New Book: Local Battles- Global Stakes

Together with my colleague Edien Bartels I have written a chapter called Submission and a Ritual Murder; The transnational aspects of a local conflict and protest in a volume edited by my colleagues of VU University Amsterdam: Ton Salman and Marjo de Theije.

In this volume Local Battles, Global Stakes. The Globalization of Local Conflicts and the Localization of Global Interests the authors challenge the often held assumption with regard to conflicts around the world that ‘the local’ and ‘the global’ are clearly distinct realms. This is most clearly brought out in phrases about ‘local responses’ to ‘global change’. This book addresses a wealth of cases from around the world that illustrate how local tensions, frictions and open conflicts are not only influenced by outside actors, but how local parties proactively seek to insert their interests in global discourses, if only to strengthen their legitimacy.

This compilation covers issues ranging from religious contentions, ethical controversies, ethnic clashes, and environmental issues in Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe. Geo-political interference from outside players, material and immaterial support from diasporas, international media articulation of the conflict’s stakes, and international religious proselytising, all co-constitute local disputes. This book shows how local strife is often situated in and shaped by broader political and other contexts.

This book is meant for all scholars and students interested in the real and tangible effects of globalization processes, in particular for anthropologists, political scientists, sociologists and scholars interested in international dimensions of environmental issues, religion, ethnicity and gender.

  • Introduction by Marjo de Theije and Ton Salman
  • Part One: Global Religions, Local Battles
    Edien Bartels and Martijn de Koning, abstract
    Submission and a Ritual Murder; The transnational aspects of a local conflict and protest
    On 2 November 2004, Theo van Gogh, a Dutch columnist, filmmaker and producer of the film Submission was murdered in Amsterdam by a Moroccan-Dutch Muslim. However in order to understand the significance of the film Submission and the murder of its producer, Theo van Gogh, we should look beyond these local and national frames, and beyond the local significance of this conflict. In this chapter we will show how a transnational take on both topics, the film Submission and the murder of Theo van Gogh, can contribute to a better understanding of how and why these local events occurred.

    Keywords: Islam, identity, Muslim youth, terrorism, liberalism.

    Oscar Salemink, abstract
    Changing rights and wrongs: The transnational construction of indigenous and human rights among Vietnam’s Central Highlanders
    In the context of Vietnam’s Central Highlanders’ conflict-ridden relationship with the Vietnamese state and the growing transnational interference by their vociferous diaspora, this paper analyzes particular shifts in the framing of their rights. A notion of collective group rights that are by definition particularistic and exclusive has given way to individual rights (especially religious freedom) that are universal and inclusive. Simultaneously, a localized and communal emphasis has changed to a transnational one oriented toward international fora. Local interests and aspirations thus come to be framed as universal human rights that pertain to individuals, rather than local rights that pertain to collectives. In this light, recent attempts to theorize minority or indigenous rights appear to be ineffective and will probably be counter-productive.

    Keywords: Ethnicity, Human Rights, indigenous rights, Religion, transnationalism.

    Marjo de Theije, abstract
    Local protest and transnational Catholicism in Brazil
    Based on research in Brazil, the author discusses three local situations of conflict and social protest, using a transnational perspective. She concentrates on the use of universal claims of Catholicism in local negotiations of religious change under the influence of different cultural campaigns. The clashes in question are divided into those involving local political problems and those concerning the religious domain itself. The analysis shows that in each of the cases–albeit with different intensity and outcome–the interconnection between translocal processes and the meaning and experience of locality has a significant role in the power plays and the formulations of religious or social protest in the local context.

    Keywords: Brazil, Catholicism, local, protest, transnational.

    Part Two: Family Values, Gendered Morals, Contested Ethics
    Claudia Fonseca, abstract
    Protest Against Adoption in Brazil: A “Global” Presence in “Local” Matters
    As we trace the processes that have influenced the recent evolution of child placement policies in Brazil – from plenary adoption and foster care to family preservation – we observe how these technologies of government, designed to smooth over disputes involving issues of class and nationality, combine “external” with national inputs. Relevant actors range from international celebrities to local specialists (social workers, NGO volunteers, and judicial officials) and journalists who may themselves circulate through international decision-making sites.  Finally, the inclusion in our analysis of the role and understandings of birth families – politically, the bottom rung in adoption procedures — leads to the hypothesis that strategic alliances between local and international protest movements may exert an influence in the formation of national policies that may, at least momentarily, perturb traditional hierarchies of power.

    Keywords: Technologies of government, transnational adoption, protest movements, child rights, global assemblages.

