Anthropology of Humanitarianism Network (AHN) established

The Anthropology of Humanitarianism Network (AHN) has been established as a platform to initiate a broad (inter-)disciplinary discussion on the meanings and practices of humanitarianism and on the possible future directions of an anthropology of humanitarianism. The network is co-convened by NCHS associate Antonio De Lauri (Chr. Michelsen Institute).

For further information, please follow this link.

 

Anthropology of Humanitarianism Network (AHN) established

Convenors of AHN are Carna Brkovic (University of Goettingen) and Antonio De Lauri (Chr. Michelsen Institute Bergen).

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EASA (European Association of Social Anthropologists) established Anthropology of Humanitarianism Network (AHN) as a platform to initiate a broad (inter-)disciplinary discussion on the meanings and practices of humanitarianism and on the possible future directions of an anthropology of humanitarianism. The AHN brings together social anthropologists who explore all sorts of humanitarian undertakings, including humanitarian aid in emergencies; humanitarian law; humanitarian projects of return, development, and peace-building in post-conflict contexts; humanitarian management of refugee camps and/or borders; humanitarian military interventions; grassroots humanitarian projects; post-war reconstruction; post-natural disasters; reception and care for the displaced people, and so forth.

The AHN promotes anthropological studies of humanitarianism within the context of European anthropology and anthropology of Europe, as well as within historical and political studies of humanitarianism. It connects the work of anthropologists who focus on global international humanitarian emergencies with the work of anthropologists who explore the more grassroots, voluntary, and vernacular forms of humanitarian support, which are mushrooming globally.

Objectives

The AHN aims to:

  • connect social anthropologists who conduct ethnographic research of humanitarianism;
  • foster connections between social anthropologists and historians, sociologists, political scientists, lawyers, philosophers and practitioners of humanitarianism;
  • initiate a discussion on the meanings and practices of humanitarianism in contemporary Europe;
  • provide a platform for sharing relevant information on anthropological research of humanitarianism;
  • create opportunities for scholars to collaborate through meetings and joint research projects;
  • connect the network with other relevant centers and networks in Europe;
  • raise visibility of anthropological research on humanitarianism in Europe within EASA as well as within social science studies of humanitarianism.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Anthropology-of-Humanitarianism-Network-EASA-304091677091998/?modal=admin_todo_tour

Webpage: https://ahneasa.wordpress.com/

To join the AHN please send a brief email to ahn.easa@gmail.com

What Shapes Which Migration Flows We Study?

Written by Marta Bivand Erdal, Research Professor, PRIO & Board Member, NCHS

How might declonising the academy intersect with academic everyday practice, for instance in the context of migration studies? As efforts to decolonise the academy are gaining force, not least in universities in the United Kingdom, such as at the School of Oriental and African Studies, questions about how this timely intellectual scrutiny can or ought to affect academic everyday practice should be pondered. Especially in relation to how the ‘decolonise academia’ initiatives help foster greater knowledge and understanding, thus stimulating and furthering academic inquiry.’

Map of the British Empire from the India & Colonial Exhibition in London, 1886. PHOTO: The British Library

When we discuss decolonising the academy, we are talking about power, and more specifically power hierarchies. So, we are discussing unevenly distributed power when it comes to defining knowledge, which inevitably leads to skewed knowledge, to incomplete knowledge.

Empires in the plural

We know of the British empire, and the colonial enterprises of the French, Spanish or Portuguese, and later on the Americans. In the context of Norway, we also recognise the more complex imperial histories involving both the Norwegian state’s approach to the indigenous Sami populations, and Norway’s union first with Denmark, then Sweden, leaving Norway an independent state only from 1905. Yet, there is still reason to expand on this plurality of empires – historically and geographically.

References to Joseph Conrad’s ‘The Heart of Darkness are frequent, especially in the literary quarters of ‘post-colonial’ theory, including Edward Said. Conrad’s novel was published in 1899, and was at the time a quite radical critique of imperial practice, drawing on Conrad’s own experience as a sailor in the British empire. The book later received criticism for dehumanizing descriptions of Africans in what was then the Belgian colonised Congo, by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, and not without reason.

However, my point with drawing attention to Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ is to underscore the need for scrutiny of the roles of empires in the plural – where Conrad serves as a useful example. He was born in Poland, at a time when the country did not exist on the European map, but rather had been divided into three and absorbed among other by Russia. He was born into a family where both his mother and father were active in the Polish underground as anti-tsarists activists. His parents died early and he left Poland at 16.

