Thursday, 27. October 2022

Franziska Hohlstein receives the Arnold Bergstraesser Prize

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This year's Arnold Bergstraesser Prize was awarded to Franziska Hohlstein. She received it for her doctorate

"Between Democratizing, Stabilizing and Protecting Incumbents: A Mixed-Methods Analysis of the Role of Regional Organizations after Coups d'État".

In this study, she examines how regional organisations (ROs) deal with coups d'état, for example, when and how strong their reactions are and whether they are guided by jointly defined norms.

To promote young researchers, the University of Freiburg and the ABI jointly award the Arnold Bergstraesser Prize. The prize is awarded for an outstanding dissertation in the social sciences that deals with political and social change in countries of the global South in the tradition of Arnold Bergstraesser.

Further information on the prize can be found on the website of the University of Freiburg.

Thursday, 27. October 2022

Franziska Hohlstein erhält den Arnold-Bergstraesser-Preis 2022

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Der diesjährige Arnold‐Bergstraesser‐Preis wurde an Franziska Hohlstein verliehen. Sie erhielt ihn für ihre Promotion

"Between Democratizing, Stabilizing and Protecting Incumbents: A Mixed-Methods Analysis of the Role of Regional Organizations after Coups d’État"

In dieser untersucht sie den Umgang von Regionalorganisationen (RO) mit Staatsstreichen, beispielsweise wann die Reaktionen wie stark ausfallen und wie sie sich an gemeinsam definierten Normen orientieren.

Zur Förderung des wissenschaftlichen Nachwuchses vergibt die Universität Freiburg zusammen mit dem ABI den Arnold‐Bergstraesser-Preis. Der Preis wird für eine herausragende sozialwissenschaliche Dissertation vergeben, die sich in der Tradition Arnold Bergstraessers mit politischem und gesellschaftlichem Wandel in Ländern des globalen Südens auseinandersetzt.

Weitere Informationen zum Preis finden Sie auf der Website der Universität Freiburg(link is external).

Tuesday, 25. October 2022

ALMA Reviews Blog: Making Climate Services Actionable for Farmers in Ghana: The Value of Co-Production and Knowledge Integration

Making Climate Services Actionable for Farmers in Ghana: The Value of Co-Production and Knowledge Integration

By Emmanuel Nyadzi (Wageningen University), Andy B. Nyamekye (FAO) and Fulco Ludwig (Wageningen University) 

Published in 2022 in Indigenous Knowledge and Climate Governance: A Sub-Saharan Perspective, eds. Eromose E. Ebhuoma and Llewellyn Leonard, Springer, Cham, 97–110.

Available at:

“Western” climate science and especially its techno-scientific framing, as well as its evocation of objective factuality, have long been a focal point of critique in academic debates on global climate policy. In seeking to learn more about factors that prevent alternative modes of knowledge production from featuring prominently in discourses on climate governance, as well as in possible solutions to the problem, we came across the recently published volume Indigenous Knowledge and Climate Governance: A Sub-Saharan African Perspective (2022), which investigates indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) in sub-Saharan Africa and assesses their potential for promoting adaptation to climate variability.

The book was edited by Eromose E. Ebhuoma and Llewellyn Leonard, both of whom are affiliated with the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of South Africa in Johannesburg. The – almost exclusively African – contributors to the volume cover a wide range of case studies from both a regional and a disciplinary perspective: 15 countries of West, Central, East and Southern Africa are represented by case studies, whereas the scholars’ disciplines range from environmental sciences and geography to religious studies, peace studies and development studies, to name just a few. In their introduction, Ebhuoma and Leonard claim that “the western view of ‘knowledge’ has, since its introduction in Africa, not fully taken into account the holistic nature and approach of non-western ways of indigenous knowledge production” (pp. 2–3). In response, the book seeks to provide a platform for African voices on indigenous knowledge production and climate change adaptation. The case studies collected in the volume compellingly show that IKS can play a crucial role in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 13 (“combat climate change and its impacts”), as indigenous peoples hold valuable knowledge and can respond in creative ways to major challenges related to sustainable resource management, climate resilience and the establishment of food systems (p. 2).

