Ufahamu Africa

Ep. 131: A conversation with Yang-Yang Zhou of the Scope Conditions Podcast

January 22, 2022 Yang-Yang Zhou Season 6 Episode 131
Ufahamu Africa
Ep. 131: A conversation with Yang-Yang Zhou of the Scope Conditions Podcast
Show Notes Transcript

As fans of the Scope Conditions podcast, we're excited to share this interview with Yang-Yang Zhou, one of the hosts of the show. Scope Conditions features cutting-edge research in comparative politics from across the world, so we took this opportunity to talk to Zhou about her own cutting-edge work studying the effects of migrants on host communities.

Take a listen to this great conversation between Kim, Rachel, and Yang-Yang Zhou!

Books, Links, & Articles

Kim Yi Dionne  00:02

Welcome to Ufahamu Africa, a podcast about life and politics on the African continent. I'm Kim Yi Dionne, one of the show's hosts, and I'll be sharing a few things I've read recently. Before we start our podcast mashup this week featuring University of British Columbia assistant professor Dr. Yang Yang Zhou, co-host of the podcast Scope Conditions. Yang Yang is currently in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a Harvard Academy scholar and a CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar. She studies national identity, conflict, and development in the context of migration. Yang Yang earned her PhD in 2019 from the Department of politics at Princeton University. Before graduate school, she was a social casework manager for the Bellevue NYU program for survivors of torture, working with refugees and asylum seekers from West and Central Africa, and South and Central Asia. In our conversation, Rachel and I asked Yang Yang about her research on identity, migration, and politics, including a recent paper of hers I have regularly brought up on the show. In this paper, she and her co-author looked at attitudes towards refugees in the context of a contested soccer match between Kenya and Tanzania. So naturally, I want to start this week's news wrap with sharing an article I read in the latest edition of our favorite weekly magazine, The Continent, and it's about omicron and AFCON. So sports journalist Nije Enow reported on the relatively low attendance at AFCON matches. He writes, the African Cup of Nations biannual football tournament being hosted this year in Cameroon had quote, “the temperature at a gentle 24 degrees and the pitch bathed in the golden rays of the setting sun, the scene set for a glorious evening on football, but something's not quite right. Where are the fans?” end quote.  Now he supposes that football fans may have been put off by the requirement to present proof of COVID-19 vaccination as well as a negative PCR test before entering the stadium. Now this means that not only do they have to get vaccinated, but they have to find, you know, a PCR test. And this is all on top of having to pay for tickets to go to the matches. Of course, it's not as empty when the home team is playing, Enow reported that 48,000 People had packed themselves into the stadium to watch the Cameroonian national team beat Burkina Faso two to one. But few fans then stayed for the second match of what was a doubleheader. And that was that second match with Cape Verde versus Ethiopia. And there was only about an hour in between these two matches. So there's something about these COVID requirements, perhaps, but there's also of course, you know, nothing like seeing your own team playing. Now keep in mind Cameroon has posted record attendance in the past, for example, in the women's AFCON match between Nigeria and South Africa in 2016 had record attendance of 17,000 fans. And just 10 months ago, more than 30,000 fans had attended the final match of the 2020 African nations championship. So the tournament director Michel Dissake Mbarga blames these COVID-19 restrictions, because, you know, fans can't get into the stadium even though they have tickets, they haven't complied with these additional measures. And so, while these measures are working towards, you know, keeping people healthy and safe, it is making for a very different dynamic in the tournament this year. Turning to the other side of the continent, I want to bring attention to an article by Corrina  Jentsch, published at the end of 2021 in Africa's a country titled: “Ignorance, Denial and Insurgency in Mozambique.” It's a helpful explainer on the insurgency in Mozambique and the government's response. Jentsch writes, “Ignorance and denial have been core government attitudes that left the party in power, Frelimo, with little understanding and capacity to respond to the growing unrest in Cabo Delgado. Instead, the response of choice—severe repression and a lack of respect for human rights—has nurtured the rebellion. The current stability is therefore, in all likelihood, temporary.” Now reading Coririna’s article reminded me of Rachel's interview two years ago with Dr. Muna Ndulo, a professor at Cornell's Law School. In that conversation, Dr. Muna Ndulo talks about corruption, and how complex that corruption is reaching high levels of Mozambique's government and also going beyond Mozambique's borders. And he raises the importance of international engagement and trying to seek some sort of solution or end to this insurgency in the violence in the north of Mozambique. Time permitting, we hope to have a guest in season six, help us make sense of the current context in Mozambique and how things are changing. Meanwhile, we think our listeners will get up to speed with Dr. Jentsch’ s Africa’s a country piece. The last thing I want to share a link to is a charitable organization that our listeners may be interested in supporting. shared on Twitter earlier this week by friend and former guests of the show Nanjala Nyanbola. Mothers of Victims and Survivors Network supports the people who are left behind after instances of police brutality in Kenya. As Nanjala tweeted, data shows that the majority of those who are killed by the police in Kenya are between the age of 20 and 35. And this network organizes their mothers to not only demand accountability, but also get access to psychosocial and legal support. Thanks for tuning in this week. Now have a listen to our conversation with scope conditions co host Yang Yang Zhou. And stay tuned for the end of the episode when we play a few clips from their podcast featuring insights from political scientists who study African politics, Beth Wellman and Mai Hassan.  

