Dienstag, 22. März 2022

ALMA Reviews Blog: The new ‘diaspora trap’ framework: Explaining return migration from South Africa to Zimbabwe beyond the ‘failure-success’ framework

Dr Divane Nzima (University of the Free State, South Africa) and Philani Moyo (University of Fort Hare, South Africa)

Published in 2017 by Migration Letters, 14(3), 355–370.

Available at: https://doi.org/10.33182/ml.v14i3.349

 

The authors of this paper are based in South Africa: Dr Divane Nzima is a Sociology lecturer at the University of the Free State and Prof. Philani Moyo is the director of the Fort Hare Institute of Social & Economic Research (FHISER) at the University of Fort Hare. The paper introduces the concept of the “new diaspora trap”, which is a phenomenon arising from the long history of labour migration from Zimbabwe to South Africa. Nzima and Moyo argue that the dominant theories of return migration – namely, the New Economics of Labour Migration and the Neo-Classical Economic theory of migration – have largely adopted the “failure-success” hypothesis, which posits a binary between failure and success as determinants of return migration. In this case, migrants return either after having achieved a successful migration experience as perceived by their home community or after a failed experience that left them unable to continue living in the diaspora. Nzima and Moyo are critical of these narratives, which they see as limiting the extent and depth of understanding the migration experiences of immigrants from Zimbabwe to South Africa. They argue that the failure-success notion indexes success or failure in economic terms and ignores other factors that may influence a decision not to return, such as marriage with a South African spouse, which enhances social integration in the country of destination. In their article, the authors adopt a structuralist approach that highlights the contextual factors that may influence the decision by Zimbabwean migrants either to return or stay put in South Africa. They argue that due to circumstances beyond their control, most Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa are subject to the “diaspora trap” and do not return to Zimbabwe, in contrast to the conception of the dominant theories of return migration. The “new diaspora trap framework” of the authors considers differing contexts in explaining (non)return migration and note that permanent settlement is not always voluntary.

The paper acknowledges the long history of Zimbabwean migration to South Africa and uses it as a basis for developing the theory of the “diaspora trap”. It is thus part of the new scholarship that departs from the longstanding tradition of conceiving of Zimbabwean migration to South Africa as temporary – a concept that limits the space for engaging with findings that lean towards permanence and permanent temporality. 

The fresh approach of the authors is critical in the context of protracted crisis situations such as the Zimbabwean case, where some migrants may have hoped to return to their homeland in the immediate term, yet are unable to do so due to the continuing economic crisis. It also introduces important nuances to the economic logic that whether a migrant fails or succeeds, he/she is inclined to return at some point – given that the decision to return is not that straightforward. This is particularly the case in the context of South Africa, where, as the authors argue, some migrants do not experience the success they had anticipated and therefore postpone a return.

The article could have benefited from further engagement with the notion of permanence, which may not be a clear-cut proposition since, as they have noted, it is largely out of the migrants’ hands. In other words, the permanency that they refer to is often a result of circumstances. Without a more precise definition of the nature of the permanency being discussed, the study risks obscuring the nuances that force Zimbabwean migrants to postpone a return to their home country. The authors also need to more deeply examine their data and explore whether such a return is, in fact, desirable. Often there is the assumption that migrants intend to return to their country of origin, yet such a return may not necessarily be as appealing as remaining in the destination country. Apart from the structural constraints and other economy-related issues, are there no immigrants that exercise the choice not to return or that find the prospect of returning to Zimbabwe unappealing? An engagement with such possibilities would enrich the discussion, especially in the context of further theorising on issues of permanent temporality as a dimension of permanency amongst Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa.

Reviewed by: Khangelani Moyo


To all contributions of the ALMA Reviews Blog

Foto: ©Cynthia Matonhodze, Harare, Zimbabwe

Dienstag, 15. Februar 2022

ALMA Reviews Blog: The geopolitics of COVID-19: US-China rivalry and the imminent Kindleberger trap

Riham Bahi, Professor of Political Science, Cairo University, Egypt

Published in Review of Economics and Political Science, 2021, Volume 6, Issue 1, 76-94.

Available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/REPS-10-2020-0153.

