An outward sign of an inward grace: how African diaspora religious identities shape their understandings of and engagement in international development
Scholarship on the different ways that international development is understood, accessed and engaged by various communities, is often contextualised by analyses of how these complex practices are communicated to (and received by) audiences. This includes established motifs of poverty and social deprivation in visual discourses of ‘charity’ and ‘need’ that abound literature, film, television and the social media of western democracies. Indeed, insights have also been drawn from quantitative and experimental measurements of people’s philanthropic propensities and attitudes towards ‘distant others’. While these are well established, less considered are the broader understandings of development that are informed by religion and faith subjectivities, especially for African diaspora communities engaged in international and local forms of development. Addressing this gulf in knowledge has important implications for the scholarly and programmatic application of development and attendant policy recommendations. This is especially true when recognising African diaspora identities as critical for engendering particular forms of cooperation and alliance with religious members of these communities. So too, how and to what extent their religious orientations shape and determine their different priorities, strategies and traditions of ‘help’ and ‘giving’ in and for their countries and communities of heritage.
As such, are we to assume that religion(s) and faith identifications are inconsequential or secondary to how diasporas participate in and negotiate understandings of international development? Or are they much more significant and constitutive than we think? Is there space for religiously informed interpretations of international development that move beyond its definitional and operational preoccupation with technocratic rationality to allow for new and extended conceptual possibilities? All these speculative questions and theoretical possibilities constitute the intellectual space within which my Identities article: '"An outward sign of an inward grace": how African diaspora religious identities shape their understandings of and engagement in international development’, is concerned.
Using first-and-second-generation London-based Christian and Muslim Nigerians, as a case study, the article reveals that religion, religious identities and ‘narratives of faith’ are all instrumental for understanding how these diaspora communities, as development actors, assign meaning to and participate in international development. This is best understood in their religiously moralised evaluations, rationalities and theological obligations for engaging in development-related activities largely in the form of private remittances and allied non-monetary contributions and services to Nigeria and continental Africa more generally, via their places of worship.
That is, for Nigerians, their Christian and Muslim identifications provide the theological and doctrinal foundation and vocabulary through which they articulate (and demonstrate) their interpretations of/for international development. These faith(ed)-vocabularies of development are undergirded by and organised around embodied discourses of humanitarianism, compassion, and justice. The significance of this religious moralising by Nigerians also extends to their conceptualisations of their development activities as 'consecrated acts' operating within systems of meaning and practices associated with and constituted by, moral expectations and cultural obligations that frame and which signify their religious and faith orientations.
Within this frame, development is dually understood by Nigerians as a ‘performance’, practicality or an ‘action-ing’ of their religious-faith identities and of their embodied ‘religious selves’. Certainly, these communities conceive religion and their religious selves as not just significant for development practice but as development itself. Consequently, my article calls for a (re)theorisation of international development that affords space to alternative articulations that necessarily include transnational Afro-religious diasporic performativity.
Blog post by Edward Ademolu, The London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
Read the full article: Ademolu, Edward. 'An outward sign of an inward grace': how African diaspora religious identities shape their understandings of and engagement in international development. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2020.1813462
On 26 May 2020, professional football in England resumed after a three-month shutdown in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK. The disproportionately high COVID-19-related mortality rates among Britain’s black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities prompted some debate among football professionals, journalists and academics as to the potential higher risk ‘project restart’ posed for black professional footballers compared to their white peers (Minhas et al, 2020). Nonetheless, the launch commenced, and fears were alleviated (initially at least) by the implementation of a robust test, track and trace system and by clubs operating extraordinarily high levels of surveillance and control over their players’ daily activities.
On 12 September, the Football Association in England (FA) ‘restarted’ the non-professional format of the game. By comparison, there has been much less public scrutiny of this roll-out, and especially in relation to broader questions around public health. Or to the potential of local football to contribute to the disproportionately high COVID-19 mortality rates among Britain’s minority ethnic communities.
The absence of debate is quite remarkable given that, according to the FA, there are currently over 3,000 non-professional women’s, men’s, youth and mini-soccer football clubs that play on a ‘Saturday’ across England, compared to just 92 professional clubs. This is also surprising given the long history and relationship between local football and Britain’s BAME communities.
Thus far, much of the guidance for clubs operating below the professional level, has focused on safety around the activity of playing. A recent study by the Koninklijke Nederlandse Voetbalbond, for example, found that because the majority of contact during a match fell below the 30-second threshold for transmission, outdoor-football is deemed to be remarkably safe for players (Consultancy.co.uk). Undoubtedly influenced by this kind of logic, on 19 August, the FA published its ‘COVID-19 Guidance on Re-Starting Outdoor Competitive Grassroots Football’.
