Week 10

In the book Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre, the authors identify the massive massacre that occurred on August 16th 2012 surrounding working conditions and the livelihood of employees working at a local mine. By assessing South Africa’s violent history, both apartheid and post-apartheid, the book sheds light on the role the government, mine company and mineworker’s union all played leading up to the massacre. More specifically, the authors assess how each contributed to developing the conditions that caused the massacre that day.

In the first chapter, the authors provide a detailed historical account of worker relations within the mining industry, particularly certain events that are believed to be related to the massacre. An intriguing topic discussed in this chapter is the use of physical violence to demonstrate a certain opinion to an opposing side, in this case the mine workers protesting against the mining company for higher wages and better working conditions. Physical violence was limited during this protest, regardless of workers being armed with various weapons, and even claimed as “peaceful” in comparison to previous strikes. The massacre on August 16th consisted of 34 people being killed and an additional 78 injured. Does it make a difference when the authors mention this is the first large massacre since apartheid? South Africa still has one of the highest crime rates in the world, with many murdered daily, indicating that the battle between races is far from over. Is it possible to fully eradicate physical violence, racial thinking and unequal job environments when the nation’s history is filled with these traditions? Why do you think police acted out in this way when the protesters were not equally, physically violent? Is this an embedded way of thinking developed due to societal relations? How can future protesters voice their rights and concerns without being afraid of such dramatic, physical reactions?

In Chapter 2, the authors discuss what occurred before the massacre in regards to communication between protesters and the mining company, mentioning specific threats about workers losing their jobs or their houses being burned. They mention the conditions that workers had to deal with daily and the lack of rights given with the job. An interesting aspect of this chapter is how the authors discussed how the media played a role in the massacre. Unsurprisingly, the topic was massively controversial in news sources and media outlets, generating plenty of discussion, debate and false information spreading through the public. The news sources that are controlled by one conglomeration displayed the protesters in a very specific image, one that was negative, dramatic, violent and cruel. This is far from what the protesters were actually acting like, since they were simply after improved human rights, higher wages and working conditions. Why do you think the media insists on stretching the truth, altering facts and portraying a particular image of those individuals involved? Is it possible for the public to ever know the truth about what happened if one conglomeration is altering what exactly they hear about the massacre? How is their stolen voice similar to other topics discussed in this course?

Chapter 5 focuses on the events that occurred after the massacre and the public and governments reaction. It centers on the bigger picture, understanding what this massacre means for post-apartheid South Africa and what it means for the future of mine workers. By including this analysis, the authors provide an effective, thorough outlook on the massacre and the role the government, news sources, international agencies and the public played in the event.


Week 9

In the book Dams, Displacement and the Delusion of Development: Cahora Bassa and Its Legacies in Mozambique, the author explains how the Portuguese created one of the most outstanding dams in Mozambique, Africa and the various societal, economical and political implications that came along with it. To begin, Chapter 3 primarily focuses on the local impact the construction of this dam had on African individuals, more specifically the claimed economic value the dam would have for local workers and the reality that occurred after it was built. Many locals were forcefully physically and hierarchically displaced, as foreigners came in and affected their livelihood. This can be seen as a form of colonialism, where foreigners exploit local people and their natural resources. How can local African individuals have a voice against such powerful figures when they come into the land and change their living and income situation? If an effective way to communicate was taken, would this make a difference to the competitive businessmen who run the operation? If not, what measures can be taken so that local individuals are given a fair voice in regards to this matter?

In Chapter 4, the author focuses on the first five years of building the dam. What is important to note about this chapter is the aid given back to some of the locals pushed off their land earlier. Numerous local individuals were paid with a new plot of land that was suitable for farming upon coming. This indicates that local individuals voiced their concern and were partially successful by receiving new plots of land. Do you think this act of aid justifies the Portuguese for building the dam in the first place? What are some possible underlying reasons for officials to grant local individuals plots of land? Are any of those reasons genuine or are they all in favor of the dam operation?

In Chapter 5, the author discusses the last part of this operation and its implications for local people, physical landscapes, biological diversification and the country’s status in respect to others globally. The author also mentions how downriver communities are not heavily focused on in research and thus, they are silenced. This indicates that not all angles of this operation have been taken, with a major gap occurring for these communities. Why are local downriver communities not heavily researched for this project? Why do they lack agency and yet other communities receive plots of land as compensation? Do you think this gap in research occurs continuously with other operations worldwide? How can one ensure that all communities are given a voice in respect to these matters?