Given the political and economic turbulence Egypt has endured in the aftermath of the 2011 “Arab Spring”, academic work at Cairo University has not been easy during the last decade. Nonetheless, a remarkable achievement has been the creation of the periodical Review of Economics and Political Science, a journal edited at the prestigious Faculty of Economics and Political Science (FEPS) under the editorial leadership of Prof. Heba Nassar, former vice president of Cairo University.

Since its first issue appeared in 2015, the journal has featured an impressive number of articles that analyse current developments in Egypt and the Arab world, as well as in other parts of the globe. Most authors are affiliated with universities and research centres located in the Global South, and all articles are published by Emerald as open access. Since no authors’ fees are collected, the journal provides a wonderful opportunity, especially for junior scholars from the Global South, to present their research in the English language to a global audience.

Among the recent articles in the journal dedicated to the COVID-19 pandemic, a contribution by Riham Bahi, an associate professor of International Relations at Cairo University and head of the Euro-Mediterranean Studies Programme, provides an interesting perspective. Her article “The geopolitics of COVID-19: US-China rivalry and the imminent Kindleberger trap” discusses aspects of how the worldwide health crisis has affected the competition for global leadership between China and the United States. She observes that the world “seems to be falling into a ‘Kindleberger Trap,’ in which the established power is unable to lead while the rising power is unwilling to assume responsibility” (p. 76). Noting the complete absence of US leadership during the pandemic, which in the long run could lead to a “breakdown of the international order” (ibid.), Bahi asks whether this can be compared to Charles Kindleberger’s original observation that the Great Depression of 1929 also resulted from the global power shift from the UK towards the US: while the former could no longer provide sufficient support to the world economy, the latter was not (yet) willing to do so.

Bahi’s starting point is the (hardly surprising) observation that global challenges such as the pandemic, but also climate change, require analytical responses beyond the classic tool kit of realism. Here, Bahi refers to the work of Nayef al-Rodhan (2018), who identifies seven features as central for modern statecraft, among them social and health issues as well as environmental concerns and scientific potential. For al-Rodhan, modern statecraft consists of the ability both to provide domestic stability and to guarantee room for manoeuvre within the international sphere (p. 77).To counter a pandemic, these potentials have proven more relevant than the classic elements of state power, such as military might or economic supremacy.

As a result, argues Bahi, global leadership has become less dependent on traditional power tools, while the ability to distribute public health provisions has become increasingly important. Donald J. Trump’s “America first” rhetoric and his obvious inability to react appropriately to the COVID-19 pandemic helped China take a lead in the global fight against SARS-CoV-2. And, as Bahi asserts, “[u]nlike threats like Iran or terrorism, China’s challenge is systemic. It can upset the US-led international order” (p. 81).

The article contains a concise and easy-to-understand overview of US-China relations during and after the Cold War, a competition that has turned into a rivalry now often referred to as a “second Cold War” (p. 81); the struggle over the 5G telecommunications standard and the “currency war” between the dollar and the Yuan testify to this. China’s Belt-and-Road Initiative exemplifies the two different perspectives: while the US calls it a “debt trap” for participating countries, the Chinese government sees it as a unique chance for enhanced trade relations and growing wealth for those involved. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has elevated this rivalry to yet another level. Each side has accused the other of being responsible for the virus: China claimed its origins were to be found within the US army, while President Trump consistently referred to Sars-CoV-2 as the “Chinese virus”. Whereas China was particularly affected in the early days of the pandemic, the United States quickly became the epicentre of infections. The article compares various key aspects of how the two countries dealt with the pandemic, such as the existing health systems, control over citizens’ behaviour and governmental transparency. Not least, it compares their cooperation with the World Health Organisation (WHO): while the United States cut ties and openly refused to support the WHO’s COVAX initiative, China included it in its “Health Silk Road” project, meant to distribute medical and protective equipment to countries in need.

Given their differences, both countries rejected cooperation in the fight against COVID-19, a circumstance that rendered the global response to the pandemic dramatically less effective. The author sees enhanced multilateralism as the way out of this tragic situation, suggesting that the G20 could be the driving force for global (health) governance (p. 89).

