Genealogies of Distributed Sovereignty in the Indian Ocean World
Thomas Blom-Hansen, Stanford University
More than any other region in the world, the Indian Ocean has a deep history of overlapping and partial sovereignties, even as it firms up to become a mostly British-dominated ocean in the 19th century. British imperial sovereignty allows for a multiplicity of arrangements of authority, from planter-dominated spaces of Mauritius, Sri Lanka, and Kenya to indirect rule in parts of India, protectorates, independent sultanates with treaty arrangements with the crown and multiple networks of colonial agents and residents in trading ports all along the rims of the ocean. These arrangements allowed an unprecedented proliferation of commercial networks, an extensive indenture system, trade diasporas, and religious networks originating in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Yemen and elsewhere. This distributed sovereignty and legacies of indirect rule have left deep structures that are still with us today in several ways: patterns of labor migration, trade connections, flexible relations of trust and credit and accumulation regimes, structures of governance in the major urban centers, and extended religious communities and pilgrim routes crisscrossing the ocean. In my lecture, I will argue that the Indian Ocean is unique, not because it was somewhat less colonized than other spaces, as many scholars suggest, but rather that it was the site of a peculiar model of distributed sovereignty that was a cornerstone of imperial domination throughout the world, if less noticed than the conspicuous forms of direct domination that fill the literature.
Panel 1: The Weberian State and its Challengers
The GCC Variant of Rentier State Building
Steffen Hertog, London School of Economics and Political Science
This paper will explain how oil rents since the 1950s have been used to build unusually heterogeneous state apparatuses, or “multiple statehoods”, in the Gulf oil monarchies. The top-down process has resulted in the parallel creation and maintenance of very different institutions and social sub-systems, some very insular and inward-oriented, others very outward-oriented and often separate from local society. Some are patrimonial and informal, others some bureaucratic and bloated, while yet others are efficient and meritocratic. The deep heterogeneity of the Gulf’s oil states is perhaps their most original contribution to the varieties of modern statehood. The internal fragmentation of Gulf oil states explains the paradox that these states are deeply integrated in world capitalist, cultural, and migratory flows, yet able to shield their own citizens more than any other state from a globalized economy – a set-up that remains contingent on the continued flow of large-scale rents, however. These themes will be developed both through qualitative case histories and a survey of data on oil-rich states worldwide, with particular comparative focus on contrasting high-rent cases from sub-Saharan Africa.
Gatekeeping and Broadcasting in a Digital Age: State and Power in East Africa
Sharath Srinivasan, University of Cambridge
This paper explores how long-standing questions about the state and politics in Africa are inflected with the disruptions brought about through digital technologies. Looking comparatively at Kenya, Eritrea, and Somalia, the paper draws out key ways in which some classic frameworks, including Frederick Cooper’s ‘gatekeeper state’ and Jeffrey Herbt’s analysis of ‘broadcast power’, need rethinking. Accounting for the ways in which coercion, accumulation and mobilization are being reconfigured in a digital age, the paper proposes implications of this for post-liberal East African states. The paper explores three key dimensions: coercion and the organization and practices of state authority; accumulation and the transnational political economy of extracting rents; and mobilization and the building of alliances and political legitimacy. It argues that digital network power enables but also constrains the post- liberal state. Digital trajectories can feed authoritarian techno-capitalism yet leave the state vulnerable to new interventional logics of external actors, and, make possible new kinds of state agency yet also foster new global dependencies.
The Negotiated State in Pakistan
Anatol Lieven, Georgetown University in Qatar
In Pakistan, the powers of the state in recent decades have been generally expressed neither through authoritarian fiat, nor democratic legislation, but by negotiation with other centers of power. This has indeed been the modus operandi of the Pakistani state under both military and civilian governments. It is necessitated by state weakness, and in particular by the fact that the Pakistani state (despite having one of the most powerful armies in the world) is far from possessing what Max Weber defined as the key criterion of a modern state: exclusive control over the legitimate use of violence. This pattern of negotiation and compromise is visible both in the countryside and in some of the great urban centres – notably Karachi, with its heavily armed ethnic parties and powerful criminal gangs. This paper will explore this pattern of state behaviour, and ask how far it is changing in response to socio-economic change and urbanization.
