Mojúbàolú Olúfúnké Okome, Ph.D.Professor of Political ScienceBrooklyn College, CUNY
Paper presented at the POWER AND NATIONALISM IN MODERN AFRICA Symposium in honor of the memory of Professor Don Ohadike, Organized by the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, New YorkFriday and Saturday, September 22-23, 2006
Nationalism and globalization are intricately intertwined with displacement, dislocation and development. They are also oppositional forces, for nationalism is about boundaries, borders and geographical limits while globalization is indicative of universality, borderlessess, and it even challenges the limits of nation states. The nation, as Benedict Anderson famously said, is as much about a people's imagination as it is about tangibility. From the imagined community that a nation is, flows a people's sense of identity, while the desire for a tangible expression of such an identity propels assertions of self-determination and ultimate drive for political sovereignty.[i] The nation also encompasses a territory and once constituted goes beyond the imaginary to an embodied community. Increasingly, one of the consequences of globalization is that these communities are no longer determined by propinquity or close proximity of people to one another, and transnational identities, communities are growing that call to question old constructions based on concepts of nations as fixed geographical spaces.
Contemporary out-migrations from the African continent are a crucial part of the population movements caused by globalization in the contemporary world political economy. Caused in particular by changes in the global division of labor and consequent human responses, the out-migrations in turn shape the nature, form, and process of globalization in ways that impact upon the migrants and immigrants, as well as on the political economies of their countries of origin and their host countries. When they involve large numbers, the out-migrations also cause changes in the social structure and the nature of social relations; particularly in a manner that affects gender, race, and class relations. Consequently, African immigrants and migrants become transnational, and they are absorbed into the labor pool (at many different levels) in the global north but they still have their roots in the African continent, and they engage the continent in multiple ways, shaping the definition and practice of nationalism as well as ethnicity in everyday life. In turn, their identities and the modes in which they express them undergo constant transformations.
Some of the contemporary population movements from the African continent are caused by pervasive war and internal conflict, others by punitive government policies against critics and dissidents, (which can be construed as evidence of the failed promise of African anti-imperialist nationalism); yet others by harsh economic conditions. These movements generate refugees, exiles, and immigrants. While many countries in the global North have policies of supporting exiles and refugees, these policies are unevenly applied and subject to politicization. The very rules on designating refugees and political exiles may not necessarily recognize many who fall under these categories as such, particularly when they have no passports and other travel documents, and can be conveniently ignored.
The most consistent movement of Africans into the larger world is dominated by the pursuit of means of securing livelihoods in a world where the practical experience of globalization is in the form of the imposition of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) and their subsequent iterations, including the current Poverty Alleviation Program (PAP) by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and both Paris and London Clubs. As labor, contemporary African immigrants can either be skilled, and therefore desired and courted by capital, and by their host country for skilled technical and professional employment, or they can be unskilled and repulsed and reviled by the host country’s unfriendly policies, which may transform them into undocumented immigrants, subject to gross exploitation by capital. As such, they may begin their labor force participation as laborers in the informal and or underground economy, and when lucky, work their way up in the socio-economic ladder. For this second category of African immigrants/migrants, the likelihood of being stuck in a vicious cycle of perpetual informalization and under-remuneration for their labor is also high. Paradoxically, skilled workers and those with technical skills may also enter into the global North as undocumented workers who begin their labor force participation in the informal economy as underpaid, underemployed, and over-exploited workers.
Gender is also relevant to discussions of globalization, nationalism and the creation of Diasporan and transnational identities and re-creation of nationalism. African women and men experience many of the same challenges as they become part of transnational communities, but some challenges are peculiar to women. In the first place, to consider the desired migrants who become part of the middle class, it is a well-documented fact that there is a gender wage gap that negatively impacts all women.[ii] According to the Census Bureau, on the average, women make 74 cents for every dollar that men make. The difference is attributable to both social and economic factors, since labor markets are highly segregated by gender, and the jobs dominated by men attract higher salaries than those dominated by women. This differential has also been documented in Europe, and other parts of the world.[iii] The glass ceiling is another well-documented barrier to women’s parity to men in the labor market.[iv] Diasporan African women are affected by both the wage gap and the glass ceiling. They also face other challenges that other women may not necessarily face as a consequence of racial discrimination, bias, and in the case of the new immigrants among them, xenophobia. It is well-nigh impossible for most new immigrant women to compete on an even footing, or even to participate equally with women citizens or legal residents of their host country until most of them secure a firm toehold in the economy, something that for may take years of sweat, blood, and tears, and of course, the inevitable exploitation.
In the sections that follow, I will briefly examine and analyze the impact and relevance of each of these processes – nationalism, globalization, development and dispersal, on Africa and Africans, and consider how each phenomenon was in turn shaped by Africans given the constraints and opportunities they faced over time. I analyze these processes in the following order:
Antinomies Of Globalization: Dispersal, Nationalism, Transnationalism, And Development?
African Transnational Communities And Its Diasporas.
Epistemic Communities And The Prospects For African Development
Transnational African Christianity And African Development?
This paper contends that the new transnationalization of the African Diaspora creates new linkages between the old and new African Diasporas that complicate nationalism, identity and sovereignty. It also strengthens the existing linkages between the new Diaspora and the old. The most vibrant of these linkages are those depending on the ideologically driven construction of an African identity. This process at the same time creates tensions that Watkins Owens characterizes as intra-racial ethnicity, a concept that describes the condition where groups that may be seen by those outside their group as belonging to the same race, but within the group, there are fine distinctions made based on differences in ethnicity and national origin, that prevent unity, collaboration, and coalition building to solve common problems.[v] To a significant extent, nationality rather than racial identity still drives, and substantively divides the various African Diasporas, one from the other, creating tensions, and subverting the promise of Pan Africanism that the continent is an integral whole, and that its progress can only be achieved if a united front is built to ensure that the governance and creation of wealth in Africa are taken over by Africans for Africans.
I argue that the history of the continent and its peoples cannot be understood without a holistic analytical perspective that considers these phenomena as intertwined, and as generating responses from Africans that continue to make indelible marks on the continent. I also argue that there is the likelihood that nationalism is not intrinsically positive or negative, and that it can be reinforced instead of weakened by globalization, as is evidenced in the expressions of identity, the production and reproduction of culture, and in the institutions established by the old and new African diasporas.
