7 March 2014 § Leave a comment
I just came across a thought provoking article in the March 2011 edition of Forced Migration Review called “How to Behave: Advice from IDPs.” The author, Stine Finne Jakobsen, summarizes advice from internally displaced Colombians living around Cartagena into four “modes of behavior” intended to lower the risk of living in a war zone. To quote her summaries of them:
- Passivity: In a situation where an illegal armed actor is controlling the local population and imposing order through terror, not to talk, not to know and not to see may be essential coping strategies.
- Invisibility: [This] implies to duck and hide, to melt into the rest of the population and avoid actions that can draw attention to you. Certain daily activities should be restricted or abandoned but total invisibility is never possible since everyday life has to go on.
- Obedience: [This] implies following the rules and orders of the [non-state armed groups] – a first step towards securing survival. However, obeying the orders of one group is inevitably perceived by their adversaries as supporting that group. And in obeying, the principle of passivity is violated.
- Mobility: In wartime, mobility is restricted and regarded as suspicious by armed actors and groups. Unnecessary movement should be avoided – but moving away can be the ultimate solution to secure survival through anonymity in an urban setting.
I found this a very moving depiction of the impossible choices people make during conflict, and would like to revisit some of the other academic literature focusing on civilian life in wartime (such as Zachariah Mampilly’s Rebel Rulers) with these precepts in mind.
7 March 2014 § 1 Comment
If you haven’t seen the interactive graph of support for M23 by foreign states (Rwanda/Uganda) and individuals that was published in Stability Journal recently, it’s worth a look. The data comes from an article by Cathy Nangini, Mainak Jas, Hugo Fernandes and Robert Muggah.
Here’s a still shot of the interactive version. One thing that strikes me in looking at this is that running a rebellion is actually an intensely diplomatic endeavor. Think about the challenges of negotiating relationships with all of these sponsors and allies while also trying to take territory and (in at least a minimal sense) govern it – formidable!
4 March 2014 § Leave a comment
I wonder what was going on in the Cameroon – CAR – Chad corridor between the west African and Bantu states, and along the eastern coast, that major polities never arose there. Perhaps it’s Jared Diamond’s theory about the spread of empires on the east-west axis at work? (Less surprised not to see major groups in southern Africa, large parts of which are very dry.)
1 March 2014 § 1 Comment
Anyone who’s interested in doing policy-relevant research knows that making your findings accessible to information-overloaded policymakers is a challenge. Duncan Green has written a good summary of a recent paper by Paul Avey and Michael Desch on this topic. To further summarize Duncan’s points:
- The more politicians know about a subject, the less they believe “experts”
- Public visibility (including social media and blogging) is important for credibility
- However, most policymakers still prefer to get information from major newspapers rather than more specialized (but possibly less credible) online sources
- The best narrative, and not the best evidence, will win
The takeaway? “Tell clearer, shorter stories and you may actually be listened to.”
(I also wrote about some of Avey & Desch’s work a few months ago, focusing on the types of academic work that policymakers felt most accessible.)
26 February 2014 § 2 Comments
Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson are doing a series of posts about Balinese politics in the 18th – 20th centuries, and make an counterpoint to Charles Tilly’s famous phrase “war made the state and the state made war” in their latest:
The truth of the matter is that all polities fight wars, and some centralize while others do not.
Looking at centralized ones and observing that they fight wars, therefore warfare creates states does not seem very sensible empirically.
It’s a very interesting point. Under what conditions does the threat of war lead polities (not just states) to centralize? Is the bias here that only polities which have survived an initial war are around to centralize later, while losing groups, who faced exactly the same risk of war, get swallowed up by their opponents and never build a centralized administrative structure? In which case war would be expected to create and destroy in roughly equal measure. (Granted, I haven’t read Tilly’s original paper in detail, so if these questions are addressed there or in his other work I’d be happy to hear about it.)
Kudos to Acemoglu & Robinson as well for the use of the word “polities” instead of “states” in the first sentence quoted here. It’s a small thing, but a good step towards moving away from ideas of power and governance as the exclusive province of the state.
23 February 2014 § Leave a comment
As Chad McClymonds noted in Africa is a Country a few months ago, San Francisco has an odd relationship to Africa. There are strong African immigrant communities here, but it’s hard to find fora to connect with people with ties to the continent or simply an interest in it.
In hopes of lessening this disconnect, I’ve been compiling a list of Africa-related resources and events around the Bay Area. Check these out, and let me know if I’ve missed any (or if you’ll be attending any of the events!).
- African Advocacy Network
- Africa & Friends Meetup
- Bay Area International Link
- Congolese Drum & Dance Camps*
- Museum of the African Diaspora
- Priority Africa Network
- World Affairs Council of Northern California
*With thanks to Caity Monroe for these suggestions!
20 February 2014 § Leave a comment
This article by Guillaume Iyenda on the lives of street vendors in Kinshasa’s informal economy is nearly a decade old now, but it doesn’t seem like things have changed that much:
Our research showed that the highest diversity of sales took place between 10 and 12 in the morning. As many households consume only one meal a day, people prefer to do their shopping at this time and then cook a meal that is eaten between 4 and 5 p.m. In the late afternoon, sales are high in what is locally called the wenze ya bitula, the “market of the unsold”. Here, people generally sell all their perishable goods, which they are unable to keep from one day to the next because they lack freezers. As a result, these goods are sold at half price or less. Shoppers who most frequently use these markets are those who consume their one daily meal between 8 and 10 p.m.; most of them have to wait for the main income earner to return from work, bringing back the daily money for the food shopping.
Interesting throughout. He also has a related paper [PDF] on how street food preparation is a primary source of income for many women in Kinshasa whose husbands are disabled or unemployed.