What Shapes Which Migration Flows We Study?

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

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

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

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Decolonize Academia!

Today the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) is holding a seminar titled Decolonizing the Academy.

Our aim is for this seminar to start a national discussion about the legacy of the colonial era in Norwegian academia – both in relation to its formal structures and the ways in which we as researchers conceptualize and categorize the world.

Defaced statue of Louis Botha outside the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town during the Rhodes Must Fall campaign. The wreaths were placed on the defaced statue by members of AfriForum. The AfriForum sign says Ek het help bou, ou! (“I helped build, friend!”) and #dankieJan (“#thanksJan”). Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The debate about the need to decolonize academia has raged internationally for several years. Student movements at the University of Cape Town and the University of Oxford, under the hashtag #RhodesMustFall, have used their demands for the removal of statues of the colonialist Cecil Rhodes from campuses as the pivot for a comprehensive critique of structural inequality and racism in the university system. A formal launch of this discussion in Norway is of the utmost necessity, and is already long overdue.

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The Long Peace Most Likely Began during the Vietnam War

Two statisticians at the University of Oslo have blown a hole in Steven Pinker’s famous theory that the Long Peace dates from 1945 onwards. But Pinker is excited about the new calculations, which suggest that this more peaceful period instead began in 1965 – during the Vietnam War.

Washington 1971: The demonstrations against the Vietnam war may have made it more difficult to go to war. Foto: Leena A. Krohn / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

In his 2011 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, the internationally famous psychologist and popular-science author Steven Pinker looks at history over several millennia and observes that the world has become gradually more peaceful. He has also described the period since World War II as “the Long Peace”, due to the decline in the number of interstate wars. But now Pinker seems to be having second thoughts, after reading a blog post written on January 15 by Professor Nils Lid Hjort of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Oslo (UiO), following a seminar at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).Read More

I Am a Friend of Israel. And I Can’t Accept Its Indiscriminate Violence Against Palestinians in Gaza

The political leadership in Israel often uses the concept of “friend” and “enemy.” Other countries also use those concepts from time to time, but it seems that they are particularly prevalent in Israeli political language. For instance, Prime Minister Netanyahu talks of “true friend” Donald Trump, “close friend” Narendra Modi of India, while other leaders and nations may be more difficult to place on his friendship scale. Israel is a country I have engaged with professionally and personally for many years, and something I will continue to do. I consider myself a friend of Israel, but that raises the question: what does that mean?

A soldier from the Golani Brigade relaxes in the desert. PHOTO: Creative Commons/IDF

Since the end of March thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have taken part in demonstrations along the border with Israel. The Israeli military response has resulted in many deaths and many more serious injuries among the protesters. The protests are continuing.

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Norway – The Colonial Power

Protest outside Norwegian parliament to mark support for reindeer herder, Jovsset Ánte Sara. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Imagine this. Close to a small lake, there is a little building. It has stood there for 120 years – ever since your ancestors, who lived off fishing and foraging, built it. Your grandmother brings you to this place to pass your people’s traditions on to you. You go there in order to preserve knowledge, language, and cultural practices that have been passed down through generations, and that are at risk of being lost. Then one day, the state decides that this little, but important, building is built illegally. They set it on fire, and you have to see it burn to the ground.

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Does hunger cause conflict?

One of the consequences of war is disrupted food provision. The connection between conflict and hunger is indisputable when we look at today’s locations of the major global hunger emergencies: Rakhine in Myanmar, the Kasai Region in DR Congo, north-eastern Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It is estimated that 80 percent of the World… Read more »

Climate and Security: Bridging the Policy-Academic Gap

In March, I argued that the connections between climate change and security are complex, contingent, and not fully understood.  Most of the academic literature has firmly focused on conflict onset with the broader security consequences largely understudied. For policy audiences, the nuance can be frustrating. It is difficult to know what to do with such… Read more »

This Week in South Sudan – Week 19

Monday 7 May The SPLM-IO faction led by Taban Deng Gai announced that it has officially joined the country’s ruling party SPLM, under the overall leadership of President Salva Kiir. President Salva Kiir accepted that Riek Machar could come to Juba under the protection of the Regional Protection Force. President Kiir did not accept however… Read more »

This Week in South Sudan – Week 18

Monday 30 April South African telecom operator MTN will expand its operations in South Sudan. There is a rising demand for mobile services, conceivably linked to the expulsion of Vivacell. Tuesday 1 May SPLM-IO has released the 10 aid workers abducted in Central Equatoria. A border dispute caused soldiers from the SPLA to halt a… Read more »

The Moscow–Washington Hotline Worked – This Time Around

In the war in Syria, the two globally most militarily active superpowers – Russia and the United States – have soldiers actively deployed on opposite sides on the same battlefield. This is the first time this has happened since the end of World War II, and it is a dangerous situation.

At the same time, we see that the Cold War “hotline” – a direct line of communication between Moscow and Washington – continues to function. This seems to have been vital during the Western military response, on 14 April, to the use of chemical weapons in Douma a week earlier, when Russia and the United States managed to prevent further escalation of conflict between them.

The ruins of the 2018 American-led bombing of Damascus and Homs. Photo: Tasnim News Agency / Wikimedia Commons

From a Norwegian vantage point this is important. The Syrian conflict is the greatest humanitarian catastrophe of our time. In itself, it is an extremely complex war involving a large number of parties, within Syria, from the region, and beyond. But a confrontation between Russia and the United States, given that each directly supports a different side in the conflict, could also have implications for Norway’s relationship with the superpowers and, in the final analysis, for Norway’s own security. Accordingly, it is good news for Norway that the mechanisms for preventing escalation continue to function.

There is little doubt that the missile strikes defied international law. None of the established justifications for a military attack on another country’s territory were in place. When the Norwegian government expresses its ‘understanding’ for the attack, without entering into further discussion of the international law implications to which one otherwise attaches such great importance, it is a reflection of a small state that feels increasingly vulnerable at the interface between a more aggressive Russia and a less predictable United States. Read More