A Decolonial View

By students in the Colonial and Postcolonial Master

Mythical Casus Belli

2024-01-26

Ejner Pedersen Trenter

The Westphalian state system is very much alive and kicking, at least as a meta-theoretical lens through which we observe the world. However, and here I quote one of Marx’s perhaps most famous lines ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.’ Is this not also the foundation upon which the very idea of decolonisation rests? Not just to observe the effects on colonialism in a postcolonial society, to actively decolonise it! In a sense this is an ongoing academical debate, and to anyone who follows it, it is clearly a heated debate. However, as I write this, there is philosophical current which has been incredibly efficient in not just describing the political world, but to shape it through discursive means. It is the state-oriented Realist school within International Relations.

Allegory of the Peace of Westphalia, by Jacob Jordaens from Wikipedia

The idea that the state-system is one of constant, and often deadly, competition is an old one which rests on centuries of Enlightenment ideals of rationality. It has reigned supreme in its ideologically hegemonic position for so long that we even call it ‘realism’, for they do after all call it the way they see it. And what they see in today’s international system, is a return to the old idea of power-balance and the threat of war. I am of course referring to both Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing genocide in Gaza. While no school of thought can change the atrocities taking place, the way in which they become codified and articulated by international actors do very much shape the way in which actions become legitimised. I will briefly look at two cases of perceived justifications of violence.

Firstly, the invasion of Ukraine in 2021 greatly helped the former realist concept of balance-of-power to re-enter the mainstream discourse, both in academic terms but also in general media coverage. Consider the way in which NATO has become one of the main political topics of discussion in Europe, and especially Sweden. According to NOVUS which conducts regular surveys on political opinion in Sweden, the support for NATO has increased drastically, with a record of 54% for joining the military alliance and 23% against, measured in May 2022 (Novus, 2022). At the time of writing, the Turkish parliament has voted for Swedish membership, while Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, the last remaining obstacle, expected to do the same.

What does this mean? Well, Orbán, who’s no stranger to bellicose rhetoric, is also one of the few European leaders to maintain a relatively good relation with Russia after the invasion, raising questions of whether the obstruction in the Swedish NATO-matter is a political game (The Guardian, 2024). As has been covered in literature, Orbán’s discourse is often based on the notion of an ethnic Hungarian state which is under threat from a Muslim ‘invasion’ (Kovacs, 2020; Washington Post, 2015). So while the political (Westphalian, if you will) principal of self-defence is applied with regards to Sweden, there is also speculation about whether this is just power-politics and stone-cold state diplomacy. Of course, that would fit very well into the Enlightenment rationale which permeates the international state system based on the ‘realist’ school of thought.

On the other hand, the same rationale, albeit with a twist, is applied to Israel’s invasion of Gaza. Amidst heated UN debate on how to end the ongoing ‘conflict’, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stressed the importance for a two-state solution, while US spokesperson ‘emphasized Hamas’ role in unleashing the conflict’ (UN, 2024). By now, the utter destruction of Gaza has been widely reported and many call for, if not ceasefire, at least precaution on Israel’s part to avoid humanitarian casualties. What is rarely questioned, however, is the reason for invasion. It is accepted as politically legitimate in a Westphalian state-system, to defend one’s borders. Despite occupying Gaza since 1948, Israel’s response to the October 7 attack is legitimate insofar as it corresponds to a Westphalian rational reaction to transgression of state sovereignty. That the invasion descended into what is widely recognised as genocide is not the important issue here (however harsh that may sound). The issue is that the ontological state-system with ingrained rights and responsibilities is allowed to invade from the very beginning. The October 7 attack is condemned by international actors on almost every level, and so is the horrors perpetrated by Israel, with the difference that the initial invasion by the latter is justified.

Sweden, who’s neutrality as served as a cornerstone of its international identity, now stands to join as a fully-fledged member of NATO. The decision to do so was made on rational grounds, as part of a larger geopolitical logic, in which states seek to protect themselves. Like Sweden, Israel’s to invade Gaza was a fully rational one, after all, their sovereignty was under attack. However, the decision to attack Israel by Hamas is repeatedly seen as an act of terror. Hamas is, in other words, an Other to the state system itself, an actor external but contingent to it. It serves as the irrational Other which, through its difference points to what is rational.

 My aim is not to debate what constitutes acts of ‘legitimate state violence’ and ‘acts of terror’, but to hint at the link between the difference between the two being linked to the production of knowledge attributed to a ‘realist’ school of thought within academia. What scholars have called the meta-theoretical myth of Westphalia which has permeated IR discourse since the field’s conception continues to define the legitimacy of casus belli, well beyond the borders of Europe itself.

Bibliography:

Kovács, K (2020) ‘People, sovereignty and citizenship: the ethnonational populists’ constitutional vocabulary’ Statelessness & Citizenship Review, (2:2), p. 389-394

Novus (2022) ‘Majoritet för NATO’, Novus https://novus.se/egnaundersokningar-arkiv/majoritet-for-nato/ 
[Last Accessed: 25-01-2024]

The Guardian (2024) ‘Orbán reaffirms backing for Swedish Nato bid as allies’ patience runs Low’ The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/24/orban-reaffirms-backing-for-swedish-nato-bid-as-allies-patience-runs-low  https://press.un.org/en/2024/sc15569.doc.htm      
[Last Accessed: 25-01-2024]

UN (2024) ‘Secretary-General Underscores Two-State Solution Only Way to End Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, One-State Formula Inconceivable, in Day-Long Debate’, United Nations Meetings Coverage and Press Release https://press.un.org/en/2024/sc15569.doc.htm      
[Last Accessed: 25-01-2024]

Washington Post (2015) ‘Hungary’s Orbán invokes Ottoman invasion to justify keeping refugees out’, Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/09/04/hungarys-orban-invokes-ottoman-invasion-to-justify-keeping-refugees-out/  
[Last Accessed: 25-01-2024]

Terra firma to exteriores spatium?

2023-10-04

The higher you go, the more things remain the same? Brief highlights of Outer Space colonization by a postcolonial and decolonizing Earth.

By Muriuki Sharon

The Moon

A picture of the full moon taken by the International Space Station above the Pacific northeast of Guam on June 17th 2019 (Photo: NASA Website). The Moon Agreement of 1984 governs states’ actions on the Moon and other celestial bodies.

Introduction

Elon Musk’s Space X and Star Link ventures, natural disasters, tech age and a general human curiosity have had much of the world focused upwards towards the sky, its planets and luminaries. Roles and benefits of space science include monitoring climate change, checking on the general health of earth, and identifying effective measures to address such issues[1]. However, space waste and space junk have put public safety and environmental disaster consequences on communities far removed from space tech in the news.  On May 26th 2021, NASA published a report that the Space Surveillance Network is tracking more than 27,000 pieces of space junk[2]. NASA further explains that orbital debris includes natural meteoroid and human /artificial debris such as nonfunctional space craft, abandoned launch vehicles, and mission related debris and fragmentation debris (NASA 2021). Such debris has been proven to crash back to earth, causing panic and questions as to damages, responsibility, and compensation in case of injuries.

Similarities with ‘land and sea’ colonization:

 A circle of the financially fortunate

Space business is expensive. The European Space Agency puts the costs of running the International Space Station at 100 billion Euros over a period of 10 years[3]. The costs are shared amongst the USA, Russia, Canada, Japan and 10 European nations that are members of the European Space Agency.  Just like the onset of colonial conquests, space colonization requires exploratory missions and money. This makes it a venture of a few privileged individuals, companies and nations but whose consequences affect people and countries unequally.

Pollution and waste

A cargo ship ‘MV Probo Koala’ dumped toxic waste in the Ivorian commercial capital Abidjan on 19th August, 2006 causing deaths and other related medical incidents. The source of the waste was the Netherlands[4]. The OHCHR called upon the Ivorian government to address the health and environmental effects of the waste while calling for the Dutch and British governments to provide support for the exercise. Côte d’Ivoire was also the location of space debris fall in May 2020[5] when debris from a Chinese satellite fell and crashed on earth, followed by another Chinese rocket crash a year later in May 2021[6] whose debris landed just west of the Maldives. There had been fears that the rocket would land on inhabited areas on its trajectory back to Earth.

