Land & Sovereignty in the News

In the comments section (click title to get to comments), post a link to two news articles that relates to your particular research topic. Write a few sentences highlighting what you think is most interesting or relevant about each article. Please comment on at least two of your group members’ articles as well.

Your post is due by Wednesday, February 25, at 1pm, and your replies are due by the following week.

10 thoughts on “Land & Sovereignty in the News”

  1. Eyewitnesses Describe Nairobi’s School Teargassing and Africa’s Growing Land Grab Problem by Lara Whyte

    This story was what initially peaked my interest in the conflict over land in Kenya. This article is relevant because it is a shocking incident that caused an international outcry on social media. We have yet to see whether this incident will become a catalyst to take land rights from an emerging social movement to a more coalesced movement.

    Nairobi’s Booming Real Estate Market by Katrina Manson

    I picked this article because it discusses how astronomically real estate prices have risen in Nairobi, Kenya. The prices are important because they impact access to land by indigenous Kenyans. This article particularly highlights this issue because it follows a couple buying a home who are half Kenyan and half British.

    1. Wow, the Vice article was very shocking and depressing. To see children ages six to thirteen getting attacked by police – through methods like tear gas – was not pleasant. However, it was inspiring to read about local activists such as Boniface Mwangi (the NY Times did a neat video on him, entitled “An African’s Message for America”) who are demanding answers for land grabbing, and attempting to organize this movement.
      I also found the second article pretty depressing because it was all about Nairobi’s “booming” real-estate, and featured a couple who are caught up in purchasing their dream home, and failing to recognize how they are contributing indirectly to those who participate in land grabbing (by means of exploiting/manipulating local communities) . The “Buying Guide” was also unfortunate to read about because of the outlandish prices: the fact that two-thirds of Nairobi residents live in slums, while an ambassador is housed in a 5 million dollar home – complete with a pool and bar – should surely spark some debate over social inequalities as a result of globalization.
      Very interesting topic, overall! Looking forward to reading more.

      1. I found both articles quite interesting in the global problem that they represent. Land-grabbing and skyrocketing real estate prices are linked issues that continue to manifest themselves here in the United States and almost every other country in the world, no matter what the level of development is. It is almost universally the poor people that lack means who end up hurting from this, and I think that examining this problem in the context of Kenya will make for an excellent project.
        I have looked into land issues in Afghanistan in the past and seen some similarities in the problems faced. In rural Afghanistan profitable land has been seized by local power holders who have the ability to employ means of violence and who are linked to members of the government. The are able to operate with impunity and often use coercion in a similar way to the Kenyan police. They fail to mess with people who have the means to oppose them and pray on the poor and unconnected. In the Afghan capital, Kabul, the post 2001 era saw an astronomical rise in property values, especially in neighborhoods favored by expatriate. It drove many Afghans into poorer neighborhoods and created a rich pocket within Kabul that was vastly different from the rest of the city. With the mission in Afghanistan winding down, many fear the collapse of this property bubble. I thought this is somewhat like the Nairobi case.


    “As Indonesia Threatens West Papuan Freedom Flotilla, Benny Wenda on Struggle for Independence” is a 30 minute interview between Democracy Now! and West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda and Jennifer Robinson, co-founder of International Lawyers for West Papua. This interview gave me a great overview of the how the conflict arose, escalated, and continues to persist in our globalized world. Most surprising to me, however, was the extensive role the U.S. continues to play in this conflict through its exploitation of resources. The U.S. corporation Freeport Gold Mine is located in West Papua, and is the largest gold and copper mine in the world. Yet, the West Papuan people do not reap any of the immense wealth created from the extraction of their natural resources. Additionally, President Obama holds personal ties to Indonesian-West Papuan relations: his step-father was in the Indonesian military during what some call the genocide of West Papuans, which Obama discusses in his autobiography.

    Published on the Free West Papua website, this press release is recent (February 3rd, 2015) and explains how three main West Papua resistance groups have formed together, called United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), and subsequently submitted their application for membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) in Vanuatu in an effort to increase solidarity. Most interesting to me, however, was a quote from ULMWP Secretary General Octovanius Mote: “Just as missionaries brought the light, so too we hope the MSG will assist us in finding the light that leads us to independence one day.” To me, it revealed the lingering impacts of colonialism (proselytization), and opened up a new area to research: the role of western religion on indigenous spirituality in West Papua.

    1. Hey Tabatha,

      Your topic is really interesting and one that I knew nothing about! The interview you posted with Benny Wenda is really powerful. I can’t wait to read more of your research because this case is particular interesting given the US’s “pivot towards Asia” and with President Obama’s own background in Indonesia.