ANTINOMIES OF GLOBALIZATION: DISPERSAL, NATIONALISM, TRANSNATIONALISM, AND DEVELOPMENT?
Many effects of globalization operate in the form of antinomies or in simple terms, contradictions.[vi] There are clearly fundamental contradictions integral to the process of globalization. While many scholars assume that the process has positive consequences, it is obvious that it also has negative consequences on the lives of majority of people in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and even in parts of Western Europe and North America. Further, the negative and positive consequences of globalization often relate to each other in a dialectical manner. In consequence, affluence is created in the global north, poverty in the global South. It is also possible to have regional differentiation in poverty and affluence within the same country’s borders.[vii] Nationalism is similarly affected, with both the potential for negative and positive manifestations emanating from globalization and consequent transnationalization of human communities.
Antinomies are integral to the process of globalization because counter-intuitively, this same phenomenon causes diametrically opposite effects, and paradoxically, each effect occurs as a logical consequence of the operation of antinomies. Consequently, it is routine for globalization to produce wealth in some parts of the world or in regions within countries. It is also normal for it to produce poverty in some countries and within given regions. Ability to afford, gain access to, and to use technological innovation is as much a consequence of globalization, as is the lack of access to, inability to utilize, or to afford to purchase technology. As a consequence of globalization, many countries in the third world, including those in the African continent, have become no more than labor reserves for the more affluent, post-industrial countries of the global north, which have become magnets that draw migrants and immigrants that seek an end to the problems of unmitigated poverty, social and political conflict, unemployment and underemployment.[viii] This has the effect of complicating nationalism in a myriad of ways.
Appadurai gives some useful insights on the connections between nationalism and globalization when he argues that the contemporary global era is characterized by both mass migration and electronic communication such thaa manner as to create a new global cultural economy. The fixed temporal world has become irrelevant, replaced by dynamic and mobile landscapes that contain ideas, technology, finance, images, and people who do not necessarily identify with one and/or any nation states. As a matter of fact, the existence of these communities and landscape does not depend on the pleasure or desire of states. Their existence indicates the development of new kinds of nation. Their actions respect no territorial boundaries and cannot be subjected to them. Among the variety of post national communities that can be formed, are Diasporas that transnationalize religion, ethnicity, race and identity.
Transnationalism is considered in immigration as breaching geographical, political and cultural boundaries by new immigrant-created social relations and the networks they create. The existence of these networks challenges existing conceptions of migration, citizenship, ethnicity and culture. This community is bound together by the volitional or coerced action of immigrants who move from one locale to another.[ix] Host and source countries of immigrants respond to the changes in the nature of transnational social relations among migrant communities by devising new policies and strategies that seek to domesticate and discipline the transnational communities and access as well as control the resources that they generate, whether these are financial, informational, social, or political.
Unlike positive and sometimes romanticized assessments that construct nationalism as positive manifestations of identity and virtuous expressions of resistance against colonial oppression, Appadurai presents transnational communities that are not immutably positive and progressive. They can either unite to change the world in a positive manner or implode when constituent groups or individuals attack and decimate one another. They can also explode against forces that are external to their imagined communities. More than the imagined communities of the pre-industrial and industrial ages, these imagined communities are moved by ideas, images, and financial resources that are transmitted instantaneously to millions of people in the world in a manner never before experienced by humanity.[x]
However, there is also evidence that as Victoria Bernal observed in a study of Eritrean responses to the war between their nation and Ethiopia, “nationalism and transnationalism do not oppose each other but intertwine in complex ways in the globalized spaces of diaspora, in cyberspace, and in new definitions of citizenship and state-citizen relations advanced by the Eritrean state.”[xi]
As a political phenomenon, modern African nationalism, was in its first manifestation, a struggle against European imperialism that yielded both significant and limited gains. No doubt, the achievement of independence, the establishment of trade unions and their struggles for democracy are laudable contributions to the anti-imperialist struggle, as was the establishment of Ethiopianist churches, independent schools, and other institutions that provided leadership opportunities, training, and ultimately, personnel for the nationalist movement during the era of colonization, although the Ethiopianists also had among them, those that eschewed all participation in politics. The singular achievement (of independence) generated highly optimistic responses that in the framed the late 1950s and 1960s achievement of independence as a “re-discovery” (Tom Mboya), a struggle to “re-become Africans” (Amilcar Cabral), that produced Nationalist ideologies like Senghor’s Negritude, Nkrumah’s “African Personality”, Kaunda’s “Humanism”, and Nyerere’s “Ujamaa”[xii]. Unfortunately, and in hindsight, these expectations bore little positive fruit not least because of the conceptualization of African nationalism in the image of the European variety, but especially because of the deep and enduring economic malaise and consequent effects on politics that has permeated the African continent for the past few decades.
For Zeleza, African migration is driven predominantly by the imperative of survival. It is also shaped by the dynamics of the international capitalist political economy. African migrants are not only cultural intellectual warriors; they are also economic migrants who are buffeted by the storms and gales of international economic exchange. Zeleza also directly addresses the question of whether African migration is good or bad for the continent and its intellectual community. Like this paper, Zeleza’s community includes African intellectuals in the continent’s universities, in its research centers, and those in the contemporary migrant Diaspora. He argues that ongoing collaboration contacts and conversations must be undertaken by all these communities for the migrant intellectuals to be able to live up to the promise of being “productive and progressive for Africa”[xiii]
If we take network theories of migration seriously, social networks would be understood to develop as a result of migration that connects current migrants with past ones. These connections bring together kinfolk, friends, and acquaintances in home countries and host countries in relations of friendship, kinship, and other social interactions. These linkages produce succeeding flows of migrants because the networks provide information, support, and an enabling environment. Essentially, these networks stand in the gap between harsh economic and political realities and broad structural forces and the individuals that make decisions on how to navigate the realities that confront them. The networks operate in a manner that builds a generational structure of familial migration from one person’s original decision to migrate.[xiv]
According to institutional theory, increased migration causes an accompanying proliferation of institutions that emerge just to service documented and undocumented immigrants. Such institutions include religious, humanitarian, non-governmental and governmental organizations. An informal, sometimes illegal economy also develops to support undocumented immigration. The criminal facet of this economy smuggles people into the labor markets of the North and might even offer menial, low wage labor and sex work as part of the repertoire of opportunities that this migrant population must undertake as survival mechanisms.[xv] Under such a scenario, the ability to form or join a community would substantially reduce the harshness of being in a new, often hostile environment. The World Wide Web provides one more avenue to the achievement of community formation and or participation. However, the contention that there is a digital divide points to the possibility that the women, poorest, and least technologically savvy may well be unable to take advantage of this new innovation.