 The MV Probo Koala

The MV Probo Koala, the ship that ferried toxic waste to the Côte d’Ivoire in 2006. Photo by Raigo Pajula/AFP


Major difference

A Spatial Divergence, commercialization of space and the entry of different actors including ‘smaller countries’

The Great Divergence is a concept used in economic history to explain when and why economic inequality between Western Europe and the rest of the world occurred[7]. Trading companies, their middle man role and the commercialization of colonial interests were a key cornerstone of successful colonial projects. Colonial trading companies such as the Dutch East India Company were instrumental in colonization of parts of South East Asia and the spread of globalization through transport, trade and employment. (Zwart 2016, 10-14). The new space race includes companies and government-corporate arrangements allowing small nations to establish space presence. The modern times difference is that these companies are cooperating with postcolonial governments in the race to space.  The Rwandese government and the telecom company One Web entered into a partnership and launched the Icyerekezo Satellite in 2019[8]. The technology is aimed at assisting Rwanda connect Rwandese schools with internet. There has also been an increased interest in space programs by smaller nations such as New Zealand, Singapore and Luxembourg by partnering with private space-tech companies or by using their lands for development of such programs.[9] Space may provide a new area for spatial convergence where old powers will be joined by new economic and space tech powers such as India and China.


Space and its governance

The International Space Station

The International Space Station. Photo NASA. The International Space Station is a large spacecraft orbiting the Earth. It houses astronauts and cosmonauts and it orbits Earth every 90 minutes.

Unlike the onset of ‘land’ and ‘sea’ between the 16th and 19th centuries’ colonization where hitherto world empires relied on explorers, missionaries  and the lack of binding international legal instruments, the 20th and 21st centuries have seen the advancement of treaties, conventions and resolutions to govern space and its usage. The administrative and regulative functions of the law will provide nations with avenues for space contracts and payouts. According to the Space Foundation[10], five legal mechanisms exist for the governance of space issues. The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA)[11] compiles and distributes the status (ratification and signing) of these international legal instruments among other space law and technology functions.

(a)Outer Space usage and exploration is governed by the 1967 ‘Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration of Outer Space, including the Moon and other Celestial Bodies (UNOOSA, 2023).

This 1967 Outer Space Treaty is the foundational space law. It calls for exploration and use of the outer space for the benefit and interest of all countries and mankind. It also declares that space is free for exploration and use by all states ,space cannot be nationally appropriated, states shall not place nuclear weapons or WMDs in space, the Moon shall be used for peaceful purposes, astronauts are regarded as envoys of mankind, states shall be responsible for national space activities whether carried out by government or non-governmental entities, states shall be liable for damages caused by their space objects and states shall avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies (UNOOSA, 2023)

  • The Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and Return of Objects Launched in Space

The Rescue Agreement of 1968 obligates state parties to rescue and assist astronauts in distress and promptly return them to the launching states as well as cooperation in the recovery of space objects that return to Earth outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Launching State. (UNOOSA, 2023)

( c) The Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects

The Liability Convention came into force in September 1972. It expressly states that the launching state shall be liable to compensate damages caused by the space objects launched on and from their land. (UNOOSA, 2023)

  • Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space

This convention also known as the Registration Convention was adopted by the General Assembly in 1974 and came into force in 1976.  It mandates UNOOSA to maintain a register of objects launched into outer space. (UNOOSA, 2023)

  • The Agreement Governing the Activities of the States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies

The Moon Agreement entered into force in July 1984 governs states’ actions on the Moon and other celestial bodies such as Mars where NASA has sent rovers since the entry into force of the Agreement.  It states that these celestial bodies shall be used for peaceful purposes, non-disturbance of their environment, report to the UN of locations and purposes of stations established there, that the resources in the Moon and other celestial bodies is for the common heritage of mankind and the establishment of another legal instrument to govern the exploitation of space resources such as minerals should that become feasible (UNOOSA, 2023)

Unequal earthlings: Legal launch and compensatory detachment

The multidisciplinary nature of space usage disputes range from contractual, environmental to personal injuries. The Liability Convention, under Article VIII, provides for legal mechanisms to use when disputes and claims arise.  A state which suffers damage, whose natural or juridical persons suffer damage may present a claim to the Launching State. If the state of nationality or the state in whose territory the damage was sustained does not present a claim, another state may in respect of the damage sustained by its residents present a claim to the Launching State (UNOOSA). State claims shall be presented through diplomatic channels and if they do not exist, another state may be requested to present the claim. If this fails, a Claims Commission comprising of 3 members appointed by the Claimant State, the Launching State and a third party (which chairs the Commission) shall be formed to solve the dispute. The decision of the Claims Commission is final.   When diplomacy fails, the Secretary General of the United Nations can also present such claims where parties are members of the UN (UNOOSA). This has to be done within a period of one year following the occurrence of the damage. The Convention further provides for the use of a launching states courts and tribunals to settle under Article XI.

Conclusion

Despite the existence of these legal provisions, the application and enforcement of international space law is affected by the newness of this branch of law. It has been said to be a more substantive than procedural part of law.[12] This is due to relatively few numbers of space law cases and the geo-political and economic powers of states with giant space programs vis-a-vis smaller states. This coupled with reliance of diplomacy and economic strength of state for effective application and implementation of international law, creates an imbalance of power where space expeditions launched haphazardly and for cosmetic reasons by postcolonial/decolonial/emerging economies states puts them in weaker diplomatic –legal positions should a space dispute arise. In addition, while satellite images have been used to address and monitor changes in climate, monitor disasters from hurricanes and typhoons, and measure degrees of desertification, copyrights and cultural dignity over space images of cultural heritage sites, ceremonies and   private property are issues that may arise as the world becomes united in technology.

Lake Trummen

The sun sets over Lake Trummen in Växjö, Sweden on May 18th, 2023. (Photo Muriuki Sharon).

Satellite images have been used to address issues such as climate change and other environmental developments, relying images of countries who are otherwise unable to afford technology for such ventures.

 

List of References

BBC News. 2021. ‘Chinese Rocket debris crashes into Indian ocean-state media’. BBC News .May 9th 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-57045058

European Space Agency. nd. ‘Science and Exploration:‘How much does it cost?. Accessed 22nd September, 2023.https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration/International_Space_Station/How_much_does_it_cost

Georgiou Aristos.2020. ‘Debris from 18-ton Chinese rocket that crashed to earth may have landed in Africa’. Newsweek, May 14th 2020. https://www.newsweek.com/debris-chinese-rocket-africa-15003950

Lulea University of Technology. 2022 ‘Space Technology benefits the earth’. Accessed September 22nd 2023. https://www.ltu.se/ltu/acoolerfuture/Var-forskning/Rymdteknik-gor-nytta-pa-jorden-1.225300?l=en

Meishan Goh G. 2007. Dispute Settlement in International Space Law: A Multi-Door Courthouse for Outer Space. Leiden. Boston. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. ProQuest Ebrary.

MIBNEDUC. 2023. ‘Rwanda and Oneweb launch ‘Icycerekezo Satellite’ named by students from Nkombo Island. Accessed September 22nd, 2023. https://www.mineduc.gov.rw/news-detail/rwanda-and-obeweb-launch-icyerekezo-satellite

NASA.2021.‘Space Debris and Human Spacecraft’ Last modified May 27th 2021. https://www.nasa.gov.mission_pages/sattion/news/orbital_debris.html.

Noack Rick. 2019. ‘Some of the world’s smallest nations have joined the space race.’ The Independent July 17th, 2019. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/space-race-apollo-11-anniversary-moon-landing-nasa-a9008421.html

OHCHR. 2016. ‘Ten years in, the survivors of illegal toxic waste dumping in Cote d’Ivoire remain in the dark: The Probo Koala Incident. Accessed 22nd September, 2023. https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2016/08/ten-years-survivors-illegal-toxic-waste-dumping-cote-divoire-remain-dark

Space Foundation. 2023. Space Briefing Book: Space Law. Accessed September 21st,  2023. https://spacefoundation.org/space_brief/international-space-law/

UNOOSA. 2023. ‘Space Law Treaties and Principles’ Accessed September 22nd, 2023. https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties.html

Zwart de Pim. 2016. ‘Globalization and the Colonial Origins of the Great Divergence: Intercontinental Trade and Living Standards in Dutch east India Company’s Commercial Empire c 1600-1800’ in Global Economic History Series . Edited by Prak Maarten and Zanden Jan Luiten . 1-31.Leiden. Boston: Brill. ProQuest Ebrary.

 

[1] Lulea University of Technology. 2022 ‘Space Technology benefits the earth’. Accessed September 22nd 2023. https://www.ltu.se/ltu/acoolerfuture/Var-forskning/Rymdteknik-gor-nytta-pa-jorden-1.225300?l=en

[2]NASA.2021. ‘Space Debris and Human Spacecraft’ Last modified May 27th 2021. https://www.nasa.gov.mission_pages/sattion/news/orbital_debris.html.