      I really think that the question of religion in the second article is a fascinating one. I think it’s really interesting that what began as a colonizing force (Dutch missionaries) is now being utilized as a way to rally public support around an issue. I feel like we have seen this pattern in a lot of countries and particularly for a globalization and culture class its hugely relevant.

      I’m also curious about if there is much of a dynamic of stressing the Christianity of West Papua to strengthen the case for independence from Muslim Indonesia. I was really struck by the comment made in the second article about the changing demographics of this region and it seems like stressing their increasing minority status as well as their marked cultural differences is an effective way to petition for international support for independence.

    2. These two articles represent an excellent cases of two of the most enduring aspects of colonialism; the involuntary placing of disparate groups within the same state borders, oftentimes at the expense of one or more groups who want greater autonomy, and the effect of colonial cultural ideas on native ideas. In terms of the independence problem, I had never heard of the West Papuan struggle though I have heard of cases of this from Nigeria to Pakistan. It seems that foreign corporations often find a way into this mix, preying on the fact that certain people are not afforded the same protections as others by the government for profit. The syncretic mixture of native beliefs with colonial influences has an equally powerful effect on societies. I have heard of this mostly in the context of Christianity and African native beliefs, and it is a fascinating issue. I look forward to hearing more about your research, especially as I do not know much about Indonesia.

  3. What is Gentrification?

    This article gives a good explanation of gentrification. It includes both a definition of what it is and then, how it happens and then its consequences. I thought the break down made it easy to understand and highlighting how neighborhoods that are gentrified are “victims of their own success” rings true.

    Gentrification is a Myth

    I thought this article was interesting for its obvious deceleration that gentrification is not what we think. More so, the research behind it that “suggests that blacks often benefit from gentrification.” And that it isn’t just whites moving in and taking over that is the cause. Overall, I found it made interesting points that opposed the general views that gentrification is negative.

    1. I found both articles to be quite interesting. I have witnessed and read a lot about gentrification a lot since I moved to the DC area, whether it is through peers, professors, or volunteering in DC neighborhoods that are facing ‘gentrification’.
      The first article highlighted my previous knowledge: gentrification is used to explain the displacement of poor communities by rich outsiders. However, the Slate article rejected this notion. Some quotes that stood out for me: “the problem isn’t so much that gentrification hurts black neighborhoods; it’s that it too often bypasses them…Gentrification isn’t the cause of these cities’ affordable housing problem. It’s a symptom.”
      Thus, I realize that I still have a lot to learn about gentrification, and am looking forward to seeing where you take your research proposal!

  4. “Afghan Government, Taliban Clash On Peace Talks ‘Rumors’”

    This article is significant in that it illustrates how an insurgent group, the Afghan Taliban, are able to seemingly operate in parallel to the Afghan state at the international level. Despite only recently losing their classification as a terrorist, radical Islamist organization with links to Al-Qaeda, they are able to meet with foreign countries in an independent capacity, convey their own version of events to media outlets, and exercise the power to negotiate and govern. This reflects the greater voice that insurgent groups have gained in the Era of Globalization, with an increasingly ability to prepare their own narratives and interact with mainstream organizations, removing them from the fringes of politics. There is also a brief mention of how ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) members have infiltrated Afghanistan and gained a limited following thanks to the disorder of the country, infringing on the dominance of the Taliban in the area. This reflects new levels of interaction between somewhat ideologically similar insurgent groups which are otherwise separated by massive distances, another reaction to our globalized world.

    “How ISIS conquered social media”

    The article brings up numerous interesting points about the interaction between ISIS and elements of global multimedia. It describes how ISIS is using highly visible social media platforms, app markets, advanced media production software, and the ability to reach global audiences through the web in order to promote their organizational and ideological goals including recruitment, fundraising, and the dispersion of propaganda. The production value, employment of multiple languages, and scope of these media operations are unprecedented in the history of insurgency. We are seeing a new type of phenomenon unfold in this article, and it is one that will have resounding effects on the narrative of groups which previously relied on outside media to reach others, especially in foreign countries. Now they have free reign to define and proliferate their message, ushering in a new era of insurgency.

    1. Hey Mason,

      While both of these articles are really interesting, their connection to each other was not immediately apparent to me. What is your research question? You clearly have a bunch of interesting information to work to within the range of these two articles and I definitely am curious to see what exactly your focus is going to be. I guess my only word of caution might be that you seem like you are comparing apples and oranges (which may be the point, this is me speculating without knowing your research question). The Afghan Taliban were in control of a territorial nation state and have only (to my knowledge) ever professed regional aspirations. This is obviously in sharp contrast to IS which has publicly asserted its wish for a much larger caliphate and is creating conflict across many more national boundaries.

Leave a Reply