Anti-sedentarism and the anthropology of forced migration [article]

Abstract

Anthropologists of forced migration have advanced unique perspectives exploring identity and community as they relate to space. With its critique of naturalized conceptions of rootedness, boundedness, and territorialization, anti-sedentarism stands as an important conceptual development emanating from this work. And while expressions such as ‘sedentary bias’ and ‘sedentarist thinking’ are found throughout this body of literature, anti-sedentarism per se has not received a proper treatment of its disciplinary underpinnings and intellectual horizons. This article identifies some of the genealogical traces of anti-sedentarism, discussing it through anthropological contributions in both the cultural and mobility turns. Informed by the work of anthropologists of forced migration, a working definition of anti-sedentarism is provided, followed by a critical discussion on key debates related to this concept. A selection of migrant and refugee ethnographies produced during the mobility turn (1990s onward) is then used to explore the extent which anti-sedentarism has translated to the empirical work of anthropologists and ethnographers engaging with displacement, dispossession, and deterritorialization.

Keywords

sedentarism; forced migration; refugees; space; place; mobility; ethnography

Citation

Parent, Nicolas. 2022. “Anti-sedentarism and the anthropology of forced migration,” Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society 46, no. 2: 10-29. DOI: https://doi.org/10.30676/jfas.v46i2.110269

Availability

This article is available here and here.

Protracted Congolese refugees, return aspirations, and the (re)imagining of Congo [slides]

Background

This preliminary work exploring field data at Mahama camp, Rwanda, was presented at the 2022 conference of the American Association of Geographers, as part of the ‘Territorializing Memory’ panel organized by Miranda Meyer and Stefan Norgaard.

Abstract

For the most part, Congolese refugees at Mahama have been living within this camp since the mid-1990s. In recounting their memories of past homes, lives, and relationships, these stories are often described through the language of territory. In linking their past to future aspirations of an eventual return, time and space intimately intersect, where territory as defined through memory practices surviving the test of time are formulative to refugees’ claims, hopes, and grievances du jour. In other words, memory practices produce a sense of territory amongst refugees despite their geographic separation from these physical and imagined places. Meanwhile, the territorial landscape of North Kivu – their place of origin – has undergone radical transformations as a result of armed conflict and resource extraction. Thus, the nexus of memory and territory as expressed by refugees who contemplate return is at odds with present day geographic conditions in return areas. This paper explores this tension, drawing on field data collected with Congolese living at Mahama refugee camp, Rwanda. It explores how these refugees negotiate the tension between memorialization and territorialization when discussing their desired and imagined futures of return. As peacebuilders, Congolese government, civil society, and other local stakeholders participate in the brokering of new peace landscapes in the Congo, this research shows that refugees wishing to return also lay territorial claims. In order for their return to be successful, this research asks these actors to consider the importance of forced migrant geographies of memory in their operational territorially-oriented mandates.

Availability

Presentation slides are available here.


Seminar in qualitative research methods [syllabus]

Background

This seminar was delivered at the African African Centre of Excellence in Data Science (ACE-DS) of the University of Rwanda, from 24-28 January 2022.

Seminar description

Qualitative inquiry is regarded by social scientists as a central approach to disentangle the complexity and nuance of social settings, lived environments, and relationships. In this week-long, time-intensive seminar, participants will learn key knowledge and skills at all phases of qualitative inquiry, from research design and data collection to analysis and reporting. Focusing on secondary, interview, focus group, and observational data, research methods related to their collection will be positioned within popular qualitative research designs that draw from the interpretivist tradition. This seminar will also include a comprehensive survey of ethical considerations related to qualitative research, where participants will also explore key issues of voice and representation and their relation to major developments in postcolonial, feminist, and critical research. Morning sessions will be devoted to lectures on key knowledge and skills related to qualitative research, enhanced by engaging group discussions and breakout activities. Practical activities will take place in the afternoon, guided by an inquiry-based approach that will encourage participants to apply new knowledge and skills to research topics relevant to their interests. This will lead to the completion of a Capstone Project. The target audience for this seminar is advanced undergraduate students, graduate students (masters and doctoral), and early-career academics with introductory knowledge of qualitative methods. While all seminar-specific learning materials will be provided, participants must bring their own personal computer to effectively participate in the practical components of this seminar.

Syllabus download

Please find the syllabus here.

Moving beyond borders: Anarchist political ecology and environmental displacement [chapter]

Abstract

At the dawn of the 20th Century, Elisée Reclus (1905) characterised the western world by its fervent nationalism, tightening borders and widespread mockery of humanitarianism. Current political discourse on forced migration and its physical manifestations, however, suggest that Reclus’ (1905) observations may be more relevant now than ever before. Militarisation and technologization of borders, an emergence of migrant slums in otherwise wealthy nations, and a reluctance to recognize the forcefully displaced as ‘refugees’ are all attestations of this. All the while, with environmental displacement being its newest chapter, forced migration has no end in sight. In 2015, the number of displaced persons due to environmental reasons surpassed the number of those displaced due to conflict. The international community, however, has been reluctant to formally acknowledge a new classification of ‘environmental refugee’. A perspective anchored in political ecology helps to understand this, as there is strong overlap between the resistance to adequately recognize displacement due to environmental stresses and a largely denialist neoliberal discourse surrounding issues such as climate change, environmental decay, and resource depletion. In a time where there is an increasing demand for States to manage conflict, crises and disasters that they themselves are responsible in producing, a key tenet of Beck’s (1992) ‘reflexive modernization’, it seems unlikely that this paradox can produce a sustainable solution for the environmentally displaced. Yet, in rejecting catastrophic fatalism, anarchist political ecology provides insight on where to go from here. As resources become increasingly scarce and environmental risks greater, Reclus’ (1905) vision for an ‘era of mutual aid’, largely defined by a transgression and eventual disappearance of borders becomes all the more relevant within the context of environmental displacement. As Reclus (1905), the emergence of this sense of ‘human unity’ would prevent societies from final ruin, as experienced during earlier stages of human civilization.

Citation

Parent, Nicolas. 2022. “Moving beyond borders: Anarchist political ecology and environmental displacement.” In J. Mateer, S. Springer, M. Locret-Collet, and M. Acker, Energies Beyond the State: Anarchist Political Ecology and the Liberation of Nature, 45-66. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

Availability

This chapter is available through ResearchGate.

Commitments to forced migrants in African peace agreements, 1990-2018 [article]

Abstract

This article presents data on peace agreement commitments towards forced migrants on the African continent (excluding MENA) from 1990 to 2018, resulting from the analysis of 177 peace agreements responding to the search queries ‘Africa (excl. MENA)’ and ‘refugees and displaced persons’ on the Peace Agreement Database (PA-X). This article presents preliminary results from four thematic categories: (1) return, reconstruction, rehabilitation, reintegration, and resettlement (5R), (2) provision commitments, (3) rights and law, and (4) land and property. Initial probing and statistical testing of the data revealed several trends. Notably, most 5R commitments were made towards the return of forced migrants. From twelve provision variables, physical protection was the most common provision commitment, followed by relief support. Where commitments to laws and rights related to forced migration remained relatively low, these results suggest that peace agreements in this region seldom take a rights-based approach to displacement. Commitments to land and property compensation and restitution were also marginal, confirming that these issues remain occluded within the realms of conflict termination and the transition towards peace. A brief discussion of these results is followed by an outlook of future research pathways.

Citation

Parent, Nicolas. In Press, 2021. Commitments to forced migrants in African peace agreements, 1990–2018. The International Journal of Human Rights.

Availability

The article is available here. The data that support the findings of this study are openly available through Harvard Dataverse.