Much of the focus has been on protective measures during and before matches. For example, while contact between competing players during games is permitted, contact for goal-celebrations are not. Likewise, social distancing measures of at least one-metre-plus should be observed by coaches, substitutes and spectators. Where possible, players should walk or cycle to matches. Epidemiologist, Patricia Bruijning asserts that ‘carpooling’ should be removed as an option for getting players to and from matches. Enforcing the majority of these provisions is the responsibility of club officials.
Most local football clubs and organisations operate on the labour of a limited number of dedicated volunteers who often double, triple and quadruple-up on club roles and matchday duties. This reality makes regulating and enforcing the safety measures proffered by the FA extremely difficult. For example, at a recent preseason match I attended, some nine levels below the professional leagues, the home team’s ageing club secretary and designated COVID-19 officer, was simultaneously administrating the match-officials and players, staffing entry into the ground as well as staffing the tea-bar.
All this undoubtedly limited his ability to notice – and stop - the substitutes and coaches of both teams huddling together in their respective dugouts, for the duration of the first-half of the match. So far, there is little evidence to indicate that such safety measures are being strictly and evenly adhered to across this format of the game.
Of course, the failure to follow guidelines fully by club officials, players, coaches, and spectators has to be seen within the context of football as a prized counter-hegemonic space within the local sporting imagination. Local football has a long history of being resistant to policy, which is often seen as the overreach of the State into the private affairs of clubs and how they operate. Resistance to top down policing, in this context, is also undoubtedly bound-up within the politics of youth and masculinity.
Overly simplistic and narrow guidelines on car-use provide us with a useful example of the ways in which these provisions often fail to fully account for the social and economic inequalities that exist between players from different raced and ethnic backgrounds, or for the host of clubs which are connected to specific BAME communities.
Unlike the professional game, non-professional football in England includes organisations and clubs that are symbolically, culturally, demographically, and often quite literally situated within specific minority-ethnic and faith communities across the country. These include clubs such as Highfield Rangers, Leicester Nirvana, Nottingham Cavaliers, IQRA and Guru Arjan Dev Khalsa Sports Club. While clubs seldom operate quota systems, they usually consist of young players from particular BAME communities. For example, London Tigers consists of predominantly local South Asian Bangladeshi volunteers and players.
Race and ethnicity in the UK is a proxy for various social and economic inequalities (that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic). A recent report by the Runnymeade Trust found that all BAME groups had significantly higher poverty rates than British white. Furthermore, Pakistani, black Caribbean and black African households respectively averaged around 55% (£127,000), 70% (£89,000) and 90% (£30,000) less savings than white-British households (£282,000).
In this context, car ownership for parents and young people from these communities is uncommon. For clubs that are predominantly populated with young people from these communities carpooling is not a choice but a necessity. The bi-weekly task of getting squads to away pitches across cities and counties without quite literally packing the few available cars full of players, would mean they would not be able to take part in sporting competitions.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there also appears little consideration within ‘project restart’ to the potential of local football to double-up as a conduit for the transmission of COVID-19 directly into the BAME communities that they serve.
Preliminary evidence has indicated that ethnicity is also a proxy for certain structural and health-related conditions of social life, which leave black and south Asian communities in the UK prone to higher than average COVID-19-related mortality rates. For example, BAME communities have higher rates of hypertension and diabetes, which increase the risk of individuals developing complications if infected. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, black males are 4.2 times more likely to die from COVID-19 when compared to white men and women (Minhas et al, 2020).
The relatively low-level risk of transmission when playing outdoors, combined with the generally young age and healthy physical condition of most people that play regular football, suggests that BAME footballers may not be at an especially high risk of possessing the underlying conditions that lead to mortality from coronavirus.
This also means that they are more likely to develop only relatively mild symptoms if infected. The recent infections of high profile professional footballers such as Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte, alongside the quarantine of 300 people that attended a recent charity football match at Burnside Working Men’s Football Club in County Durham, clearly demonstrates that neither BAME (or white) footballers, or those directly or indirectly connected to local clubs, are not immune to the virus. And herein lies the problem for the football authorities.
Local football as a cultural activity is not confined to the 22 players. Nor does it take place in social or spatial vacuums. BAME players and clubs are directly plugged into the very families, households and communities where the impact of COVID-19 is much more lethal, and whom require the most protection. For example, Punjab FC in Gravesend and the Community Relations Football Club in Rugby often operate out of their local Gurdwara and Caribbean Centre respectively, which bring them directly into contact with the communities they serve. And it is in these spaces where an outbreak effecting hundreds of people, like that experienced in the North East, could have the most devasting consequences.