The theory of cumulative causation contends that migration changes the social, political, economic and cultural landscapes such that past migrations influence contemporary flows, which in turn influence future flows. Because migration tends to affect regional patterns of control over the means of production, political, social, economic and cultural relations change to reflect new understandings on how to read and decode migration, work and citizenship. While for those in the source countries of migration, there may be a normalization of migration as part of the rites of passage, for receiving countries, the immigrant is pathologized as undesired and undesirable. Over time, the condition of being a migrant may become normalized as pathology in the host country. Migrants consequently are defined as those who take menial, undesired jobs, those who are always discreditable as plagues upon the land, those who practically “ask for” being discriminated against. Because there is a pool of jobs that native born populations refuse to take, it is guaranteed ad infinitum that immigration will be perpetual. Capital takes advantage of this situation with its interest in keeping costs low, and profits high. So do immigrant workers who use these jobs as stepping stones to better ones where possible.[xvi]
Sending countries may, as Nigeria and South Africa have done, extend dual citizenship to their immigrant indigenes. They may, like Jerry Rawling’s Ghana, extend dual citizenship to Africans from the old Diasporas.[xvii] The immigrants may campaign for an extension of these and other rights to them, as the members of the Uganda-North American Convention did in 2000 with respect to the demand for dual citizenship.[xviii] These kinds of policies are sought after by transnational immigrants, who seek to extend their power vis-à-vis the state. There is also agitation for increased ability to participate in the politics of their home countries through voting in elections, running for political office, being gadflies who critique government policies, and push for changes thereof, increasingly using the World Wide Web as a means of communication.
The communications in African transnational networks have not reached their full potential but they occur, and they are significant. They can be seen in the news groups, discussion groups, signature drives, organizational, business and individually owned websites, e-journals, e-newsletters, and commercial advertisements that are created and maintained by the new African Diaspora and old Diasporas. The business-owned websites are incredibly diverse and extensive. Food, books, clothing, home decorations, information, and even match-making services are offered in cyberspace, with increasing capacity to deploy these services to targeted populations being enabled by information mining technology that tracks, analyzes, and stores the habits, purchases and proclivities of cyberparticipants. In spite of these exciting, sometimes curious, and sometimes promising developments, both the old and New Diasporas are yet to fully take seriously the Pan-Africanist mission by building on old forms of transnational linkages. Unfortunately, there are enormous barriers still, to the formation of such linkages. There is mutual distrust, and discrimination, due to the colonial and imperial legacies in both the old and new Diaspora and in the continent. There are also negative ramifications of the politics of competing for the same slice of the economic pie by old and new African Diasporas who draw upon the same pool of professional, academic, and trade jobs.[xix] As well, there persists significant lack of information of each Diaspora of the other’s history and struggles.
Like new transnational linkages, the old operated in the realm of ideas, the former for Africa and Africans’ independence and liberation from imperialistic exploitation and oppression, the latter to assault and challenge new forms of imperialism. Old transnational linkages among Africa’s Diasporas also espoused the need to foster and strengthen the development of cultural intellectual, political, and economic capacities of Africa and its Diaspora. The Pan African Congresses from 1919 to the mid-20th century were a significant institutional manifestation of this effort. Also tremendously important were linkages among individuals who moved back to Africa from the Diaspora. The more prominent of these include Christian missionaries, scholars, intellectuals, politicians and business people. More invisible but equally significant were people who were brought together by filial ties, the practice of African indigenous religions, and fictive kinship.
Of course, in the realm of literary imagination, and in the scholarly production of knowledge, the old Diasporas of Africa actively engaged the continent, its history, culture, and political economy. Research and publications as well as novels and other forms of artistic expression demonstrate the importance of the connection between Africa and its Diasporas on many different levels. The new Diaspora shows a great deal of preoccupation with the politics, economics, and societies of the several home countries of its members. The preoccupation resembles that of the old Diaspora in the sense that it generates corpus of literary, poetic, political, economic, and sociological expressions, analyses, and critiques of Africa, its peoples, and its Diaspora. However, these engagements tend to be either bounded by the geographical divisions between nations and regions in the continent or between Africa and its old Diasporas. There is some cross fertilization, but it falls far short of the Pan-Africanist ideal of fostering African liberation from oppressive imperialists. Given the characterization of the economic aspects of contemporary globalization as a re-colonization of Africa by some scholars, the call for Pan-Africanism takes on increased urgency before Africa’s total integration into the burgeoning McWorld
Let me make a seeming, but not actual digression and invoke the following names, Germany, Melilla, Ceuta, Morocco, Mauritania, Malta, Spain, Italy, the US, the UK, … contemporary Africans are dispersed liberally to these African, European and American locales in palpable demonstration of one of the facets of globalization – population movements. Some leave by plane, others by foot, trudging through the Sahel, Sahara, and then crowding into all manner of flimsy watercraft to seek their fortune outside the Afr ican continent. Those who survive the ordeal of the grueling trek to Melilla, Ceuta, Malta, Mauritania and Morocco may sometimes be found in the hovels and forests, lacking the basic necessities, but still hopeful about the prospects of a better life than what they left behind. One begins to grasp some of the tragic ramifications of these population movements when it becomes clear that some were only able to join their cohorts because their entire family sells all that it owns to invest in the ephemeral hope that one would survive, thrive, succeed, and reach back to assist those left behind.
