Infrastructure Globalities. The Remaking of Transnational Practices in Africa
Prof. Dr. Jana Hönke and Mia Yifan Yang, ERC-INFRAGLOB Projekt, University of Bayreuth
Day 1: 25th November, 13.00-17.00 CET
Day 2: 26th November, 13.00-16.00 CET
|13.00 – 14.00||Introduction & discussion of framework||Jana Hönke (University of Bayreuth)|
|14.00 -15.20||Topic 1:
|1.1 Barnaby Dye, FutureDAMS Project, University of Manchester, the Politics of India’s Rise as an Infrastructure Builder in Africa.
1.2 Ulrikke Bryn Wethal, MultiChina project, University of Oslo, Exploring the multiscalar politics of construction: Agency and the integration of Mozambican actors in Chinese-led construction projects in Mozambique.
|Eric Czene (University of Bayreuth)|
|15.40-17.00||Topic 1 and 2: Politics of
Infrastructure & African Agency in Remaking Practices
|1.3 Yuan Wang, Oxford University, Individual Agency and State Capacity: Comparing Sino-African Railways in Kenya and Ethiopia.
2.1 Benard Kilaka, University of Gothenburg, Contested Practices: Controversies over the Construction of the Lamu Port in Kenya.
|Mia Yang (University of Bayreuth)|
|17.00-17.30||Virtual Café/Bar||For those who wish to have further/ private conversations, we propose the virtual café/bar as the space to meet and greet in small groups. All are warmly welcome!
|Day 2 (26th November)||Theme||Presenter||Moderator|
|13.00-13.40||Topic 2: African Agency in Remaking Practices||2.2 Michael Sambo, Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Económicos, Maputo. Poor locals: Surviving the invasion of Chinese FDI.||Raoul Bunskoek (University of Bayreuth)|
|13.40-15.00||Topic 3: Professionals and Transnational Corporate Practice||3.1 Eric Cezne, University of Groningen, INFRAGLOB project, Bayreuth University, The multiple incarnations of South-South relations in extraction: Brazilian mining company Vale in Mozambique (co-author with Jana Hönke)
3.2 Hang Zhou, SOAS, University of London, Corruption in Ugandan-Chinese Encounters: Public Contracting, Retail Corruption and Sociality.
|15.15-16.00||Wrap-up and future plans||Jana Hönke|
Another Virtual Café/ Bar if there is taste for it.
Infrastructure Globalities. The Remaking of Transnational Practices in Africa
In a world increasingly shaped by non-state actors and technical systems, power beyond the state is one of the major challenges of contemporary International Relations. Nowhere is it more prevalent than in transnational economic hubs, such as ports, mines, and special economic zones: in these frontier zones, power is exercised by companies, experts, governments, and technological systems, and takes on new spatial forms. Africa has a long history of extraterritorial arrangements and ‘public-private’ governance of economic hubs. Yet, these have mainly been researched within the context of large companies headquartered in the West and on standards of liberal global governance. Only recently, we have begun to explore how newly emerging powers in the Global South are shaping these zones of governance beyond the state. Such knowledge further challenges scholars to rethink established hypotheses as actors from emerging powers bring new practices and put existing ‘global’ standards up for discussion. New players often apply existing rules and practices, but they also assemble new visions of business-society relations and governance different from Western narratives.
The workshop ‘Infrastructure Globalities. The Remaking of Transnational Practices in Africa’ makes Brazilian and Chinese companies the main subjects because they are the most important new investors in many parts of the Global South and, in particular, Africa. The workshop aims at providing a better understanding of how transnational economic hubs are governed in a pluralizing global order and argues that this is best understood at the micro- and meso-level and in a bottom-up way.
The workshop proposes three points of departure. First, the focus is put on the politics of infrastructure. Infrastructure is not only an object to be governed; it does something. Science and Technology Studies has long argued that infrastructure and society are closely related and that contemporary power is exercised by and through complex technical systems and standards. With such a focus in mind, infrastructure is seen as a political project that transports and embodies different models of governance, and ways of conducting security and business-community relations. The juxtaposition of Brazilian and Chinese infrastructure cases in Mozambique and other African countries will put ‘globalities’ in a comparative perspective.
Second, the workshop focuses on practice and communities of practice. Practice is understood as socially recognized forms of activity that are routinely performed more or less competently, organized around shared practical understandings (Neumann 2002, Schatzki 2001, also Hoenke 2013). Community of practice refers to actors who are functionally linked and bound together by sharing practices in a domain of activity (adapted with Nicolini 2012: 94 from Wenger 1998). Practitioners and practices in Africa’s large-scale economic projects have become ever more diverse. The concepts enable the analysis to descend from the macro-level to a solid middle ground, comprising studying adaptation, frictions, and change at the micro-and the meso-level. Further, they incorporate what is also much-needed at the moment—empirical data and interdisciplinary analysis on Chinese and Brazilian professionals and practitioners.