Data have shown us that the relationship between coronavirus and Britain’s BAME communities is complex. A combination of structural, cultural and social inequalities has contributed to the disparity in mortality rates experienced by people of colour in the UK. My own research has detailed the important resistance, integrative and transformative functions of local football for BAME individuals and communities since their arrival in significant numbers over half a century ago (Campbell 2019).
Undoubtedly, restarting local football will provide some social, psychological and health related benefits. However, unless careful consideration is given here, local football might also provide another channel through which coronavirus directly reaches our most vulnerable communities and further widen the health related disparities and inequalities that the current pandemic has exposed and exacerbated between Britain’s white and BAME communities.
Campbell, P. I. 2019. 'That black boy's a different class': a historical sociology of the black middle-classes, boundary-work and local football in the British East-Midlands c.1970−2010. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1590028
Consultancy.co.uk. 17 June 2020. Research suggests football can be played safely during Covid-19.
Minhas, J. S., Martin, C. A., Campbell, P. I & Pareek, M. 16 August 2020. Project Restart and COVID-19 – how do we reduce risk for ethnic minority athletes? British Journal Of Sports Medicine Blog.
Blog post by Paul Ian Campbell, University of Leicester
‘That black boy’s different class!’: a historical sociology of the black middle-classes, boundary-work and local football in the British East-Midlands c.1970−2010
‘Is it because I’m black?’: personal reflections on Stuart Hall’s memoir Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands
Inhabiting the diasporic habitus: on Stuart Hall's Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands
The stigma of being Black in Britain
Korea has been said to be one of the most racially and culturally homogenous countries in the world. Although many critics claim that this is a 'myth', it is true that the country has not suffered from the racial and religious conflicts that have troubled so many countries. This alleged racial homogeneity may make a different race the primary indicator of 'the stranger' in Korea.
Thus, I was somewhat surprised by the descriptive statistics from a nationally representative survey of the permanent and naturalised immigrants in Korea conducted in 2013. According to the survey, the majority of immigrants who experienced perceived discrimination believed that they were discriminated against because of their national backgrounds, and not race, religion or economic status. From the respondents’ perspective, Koreans seem to be very proud of their nationality. If, as the immigrants claim, Koreans are so proud of being Korean, what is the source of that national pride? Further, could it be the way they justify discrimination against immigrants?
My Identities article, 'Constructing Chineseness as other in the evolution of national identity in South Korea', addresses these questions. Drawing on scholarly publications, newspapers, policy reports, surveys and films, I compared two different Chinese immigrant groups who came to Korea in different eras. I traced the narratives of Chineseness used to construct Chinese immigrants as strangers and examined how these narratives are related to Koreans’ evolving self-perceptions. The country’s national goals and sources of pride – in particular, historical eras – constitute the national subjectivity. As the most immediate strangers, Chinese immigrants have been easy targets for Koreans to demonstrate and confirm the new national identities they desire.
Chinese residents from Shandong province in eastern China, referred to as Hwagyo, were the first immigrant group in Korea’s modern history. Their Chineseness was constructed from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries when Korea was subjected to colonial rule, and struggled to survive economically as one of the poorest countries in the world. Highly motivated by their desire to survive and grow as a nation, Koreans targeted the most immediate others as threats to those goals. The Hwagyo’s dominance in trading and their expanding economic activities were perceived to be a national security risk that was used to justify the legal measures adopted to marginalise them socially and economically.
Later, ethnic Koreans from the People's of Republic of China, referred to as Joseonjok, immigrated to Korea to take low-income jobs, and became more visible strangers and the new representatives of Chineseness. The Chineseness of these immigrants was contrasted to Koreans’ redefined national character, in which Koreans envisioned themselves as the only legitimate citizens of an advanced, capitalist and liberal society. This new national subjectivity is culturally defined by particular behavioural patterns, ethical orientations and lifestyles. Joseonjok’s Korean ethnicity has not been embraced and celebrated sufficiently to compensate for their cultural otherness which is framed conveniently as Chineseness. Further, the media has often portrayed them as lawless, wild and dangerously naïve compared to the image of orderly, restrained and sophisticated Korean citizens.
These two kinds of Chineseness constructed in different historical eras served the same purpose of designating immigrants as others to enhance the vision of Korea’s national character that its citizens desired. Thus the Chineseness of immigrants to Korea has evolved over time from an economic to a cultural threat, through the process of delineating the legitimate boundaries of economic and cultural communities.