 

Rachel Beatty Riedl 06:11

So we're really excited today to invite Yang Yang Zhou to our podcast. She is the co-host with Alan Jacobs of Scope Conditions, a podcast that goes in depth with a scholar about their research. And, you know, we just wanted to know more about your podcast. But Yang Yang, we also want to ask you about your research. So we're really glad to have you here today.

 

Yang Yang Zhou 06:33

Thank you so much for having me. I'm a longtime fan. I'm so happy to be here.

 

Kim Yi Dionne  06:38

So since you're on the show, we'd like to extend the spirit of Scope Conditions to you and your fantastic research. So I wanted to highlight, in particular, a recently published paper that you co authored with Andrew Shaver, it's titled re-examining the effect of refugees on civil conflict, a global sub-national analysis. Now in this article, which by the way, was published in the flagship journal for our discipline the American Political Science Review, congratulations. Now, in this article, you study global data on locations of refugee communities and civil conflict from 1990 to 2018. You find no evidence that hosting refugees increases the likelihood of new conflict, no evidence that it prolongs existing conflict, and no evidence that it raises the number of violent events or casualties. Now, I think your research is really important because it challenges this narrative of refugees as security risks when, for example, those of us who live in the United States have heard, particularly from right wing media outlets, and instead, you actually show that hosting refugees can encourage local development, and even reduce conflict. So I wondered if you could share what motivated you and Andrew to study these data? And to have this question about the relationship between refugees and conflict? Or really, we should say, refugees and peace and development?

 

