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Abstract

Emerging from a research project titled ‘The Indian Ocean as a Memory Space’ within the afraso (Africa’s Asian Options) project at Goethe University, this chapter presents the analyses of a memoir recently published in Kenya, Pheroze Nowrojee’s A Kenyan Journey. Nowrojee’s book is a family memoir published in 2014 by the Chair of the Asian African Heritage Trust in Kenya, an organization whose Afrasian activities are also analysed in this chapter. A Kenyan Journey writes the silenced Indian experience into the archive of Kenyan history. The book also ‘writes back’ to the former imperial ‘centre’ in pursuit of postcolonial justice for 31,983 indentured Indian railway workers who arrived from India to build the Uganda railway – a transcultural memory site in its own right, with its involvement of British colonialists and South Asian as well as East African workers. Of significance in Nowrojee’s memory text is the double address that characterises it. It targets two archives of memory: the archive of British imperial memory, which silences and misrepresents the Indian experience (insofar his memoir is a medium of ‘postcolonial memory’), and the archive of the Kenyan nation, into which the Indian experience has not yet been inserted (insofar it is a medium promoting ‘memory citizenship’). While analysing memory-making within Afrasian spaces in Kenya, this chapter argues that unlike competitive memory, multidirectional memory and inclusive memory have the potential to create solidarity across the Afrasian Sea world. Questioning of the strong links between memory and (simplified notions of) identity is at the basis of multidirectional memory. It is a form of remembering that finds ways to move beyond, cross-imagine, and recombine particular memories and identities.

In: Afrasian Transformations

Abstract

Emerging from a research project titled ‘The Indian Ocean as a Memory Space’ within the afraso (Africa’s Asian Options) project at Goethe University, this chapter presents the analyses of a memoir recently published in Kenya, Pheroze Nowrojee’s A Kenyan Journey. Nowrojee’s book is a family memoir published in 2014 by the Chair of the Asian African Heritage Trust in Kenya, an organization whose Afrasian activities are also analysed in this chapter. A Kenyan Journey writes the silenced Indian experience into the archive of Kenyan history. The book also ‘writes back’ to the former imperial ‘centre’ in pursuit of postcolonial justice for 31,983 indentured Indian railway workers who arrived from India to build the Uganda railway – a transcultural memory site in its own right, with its involvement of British colonialists and South Asian as well as East African workers. Of significance in Nowrojee’s memory text is the double address that characterises it. It targets two archives of memory: the archive of British imperial memory, which silences and misrepresents the Indian experience (insofar his memoir is a medium of ‘postcolonial memory’), and the archive of the Kenyan nation, into which the Indian experience has not yet been inserted (insofar it is a medium promoting ‘memory citizenship’). While analysing memory-making within Afrasian spaces in Kenya, this chapter argues that unlike competitive memory, multidirectional memory and inclusive memory have the potential to create solidarity across the Afrasian Sea world. Questioning of the strong links between memory and (simplified notions of) identity is at the basis of multidirectional memory. It is a form of remembering that finds ways to move beyond, cross-imagine, and recombine particular memories and identities.

In: Afrasian Transformations

Abstract

The present volume explores a wide variety of Afrasian transformations in the social world as well as in academic practice and maps out arenas such as development politics, South-South cooperation, cultural memory, mobile lifeworlds and transcultural connectivity where these transformations have already produced startling results. The contributions to this volume eschew grand narratives such as ‘the revival of South-South solidarity’ or ‘China’s new colonisation of Africa’ and instead seek to come to terms with the ambivalences, contradictions, and potential benefits entailed in Afrasian transformations – that are also altering our understanding of (trans)area in an increasingly globalized world. In this volume, ‘Afrasia’ neither denotes a new territorial container nor a new geopolitical mega-area, but stands for an emerging space of connective interaction and a new heuristics for coming to terms with entangled areas and intertwined histories in a decentred world that can no longer be grasped through the Eurocentric categories that dominated the theory and practice of area studies for so long.

The contributions to this volume share a concern with the conceptual innovations required to sustain a transregional perspective and seek to explore possibilities of new transregional practices of ‘doing area’ from below that move beyond the habitual corridors of North-South relations into the wider – if often puzzling – terrain of South-South interactions in an increasingly multipolar world. It is on this terrain that the Afrasian stories of social, political, economic, and cultural interactions – of African viewers of Philippine telenovelas, of ‘fake’ and ‘original’ motorcycles in Burkina Faso, of Cameroonian villagers selling possibly invented traditions to Chinese mining operators, and of African students’ dreams of world class education in Malaysia – are played out. Understanding Afrasian transformations in the social world means learning to orientate oneself on this terrain – and continuing to transform the theoretical frameworks that inform our disciplinary knowledges.

