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ECAS 2019. Africa: Connections and Disruptions

(Soc02)
New surplus populations in Africa: Ruptures and continuities in rural transitions
Location
Date and Start Time [TBD] at [TBD]
Sessions [TBD]

Convenors

  • Michela Marcatelli (Stellenbosch University) email
  • Lerato Thakholi (Wageningen University and Research) email

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Short abstract

This panel aims to reflect on how new processes of rural dispossession and displacement are (re)producing surplus populations in Africa today. It will do so by interrogating the connections between these dynamics and land and green grabbing, environmental change, and capital accumulation.

Long abstract

Contemporary land and green grabbing, both accelerated by global environmental challenges and capitalism's response to them, have brought about a new phase of dispossession and displacement in Africa. These dynamics are highly uneven and context-specific. In some places, they are better understood in connection with the colonial past, whereas in others they represent ruptures within broader processes of rural and environmental change. The consequences on the rural poor differ too, but there is evidence of relative surplus populations emerging, with serious effects on these people's access to land, natural resources, labour, and livelihoods - while the neoliberal socio-economic system often does not provide any alternatives.

This panel aims to reflect on how the complementary processes of dispossession and displacement are unfolding across present-day Africa. We welcome both theoretical contributions that point out common logics underpinning these phenomena and rich empirical case studies that highlight local differences. We seek to bring together contributors from different disciplines and especially encourage scholars working in the fields of critical agrarian studies, political ecology, and sociology of development to submit their proposals.

The panel intends to address the following questions, among others:

• What are the connections between dispossession, displacement, environmental change, and capital accumulation in times of land and green grabbing?

• Who is being made surplus, how, and to what?

• How are dispossession and displacement affecting rural populations and their social reproduction?

• What discourses are employed to justify these processes?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Disciplinary Diversification in Karamoja: The Case of Charcoal

Author: Matteo Caravani email
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Short abstract

Oftentimes in Africa the internal responses to the crisis of social reproduction of labour are disciplined by governments and development partners. My paper argues that there is need to recognize the importance of charcoal production beyond the discourse of negative coping mechanisms.

Long abstract

Following the Karamojong's historical transition away from transhumant pastoralism - in what has been termed as the de-pastoralisation process - the regional economic reliance on off-farm activities has steadily increased. Colonial and post-colonial interventions have slowly deconstructed an old mode of production to "civilize" and "modernize" the Karamojong. The forceful change of modes of production, resulted in the current dominant diversification of livelihoods that is shaped by growing inequality and general proletarianisation. The internal responses to the crisis of social reproduction of labour - among which charcoal production features as essential - are again disciplined by the Ugandan government and development partners. These institutions support sedentary agriculture while criminalizing the local charcoal production for its alleged effects on environmental and land degradation, leading to deforestation and thus the weakening of communities' resilience to future shocks and stresses. However, while the Karamojong are officially blamed for deforestation due to charcoal burning, initial findings suggest that large-scale commercial producers in central Uganda are expanding their charcoal frontier to Northern Uganda and that these are indeed the key drivers of deforestation. My paper argues that there is need to move away from a normative understanding of off-farm activities and to recognize the importance of charcoal production beyond the discourse of negative coping mechanisms. Simply criminalizing the Karamojong for burning and selling charcoal or impeding this livelihood through the rule of law will make the inhabitants of this region more destitute. Rather than banning charcoal, government and development partners should support its sustainable production.

Resettlement and the production of surplus populations in Mozambique

Authors: Nikkie Wiegink (Utrecht University) email
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Short abstract

In Mozambique, surplus populations are produced through involuntary resettlement following mega projects (mining, agriculture, conservation). We discuss how government discourse, corporate rhetoric, and community consultation meetings legitimate this as an opportunity for (sustainable) development.

Long abstract

Mozambique's economy is increasingly geared toward the extractive industry and large scale plantation agriculture. One of the direct consequences of this is the displacement of rural people from their homes and lands, a process referred to as involuntary resettlement. Drawing on the work of Tania Li (2010), we regard resettlement as one of the key ways in which surplus populations are produced in Mozambique, as (often) rural and already vulnerable people lose access to their lands, while being relocated to marginal or already-crowded 'alternative lands' without being substantially incorporated into the job markets that these mega projects (such as mining, agriculture, conservation) create. Based on our ethnographic research in different parts of the country, across several sectors, and at different project stages, we provide comparative insight into how surplus populations are produced through resettlement processes in the context of mega projects in Mozambique. Subsequently we show how resettlement is continuously framed and thereby legitimated in government discourse, corporate rhetoric, and community consultation meetings as an opportunity for (sustainable) development and as a concern of national interest.

The new relocation townships: Social reproduction of evicted farm workers and dwellers in South Africa

Author: Michela Marcatelli (Stellenbosch University) email
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Short abstract

This paper will introduce and discuss the re-emergence of 'relocation townships' as a crucial dynamic of rural and agrarian change in post-apartheid South Africa. It will do so by looking at processes of accumulation and social reproduction within the context of farm evictions.

Long abstract

This paper will introduce and discuss the re-emergence of 'relocation townships' as a crucial dynamic of rural and agrarian change in post-apartheid South Africa. The study of these places is key to understanding the complementary processes of (racialized) dispossession and displacement that continue to characterize the country today. In my presentation, I will focus on elements of continuity and change between the forced removal of surplus people during apartheid and farm evictions in the post-apartheid order, by looking particularly at the Karoo region as a prime site of sustainable development initiatives. I intend in fact to consider the re-emergence of relocation townships in relation to two major land-use changes, namely private nature conservation and renewable energy production, both of which are highly visible in the Karoo. As an exploratory paper, it will aim at identifying key issues around the intertwined concepts of accumulation and social reproduction. For instance, to what extent and how are new relocation townships instrumental in sustaining accumulation and, on the other hand, how does social reproduction change for a surplus population composed of ex-farm workers and dwellers living on the margins of small rural towns?

Trapped between forced displacement and deportations: Zimbabwean migrants on South African farms

Author: Denboy Kudejira (MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY) email
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Short abstract

Faced with socio-economic challenges, Zimbabweans cross the border into South Africa where they become a source of exploitable labour on the farms. Desperation and the fear of deportation force them to accept conditions which have been made precarious by neoliberal policies and agrarian reforms.

Long abstract

This paper presents findings from ethnographic research conducted over a period of 17 months in the Blouberg and Molemole local municipalities of Capricorn District in Limpopo province with the aim of exploring the living and working conditions of undocumented Zimbabwean migrant farmworkers, and understanding how these conditions are linked to global macroeconomic policies and to agrarian reform processes in both Zimbabwe and South Africa. Limpopo serves both as a transit province for Zimbabweans who wish to proceed further south to other provinces of South Africa and a destination for undocumented migrants who live and work on white-owned commercial farms. On one hand, neoliberal policies adopted by Zimbabwe in the late 1990s and the agrarian reform programme which started in the year 2000, resulted in socio-economic challenges, eroded livelihood opportunities and forced millions of its citizens to migrate to neighbouring countries and abroad. On the other hand, neoliberal policies implemented by the post-apartheid South African government and uncertainties associated with the land question have led to the farm labour market becoming heavily casualized, and hence less attractive to locals. The desperation to find waged work, and the fear of being apprehended and deported back home force Zimbabweans to accept precarious working and living conditions on the farms. For the undocumented Zimbabweans, the South Africa farm labour market provides opportunities to earn income and enables them to make long-term investments in their families back home.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.