The outpouring of migrants from Africa into the world at large is directed at personal development, particularly in the area of wealth creation. For most of the world’s nation states, development remains a process measurable in gross national or gross domestic product, however, economic growth is insufficient as a measure of development. Renowned Pakistani economist and creator of the Human Development Index, Mahbub ul Haq suggests an alternative conceptualization of development that may explain some of the motives behind population movements from crisis-ridden to buoyant economic systems:
The basic purpose of development is to enlarge people's choices. In principle, these choices can be infinite and can change over time. People often value achievements that do not show up at all, or not immediately, in income or growth figures: greater access to knowledge, better nutrition and health services, more secure livelihoods, security against crime and physical violence, satisfying leisure hours, political and cultural freedoms and sense of participation in community activities. The objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives.[xx]
If there is a prior understanding that people are the wealth of a nation, and that development ought to be geared at building people’s capacity to make choices that enable them to live “long, healthy and creative lives” in which they are able to access the resources needed for full participation in their communities, then, Africa is losing more than brains when its youth pours out into the world to seek greener pastures. It is losing its wealth. By implication, the countries to which the population is drawn gain wealth. Mahbub ul Haq also argues for a self-reinforcing connection between human rights and development that produces well-being, dignity, self-respect, and the respect of others.[xxi]
Given the conceptualization of people as the wealth of a nation, and of development as building human capacities to facilitate the enjoyment of full rights of citizenship, and long, healthy, creative rights, how does Africa measure up? Some have recommended that Africa’s brain drain be transformed into a brain gain through material and intellectual remittances from Africans in the diaspora. But remittances have negative and positive potential. Many have rightly commented on their propensity to contribute to development, particularly in the face of inadequate and inappropriate aid and the acceptance of philosophical opposition to welfarism that the adoption of SAPs indicate. As well, remittances can contribute to poverty reduction. The World Bank has lately promoted poverty alleviation programs in response to critiques that the poorest of the poor are being beaten down under conditions of SAP. At the most simplistic level, it can be assumed that poor people with migrant family members would benefit most directly from remittances transferred to fund their welfare needs. However, such transfers also may create moral hazard problems in that they discourage more vigorous efforts to enhance life chances through an increase in the capacity to meet welfare needs. Worse, they make it possible for the state to assume that there is no need to attend to welfare needs, and no assistance is needed because needs are adequately met. ODA assistance can be similarly affected. Most significantly, market forces are allowed to take over what should properly be in the purview of the state -responsibility for guaranteeing the basic welfare needs of its citizens, thus legitimizing a survival of the fittest kind of system that makes participation in people and drug trafficking seem to be legitimate survival mechanisms for those to whom other options are either foreclosed or remote.
DISPERSAL and NATIONALISM
Some of the contemporary population movements from the African continent are caused by pervasive war and internal conflict, others by punitive government policies against critics and dissidents, yet others by the harsh economic conditions detailed above. These movements generate refugees, exiles, and immigrants. While many countries in the global North have policies of supporting exiles and refugees, these policies are unevenly applied and subject to politicization. The very rules on designating refugees and political exiles may not necessarily recognize many who fall under these categories as such, particularly when they have no passports and other travel documents.
However generated, the very process of migration entails dispersal, in order to meet security, shelter, food, and other needs. This is a process that is as old as humanity, and one that continues in all parts of the world. Most contemporary African population dispersal occurs within the continent, but more global attention is focused on dispersal to other continents, particularly to Europe and North America, where elaborate laws, walls, and other barriers have been generated to keep out undesired migrants.
Nationalism, Globalization, Development and Dispersal can be seen as related processes that are connected by streams of human intention and agency – arising from the desire to meet material and other needs. These processes can also be seen as oppositional, since the development of globalization could cause the diminution of the power of nation states. Some dispersal may also be more volitional than voluntary, although economic conditions could compel dispersal as much as physical force, as evidenced in the dispersal from Africa to Western Europe in recent times, where the dead body of African youth is washed to the shores of Spain and Italy, or the live bodies of its youth populate the flesh markets of the global sex trade.
Beyond being a product of the imagination and a tangible expression thereof that stimulates patriotism, xenophobia, and other attitudinal responses, nationalism also motivates action taken to express self determination, as was seen in Africa in the period of colonialism. Nationalism is often directed toward building, acquiring, maintaining, retaining, and recovering sovereignty over a geographical location that is taken to represent the nation in its physical expression. When globalization is taken as a historical process that began for Africa with the first contact between the continent and the outside world, it is clear that the process covers the period often taken in conventional historical accounts as belonging in the continent’s “prehistory” principally by those for whom African had no history. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the age of imperialism and consequent “legitimate trade,” the fevered exploration, scramble, partition, pacification and colonial era that it spawned, are covered by the umbrella of globalization as much as are the immediate post-colonial period and this contemporary period. This further demonstrates the intertwined nature of nationalism, globalization and development, for Africans all through these periods strived for development, a fact that ought to be acknowledged despite the profound lack of success in accomplishing it, and the flawed methodologies, motives, tools and strategies employed. The profound lack of success in accomplishing the goals of development also affected the process of dispersal and experience of dislocation experienced in the African continent.
As labor, contemporary African immigrants can either be skilled, and therefore desired and courted by capital, and by their host country for skilled technical and professional employment, or they can be unskilled and repulsed and reviled by the host country’s unfriendly policies, which may transform them into become undocumented immigrants, subject to gross exploitation by capital, beginning their labor force participation as laborers in the informal and or underground economy, and when lucky, working their way up in the socio-economic ladder. For this second category of African immigrants/migrants, the likelihood of being stuck in a vicious cycle of perpetual informalization and under-remuneration for their labor is also high. Paradoxically, skilled workers and those with technical skills may also enter into the global North as undocumented workers who begin their labor force participation in the informal economy as underpaid, underemployed, and over-exploited workers.
Diasporan African women and men experience many of the same challenges, but there are also challenges that are peculiar to women. In the first place, it is a well-documented fact that there is a gender wage gap that negatively impacts all women.[xxii] According to the Census Bureau, on the average, women make 74 cents for every dollar that men make. The difference is attributable to both social and economic factors, since labor markets are highly segregated by gender, and the jobs dominated by men attract higher salaries than those dominated by women. This differential has also been documented in Europe, and other parts of the world.[xxiii] The glass ceiling is another well-documented barrier to women’s parity to men in the labor market.[xxiv] Diasporan African women are affected by both the wage gap and the glass ceiling. They also face other challenges that other women may not necessarily face as a consequence of racial discrimination, bias, and in the case of the new immigrants among them, xenophobia. It is well-nigh impossible for most new immigrant women to compete on an even footing, or even to participate equally with women citizens or legal residents of their host country until most of them secure a firm toehold in the economy, something that for may take years of sweat, blood, and tears, and of course, the inevitable exploitation.