Yang Yang Zhou 08:07

Yes, absolutely. So in this question, I know you're not asking for my life story. But I just wanted to give a little bit of background of what motivated this project and basically all my projects. So before going to grad school, I worked for a few years for this incredible Immigrant Services program in New York City. It's called the Program for Survivors of Torture. And I come from an immigrant background myself, so I really wanted to work in this area, a part of my job was social services related. So working directly with refugees and asylum seekers coming from all over the world, to New York City. Mainly they were coming from Western Central Africa, and to help them you know, figure out the asylum process, how to access social services, like Medicaid, getting kids enrolled into public schools, things like that. But another part of my job was policy related. So participating in meetings with state and federal representatives, the Department of Homeland Security, ICE, to talk about things like you know, the need to expand refugee resettlement, or to highlight the harms of immigration detention, for example. And in these meetings, I was always really struck by how the evidence used in some of these discussions, they were more often than not anecdotal, or just based on individual cases, which can be very compelling, but when we're trying to make generalizations about groups of people, or we're trying to make causal claims, I really wanted to know like, how do we know these claims to be true? How do we know that? And just a lot of the things I was hearing about refugees and asylum seekers didn't really match up with my experience or my colleagues' experiences working with these individuals every day. And you know, like, like you said, now we're seeing a lot of these claims, and really misperceptions things like refugees are dangerous, or they bring crime or insecurity, you know, we're seeing that repeated now with Syrian refugees and most recently with Afghan refugees. So long story short, almost all of my research is motivated by just this desire to re-examine what we academics, policymakers, the general public, and what we think we know about migrants and migration. For this particular project, I was really lucky to be in the same quantitative methods seminar in grad school with Andrew Shaver, who's now an assistant professor at UC Merced. Our assignment for this class was an empirical research paper in our second year, and now, you know, I'm like, in my third year of being an assistant professor, so that gives you a sense of how long it took and how many iterations this project had to happen from a grad school assignment to getting it published. Andrew's background is studying conflict processes at a very granular level. So when we were working together in this class project, you know, we saw that there's this literature suggesting that hosting refugees can lead to new conflict in, in host countries. And, you know, we know that conflict can diffuse regionally across borders, for lots of reasons. We also know that refugees, you know, physically go across borders. So the two are very interrelated. But we thought, you know, if one of the reasons is that the presence of refugees directly causes conflict, that this is a causal story, then host, you know, then then at the sub national level, we should see refugees causing conflicts precisely in the host communities, you know, where they're settling, whether it's because they are combatants, themselves, we think that's very rare, or because the host, you know, citizens are clashing with them, because, you know, tensions or economic competition. And so we reached out to the UNHCR, and we've been working with them for several years to get and verify really fine grained data of exactly where refugees are settling across space across time. So that we could test this question at a more sub-national level.

 

Rachel Beatty Riedl  12:22

And I think they're just really fascinating. And I think it's such a great thing for our listeners to hear in terms of the ways in which our research questions are so often derived out of these real world experiences, where we recognize that the world doesn't have enough research on topic X, right, that there are people who need to know so that they can make better policies so that they can do their work better, to help ourselves and each other if we had more data and analysis on these questions. And so I think it's just such an important fight, you know, trajectory for everyone to recognize. And so I wanted to go a little bit more into detail in terms of thinking about what this research tells us as political scientists. And, you know, to build on the title of your podcast Scope Conditions, which we'll be discussing in a little bit, um, “scope conditions” is a phrase that we use to demarcate the conditions under which our arguments hold, or the places or people in the world for which our argument or theory about how something works will matter. Right. And so I know, in this APSR paper with Andrew, you use this global data set that you're just discussing with  UNHCR, from this recent historical period. I'm wondering if you can share more of your thoughts with us about what you see as the scope conditions for your argument, that hosting refugees does not increase conflict. Where's the argument applicable?

 