[3] European Space Agency. nd. ‘Science and Exploration: ‘How much does it cost? Accessed 22nd September, 2023.  https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration/International_Space_Station/How_much_does_it_cost

[4] OHCHR. 2016. ‘Ten years in, the survivors of illegal toxic waste dumping in Cote d’Ivoire remain in the dark: The Probo Koala Incident. Accessed 22nd September, 2023. https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2016/08/ten-years-survivors-illegal-toxic-waste-dumping-cote-divoire-remain-dark

[5] Georgiou Aristos.2020. ‘Debris from 18-ton Chinese rocket that crashed to earth may have landed in Africa’. Newsweek, May 14th 2020. https://www.newsweek.com/debris-chinese-rocket-africa-15003950

[6] BBC News. 2021. ‘Chinese Rocket debris crashes into Indian ocean-state media’. BBC News .May 9th 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-57045058

[7] Zwart de Pim. 2016. ‘Globalization and the Colonial Origins of the Great Divergence: Intercontinental Trade and Living Standards in Dutch east India Company’s Commercial Empire c 1600-1800’ in Global Economic History Series . Edited by Prak Maarten and Zanden Jan Luiten . 1-31.Leiden. Boston: Brill. ProQuest Ebrary.

[8] MIBNEDUC. 2023. ‘Rwanda and Oneweb launch ‘Icycerekezo Satellite’ named by students from Nkombo Island. Accessed September 22nd, 2023. https://www.mineduc.gov.rw/news-detail/rwanda-and-obeweb-launch-icyerekezo-satellite

[9] Noack Rick. 2019. ‘Some of the world’s smallest nations have joined the space race.’ The Independent July 17th, 2019.  https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/space-race-apollo-11-anniversary-moon-landing-nasa-a9008421.html

[10] Space Foundation. 2023. Space Briefing Book: Space Law. Accessed September 21st, 2023. https://spacefoundation.org/space_brief/international-space-law/

[11] UNOOSA. 2023. ‘Space Law Treaties and Principles’ Accessed September 22nd, 2023. https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties.html

[12] Meishan Goh G. 2007. Dispute Settlement in International Space Law: A Multi-Door Courthouse for Outer Space. Leiden. Boston. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. ProQuest Ebrary.

 

Linné Must Fall

2023-07-21

Flyer “Why Linné Must Fall” (LinnéMustFall, 2022).

Our university is named after Carl Linneaus (1707-1778), also known by his noble name Carl von Linné. Natural scientists classify flora and fauna until today with a system of categorization (taxonomy) which has developed from Linnaeus’ work of organizing animals and plants into an array of groups depending on their characteristics. Linnaeus and his work have significant colonial legacies (Charmantier 2020). In this blog entry, I will summarize these colonial legacies, sketch out how our university uses Linnaeus’ name and heritage (spoiler alert: they proudly speak of a so-called “Linnéan spirit”), and explain why and how some students have started to urge the university that Linné Must Fall. Linné Must Fall is inspired by Rhodes Must Fall, South African and English student movements which have called for both symbolic and material changes of university structures since 2015. This included, e.g., changes of names, taking down statutes that honor colonial figures, abolishing tuition fees, and decolonizing curricula by including diverse literature from across the globe (Mbembe 2016; Booysen 2016).

Linnaeus’ colonial heritage

In Linnaeus’ famous work Systema Naturae (“the system of nature”) of which he published manifold editions, Linnaeus did not only categorize plants and animals but also humans. Throughout the different editions of Systema Naturae his categorization of groups of people became more detailed – and racist. His categorization of humans became central for scientific racism which has been used by white people to justify the colonial exploitation of people of color across the globe. Linnaeus described people along the continents he knew of (Africa, America, Asia, Europe) and unrealistic skin colors (black, red, white, sallow), assigning each group of people a set of interior characteristics. He arranged these groups hierarchically, changing the hierarchy of some groups over time, but never of the ones he ranked lowest: Black people. There is no evidence that Linnaeus ever used the word human races. Instead, he spoke of human varieties. Still, his categorization of humans is utterly racist: Constructing groups of people along random characteristics such as perceived skin color, generalizing the people within each of these groups, assuming that all of them have certain traits due to their outer characteristics, and ranking them hierarchically (Eze 1997, 13; Charmantier 2020).

Moreover, Linnaeus contributed to the Swedish colonization of Sápmi, the land of the Indigenous Sámi, exploring the presence of raw materials and opportunities for economic exploitation of the area. He appropriated Sámi knowledge, e.g., about medicinal plants, for his work (Koerner 1999, 75). Linnaeus’ colonial entanglement is not the only problematic aspect about his persona. He also lied about his journeys, doubling and tripling the distance he had travelled supposedly (Koerner 1999, 61f.). In addition to that Linnaeus’ categorization of humans can be interpreted as sexist: Among other possible options such as body hair, Linnaeus chose female breasts (lat. mamma) as the indicator for grouping humans among animals (in the group mammals), while he used the male term “homo sapiens” (lat. the wise human) to describe the specificity of humankind separating it from the animal world. Furthermore, Linnaeus argued for the abolishment of wet nursing because he thought that the milk from working-class women would degenerate upper-class children, hence promoting that middle and upper-class women should stay at home with their children.

In our Postcolonial encounters class on Linnaeus’ colonial heritage in April 2023, our guest and Linnaeus-expert Linda Andersson Burnett debunked the common argument that “he was just a child of his time”, since it denies the presence of people such as the author and activist Olaudah Equiano (1745–1795) who rallied against racism, enslavement, and colonialism while Linnaeus was contributing to the foundation of so-called scientific racism.

How Linnaeus University deals with Linnaeus’ colonial heritage

Studies about the colonial heritage of Linnaeus have been around in international scholarship since the past century. In Sweden, however, Linnaeus still holds the status of a national hero (Hodacs, Nyberg, and Damme 2018, 9f.). This explains why Linnaeus university could still be named after him as late as 2010 when the university was formed, joining the institutions of higher education in Kalmar and Växjö. Linnaeus is present in many aspects of this university, from the name of the Linnaeus Gallery, which is a part of the library, over the scientific plant drawings on any official document to the logo of the student union (the flower of a plant that was named after Linnaeus, the linnaea borealis). Scholars from Linnaeus university engaged in an attempt to declare his legacy as UNESCO cultural heritage in 2016 (LNU 2016). And in the vision 2030 document of the university, it is stated that

“[t]he Linnéan spirit mirrors the academy’s reflected, critical and creative societal task. We are inspired by Carl von Linné and let the work thrive from curiosity, innovative utility, and proximity.” (Linnéuniversitetet 2019, 4, translation from Swedish by me)

This document was written before the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, one might argue, which sparked heated debates about the presence of Linnaeus in Swedish cityscapes, especially in the form of statues (Hübinette, Wikström, and Samuelsson 2022). But sadly, the idea of the Linnaean spirit as something positive is still alive on our campus, as I had to realize, when the dean of a faculty referred to it as a source of inspiration during my graduation ceremony in June 2023. The university website and its campus lack information about Linnaeus’ colonial heritage, which at least would show a certain amount of reflection.

Debates about changing the name of the university come up in waves, but have not led to any change – yet. In spring 2022, students organized an information campaign on campus, spreading flyers, holding a banner and talking to fellow students about Linné Must Fall. Especially international students and students of color are outraged by the name when they learn about Linnaeus’ colonial heritage. Some feel that the name is like “a punch in their face”. Several students suggested to call the university “Universtiy of Småland” instead. Others point out the hypocrisy of marketing Linnaeus university as an “international university” in its slogan. Choosing a racist name but still making profits with the tuition fees that only students from outside Europe need to pay in Sweden? It thus seems to be a question of time that Linné will fall.

Finally, it is important to note that it is never about a single person, in this case Linnaeus, but always about a system (Hodacs, Nyberg, and Damme 2018, 10). In the struggle to make Linnaeus fall, it is crucial to acknowledge that science until today is part of (neo)colonial endeavors, such as present-day green colonialism in Sápmi (Öhman 2017).

Maria Fahr 

Things you can do:

  1. Learn about anti-racism and colonial history.
  2. Discuss the issue with your friends and fellow students. Organize.
  3. Urge the university to at least install signs and information about Linnaeus’ colonial heritage on campus and the website.
  4. Collect signatures for a change of the university name.
  5. Call out when university staff uses the language of the “Linnéan spirit”.
  6. Instead of Linnaeus university, you can use “University Currently Known as Linnaeus” in your assignments. This idea comes from the #RhodesMustFall movement in South Africa, where students started to call their university University Currently Known as Rhodes.
  7. Highlight that a change of name is an important symbolic change but not enough. It also needs material changes, such as the abolishment of tuition fees for non-European students.