AFRICAN TRANSNATIONAL COMMUNITIES AND ITS DIASPORAS
Transnational communities formed by African migrants and immigrants as one of the ways in which African immigrants negotiate the challenges of their dislocated or re-located lives in the burgeoning Diaspora. It is useful to emphasize that there is an old African Diaspora that was formed as a result of the enslavement of Africans and their use as coerced, un-free labor in the 16th century. This inhuman process created an African Diaspora in the then “new world,” today’s North and South America and the Caribbean. It also created an African Diaspora in Asia. While this paper does not consider the enslavement of Africans as a process of “forced migration”, it contends that the creation of both the New and Old Diaspora are caused by globalization. The contention that globalization is a causal agent for the formation of the various African Diasporas also incorporates the argument made by Tiffany Patterson and Robin D.G. Kelly on the role of ideology in engendering the construction of the Diaspora.[xxv] Similarly, the notions that an African Diaspora, or various African Diasporas exist are here taken to be ideologically driven. Information technology, particularly those aspects of it that facilitate communication such as the World Wide Web, contribute in no small measure to the ideological construction and strengthening of the Diaspora(s).
In both the past and present eras of globalization, African labor was, and is extracted from the continent into the “new world” and into today’s global north, as a result of what Okpewho, Boyce Davies and Mazrui describe as the “Labor Imperative” and the “Territorial Imperative”.[xxvi] I argue that while both imperatives drove the creation of the old Diaspora, the creation of the contemporary African Diaspora is being driven by the “Labor Imperative”. Of course, imperialism is still very much with us, but it is taking new forms, since today’s imperialism does not entail the physical presence of the imperialists on the soil of the empire. Instead, neo-colonial relations of power maintain the same imperialistic domination through the extraction of economic and financial resources, through the extraction of labor, and its uses in new ways in the peripheries of the empire. Today’s imperialism, unlike the old, is not necessarily driven by the direct action of states, but predominantly by those of transnational capital, predominantly the Multinational Corporations (MNCs) that are located in the global north, supported by state policies in both the north, and the newly liberalized global south that is being compelled to integrate more rapidly into the global economy. This indicates a significant and fundamental change in the nature of globalization.
By creating the old African Diaspora, the old imperialism resembles the new in the global political economy, which created new African Diasporas. Both imperialisms caused the emergence of transnational populations, with the old African Diaspora maintaining its connectedness with Africa through social practices, aesthetics, religious ritual, and the literary and the scholarly imagination. The process of maintaining connectedness with Africa was, and remains, as much social as ideological. Further, the new Diaspora, being in formation, is dynamic. I date its emergence from the period after the second world war, but its most rapid growth was experienced in very recent times, coinciding with the growth of economic crises, unsustainable debt, and the use of policies of SAPs as corrective mechanisms in the African continent.
EPISTEMIC COMMUNITIES AND THE PROSPECTS FOR AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT
How does an epistemic community differ from an ordinary community? According to Peter M. Haas, “epistemic communities are channels through which new ideas circulate from societies to governments as well as from country to country."[xxvii]
an ‘epistemic community’ is a network of professionals with recognized expertise and competence in a particular domain and an authoritative claim to policy-relevant knowledge within domain and issue area.
Shared policy-relevant knowledge; expertise, beliefs on cause and effect, evaluation criteria, and shared norms distinguish epistemic communities from other kinds of community. This makes epistemic communities particularly influential in the determination, prioritization and analysis of policies and their impact.
The power exercised by epistemic communities could have an impact on state policy in various ways, including through the offer of suggestions and opinions on the possible effects of given policy options, particularly during crises; providing analyses of the intricate relationships among issues, events and policies, as well as pointing out the pitfalls and opportunities presented by given policy circumstances; definition of national and sectional interest, and assistance with policy definition and recommendation of optimal policy.
Epistemic communities are likely to have even more of an impact in the information age than in the past due to the increased complexity in the international arena from huge amounts of information, and the advantages accruing to those who have privileged access to information and are also able to draw upon technological innovation and technical skills to manipulate the information. Since epistemic communities are reputed to have both qualities, and they are respected by policymakers as somewhat objective and capable of superior analysis, their ideas gain currency and influence decisionmakers’ understanding of the world. Potentially, they also have the capacity to shape popular production of knowledge. The specialized knowledge that resides in epistemic communities means that they can provide alternatives that are believed to be more viable at times of crisis, and where there’s a fear of the unknown. They are also able to gather information, build consensus, facilitate information dissemination to bureaucrats and policymakers (in public and private sectors), and encourage policy formulation. However, epistemic communities themselves are not immune to the politics of power within the group, a factor that could limit their cohesiveness and possibly, their effectiveness, and their influence could be limited by lack of state power to execute the policies they recommend. [xxviii]
The claim that new epistemic communities are developing should not be taken as an indication of the adequacy of these communities in numbers or in the range of subjects and issues that they engage. Indeed, the promise of intense, consistent, fruitful transnational collaboration is yet to be fully realized.[xxix] It is worthwhile to consider why thus far, the African Diasporan scholars have not intensively utilized information and communications technology to foster enduring linkages with their peers in the continent to foster the continent’s liberation. Such linkages, if properly deployed, would yield the development of not only collaborative research that adds significantly to the production of knowledge on the continent, its people, and its Diasporas, but by using, to paraphrase Fanon, “the intellectual and technical capital …culled from …colonial universities”[xxx] to create new unifying narratives that shape new identities that transcend the nation, and possibly propel Africa toward liberation.
Zeleza presents this as a problem involving the lack of vision, absence of will, and the lack of resources both in the continent and the Diaspora. Tettey contends that this problem arises from capricious and punitive decisions by African governments that favor foreign expertise and repulse indigenous expertise in the African Diasporan scholarly community. The refusal to consult with and draw upon the knowledge base of African experts in the Diaspora is also imposed by conditionalities that are attached to foreign “aid.” There is also the passivity of African based professionals who often wait to be “discovered,” government policies that create barriers to the acquisition of computers and information technology through the imposition of high tariffs on the importation of these goods. Consequently, neither scholars nor universities can afford them.