Yang Yang Zhou 13:54

Absolutely. So, you know, the overall known finding that we have is that where refugees settle, these places are no more likely to experience new conflict, prolonged existing conflicts experience more violence, that's really just the starting point for this paper. When we look at countries where refugee settlements are geographically concentrated to one part of the country, we actually find that these areas actually experienced a reduction in conflict risk, so they actually get substantially safer than they would have been without refugees. And this effect is largely driven by more established settlements. So they've been there for longer. It's also driven by more sort of formalized camps as opposed to informal settlements. Why is that? On the one hand, you know, having new groups of people refugees, come settle into your community that might bring exists that might bring new tensions with existing populations. And the literature has really focused on this part of the equation. Things that the literature calls like negative externalities. But what we want to highlight is that having refugees come settle can also bring new opportunities and more resources for local development. Often these areas where refugees go there border areas that have maybe been historically marginalized or ignored by the state. And so by having refugees come settled, this can bring, you know, not only international humanitarian aid, but also more state resources to these previously marginalized areas. And so in this paper, we have some suggestive evidence using satellite nightlights data, that it's these particular places, sort of geographically concentrated, when established for a long time, they actually do get more infrastructure. But I just want to be very clear at this point, that the policy takeaway here is not that host governments should forcibly concentrate and relocate their refugees into one specific part of the country, or force them to be in like formalized camps. I've been to some of these strict encampment places. And, you know, people shouldn't be institutionalized in that way. And it could be very dehumanizing. So that's not the takeaway. I think the implications are that host governments and other organizations should really prioritize local development that benefits refugees and local host communities. We're seeing that in places like Uganda, for example, this can be really successful. And then number two, as you said, you know, this paper is at the global level. It's kind of a bird's eye level analysis. So what are some region or country specific, more micro level studies we can do to really tease out some of these dynamics. I think that's really exciting. I'm thinking about new research by people like Dan Masterson and Christian Lehmann. I also have a new project with Guy Grossman, where we find that refugee settlements in Uganda have actually led to better local health care, more primary education and more roads infrastructure for nearby host communities. So we think that's really exciting. And those are some of the conditions that I think we should explore more.

 

Kim Yi Dionne  17:28

That is exciting research and I want to keep talking about research, but I want to shift gears to a different article of yours. And this is ahead of the African Cup of Nations, which is scheduled to be held in January and February 2022. And that's because it was postponed during the COVID 19 pandemic it should have happened in 2021. But we've got a few months delay for the Africa Cup of Nations. And I wanted our listeners to learn more about your paper with Leah Rosenzweig, also published this year, titled “Team and Nation: Sports, Nationalism, and Attitudes toward Refugees.” Now folks who want to hear a deep dive on this paper with you and Leah should check out episode 34 of the Political Economy Forum Podcast, where the two of you are together and talking about the paper. But I wonder if you could just give our listeners a quick overview of what you examined in that paper and what you found.

 

Yang Yang Zhou 18:23

Absolutely, this was a really fun project with my friend, Leah. We wanted to know how major national events like winning a really important football or for some of us soccer match in the African Cup, how might that affect citizens' sense of nationalism and relatedly their attitudes towards non-nationals their attitudes towards foreigners, and in this particular project, we're looking at their attitudes towards refugees. So it was originally Leah who pointed me to the 2019 Africa Cup, specifically the match that happened on June 27. Between, you know, longtime East African rivals, the Tanzania national team, Taifa Stars, and the Kenya national team, Harambee Stars, their longtime East African rivals, and we thought it was just the perfect way to sort of test this question. So we had to really quickly scramble to set up and run an online panel survey. And so that means we are measuring attitudes and responses ahead of the match. And then we follow up with the same respondents after the match to see what their change in attitudes were. On that day, Kenya very narrowly won that match. It was like in the last few minutes where they scored the winning goal. It was tied up for most of the game and so you know, we were just biting our nails. We basically already spent all the money for the you know, the baseline survey and we're like, oh, I guess we don't have a project here. So you know, another lesson of the story is maybe don't hinge an entire research project on one, one soccer match the outcome, but we're very happy that Kenya one, you know, very narrowly in the last few minutes, it's a nail biter, you should watch it. I think you can find it on YouTube. And we found that, you know, our Kenyan respondents, they did indeed feel more national after the match. They also felt more generous to other Kenyans who were not their co-ethnics. And that wasn't very surprising. But at the same time, you know, we saw that they actually had more negative attitudes towards foreigners, specifically towards refugees, they thought that refugees were not bringing in positive diversity to their country. That was the question that we had asked. And, you know, but it's not all bad news. Through a survey experiment component, we tried reframing the match itself in terms of inclusion and diversity, something like, you know, this team was able to win, because there's so many great diverse players, you know, they play for teams all over the world to really emphasize diversity and inclusion. This framing had nothing to do with refugees or migrants at all. But just by reading that, for our Kenyan respondents who got that reframing, they actually felt way more positively towards refugees, so much so that it more than offsets that original negative effect.  