 

Documents

Flyer front Why Linné Must Fall

Flyer back Why Linné Must Fall

 

Literature

Booysen, S. (2016) Fees must fall. Student revolt, decolonisation and governance in South Africa. Johannesburg: Wits University Press. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.18772/22016109858 (Accessed: 1 September 2021).

Charmantier, I. (2020) Linnaeus and race. Available at: https://www.linnean.org/learning/who-was-linnaeus/linnaeus-and-race (Accessed: 8 November 2022).

Eze, E.C. (ed.) (1997) Race and the enlightenment. A reader. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.

Hodacs, H., Nyberg, K. and Damme, S. van (2018) ‘Introduction. De-centring and re-centring Linnaeus’, in H. Hodacs, K. Nyberg, and S. van Damme (eds) Linnaeus, natural history and the circulation of knowledge. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, pp. 1–24.

Hübinette, T., Wikström, P. and Samuelsson, J. (2022) ‘Scientist or racist? The racialized memory war over monuments to Carl Linnaeus in Sweden during the Black Lives Matter summer of 2020’, Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 9(3), pp. 27–55. Available at: https://doi.org/10.29333/ejecs/1095.

Koerner, L. (1999) Linnaeus. Nature and nation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Linnéuniversitetet (2019) Vision 2030 Vi sätter kunskap i rörelse för en hållbar samhällsutbildning. LNU 2018/1082-1.1.1. Available at: https://lnu.se/globalassets/dokument—gemensamma/personalavdelningen/hrs4r/appendix_lnu.pdf (Accessed: 11 May 2022).

LNU (2016) Universitetet stödjer ansökan för nytt världsarv kopplat till Carl von Linné, Lnu.se. Available at: https://lnu.se/mot-linneuniversitetet/aktuellt/nyheter/2016/universitetet-stodjer-ansokan-for-nytt-varldsarv-kopplat-till-carl-von-linne/ (Accessed: 21 July 2023).

Mbembe, A.J. (2016) ‘Decolonizing the university. New directions’, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 15(1), pp. 29–45. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1474022215618513.

Öhman, M.-B. (2017) ‘Kolonisationen, rasismen och intergenerationella trauman. Analys, reflektioner och förslag utifrån ett skriande behov av samiskLEDD forskning och undervisning’, in. Uppsam – föreningen för samiskrelaterad forskning i Uppsala, pp. 99–113. Available at: http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-317735 (Accessed: 2 March 2023).

2.14.0.0

Intra-African travel and the perils at land borders

2023-03-15

Africa has some of the fastest-growing economies in the world. This has in turn enabled infrastructure development across the continent easing, for the most part, road transport. This has created a population that has some disposable income allowing domestic and intra-African travel. Whilst some border entry procedures happen without an issue, traveling across Africa has exposed Africans traveling within Africa to corruption, passport privilege, and colonial practices carried over to modern times despite the existence of regional and continental treaties allowing for ease of movement for people and goods. This article focuses on land border points because most movement in Africa is done by road even when traveling to other countries.

90 PKD Participants and ePassport issuing states and entities as of 10th March 2023. Image by ICAO

90 PKD Participants and ePassport issuing states and entities as of 10th March 2023. Image by ICAO

On 28th January, Ghanaian YouTuber, Wode Maya posted this on his YouTube Channel ‘Fighting Immigration at Togo Border because I refused to pay a bribe’[i]. Mya explains in the video that most people avoid the Ghana- Togo land border post because of the passport-stamp-bribe regime present there.. Later on, Namibia and Botswana entered into a bilateral agreement allowing citizens from both countries to cross each other’s border points using their national identity cards[ii]. On 10th March 2023 Kenya and Egypt agreed to work towards visa-free processes between the two nations by October 2023 to promote the flow of goods, people, and other economic activities[iii].

Interestingly, 25th February 2023 marked 150 years since the 1st Berlin conference that divided Africa as per the spheres of influence in Europe at the time. The Berlin Conferences laid out much of the national boundaries in Africa today, some of the unresolved boundary disputes, and divided communities along state lines. The harshness of colonial law enforcement procedures still lingers across security forces in Africa today, reflected in the border police and migration officials manning them. Indeed, the first port of call regarding a border dispute involves migration officers threatening to call law enforcement officers and not resolving disputes civilly as would be expected. ‘I will call the police on you’ is a threat used at the port of entry when a misunderstanding occurs.

How do we decolonize intra- African borders?

Decolonization of law enforcement training and decolonizing border entry points is important if the AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area) Treaty that calls for the elimination of barriers to trade in Africa and boosts intra-Africa trade[iv] and its flagship project Agenda 2063 is to be implemented. Checks on travel documents are standard practice in all parts of the world. However, the threat to use force may scare away African tourists (who find it harder to travel out of Africa) affecting tourism and business economic activities.

Use of technology and language

Technology including CCTV cameras, easier pre-entry e-visa processes and updated immigration department websites will enable the ease of travel in Africa.  This will allow for the availability of travel information, fees to be paid if any as well as custom requirements. Such information should be available in all the official languages of the African Union (French, Arabic, English, Portuguese, Spanish and KiSwahili)

Eliminate corruption in the immigration recruitment processes

Demand for bribes is a show of a lack of integrity and ethics in the recruitment processes.  Immigration officers are the nation’s first point of human contact with new arrivals.  Their conduct and treatment of visitors reflect a nation’s soul and international image. In the age of vloggers and other social media, information is dispensed globally, in real-time. African countries should ensure that recruitment and hiring processes are devoid of corruption that bedevil the continent. Cash-free immigration processes should be implemented and reporting processes made easier.

Actualize the AfCFTA in full

Full implementation of the AfCFTA Treaty will enable the state parties to ensure the movement of people, goods and capital across the continent. This serves two important goals of the AfCFTA Treaty ensuring intra-African growth and improving the economic and social lives of the state parties.

Implement ICAO ePassport requirements  

Admission of entry into a sovereign state is a preserve of that particular state. While some may allow entry using national identity cards and temporary passes, others may require the possession of an ePassport. ePassports contain electronic chips to enhance security. This includes conformation that the ePassport was issued by a bonafide authority, contains biometrics of the holder and be authenticated[v].  According to ICAO, Africa has the lowest implementation of the ePassport. This could be a reason why travelling on some African passports is problematic as their authenticity cannot be validated under ICAO procedures.

In conclusion, the spirit of Ubuntu needs to be practiced on African border points. Charity begins at home, doesn’t it?

[i] Maya Wode. 2023.  ‘Fighting immigration at Togo border because I refused to pay a bribe’ YouTube. January 28th, 2023 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBip0enddzc

[ii] Khumalo Khayelihle. 2023. ‘Identity cards to be used as travel documents between Botswana and Namibia’ SABC News, February 22nd, 2023.  Accessed March 3rd, 2023 https://www.sabcnews.com/sabcnews/namibians-to-use-identity-cards-as-travel-documents-in-botswana/

[iii] Kamunde Muraya. 2023. ‘Kenya, Egypt working towards visa free regime by October 2023’.KBC News, March 10th 2023.  Accessed March 10th, 2023 https://kbc.co.ke/top-story/article/36605/kenya-egypt-working-towards-visa-free-regime-by-october-2023

[iv] AfCFTA. 2023. ‘Creating one African market’ Accessed March, 10th 2023. https://au-afcfta.org/

[v] ICAO. n.d.  ‘ePassports Basics’ Accessed March 10th, 2023. https://www.icao.int/Security/FAL/PKD/Pages/ePassport-Basics.aspx

 

[1] Maya Wode. 2023.  ‘Fighting immigration at Togo border because I refused to pay a bribe’ YouTube. January 28th, 2023 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBip0enddzc

[1] Khumalo Khayelihle. 2023. ‘Identity cards to be used as travel documents between Botswana and Namibia’ SABC News, February 22nd, 2023.  Accessed March 3rd, 2023 https://www.sabcnews.com/sabcnews/namibians-to-use-identity-cards-as-travel-documents-in-botswana/

[1] Kamunde Muraya. 2023. ‘Kenya, Egypt working towards visa free regime by October 2023’.KBC News, March 10th 2023.  Accessed March 10th, 2023 https://kbc.co.ke/top-story/article/36605/kenya-egypt-working-towards-visa-free-regime-by-october-2023

[1] AfCFTA. 2023. ‘Creating one African market’ Accessed March, 10th 2023. https://au-afcfta.org/

[1] ICAO. n.d.  ‘ePassports Basics’ Accessed March 10th, 2023. https://www.icao.int/Security/FAL/PKD/Pages/ePassport-Basics.aspx

Sharon Muriuki

Keep it in the ground!