Finally, there is gross inadequacy in the exercise of what Tettey describes as the “Diaspora Option” through the use of new information and technological innovation to build communities of knowledge.[xxxi] The yet-unexplored possibilities that Tettey identifies include the establishment of joint economic initiatives by cyber groups that connect “credible individuals who use the internet to establish networks of mutual trust on the basis of which to launch economic ventures and under undertakings whose ultimate mission is tailored towards the development of their countries.” These networks can connect African intellectuals in the continent with those in its Diasporas to produce knowledge, wealth and power.[xxxii]
Zeleza rightly contends that unsustainable debt, consequent economic crises, political conflict, including war, and the dislocations that attend these phenomena, particularly from the 1970s, led to the decimation of the research and development capacity of the universities. He also argues that African intellectuals in the continent have become integrated into the global political economy as captured peons of Northern philanthropic and NGO sectors, whose agenda, whims, and fads drive the research projects. Zeleza states but underestimates the power of the antinomies of globalization in forcing both Diasporan and continentally located African intellectuals into either migrant or home based labor that is drawn from increasingly segregated and impoverished labor reserves and made into wage slaves in and/or for the North.
African Diasporan intellectuals in the North remain low in the pecking order of Northern hegemonic intellectual structures and networks. Many work in institutions where teaching, rather than research is the focus, or in Historically Black Colleges and Universities that like the teaching universities, are under-funded. These scholars also have not as a group, accumulated a sufficient amount of social capital to access the biggest and most prestigious grants that enable predominantly white Northern intellectuals to dominate the enterprise of producing and reproducing knowledge on Africa and Africans. Lacking access to significant research funds, and to the pipelines and gate-keepers that manage the enterprise of scholarly publications, Diasporan African scholars are also in the main, unable to engage in the poaching-type, patron-client relations that often exist between African and Northern scholars on the one hand, and between African intellectuals and Northern grantmakers on the other to produce studies that un-reflectingly homogenize the products of research projects on Africa and Africans.
Zeleza suggests that African intellectuals in the Diaspora and those in the continent must build transnational bridges that assault and destroy old orthodoxies that stymie the production of socially and politically conscious, relevant and timely knowledge on Africa. For him, such a radical break from the past is only possible with institutional, financial, ideational, and scholarly commitment to building epistemic communities. In the effort to accomplish these goals, scholarly networks that collaborate in teaching, research, publication and the dissemination of ideas through the use of old and new technologies are crucial. While some such networks exist, majority remain dependent on patronage from the northern intellectual market. Such research centers are under-funded They are also under-supported by intellectual exchange from colleagues in Northern “Babylons,” and as such, can only do but so much. Being strapped for cash, lacking access to innovations in technology and telecommunications, such research centers are ripe and ready for colonization by those with purchasing power that is denominated in “hard currency.”
The tools exist that would enable the bridging of the divide between the better endowed few African intellectuals in the continent and its Diasporas, and the majority of impoverished, marginalized wage slaves that other African intellectuals have become in the era of Structural Adjustment. To focus on the possible, many African intellectuals in the Diaspora have access through their universities, to new instructional technology. They can at the very least, either establish or join news groups and mailing lists that help the operations of transnational epistemic communities. All that is needed in this regard is the will to act, through the development and cultivation of face-to-face linkages that are nurtured by streams of communication. Many African intellectuals in the North can also apply for institution-to-institution collaborative funding for exchange programs between Northern Universities and their African counterparts to be not only possible, but affordable. Unfortunately, most of the funding for collaborative research across continental boundaries goes to Northern scholars. In spite of the significant difficulties involved, efforts must be made to bring Diasporan immigrant and African continentally-based scholars into close intellectual contact with one another, with students, and with African societies. Collaborative relationships will be strengthened and enriched through the use of instructional and telecommunications technologies. Tragically, many African countries are still on the negative side of the information divide. There are not enough computers, telecommunications links, and definitely, there is not enough money to purchase new, and sometimes, even old technologies.
There is increasing evidence that vigorous efforts are underway to create virtual communities with the express intention of reversing the brain drain. Some of these include the Digital Diaspora Network Africa, an organization established by a group of technology firms, nonprofit organizations and UN Agencies to undo the negative effects of Africa’s brain drain by harnessing skills that have been lost to the continent.[xxxiii] These efforts are still too modest when considered in light of the huge challenge of development faced by the continent, however, they could be reinforced by conscious scholarly effort to participate in the new struggles for African liberation from poverty, want, disease, poor governance and gross lack of autonomy vis a vis powerful global actors and forces.
TRANSNATIONAL AFRICAN CHRISTIANITY AND AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT?
Another way in which Africans are negotiating globalization is in the exportation of religion into the larger world. This can be observed in transnational Yoruba religious expressions, predominantly among Africa’s old Diasporas. It is also to be seen in the exportation of all manner of religion in contemporary times, particularly Christianity. The impact of contemporary African Christian immigrants on American social and political life is increasingly subject to scholarly inquiry and most analysts have noted the increasing tide of religious immigration, involving the migration of ministers, religious workers, and pastors of African churches into the United States as missionaries. Many of the churches have exclusively African immigrant membership. As well, some mainline denominations, including the Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, make efforts to service their African immigrant population by sponsoring the immigration of ministers to provide pastoral care for African immigrants. There are a number of important questions to be raised concerning the nature of contemporary African immigrant Christianity in the US. As transnationalized persons and institutions in the global religious arena, African immigrant Christians and churches have formed both formal and informal linkages with transnational evangelistic networks that serve both spiritual and temporal functions of engendering ecumenical relations as well as status elevation in response to the challenges of immigration. The churches could become an important voice in bringing the interests of their members to the table when race relations, immigration, refugee policies, social welfare and other issues are discussed at local, state and national levels. It is perhaps a function of the presence of a critical mass of African immigrant churches in Europe, or possibly due to the longer history of African immigration there that these churches are doing better in terms of participating in larger ecumenical institutions and in public discourse[xxxiv] than their counterparts in the U.S. However, to the extent that African immigrant churches in Europe have made such strides, it is clear that the churches in the U.S. would do likewise or better. The challenge for African immigrant Christians is to chart their own independently determined course and plan for action in a manner that does not make them mere pawns in the power game that politics often is. This implies the ability to set an agenda that responds to the issues identified by the churches’ constituency as important and identifying like-minded allies to work with. The Catholic Church, which is conservative on abortion and homosexuality, is very liberal on immigration, refugee policy, and issues of social welfare. Liberal Christians may have more compatible goals in these respects as well, although they may also express ambivalence on abortion and homosexuality. The astute African immigrant churches and Christians would be those that make alliances based on distinct issue areas, and not on the basis of prior and blanket decision making.
