P 51

Transcontinental Analysis: What Are We Dealing with?

Panel abstract
This panel seeks to carve out different understandings and potentials of transcontinental analysis. Should we compare cases on different continents to arrive at a more ‘global’ understanding of a particular phenomenon? Or is transcontinental analysis better understood as the tracing of empirical linkages across continents (migration, capitalist networks, the transatlantic slave trade, etc.) through which we may grasp the intertwined nature of the world? What are the methodological, theoretical, or simply pragmatic reasons for preferring one version over the other? What is the role of the researcher in each of them? As the panel seeks to present transcontinental studies in their diversity, comparative analyses on whatever topic are just as welcome as research on diasporas, expatriates in African cities, global youth cultures, political movements, or colonialism. The ultimate challenge is to tie these different topics and approaches back to the overarching question of what we want to achieve when crossing continental borders.

Time: Thursday, 28/06/2018. 11 am - 1 pm
Venue: Hörsaalgebäude, HS 17

Convenors
Joschka Philipps (University of Basel, Switzerland)
Julia Büchele (University of Basel, Switzerland)

Panellists
Promise Nyatepeh Nyatuame (University of Cape Coast, Cape Town, South Africa)
Cecilia Navarra and Cristiano Lanzano (Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden)
Julia Schweers (University of Jena / University of California, Berkeley, USA)
Joschka Philipps (University of Basel, Switzerland)
John Njenga Karugia (University of Frankfurt)
 

Paper abstracts

Promise Nyatepeh Nyatuame
Western Perspectives and African Connections: Implications for Theatre-For-Development and Participatory African Theatre

Cross-cultural relations for the arts in development communication have practical imports for the nature of connections implied in terms of different understandings and potential of transnational analysis. The implications of this for a more ‘global’ understanding of the concept of theatre-for-development (TfD) may lead to our grasping of the intertwined nature of the world. This paper reflects on the practice of TfD and on how cross-cultural connections shaped the knowledge regimes in this field. The roots of the concept and practice of TfD from the perspective of Western theatre are traceable to the ideas and practices of Bertolt Brecht, Augusto Boal and Paulo Freire. However, certain scholars argue that pre-colonial African theatre was aesthetically, politically, socially and spiritually committed. It is a total experience of mind, body and soul within the context of participatory active audiences. Clearly, literature supports the claim that African theatre makes didactic statements. It was a tool for instruction, information, and education. Largely, the functional value of African theatre is underscored in that rituals and rites of passage could aid behavioural appraisal, social criticism and control. Therefore, the paper argues that Western perspectives and new paradigms on concepts of community education, community development and community participation have implications for participatory African theatre and the practice of TfD in Africa. The research advocates the opening of a space crucial for promoting cross-cultural connections to support knowledge (re)construction, empirical linkages and knowledge sharing across continents in the twenty-first century global knowledge and cultural economy.

Cecilia Navarra and Cristiano Lanzano
Is the European Start-Upper the New African ‘Natural Entrepreneur’?

The labour market is undergoing profound transformations all over the world. In Europe, given the greater levels of workers' rights protection achieved during the peak of the welfare state, these transformations are particularly visible and disruptive of established ideological cleavages. Reforms deregulating labour markets and reducing the room for collective bargaining have been promoted by both left and right-wing governments. This individualization of labour relations has increasingly gone hand in hand with the emergence of a new public discourse praising micro-entrepreneurship and self-employment: in 2014, Italian PM Renzi visited a start-ups incubator as his first official visit after being appointed, while in 2017 French President Macron stated that he would turn France into a ‘start-up nation’. This wave of initiatives promoting small-scale entrepreneurship and microcredit in Europe echoes, on some levels, recurrent keywords dominating the development discourse in the global South, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa since the times of structural adjustment. While the debate about the informal economy has sometimes been used to oppose a ‘natural entrepreneurship’ to malfunctioning or failed states, policy-makers and donors have increasingly focused on the promotion of micro and small enterprises as a tool to reduce poverty and create employment. This contribution attempts to reflect on the dynamics of labour, employment and small-scale entrepreneurship in the two continents and to understand them as related. Can the studies on informality and informalization, on structural adjustment, and on small enterprises in African countries offer useful insights for the analysis of employment dynamics in Europe under austerity? What are the benefits and challenges of understanding these processes as part of a broader common trend?