The book is structured in three parts, of which the first provides many rich examples of how indigenous peoples apply their knowledge systems to adapt to climate change. Part two goes a step further and questions how scientific knowledge production and indigenous knowledge systems can be fruitfully combined to “scale up climate resilience” (p. 6). The contributions of the final part set out to analyse the factors that impede the inclusion of indigenous knowledge systems in climate governance and planning. 

This review concerns the eighth chapter, “Making Climate Services Actionable for Farmers in Ghana: The Value of Co-Production and Knowledge Integration”, which was written by Emmanuel Nyadzi, Andy B. Nyamekye and Fulco Ludwig. The chapter, which belongs to the second part of the book, not only provides an exciting discussion of the possibilities for integrating IKS and “Western” climate science, but also supports its theoretical reflections and arguments with empirical data from a four-year study in the Kumbungu district of Northern Ghana, which was conducted by the authors between 2016 and 2020. While there has been a growing recognition of the value of co-production and knowledge integration for climate governance in academic literature, only very few studies have tested its implementation and benefits so far. Thus, the chapter’s strength lies in its novel approach and ability to provide compelling evidence for the benefits of co-production and knowledge integration of both indigenous methods of weather forecasting and meteorological forecasts.

The authors begin the chapter with a discussion of the discrepancies between the increasing need for reliable climate information services for agriculture and the serious constraints farmers face in using them. Despite growing concerns about the impacts of climate variability, weather information services are scarcely used by farmers when planning or making projections. According to the authors, the “mis-match between forecast and needs, forecast inaccuracy, language barriers, use of technical forecast terminologies [...], inconsistency and untimeliness of information provision” (pp. 97–98) impede their use. The study thus seeks to address these issues by integrating widely used indigenous ecological indicators for weather prediction – such as the behaviour of animals, the positions of the sun, cloud and moon, wind speed and direction, and physiological changes of vegetation – with data from scientific forecasting, through the co-production of a single climate information service to inform farming activities (p. 99). For this purpose, rice farmers were asked to provide information through the Sapelli app, an open-source mobile application designed to enable people with no or limited literacy to use smartphones for environmental monitoring. More than sixty rice farmers from Northern Ghana took part in the project. The data retrieved from the Sapelli app was then integrated with data from meteorological observation services. Over the four years, the authors conducted more than 70 interviews with practitioners and farmers, organised 9 workshops and held 7 focus group discussions to solicit information, collect farmers’ information needs and regularly engage with farmers to obtain their feedback on the project, as well as to monitor their use of climate information services (p. 101).

From the analysis of this data, the authors conclude that co-producing weather forecast information and integrating the two knowledge systems improved the reliability, design, information generation, as well as regional uptake of climate information services among farmers in Northern Ghana. The authors argue that the Integrated Probability Forecast (IPF) method “performed generally better than any of the individual [scientific or indigenous] forecasts” (p. 104). Furthermore, the results of the interviews show that the IPF method has far greater acceptability potential among farmers (93% of farmers accept its results) because it “resolves the issues of contradicting forecast information, requires less meeting time and improves forecast reliability” (p. 104). Nyadzi, Nyamekye and Ludwig conclude that “end-users’ needs cannot be completely understood through producers’ one-size-fits-all lens” (p. 105), which is often imposed by global policymakers, scientists and researchers from “the West” on local populations in the Global South. Instead, it is crucial that “the context must be analysed paying attention to the preferences of locals and end-users” (ibid.), as well as to the complex nature of local climate change problems, which requires multiple perspectives. 