The quest for Koreanness has been troubled by the political polarisation between conservatives and progressives who disagreed over various critical issues from whether the birth of South Korea was legitimate or not, to who are the true evil others to Koreans. However, this long-time discursive divide itself is superficial enough not to enunciate the evolving national goals, visions and characters of Koreanness. As Hall suggested, we should think of identity as a production, which is always in process, and always constituted within representation, instead of thinking it as an already accomplished fact. This paper traces the construction of Chineseness of immigrants as the evolving reflections of self through which Koreanness, as the product of historical experiences, was constantly discovered and expressed.
Blog post by Oh-Jung Kwon, Korea Institute of Science and Technology, Republic of Korea
Read the full article: Kwon, Oh-Jung. Constructing Chineseness as other in the evolution of national identity in South Korea. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2020.1757253
Death is often thought to hold a special place in Irish culture, or even, for some anthropologists, to be indicative of a morbid fixation on the part of Irish people more generally. One academic has even stated that ‘the Irish death fixation… is a cultural fact that cannot be ignored’. Of course, we can easily dismiss such attempts to cast an entire people as possessing some essential, psychic quality as a heavy-handed failure to appreciate the diversity of attitudes and experience within a nation.
Nevertheless, death remains a feature of Irish political, social and cultural life even if it is not the primitive atavism that some might claim. The mobilisation of death in political ways is explored in my Identities article, ‘Racial capitalism, hauntology and the politics of death in Ireland’.
One example of the politicisation of death can be seen in the document that proclaimed the birth of an independent republic in 1916. It stated that it was from ‘the dead generations’ that Ireland ‘receives her old tradition of nationhood’. The dead are mobilised in pursuit of an archetypically modern political project – the establishment of a democratic nation-state.
These ‘dead generations’ can be identified in the failed rebellions that are alluded to in the same document: failed and bloody, each iteration of the assertion of national independence looks forward to a promise of future fulfilment. The dates ring out on the lips of the revolutionary devout (1798, 1848, 1867, 1916…). But, it is not only the hapless insurrectionists who are alluded to - the million who perished in the Great Famine (1845-52) are also enlisted into the ranks of the national martyrology.
With the Famine comes the one of the dominant features of Irish social life over the past century and a half - mass emigration. The social death that this entailed was marked by the so-called ‘American wake’ that mourned the passing of soon to be emigré. The population was decimated to such an extent that today that it has not recovered to the levels seen in 1840.
To understand this, it is necessary to look to how processes of racialisation intersect with the biopolitical technologies that emerged in the nineteenth century. The ways in which the Irish were produced as racialised subjects has been traced by Cedric Robinson in his classic work Black Marxism and how they overcame the restrictions that this entailed in the United States by the work of historians Noel Ignatiev and Theodore Allen.
The effect of the Famine was to centre death at the heart of Irish political life. Death itself became to be seen as a final marker of resistance to the processes of oppression that many felt had led directly to the Famine. The echo of this experience extended beyond surviving generations and its iterations at different times are explored further in my article.
Blog post by Edward Molloy, University of Liverpool, UK
Read the full article: Molloy, Edward. Racial capitalism, hauntology and the politics of death in Ireland. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1658395
'Kashmir is a Palestine no one talks about'.
I recorded this remark by a friend sympathetic to both struggles almost a decade ago. She knew enough to realise early on as to what was prevalent and what would be unfolding for the Indian occupied Kashmir in the future. As I discuss in my Identities article, ‘"Their wounds are our wounds": a case for affective solidarity between Palestine and Kashmir’, while the political histories of both regions are different, broadly speaking, they ‘seem’ very similar and separated only by continents. Strong overlaps exist in having been midwifed by the waning British Empire in 1947, UN intervention and internationalisation, and in their resistance movements, that are undermined by what the current global politics lumps erroneously as 'Islamic terrorism'. The 'suffering' of people due to the heavy military presence is one of the most visually gripping hallmarks of both struggles. While these overlaps exist, settler colonialism as a fatal project of the Indian occupation of Kashmir has not been very easy to picture, especially for the international community.
It has taken scholars of Critical Kashmir Studies, an emerging subdiscipline in South Asian Studies, several decades of scholarship to manifest how India, first and foremost, is an occupying power in Jammu and Kashmir, and how since 1947 it enforced policies that eroded the region’s territorial autonomy and in time paved the way for settler colonialism. The policies put into place by India, which the UN admonished in the early 1950s, have enabled all the subsequent Indian governments to curb Kashmiri dissent and create a scaffolding for 'electoral politics'. Thus, India got away with playing the politics of democracy (Zia 2019) in a region that is both an internationally recognised dispute and an occupation. Subsequently, a stream of client governments and rigged elections paved the way for legal rulings directly handed down by India, which pared down Kashmir’s autonomy. This process of legal incorporation of Kashmir that was made operational through courts constitutes what Duschinski and Ghosh (2017: 34) call occupational constitutionalism.