Rachel Beatty Riedl  21:32

That's so fascinating and I'm always, you know, when you're following Twitter, during, you know, when, when France is in in the World Cup, for example, these kinds of questions really arise as well, you know, in terms of the relationship that, that any national, you know, in the questions of nationalism and, and immigrant populations, or, you know, who is considered a citizen and representative of the national team. Right. So, drawing on that thought, I just wanted to ask you, you know, kind of when we're, again, coming back to the scope conditions questions for the team and nation study, the depth of the data that you analyzed here included Kenya and Tanzania, do you think this argument would travel to France or elsewhere in Africa, you know, beyond beyond soccer/ football? What do you think are the generalizable lessons?

 

Yang Yang Zhou 22:24

I definitely think the story travels in a lot of different ways, just the ways that you mentioned. First, we know that a part of the story travels throughout Africa in the sense that we were inspired to do this study by a recent AER paper called, Building Nations through Shared Experiences: Evidence from African Football. It's by Emilio Depetris-Chauvin, Ruben Durante, Filipe Campante. And in this paper, they're using, you know, the Africa Cup matches and they're looking at sort of cross-sectional Afrobarometer survey responses about nationalism and ethnic identity. And they do find that, you know, winning these matches, citizens feel more national and they actually have sort of less conflict and violence towards co-national, non-co-ethnics. So part of the story we know travels, at least throughout Africa. But you know, more generally, I think, it's just a social psychological story, right of us versus them. When we feel that heightened usness through something like a football match or other, you know, big national events like Independence Day. What does that mean for our feelings towards them? Are there ways to expand this usness feeling to previous others to make bigger groups of us? I yeah, I could definitely see this type of story happening in a lot of places.

 

Kim Yi Dionne  24:06

It's a really great study. I mean, there's so many facets to it that I really like, um, you know, especially think, among political scientists in North America who study Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania is just always a ready comparison, right? It's like the capitalist versus the socialists. You know, and, and to bring it in a modern day like this about something that is universal sport is universal. I'm thinking of, you know, Ethan Scheiner’s work. He's a political scientist at UC Davis, who has studied sport and politics really closely, but also, just like the nationalism part of it. I'm thinking of the Amanda Robinson study that primed Malawian research participants to look at a picture of the Malawian flag before they answered questions about, you know, citizenship and belonging. So it's really a really neat study and, and also, reading that study when it came out, I was reminded of an episode of scope conditions, right? Your very first episode of scope conditions you interviewed Salma Mousa, and our listeners can hang on and we're going to include a clip from that interview at the end of our chat with you. 

 

Yang Yang Zhou 25:22

You know, that comparison between Kenya and Tanzania absolutely is the title of our paper. Team and Nation is like a direct homage to Edward Miguel's “TRIBE or NATION?”. And also, yeah, like sports papers, we need more sports and politics papers. They're very fun. A lot of the world cares about sports, obviously. Yeah, so it just reminds me you know me too about this new paper, the most solid paper I wish I had the full title but the Salah paper by Ala' Alrababa’h, William Marble, Salma Musa, Alex Siegel.  I hope your listeners check out that paper. It's very cool.

 

Kim Yi Dionne  26:05

So now we've talked about two papers or  APSR paper, there's the soccer paper and CPS. And there are just two pieces of a very broad and really exciting research agenda. Can you talk about how those papers fit into that broader research agenda and maybe share what you're working on right now that you're really excited about?