This conclusion could, however, have been spelled out in greater detail. Why the G20 but not the UN, for instance? If countries had adhered to the internationally accepted rules and norms, as primarily embodied by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the case of COVID-19, public health cooperation on a global level would already have succeeded. Thus, it remains questionable whether an unpredictable Trump, a populist Bolsonaro or a lying Johnson would have acted more cooperatively if they had been bound to a new set of rules established by the G20 rather than to the already existing ones. Thus, while Bahi’s call for more multilateralism is undoubtedly correct, the reference to the G20 as a way to overcome the harmful rivalry between China and the US would need more elaboration to convince her readers thoroughly.

Another area that Bahi could have explored in greater detail is the question of whether the inadequate US response was a matter of leadership, notably resulting from Trump’s individual policy choices, or if there were structural issues at work. In other words: would things have gone differently if the US President at the time had been Obama or Biden instead of Trump? 

There is, however, a fascinating observation in Bahi’s analysis that deserves particular mention here. At some point, Bahi calls China incapable but willing (p. 79), but elsewhere capable but unwilling (pp. 76, 78) to provide global public goods. What at first looks like an apparent contradiction should probably better be understood as a recognition of the reality’s complexity: unlike in Kindleberger’s analysis, states and governments cannot be classified as either strong or weak, willing or unwilling, rising or descending. They are both at the same time, probably to a varying extent, but they are definitely too disparate to be sorted into one category or the other. This is the best reason for further critique of the “Kindleberger Trap”– and likewise the “Thucydides Trap”, which Bahi briefly mentions as well (p. 81): both have fundamental shortcomings when used to analyse and predict conflict developments in our contemporary complex world order. Bahi’s analysis could have benefitted from a further elaboration of the implications emerging from her nuanced choice of words. Overall, however, she has provided a thought-provoking critique of the geopolitics of the COVID-19 response that definitely deserves a broad readership. 

Reviewed by: Charlotte Jung and Jan Claudius Völkel

Works cited:

Bahi, Riham (2021): The geopolitics of COVID-19: US-China rivalry and the imminent Kindleberger trap. In Review of Economics and Political Science 6 (1), pp. 76-94.


To all contributions of the ALMA Reviews Blog

Foto: ©Cynthia Matonhodze, Harare, Zimbabwe

Dienstag, 15. Februar 2022

ALMA Reviews Blog: The geopolitics of COVID-19: US-China rivalry and the imminent Kindleberger trap

Riham Bahi, Professor of Political Science, Cairo University, Egypt

Published in Review of Economics and Political Science, 2021, Volume 6, Issue 1, 76-94.

Available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/REPS-10-2020-0153.

Given the political and economic turbulence Egypt has endured in the aftermath of the 2011 “Arab Spring”, academic work at Cairo University has not been easy during the last decade. Nonetheless, a remarkable achievement has been the creation of the periodical Review of Economics and Political Science, a journal edited at the prestigious Faculty of Economics and Political Science (FEPS) under the editorial leadership of Prof. Heba Nassar, former vice president of Cairo University.

Since its first issue appeared in 2015, the journal has featured an impressive number of articles that analyse current developments in Egypt and the Arab world, as well as in other parts of the globe. Most authors are affiliated with universities and research centres located in the Global South, and all articles are published by Emerald as open access. Since no authors’ fees are collected, the journal provides a wonderful opportunity, especially for junior scholars from the Global South, to present their research in the English language to a global audience.

Among the recent articles in the journal dedicated to the COVID-19 pandemic, a contribution by Riham Bahi, an associate professor of International Relations at Cairo University and head of the Euro-Mediterranean Studies Programme, provides an interesting perspective. Her article “The geopolitics of COVID-19: US-China rivalry and the imminent Kindleberger trap” discusses aspects of how the worldwide health crisis has affected the competition for global leadership between China and the United States. She observes that the world “seems to be falling into a ‘Kindleberger Trap,’ in which the established power is unable to lead while the rising power is unwilling to assume responsibility” (p. 76). Noting the complete absence of US leadership during the pandemic, which in the long run could lead to a “breakdown of the international order” (ibid.), Bahi asks whether this can be compared to Charles Kindleberger’s original observation that the Great Depression of 1929 also resulted from the global power shift from the UK towards the US: while the former could no longer provide sufficient support to the world economy, the latter was not (yet) willing to do so.