2023-01-18

About the protests against brown coal mining in Lützerath, Germany

People stand next to the open pit mine looking towards Lützerath which is surrounded by police.

Protesters walks towards Lützerath, which is surrounded by police, 14/01/2023, Foto: Marco Molitor.

On Saturday 35.000 protesters, including renown climate activists such as Greta Thunberg from Sweden and Peter Donatus from Nigeria, gathered on the fields surrounding the village of Lützerath, protesting against its destruction at the hands of the energy giant RWE which plans to mine and burn the 280 million tons of brown coal located below Lützerath. Brown coal, also called lignite, is known for its ineffectiveness producing energy compared with other types of coal and fossil fuels (e.g., lignite from Lützerath produces half of the heat which hard coal can produce), its disproportionally high levels of CO2 pollution (1 ton CO2 per ton lignite), the destruction of entire landscapes and communities through enormous open pit mines and the systematic artificial lowering of ground watertables (BUND n.d.; n.d.). Thus, brown coal has been called the most climate-damaging fossil fuel. Germany has been one of the largest producers of lignite worldwide since the industrial mining of lignite started in the beginning of the 20th century and has only in recent years been surpassed by China (Enerdata 2023; Baum 2018; Herpich et al. 2022).

Since Wednesday, 18 January 2023, police forces have been evicting activists from the protest camp in Lützerath, which has existed for two years as a dynamic space of anticapitalist grassroots organization. By now, Lützerath is located directly at the open pit mine Garzweiler near Cologne. Heavy police force, drawn together from all over Germany, has been used to evict activists from Lützerath during the past days. As soon as one of the many occupied trees, treehouses, wood constructions, buildings and a self-built tunnel had been cleared from or left by activists, the places have been razed to the ground. As I am writing this text, the initiative “Lützi bleibt!” (Lützi stays!) announces that Lützerath has been evicted completely. Despite intense police presence, a two-fold fence around the village and heavy police violence during the protests and the eviction, activists continue to fight for the brown coal to stay in the ground with clandestine actions in the brown coal mining area in Rhineland Westphalia and solidarity demonstrations around the globe.

Riot police stand in from of a building, which has been painted with a pride flag. Activists sit on the roof of the building. In the background there are further buildings and heavy machinery.

Police starts to evict the occupied house “Paula” (left) in Lützerath, 12/01/2023, Foto: Stefan Müller.

 

RWE, which is the biggest coal mining company in Europe, the German government, and the government of the bundesland Rhineland Westphalia argue that the brown coal below Lützerath is needed to secure electricity during the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine. They support their point of view with studies which have been commissioned by Rhineland Westphalia. Other studies have come to the conclusions that (1) the amount of brown coal that RWE can mine in the neighboring coal pit Hambach, already exceeds the amount of coal RWE has been allowed to mine in the so-called German coal exist law of 2019 and (2) that the coal from Lützerath is not needed to get through the energy crisis (Heinrich Böll Stiftung KommunalWiki 2021; Herpich et al. 2022; Oei et al. 2023). Instead, the reason for mining below Lützerath is, according to the study of the FossilExit research group of the University of Flensburg, that RWE can make a lot of profit from the coal especially now during the energy crisis (Herpich et al. 2022). Both the national government and the government of Rhineland Westphalia consist of coalitions of the conservative party CDU and the Green Party, and on the national level the neoliberal party FDP, additionally. The Green party has been in the focus of the critique by climate activists as several representatives had promised that “all villages [in the Rhine area] would stay” (Virnich 2022).

A bucket wheel excavator mines lignite in the open pit mine Garzweiler at night.

Lignite is mined with 200 meter long excavating machines, of which this is only the bucket wheel. The excavators work 24/7, 03/01/2023, Foto: Stefan Müller.

The German state and RWE are intertwined on several levels. 24% of RWE shares are owned by approximately 140 German communes and state-owned companies, i.e., that these communes make profit if RWE makes profit (Heinrich Böll Stiftung KommunalWiki 2021). Also, Germany has been the number one in Europe regarding state subsidies for fossil fuel industries (Investigate Europe 2020). The so-called coal exit law mentioned above has also been accused of being a coal prolonging law, as it promises 4.35 billion euros to RWE and another coal mining company, LEAG (WECF 2020). More visibly is the collaboration of state politics, state forces and the energy company in how the police has defended the interests of RWE against protesters and how the police and RWE have collaborated. For instance, the police uses transport cars of RWE to hold activists from Lützerath in custody (Der SPIEGEL 2023). Heavy police violence against activists and demonstrators in Lützerath has once again been denied and/or defended by high-ranking politicians, such as Olaf Scholz, the current German chancellor (tagesschau.de 2023; Krüger 2023). But while the political debate about Lützerath now centers around the violence by police against protesters, this text focusses on the (neo)colonial dimensions of the coal mining in Lützerath (tagesschau.de 2023). The (neo)colonial dynamics of what happens in Lützerath have been highlighted by many activists who have stayed at Lützerath during the past years, including e.g., Vanessa Nakate (Fridays for Future Uganda), Juan Pablo Gutierrez (ambassador of the Yukpa), Kaossara Sani (Act on Sahel movement), Ina-Maria Shikongo (Rise up movement, Fridays for Future Namibia) and Adrián Moyano (Author: Cronicas de la resistencia mapuche).

The history of coal mining in Rhineland Westphalia is connected with the German history of colonialism and World Wars, as the coal mined in the area was used to produce enormous amounts of iron and steel for the weapon and war industry, as well as gasoline and fuel for military vehicles and aircraft (Cioc 2002, 79; Baum 2018). In the late 19th and early 20th century German colonial police forces colonized areas in present-day Togo, Cameroon, Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa, China, the Pacific Islands and New Guinea with the help of weapons made with energy from burning coal (Cioc 2002; Conrad 2016). These weapons enabled the German colonial police forces to commit genocides such as the genocide against the Ovaherero and Nama in present-day Namibia on the basis of which German settlers stole the most fertile land available in the region, which their descendants occupy until today (Ossenbrink 2021; Melber 2019). As a European colonizing nation Germany contributed to the expansion of capitalism to a global scale which has resulted in the extraction of natural resources in the global South for the benefit of the global North. Lützerath is a relict and reminder of the destruction that capitalism has also imposed on Europe and especially, on its working class. However, the violence and intensity of destruction still differs: The severity of capitalist exploitation and the (state) violence connected to it is more intense and a lot deadlier in the global South than in the global North (Greenfield 2022).

Four police people stand with the back to the photagrapher. A colorful crowd of protesters faces them, among the first row there is one person with wheelchair. The ground is very muddy. In the distance there are wind power plants.

Riot police stand face to face with protesters heading towards Lützerath, 14/01/2023, Foto: Stefan Müller.

Wouldn’t it be better if Germany used its own coal than energy resources from the global South which are mined under a lot more violent and polluting conditions? Of course, “exporting the problem” to the global South and/or occupied Indigenous lands as done by the German state importing hard coal from Russia, the USA and Colombia is not a solution (Still Burning – network against hardcoal and neo-colonialism 2021). Long term solutions lie in a system change, in a society which is not based on making profits, i.e., non-capitalist, and in renewable energy production, which of course is not free of difficulties either, but at least enables a massive reduction in CO2 emissions. And this is where Germany – as Greta Thunberg said on the demonstration close to Lützerath on Saturday – has an enormous responsibility. Germany belongs to the countries which historically have produced most CO2 and are therefore responsible for the climate crisis (Müller, Braun, and Kriegler 2017). Germany’s wealth as a nation relies on its industry which as mentioned before has been fueled by fossil fuels, especially coal. Germany’s wealth must also be understood in the global colonial and capitalist matrix of power, which over the past centuries has led to the accumulation of wealth in the hands of especially white men of the propertied class (Moore 2019; Mignolo and Walsh 2018; Conrad 2016). In the case of RWE, it is three white men and one white woman of the propertied class who make up the management of the company (RWE 2023). As environmentalist Jason Moore says: We are not equally responsible for the climate crisis, the people who truly benefit from colonial capitalism are only few, they have names and addresses (Moore 2019). In the case of Lützerath, these people are, amongst others, Andree Stracke, Gunhild Grieve, Peter Krembel and Ulf Kerstin from the RWE management (RWE 2023). Of course, it is more complicated than that, because managers can easily be replaced.