On 5 August 2019, the entire world witnessed the culmination of this process by the current Indian government, run by the right-wing Hindu nationalist outfit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In a broader neocolonial context, the erasure of Kashmir’s autonomy is also the fruition of the Hindu indigeneity ideology based on which Muslims in the Indian subcontinent are cast as invaders and foreigners, and Kashmiri Muslims are doubly marked as the Other: first as Muslims and second, as Kashmiris who are committed to an irrepressible struggle for a UN-mandated plebiscite and democratic sovereignty. The BJP unilaterally and militarily de-operationalised Kashmir’s autonomous status and territorial sovereignty. For the people in Kashmir, a Muslim majority state, their longstanding fear of settler colonialism and its attendant evils of dispossession and cultural imperialism were openly put into motion. Nearly all the 8 million Kashmiris were imprisoned in their homes under a curfew and communication lockdown. There was complete communication blackout, which meant no phones, no Internet and not even basic cable TV. While curfews, communication bans and lockdowns are not new to Kashmiris, the intensity and the duration of the siege became a shock. India broke its own record in the longest internet shutdown – over 8 months. Even today as the world faces a pandemic, Kashmiris only have partial access to mobile phones and the internet, which is slow and text based.
On top of the COVID-19 quarantine, relentless war, counterinsurgency tactics, and facing the dearth of healthcare and information, Kashmiris had to face yet another assault from the Indian rule through the unilateral amendment to the domicile act. After the forceful abolition of Kashmir’s territorial sovereignty, the amendment in the domicile act manifests the active beginning of Indian settler colonialism, which according to some Kashmiri scholars, constitutes a form of demographic terrorism. Furthermore, Indian authorities have designated categories of people from India who can claim domicile in Kashmir and acquire the right to franchise, property and employment. If the issuing authority does not issue the domicile paperwork within 15 days, they would be fined to the tune of 50,000 India Rupees. This is the first time that a bureaucrat will be individually penalised for not providing paperwork within a time stipulated by the government, which is relatively fast. If anything, it shows the urgency which the government of India is imposing to ensure faster processing of settlers. This is a settler colonial plan on steroids being imposed when Kashmiris are doubly quarantined and unable to lodge protest of any kind. These policies only underline the sheer intensity with which the policy of settler colonialism, dispossession of indigenous people and rampant exploitation of resources that India is putting in place in Kashmir. The echo of 'going the Palestine way' is no more a fear but a fearful reality.
Duschinski, H. & Ghosh, S. 2017. Constituting the occupation: preventive detention and permanent emergency in Kashmir. Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law 49 (3): 314–337.
Zia, A. 2019. Resisting disappearance: women’s activism and military occupation in Kashmir. Seattle. Washington University Press.
Blog post by Ather Zia, University of Northern Colorado, USA
Read the full article: Zia, Ather. “Their wounds are our wounds”: a case for affective solidarity between Palestine and Kashmir. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2020.1750199
In the 1950s, the world famous American-born entertainer Josephine Baker, who lived in France, toured the US. She was refused in 36 hotels in New York because she was black.
Back in France, Baker adopted twelve children from 10 different countries in order to prove to the world that people of all ‘races’ and religions could live together. She organised tours through the castle where she lived with her ‘rainbow tribe’ and made the children sing and dance. In the 1920s and 1930s the popular novelist Pearl S. Buck adopted seven children, four of whom were labelled ‘mixed-race’. By doing so she flaunted American restrictions on mixed-race adoptions. In the 1950s, Buck said she did so because she wanted to show that families formed by love – devoid of prejudices based on race, religion, nation, and blood – were expressions of democracy that could counteract communist charges that America’s global defence of freedom was deeply hypocritical.
The adoptions by Baker and Buck were political statements that illustrate that intercountry adoptions were frequently about much more than saving a child, as many people who defended adoptions claim. My Identities article, ‘Parenting, citizenship and belonging in Dutch adoption debates 1900-1995’, explains why debates on this issue continued, without ever reaching a conclusion. Celebrities (including Madonna, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt) followed in the footsteps of Baker and Buck. Non-celebrities copied behaviour and arguments. Adopters tried to show that children and adults not connected by blood ties could form a family, and that single parent adoptions or adoption by same sex couples could work. Critics pointed to child kidnappings, trafficking, ‘baby farms’ and a profit-driven industry based on global inequality. Adoption was not a solution to poverty, nor in the best interest of the child, in their view.