Bahi’s starting point is the (hardly surprising) observation that global challenges such as the pandemic, but also climate change, require analytical responses beyond the classic tool kit of realism. Here, Bahi refers to the work of Nayef al-Rodhan (2018), who identifies seven features as central for modern statecraft, among them social and health issues as well as environmental concerns and scientific potential. For al-Rodhan, modern statecraft consists of the ability both to provide domestic stability and to guarantee room for manoeuvre within the international sphere (p. 77).To counter a pandemic, these potentials have proven more relevant than the classic elements of state power, such as military might or economic supremacy.

As a result, argues Bahi, global leadership has become less dependent on traditional power tools, while the ability to distribute public health provisions has become increasingly important. Donald J. Trump’s “America first” rhetoric and his obvious inability to react appropriately to the COVID-19 pandemic helped China take a lead in the global fight against SARS-CoV-2. And, as Bahi asserts, “[u]nlike threats like Iran or terrorism, China’s challenge is systemic. It can upset the US-led international order” (p. 81).

The article contains a concise and easy-to-understand overview of US-China relations during and after the Cold War, a competition that has turned into a rivalry now often referred to as a “second Cold War” (p. 81); the struggle over the 5G telecommunications standard and the “currency war” between the dollar and the Yuan testify to this. China’s Belt-and-Road Initiative exemplifies the two different perspectives: while the US calls it a “debt trap” for participating countries, the Chinese government sees it as a unique chance for enhanced trade relations and growing wealth for those involved. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has elevated this rivalry to yet another level. Each side has accused the other of being responsible for the virus: China claimed its origins were to be found within the US army, while President Trump consistently referred to Sars-CoV-2 as the “Chinese virus”. Whereas China was particularly affected in the early days of the pandemic, the United States quickly became the epicentre of infections. The article compares various key aspects of how the two countries dealt with the pandemic, such as the existing health systems, control over citizens’ behaviour and governmental transparency. Not least, it compares their cooperation with the World Health Organisation (WHO): while the United States cut ties and openly refused to support the WHO’s COVAX initiative, China included it in its “Health Silk Road” project, meant to distribute medical and protective equipment to countries in need.

Given their differences, both countries rejected cooperation in the fight against COVID-19, a circumstance that rendered the global response to the pandemic dramatically less effective. The author sees enhanced multilateralism as the way out of this tragic situation, suggesting that the G20 could be the driving force for global (health) governance (p. 89).

This conclusion could, however, have been spelled out in greater detail. Why the G20 but not the UN, for instance? If countries had adhered to the internationally accepted rules and norms, as primarily embodied by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the case of COVID-19, public health cooperation on a global level would already have succeeded. Thus, it remains questionable whether an unpredictable Trump, a populist Bolsonaro or a lying Johnson would have acted more cooperatively if they had been bound to a new set of rules established by the G20 rather than to the already existing ones. Thus, while Bahi’s call for more multilateralism is undoubtedly correct, the reference to the G20 as a way to overcome the harmful rivalry between China and the US would need more elaboration to convince her readers thoroughly.

Another area that Bahi could have explored in greater detail is the question of whether the inadequate US response was a matter of leadership, notably resulting from Trump’s individual policy choices, or if there were structural issues at work. In other words: would things have gone differently if the US President at the time had been Obama or Biden instead of Trump? 

There is, however, a fascinating observation in Bahi’s analysis that deserves particular mention here. At some point, Bahi calls China incapable but willing (p. 79), but elsewhere capable but unwilling (pp. 76, 78) to provide global public goods. What at first looks like an apparent contradiction should probably better be understood as a recognition of the reality’s complexity: unlike in Kindleberger’s analysis, states and governments cannot be classified as either strong or weak, willing or unwilling, rising or descending. They are both at the same time, probably to a varying extent, but they are definitely too disparate to be sorted into one category or the other. This is the best reason for further critique of the “Kindleberger Trap”– and likewise the “Thucydides Trap”, which Bahi briefly mentions as well (p. 81): both have fundamental shortcomings when used to analyse and predict conflict developments in our contemporary complex world order. Bahi’s analysis could have benefitted from a further elaboration of the implications emerging from her nuanced choice of words. Overall, however, she has provided a thought-provoking critique of the geopolitics of the COVID-19 response that definitely deserves a broad readership. 