Panel 2: Ethnicity, Justice, and Urbanisation
Legitimacy and the Dual Policing Mechanisms in a Securitised City: Examining the Roles and Practices of the Police and Paramilitary Forces in Karachi, Pakistan
Zoha Waseem, King’s College London
Little has been researched on the institutions responsible for providing security in the midst of Karachi’s violent landscape. This paper looks at the legitimacy of these forces, chiefly the police and paramilitary, arguing that the coexistence of Karachi police and Sindh rangers has created a mechanism of dual policing shared between the two. It will examine how both security forces operate under de jure legitimacy as well as de facto legitimacy. Processes of securitization and the tolerance for de facto legitimacy of both police and paramilitary have encouraged the militarization of policing in Karachi. Relying on fieldwork conducted between 2015 and 2016, this paper attempts to dissect the visible and reported practices and discourses of Karachi police and Sindh rangers to assess how legitimacy is negotiated by both forces, independently as well as in relation to one another, as they collaborate and compete for relevance, resources, and the right to the city. By considering the analysis presented, we may contemplate that in mega cities such as Karachi, it is not just ‘ordered disorder’ (Gayer 2014) or ‘orderly ethics’ (Jauregui 2016), but rather the ‘impermanence of order’ that is both the cause and effect of attempts at acquiring de facto legitimacy.
The Illiberal Politics of Going Native: Making “Tribes” in South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East
Uday Chandra, Georgetown University in Qatar
One of the cruel legacies of European imperialism is the bifurcation of the world into an imaginary West that is considered to be the proper home of liberalism and a putative non-West that is regarded as incapable of liberalism. As postcolonial scholarship in the wake of Edward Said’s Orientalism has shown, producing and maintaining these boundaries between the West and non-West, and by extension, between modern liberalism and its Other, have been key modalities of imperial power and its many post-imperial afterlives. Over the past two centuries, scholarship on the non-West has played a vital role in generating authoritative social-scientific knowledge that maintains, even polices, the boundaries that imperial power once established. At the same time, both power and knowledge interpenetrate each other in such a way that they actively generate new social realities based on curiously modern conceptions of non-Western traditions.
In this paper, Chandra illustrates this overarching argument by tracing the political and intellectual genealogies of the kinds of illiberal politics that underlay how “tribes” sprung up all over European empires by the late nineteenth century. The notion of a “tribe” in European empires, he argues, emerged originally in the Celtic fringe and the German-speaking world as a counter to Anglo-American liberalism with its preoccupations with markets and civil liberties. It traveled outside Europe to South Asia, then across Africa, and finally, the Middle East. But on this strange journey, the notion of tribe acquired new meanings and connotations, from a politics of paternalism in the post-1858 frontiers of British India to the quest for “native authority” or indirect rule in the chiefdoms and sheikhdoms across the Indian Ocean. What remained constant across these diverse contexts was a desire to avoid contamination of the “tribe” by the classic forces of modernity—namely, the market and the state. By delving into the imperial politics of making and managing “tribes” across the Indian Ocean region, this paper interrogates how ideas and social circumstances shaped each other in the making of altogether new traditions of illiberalism. These illiberal traditions, of course, remain alive and well across the Indian Ocean, albeit in different postcolonial forms, and are increasingly enmeshed with the contemporary logics of global capitalism.
The Ruling Family, Security, and National Identity in Qatar
Islam Hassan, Georgetown University in Qatar
This paper examines the question of how the ruling family proactively continues to consolidate its own position within Qatari society, some 165 years after first coming to power. The state adopts three primary means to reproduce and stimulate the existing inclusion and exclusion schemes in Qatari society. First, it promotes the dominant Arab social values, culture, traditions, and customs that perpetuate a scheme of inclusion and exclusion, and secure the position of the ruling family and Arab tribal social actors at the apex of the social hierarchy of the state. Second, it narrows down the definition of national identity in order to limit vertical social mobility in society only to certain tribal families. In doing so, the state has limited the official narrative of homeland, common myths, and historical memories to being of an Arab tribal origin and practicing the Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam. Third, through articles of the Constitution, the legal system, and implicit family policies related to marriage and nationality, the state has been influencing individuals, in so far as marriage choices are concerned, as a further means of preventing social mobility to a wider strata of society. The interplay of these three primary means has secured the position of the ruling monarchy—and its Arab tribal allies—at the apex of the social and political hierarchies in Qatari society.