In consequence, the findings of the study are a forceful reminder of the importance of levelling the hierarchies in producing knowledge for climate adaptation and mitigation. The integration of different epistemologies and modes of knowledge production responds to the need for a more equal exchange and for the production of actionable knowledge for those most affected by climate variability. However, the authors also stress that successful co-production of knowledge requires constant reflection on the process, as well as reconfiguration and modification of existing knowledge based on experiences of successes, failures and lessons learned. Neither Western science nor indigenous accounts can claim incontestable epistemic authority. Moreover, the authors do not claim that IKS can be epistemologically placed on the same rank as modern scientific inquiry. Instead, the chapter emphasises that a closer and more comprehensive engagement with indigenous and local standpoints in knowledge production and policy processes is valuable and necessary for overcoming the technocratic one-sidedness of current climate politics, which perpetuates unsustainable global relations and the status quo of Western geopolitical dominance. It is our opinion that all those interested in how a counter-hegemonic, integrative re-thinking of climate science could work will find the chapter presented here, and the edited volume of which it is a part, of great value.  


Reviewed by: Solveig Degen, Ann Philipp


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Foto: ©Cynthia Matonhodze, Harare, Zimbabwe

Tuesday, 18. October 2022

Landtagsabgeordnete Evers und Kern (Grüne) zu Gast am ABI

Landtagsabgeordnete Evers und Kern (Grüne) zu Gast am ABI, stehen mit Prof. Mehler und Praktikant*innen im Foyer des ABI


Im Rahmen eines Aufenthalts in Freiburg besuchte MdL Catharine Kern, Mitglied im Landtagsausschuss für Europa und Internationales, gemeinsam mit der lokalen Landtagsabgeordneten Daniela Evers am 10. Oktober das ABI.

Neben einer Vorstellung der Arbeit des Instituts stand vor allem der Austausch zu internationalen Themen im Vordergrund. ABI Direktor Andreas Mehler und Geschäftsführer Martin Adelmann tauschten sich mit den Abgeordneten unter anderem zu Fragen der Restitution von Raubkunst, der Partnerschaft mit Burundi sowie der ABI-Studie Afrika im Blick aus.

Dabei wurden die zahlreichen Anknüpfungspunkte der Landespolitik zu internationalen Themen deutlich.


Tuesday, 4. October 2022

ALMA Reviews Blog: ‘Withdrawn’/‘Retreatist’ Salafism: A Radically ‘Different’ Type – the case of Tunisia

Forthcoming working paper: ‘Withdrawn’/‘Retreatist’ Salafism: A Radically ‘Different’ Type – the case of Tunisia. (“Le Salafisme ‘retraitiste’ : Un type radicalement « autre » Étude de cas en Tunisie”)

By Dr Soufiane Jaballah, Lecturer in Sociology, Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, University of Sfax, Tunisia

Salafism is one of the most influential contemporary Islamic ideologies (Bano 2021, p. 3). It can be described as a scripturalist, literalist, fundamentalist, transnational Sunni Islamic movement centred on an orthodox theology (or ‘aqīda) stressing a return to the authentic beliefs and practices of the first three generations of Muslims – al-Salaf al-Sāliḥ (“pious ancestors”) – and a particular conception of tawhīd, or God’s oneness and thus complete submission to God. A growing scholarship now analyses the basic tenets of Salafi doctrine, Salafism’s popular appeal, its relationship with politics and violence, and its nature as both a transnational and local phenomenon.

Dr Soufiane Jaballah’s thought-provoking work, based on his doctoral research, directly engages with the question of Salafism’s relationship to politics. This link between Salafism – a conservative theological movement – and party politics, political organisation and political activism is one of its “most puzzling, slippery and fascinating aspects” (Meijer 2009, p. 17). Can Muslims adhere to the doctrine of tawhīd and still submit to political power, including that emanating from a ruler or political system that does not impose and/or follow Islamic law (shari‘ah)? In other words, should Muslims revolt against the ruler or criticise the regime, or focus instead on proselytisation (da‘wah) and promoting religious education (tarbīyya)?

