Week 9: Changing Landscapes: Dams, Degradation and Displacement

The readings assigned for this week’s blog post are several chapters from the book Dams, Displacement and the Delusion of Development: Cahora Bassa and Its Legacies in Mozambique, 1965-2007, written by Allen F. Isaacman and Barbara S. Isaacman. The book discusses some of the many social issues that developed as a result of the building of the Cahora Bassa Dam on the Zambezi River in Mozambique. In chapter three, it is demonstrated that the project is supposed to have many economic benefits for the local populations, which will improve their quality of life. However, in order for the dam to be built the African communities in the Songo highlands were forced out of their homes for reasons that are extremely colonialist in nature. It is difficult to see right from its initial stages how the construction of the dam could be accepted by the locals or better their lives when it has already caused oppression by the displacement of the basin-based communities. In the following chapter, we see how officials dealt with having to force people from their homes by compensating the local communities who have been displaced with new land. I question whether this is fair compensation considering that what these people had to give up and leave behind with no choice in the matter. Although companies advertise these benefits and compensations that they are providing for the people of Mozambique, the other illustrate very clearly that this is not the case. Due to the fact that the dam remained under control of Portugal the poor urban and rural population did not gain any access to the neither the revenues generated by the dam, nor the electricity produced by it, until 2007 when Mozambique acquired only a small piece of equity in the dam. Not only was Portugal reaping the majority of the benefits of the construction of the dam but South Africa also shared in this unequal distribution of revenues and wealth generated by the dam. Although the authors argue that there is little academic literature regarding the effects of the creation of the dam on downriver communities, one can certainly imagine that negative impacts have also been felt by these communities, especially when looking at the environmental impacts a project such as this would generate. Time and time again we see similar situations arising where rural populations are being displaced and exploited to serve countries and people other than there own despite claims that it is for their own benefit; the Three Gorges Dam in China is another example of this. How can local communities such as those in Mozambique, attempt to resist and prevent these types of situations from happening? Is there a way for locals to avoid being manipulated by large corporations and foreign governments?

M. Singlehurst 120372730

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Week 8 Emerging Powers: India in Africa

The main focus of this week’s readings is on the Indo-African relationship and the increasing influence as emerging powers both will establish in the future. The article by Ian Taylor entitled India’s Rise in Africa, demonstrates how the relationship between India (specifically New Delhi) and Africa is often overlooked compared to the China-Africa relations, however as India’s involvement in Africa continues to increase the implications that come along with the relationship must be examined. Taylor illustrates how India’s investment within Africa is furthering the diversification of the continents international relations and is a can be seen as a very positive outcome for African companies. Furthermore, Taylor also discusses how corruption and insufficient governance are the major obstacles that could negatively impact the relationship, and it is important that the African government establish equal benefits in order to maintain mutual political and economic cooperation between the two. This article was very interesting to read, as I did not realize that there was a relationship between Africa and India that can be comparable to Africa’s relationship with China. The author illustrates the transition that India has gone through in regards to being a recipient of aid to now being a donor, demonstrating that India is indeed following in the footsteps of China into becoming global superpower; I was unaware of this prior to reading the article.

The second article by Renu Modi entitled Offshore Healthcare Management: Medical Tourism between Kenya, Tanzania and India, examines the recent influx in medical tourism from Kenyan and Tanzanian patients to India. Healthcare facilities in India, specifically in Mumbai, are quite advanced compared to those in Africa where there is a lack of technology and expertise available for African citizens. Modi highlights some of the positive feedback from African patients who were able to afford treatment abroad about their experience of medical treatment within Indian healthcare facilities demonstrating the success of the medical tourism industry. That being said it is important to recognize that there are many who are unable to afford receiving medical treatment abroad. The concluding arguments of the article urge for the African government to wean off the use of expensive pharmaceutical products that are being imported and to invest in the development of healthcare systems that provide adequate medical treatment that is affordable for the entire population.