Panel 3: Civil Society, Migration, and Social Development
Kinship, Brokerage and Clientelism in Rural Pakistan
Shandana Mohmand, Institute of Development Studies (Sussex)
Pakistan is a problem state by most accounts. For this and other reasons people would like to better understand how its politics works, and especially if its recent transition to democracy—the latest of three in its history—will last. Most current commentaries on the country’s instability seem to have settled on a ‘bombs and beards’ story. The role of religion, insecurity, and violence appears to account for most explanations of its politics. However, this is a fairly limited and largely international view, and overall it provides little useful information for understanding the direction of change in Pakistan’s politics. In this paper Mohmand recasts the source of Pakistan’s instability and suggest that the main determinants of its politics are neither religion nor violent conflict. Instead, she argues that Pakistan’s political instability emanates from the broken chain of representation, accountability, and service provision that exists between the state and its citizens. Pakistan’s voters connect indirectly with state institutions, political parties, and electoral candidates through linkages that are mediated by a host of local informal brokers with whom voters engage across multiple economic, social, and political domains. Voters, brokers, and political candidates indulge in intense bargaining to negotiate election-specific strategic alliances. While this may ensure some short-term benefits to voters, it does not amount to long-term support for political parties, ideological and programmatic packages, or democracy.
The National Welfarism and International Aid Nexus in Tanzania
Sana Tariq, Georgetown University in Qatar
Political scientists are increasingly considering the economies of welfare in the developing world. However, distinct varieties of state-led wealth distribution in Africa have yet to be studied as patterns of welfare capitalism. There is a need to analyze the power structures that sustain African welfare, whether it is foreign aid on foreign terms, an innovative system of political patronage, or a fundamental reconfiguration of power into national welfarism. With its expansive social protection programs characterized by both high expenditure and population coverage, Tanzania is a productive case study to analyze the counter intuitive relationships between welfare, patronage, and democracy in Africa. Given that the labor movement was effectively dismantled during the country’s post-independence authoritarian period, Tanzania challenges existing literature on welfare states that posits that the collective bargaining power of labor determines welfare regime trajectories. As a deviant case, Tanzania reveals the limited explanatory power of current understandings of welfare and allows for the generation of new theory to account for the underlying dynamics of welfare. Tanzania allows us to open up the black box of the aid recipient and reconceptualize the interface between aid recipient and donor country, revealing the domestic politics of nationalism and patronage that operate within the global context of international aid flows. The paper employs a mixed-methods approach, drawing on quantitative data and elite interviews conducted in Dar es Salaam, to show that the Tanzanian political leadership attempts to capitalize on international aid and subverts recipient-donor relationships to realize the ruling party’s nation-building objectives.
Islamic Charitable Organizations and the State in Southeast Asia
Amelia Fauzia, National University of Singapore
From the early twentieth century, Islamic charitable activities have been growing steadily in many parts of the world. Compared to other regions, the Indian Ocean world has presumably the largest number and fastest development of Islamic charitable activities that range from zakat (almsgiving), waqf (endowment), various kinds of donation and voluntarism, to charitable committees, organizations and associations. Even the term “Indian Ocean” rose in popularity and studies after the recent 2004 tsunami disaster that brought a tsunami of donations and humanitarian relief from all over the world to Aceh and other affected places in the region. The Indian Ocean tsunami has contributed to the rise of the Islamic philanthropy movement in Indonesia— this disaster-driven story is a thing we used to hear on the establishment of humanitarian organizations and other related philanthropy activities. The growing number of Islamic charitable activities in the Indian Ocean does not necessarily depend on the numbers of the Muslim population or the growing of Islamization, but also on the roles played by the state and civil society organizations in dealing with ideas of development and poverty reduction. Indeed, states/governments vary in dealing with activities of Islamic charities, ranging from prohibition, strict surveillance, and non-interference, to endorsement, and even enforcement and management of certain forms of Islamic charities. While studies show that charitable activities or philanthropy is an indicator of civil society (Mc Carty 2003, Fauzia 2013), can philanthropy be a significant factor in the transformation of the state and society? Does the argument on the strong and weak state affect how the weak or strong philanthropy and civil society (Fauzia 2013) finds its place in the politics of the Indian Ocean? Is there a distinctive pattern on how faith-based philanthropy contributed to the notion of development, nationalism, and regionalism? This paper seeks to understand the dynamic relationship between Islamic charitable organizations and the state in Southeast Asia in the background of liberal economies and growing Islamization. It takes four cases, namely Indonesia, Singapore, Myanmar, and Brunei with consideration of the Muslim population, type of governance, and economy background. Philanthropy, specifically faith-based philanthropy, in any situation has strong attachments to grass-root communities and personal preference that could not be controlled by the government and may go against the enforcement of state.
