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Faculty of Biology, Chemistry & Earth Sciences

Political Geography – Prof. Dr. Martin Doevenspeck

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Political geography as we understand it is the study of the spaces of politics and the political dimensions of spaces. Conflicts are cross-cutting topics in political geography, whether globalization, political ecology, identity issues or conflicts over resources.

In the broad field of conflict and peace studies outside geography, space is usually just a backdrop for conflicts which have goals, values and means as their subject. We, however, regard space as the subject of and also as an important means of approach to conflicts. In other words, borders, territories and territoriality are both subjects of conflicts and provide an analytical approach to conflicts.

Currently we are involved in investigating the way people handle risks in the context of both natural risks and armed conflicts; the local politics of conflicts over access to natural resources; the political ecology of mobility and immobility; and border spaces and the political geographies of climate change. In regional terms, our research focuses on West and Central Africa.

Current Projects

Oil movements: the production and government of petro-(im)mobilities in East AfricaHide

The discoveries of commercially viable hydrocarbons in East Africa, for which the development of strategic infrastructures in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are underway, squarely puts the region within the frames of transboundary petro-politics. East Africa’s oil industry does not only promise substantial economic development and energy security within the region, but also significant profits for the oil multinationals involved. The region is a striking example of how (im)mobilities framed around substances such as oil are integral to socio-political and socio-economic issues. We study the dynamics of oil movements to offers n an interdisciplinary understanding of how inter-state power relations are integral to the (im)mobility of people, ideas, practices and things. Over the last 10 years, the subject of hydrocarbons has attracted a series of empirical studies, particularly around oil policies of individual states, oil-linked tensions, popular aspirations and regional petro-politics. A crucial observation is that the political and economic future of East Africa is likely to be immensely influenced by the developing landscape of petro-capitalism, characterized by the ceaseless movement of petro-ideas, materialities, and practices. However, there continues to be a lack of research into how this landscape comes to bear on the region’s configurations of new patterns of mobilities. The inquiry into East African “oil-mobilities” promises to generate new empirical and theoretical insights that could help explain how strategic natural resources influence the production and government of patterns of (im)mobilities

Cluster of Excellence Exc 2052 - Africa Multiple: Reconfiguration African Studies

Moving towards Power? Mobilities within Political Mobilization in Uganda, Kenya and Eastern DRCHide

'Moving towards Power? Mobilities within Political Mobilization in Uganda, Kenya and Eastern DRC' Political mobilization is a key element of winning elections in our increasingly mobile world. Likewise, mobility is an important aspect of mobilization during elections. Currently however, there is only limited knowledge on how mobility really affects political mobilization and the results of elections. Likewise, the interplay of mobility, mobilization and power during processes of mobilization has received little attention. To answer the question of how mobility shapes political mobilization and through it power relations this project will examine the political mobilization of Motorcycle Taxi riders and other mobile groups in during elections in Uganda, Kenya and Eastern Congo.

Political Economy of Child Labour in Cobalt Artisanal Mining Zone of Kolwezi, DRCHide

The issue of child labour is present in the cobalt mining zones of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This PhD project aims at analysing the sources and mechanisms through which child labour occurs in an artisanal cobalt mining called Kolwezi, and the extent to which the political-economic dynamics affect the phenomenon of child labour. The case of Kolwezi is interesting, since that zone is known worldwide as the capital of cobalt—a strategic mineral for the transition towards the low-carbon economy. Cobalt mineral is required for the production of batteries for cell phones, computers, electric vehicles, etc. Since 2017, cobalt’s demand is increasing, with repercussions on labour in the artisanal extractive sector. This study mobilizes the agency theory and the political economy perspective on child work to properly address the linkages between the need for clean energy in western economies and the evolution of child labour in Kolwezi. For this purpose, the study will draw on qualitative and quantitative data collected from Kolwezi (South East of DRC).

Lebens- und Sozialwissenschaftliche Untersuchung neuartiger Pathogene auf Wildtiermärkten in Benin, WestafrikaHide

Completed projects

​Translations of urban regulation within the relation of Kigali (Rwanda) and SingaporeHide

The dissertation project uses the Master-Planning process of the City of Kigali to analyse a cooperative process of learning in urban regulation between actors located in the two highly specific urban contexts of Kigali and Singapore. This process entails diverse narrative framings and practices to model urban planning expertise – to render geographic imaginations transfer- and transformable – as well as concrete practices to make certain aspects of this knowledge work in legal frameworks, institutions and practices of Kigali's urban re-construction. The perspective of 'translocal learning' helps to focus on how relations of knowledge-transfer/-translation between different urban contexts are coordinated and performed through a range of institutions and actors. Furthermore it integrates an angle on how such a policy mobility process is transformed through recurring internal adjustments of different (trans-)local actors as well as changing institutional cooperations towards the implementation of a broad set of 'best-practice'-approaches in an urban administrative environment facing severe institutional and individual capacity gaps.