Julia Schweers
A Passport to the World

What does US citizenship mean to a West African immigrant? What do these meanings tell us about neoliberal citizenships more generally? Drawing from participant observation and in-depth interviews with West African immigrants in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, I argue that, to this community, intercontinental migration and US citizenship are seen as a means of accessing the world at large. Naturalization is the main goal of immigration, and with that the obtaining of a passport with which to travel the world. In practice, citizenship is delinked from normative expectations of membership in US society. By underscoring transcontinental connections, imaginaries, and cosmopolitanisms instead of rooting the bearer into a bounded political community, these ideas of ‘citizenship’ seem to contradict classical notions and their emphasis on membership of and participation in a political community. This paper contributes to the broader debate over conceptualizations of citizenship in an increasingly globalized and neoliberalized world. West African migrants’ own conceptualizations of citizenship as individually empowering and unlinked from questions of belonging and participation bear uncanny resemblance to the neoliberal norms that fond contemporary US political and social life, and have shaped African lives through Structural Adjustment Programs. By pointing to a depoliticized, non- normative, neoliberal notion of citizenship, this paper sheds light on the contradictory dynamics at the heart of citizenship today.

Joschka Philipps
Margins at the Centre: a Transcontinental Comparison of Protest, Political Exclusion, and Youth's Perspectives on the Future in England and Guinea

'Youth' as a social category impersonates the future and is often seen through the lenses of societal dreams and nightmares. Politics, too, revolve around an uncertain future, as political systems arrange and negotiate the future of their citizens. This paper compares how young rioters and protesters look at the political future. It finds a stark contrast between the two presented cases. While my informants and interviewees in Guinea narrated their 2009 protests as aiming at future political change, the interviewed English rioters in 2011 barely talked about the future at all. Many of them even rejected outright the notion of future political change as naive. This paper relates these different perspectives to different modes of political exclusion and inclusion in the respective countries. While Guinea's self-proclaimed 'ghetto youth' had become an important political force that Guinean politicians needed to include into their networks to rally the urban poor for support, English politicians did not relate to marginalized youth, since none of the established political parties depended on rioters or protesters to access or remain in power. Accordingly, while Guinean protesters saw themselves as central agents in the fight for a better future, their English counterparts remained at the margins of future-related politics, which invites us to interrogate both the trope of inclusive democracies in Europe and the trope of the marginalized urban underclass in Africa.

John Njenga Karugia
Afrasian and Afrabian Memories in a Transcontinental Context

In an attempt to understand ‘the past in the present’, Memory Studies has emerged as a highly transdisciplinary field of study. Memory Studies has evolved from the pioneer work of Pierre Nora’s lieux de Memoire which insisted on construction of national memory. Transnational and transcultural memory studies paradigms have emerged from the work of scholars like Ann Rigney, Chiara de Cesari and Astrid Erll. As Erll has noted, due to global migration and transnational media dissemination and reception, memories travel globally, hence intersecting memory formations beyond the nation-state. They emerge from global diasporas, shared religions, popular culture, trade and music, hence generating transnational and transcultural networks of memory. This paper presents challenges and successes of my involvement in a transcontinental research project titled ‘The Indian Ocean as Memory Space” that is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Our focus has been the memory dynamics across the Afrasian Sea but with a keen interest on the Afrabian transregion too. A multi-method approach within a transdisciplinary theoretical framework coupled with multi-cited field research enhanced our understanding of connective memories across five continents. The connective memories we analysed are ‘scattered’ across various relational spaces and places beyond the nation-state paradigm. Using concrete ‘connective memories’ examples from Suriname and Tanzania; China and Kenya; India and East Africa; Oman, Iran and East Africa; and South Africa and Indonesia, this paper will highlight concrete examples within the Afrasian and Afrabian transregions to analyse the potentials of transcontinental research. The foregoing examples address slave trade, religion, human migration, colonial encounters and media linking various continents such as new memoirs and documentaries recently published to narrate transcontinental encounters.