Panel 4: Neoliberal Development and its Alternatives
The Political Economy of Comparative Governance in China and India
Pranab Bardhan, University of California at Berkeley
Bardhan will talk about the various components of state effectiveness which contribute to a more effective state in China than in India, and also about the issues of accountability and legitimacy that make the Indian state less fragile or unstable. In this context, he shall discuss particularities of career incentives in government in the two countries, structures of political and economic decentralization, and patterns of abuse of public office in the form of corruption and arbitrary use of police and regulatory powers in both countries.
A Feminist Analysis of Women and Neoliberal Development in Bangladesh
Lamia Karim, Oregon University
Bangladeshi women, both in the rural and urban sectors, have been mainstreamed into the neoliberal development agenda through microfinance and the global ready-made garment industry. In the last thirty years, over 20 million Bangladeshi women have become microfinance borrowers through NGOs, and another four million have joined the global ready-made garment industry as labor. This is a remarkable shift in gender identities and lifestyle changes for women in an agrarian and predominantly Muslim society. The complex history of Bangladeshi women becoming the face of development is rooted in UN/World Bank interest in mainstreaming third world women into economic activities after the declaration of 1975 as the Decade for Women, donor interest in creating a ‘moderate’ Muslim society that resembled western market interests, and World Trade Organization’s policies that gave the least developed countries tariff-free status to export to U.S and E.U. markets. The NGO sector was promoted by the western donors as an alternative to the state, and along with it came an unrestricted flow of capital and resources to the leading NGOs. Similarly, the garment industry grew under the auspices of Korean, Indian, and Chinese business owners who relocated to Bangladesh to take advantage of low wages, lack of industrial regulation and oversight, and an unlimited supply of a docile female labor force. Speaking from a left feminist perspective, the paper examines the role of the state and corporate capital in creating this unregulated labor supply chain. It also critiques the left in their inability to provide alternatives to the status quo of female labor.
Singapore as a Non-Liberal Electoral Democratic State
Chua Beng Huat, National University of Singapore
The long governing People's Action Party was founded as a social democratic political party in the mid-1950s. Many of the current institutions and public policies have their beginning in the days when its social democratic commitments were still intact; such as universal public housing, state capitalism, and communitarian ideology. These institutions are central to the capitalist economic success and political and social stability of the island-nation. The case of Singapore demonstrates that Capitalist Liberal Democracy does not constitute the teleological end point of a successful polity and economy.
Panel 5: The Geopolitics of the Indian Ocean
China and the Idea of the Indo-Pacific
Rana Mitter, University of Oxford
In the mid-2010s, China has been rethinking its conception of its “near abroad.” While most attention has been paid to its disputes with neighbors in East and Southeast Asia, it is also developing a growing interest in rethinking its relations with the Indian Ocean region. In doing so, it is reshaping political, economic, and security agendas in South Asia. This paper will examine factors including: the projection of the People’s Liberation Army navy in the Indian Ocean; the establishment of a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor; the relationship between Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi; and the growth of the One Belt One Road strategy. It will argue that China is developing the idea of the greater Indian Ocean as a new circle of foreign policy interest, and that the concept of the “Indo-Pacific” will affect both the liberal states of the region as well as those, like China, that seek a non liberal alternative.
Zones of Contention, Zones of Cooperation: Climate Change in the Evolving Indian Ocean-Arabian Sea-Persian Gulf Region
Paula Newberg, University of Texas-Austin
Most recent discussions about climate change in South Asia have assumed, if implicitly, that the traditional (modern historical) contours of the region continue to frame policy. Although this definition of place conforms to the received wisdom about what and where the region is, the trajectories of climate change suggest that a static concept of the region is particularly inadequate for understanding the politics, economics, and diplomacy of climate change. This might be said about many places. The intersecting Indian Ocean-Arabian Sea-Persian Gulf region(s), however, is characterized by two competing habits of thinking and acting: on the one hand, close resemblances and cause-and-effect relationships in all the spheres of that comprise climate change considerations; on the other, a history of contentious behavior among neighboring states, paradoxical patron- client relationships across the broader region, and habits of interaction that arise from prior climate-related decisions. The evolving logics of climate change policy suggest that the broader region requires reconceiving politically, economically, and environmentally.