Now, that Lützerath has been evicted, what comes next? For now, the coal is still in the ground, and protests continue to keep it there. The global and local ties of resistance against (neo)colonial capitalism which have flourished during the occupation of Lützerath can be seen as a path towards more joint action which hopefully will be more successful in other places.

Maria Fahr

A two to three stories wood construction stands on a meadow. A banner tied to it reads: "They tried to bury us. They didn't know we were seed." In the background there are trees with platforms and treehouses.

The construction “Denkmal” at Lützerath before it was destroyed by police, 04/01/2023, Foto: Stefan Müller.

 

 

For information about the protests against brown coal mining in Lützerath from an activist perspective follow the telegram channel “Lützi – On Site – Ticker”, Invitelink: t.me/onsiteluetzi

 

Literature

Baum, Carla. 2018. “Flöze, Gruben, Schächte – Geschichte der Braunkohle in Deutschland.” Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung. 2018. https://www.boell.de/de/2018/12/27/floeze-gruben-schaechte-geschichte-der-braunkohle-deutschland.

BUND. n.d. “Braunkohle und Klimaschutz.” BUND für Naturschutz und Umwelt in Deutschland. Accessed January 17, 2023a. https://www.bund-nrw.de/themen/braunkohle/hintergruende-und-publikationen/braunkohle-und-umwelt/braunkohle-und-klima/.

———. n.d. “Braunkohlentagebaue und Gewässerschutz.” BUND für Naturschutz und Umwelt in Deutschland. Accessed January 17, 2023b. https://www.bund-nrw.de/themen/braunkohle/hintergruende-und-publikationen/braunkohle-und-umwelt/braunkohle-und-wasser/.

Cioc, Mark. 2002. The Rhine. An Eco-Biography, 1815 – 2000. Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Conrad, Sebastian. 2016. Deutsche Kolonialgeschichte. 3. Auflage. C.H. Beck Wissen 2448. München: C.H. Beck.

Der SPIEGEL. 2023. “Lützerath. Warum die Polizei Fahrzeuge von RWE zum Gefangenentransport nutzt,” January 14, 2023, sec. Panorama. https://www.spiegel.de/panorama/luetzerath-warum-die-polizei-fahrzeuge-von-rwe-zum-gefangenentransport-nutzt-a-17703854-058e-4302-9dc8-4b40cb646e33.

Enerdata. 2023. “Coal and Lignite Production Data.” 2023. https://yearbook.enerdata.net/coal-lignite/coal-production-data.html.

Greenfield, Patrick. 2022. “More than 1,700 Environmental Activists Murdered in the Past Decade.” The Guardian, September 28, 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/sep/29/global-witness-report-1700-activists-murdered-past-decade-aoe.

Heinrich Böll Stiftung KommunalWiki. 2021. “RWE Und Kommunen.” 2021. https://kommunalwiki.boell.de/index.php/RWE_und_Kommunen.

Herpich, Philipp, Catharina Rieve, Maren Krätzschmar, Nora Stognief, Paula Walk, Johannes Probst, Alexandra Krumm, Arne Arens, and Pao-Yu Oei. 2022. “Das Rheinische Braunkohlerevier. Aktuelle Zahlen, Daten und Fakten zur Energiewende.” Flensburg: Fossil Exit, Europa-Universität Flensburg. https://vpro0190.proserver.punkt.de/s/cDRQN4pJ9M8a8nY.

Investigate Europe. 2020. “Milliarden-Subventionen gegen die Klimaziele.” Investigate Europe (blog). July 1, 2020. https://www.investigate-europe.eu/de/2020/milliarden-subventionen-gegen-die-klimaziele/.

Krüger, Anja. 2023. “Interview mit Bundeskanzler Olaf Scholz. ‘Ich bin gerne Auto gefahren’.” Die Tageszeitung: taz, January 13, 2023, sec. Politik. https://taz.de/!5905418/.

Melber, Henning. 2019. “Colonialism, Land, Ethnicity, and Class. Namibia after the Second National Land Conference.” Africa Spectrum 54 (1): 73–86. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002039719848506.

Mignolo, Walter D., and Catherine E. Walsh. 2018. On Decoloniality. Concepts, Analytics, Praxis. Durham, US: Duke University Press.

Moore, Jason W. 2019. “The Capitalocene and Planetary Justice.” Maize 6 (July): 49–54.

Müller, Boris, Julian Braun, and Elmar Kriegler. 2017. “A Brief History of CO2 Emissions.” UCLAB FH Potsdam (blog). 2017. https://uclab.fh-potsdam.de/projects/co2/.

Oei, Pao-Yu, Catharina Rieve, Philipp Herpich, Claudia Kemfert, and Christian von Hirschhausen. 2023. “FAQ Und Faktencheck: KEINE Energiewirtschaftliche Notwendigkeit Für Die Abbaggerung von Lützerath | Coal Transitions.” Europa-Universität Flensburg, Technische Universität Berlin, Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung. https://coaltransitions.org/publications/faq-und-faktencheck-keine-energiewirtschaftliche-notwendigkeit-fur-die-abbaggerung-von-lutzerath/.

Ossenbrink, Lisa. 2021. “‘If Germany Wants to Reconcile, They Must Give Our Dignity Back.’” Al Jazeera. June 1, 2021. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/6/1/ovaherero-nama-descendants-criticise-germanys-reconciliation.

RWE. 2023. “Management RWE Supply & Trading GmbH.” 2023. https://www.rwe.com/en/the-group/rwest/management.

Still Burning – network against hardcoal and neo-colonialism. 2021. Coal, Colonialism & Resistance. Centering Voices of Affected Communities and Warning of False Solutions. stillburning.net. https://stillburning.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Still_Burning_2021.pdf.

tagesschau.de. 2023. “Räumung Lützeraths. Gegenseitige Gewaltvorwürfe.” tagesschau.de. January 16, 2023. https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/gesellschaft/luetzerath-protest-demonstration-105.html.

Virnich, Birgit. 2022. “Proteste gegen Braunkohleabbau: ‘Werden Lützerath nicht aufgeben.’” tagesschau.de. 2022. https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/luetzerath-101.html.

WECF. 2020. “Milliarden-Subventionen Für Braunkohle.” July 7, 2020. https://www.wecf.org/de/milliarden-subventionen-fuer-braunkohle/.

 

 

 

 

2.14.0.0

National culture canon in Sweden as a “unifying force” in a “polarized” society

2022-12-06

On September 11 this year, Sweden had a general election to the national parliament (Riksdagen), the 21 regional councils and the 290 municipal councils. The right-wing coalition between the Sweden Democrats, the Moderate Party, the Christian Democrats, and the Liberal Party obtained a majority in the Riksdag, leading to Ulf Kristersson as new Prime Minister and a new government in Sweden in October 18 (based on the Tidö agreement, which was presented on a press conference in October 14).

One of the new ministers in Kristersson’s cabinet was the relatively unknown Parisa Liljestrand, former municipal councilor in Vallentuna between 2018-2022, as Minister of Culture.

Parisa Liljestrand, the Minister of Culture in Sweden.Photo: Ninni Andersson/Government Office

Parisa Liljestrand, the Minister of Culture in Sweden.
Photo: Ninni Andersson/Government Office

One of her tasks will be to appoint an “independent expert committee” with the aim of developing proposals for a Swedish cultural canon, in accordance with the Tidö agreement. Nevertheless, nowhere in the text of the Tidö agreement does it say what Sweden should have such a cultural canon for. The inspiration is though said to come from the Danish model, which since 2006 has introduced a national cultural canon. However, one of the key arguments, according to an interview with Liljestrand in SVT, is that culture could become a “unifying force” in a “polarized” society.

Among scholars and intellectuals, this is a highly controversial statement that engages. In Sweden, there has been a long-standing tradition of the principle of keeping politics at arm’s length from culture, which means that politics can create basic conditions for culture to be brought to life (for example through budgets and legislation), but not get directly involved in the culture’s content. The proposal to introduce a national cultural canon breaks with this tradition.