The third article by Luke Patey called Fragile Fortunes: India’s Oil Venture into War-Torn Sudan, discusses the relationship between India and Sudan as the India-based oil company, OVL, went into the African country despite the many risks of entering a war-torn country. Patey states how oil is associated with armed conflict in Sudan, which raises concerns about security in Sudan as the company disregarded the human rights issues that are present within the country, instead focusing on the security of the company itself. Competition between India and China fuelled by the desire for control over Sudan’s oil also proved to be a challenge for OVL.

Discussion Questions:

  • What are your thoughts on the use of the term ‘medical tourism’ to describe the situation?
  • How could India help develop and further the peace building process in Sudan to mitigate security issues?

Week 7: Emerging Powers: China in Africa/Africa in China

The main focus of the readings this week is on the multi-faceted, complex relationship between Africa and China and the history behind its development. The article by Paul Tiyambe Zeleza The Africa-China Relationship: Challenges and Opportunities, examines the economic side of this relationship beginning with a historical account of its formation dating back to the fifteenth century, which touches on a series of phases that have led to how it is characterized today. Throughout his discussion, Zeleza sheds light on the many differing opinions regarding this relationship, demonstrating how critics including scholars, activists, and media outlets, have put a negative spin on this situation arguing that it is based on colonial principles whereby African resources are being exploited by China. However when examined more closely it can be seen that there is a mutual exchange taking place between Africa and China that is overlooked. This is due to the difference in foreign aid structures in China compared to those employed by Western states. In regards to trade investments it is evident that there needs to be greater enforcement of laws and monitoring capabilities on the behalf of Africa and the practice of mutual benefits from China in order for this relationship to become a true partnership as Zeleza argues.

The second article by Chris Alden and Ana Alves called History and Identity in the Construction of China’s Africa Policy, also analyzes Africa and China relations through a historical context of the development of “China’s Africa Policy” and how identities have played a role in shaping the relationship. Alden and Alves discuss China’s self-conception of its identity as a developing country as a result of its colonial past and desires for increased development. This discourse that is being used by foreign policy makers in regards to identity and goals of establishing a partnership and solidarity with Africa emphasizes China’s ability to be dependable sources of development to Africa because of their historical similarities and relations.

The third article by Adams Bodomo and Grace Ma called From Guangzhou to Yiwu: Emerging Facets of the African Diaspora in China, takes on a different perspective than the previous articles by examining African diasporas in China to evaluate the social settings of the Africa and China relationship. Due to the vastly large and emerging commodities market in China and the overall more professional business experience, many Africans have migrated to Yiwu to get involved in the trading business. Authors Bodomo and Ma argue that in order for this relationship to remain harmonious both governments to arrange immigration laws that are racially tolerant, allow for adequate working living conditions, and freedom of movement.

Each of these articles have touched upon many interesting and important aspects of the relationship between China and Africa, emphasizing the complexity behind how such relations have come to be. They have also led to some questions that should not be overlooked such as: who are the direct beneficiaries of foreign aid from China? Do rural communities receive the same benefits and treatment as urban regions? Who are the critics and supporters of the relationship between Africa and China within these nations, and how are they connected to such relations?

M. Singlehurst – 120372730

Week 5: Emerging Technologies

The theme of this week’s class focuses on the emergence of digital media in Africa and how such technologies have played a role in the spread of democracy and freedom of political expression. The article written by Innocent Chiluwa and Adetunji Adegoke called Twittering the Boko Haram Uprising in Nigeria, examines the responses of Nigerian citizens to the actions of an Islamic terrorist group in Nigeria, Boko Haram, through social media forums such as Twitter. This is a very interesting topic and immediately reminded me of the use of Twitter during the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, which the authors eventually reference in comparison. The term “citizen journalism” is used to describe this use of social media to voice opinions of situations such as this. The ability of citizens to express their feelings and opinions is extremely important in this day in age where so often voices are silenced or warped by media conglomerates. The pragmatic messages that have been put out their by Nigerian citizens demonstrate exactly what the people living within the country are feelings, what they want and need. In this case it was their dissatisfaction with the Nigerian government, the condemning of the terrorist group’s actions, and a call for help that was being voiced. By engaging with social media outlets that allow for people to have a voice they are partaking in democratic activities and practices, which is something that is further explored in the podcast that was also a part of this weeks readings.