​​MICLE: Klimawandel, Umweltveränderungen und Migration am Beispiel der Sahelländer Mali und SenegalHide

Das interdisziplinäre Forschungsprojekt MICLE beschäftigt sich mit den Umweltwandel und Migration in Mali und Senegal. Politiker und Wissenschaftler bezeichnen den Klimawandel als eine der größten Bedrohungen für menschliche Entwicklung in Afrika und sagen massive Bevölkerungsbewegungen als Folge einer zunehmenden Zahl von Extremereignissen wie Dürren, von zunehmender Wasserknappheit, Abnahme der Nahrungsmittelproduktion und Verlust an Biodiversität voraus. Dabei ist das Konstrukt der „Umweltflucht“ aufgrund des ihm inhärenten Geodeterminismus, der konzeptionellen Unklarheiten und politischen Instrumentalisierungen höchst problematisch. Umweltveränderungen als Hauptursache für Migration zu identifizieren ist praktisch unmöglich. Daher beschäftigt sich das Forschungsprojekt mit den multiplen Ursachen von Migration im Sahel um die internen Logiken zu verstehen und Migrationsbewegungen theoretisch zu kontextualisieren.

The interdisciplinary resaerarch project MICLE focuses on the linkages between environmental change and migration in Mali and Senegal. Politicians and scientists increasingly emphasise climate change as one of the major threats to sustainable human livelihoods in Africa and predict massive population movements as a response to a growing number of extreme events such as droughts, increasing water scarcity, a detrimental decrease of food production, changing disease patterns and loss of biodiversity. However, the environmental refugee concept is highly problematic due to geodeterministic stereotyping, terminological ambiguity and political instrumentalisation. Identifying environmental change as the primary cause of these movements is extremely difficult. Therefore, the project faces the challenge to balance the multiple factors causing migration in order to understand its internal logics and contextualise it theoretically. Furthermore, it aims at providing a basis for the formulation of appropriate analyses enabling us to predict future migrations in an interdisciplinary approach bringing together political scientists, sociologists, demographers, geographers and natural scientists.

​The spatial dimensions of risk in the Congolese-Rwandan borderlandHide
  • Ansprechpartner: Prof. Dr. Martin Doevenspeck
  • Projektstart: 01.10.2006
  • Projektende: 31.05.2010
  • Partner: Pole Institute, Goma (DR Congo); Goma Volcanic Observatory (GVO), Kigali Idependent University, Gisenyi, Rwanda
  • Finanzierung: Centre of Natural Risk and Development (ZENEB), Institute of African Studies (IAS), University of Bayreuth

Surrounded by Nyamulagira and Nyiragongo, two of the worlds most dangerous volcanoes, Lake Kivu that contains huge quantities of explosive gases and exposed to the impacts of prolonged civil war the Rwandan-Congolese borderland seem to be an ‘impossible site’. The aim of this project is to understand the various ways in which people understand risk in a context of a everyday presence of an exceptional variety of direct and indirect life-threatening hazards, to check the relevance of in the Northern academic debate prevailing notions of risk for these emic understandings and to link them to some spatial dimensions of peoples’ navigating of this context. Its focus is on the objective accumulation of different types of dangers in a delimited material space and the ambiguous relationship between these tangible facts and the socially and spatially differentiated translations of dangers into risks as well as the spatial practices closely linked to theses processes of translation. Depending on emotions shaped by previous experiences and economically determined choices borderlanders perceive and thus spatially translate dangers differently.

​Translations of the ‘adaptation to climate change’ paradigm in Eastern AfricaHide

The project starts from the observation that society-environment relations in Africa are currently facing an intense re-shaping through a multitude of climate related programmes, conceptually developed at an international level, translated into projects and programmes at the national level and negotiated and appropriated ideologically, socially and economically at the local level. It takes the global concept of ‘Adaptation to Climate Change’ as a travelling idea that was initially designed by scientists in the North and is presently “travelling” to the South. The project is based on the following hypotheses:

(1) The ‘travelling’ of the global adaptation to climate change paradigm to Africa is an ambiguous and contested translation process in which the idea undergoes reinterpretation, modification and appropriation so that it matches experiences, needs and interests of stakeholders at multiple levels in Africa.

(2) Translation processes are structured by translation regimes that are constituted by a specific set of actors, networks of communication, institutional patterns of interaction, and knowledge resources.

(3) Translations and their social, technological and environmental materialisations will imply fundamental changes in the way people exploit, manage and conserve their environment and thus be accompanied by conflicts between different social groups with their respective interests.

The key question is twofold and asks on the one hand how actors in different translation regimes in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda are able to unfold their capacities of adaptation and creativity in the process of translation of the adaptation idea and on the other hand how the mobilisation and transformation of these capacities shape environmental governance and thus a re-ordering of state-society-environment relations in these countries.