How is this relevant for a discussion on decolonising the academy taking place in Norway? First, in recognizing the many different empires and colonisations which exist historically and geographically. Notably in relation to Norway’s neighbour, Russia and its region. Second, to critically assess the role of language in knowledge production and communication, also in relation to colonisation. For, how much do we know, today in Norway, of knowledge production and academic exchange, in Russia, or in the larger region which was under heavy influence of the Soviet Union until less than 30 years ago? And if we are not well-versed here – why not? And by extension; which imperialisms come to matter in efforts to decolonise the academy, and which perhaps do not?

Which international migration flows are studied, and why these?

Whilst the interest in the academic study of international migration is growing, the interest in international migration in Russia and its neigbouring countries is disproportionately small, that is, in the English-language migration studies literature. This is despite the fact that international and regional migration in Russia and its neighbouring countries, by any measure, is a huge contemporary phenomenon. Why? And does this not intersect with issues of defining which knowledge is of interest and relevance?

In migration studies more broadly, questions of power of definition and of colonial legacies, frequently come to the fore. Not least in relation to race. But also in the ways in which colonial legacies matter for migration management policies around the world. Despite the fact that global interconnections and interdependencies are obvious in migration studies, there are unresolved issues and dilemmas insufficiently reflected upon. For instance, in relation to who is an ‘insider’ or an ‘outsider’ and how researcher positionality impacts findings. It continues to be a challenge that rigid boundaries between “the majority” and “minorities” are taken at face value, obscuring the multiple ways in which power-hierarchies matter in processes of knowledge production and knowledge communication. These are fundamental questions, where matters of power are at the core.

For justice, for knowledge

Finally, from the perspective of research being conducted at an institute such as the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), what might the practical implications of reflecting on decolonising the academy be? As a start, recognising that there can be no peace without justice, and that this, arguably, ought to also involve equitable processes of knowledge production. Here, the obvious backdrop is the extreme imbalance in wealth, whereby academics based in Norway, for all the challenges which exist here, with temporary contracts, among other, are super-privileged in the global context. How then to adopt academic everyday practices which can in anyway contribute to processes of knowledge production that are more equal?

One place to look, is to the ways in which we engage in research collaboration with international partners. Who do we work with and how? Whatever the structural constraints which are there – in the short term – are there things which can be done in order to make such research collaboration practices more equal? And within this – how do we productively engage with conceptions of the world which are – or appear to be – fundamentally different to our own? A first basic step is to recognise that we need to ask ourselves these questions, and to invest time and energy in doing so.

By engaging actively in academic everyday practices that are built on principles of co-production of knowledge – however that translates in different fields – we not only do our small bit to contribute to more equal knowledge production, hence to justice. We also contribute to knowledge production, which through being more equal, can contribute to a global body of knowledge that is more complete.

This blog post was orginally posted on the PRIO blog

New Mapping of Children Affected by Armed Conflict

Written by

On February 16 to 18, decision-makers from all over the world came together to discuss current and future security challenges at the Munich Security Conference (MSC), which has become the major global forum for discussion of security policy. At the conference, Save the Children will launch its new report The War on Children: Time to End Grave Violations against Children in Conflict. The report is based on a new mapping of children in armed conflict conducted at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).

Our findings are quite alarming: we find that more than half the world’s children are living in conflict-ridden countries, and furthermore, one in six children live in close proximity to where the actual violence occurs.

Children are Hard Hit by Conflict

Children are often and severely affected by armed conflicts. We are constantly reminded of this through pictures and news reports from the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Nigeria, Yemen, and Somalia. The UN has defined six ‘grave violations’ of children in armed conflict. These include killing and maiming, recruitment of child soldiers, sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access. In addition to being directly exposed to killing, physical harm, and illegal recruitment, children also suffer more indirectly from the consequences of war. Children living in conflict-affected areas often miss out on education, lack access to clean water, and suffer from mortality risks due to illnesses and malnutrition, or lack of vaccines and medical care such as basic maternity services.

The Knowledge Gap

Since the mid-1990s, the issue of war’s impact on children has been high on the international agenda. Despite this, we do not have systematic and detailed information on the numbers of children that are killed in armed conflict worldwide. However, we do have quite detailed information about where, within countries, that conflicts take place. Hence, we can say something more certain about the number of children that live in conflict-affected areas, or ‘conflict zones’.

Combining detailed information on the location of violent conflict events from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) and population data from CIESIN (2005) and the UN (2017), we have been able to estimate the number of children that live in close proximity (defined as 50 km or less) to where conflict events are taking place.