Wiktorowicz (2006) described the diversity of Salafi positions towards politics through a taxonomy that remains very influential in scholarly attitudes towards Salafism. As Jaballah observes, so-called “quietist” Salafis, ostensibly the focus of Jaballah’s research in Tunisia, view politics as a diversion that threatens to degrade the purity of Islam. Constituting in many ways the ideal-type of and largest cohort within Salafism, “quietists” mainly focus on propagating the Salafi creed and fighting deviant practices through daʿwah (proselytising), religious education and cleansing Islam of “impurities” (al-Tarbīyya wa-l-Taṣfīyya). Further, they typically speak out in support of respecting incumbent regimes (wālī al-Amr). By contrast, “politico” Salafis speak out on political issues and openly criticise Muslim rulers for their un-Islamic behaviour. Finally, “jihadi” or “revolutionary” Salafis argue that the current context calls for revolutionary violence. 
Scholarship on Salafism’s link to politics has tended to focus on the emergence of Salafi political parties and political activism, especially since 2011/12 following the emergence of Salafi politicians and political parties in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen. In doing so, however, academic inquiry into the nature of Salafi links to politics tends to overlook “quietist” Salafis – a tendency that Jaballah’s research on Tunisia helps to correct. Furthermore, in Tunisia, “jihadi” or “revolutionary” Salafis came to dominate the Tunisian public scene following the 2011 revolution (Cavatorta 2015) that unseated the long-time autocratic President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Consequently, there has been little scholarly work on “quietist” Salafism in Tunisia (cf. Merone, Blanc and Sigillò (2021) and Blanc (2021)). Drawing on neighbourhood-level ethnographic research and in-depth interviews with ostensible “quietist” Salafis in the Mourouj 1 district of Greater Tunis between 2017 and 2020, Jaballah’s work shows that Tunisia can be a rich and instructive context to nuance scholarly taxonomies of Salafi activism and to advance our understanding of trajectories among contemporary Salafis who claim that they “don’t do politics”. 
Expanding on work by Georges Balandier and Emile Durkheim, Jaballah draws our attention to the specific features of his Salafi interlocutors in Tunis. In rebuking “politics”, these Salafi actors are clearly not “politico” Salafis who advocate participation in formal politics. In disavowing all forms of violence, neither are they “jihadi” or “revolutionary” Salafis who engage in revolutionary upheaval. Accordingly, Jaballah’s Salafi participants might appear to resemble the third sub-type of Salafis – “quietists” – given their rejection of politics and violence. Jaballah disagrees, however: these Salafis in Tunis are also not “quietists”. After all, he contends, “quietists” are focused on activities of religious proselytisation (da‘wah) and education directed at local communities and wider society. Yet these Salafis in Tunis, he maintains, in fact criticise and withdraw not simply from politics and violence, but in fact from all forms of religious proselytisation and “mobilisation, collective action or organisation” (p. 3). Indeed, they allege that such practices are irreconcilable with “true Islam” (p. 2), an Islam that they understand to be focused simply on (Salafi) individuals correcting their own individual religious beliefs and rituals. Consequently, Jaballah concludes, they “do not seek to change... society”. Rather, their overriding goal is instead “to change their [own] habits, [and] to educate themselves in [matters of] religion according to the Salafi prism” (p. 3). 
Jaballah’s central argument here, then, is that his Salafi participants do not fit into existing categories of Salafism. The received three-part Salafi taxonomy within academic scholarship – whereby all Salafis are thought to fall within the categories of either “quietist”, “politico” or “jihadi”/”revolutionary” – cannot account for the specific characteristics of these Salafis in Tunis. Instead, he proposes that a new, fourth, category of Salafism – “retraitiste”, or “retreatist” and “withdrawn” – is required to capture their withdrawal even from religious proselytisation and education vis-à-vis society. Whilst they follow “quietists” in rejecting politics, “quietist” Salafis, he maintains, are, at their core, a proselytising current centred on da‘wah. Yet “retraitiste” Salafis do not engage in proselytising, properly understood, Jaballah contends; “we cannot speak, theoretically and practically, of proselytism without the existence of a form of organization, of mobilization, and of a clear and coherent strategy of preaching” (p. 3). For Jaballah, unlike “quietists”, “retraitiste” Salafis do not “intentionally seek out individuals to recruit” (ibid.) unless these individuals have shown an interest in conversion to Salafi Islam. Thus the “retraitistes” reject any form of mobilisation and group organisation in the service of expanding their membership base, on the grounds that this “is in dissonance with the[ir] doctrine” (p. 3).
At times, Jaballah’s work would have benefitted from more clarity on whether and, if so, to what extent this purported “retraitiste” Salafi opposition to “all forms of proselytization” (da‘wah) constitutes Jaballah’s own analytical conclusions or whether it in fact (also) represents how his research participants themselves self-categorised. Additionally, I would have been interested in understanding how exactly these Salafis in Tunisia are connected to a broader transnational Salafi network centred on the global Salafi authority figure of the Saudi scholar Rabi‘ al-Madkhali. For instance, how were al-Madkhali’s ideas and judgements drawn upon, invoked and even rethought in the context of these specific Salafi circles embedded in the contemporary politics and specific history of contemporary Tunisia?
Additionally, his arguments hang to some extent on a particular conception of daw‘ah, one in which meaningful (Salafi) proselytisation must always involve “organisation, mobilisation, and a clear and coherent strategy of preaching” (p. 3). Yet other scholars working on Salafism clearly understand proselytisation in a less restrictive sense. Here it encompasses everyday reform-oriented practices of “invitation” by Salafi individuals who reject the organisational directives and structure (that Jaballah considers central to da‘wah) on the grounds that group institutionalisation and thus the hierarchy and authority of intra-group leaders(hip) negates the absolute dominion of God. After all, proselytisation can also be directed by the individual (Salafi) on a case-by-case basis vis-à-vis other individuals – family, friends, neighbours – in ways that perhaps need not require group organisation and in ways that may disbar interactions with “reluctant” convertees and the danger to moral purity that this is thought to include.  
Jaballah’s is a theoretically ambitious and empirically rich contribution, one that is a welcome addition to the burgeoning scholarship on Salafism in the Southwest Asian and North African region, and in Tunisia in particular. The careful study of “quietist” Salafi trends helps to expand scholarly work that still too often disregards “quietist” inclinations and that typically focuses instead on Salafi-jihadi violence and Salafi political actors, particularly since the 2011/12 “Arab revolts”. Jaballah’s work invites important theoretical reflections on the central dilemma of contemporary Salafi actors – how to discharge their duty to Islamise society (in a Salafi sense) and simultaneously comply with prohibitions that forestall activism and group organisation that might endanger their own religious purity. 


