2015). Here, dependence is understood as hierarchical dynamics of subordination governing relations between individuals. People might try to escape from dependence relations, for they openly contradict an emancipatory ideal; they might also seek such unequal links, for they provide security or a means to survive. Current (neo)liberal development policies tend to promote individual empowerment, autonomy and entrepreneurship alike. To what extent do these policies redefine or reproduce dependence lines amongst peasantries, within agrarian economies and towards the state? To what extent do the peasants' daily lives adapt to ideological prescriptions of individual autonomy? Do these changes entail redefinition of equality in rural communities?
Rather than offering a comprehensive understanding of peasant dependence, this panel aims at deepening these questions by providing empirical materials. The individualization of land ownership through land titling programmes, the extension of microfinance, the transformation of rural labour, the increased impact of global finance on rural markets, the expansion of both public and private health and education services, or the promotion of social assistance programmes targeting the poorest rural dwellers all take part in the redefinition of dependence bounds.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
'For the sake of my children': cash transfers, caregiving women, and 'new' household relations in the Kenya South Coast
This paper explores how cash transfers have mediated gendered ideologies of reproduction and distribution that operate within the rubric of kinship to reinforce unequal claim-making relations between men and women that relegate and recharge caregiving as women’s responsibility.
Cash transfer schemes have been widely examined in Africa, generally with a focus on quantitative evaluation of their social and economic impact. Yet with critical suggestions from gender scholars on the potential gendered effects of cash transfers, few studies have focused on the qualitative and gendered aspects of cash transfers. Using ethnographic fieldwork in the Kenyan South Coast where matrilineal organization has gradually transformed since the pre-colonial period, this paper explores the realities of cash transfers in the everyday lives of poor women heading households. Payments received from the cash transfer scheme for orphans and vulnerable children (CT-OVC) are significant means to these women's and their households' survival. I illustrate how cash transfers have offered opportunity for reinforcing woman-headship embroidered with gendered caregiving roles and responsibilities that women have to continuously ascend to within complex kinship ideologies of caregiving practices. I argue that by providing space for women's negotiation power over care for children, the CT-OVC operating in the Kenya South Coast has mediated production of 'new' gendered ideologies and relations of reproduction and distribution that operate within the rubric of kinship. This, in turn, has reinforced unequal claim-making relations between men and women and recharged caregiving as women's responsibility.
Cash Transfers: Changing Dependencies in the New Politics of Distribution
This paper uses empirical data derived from participatory social research on the linkages between social protection and rural employment in Malawi to explore questions of dependency and to reflect on how issues of equity are brought to the fore in the shifting dynamics of distribution.
For poor people living at the margins of the global economy, where land-based livelihoods and wage labour are unreliable, the distribution of cash transfers is a life-sustaining activity within recent models of social protection. This leads Ferguson (2015) to contend that African cash transfer programmes are part of a new politics of distribution, in which profound shifts are at play across the Continent involving distributive transfers from government to citizens. The fact of new flows of cash entering households and local economies characterised by profound vulnerability and overwhelming lack of opportunity raises crucial questions over the role(s) cash transfers occupy in 'beneficiaries' lives and over the distribution of 'benefits' within communities. Cash transfers are a means of survival for chronically poor individuals living in rural communities where needs are extensive. In these communities there is an ethos towards giving everyone over time 'a slice of the development cake'. Therefore, this form of distribution generates new inequalities and conflicts lubricated by long-established power relations and social norms. My paper uses empirical data derived from participatory social research on the linkages between social protection and rural employment in Malawi to explore questions of dependency. It reflects on how issues of equity are brought to the fore in the shifting dynamics of distribution. In this changing terrain over the distribution of development benefits, one can caution against a simplistic equation of cash transfers with dependency, but nevertheless questions are raised regarding the distribution of benefits and emergence of new challenges for the realisation of social equity.
Neo-Feudalism on the Rocks: Shaken but not stirred
The paper explores the effects of diaspora remittances as ‘untied’ finance, coupled with a ‘social business’ approach to development. It finds the effects of structural Neoliberalism on rural communities difficult to circumvent as it culturally reproduces the conditions that bind the peasantry.
A 2002 World Bank report outlined that remittances from migrants in rich countries outstrip the combined total of official development assistance (ODA), sparking a euphoric progression of institutional and scholarly interest; while popular discourse claimed that structural adjustment programmes and general dependence on external finance have been the dearth of development. The so-called migration-development nexus has since re-emerged and now views the diaspora as new development actors and financiers with strong socio-cultural ties to their home countries. Through a multi-sited ethnographic study of Zimbabweans in the UK and some of their development efforts back home, this research interrogates the mainstream argument that the diaspora are a development panacea free of the adverse external conditionalities.
This paper presents findings from a rural farming community at the foot of the Matopos Rocks south of Bulawayo, where diaspora contributions assist in linking smallholder farmers to sustainable larger markets by incorporating them into the value chain through a local agribusiness. It shows that diaspora finances are not "value free" as they become incorporated into existing socio-political relations at home, albeit without diaspora presence. While these funds are intended to liberate smallholder producers, data suggests the formation of a "disguised proletariat" where the agribusiness infiltrates private homesteads, restructuring work and social relations while deepening a dependent relationship and reproducing what Hobsbawm (1969) provocatively called Neo-Feudalism. This brings into question the diaspora's ability to influence actual "development practice" at home, despite the new call for diaspora-led development assistance.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.