Chapter 6 focuses on the aftermath of building this dam in Mozambique, particularly how there has been little economic benefit for individuals in surrounding communities, regardless of previous claims. The energy from this dam has been rerouted and mainly benefits South Africa, rather than the local country. It is not surprising that the wealth is being distributed unfairly, as capitalists gain the most, while local workers struggle to maintain their livelihood. In the future, how can local populations benefit from this dam? Is it possible to reroute the distribution of wealth so it spreads more fairly? Or is this a naïve way of thinking, since the flow of economic prosperity has been set in a particular way for a long time now?

Lastly, in Chapter 7, the author explains the condition of Mozambique right now, shedding light on how little conditions have changed since it was originally finished. Local African communities are continually facing poverty and the physical landscape is still negatively affected by the dam, even fifty years later. Is it possible for these conditions to change? Who would have to strongly be involved to generate positive, sustainable change for the local communities? These chapters are interesting because they bring the reader from the start of the operation to fifty years after completion, while shedding light on those most strongly impacted. This example should be used by future dam builders and the like, to assess what went wrong, in terms of affecting local communities, and what can be improved upon.

Week 8: India and Africa

This week the readings focused on the relationship between India and Africa, a particularly interesting topic since last week we covered China in Africa. While China has a more dominant role, it is intriguing to see how India measures up.

The first article India’s Rise in Africa primarily focuses on the steadily growing relationship between the two regions, specifically outlining policy relations and their intertwined history. This is an interesting approach, of combining policy with history, because it clearly showcases that their relationship has been developing over a long period of time, rather than sudden interest or investment. Including this helped me understand any shifts that occurred within the partnership and the effects and/or consequences this had on both business activity and political structure. An important part of this article is the clarification that India has begun indulging in private investment approaches, whereas China focused more on country to country investments. One particular part I personally found interesting about this article was how the authors mentioned that India is one of the biggest growing aid donors today, compared to being reliant on foreign aid in the past. This demonstrates the growth of the country, both socially and economically, and their relationship with Africa. Knowing this, for African countries to experience a similar turn of events, from aid reliant to aid givers, what needs to change about the current relationship with donor countries like China and India? Is this type of extreme advancement doable in the next few generations or could this occur only be done with hundreds of years? What are the key factors that facilitate how fast this development occurs?

The second article, Offshore Healthcare Management: Medical Tourism between Kenya, Tanzania and India, focuses on a different form of interaction between specific African countries and India. The author focuses on medical diaspora, outlining how African individuals from both Kenya and Tanzania travel to India for more advanced, accessible healthcare. Seeing as this movement of people does not have much public attention as of yet, the author explains the various advertisements and strategies from India to America that are used to lure individuals to use their healthcare system. This is mainly to boost the India economy however; many Africa individuals see it as an opportunity for better healthcare management, treatment options and faster accessibility. How does this medical tourism or diaspora affect the economy of African countries? Is this a case of brain-drain, where individuals who are educated and/or skilled leave a country for better opportunities and options elsewhere? How can African countries, particularly Kenya and Tanzania, keep up with this movement and provide a more advanced healthcare system in order for local individuals to stay in the country?

The final article Fragile Fortunes: India’s Oil Venture into War-torn Sudan discusses the involvement of India in Sudan over the exploitation of the natural resource oil. The author focuses on the recent shift of investments in Sudan, primarily the departure of Western authorities, the role of China and the entrance of India after this exit. The author goes on to link the oil with the local conflicts in Sudan, stressing how human rights of African individuals are constantly being violated. Why did India not get involved earlier in the exploitation of oil in Sudan when the West was still more involved? Is India always going to follow Western investment or is the country capable of deciding where to invest or provide aid by themselves? Does India struggle with this authority and leadership because it is competing against two massive economic players, China and the U.S.? How is this relation seen in other sectors, such as exploiting other natural resources, providing foreign aid migratory patterns?

Week 7 China in Africa

In the article The Africa-China Relationship: Challenges and Opportunities, the author examines three fundamental aspects to this complex, and often critiqued relationship. The first section of the article focuses on a historical overview of how the two bodies have interacted over hundreds of years. What is of interest here is the fact that both went through a period of exploitation, poverty, and significant trouble within their economic system. This varies from country to country within Africa, but remains a strong commonality with China. Not surprisingly, this has been a strong factor into the two doing business together today. The second section focuses on the economic relations between both regions, primarily the transformation from aid to trade to investment throughout generations. Lastly, the author focuses on challenges and opportunities for this relationship in the future, mainly providing suggestions on how the two can corporate better to generate more positive results. It is interesting to note that both regions are given suggestions, but ultimately it is African countries that need to articulate what their interests are and how they reflect historic and humanistic nationalism. In response to this, some questions are: Is the fact that China and African countries have both experienced large development within their region the only reason Africa is not hesitant to work with them or are there other underlying factors? How does this upper hand affect China’s own relationship with the West and how does it affect the relationship between Africa and the West? Is it possible for these three regions to coexist in a mutually beneficial relationship? Or is that naïve, considering China and the West are consistently fighting to be the top economic power?