Adoption was and is a popular subject in women’s magazines and (children’s) literature, starting with the biblical story of Moses in his basket. It features in large number of TV sitcoms (e.g. Modern Family, Sex and the City), movies and books (Roald Dahl’s Matilda, Superman). Ancestry.com offers DNA tests to find ‘your liberator granddad’, there are numerous TV shows about searching birth parents, and heritage tours to birth countries are popular.
Overall, the public and media are fascinated by adoption stories, while the issue torments authorities. This has been the case for over a century. My Identities article tackles this question of continuity by placing intercountry adoption within the context of migration, to which it legally and administratively belongs. This is an uncommon approach. By placing it in the migration context, and addressing it from a historical and comparative perspective, the interaction between discourses, policies and practices are analysed, and the continuity explained.
Making children adoptable is a discursive as well as a legal process. My article bridges the divide between the private sphere (the intimacy of the family) and public sphere (of policies and treaties), and pays systematic attention to how colonialism, persistent global inequality, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and religion were important to the debates about belonging, failure, saviour and good/bad parenting. Children are made adoptable by emphasising that their parents, family, community and country of birth have failed them. A Janus-faced construction – saving the child, condemning its origin – explains the continued challenges for policy making.
Blog post by Marlou Schrover, Leiden University, The Netherlands
Read the full article:
Schrover, Marlou. Parenting, citizenship and belonging in Dutch adoption debates 1900-1995. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2020.1757252
Doing research in a ‘conflict zone’: history writing and archival (im)possibilities in Jammu and Kashmir
'Ayse wasv Dargah Brasvaareye Shabas Asye Mangove Rabas Azadi’ ('We will go to the Hazratbal Shrine on the auspicious Thursday night, we shall pray for our Freedom').
For someone growing up in Kashmir during the time that the 1989 uprising broke out, this song was all too familiar. Witnessing and participating in Azadi rallies in which men, women and children would gather in huge numbers singing and chanting such verses turned the rallies festive. The young generation in 1989 that was moving out for studies in different cities of India saw that in the dominant discourse the 1989 uprising was being portrayed as religious fundamentalism and terrorism.
In addition, both scholarly and popular discourse on Kashmir was by and large overshadowed by the Indian and Pakistani national narratives. The regulated access to Indian archives buttressed the official narrative on Kashmir’s past that described the 1989 uprising as an outcome of the grievances that people of the region had vis-à-vis the governance. In this narrative, the aspirations for self-determination and the cyclic collective expressions of right to self-determination in the form of huge Azadi rallies were dubbed as incitation by the Pakistani state.
Like many young Kashmiris from my generation, while growing up in the region during this period I attempted to answer the question as to why and how the whole of Kashmir was out on the streets in 1989 participating in huge Azadi marches. For my research participants, I was a fellow Kashmiri to whom they could entrust the privileged role of keeper and conveyor of their stories. In my Identities article, ‘Doing research in a ‘conflict zone’: history writing and archival (im) possibilities in Jammu and Kashmir’, by drawing from my ethnographic field work in the region, I describe how embodied stories of Kashmiris punctuate the past often silenced by dominant Indian narratives.
In the article, I also highlight how presence or absence of documents in official repositories informs the present and future politics in the region. I argue that there is a politics to the restrictions on access to materials in official repositories, and such restrictions reflect the effects of power. I describe how Kashmiri narratives about certain key political events in the region’s past co-exist with other forms of memory. I also describe how the embodied experience of the Kashmiri people belies the official Indian narrative about Kashmir’s past.
The people of the region weave these stories, building an archive based on their lived experiences. Such archives are often informal and fragmented and reflect the precarious contexts in which they are produced. They also reflect the commitment, passion and desire of the communities to document and record their own histories. For my research on the 1989 uprising, I accessed a diversity of material that included novels, anecdotes and underground literature written by different political activists who were affiliated with the uprising. I argue that such material is a part of an embodied archive and is a rich resource for recovering stories silenced by the official archives.
Blog post by Farrukh Faheem, Institute of Kashmir Studies, University of Kashmir, India
Read the full article:
Faheem, Farrukh. Doing research in a ‘conflict zone’: history writing and archival (im) possibilities in Jammu and Kashmir. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2020.1738099
Understanding fear of the ‘Other’, to know and to heal: perceptions of refugees in forced migration contexts
Othering processes are inherently complex, and in forced migration contexts, national public discourses tend to reverberate with anxieties over antagonism, discrimination and increasing tensions.