It is also important to realize that overtures for alliances and coalition have been, and will be made to African immigrant churches and Christians by the new Christian right, and the quest for visibility, access to resources and influence could engender the perception that there is unity of purpose among African immigrant Christians and their Christian right brethren.
Once again, the transnationalization of Christianity shows us the possibilities for the future. There are already complex linkages that bind Christians in Africa to those in other parts of the world ideologically, spiritually, doctrinally, liturgically, hermeneutically, and materially. African Initiated Churches and the African branches of mainline denominations have been at the forefront of the globalization and transnationalization of Christianity. African immigrant Christians and churches are bearers of these new developments to their new host countries. In the U.S., they would be well-advised to seek increased collaboration with the Black Church, which has previously negotiated the difficult terrain that they are traveling. The call for economic independence, unity in the body of Christ, discipline, and resistance to oppression was made in the U.S. by the Black Church, which predates the African immigrant church in its establishment.[xxxv] African immigrant Christians’ exhortation on these same issues would be even more effective if they find common cause with the progressive liberal elements in the Black Church and build coalitions that devolve mutual benefits to coalitional members.
African transnational Christians will be even more influential in the future both as part of the new Christian Right, and in coalition with its opponents. Their experience is a clear indication of the manner in which the contradictions of globalization operate to simultaneously extend privileges to some and deny them to others. As social institutions with a religious mission, they must necessarily respond to the needs of their members who have the short end of the stick in the competitive global arena. Thus far, they have done so through taking leadership in building social institutions based on exhorting more affluent and skilled members to engage in philanthropic outreach to their less privileged sisters and brethren, to engage in information sharing, to encourage and mentor, but their engagement with the social welfare programs provided at the local, state and national levels remains rudimentary. Their engagement with the political process is even less developed, which is why they ought to unite, build coalitions and deliberately consider the most successful strategies and agenda in service of humanity and the fulfillment of their mission.
Nationalism resonates in the very experience of migration, since it entails crossing borders and respect of sovereign boundaries and the attendant laws and institutions. Nationalism goes beyond the imaginary to the real when one considers that it often generates feelings of xenophobia whose logical conclusion is the erection of forbidding razor-barbed wire topped walls such as those that separate Melilla from Spain, Mexico from the United States of America, and the Occupied Territory from Israel. Their physicality challenges the essence of globalization, which is supposed to be the manifestation of borderless-ness and integration of all manner of human activity, including the political, social, economic, and cultural. Nationalism also generates feelings of patriotism and nativism, and the competition for resources within and among nations sometimes cause wars, conflicts and all manner of political upheaval that produce migrants.
For some globaphiles, the state as we know it will even fade away, and instead of ethnic and cultural diversity, we'll exist in a marvelous hybridized, homogenized, McDonaldized world of sameness. For the globaphobes, the sameness carries a specter of annihilation of peoples, and rich, distinctive, beautiful cultures, languages, practices, folkways and popular modes of artistic expression. Among the globaphiles one should count the analysts, scholars and policymakers that talk excitedly about the transformation of brain drain into brain gain; the democratic possibilities of using information technology to build communities that challenge old power structures, developments at which globaphobes so volubly scoff. Globalization is neither straightforward nor predictable. It’s best seen as a process fraught with antinomies, that is, possessing a Janus-faced character that is at one and the same time, generative of affluence and impoverishment; access to cutting edge technology and inability to afford such technology; production in the post-industrial information age sector and in the industrial sweatshops that have been pushed into the peripheries of the global political economy.
The movement of peoples demonstrates the same tendencies toward antinomies, since some who have the most desired skills are much sought after and recruited into the best paying jobs without any attention to boundaries, while others are recruited into service jobs in the same global economy, and using the best in information technology, operate call centers, perform medical and allied tasks, and provide a myriad of paraprofessional services that help global corporations keep their costs down, while keeping labor in its place – at home – today, mostly in regions of India and other Asian countries, but also in pockets of Europe and Africa. This second category of workers are recruited to keep costs down and keep the information driven economy functioning optimally, but they are lower on totem pole than the first category of highly qualified and discouraged from emigrating to take the best jobs in the Northern hemisphere. Yet others seek to leave their countries by just about any means they can to what they believe are more fertile shores.
Population movements have to be aware of boundaries and the restrictions, which for most migrants, is a clear indicator of the continued power of the state in today’s global political system. When they sneak in or make more overt moves, they remain alert to conditions that regulate their ability to make a living, and equally important, the ability to enjoy or be denied the rights of citizenship. Yet, the population movements from the African continent are relentless. Most of the migrants are young, disillusioned about the chances that they’ll have a viable future in their country of origin. The measures they take in response to these challenges recall centuries-old human migrations. However, a rapidly changing and mostly xenophobic world throws up national fortresses in their path, fortresses to which they devise creative solutions, many of which do not necessarily yield anything but hardship, even death.
Contemporary out-migrations from the African continent are a crucial part of the population movements caused by globalization in the global political economy. These population movements are caused in particular by changes in the global division of labor. The out-migrations in turn shape the nature, form, and process of globalization in ways that impact upon the migrants and immigrant, as well as the political economies of their countries of origin, and their host countries. When they involve large numbers, the out-migrations also cause changes in the social structure and the nature of social relations; particularly in a manner that affects gender, race, and class relations. Consequently, African immigrants and migrants become transnational, and they are absorbed into the labor pool in the global north but they still have their roots in the African continent, and they maintain and interest in the social, political and economic relations in the continent in manners that do not reveal a cohesive response to the challenges of globalization such that African development can begin. The development of the epistemic communities and the transnationalization of African religions provide only two of the numerous opportunities to construct such responses.