The second article History and Identity in the Construction of China’s Africa Policy focuses heavily on the historical relationship between China and African countries and how this has shaped both regions’ identity. The authors demonstrate how this history has brought growth to both regions, and will continue to bring more development in the future. It is interesting to see that the authors articulate their own opinion into the article, stating that the relationship China has with Africa today is not one that intends to exploit African workers or their resources. This perspective is subjective and varies quite differently from the other articles because it takes such a strong, optimistic view of the current relationship. Understanding this analysis, do you think it is accurate to say that China is not exploiting African countries? Or is this an opinionated argument that can be claimed both ways? How would the answer differ between international political leaders and ground, local African resource workers?

In the last article From Guangzhou to Yiwu: Emerging Facets of the African Diaspora in China, the authors take on a different approach to this relationship. They focus on African individuals moving to China for economic opportunities, rather than Chinese companies moving into Africa for natural resources. This is an interesting outlook, especially since there are plenty of positions available for African individuals, unlike migratory patterns to the West. This demonstrates that both regions can mutually benefit from a positive, effective, well-communicated relationship.

Week 6: U.S. and Africa

In the article Trojan Horses? USAID, Counter-Terrorism and Africa’s Police, a section is devoted to the U.S. in Kenya, particularly USAID, addressing both international and national crime concerns. Kenya is of special focus for the U.S. due to the number of al-Qaeda supporters and participants within the nation and the several terrorist-related incidents that have occurred throughout the years. It is intriguing that although there is extra attention on Kenya from the U.S., there appears to be a lack of agreement between the two countries on which crime-related issues are the most important to tackle. Counter-terrorism is prioritized for USAID, whereas Kenya is focused on daily crime and personal insecurity matters such as the high occurrence of murder, rape, robbery and carjacking. The idea of establishing a more active police unit from support by the U.S. government and USAID programs, one that fights local and extreme crime, seems like a smart idea but rarely works in practice due to the complex societal functions that are never fully considered. These can include corruption, racial matters and gender relations, all issues that alter how police may act in the face of crime. How can international and local parties agree on what is the top security problem for Kenya to tackle, with respect to what each desires and to overall benefit the country? Is it possible to create a police unit that works to fight both types of crime and fully considers the integral social functions that exist daily in Kenya? If so, how? Does part of the disparity between the U.S. and Kenya have to do with different definitions and associations with the word “terrorist”? If so, how come each country understands this term differently and how does it relate to significant “terrorism” acts throughout history, such as the Rwanda genocide and 9/11?

In addition, in the article Kenya, the United States, and Counterterrorism, the benefits and disadvantages of the aid given by U.S. to Kenya do not equal each other, as the security has expanded considerably but has not yet impacted authorities ability to capture terrorists or stop their plans. Moreover, counterterrorism operations have frequently defied domestic law, such as detention without charge and bribery (pg. 11). This shows that implementing counterterrorism is far more difficult and complex once put into practice and therefore, better methods for this union of priorities must be considered in order to generate more effective, positive results.

The last article The Banana Theory of Terrorism: Alternative Truths and the Collapse of the ‘Second’ (Saharan) Front in the War on Terror, focuses on the implications of the U.S. war on terror across the Sahara-Sahel region of Africa. Currently Sahel is in a stage of transformation, one of extreme political instability and insecurity, and is suffering from thousands of livelihoods destroyed by the war on terror (pg. 47). The article goes on to discuss these disadvantages, how they impact the region and what the future of the war on terror might look like.

Week 5: Digital Media and Emerging Technologies

The podcast Mass Media and Democracy focuses on the development of mass media in Africa for roughly the past 50 years, using specific African countries as examples of this transformation. These changes are related to the formation of a new type of democracy, one that with freedom intertwined in it, unlike systems prior. There are two key points discussed that stood out. Firstly, significant light was shed on the role indigenous African individuals play in relation to private ownership, discussing how the population is highly involved in capital ownership, not merely foreign investors and companies. In addition to this, many of the best podcasts are not foreign, but rather are African and conducted in local languages. This indicates that local Africans have a larger hand in media than I first thought. Secondly, the underlying motivation of the press is critiqued, asking “Is the press a trend setter or follower?” This is a complex notion and can be argued both ways, with most claiming it is a trendsetter, due to conglomerates using the press to portray a very specific image to the public. With six large media conglomerates owning the news and media methods, they all tell a very similar story and thus, it is integral to understand how this can be understood as a form of exploitation and manipulation.