As an alternative to this public discourse, which ultimately tends to associate migrants and refugees with social threat, we might examine pockets of private and semi-private spaces from which quieter voices – women’s voices, perhaps – could catalyse more positive attitudes and better informed perceptions with a gender lens. One space where such voices might emerge is in all-women ‘gün’ (or ‘day’) groups. These are periodic, informal gatherings of relatives, friends and/or acquaintances, usually hosted in one member’s home, and are crucial spaces for women’s interaction and socialisation in Turkey. In fact, in my Identities article, co-authored with Hatice Mete, ‘The afraid create the fear: perceptions of refugees by “gün” groups in Turkey’, we analysed conversations from several of these groups in Mersin in order to investigate local women’s perceptions of forcibly displaced Syrians.
What we found, however, were a set of recurring discursive patterns mirroring the public discourse – stereotyping, biased perceptions, ‘us’ vs. ‘them’, scapegoating, and discrimination – which were, if anything, more energetic in the private context. ‘We hate them’, fumed one participant, describing her Syrian neighbours’ apparent disregard for her apartment building’s rules and Turkey’s embattled norms of secular dress, and her circle exchanged approving looks.
What can explain this hostility for those ‘we’ deem as ‘different’ from ourselves? How deep is the declared lack of ‘compassion’ for the vulnerable? To what extent are expressions of contempt literal reflections of reality, or attempts to overdramatise narratives of imaginaries shaped mainly by fear of the ‘other’?
Everyday conversations in private settings enable a flow of emotions which we express as we feel them. Yet the intensity of the expression may not always reflect the sincerity of the intention. Especially if, as in the case cited above, it comes from a woman who we know is, like ‘us’, actually compassionate, decent, law-abiding. Indeed, our research suggests that the tropes in the stereotyping and exclusion may have their source in the speakers’ anxieties about the spaces and relationships on which their lives are focused. Hence, Syrian women were criticised as ‘dirty’, threatening the home’s hygiene, as ‘greedy’ and ‘materialistic’, straining generosity, as ‘immoral’, tempting Turkish husbands to take an (illegal) additional Syrian wife, as ‘too fertile’, effortlessly replacing sons lost to national service and foreign interventions, as ‘disrespectful’ of their seniors, contrasting with (idealised) Turkish youth, and – perhaps most often – as ‘noisy’, advertising rather than minimising their disturbing presence. But underneath the noisy prejudice lay, perhaps, an anxiety about powerlessness: ‘It does not matter whether you’re a guest or a refugee’, declared someone triumphantly, ‘you have to observe us and abide by our rules. We don’t have to live in accordance with your rules’.
When we have limited contact and difficulty in communicating with ‘others’ whom our societies have identified as a source of concern, our real individual neighbours can easily become faceless instances of a category; a blank canvas onto which we give ourselves permission to paint our least palatable emotions. Granted, suspicions remain, and are not helped by the persistence of the language barrier (on both sides) and the intersecting uncertainties in forced migration contexts. Yet if we carefully study these smears on the canvas, we may come to see how the fear of those who create and perpetuate fear can be healed and, perhaps, common ground discovered on which actual relationships could be built.
Blog post by Saime Ozcurumez, Bilkent University, Turkey
Read the full article: Ozcurumez, Saime & Mete, Hatice. The afraid create the fear: perceptions of refugees by ‘gün’ groups in Turkey. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2020.1723311
When migrants move abroad and start their life in a different location, they may keep their loyalties and links to their place of origin and combine them with newly built connections to their new location. Such transnationalism, though it is a well-known phenomenon, is perceived as problematic from the state point of view as it is difficult to predict the loyalty of such migrants (if they are loyal to their new state or the state of origin).
However, it also brings many dilemmas for individual migrants. One of these dilemmas is how to answer to question, 'who am I'. New identities developed in a new place need to be combined with existing ones. This is extremely difficult in the case of national identities which are built on an opposition of ‘us’ and ‘them’. If I define myself as a member of particular nation in opposition to other nations, how do I develop a new identity related to a foreign land where a foreign national lives? How do I solve a conflict of loyalties between my old and new national identity? My Identities article, 'Game of labels: identification of highly skilled migrants', calls the process of building new hybrid identities ‘a game of labels’.