 

Yang Yang Zhou 26:27

Yes, most, if not all of my research focuses on how the presence of migrants can interact with and change the attitudes, the identities, the political behaviors of host citizens and host communities. Right now, I'm working hard at my book project, which, you know, I'm trying to explore this question of when is it sometimes that citizens who share cultural and ethnic ties with refugees or other types of migrants, why is it sometimes they feel that solidarity and they feel hospitable and accepting, and other times they pretend they're not related, they say, you know, don't confuse u, for them. Basically, those people are refugees. I'm a citizen. And it's really personal to me, because, you know, when my family first got to the US, it was really Asian-American communities like our church community that extended that solidarity to us. And we were able to find housing or my parents were able to find jobs through these networks. So without that, in sociology, it's called ethnic enclaves. Without that, it would have been really hard for us to, you know, integrate, basically, and have a successful life. But in other instances where we might expect that co-ethnicity to be a solidarity, building things, sometimes the opposite happens. And so a lot of my research is in South-South contexts where most migration is happening. I think in these contexts, especially, for example, in sub-Saharan Africa, where refugees are just going across these colonial borders, where you, you kind of don't even see them as borders. A lot of the times they're going to communities that are considered co-ethnic that have a lot of historic and current ties. The main case that I look at is in Tanzania, where in 2015, there was a whole bunch of Burundian refugees who came across the border. A lot of there's a lot of co-ethnicity there, there's a lot of kinship ties, speaking a common language, intermarrying. And, you know, I see a lot of these co-ethnic Tanzanian citizens, they want to tell me that they're not Burundian, that they're not refugees, that, you know, they're Tanzanianess and this makes them very different. And importantly, for me not to confuse them as refugees. And so I'm really interested in this dynamic of the fear of being migrant ties to yourself, especially as a minoritized citizen in your own country where other majority citizens might mistake you for the stigmatized refugee. What does that do in terms of how you behave towards your co-ethnic, you know, the refugees who are living near you? How does that change what you think about immigration policy, for example? And, and so that's the case that I'm really interested in my book, but also, I think, moving forward, I really love to do some sort of online survey with Asian-Americans and Asian-Canadians and the time of COVID. Just anecdotally, you know, I've been hearing in my own communities, when, when the sort of anti-Asian hate happens because of COVID. You know, when we get the sort of kung flu type things, some people are expressing a lot of solidarity for, you know, Chinese migrants, recent Chinese migrants, but then you also see people, I think there was like some state representative who's like, I'm Korean. Like, we don't like them, either, you know, or Yeah, even people in, you know, my own communities back home saying like, I'm second generation, or I'm third generation, don't confuse me for like a recent Chinese migrant. And so that dynamic I'm really interested in exploring in this book.

 

Kim Yi Dionne  30:28

And you're also speaking, like you, know, as a member of the Asian American community, during this really difficult time, as someone who has done research on, you know, how pandemics lead people to othering blame? It's even, it's really hard, it's really hard work to do. Because even if you can bring your scholarly mind to it, you still have your person heart. And to know that, like people in your families and communities that are affected by this, it's really hard to write, and to think about this, and to rationalize the kinds of behavior that people engage in. And you know, that sometimes, you know, some people are doing it to be or feel safe. And so it is, it is a really hard thing to do. You know, because you want to think of, you know, people are making decisions based on the information that they have and the experiences that they lived. And it's really important work that you're doing to under it to help us to better understand what ways or what strategies can policymakers engage, so that individuals don't have to rely on on these really, sometimes barbaric ways of navigating the world, when they're faced with these incredible challenges, including, you know, the threat of violence by the people who live near them just simply for the way that they look, or the way that they're perceived to look.

 

Yang Yang Zhou 32:01

That's precisely it. You know, it's not an irrational behavior. It's a completely rational behavior to the types of societal and political pressures that we're facing. I mean, the theory in my book that it all hinges on, and it's not really, you know, surprising or counterintuitive, or new idea, it really all hinges on how political elites are framing, migrants and refugees, like if you're framing them as terrorists, or people who bring disease, then of course, as a, as a minoritized citizen, already, you're feeling vulnerable, if you're going to be mistaken for a terrorist or someone who brings disease. Of course, you're going to react that way. And I also just want to say like your own work, obviously, on the pandemic, and Ebola and public health has like, really been integral in my own thinking about all these issues as well.