The article Twittering the Boko Haram Uprising in Nigeria: Investigating Pragmatic Acts in the Social Media discusses the implications of tweets about the activities of Boko Haram, a Nigerian terrorist group. Numerous comments and tweets are examined to understand their pragmatic meaning. Using a pragmatic style of writing is understood to release a variety of emotions, particularly to a complex occurrence like this, and provides a fair opportunity to everyone to vent their thoughts in a (mostly) safe environment.

In the article, The Media in Social Development in Contemporary Africa, a large variety of communication methods in the media are assessed including radio, TV, print and Internet. These forms are connected to the social growth of Africa. A thought-provoking idea surrounds the flow of information and media. The media in the global north and south do not interact in a reciprocal relationship, but rather it is largely streamed from the north to the south, with little going the other way. For example, there is no CNN-like outlet in Africa, thus there is no massive, influential corporation that can project Africa to the rest of the world. This is problematic because Africa lacks a method to define themselves and their particulars, but rather has every nation defining them. This causes a biased, inaccurate view of the events that occur in Africa, with the wrong words associated with the continent, such as “tribalism”. Knowing this, how can Africa’s stigma be erased or become a way of the past? What will it take for Africa to develop their own CNN and broadcast to the world who they are and where they are heading as a continent? Conglomerations depict Africa in a very particular way, paying little attention to accuracy, how much longer will this exploitation to the public continue? Will there ever be a time where the media is expressed in a non-biased voice, depicting Africa in a fair image?

Week 4: Neoliberalism Revisited

In the first article, Skin Lighteners, Black Consumers and Jewish Entrepreneurs in South Africa, author Lynn Thomas discusses the opening of the Apartheid Museum in 2005 in the city of Johannesburg, financed by South African twin brothers Abraham and Solomon Krok. The Krok brothers hold significance in relation to this project because they dominated the country’s skin-lighteners market beginning in the 1950’s until 1990, when the products were legally banned due to medical implications and the negative image they portrayed towards race (260). After years of criticism and backlash from numerous groups, individuals and organizations, it is clear that participating in the finance department of this monumental museum is merely to rebuild their reputation amongst different race populations throughout the country. It is not surprising that these brothers took this step because many businessmen partake in philanthropic projects in order to increase profit and their status amongst locals. I do not think these brothers have genuine intentions because although they are showcasing an image of “giving back” for everyone to see, they built and sustained a company for years that highly contributed to the very environment in which race, crime and apartheid problems first existed.

Do you think it possible to participate in philanthropic efforts without an underlying, personal incentive? Is it possible for an individual to give back to a specific issue even if the individual, or their company, participated in producing the environment that caused the issue? Think about the example of Coca-Cola: the company has a “save the polar bears” campaign every winter, but the reason the polar bears need “saving” is because of global warming, a problem that Coca-Cola significantly contributes to with their numerous, massive factories emitting carbon dioxide daily. Are these acts conducted by businessmen “Band-Aid solutions” yet better than not contributing at all? What implications would arise if these campaigns and philanthropic efforts did not exist?

In the second article, Death “On the Move”: Funerals, Entrepreneurs and the Rural-Urban Nexus in South Africa, funeral particulars and trends, in conjunction with perceptions of the dead body are historically and contemporarily critiqued. In addition, funeral entrepreneurs and directors are assessed in the relation to these processes and their role with both dead and alive people in the community.

The last article, Gugulethu: Revolution For Neoliberalism in a South African Township, focuses on neoliberalism in post-apartheid spatial practices in the mall Gugulethu in Cape Town, South Africa. In analyzing this, neoliberal and local township viewpoints are critiqued, concluding that local individuals have not adapted well to this new development. Crime and racism are thoroughly discussed, as they significantly affect these perspectives, with most attention on the distrust local individual have towards those who have developed, promoted and marketed the new mall.f

Week 3 African Urbanism: the Global City

In the introduction of Oxford Street, Accra by Ato Quayson, he distinguishes two questions that repeatedly come to light throughout his text. The first addresses how to appropriately narrate urban space in an African city where space is determined by contradictory spatial logics and the second focuses on how global capitalism produces urban universalism while producing a split from the recognition of the disparities brought with this mode of universalism (32). Focusing on these topics, Quayson provides an in-depth narrative that is integral for understanding Accra’s cultural, economic and global transformation.