Reviewed by: Charlotte Jung and Jan Claudius Völkel

Works cited:

Bahi, Riham (2021): The geopolitics of COVID-19: US-China rivalry and the imminent Kindleberger trap. In Review of Economics and Political Science 6 (1), pp. 76-94.


To all contributions of the ALMA Reviews Blog

Foto: ©Cynthia Matonhodze, Harare, Zimbabwe

Barrierefreiheit

Erklärung zur Barrierefreiheit

Das Arnold-Bergstraesser-Institut ist bemüht, seine Webseite in Einklang mit § 10 Absatz 1 des Landes-Behindertengleichstellungsgesetzes (L-BGG) barrierefrei zugänglich zu machen.

Diese Erklärung zur Barrierefreiheit gilt für die Webseite www.arnold-bergstraesser.de.

 

1. Stand der Vereinbarkeit mit den Anforderungen

Diese Webseite ist wegen der nachstehenden Unvereinbarkeiten und/oder Ausnahmen nur teilweise mit § 10 Absatz 1 L-BGG vereinbar.

 

Mittwoch, 2. Februar 2022

Success: Yonatan Gez receives funding from the European Research Council (ERC)

ABI Associate Researcher and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellow Yonatan Gez has been awarded an ERC grant for his research on the long-term impact of projects on local communities in East Africa implemented by non-governmental development organisations, faith-based organisations or private investors. Gez will establish a research team to conduct research in Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique. The ERC was written during a six-month European research stay at the Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE) in Lisbon, part of a two-year Humboldt Fellowship hosted by the ABI.
 

Mittwoch, 2. Februar 2022

Erfolg: Yonatan Gez erhält Förderung vom Europäischen Forschungsrat (ERC)

Der am ABI assoziierte Forscher und Stipendiat der Alexander-von-Humboldt-Stiftung, Yonatan Gez, erhält einen ERC-Grant für seine Forschung zu langfristigen Auswirkungen von Entwicklungsprojekten auf lokale Gemeinschaften in Ostafrika, die von nichtstaatlichen Entwicklungsorganisationen, glaubensbasierten Organisationen oder privaten Investor*innen durchgeführt wurden. Gez wird ein Forschungsteam aufbauen, welches in Kenia, Tansania und Mosambik forscht. Der ERC wurde während eines sechsmonatigen europäischen Forschungsaufenthalts am Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE) in Lissabon geschrieben, der Teil eines zweijährigen Humboldt-Stipendiums war, das vom ABI ausgerichtet wurde.

Montag, 17. Januar 2022

ALMA Reviews Blog: Sumak Kawsay is not Buen Vivir

Javier Cuestas-Caza; Escuela Politécnica Nacional, Ecuador

Published in Alternautas, 2018, VOL. 5, NO. 1, 51–66

Available at:

http://www.alternautas.net/blog/2018/3/2/sumak-kawsay-is-not-buen-vivir (Blog version)

www.alternautas.net/s/journalv5i1_2018_final.pdf (article in Issue)

Sumak Kawsay, commonly translated as Buen Vivir (Good Living), has become a central topic in development studies and environmental justice debates. The concept originates in the Indigenous Kichwa language and its Andean cosmovision, which aspires to build a community-oriented and ecologically balanced relationship between society and nature. After decades of Indigenous and environmentalist struggles, Sumak Kawsay became a pillar of the Ecuadorian Constitution in 2008. This historical event was matched by unusual levels of attention from scholars across the globe calling for the abolition of Eurocentric notions of “development”. However, the political auspices of Buen Vivir remain largely unfulfilled. The idea includes the protection of Indigenous rights as well as the recognition of nature as a rights-holder entitled to legal defence against the harmful effects of exploitative economic activities. By drawing on Indigenous principles and practices, Sumak Kawsay – rather than Buen Vivir – offers a unique epistemic point of departure to reflect (and act) upon the colonial legacies of capitalocentric modernity and “green” versions thereof.