Since characteristics on both sides of the dash within the ‘South-South’ conjuncture influence whether and how certain practices are enacted, the third focus, therefore, accentuates how African actors and contexts remake the trajectories and practices of external actors. This focus reflects upon the meanings of the technological-political site of infrastructure projects from the vantage point of Africa and the agency of Africans, as well as placing the current dynamics in a historical context to understand changes and continuities in South-South engagements.
On Thu, April 30, a small workshop on digital methods is planned between 12 and 3 p.m. Due to the regulation and current conditions (the university is closed off), Infraglob researchers, guest speakers, and interested colleagues will have their first virtual meeting. We will discuss specific strategies and challenges of research on digital media and digital methods in Africa’s transnational relationships. Among other things, this is about the possibilities and limits of combining computerized methods and qualitative research.
In collaboration with the University of Utrecht, and as a side event to this year’s LANDac Conference, INFRAGLOB co-organizes a workshop on “Studying infrastructures in Mozambique”, to be held in Utrecht, the Netherlands, on July 3rd 2019. The event will discuss current research on infrastructure development in Mozambique, relating to issues of security, displacement and (international) extractive industries, among others.
In his presentation, Carlos Milani will introduce an analytical framework that shall contribute to understanding how and why rising powers engage in development cooperation with African countries. The framework encompasses hard and soft institutions (organizations, norms, discourses, visions, practices) of south-south development cooperation policies of countries such as South Africa, China, India, Brazil and Turkey. The timing is particularly conducive to discuss this topic, since such countries have begun to invest as emergent donors, both quantitatively and qualitativel, in several development sectors (public health, formal education and university cooperation, non-formal education, technical assistance projects, agricultural development, etc.) and in partnership with multilateral organizations, OCE-DAC donors and international businesses coming from their own countries. Their increasingly important role in south-south cooperation is not, however, without contradictions, especially regarding practices, discourses, visions and institutional constructions of these “rising states” in the African continent.
INFRAGLOB team member Eric Cezne (PhD Candidate, University of Groningen) was awarded a grant by the European International Studies Association (EISA) to lead an early career researchers workshop on the role of infrastructures in global politics. Organized in cooperation with Julie Marie Hansen from the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), the workshop ‘Exploring IR through Infrastructures: materiality as global politics’ took place in Prague, Czech Republic, on September 11, 2018, during the EISA’s Pan-European Conference.
The purpose of the workshop was to create a platform for effective exchange of knowledge and experiences among junior scholars. By taking the role of rising powers in infrastructure development, the geopolitics of energy infrastructures, and ICT infrastructures as heuristic points of departure, the workshop was aimed at critically inquiring about the ways in which the material is woven into global politics. Participants explored research synergies through paper presentations, discussions, and roundtables; sought to establish a network of junior scholars working on this topic; and gauged common interest in planning a joint-publication output.
Speaker: Karen Smith, Associate Professor, University of Cape Town and University Lecturer, Leiden University
Abstract: Reflection about the current or imminent transformation of world order has become the latest fixation of scholars of international relations. In the burgeoning literature about changing and future world order, most conceptions and discussions of the changing order are pre-occupied with two things: anxiety about the future role of the United States and the unpredictability of China’s agenda. While some attention is also paid to Europe, India and Brazil, the rest of the world is largely overlooked, and Africa in particular is either ignored entirely or treated as a footnote. This lecture aims to provide some views on the role Africa plays in the process of global reordering, and also how Africa will be affected by it. Coxian critical theory provides a useful entry point into helping us think about different aspects of world order. The triangular model, consisting of material forces, institutions and ideas enables us to explore the nature of the existing world order, its origin, and the possibilities for transformation.
Last Wednesday April 18th, INFRAGLOB and the Centre for International Relations Research hosted a lecture by Professor Rita Abrahamsen on African Visions of World Order.
In her talk, Rita Abrahamsen showed that as we fret about challenges to the current world order, we need to recognize the contributions of Africa and Pan-Africanism to the emergence of the liberal world order. That is; world order is/was also made by Southern/African actors, not just the hegemons. She will then argue that, somewhat counter-intuitively, Africa’s opposition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) can be seen as a continuation of the struggle for a more just, equitable world order rather than resistance to liberal multilateralism. At the same time, this opposition reveals longstanding tensions within Pan-Africanism, and its sovereignist and nativist expressions are in the current political climate potentially detrimental to the struggle for a more equal and democratic world order.
Speaker: Rita Abrahamsen, Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and Director of the Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS), University of Ottawa.