 

Kim Yi Dionne  32:55

Thanks. Yeah, it's hard when your work emerges in the news sometimes, because you want people of course, to learn from your work. But when you write about tough stuff, you don't want people to have to live through it.

 

Rachel Beatty Riedl  33:13

Yeah, that's so well said, Kim. And I think that the both of you, you know, have this overlapping space, in the ways in which you're looking at how our international systems and structures of inequalities shape not only how governments and international institutions of health care and the like respond to crises moments, but also how, as individuals, we respond in maybe rational and strategic ways, but by inserting ourselves into these hierarchies of, of inequality, and racism, right. And so of the ways in which we confront those, and your work helps us all, to be more resilient in opposing those inequalities and structures and systems.

 

Yang Yang Zhou 34:08

I sure hope so. That's very kind. I mean, I think the other thing I just wanted to say about it is that, you know, a lot of the immigration literature that's been done an amazing, rich, vast literature. A lot of it does, you know, seem to treat host communities in a sort of monolithic way, when we think about, you know, the citizens how they think about immigrants in the US or Europe, we're largely thinking about the white-majority citizen. And I think in my work, I want to just show there's a diversity in citizens, like how do minoritized citizens react to migrants who look like them.

 

Kim Yi Dionne  34:47

It's really great. Now the last question we ask all of our guests before we go, is there anything you're reading or read recently that you found interesting and would encourage our listeners to pick up.

 

Yang Yang Zhou 35:00

Yeah. So I guess two things if that's okay. The first is just something I'm reading right now academically is Crossing: How We Label and React to People on the Move, by Rebecca Hamlin, it's such a great book. You know, it's about this migrant refugee binary. Sometimes in the news, we see people like, you know, the individuals trying to cross the Mediterranean in the news, sometimes they're called refugees. Sometimes they're called migrants. In academic literature, we hear, you know, voluntary or involuntary migrants, all of these categorizations that really, are trying to categorize a big group of people really complex, nuanced group of people, and how does this categorization and these definitions and all the processes and political stuff behind them, it's really consequential for how they're treated. So that's a great book. But I also want to highlight a fictional book that I listen to an audio book in the background while I'm coding and right now I'm listening to it. I just started though, it's called The Eternal Audience of One by  Rémy Ngamije. And it's really cool. It's about a within Africa migration story. The protagonist, his homeland is in Rwanda , when he's young, his family moves to Namibia. And now he's like a law student in South Africa. So it's a really cool story of a contemporary you know, immigrant story within Africa. And it's also really funny like the audio book, I highly recommend it. I think this author also has a literary magazine called DOEK!. I'm probably saying that wrong, but I'm really loving all these, like Africa based literary magazines. I think there's like LOLWE, Isele, so sometimes when you know, I'm waiting for code to run, I'll go over and like read a short story.

 

Kim Yi Dionne  36:59

Yeah, there is definitely a renaissance right now of African literary and analytic commentary. I mean, the internet is terrible sometimes. But also, you know, a 1000 flowers are also blooming.

 

Yang Yang Zhou 37:16

That's why I’m still on Twitter.

 

Rachel Beatty Riedl  37:21

Thank you so much for joining us Yang Yang,  it's really a pleasure to speak with you. 

 

Kim Yi Dionne  37:31

Now we'd like to share with you a couple of clips from episodes we've enjoyed and learned from Scope Conditions produced, which featured scholars of African politics. First up is a clip featuring a conversation with Beth Wellman, visiting assistant professor at Williams College and a postdoctoral research fellow at the African center for migration and society at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her research examines migrant inclusion in elections. In this clip, she is talking to the Scope Conditions podcast about her research, and specifically about the history of South Africans voting from abroad, and how it has changed in the decades since the end of political apartheid in 1994.