Panel 6: Religion, Nationalism, and Conflict
The Somali Model of Development
William Reno, Northwestern University
This essay will explore the Somali political experiment, which is based upon the development of relatively small-scale personalist authorities (“chieftaincies”) in the context of contemporary international society. The essay maps the social realities of this political category and identifies its rulers’ sources of social power. Within the regions of their direct control, chiefs (if that is what they are to be called) in this Somali space draw power from their capacities to act as arbiters and protectors. They operate within the networks of neo-clans that are direct products of the social processes of state collapse. This neo-traditionalism serves as a political resource to legitimate rule. These networks also serve to obscure power relations within chiefly realms, masked by a façade of formal institutional labels that mimic conventional state bureaucracies. These chiefs also draw considerable resources and social power through strategies of extraversion vis-à-vis international society. They exploit their capacities to act as authoritative interlocutors at the juncture of the people and territories that they control and the rest of the world. They manipulate an illusory internationally- sponsored state building project, to which real resources are attached, to siphon wealth and control other people’s access to economic opportunities. They exploit their connections with a huge Somali diaspora (one third of all Somalis live abroad) to recruit expertise and engage in commercial enterprises outside of the Somali space. Chiefs play increasingly prominent roles in international, particularly U.S., counter-terrorism efforts, trading local knowledge for foreign assistance with surveillance technologies and opportunities to exploit new commercial opportunities in the private security industry. Chieftaincies in the contemporary Somali context suffer from limitations. Internal political challenges prevent almost all of them from establishing hereditary patterns of succession. They also suffer from limitations in their capacities to effectively extract and deploy resources for the purpose of consolidating power. Ultimately, internal instability becomes an invitation for external meddling, both from chiefly neighbors and foreign actors.
State-Building After the Split: Partition and Governance in the Horn of Africa
Michael Woldemariam, Boston University
The last 25 years have witnessed a dramatic reconfiguration of statehood in the Horn of Africa. The partition of Ethiopia (1993), Somalia (1991), and Sudan (2011), have yielded new projects in state building, both in the emergent states of Eritrea, South Sudan, and Somaliland, and the “rump” states they left behind. Yet these state-building projects have differed in notable ways. In Ethiopia and Eritrea, partition gave way to fragile, yet resilient authoritarian state-building experiments. In Sudan, the trajectory was similar, although the incumbent regime in Khartoum had been in power long before partition occurred. South Sudan and Somalia, although different in notable ways, were both plunged into deep and existential violent crises. Only Somaliland has been able to construct a fledgling democracy, despite some inhospitable circumstances and occasional backsliding. This paper explores these divergent experiments in post-partition state-building. It is based on years of fieldwork in the Horn, and careful, structured historical comparisons between states in the region. Its main argument is that the trajectory of state building projects in the region has been shaped by the manner in which partition occurred—in other words, the political and military dynamics that gave way to partition, and the political choices made during the partition process. In this sense, partition served as a critical juncture that profoundly shaped the character of subsequent regimes and the newly configured states they governed. These findings have implications for prevailing debates about partition and its consequences, as well as the political history of the modern Horn of Africa.
Arab Nationalism and the “Arab” Gulf: The Origins and Significance of the Name Game
James Onley, Qatar University
Before the dawn of the oil era and the rise of rival nationalisms in Arabia and Iran in the 1950s and ’60s, the Gulf was a transnational space in which the cultures of Arabia, Iran, Baluchistan, India, and Africa overlapped and intermingled to form a hybrid culture known as Khalījī (Gulf) in Arabia and Bandarī (Port) in Iran. This world was shaped by thousands of years of trade, travel, and intercultural contact between the far shores of the Gulf and wider the Indian Ocean. It was reinforced by centuries of political control: of Iran over Arab lands, of Arabs over Iranian ports, and of Indian-based empires over large parts of Arabia. After the dawn of the oil era, that world slowly faded away in the wake of nationalist movements seeking to downplay or erase the “foreign” elements from their respective “national” cultures. This change is best symbolised by the “name game”, the dispute over the Gulf’s very identity: Persian or Arab? This paper examines the origins, significance, and consequences the “Arab Gulf”, a term first proposed by Arab nationalist intellectuals in Iraq and Egypt in the 1930s, and gradually adopted by the GCC states in the 1950s–1970s. The “Arab Gulf” movement was part of a wider Arabization process in the GCC states that reoriented their Arab populations away from the Indian Ocean towards the Arab world. Arab nationalism has problematized and politicized these states’ transnational heritage, with serious implications for their non-Arab denizens.