Posts Tagged ‘conflict’
(Notes on) Politics, Theory and Photography sums up a propaganda battle that is underway in Iran between the government news agency and government critics. It’s a brilliant piece about the power of images, symbolic resistance and gender roles.
The government fired the opening salvo when the state news agency Farspublished photos of a student leader – Majid Tavakoli – who has been arrested and remains in custody. In the photographs Tavakoli, who is highly critical of the regime, was forced to wear Islamic chador andmaghnaeh, the female headscarf.
What the authorities apparently intended as a means of humiliating a critic had a surprising effect – it generated Internet solidarity, as scores of Iranian men posted pictures of themselves on various social networking sites wearing headscarves.
[…] the veiled men in the photos make clear that the images are intended as a rebuke to the official practice of compelling Iranian women to wear the chador. Perhaps the regime has made a massive mis-step here.
On ResetDOC, Michael Dillon comments on violence by the Chinese government against the Uyghur population and points to the underlying structural racism:
If [Uyghurs] don’t speak and read Chinese correctly, then they do not get a job. But they are also excluded for ethnic reasons: Han Chinese prefer to work with Han. Simply, there is a strong anti-Uyghur racism there.
Dillon also comments on the hesitant role of European countries and the US:
The difference is certainly that the Uyghurs are Muslims and Muslims are not very popular in the West right now. Though the main difference is that with Tibet there is an alternative government in exile under the Dalai Lama, so the Chinese have always been able to point at the Dalai Lama and say that he is undermining their control over Tibet. And a lot of Tibetans as we know support the Dalai Lama. That is not the case for Xinjiang. The Uyghurs do look to Central Asian states, such as Kirghizstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, as a sort of a mother, but there is not an alternative government.
I recently saw a panel discussion involving Dutch sociologist and politician Paul Scheffer. In 2000, Scheffer published an influential article called “The Multicultural Drama“, in which he criticised the system of migration in the Netherlands and Europe in general. Indifferent ‘pillarisation’ of societies, he argued back then, leads to segregation and conflicts between migrants and settled society.
Now, Scheffer has published a book called “The Unsettled Land” which offers a comparison of the process of migration and its consequences in several countries of Europe and North America. He argues that, besides different systems and different responses in all these countries, the process of migration is quite similar. According to him, there are three steps that can be identified:
Step 1: Avoidance. Initially, the arrival of new immigrants causes “white flight” and segregation, until open conflict breaks out.
Step 2: Conflict. At this stage, the receiving society starts to question its own values and cultural identity to be able to cope with a reality that has outlived the society’s self-conception.
Step 3: Accomodation. Societies develop mechanism to cope with the new demographics. Examples of accomodation include symbolic politics and recognition (monuments, arts, etc) as well as more egalitarian social politics (such as role of religion in policy-making, etc).
What’s remarkable in my view is that Scheffer develops a very sober, almost mechanic, analysis that he deems to be generalizable. First, this perspective removes fear and hysteria from the debate. Migration is seen as a social change; and while change naturally causes conflict which can be painful, it will eventually lead to a new social formation that is workable. On the other hand, it emphasises strongly our ability to manage this process by finding our ways to come to an accommodation, which, according to Scheffer, will necessarily happen.
In the process that he describes, conflict that migration causes will always lead to the receiving society questioning itself. If we want to integrate newcomers, we have to become clear into what they will be integrated. Migration can therefore also be seen as a reflection for a society
Scheffer’s book was criticised as banal in the discussion I witnessed, but I think it is useful as it sets a ‘frame’ to view the debates in that are fought daily in newspapers and discussions. Surely there are weaknesses, like overgeneralisation and a strong emphasis on the nation-state. Yet, it points to the importance of ‘management’ to be able to accommodate and emancipate newcomers within societies, and it gives a hint as to how societies benefit from it simply be reflecting upon its core values and by redefining what makes up the community that people live in.
You can find Scheffer’s presentation of his thesis and the following panel discussion online. While the debate was in German, the presentation was in English. It starts at around 2:15. Since I still haven’t figured why I can’t embed external videos here within the blog, please click here for the video.