In chapter 4, “The Beautyful Ones”, Quayson deciphers slogans on the back of tro-tros and billboards that line Oxford Street, particularly focusing on the cosmopolitan and transnational tone many portrayed. One of the most interesting billboard campaigns critiqued was by TIGO, during the height of the soccer World Cup in Germany, of which Ghana qualified. These billboards depicted images of cosmopolitanism through the light hue of the model’s skin, suggesting mixed-race origins and the popular brands of their clothes, marked distinctly from other billboards on the street that displayed darker toned females with no-name brand outfits (146-148). Why do these disparities exist to this extent and is the future of entextualization on Oxford Street solely cosmopolitan or will nationalism still persist?

Chapter 5, “Este Loco, Loco”, reiterates the theme of transnationalism when discussing with salsa dancers how they were first introduced to the art, articulating a transnational network either personally, through family or from an encounter with a foreigner. This dimension goes further, with the use of the Internet, primarily videos, depicting different dance moves (169). It is interesting to see the impact of globalization on Ghana in this art form. Do individuals who partake in this transnational narrative have the capability of engaging in other art forms that are not derived from their own country? Does this type of cultural behaviour indicate that Ghana is moving towards a state of cosmopolitanism? If so, how does this compare to Canada’s relation to the concept? Is Ghana accepting cosmopolitan notions faster than Canada? Consider Canada’s recurring push for nationalism through declaring, “We are not the USA” from various campaigns and companies (ex. Tim Horton’s).

In chapter 6, Pumping Irony, Quayson compares the male individuals, “gymmers”, who frequently partake in gym exercises and weight-lifting competitions to the salsa dancers in the previous chapter, identifying their differences, the main being that the middle class population and their transnational cohorts dominate the salsa scene, where as gymming is largely conquered by the unemployed (185).

Moshi, Tanzania

Moshi, Tanzania

Supplemental information:

Here is a picture I captured when I walking one day in Moshi, Tanzania and took a different route home. The image of the male individual advertised on the outside of this gym is parallel to what Quayson was discussing with how males aim to look strong and fit for prospective career purposes.

Week 2 The Political Economy of Disease in Africa

It is evident to see that not only is the relationship between health care workers, public health experts and anthropologists lacking, but a thorough understanding and respect between professions is missing as well. Particularly, this is aimed towards anthropologists, for many workers in the health sector do not comprehend what it is exactly they “do”, how they can contribute to a health epidemic like Ebola and their professional role in relation to themselves. The articles concerning Ebola raise fair points when discussing the strong impact anthropologists can have in this area. It is clear there is a lack of “call” on them, even in the face of such a critical epidemic. Anthropologists are needed in order to connect the medical team to the public they are serving and the associated sick individuals. This is because health care practitioners are trained in exactly that: health care. There is a lack of teaching on global cultural norms, history and effective ways to handle the public in the face of an epidemic such as this. Therefore, anthropologists can be seen as catalysts, connecting health care and culture in an efficient way to decrease the onset of health issues. When anthropologists are not involved, results are less effective for example, in the beginning of Ebola, doctors had trouble convincing families to bring their sick relatives to the clinics for aid. This is because there was a lack of understanding between the two cultures. Anthropologists intervene, causing communication between the two populations to be clearer and smoother. Since they are experts on local traditions, history and behaviour, they can explain to health care workers how these social aspects work and relate to the transmission of the virus, an area of high importance. Since Ebola is transmitted through touch, anthropologists can teach health care workers how individuals interact daily, namely when these points of physical touch can occur. Anthropologists can also stress the importance of funeral traditions, understanding that some customs may need to change to avoid physical contact with the infected individual and teaching health care workers to respect these traditions, be patient for changes to take place and not assume the population is not educated. Lastly, anthropologists can help heath care workers understand that infected individuals and their relatives may be scared of them and their associated medicine. Traditional medicine plays a strong role in African countries, thus claiming to treat Ebola in a new, foreign way may not be appealing at first. In general, it can be seen that anthropologists are highly needed for health epidemics, including Ebola and AIDS/HIV because they build the bridge of communication between the two populations.

Questions: Does ethnocentrism play a role for health care workers in foreign countries attending to health epidemics? If so, does this prevent more productive health care? How do anthropologists address this issue in order to increase communication and treatment? What is the role of preventative medicine for Ebola and how much research is being devoted to this area? Although research is strongly needed for treatment of such a disease, should there not be a lot of focus on preventative measures and medicine as well for long-term results?