Game of labels is a game played by migrants who try to avoid conflicting identifications. They can do it by playing with the scale of place. The place where we live can be understood as home, street, neighbourhood, city, country or even continent. Some scales are more important to us than others, and usually the national scale is the key for a person’s identification (Lewicka 2012). However, it is often not the case for ethnic, racial or religious minorities. It is also not the case of highly skilled migrants who live in Opole and Wrocław, two cities located in southwest Poland. Mahi, from India, who for several years has lived and worked in Wrocław, says about her Polish city:
This is where I found myself, where I developed myself, where I became a mature person. For me this is home. I know that even if I move to another country, another city in the future, Wroclaw will still be my home because I know everything there is to know here.
Mahi has developed a strong belonging to Wrocław and not to Poland. This may have happened because she needed to combine a new identity rooted in a new place with her former identity of being Indian. She explains:
For me saying that I’m Indian is not a complete truth. I know I am not just Indian… I’m also a Wroclawian [Wrocławianka].
My Identities article argues that migrants avoid combining two national identities and instead use a ‘game of labels’. The most important rule in the game is to not combine two different national identities. Therefore, instead of calling themselves Polish, they express their new identification through different scale labels: city level (they call themselves Wrocławianin – inhabitants of Wrocław) or supranational – European, human. Coming to a new country, migrants not only learn a new national habitus but also build belonging to a new neighbourhood, new city and sometimes a new continent. Interestingly, by obtaining these identities, they join the groups that include both migrants and members of the hosting society. Both Poles and migrants may be citizens of Wrocław. Both Poles and migrants can claim to be Europeans. Membership in cross-national groups, above national or local groups, lets migrants overcome their exclusion, which appears when national identity is discussed.
 Polish name for female inhabitant of Wrocław
Lewicka, M. 2012. Psychologia miejsca [Psychology of place]. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Scholar.
Blog post by Agnieszka Bielewska, SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Poland
Read the full article: Bielewska, Agnieszka. Game of labels: identification of highly skilled migrants. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2018.1522794
The education-migration nexus: unpacking the everyday lives of self-sponsored Cameroonian students in Flanders (Belgium)
As a young child watching most western soaps on the television, I thought that travelling to the West was the solution to all the problems of poverty. On arrival to Belgium, the imaginings of a stress-free life often do not align with the reality in the host country. As a Cameroonian, choosing to write on this topic stemmed from my observations and encounters when I just arrived in Belgium. Walking along the street on a fateful cold winter morning, I saw a familiar face, and I tried to greet and engage in a conversation as it’s the norm in Cameroon, but the friend was so busy that she did not notice me. On another occasion, our paths crossed again, but this time, after a class. In the course of our discussion, this friend expressed disdain that self-sponsored students were considered as economic migrants; meanwhile, they saw themselves as real students.
Among Cameroonians, the socio-cultural notion of 'bushfalling' is used to describe someone who has the intention to travel to the West, and a 'bushfaller' refers to someone who lives in the West. Travelling overseas or 'bushfalling' is an obsession for most young Cameroonians. Due to an increase in stringent migration policies as well as the rise in unemployment in Cameroon, the student route seems to be the most secure route to leave the country.
In our Identities article, ‘Bushfalling’: the ambiguities of role identities experienced by self-sponsored Cameroonian students in Flanders (Belgium), we argued that while in Europe, their dreams of a better life are challenged by the multiple role-identities they have to assume. Besides being ‘good immigrants’, they have to study hard not only to get their residence permits renewed but also as a way to fulfil their dreams of a bright future. Moreover, they have to support their families back in Cameroon – i.e. having their feet in two societies by engaging in transnational care (sending remittance and offering emotional support). These students creatively juggled, confirmed or questioned the multiple roles conferred to them as ‘bushfallers’.
Moreover, we acknowledged that there are commonalities between local and international students in combining work and studies. However, for international students, it is their migrant identities combined with transnational obligations that add to the conflicts they experience, putting the ‘student identity’ under extra pressure.
Due to the temporality of the student identity, the students regarded the nature of work as being a ‘brain waste’ and physically and mentally exhausting. Thus, they placed more emphasis on their student identity as an escape from the misery they felt being ‘the other’ or ‘out of place’ in Belgium. Moreover, they had specific plans regarding their next-step after obtaining their diplomas. Some of the plans were to remain in Belgium (and learn Dutch), move to another country (with favourable integration policies) or return to Cameroon.
The results of this study reveal that the desire for both education and migration options often go hand in hand.
Blog post by Presca E. Wanki and Ine Lietaert, University of Ghent, Belgium
Read the full article: Wanki, Presca E. & Lietaert, Ine. ‘Bushfalling’: the ambiguities of role identities experienced by self-sponsored Cameroonian students in Flanders (Belgium). Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2018.1475975