 

Beth Wellman 38:15

The South African case is absolutely fascinating. It starts in 1994, with the first democratic election following decades of systemic injustice under apartheid. So you had the African National Congress, which had been a political party operating in exile and had been considered a terrorist organization contesting the elections for the first time along with a number of different political parties. One of the major central tenants of the liberation struggle was to make sure that black South Africans who had been disenfranchised had the right to vote. And so in the 1994 elections, the ANC along with the other political parties wanted to make sure that all South Africans had the right to vote, including all of the South Africans who were living in exile outside of the country during the apartheid era. So in the 1994 election, there was very expansive emigrant voter access, there were almost 200 polling stations around the world in 78 countries. In fact, the first person to vote in the 1994 election voted from New Zealand, and nearly 100,000 South Africans abroad voted in the 1994 election. Now, in the 1990s, the composition of which South Africans were abroad changed dramatically. Many of the exiles who were living outside of the country during the apartheid era came back now that the ANC was in power. And then also their emigration rates tripled, and there was a mass exodus out of South Africa and those people were assumed to be leaving the country because they were unhappy the ANC was now in power. Those people  was estimated that about 90% of that population was part of the minority white South African community. So in 1998, two years after the South African constitution, they passed the Electoral Act, and in that act, they explicitly abolished foreign voting abroad. Fast forward about 10 years, the political parties that are in opposition get together and they sue in constitutional court saying that it is a violation of the Constitution to exclude South Africans abroad from voting, the Constitutional Court agrees and in unanimous decision says that it's unconstitutional and that the Electoral Commission has to figure out a way to enable all of the South Africans abroad to vote much to the chagrin of the ANC. So in 2014, they do have diaspora voting around the world, but it's in a much,much more limited and restricted way than we see in 1994. For example, South Africans abroad can only vote in embassies and consulates, there's a number of hurdles to registration, they also have to provide a couple of different forms of valid identification, the voting access is much more limited than it was in 1994.

 

Kim Yi Dionne  41:18

Next, we invite our listeners to hear part of the scope conditions podcast interview with Mai Hasan, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan. In this clip, Mai is talking about her award winning book, Regime Threats and State Solutions, published recently by Cambridge University Press. More specifically, Mai is describing the narrative that opens her book, which illustrates the broader argument about how presidents use bureaucratic appointments to keep their hold on power.

 

Mai Hassan 41:51

The rumor I had heard was that in Kenya, the country that my book is based off of.the country's second president Daniel arap Moi had a big map of all of the country's administrative districts on his office. And in the capital of each administrative district was a pin with a little paper flag on it. And on that paper flag was the name of the district commissioner, which we can think of as an appointed governor that was stationed in that district. And every so often, when President Moi was feeling particularly threatened, apparently, he would go to the wall, remove some of the pins, put them into new spots, get his staff to make new pins with new administrative needs on them and put them on to other administrative district capitals. And that apparently, is how he made a lot of the staffing decisions for the country. He had a really strong sense according to this rumor about the willingness and the ability of these administrators and he knew where he wanted them. And so he personally would ensure that the bureaucrats that he knew could do specific tasks were in the places where those tasks were their completion was most crucial. And so that was the idea that really helped frame much of my dissertation in my book research.

 

Kim Yi Dionne  43:25

Thanks for listening to this week's episode of Ufahamu Africa. You can find more episodes, show notes, and transcripts on our website ufahamuafrica.com. This podcast is produced and managed by Megan DeMint with help from production assistants Jack Kubinec, Chukwufunanya Ikechukwu, and Manuel Tah Pech or non resident podcast fellows are Chido Nyaruwata, Wanjiku Ngugi, Samah Fawzi,  Gretchen Walch and Soinato Leboo. We are generously supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and received research assistance from Cornell University and the University of California, Riverside. Our music is courtesy of Kevin MacLeod. Until next week, Safiri Salama.