As a student of postcolonial studies, I find the “unifying force” argument not only deeply problematic but also suspect, downright unpleasant. Constructing a national cultural canon rather contributes to hiding the societal conflicts and contradictions that art in its various forms aims to make observable. That in turn contributes to the risk of maintaining a false notion of an united “we” as well as an artificial consensus about Sweden. To put a label on an individual profile and let that person be presented as representative of that label is to take an interpretive priority over their artistic efforts. Would, for example, August Strindberg, Karin Boye, and Vilhelm Moberg appreciate being part of such a national canon? That is not certain. Would artists like Lars Vilks and Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin contribute to a desirable “unifying force”? That is extremely doubtful. In any way, the political canonization had meant that all their works would have been read/seen in a completely new context. In other words, it means that politics in practice seizes artistic works.

Regardless of what the “expert committee” presents for works to might be included in this canon, there are no objective measures of quality. Valuation and taste regarding cultural expressions is always subjective. Moreover, the inclusion of some in a culture canonization implies that others will be excluded, which can definitely be analyzed from postcolonial perspectives.

Something that even becomes more worrying is that Culture Minister Parisa Liljestrand does not exclude the idea of letting knowledge of the cultural canon be used in citizenship tests for immigrants. The same demand does not seem to apply to Swedish citizens. This means that Swedes can move freely with their lack of knowledge about famous cultural figures, while immigrants can be denied citizenship if they have a lack of knowledge about the same famous cultural figures. This discriminatory approach creates an “us” and a “them”.

With the background of the above-mentioned critical objections in mind, what remains as the real reasons for establishing a national cultural canon? It is probably one of many concessions to the Sweden Democrats from the Moderate Party, the Christian Democrats and the Liberal Party. The Sweden Democrats are a political party with ideological roots in Nazism, who addresses their ideology in all substantive political areas. A cultural canon is thus a far-reaching ideological project with nationalist overtones, which aims to win the struggle over historiography and thereby define “Swedishness”. At the end of the day, it is about defining who “we” are and what “we” are not.

Before I finish this text, I would like to quote the Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: “A great writer is, one might say, the second government of his country. And therefore no regime has ever loved great writers, only the less important ones.”

 

Filip Hallbäck

Nya kulturministern Parisa Liljestrand (M): ”Kulturkanon kan vara en enande kraft” | SVT Nyheter (2022-11-23)

Why the Swedish discourse on “gang criminality” is racist

2022-11-30

An analysis of the Moderate party’s electoral program

A concrete wall with a crack

Photographer: Michael Krause

In September 2022 an extreme right government constellation was voted into power in Sweden. A party that was founded by (neo-)Nazis in the late 1980s, the so-called Sweden democrats (SD), became the second largest party in the national parliament as they gained 20,5 % of the votes. A minority government, which relies on the support of SD, has been formed by the conservative parties the Moderates (M), the Liberals (L) and the Christian democrats (CD). The cooperation of the conservative minority government and the extreme right SD has been institutionalized by the so-called Tidö agreement which grants SD major influence regarding migration and law giving.

The pre-election debate was dominated by one topic: gang-related violence. In this blog post the policy program of the Moderates, whose candidate Ulf Kristersson is now Sweden’s prime minister, will be analyzed. The focus of the analysis lies on the Moderates’ political discourse on “gang criminality”. The complex issue of gang-related violence itself will not be examined here.

The Moderates’ policy programs regarding migration and gang criminality intersect, naturalizing a supposed causal relation between migrants and criminality. For example, criminality is the first issue that is mentioned on their website on migration, introducing the Moderates’ claim that immigration to Sweden should be reduced. This racist discourse follows a pattern of color ignorance, which critical whiteness scholars have analyzed as a pattern in Swedish political discourse. Color ignorance refers to the denial of race and, with it, racism. For instance, the Swedish political discourse on gang-related violence does not mention race. But race plays a crucial rule in the discourse. The participants in the political discourse know very well that the “vulnerable areas” in the suburbs of larger Swedish cities are poor and racialized, a topic that is frequently mentioned under the term “segregation”. As these quarters are then described as the origin of gang-related violence, gang criminality becomes racialized, without mentioning race.

The picture of “the immigrant” in Swedish political discourse is racialized and forms the fundament of the racist discourse on gang-related violence. He (the immigrant is also gendered) is imagined as the Other of a Swedish national self-image which centers around whiteness. Following the pattern of color ignorance, this is almost never mentioned directly, but shows for example in the stark contrast with which refugees from Ukraine, who were perceived as white and Christian, have been welcomed in Sweden, under the premise that “they are like us [Swedes]” in comparison to racialized refugees. I say “perceived” here, because whiteness has previously been withdrawn from people from Eastern Europe (anti-slavic racism), and since only mentioning Christianity homogenizes a religiously diverse group and silences the existence of the large Jewish community in Ukraine. The religious component of the Swedish national self-imagination as Christian is of importance for the construction of the Other as Muslim. This results in a binary of white Swedishness as opposed to a non-white Other, who is imagined as racialized and Muslim. To describe the Other a range of terms of ethnicities and nationalities is falsely used synonymously. This means that all racialized people in Sweden are not perceived as Swedish, no matter if they have Swedish passports or not.

The Moderates, as well as the majority of voices in the Swedish political discourse, do not include structural and institutional racism as factors into their analysis of segregation, poverty, and gang-related violence. Instead, their policy programs indirectly blame racialized people for all of these issues. The Moderates suggest that gang-related violence will be reduced by letting fewer racialized people come to Sweden, increasing punishments for gang-related violence, increasing opportunities for the police to survey people who are suspected to be part of gangs (i.e., racialized people) “as a preventive measure”, and giving the police the task to frequently conduct racial profiling in Sweden. Racial profiling means that the police targets racialized people in supposedly random controls. The Moderates write in their policy program on migration that “the police will be instructed to conduct more ‘utlänningskontroller’ (= controls of foreigners) within the country to find more persons who do not have the right to be in Sweden”. As Swedes imagine themselves as white, foreigners are imaged as non-white, which will mean that all racialized people in Sweden, no matter if they are foreign or not, will be targeted under this policy.

The most absurd policy suggested by the Moderates comes from their section in Stockholm. They have proposed – as one can read on the official website of the Moderate party – to combat gang criminality with ADHD testings in schools in “vulnerable areas” of the city. This policy builds on vague associations of mental health and criminality which are not evidence-based and stigmatize people with mental health issues. Once again, Moderates’ focus is not on how structural racism in Sweden contributes to the development of racially and class-wise segregated quarters and youth delinquency, but the problem is sought in (often racialized) children who happen to live in the so-called “vulnerable areas”. This speaks of a political ignorance towards poverty and racist discrimination in housing and employment in Sweden which indeed can have influence on the health of racialized people.

The Moderate party must stop targeting individual children, poor and racialized people to combat structural and complex social issues such as gang-related violence. The discourses on criminality and migration need to be detangled from each other. Instead of structural racist discrimination, the Swedish government should implement nationwide programs for anti-racist education and support for those who are affected by racist discrimination and violence. The United Nations expert group which visited Sweden in the beginning of the month came to the same conclusion urging Sweden to “step up efforts to fight systemic racism and focus on strategies to restore trust between police and minority groups”.

Maria Fahr

Literature

Eliassi, B. (2013) ‘Orientalist social work. Cultural Otherization of Muslim immigrants in Sweden’, Critical Social Work, 14(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.22329/csw.v14i1.5871.

Garner, S. (2014) ‘Injured nations, racialising states and repressed histories. Making whiteness visible in the Nordic countries’, Social identities, 20(6), pp. 407–422. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/13504630.2015.1010707.

Gravlee, C.C. (2009) ‘How race becomes biology. Embodiment of social inequality’, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 139(1), pp. 47–57. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.20983.

Hübinette, T. and Lundström, C. (2014) ‘Three phases of hegemonic whiteness: understanding racial temporalities in Sweden’, Social Identities, 20(6), pp. 423–437. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/13504630.2015.1004827.

Kelly, N.A. (2021) Rassismus. Strukturelle Probleme brauchen strukturelle Lösungen! Zürich: Atrium Verlag.

Moderaterna (2022a) ‘Förslag: Snabbtest för ADHD i utsatta områden’, Moderaterna i Stockholms stad och län, 12 August. Available at: https://moderaterna.se/stockholm/nyhet/forslag-snabbtest-for-adhd-i-utsatta-omraden/ (Accessed: 31 October 2022).

Moderaterna (2022b) ‘Gängkriminaliteten’, Moderaterna. Available at: https://moderaterna.se/var-politik/gangkriminalitet/ (Accessed: 31 October 2022).

Moderaterna (2022c) ‘Invandring’, Moderaterna. Available at: https://moderaterna.se/var-politik/migrationspolitik/ (Accessed: 31 October 2022).