Episode 4 of the podcast labeled Mass Media and Democracy, which featured Folo Ogundimu, Peter Limb, and Olabode Ibironke focus on how mass media in certain regions of Africa have created a space for democracy to be “revitalized”. Ogundimu talks about the portrayal of Africa in Western mass media as very stereotypical; however there has been a development of very successful media presses that are local and use local languages instead foreign or colonial presses. This allows for Africans a greater freedom to express themselves in ways that they have never been able to before due to the powers of oppression. The podcast pushes even further urging the focus to shift away from even national politics and towards more local issues and politics. There has been great progress in liberalizing African politics, promoting a transformation of the media sector into a more democratic means of operation, but Ogundimu argues that the development of critical voice is still needed. It is extremely important that people have the ability to express themselves and social media has become the most popular and easily accessible place for people to do so, however I wonder how much of the population actually have access to social media forums? Do you think that beyond the ability to express opinions, there is value in social media? What are, if any, the negative impacts that could arise as a result of the use of digital media technologies?

Week 4: Neoliberalism Revisited

The focus of the readings this week is on neoliberalization of South African communities during both the apartheid period and post-apartheid. Each article examines a different case of consumerism and the role capitalism has played within the development of South African communities. The article written by Lynn Thomas discusses how the Krok brothers acquired their wealth through the manufacturing and marketing of skin lightening products. Thomas demonstrates how their social location contributed to their involvement within the trade and also how they used the social inequalities that made up the apartheid state to sell their products to Black Africans. The Krok brothers then again following the anti-apartheid movement used the money that was made off of the skin lightening products to build the Apartheid museum, that was dedicated to those who suffered under the apartheid state, alongside an entertainment complex that would generate a great deal of wealth. The Krok brothers faced heavy criticism and their reputations were tarnished greatly by the selling of dangerous skin products and their attempts at restoring their reputations through the establishment of the museum have been met by both appraisals and criticisms due to the fact that it was built off of wealth generated by products that fuel a hierarchy of beauty and social status.   Do you see the ironies within the efforts of the Krok brothers? Do you think that the Krok brothers should be criticized for the products they have created or applauded for their philanthropic efforts?

The article by Rebekah Lee focuses on funeral services in South Africa and how South African entrepreneurs have been able to create funerals into business opportunities. The idea that “life in town is dull and a funeral provides as good a form of entertainment as anything” (227) is something that is unfamiliar to me but is clearly not to South Africans. Within Western society funerals are generally part of the mourning process and time to grieve the loss of a loved one, it is usually not something that can be turned into a form of entertainment for those who are attending. In some way it can be seen that South Africans have been able to profit and capitalize of something that Western companies have not (yet). The article by Annika Teppo and Myriam Houssay-Holzschuch also looks at capitalistic ventures and the neoliberalization of Cape Town through the establishment of the new Gugulethu mall. The authors look at how the neoliberal processes have manifested within the township and how it has influenced a polarization between the wealthy and the poor. In theory and on paper the establishment of the mall provides many positive aspects like the promise of development, and its representation as a symbol of African pride, however the community was able to see the top-down nature of the project and were not accepting of this neoliberal venture.

M. Singlehurst 120372730

Week 3 Oxford Street, Accra

The book Oxford Street, Accra written by Ato Quayson analyzes the development and transformation of one of the city’s most popular streets into a hub of commercial, pluralistic activity. The development, during this postcolonial period, of Accra into an urbanized space is seen as a result of globalization processes and the influence of transnational corporations and planning systems, which is described within the introduction of the book.

