Violent conflict and the politics of rural-urban transformation
Date and Start Time 01 July, 2017 at 09:00
This panel organised by the CRG Violent Conflict addresses the complex relationship between dynamics of violent conflict and urbanization. It mainly focuses on the political aspects of rural-urban transformation and the way in which urban centres become critical resources in conflict and post-conflict political agendas.
This panel addresses the complex relationship between dynamics of violent conflict and urbanization in Africa. Cases of protracted situations of civil war such as the DRC, South Sudan or Uganda have demonstrated a correlation between increases of violence, forced mobility and increase of urbanization.
Conflict-induced rural-urban transformation takes multiple forms, through the rapid, uncontrolled growth of established cities, the emergence of new boomtowns, or the urbanization of refugee settlements. This panel not only intends to investigate the nature of this 'conflict urbanism', it will equally take closer look at its political aspects. Apart from a spatial, demographic, administrative and socio-economic process, urbanization in conflict settings is also highly political and central to dynamics of state formation and power contestation. For different actors involved in conflict dynamics such as armed groups, the state military, international peace-keeping forces or vigilantes, urban centres represent important strategic sites or nodes in their strategies for control, authority and legitimacy. Besides the politics of urban development or urban planning by violent conflict actors or post-conflict regimes, the politics of urbanization also lies in cities and 'the urban' becoming strategic resources, for extraction, for violent mobilization, for electoral politics or for peace-building.
This Panel particularly invites papers focusing on conflict and post-conflict regions, critically engaging with the dynamics interactions between violence, war and rural-urban change.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Constituting a 'rural city'? From the Modern movement to Communal villages in Mozambique
According to Frelimo, communal village represented organized urban life in rural context. Different from colonial city, it was to be a new collective form of society. After analysing the high modernist premises of the program, the focus will move to the practice of implementation - and its failure.
According to the Marxist ideology of Frelimo, communal village represented 'cidade do campo', organized urban life in a rural context. However, different from the colonial city, depicted as 'a bastion of vices', communal villages were to constitute a more advanced, collectively organized form of society, "where individual life will be totally annihilated, where individualism and ambition are destroyed; where we can assume fully our mission because we live in an organized way, programmed and with clearly delegated tasks" (Machel 1976, 51-52). Different from the liberal version of modernism, in Frelimo's view individualism was to be rejected as an integral part of the 'vocation to capitalism', and thus alien to Homem Novo.
The paper will examine the continuities and discontinuities from the colonial ideological heritage, notably the 'Reactionary Modernism' of Estado Novo, the legacy of the 'Modern movement' in architecture, and the Marxist twist after independence in 1975. After an analysis of the 'high modernist' premises of the communal villages programme (Scott 1998), the focus will move to the practice of programme implementation, which turned out to be rather different from the original premises. Finally I look at the situation today, as rural practices are increasingly invading the periurban areas and markets have become the dominant force. Theoretically, the paper is based on critical application of theory of practice approach (Adler and Pouliot 2011; Strengers and Maller 2016; Schatzki 2001).
The Popular Committees: The Local, the Ordinary and the Violent in the Egyptian Revolution
This paper provides an anthropology of how ordinary actors structured the two largest urban centers in Egypt and how their restructuring influenced national politics and led to the removal of Mubarak in exceptional times.
This thesis argues for the prioritized productivity of the local, the ordinary and the violent in the framing and the analysis of the Egyptian revolution. I demonstrate this through a case study analyzing the role of the Popular Committees (PCs) - the armed civilian neighborhood-watch groups that were formed in every street in Egyptian cities to compensate for the withdrawal of the police - in the revolutionary contention over the removal of Mubarak. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, I use "the local" as an analytic category to draw the variation in political relationships and class dynamics in Alexandria and Cairo. While I hypothesize the PCs as a contender in a (Trotskyan) state-centered revolutionary situation, I use the lens of micro-sociological theories to interpret the identity, the politics and the agency of local, ordinary small actors. I conclude that, while the PCs were socially conservative, their localized, block by block, appropriation of the legitimacy of the use of violence, performance and narrativization of the police enforced a strategically significant nationwide civilian anti-police curfew. They created a dual power situation that restricted the choices of the regime and permitted organized regime challengers to safely and performatively demand the removal of Mubarak. By including the millions of PC members, the public space construction of the streets of Egyptian cities, and the use of force, I rewrite the strategic model of revolutionary contention that removed Mubarak, redraw the political and social map of the early days of the revolution, and explain its later developments.
Policing the city: How urban order is (not) produced in Bukavu, DR Congo
Drawing on fieldwork conducted in 2016 and 2017, this presentation would like to provide a glimpse into the policing and order-making practices in Bukavu’s urban public spaces by addressing the following questions: Who is policing in Bukavu? Who is being policed, where, when and how?
The population of South Kivu's capital, Bukavu, is said to have quadrupled over the last 25 years, today numbering an estimated 800,000, largely made up of conflict-displaced people many of whom fled from insecure rural areas with the hope to find urban security in the city (Nguya 2015; Mapendano, n.d.). Such unplanned exponential urban growth naturally leads to its own security concerns caused by a wide variety of sources: from overcrowding and anarchic constructions leading to fire hazards, soil erosion and unclean water to socio-economic deprivation resulting in unemployment, poverty, marginality and crime. Policing the city, then, becomes a major concern to urban authorities. Drawing on fieldwork conducted in 2016 and 2017, this presentation would like to provide a glimpse into the policing and order-making practices in Bukavu's urban public spaces by addressing the following questions: Who is policing in Bukavu? Who is being policed, where, when and how? And finally, what may that tell us about the production of urban public order and authority in a conflict-affected city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?
I am here for business: on not seeking asylum in Juba, South Sudan
The paper examines how humanitarian interventions in South Sudan shaped regional migration patterns. Given the erosion of refugee protection globally, I explore how the ‘political’ appears in narratives of doing business in Juba among migrants differently situated along a spectrum of force-voluntariness.
The paper takes up the ways in which the large-scale humanitarian and state-building interventions in South Sudan reshaped regional migration patterns, economies and social relations in East Africa and the Horn. International stabilization efforts are accompanied by enormous flows of financial and material resources into struggling economies further eroded by conflict and crisis. These material flows present opportunities for those willing to take on the risk of operating in the midst of substantial insecurity. Placing 'economic' migration to Juba in its political context, I consider the social, economic and communicative practices that call forth, sustain, and collapse this particular conduit of material and human investment. Given the qualitative erosion of refugee protection in the region and beyond, I look beyond the boom-town narratives to highlight the ways in which the 'political' appears in narratives of doing business across borders among migrants differently situated along a spectrum of force and voluntariness. In particular, I consider how notions of masculinity, autonomy, dependence and political commitment figure in decisions by migrants not to seek asylum—whether in large refugee camps in the region, or by joining family resettled to Europe, Australia or North America. The paper draws on field work 6 month of field work conducted in Juba, South Sudan in 2015.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.