Osanami Törngren, S., Jonsson Malm, C. and Hübinette, T. (2018) ‘Transracial Families, Race, and Whiteness in Sweden’, Genealogy, 2(4), p. 54. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy2040054.

Said, E.W. (2003) Orientalism. 5th edn. London: Penguin Books.

UN News (2022) Sweden. Step up efforts to fight systemic racism, urge UN experts, UN News. Available at: https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/11/1130217 (Accessed: 30 November 2022).

2.14.0.0

Who’s afraid of speaking about Elizabeth II’s colonial legacy?

2022-09-26

Royalty - Queen Elizabeth II Visit to Jamaica - Kingston

Troops parade for Queen Elizabeth II as she arrives in Kingston. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived in Jamaica at the start of a three-day Golden Jubilee visit. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

On September 8, Queen Elizabeth II of United Kingdom died at the age of 96. She reigned longer than anyone else in British history, from 1952 until her death (which is 70 years). She was Head of the Commonwealth, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and head of state not only in Great Britain, but also in 14 other countries that are part of the Commonwealth realm (including Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Grenada, and Canada).

The news of her passing caused grief among many in the Western world for Britain’s regent, but it has also sparked debate about permissions for discussions of the system of which the Queen was a part and its legacy of colonialism. The resulting debate has been about whether the colonized are allowed to speak about their colonizers’ abuses, at the time of the colonizer’s death. If yes, can it be considered ethically and morally right to do so? If no, then when is it ever the right time to discuss the colonizer’s abuse?

For many in the countries that have been and/or are still part of the Commonwealth realm, the British monarchy is strongly associated with colonial violence, oppression, and murder. For example, Uju Anya (who is an associate professor of second language acquisition at Carnegie Mellon University) tweeted the following:

“If anyone expects me to express anything but disdain for the monarch who supervised a government that sponsored the genocide that massacred and displaced half my family and the consequences of which those alive today are still trying to overcome, you can keep wishing upon a star,”[1]

Another voice, Zoé Samudzi, a Zimbabwean American assistant professor of photography at the Rhode Island School of Design, tweeted:

“As the first generation of my family not born in a British colony, I would dance on the graves of every member of the royal family if given the opportunity, especially hers.”[2]

Even when Elizabeth II was alive, she was subject to colonial presence. Indigenous senator Lidia Thorpe was due to repeat the oath of allegiance to members of Australia’s parliament at the beginning of August this year. During the repeat, she raised her fist in the air and called the Queen a “colonizer”.[3]

From a Swedish perspective, my experience is that the traditional media coverage here of Queen Elizabeth II has been relatively one-sided. Often one uncritical perspective is raised, and it is about the Queen’s leadership of her institution. How she has dealt with “difficult” situations. She is often portrayed as an innocent matriarch with style, class, and a sense of duty, when in fact she in other parts of the world is seen as an active participant in the preservation of British colonialism. The wealth of the British Royal House, for instance, is largely plundered from the resources of colonizing countries worldwide.

Perhaps Swedish media are influenced by the dramaturgy of popular cultural productions, for example the Netflix series The Crown. Perhaps because Great Britain never in history attacked Sweden militarily? Or perhaps the monarchy in Sweden, as in Great Britain, is seen as a fundamental part of the national identity? Perhaps this is yet another clear example of what is commonly referred to as “white innocence” (in this context, meaning that justifying colonial actions by establishing the notion that the colonizers and their heirs meant no harm). Perhaps this constitutes a school example of the need and relevance for a decolonizing look at media reporting? To paraphrase the title of Edward Albee’s most famous play: Who’s afraid of speaking about Elizabeth II’s colonial legacy?

Unfortunately, I am not sure. What I do know, however, is that one of the Swedish public service media’s most important tasks is comprehensive reporting. That means you must zoom out, watch the whole picture, and dare to see its complexity. In this case, it is about including the voices that live with the aftermath of British colonialism. Inconvenient as it may be for the white, Western majority population, this needs to be told. As for now, these voices are found almost exclusively on social media.

Filip Hallbäck

 

[1] https://twitter.com/UjuAnya/status/1567933661114429441?cxt=HHwWgsDT4fDWtcIrAAAA (2022-09-11)

[2] https://twitter.com/ztsamudzi/status/1567888385347297281?cxt=HHwWgoCxgb6LocIrAAAA (2022-09-11)

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/aug/01/australian-greens-senator-lidia-thorpe-calls-queen-coloniser-while-being-sworn-into-parliament (2022-09-11)

Biopiracy

2022-06-07

Zingiber officinale, an example of a medicinal plant used in multiple cultures

Zingiber officinale, an example of a medicinal plant used in multiple cultures

Biopiracy is a term that describes the extraction and use of traditional knowledge and genetic resources to be used in research as well as in the development of commercial products when this extraction is made without taking into consideration national legislation of the country of origin but also the rights of indigenous communities. Typically biopiracy does not provide any sharing of the benefits between countries (and communities) of origin and entities exploiting it.

The inventions that are the result of biopiracy are very often protected by patents, making it impossible even for the original holders of the genetic resources to exploit them commercially. Zingiber officinale is an illustrative example. This is a plant found in India and South China. The English botanist William Roscoe gave the plant the name ‘ Zingiber officinale in 1807.

In fact recent biotechnological research related to ginger some new ingredients were obtained, such as zingerone, shogaol, and paradol. Zingerone (4-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-2-butanone) is in fact a nontoxic and inexpensive compound with varied pharmacological activities.

Zingerone was first isolated from the ginger root in 1917 by Hiroshi Nomura, a chemistry professor at Tokyo Imperial University. Zingerone is absent in fresh ginger but cooking or heating transforms gingerol to zingerone. Zingerone is closely related to vanillin from vanilla and Zingiber officinale, an example of a medicinal plant used in multiple cultures

eugenol from clove. Zingerone has potent anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antilipolytic, antidiarrhoeic, antispasmodic properties. Furthermore, it displays the property of enhancing growth and immune stimulation. It behaves as appetite stimulant, anxiolytic, antithrombotic, radiation protective, and antimicrobial. Also, it inhibits the reactive nitrogen species which are important in causing Alzheimer’s disease and many other disorders. To say the least, this is an ingredient with numerous pharmaceutical applications of major importance. Some of them are obviously also applications with lucrative commercial exploitation potential.

While this is a plant found and commonly used in Kerala, Andhia Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra, for its medicinal properties, the patent rights to be granted to the inventions, that are the results of modern research will be granted to the private companies and research institutes of the past. The communities that have developed the traditional knowedge on which modern research has built upon, and the countries of origin will not receive any benefits from the commercial applications of the modern re-packaging of this well-known traditional medicinal plant.

 

Frantzeska Papadopoulou

”When we were Samis”/”När vi var samer”

Book cover Mats Jonsson

”When we were Samis”/”När vi var samer” by Mats Jonsson

For the lucky ones who can read Swedish there is a book I would warmly recommend to read! This is Mats Jonsson’s book, ”När vi var samer”, published in 2021. It tells the story that we are longing to find out more about, the story of the Samis. Unravelling his own family story and looking into his Sami roots, Mats Jonsson, dives into Sami history and of course most certainly thus Swedish history since the 1600s. The book is not a traditional book. It is written in a cartoon form and in black and white. To be honest, that non-conventional way of writing was peculiar to me and the first pages were difficult to follow and digest. But after page 40 (this is also when the real story starts), everything changes, you are taken away by the narrative, and I (personally) got used to the ”cartoon-like” way of writing.

Providing a review for this book is not a simple endeavour. History is narrated together with family history (a part of the book that I was not always able to follow). And from the discussions on the history of the ”coffee tree” (the tree where the predecessors of the author used to hang their coffee pot), to the terrible story of “Stor-Stina” the author keeps the reader’s interest. ”Stor-Stina”, Kristina Katarina Larsdotter (1819–1837), who was shown as a freak, never stopped growing, died young and whose skeleton was then displayed at Karolinska Institutet’s museum, directed by the notorious Anders Retzius – the father of craniology, who developed theories about short- and long-bald people – by extension the basis for theories about cultural stages, in short racism.

”When we were Sami”, provides an illustrative description of the struggle between Sami history and identity and the Swedish colonial empire. Although it includes sad elements, it is not a sad book. The quest for the author’s identity, history, becomes a quest for Swedish history, the real, the whole history, including the dark sides of Sami exclusion and cultural extinction.

Mats Jonsson’s storytelling technique is also so liberating, the alternation between reportage and fiction manages to communicate a difficult subject in an entertaining and easy way.

 

Frantzeska Papadopoulou