In: Afrasian Transformations

Abstract

The present volume explores a wide variety of Afrasian transformations in the social world as well as in academic practice and maps out arenas such as development politics, South-South cooperation, cultural memory, mobile lifeworlds and transcultural connectivity where these transformations have already produced startling results. The contributions to this volume eschew grand narratives such as ‘the revival of South-South solidarity’ or ‘China’s new colonisation of Africa’ and instead seek to come to terms with the ambivalences, contradictions, and potential benefits entailed in Afrasian transformations – that are also altering our understanding of (trans)area in an increasingly globalized world. In this volume, ‘Afrasia’ neither denotes a new territorial container nor a new geopolitical mega-area, but stands for an emerging space of connective interaction and a new heuristics for coming to terms with entangled areas and intertwined histories in a decentred world that can no longer be grasped through the Eurocentric categories that dominated the theory and practice of area studies for so long.

The contributions to this volume share a concern with the conceptual innovations required to sustain a transregional perspective and seek to explore possibilities of new transregional practices of ‘doing area’ from below that move beyond the habitual corridors of North-South relations into the wider – if often puzzling – terrain of South-South interactions in an increasingly multipolar world. It is on this terrain that the Afrasian stories of social, political, economic, and cultural interactions – of African viewers of Philippine telenovelas, of ‘fake’ and ‘original’ motorcycles in Burkina Faso, of Cameroonian villagers selling possibly invented traditions to Chinese mining operators, and of African students’ dreams of world class education in Malaysia – are played out. Understanding Afrasian transformations in the social world means learning to orientate oneself on this terrain – and continuing to transform the theoretical frameworks that inform our disciplinary knowledges.

In: Afrasian Transformations

Abstract

Is the Asian experience more relevant for African renaissance than it is generally assumed? We mean the lessons that could be drawn from a close examination of the transformation that had occurred in the 20th century in Japan and China, and particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The answer, we argue, must be definitely yes. In each of these countries, positive economic change was preceded by a sustained and successful effort to raise the productivity and income of the majority of the population: the rural poor. In Africa, too, the vast majority of people live in the countryside. And yet, agriculture has been a relatively neglected sector in Africa’s overall developmental strategy. When the sector received some attention, the specific policies in many African countries seemed to have been generally misguided. We argue that both of these trends should be corrected. What this also means is that the key for Africa’s economic modernization is to a large extent in the hands of Africa’s leaders. Ultimately, in other words, the improvement of the African condition hinges on the intent of Africans, particularly its leaders.

In: Afrasian Transformations

Abstract

Is the Asian experience more relevant for African renaissance than it is generally assumed? We mean the lessons that could be drawn from a close examination of the transformation that had occurred in the 20th century in Japan and China, and particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The answer, we argue, must be definitely yes. In each of these countries, positive economic change was preceded by a sustained and successful effort to raise the productivity and income of the majority of the population: the rural poor. In Africa, too, the vast majority of people live in the countryside. And yet, agriculture has been a relatively neglected sector in Africa’s overall developmental strategy. When the sector received some attention, the specific policies in many African countries seemed to have been generally misguided. We argue that both of these trends should be corrected. What this also means is that the key for Africa’s economic modernization is to a large extent in the hands of Africa’s leaders. Ultimately, in other words, the improvement of the African condition hinges on the intent of Africans, particularly its leaders.

In: Afrasian Transformations

Abstract

Over the last twenty years, trade between Africa and China has increased significantly. However, while African exports of raw materials to China have early attracted the interest of many researchers, so far less has been done on the equally significant increase in African imports from China. This increase nonetheless reveals a profound reorientation of African supply chains, which is not without consequences for African societies, whereas in only a few decades, China has become the main manufactured goods provider of the continent. While the arrival of these relatively cheap goods has contributed to open a new access to a great variety of products for a wide range of African consumers, it has also coincided with their unprecedented exposure to ‘counterfeit,’ which indeed constitutes a significant part of goods in circulation in the Afro-Chinese trading networks. In order to explore this massive arrival of ‘counterfeit’ in Africa, this paper focuses on the case of Chinese motorcycles in Burkina Faso. In this Western African country, where motorcycles are the most commonly used transport mode, Chinese-origin Yamaha-brand ‘counterfeit’ motorcycles have become the best-selling in just a few years. In adopting an ethnographic approach, this paper proposes to go beyond a superficial and normative understanding of ‘counterfeit’ to unveiling the diversity of products hidden beyond this category. As such, this aims to support the idea that there is no dichotomy between ‘original’ and ‘counterfeit’ in trade between Africa and Asia, but in fact a continuum on which a broad range of products lie. In doing so, this paper shows how the boundaries between ‘counterfeit’ and ‘original’ are socially constructed and constantly reshaped in the very dynamic Sino-African trade, but also how these categories nonetheless contribute, on a daily basis, to shape the competition framework and market hierarchies in this very lucrative import sector. This research is based on data collected by interviews and observations made during several field surveys conducted in Burkina Faso and neighboring countries between 2010 and 2013.