Key Findings

The main findings from our mapping exercise include the following:

  • In 2016, approximately 1.35 billion children under the age of 18 (59% of all children) were living in a conflict-affected country.
  • In 2016, approximately 357 million children (that is, one in six) were living in a conflict zone.
  • In 2016, approximately 165 million children were living in high intensity conflict zones, i.e. conflicts with more than 1,000 battle-related deaths.
  • The number of children living in conflict zones has been steadily increasing since the year 2000, although the number of countries with armed conflicts has remained quite stable during the same period.
  • Asia is the world region with the highest total number of children living in conflict zones.
  • The Middle East is the world region in which a child has the highest probability of living in a conflict zone.

Policy Recommendations

Our initial mapping of children in conflict-affected areas has several implications for policy and further research.

First, the actors who are actively working to address and reduce the impact of war on children need to support the generation of more systematic knowledge on the various ways in which children are affected by armed conflict, both directly – through killing and maiming, child soldier recruitment, and sexual exploitation, and indirectly – through adverse health effects. In short, more resources should be invested in generating and managing data related to children and armed conflict across time and space.

Second, there is of course an urgent need to protect the more than 350 million children that live in conflict zones today. Concrete recommendations in this regard include the following:

  • Supporting peacekeeping operations in conflict-affected areas.
  • Designing and upholding credible sanctions against armed groups in conflicts to prevent child soldiering and the use of sexual violence against children.
  • Increasing aid to conflict-ridden countries in order to rebuild infrastructure and health systems.

This blog post was orginally posted on the PRIO blog. You can read the full PRIO background report here. For a shorter overview, read our PRIO Policy Brief.

For more information, read Save the Children’s full report on The War on Children.

PRIO Research Featured at Conference on Development Research

Presenting a newly funded research project on refugee education

23 January, Research Director and Professor Cindy Horst presented the newly-funded REBuilD project to an audience of government representatives and NGOs invited by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and the Research Council of Norway (RCN). The aim of the conference, launching the new projects funded under the NORGLOBAL-2 program, was to improve the communication between researchers and practitioners, in order to guarantee that research results are better informing development policy and practice. The REBuilD project asks how we can best support refugee children and their communities to build durable futures, when it is unclear where those futures will be. The project focuses on two of the largest populations of refugees: Somalis and Syrians, and involves fieldwork in cities and refugee camps in Kenya and Lebanon, as well as in Somalia with returnees from Kenya.

Horst’s presentation can be found here:
NORAD Jan 2018 (Horst)

Call for Papers: Oslo Migration Conference 2018

The Interdisciplinary Conference on Migration: Vulnerability, Protection, and Agency, to be held in Oslo 24-25 May 2018, has just announced its call for papers, due 15 December.

Under the auspices of the University of Oslo, Faculty of Law, the conference is organized by the research group on International Law and Governance in collaboration with the research group on Human Rights, Armed Conflict, and Law of Peace and Security at the University of Oslo, and Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).

Moving beyond the abyss

Migration is presenting a challenge to migration practitioners, policymakers and academics given the manifestation of extra-territorial approaches, increased reliance on technology, and weakening of accountability for violations of rights.

We call for papers proposing how to move beyond the abyss, welcoming perspectives from law and the social sciences (including geography, anthropology, sociology, criminology, and international relations). Interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged. We call for paper proposals from scholars, policy makers, or practitioners, at different stages of their careers, Phd candidates, post-docs, and professors. Proposals for a poster session will also be evaluated.

Topics may include: 

  • Accountability mechanisms for extra-territorial action by States, IOs, NGOs, and Corporate Actors
  • Towards de-construction of walls (literal and metaphorical)
  • New interpretations for protection standards across or beyond normative regimes

Read more here.

Sandvik participates in “Humanitarian Aid over the last 20 Years” panel

On 1 November 2016, Kristin Bergtora Sandvik (Research Professor in Humanitarian Studies at PRIO and Associate Professor at the Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law at the University of Oslo) participated in the panel Verdensseminar: En reise i humanitær hjelp de siste 20 årene [World Seminar: A Journey in humanitarian aid over the last 20 years], hosted by Røde Kors UngdomVerdensseminaretSUM and SAIH Blidern.

Humanitarian organizations and researchers were invited to share their experiences and knowledge, and what they think should be the forward. The panel took note of the fact that the number who need humanitarian aid has for the past 10 years has increased from 30 million to 130 million and discussed how need and assistance has changed over time.

Key topics addressed were: young people displaced, complex conflicts, climate-related humanitarian crises, the Geneva Convention and humanitarian law. Additionally, the road ahead for humanitarian aid was discussed, including the opportunity for improvement and to reach out more, more efficiently.

Sandvik participated in the panel with Erik Abild (Flyktninghjelpen), John Karlsrud (NUPI), and Hilde Frafjord Johnson (KrF; former Minister of International Development and UN special envoy to South Sudan).