In chapter 4 “The Beautyful Ones”, Quayson examines Oxford Street through a different perspective, one that interprets the street not simply as a geographical but instead as “lively expressive archives of urban realities” (129). Looking at advertisements on billboards, he discusses how such displays fuse local ethnologies with “transnational imagescapes” and provides the example of cell phone advertising and vehicular slogans to demonstrate how the two come together. Quayson makes some very interesting to see just how multinational corporations influence the social realities of Oxford Street but also how the city of Accra has accepted such transnational influences into society. Should we be questioning whether all Ghanaian citizens have accepted these Western influences? Do you think that Ghana has truly reached a post-colonial state despite the fact that Western companies continue to be involved in Ghanaian society? Is the process of globalization seen as a positive or a negative within this situation?

Chapter 5 “Este loco, loco”, focuses on salsa dancing in particular and its relation to ‘gymming’ amoung youth to reinforce the presence of globalization and a global culture within Accra. Quayson notes how such activities have been able to minimize a cultural divide however there continues to be a divide in class lines between the two activities. Quayson goes on to discuss how salsa dancing came to Accra from Costa Rica through transnational and diasporic connections, which provides interesting insight into how different culture pieces are moved from one country to another. Once again we see how Ghana as adopted different aspects of other cultures into their own social fabric. This particular examples seems to be one that demonstrates a positive aspect of globalization, however what are some of the negative aspects that could arise as a result of such cultural flows?

M. Singlehurst 120372730

Week 2: The Political Economy of Disease in Africa: AIDS to Ebola

The focus of the three readings assigned for this week all pertain to ways in which disease is being controlled and subjugated in Sub-Saharan Africa, where both the Ebola virus and HIV/AIDS in particular infects large quantities of the population. The articles written by Abramowitz and Sáez focus on the Ebola outbreak that has spread to countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, Nigeria, etc. Through an anthropological stance, the authors examine the primary transmission of the virus through animal-human contact. The resistance of local populations to the disease control methods that have been implemented is also discussed, in efforts to demonstrate some of the incongruences and failures of such measures thus far. It is seen that the methods used to control the disease is not compatible with certain cultural practices of the local people adding to the stress and fear that is being proliferated here. The proceedings of funeral rituals in particular have been altered as a result of disease control methods, which have lead to resistance.

This is a very interesting finding, as it demonstrates a very relevant issue that can be applied to many other conflicts that developing countries are facing. The failure of these methods demonstrates the inability of aid organizations to adapt to the needs and values of each specific country. In cases of foreign aid being delivered too often we see a single, uniform method of providing help that is constructed by outside nations that rarely take into account the diversity of such countries. It is clear that the inability of the aid organizations to gain an understanding of the concerns of the local people is hindering the success of disease control methods. The critical role of anthropologists in providing information regarding the needs and concerns of the population is evidently being overlooked, and these articles are bringing to light the importance of anthropological work.

The article The politics and anti-politics of social movements: religion and HIV/AIDS in Africa focuses specifically on HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, while examining the role religious mobilizations and Neo-Pentecostal churches play in curtailing the transmission of this virus. Upon the examination of the relationship between religion and AIDS it is apparent that positive and negative outcomes are being experienced. An interesting connection between the three articles is that they place emphasis on the exploration of alternative measures in controlling the spread of disease, other than the conventional biomedical methods. Such alternatives are of equal importance within responses to disease related epidemics despite the fact that they are often overlooked; which is exactly what these articles have intended to convey to readers.

Questions: How should anthropologist tackle the issue of being disregarded by health care organizations, and allow for their work to be acknowledged? What are the implications of secular Western nations involvement within foreign countries? Does this affect the ability of health care organizations to administer health care effectively?