In: Afrasian Transformations

Abstract

Over the last twenty years, trade between Africa and China has increased significantly. However, while African exports of raw materials to China have early attracted the interest of many researchers, so far less has been done on the equally significant increase in African imports from China. This increase nonetheless reveals a profound reorientation of African supply chains, which is not without consequences for African societies, whereas in only a few decades, China has become the main manufactured goods provider of the continent. While the arrival of these relatively cheap goods has contributed to open a new access to a great variety of products for a wide range of African consumers, it has also coincided with their unprecedented exposure to ‘counterfeit,’ which indeed constitutes a significant part of goods in circulation in the Afro-Chinese trading networks. In order to explore this massive arrival of ‘counterfeit’ in Africa, this paper focuses on the case of Chinese motorcycles in Burkina Faso. In this Western African country, where motorcycles are the most commonly used transport mode, Chinese-origin Yamaha-brand ‘counterfeit’ motorcycles have become the best-selling in just a few years. In adopting an ethnographic approach, this paper proposes to go beyond a superficial and normative understanding of ‘counterfeit’ to unveiling the diversity of products hidden beyond this category. As such, this aims to support the idea that there is no dichotomy between ‘original’ and ‘counterfeit’ in trade between Africa and Asia, but in fact a continuum on which a broad range of products lie. In doing so, this paper shows how the boundaries between ‘counterfeit’ and ‘original’ are socially constructed and constantly reshaped in the very dynamic Sino-African trade, but also how these categories nonetheless contribute, on a daily basis, to shape the competition framework and market hierarchies in this very lucrative import sector. This research is based on data collected by interviews and observations made during several field surveys conducted in Burkina Faso and neighboring countries between 2010 and 2013.

In: Afrasian Transformations
Author: Vinay Lal

Abstract

The infamous “scramble for Africa” has found a new lease of life. Indian companies have been making rapid strides in Africa in the wake of the global food crisis of 2008, especially in Ethiopia where the construction giant, Shapoorji Pallonji & Co., and Karuturi Global, to name two of the more prominent players, have acquired massive tracts of land at throw-way prices, often on 99-year leases. Some activists and scholars term such acquisition of farming land as a form of ‘land-grabbing’; others characterize it as a form of neo-colonialism. But the scholarly literature, which focuses on these important facets of political economy, has occluded consideration of some other highly pertinent questions. First, as this paper argues, we should locate present developments within the genealogy of the doctrine of terra nullius. The lands that have been appropriated are viewed as ‘wastelands’ that need to be rendered ‘productive.’ Secondly, it is prudent to inquire whether older representations of Indians, dating to their considerable presence in East Africa during the 20th century, as ‘exploitative’ are being reprised in the present circumstances. Thirdly, a certain conception of the Punjabi farmer as a model of resilience appears to be invoked in the present transactions. Fourthly, I inquire whether Indians, who have had a formidable presence in the imaginary of the Ethiopian nation as school-teachers, have some cultural capital that other communities, such as the Chinese, cannot claim. In other words, the histories of representation must not be overlooked in any assessment of land-grabbing. The paper concludes with some brief observations on the stakes in India’s investments in Africa.

In: Afrasian Transformations
Author: Vinay Lal

Abstract

The infamous “scramble for Africa” has found a new lease of life. Indian companies have been making rapid strides in Africa in the wake of the global food crisis of 2008, especially in Ethiopia where the construction giant, Shapoorji Pallonji & Co., and Karuturi Global, to name two of the more prominent players, have acquired massive tracts of land at throw-way prices, often on 99-year leases. Some activists and scholars term such acquisition of farming land as a form of ‘land-grabbing’; others characterize it as a form of neo-colonialism. But the scholarly literature, which focuses on these important facets of political economy, has occluded consideration of some other highly pertinent questions. First, as this paper argues, we should locate present developments within the genealogy of the doctrine of terra nullius. The lands that have been appropriated are viewed as ‘wastelands’ that need to be rendered ‘productive.’ Secondly, it is prudent to inquire whether older representations of Indians, dating to their considerable presence in East Africa during the 20th century, as ‘exploitative’ are being reprised in the present circumstances. Thirdly, a certain conception of the Punjabi farmer as a model of resilience appears to be invoked in the present transactions. Fourthly, I inquire whether Indians, who have had a formidable presence in the imaginary of the Ethiopian nation as school-teachers, have some cultural capital that other communities, such as the Chinese, cannot claim. In other words, the histories of representation must not be overlooked in any assessment of land-grabbing. The paper concludes with some brief observations on the stakes in India’s investments in Africa.

In: Afrasian Transformations