    Pinkaew Laungaramsri
    , abstract
    Imagining nation: Women’s rights and the transnational movement of Shan women in Thailand and Burma
    This article explores the relationship between women, nation, nationalism, and transnational women’s practice through the Shan women’s movement in Thailand, particularly the international campaign to stop the systematic rape of Shan women by Burmese soldiers. Employing a feminist critique of nationalism, the article argues that transnational networks allow for the negotiation between national, local, and women’s identities. Whereas the authoritative power of nationalism continues to suppress and silence the transnational subjectivity of women, the Shan women’s movement represents a transnational attempt to contest the confinement of women’s subjectivities within the territorialized nation-state.

    Keywords: gender, nation, rape, refugees, transnationalism.

    Halleh Ghorashi and Nayereh Tavakoli, abstract
    Paradoxes of transnational space and local activism: Iranians organizing across borders
    The Iranian revolution of 1979 promised to bring freedom and equality, but as soon as one group gained power, it turned out to be oppressive of both its political opposition and women. This resulted in the formation of a large Iranian diaspora bound together by its hatred for the Iranian regime. Years of suppression in the 1980s in Iran resulted in a deep gap between Iranians living inside and outside Iran. During the 1990s, however, cross-border relationships started to change as a result of two major factors: transnational activities and the influence of cyberspace. This paper focuses on the paradoxes of transnational connections in local protest with a focus on the women’s movement. We show both how transnational links have empowered women activists in Iran and how they have led to new dangers at the local level. We also reveal how support from the Iranian diaspora can be patronizing as well as supportive.

    Keywords: cyberspace, Iranian diaspora, Iranian revolution, Iranian women’s movement, Iranian Women’s Studies Foundation.

    Martha Cecilia Ruiz and Lorraine Nencel, abstract
    Sex Work(er): The struggles of a global concept
    This chapter aims to trace the travels of the global concept sex work(er). This political concept is globally used by women working in the sex industry to organize and fight for rights and social respect. It is also a concept challenging past and present discourses on “sexual slavery”. We focus on the global and local struggles of the concept in regard to its acceptance and incorporation in global and local discourse. For this objective we frame this chapter in a theoretical approach built on the ideas of travelling theories; a framework offered as an alternative to the cultural imperialism critique of global feminism. Travelling theories recognizes the interconnectedness of the global and local but does not assume that the concepts are imposed and/or imitated when they reach their local destination. To illustrate how the concept sex work(er) has circualted not only from North to South but also within the South, we elaborate on a particular case, the Sex Workers Movement of Machala, Ecuador – one of the earliest founded organizations on the Latin American continent.

    Keywords: Sexwork(er), transnational migration, travelling theories.

    Part Three: Belonging Amidst Scattered Boundaries / Global Ammunition, Local Essentialisms
    Karsten Paerregaard, abstract
    Transnational crossfire: Local, national and global conflicts in Peruvian migration
    This chapter argues that globalization processes are shaped by friction and exclusion as much as fluidity and inclusion and that conflict therefore is integral parts of population movements, especially when this evolves in a transnational context. By applying a transnational approach the chapter brings to the fore how tensions are negotiated, contested and reinterpreted not merely in a local but also in a regional, national and international context. More specifically, it examines the transnational network of Peruvian migrants who work as sheepherders in the United States and examines the conflicts that this migration practice generates in both Peru and the United States. The chapter concludes that the tensions that occur on the sheep ranches not only cause a divide within the migrant community itself but also trigger a political crisis on a national level in Peru and an international strife between Peru and the United States.

    Keywords: transnational, sheepherders, conflict, Peru, United States.

    Lenie Brouwer, abstract
    Jokes, raps and transnational orientations – Protests of Dutch-Moroccan youths in the Debate on Islam
    Islam is today one of the most discussed topics in Dutch national newspapers and internet discussion groups. In this public debate the Muslim-voice is underrepresented, more in particular, the views of Muslim youngsters. The polarised debate and the current policy measures deepens the division between non-Muslims and Muslims, between ‘us’ and ‘them’, and fosters the highlighting of one specific identity that seems best suited to counter the accusations: that of being a Muslim. This makes Islam more attractive as a vehicle to reject all these accusations. The reactions of young Muslims or Dutch Moroccans are analysed in a media-technology context, a computer clubhouse in Amsterdam and Moroccan websites.  It is argued that Dutch Moroccan youths perceive Islam more and more as an appealing religion, as a motive of pride, in response to the negative image of Islam and the social exclusion of Muslims in the West.

    Keywords: Islam, Muslim youth, the Netherlands, media-technology, religious identity.