[ii] “The Gender Wage Gap: Progress of the 1980s Fails to Carry Through” Institute for Women’s Policy Research Fact Sheet, IWPR Publication #353, http://www.iwpr.org/pdf/C353.pdf; Hilary M. Lips, “The Gender Wage Gap: Debunking the Rationalizations,” http://www.womensmedia.com/new/Lips-Hilary-gender-wage-gap.shtml
[iii] “Towards Closing the Gender Wage Gap in Europe?” European Industrial Relations Observatory Online http://www.eiro.eurofound.ie/2002/12/Feature/NO0212103F.html
[iv] Linda Wirth, Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling: Women in Management Geneva: ILO, 2001. http://www.ilo.org/public/english/support/publ/online.htm; Martha Fetherolf Loutfi, Women, Gender and Work: What is Equality, and how do we get there? Geneva: ILO, 2001.
[v] Irma Watkins Owens Blood Relations: Caribbean Immigrants and the Harlem Community, 1900-1930. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1996.
[vi] Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome “The Antinomies of Globalization: Causes of Contemporary African Immigration to the United States of America.” Ìrìnkèrindò: A Journal of African Migration vol. 1:1 (September 2002) http://www.africamigration.com/m_okome_globalization_01.htm
“The Antinomies of Globalization: Some Consequences of Contemporary African Immigration to the United States of America.” Ìrìnkèrindò: A Journal of African Migration vol. 1:1 (September 2002) http://www.africamigration.com/m_okome_globalization_02.htm
[vii] op cit. Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome “The Antinomies of Globalization: Causes of Contemporary African Immigration to the United States of America.”
[viii] op cit. Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome “The Antinomies of Globalization: Causes of Contemporary African Immigration to the United States of America.”
[x] Arjun Appadurai Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.
[xi] Victoria Bernal, Eritrea Goes Global: Reflections on Nationalism in a Transnational Era Cultural Anthropology 19(1):3–25, p. 3.
[xii] See Issa Shivji, The Rise, The Fall, and The Insurrection of Nationalism in Africa, Paper from Keynote Address to the CODESRIA East African Regional Conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,
October 29-31, 2003, pp. 2-3.
[xiii] Paul Tiyambe Zeleza “African Labor and International Migrations to the North: Building New TransAtlantic Bridges,” (n.d.) http://www.afrst.uiuc.edu/SEMINAR/AfricanLabor.doc.
[xiv] Ivan Light, Parminder Bhachu, and Stavros Karageorgis “Migration Networks and Immigrant Entrepreneurship” UCLA, Institute for Social Science Research papers, vol. 5, paper 1 http://repositories.cdlib.org/issr/volume5/1/
[xv] See Zeleza, 18
[xvii] “President Praised In Harlem ..Hints On Dual Citizenship For Americans Of African Decent” (sic) Ghanaian Newsrunner October 21-25, 1995 http://www.newsrunner.com/archive/NW241095.HTM
[xviii] Dual Citizenship Beneficial New Vision (Kampala) December 30, 2000. Reproduced by AllAfrica.com on the web on January 2, 2001 http://fr.allafrica.com/stories/200101020422.html
[xix] Francis N. Njubi “African Intellectuals in the Belly of the Beast: Migration, Identity and the Politics of Exile” Mots Pluriels #20, February 2002 http://chora.virtualave.net/brain-drain5.htm
[xx] (http://hdr.undp.org/hd/ Accessed on 9/19/06 at 9:03 pm)
[xxi] (http://hdr.undp.org/hd/ Accessed on 9/19/06 at 9:48 pm)
[xxii] “The Gender Wage Gap: Progress of the 1980s Fails to Carry Through” Institute for Women’s Policy Research Fact Sheet, IWPR Publication #353, http://www.iwpr.org/pdf/C353.pdf; Hilary M. Lips, “The Gender Wage Gap: Debunking the Rationalizations,” http://www.womensmedia.com/new/Lips-Hilary-gender-wage-gap.shtml
[xxiii] “Towards Closing the Gender Wage Gap in Europe?” European Industrial Relations Observatory Online http://www.eiro.eurofound.ie/2002/12/Feature/NO0212103F.html
[xxiv] Linda Wirth, Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling: Women in Management Geneva: ILO, 2001. http://www.ilo.org/public/english/support/publ/online.htm; Martha Fetherolf Loutfi, Women, Gender and Work: What is Equality, and how do we get there? Geneva: ILO, 2001.
[xxv]Tiffany Patterson and Robin D.G. Kelly “Reflections on the African Diaspora and the Making of the Modern World” in ASR Vol. 43, no. 1 (April 2000), pp. 11-45.
[xxvi] Isidore Okpewho, Carole Boyce Davies, and Ali A. Mazrui, The African Diaspora: African Origins and New World Identities. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1999.
[xxvii] Peter M. Haas, "Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination" IO, 46:1, Winter 1992, p.27.
[xxviii] Peter M. Haas, “Banning Chlorofluorocarbons: Epistemic Community Efforts to Protect Stratospheric Ozone” in Peter M. Haas ed., Knowledge, Power, and International Policy Coordination (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1992.
[xxix] Paul Tiyambe Zeleza “African Labor and Intellectual Migrations to the North: Building New Transatlantic Bridges”; Wisdom J. Tettey, “Africa’s Brain Drain: Exploring Possibilities for its Positive Utilization Through Networked Communities.” Mots Pluriels, February 2002 #20.
[xxx] Fanon, p. The Wretched of the Earth, p. 99
[xxxi] Tettey, op cit, p. 12
[xxxii] ibid, pp. 12-13
[xxxiii] Gumisai Mutume “Reversing Africa’s ‘Brain Drain’: New Initiatives tap skills of African Expatriates,” Africa Recovery, Vol. 17, no 2, (July 2003).
[xxxiv] Ibid, 499.
[xxxv] See for example, Amos Jones, Jr. Paul’s Message of Freedom: What Does it Mean to the Black Church? PA: Judson Press, 1974.
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