This task is easier said than done, however, as suggested insightfully in an article by Javier Cuestas-Caza, a scholar from the Escuela Politécnica Nacional in Ecuador who is making important contributions to this field of debate.

In the article, Cuestas-Caza explains why the Kichwa concept of Sumak Kawsay should not be equated with Buen Vivir. This is more than just a matter of inadequate translation. In fact, Cuestas-Caza shows that Sumak Kawsay has become a multifaceted field of academic and political debate that has much deeper implications than the concept of Buen Vivir. According to the author, there are at least three different groups that shape the meaning of Sumak Kawsay. These include (1) Indigenous-culturalist, (2) post-developmentalist and (3) socialist-statist epistemic communities.

The first, the Indigenous-culturalist community, is closest to the linguistic and ancestral origins of Sumak Kawsay. Through ethnographic research in the Andean highlands of Northern Ecuador, Cuestas-Caza discovered that most Kichwa leaders and intellectuals reject Buen Vivir as an adequate translation for Sumak Kawsay. In Kichwa, the author explains, “sumak” is associated with “plenitude” or “harmony”, while “kawsay” refers to “life”. Hence, Sumak Kawsay actually means “Vida en Plenitud” (Life in Plenitude), which refers to the ideal of leading a harmonious, fulfilled, and hence beautiful life. This is very different from the socio-ecological principles for a post-modern society that critical scholars seek to express when referring to Buen Vivir. These are better captured by the concept of Alli Kawsay, as argued by Cuestas-Caza:

“Alli Kawsay expresses the integrality and aspiration to improve the quality of life in interdependence with the beings of the environment, at the personal level (runa), at the family level (ayllu), at the community level (llakta) and at intercommunity level within a territory” (p. 54).

In the second group, the post-developmentalist epistemic community, Buen Vivir and Sumak Kawsay are used interchangeably, even though they have come to mean different things. But as noted above, Alli Kawsay may in fact be closer to the search for post-modern alternatives to global-capitalist development. In this community, Cuestas-Caza notes, elements of indigeneity are selectively recombined with intellectual programmes ranging from degrowth, ecological economics, ecofeminism, deep ecology and intercultural feminism to post-extractivist postulates. Albeit well-intentioned, these endeavours, often situated in Western universities, fail to acknowledge the cultural assemblies of meaning that underpin Buen Vivir. Hence, this type of engagement with Indigenous knowledge runs the risk of reproducing the very structures of coloniality it aspires to overcome. A closer dialogue between members of the first and second epistemic communities could have fertile ground, as the two share a genuine commitment to critical, decolonial and community-oriented thinking, so the author.

In contrast, Cuestas-Caza sees the greatest problems in the third, socialist-statist epistemic framing of Buen Vivir. In this case, the concept of Sumak Kawsay has been appropriated by political actors (around former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa) to foster a political discourse of self-proclaimed “progressive” and state-run developmentalism. Despite positive signals of change in its initial stages, this political movement ended up outing itself as neither respectful of Indigenous rights nor committed to protecting nature over the long run. In Ecuador, as a result, the perception of Buen Vivir is now linked with a problematic model of socialist-statist development with little to no connection with Indigenous thought. By the same token, this has granted members of the first community a renewed prospect of recasting the terms of the political discussion around nature-society relations from a transcultural perspective.  

In conclusion, in addition to clarifying the difference between Sumak Kawsay and Buen Vivir, this article provides a key insight. In essence, Cuestas-Caza is cautioning against the academic reflex to advocate in favour of Indigenous concepts without an accompanying process of dialogic research across epistemic communities. This can lead, on the one hand, to the formation of academic discourses that speak for but not necessarily with the social subjects who potentially co-produce transformative sources of knowledge. On the other hand, this type of endeavour actually undermines the possibility to encounter more suitable landscapes for transformative research, as exemplified by the notion of Alli Kawsay and its relationship with Sumak Kawsay and Buen Vivir.

Reviewed by: Fabricio Rodríguez

Works cited:

Cuestas-Caza, Javier (2018): Sumak Kawsay is not Buen Vivir. In Alternautas 5 (1), pp. 51–66.


To all contributions of the ALMA Reviews Blog

Foto: ©Cynthia Matonhodze, Harare, Zimbabwe