Reviewed by: Guy Eyre

Additional works cited:

Bano, Masooda. 2021. Salafi Social and Political Movements: National and Transnational Contexts. Edinburgh University Press.

Blanc, Théo. 2021. “Opportunity, Ideology, and Salafi Pathways of Political Activism in Tunisia.” Third World Thematics: A TWQ Journal, 1–20.

Cavatorta, Francesco. n.d. “The Rise and Fall of Uncivil Society? Salafism in Tunisia After the Fall of Ben Ali.” Middle East Institute.

Jaballah, Soufiane. Forthcoming. “Le Salafisme ‘retraitiste’ : Un type radicalement « autre » Étude de cas en Tunisie.”

Meijer, Roel. 2009. Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement. Oxford University Press

Merone, Fabio, Théo Blanc, and Ester Sigillò. 2021. “The Evolution of Tunisian Salafism after the Revolution: From La Maddhabiyya to Salafi-Malikism.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 53 (3): 455–70.

Wiktorowicz, Quintan. 2006. “Anatomy of the Salafi Movement.” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 29 (3): 207–39.
Published works by Jaballah: Jaballah, Soufiane, Réflexions socio-anthropologiques sur le devenir salafiste en Tunis, Tunis, Éditions Mots Passants, 2022.


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Foto: ©Cynthia Matonhodze, Harare, Zimbabwe