    Ellen Bal and Kathinka Sinha-Kerkhoff, abstract
    British Indians in colonial India and Surinam: transnational identification and estrangement
    The authors present a case study of Indian nationalists who drew from a discourse on ‘exploited overseas Indian migrants’ to serve their own political interests. At the same time, overseas British Indians, in this case in Surinam, advocated the continuation of transnational relations between (British) India and Surinam in order to strengthen the position of their community locally. Clearly, for some time, transnational identification served the (national) interests of both groups in the two different nations. Yet, the authors also show that when such transnational ‘solutions’ did not serve any longer to solve local problems, estrangement between the two communities followed. Theoretically, this article constitutes a synthesis of approaches that connect identities to specific places and theories that have abandoned the study of geographically-based national societies. It demonstrates how the politics of place is dominant even within the field of transnational alliances.

    Keywords: estrangement, identity politics, overseas Indians, place, transnational identification.

    Ton Salman, abstract
    Narrow margins, stern sovereignty: Juxtaposing transnational and local features of Bolivia’s crisis
    This article argues that the current Bolivian political crisis is ‘made’ both internally and abroad. Yet it is much more than a simple adding up of the two constituent factors: external influences are always mediated by local actors. Local actors turn these influences into meaningful issues and demands in the Bolivian political context. These actors, in turn, are co-constituted by external forces, as is the case with the prominent indigenous movements in the country: their self-awareness and identity politics in part depend upon support and discourses of a transnational nature. The fact that these indigenous movements insist on sovereignty and self-determination with regard to the use of Bolivia’s natural resources is a case in point. This demand, at the same time, is articulated in a setting in which this sovereignty suffers from tightening margins due to the external obligation to restructure both the state and the economy.

    Keywords: crisis of democracy, neo-liberalism, political protest, transnationalism.

    Folkje Lips, abstract
    Stretching the margins of tolerated criticism: Using non-Cuban music in local protest
    This article presents music in Cuba as being more than just a sound and Cuban musicians as being more than mere entertainers. By choosing foreign music-genres as identity-markers, Cuban musicians and their audience express a critical awareness about their socio-political reality. Depending on the extent to which they want to employ this awareness to influence local concepts of society and politics, they modify and adapt their music to fit Cubaneity. Although critical awareness is not something the Cuban government will normally allow to be displayed, these musicians seem to enjoy some leeway. By examining two transnational musical genres, hip-hop and rock music, this article shows two different ways to find and widen the boundaries of the admissible in Cuba.

    Keywords: Cuba, Cubaneity, Hip-hop, Rock, Protest, State-control.

    Part Four: The Contested Ground of Environmental Values
    Marja Spierenburg, Conrad Steenkamp, and Harry Wels, abstract
    Resistance of local communities against marginalization in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area
    The Great Limpopo is one of the largest Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCA) in the world, encompassing vast areas in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. The TFCA concept is embraced by practically all (international) conservation agencies. The rationale for the support is that the boundaries of ecosystems generally do not overlap with those of the nation-state. Their protection requires transnational cooperation. By arguing that local communities living in or close to TFCAs will participate and benefit economically, TFCA proponents claim social legitimacy for the project. However, analysis shows that communities first have to live up to rigid standards and requirements set by the international conservation authorities, before they are considered ‘fit’ to participate. Communities attempt to resist this type of marginalization by forming alliances with (inter)national development and human rights NGOs, with mixed results.

    Keywords: NGOs, resistance, sustainable development, transfrontier conservation, transnationalism.

    Julia M. Wittmayer and Bram Büscher, abstract
    Conserving conflict? Transfrontier conservation, development discourses and local conflict between South Africa and Lesotho
    Since the early 1980s, South Africa and Lesotho have tried to find ways to jointly conserve the Maloti-Drakensberg mountain ecosystem that runs across their shared boundary. Recently, the countries completed the first phase of the ‘Maloti-Drakensberg transfrontier conservation and development project’ (MDTP) that besides conservation aims to reduce poverty through ecotourism and increase international cooperation. This chapter describes and analyses how discourses of conservation and development in the project both cement and complicate transnational relations and how these in turn articulate with, shape and are shaped by ‘the local’. The ‘local’ in Lesotho, in turn, can never be understood without drawing South Africa into the equation, for one because of the many Basotho that have always worked in South African mines, so providing their families with crucial livelihood support. Recently, however, massive retrenchments have forced numerous Basotho men to return to their families and try to again fit in locally. Focussing on the people living around the north-eastern boundary of Lesotho, we show how conflictual situations put the spotlight on the ways in which ‘the local’ in Lesotho deals with dual forces of localisation and transnationalisation. We argue that local people accommodate, even appropriate, these dual pressures by adopted an increasingly flexible stance in terms of identity, alliances and discourses. This in turn allows them to increase their livelihood options. In contrast, by being more focused on the level of discourse rather than these contradicting dynamics on the local level, the MDTP intervention planners, have decreased the likelihood of attaining their objectives.

    Keywords: Conflicts, Transfrontier Conservation, development, South Africa, Lesotho.

    The book can be ordered at VU University Publishers € 39,95 or at internet bookstores

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