​Water Management in Khartoum International Research Project (WAMAKHAIR)Hide

The objectives of the project are to (1) describe the system of water distribution in the metropolitan area of Khartoum, to (2) analyse differences in the access to water in terms of social and spatial differentiation, and to (3) interpret socio-spatial transformations of urban water management in relation to current changes. The project builds on the hypothesis that in this sense water flows can be seen as an expression of power and change in contemporary urban societies. The key question is how the present regulatory system reflects transformational processes within the urban society and its fragments, i.e. competition, differentiation and exclusion on the one hand, and cohesion and inclusion on the other. The second hypothesis of the project argues that these partly contradictory processes can be observed in spatial patterns and growing disparities. On this basis the project will focus on five case study areas that represent different forms of livelihood and settlement, i.e. an upper class area with high water consumption, a middle class neighbourhood with increasing water scarcity, a squatter settlement with highly vulnerable inhabitants, a peri-urban peasant settlement and an industrial area. The case studies will be compared with respect to the practice of water use, the local perception of and the discourse about water, the mechanisms of water distribution on different levels of the distributive system, and the strategies different social groups within the urban society develop to negotiate theirs needs and interests. The third hypothesis of the project puts the case of Khartoum into a larger context of interpretation. It argues that local processes reflect both the global influences of economic liberalization and legitimatory discourses on the basis of Islam.

​Border economy and politics: Small-scale trade and smuggling at the Congo/Rwanda state boundaryHide

The aim of this study is to analyze how the border economy in Goma (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Gisenyi (Rwanda) is shaped by small-scale cross border trade and smuggling and to understand what these activities tell us about state society relations and the legitimacy of the state.

​Migration und Integration in der bayerisch-tschechischen GrenzregionHide
  • Projektleiter: Prof. Dr. Martin Doevenspeck
  • Projektstart: 01.09.2017
  • Projektende: 31.08.2020
  • Finanzierung: Europäische Union

Das Projekt "Migration und Integration in der bayerischen-tschechischen Grenzregion: Analyse, Kooperations- und Lösungsstrategien" untersucht in Zusammenarbeit mit der Westböhmischen Universität Pilsen (Tschechische Republik) die Auswirkungen der Migration und versucht Vertreter von akademischen, staatlichen und nicht-staatlichen Institutionen beiderseits der bayerisch-tschechischen Grenze im Bereich Integration zu vernetzen. Ein besonderer Fokus liegt dabei auf dem grenzüberschreitenden Erfahrungsaustausch. Ziel des Projekts ist es, mittels verfügbaren Daten, eigenen Forschungen sowie Vortrags- und Workshopreihen konkrete Praxisempfehlungen zu formulieren.

​​Territory, Identity and politics in a frontier zone: the case of central BeninHide

Based on the interpretative framework of the "African frontier" of Igor Kopytoff, this research project refers to the debate on agricultural colonization, the meaning of territory and belonging in sub-Saharan Africa. Through a multi-sited ethnographic approach, we seek to scrutinize the inter-linkages between struggles over access to land and local politics in a frontier zone of central Benin.

​​Land, Identity and Power conflicts in the Bashali Chiefdom (Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo)Hide

​Violent conflicts in North-Kivu province in Eastern Congo have been mainly associated with struggles about mineral resources. Issues of land and local power and the ways the two involve ethnicity in conflict dynamics are often overlooked. The aim of this research project is to better understand the role of ethnicity for both access to land and political power. Actors networks as well as the complex institutional landscape in which they operate will be analysed to identify key drivers of the ongoing tensions.

Uhamaji wa wanyerwanda: migration and conflict in Ituri, DR CongoHide

Much of the ongoing violent conflict in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is related to both volunteer and forced migration of Kinyarwanda speakers in the past, and linked disputes of autochthony, identity and access to land. In the course of one of the most recent population movements in the region, the massive, but until now non-documented migration of Hutu peasants from North Kivu to Ituri, one can already observe the development of similar conflict lines. By empirically analysing the migration of Hutu to, and their settlement in, Ituri, as well as the rumours and stereotypes travelling with this population movement, this research project will conceptualize the Banyarwanda movement, the migration of Kinyarwanda speakers, as a ‘travelling idea’ which connects and reconnects various actors along its trajectory and results in a variety of informal conflictual institutions and assemblages which can both trigger and solve conflict. The dissemination of the idea of Uhamaji wa wanyerwanda is not a linear transplantation from A to B. Instead, emphasis should be given to co-production and practices seeking to deliberately frame this migration pattern in strategic ways to serve certain political and economic purposes.

​Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS)Hide

Martin Doevenspeck is vice dean of the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS). BIGSAS is now in the second phase funded by the German Research Foundation as part of the Excellence Initiative since 2007. In the focus of this unique structure of creative and innovative training are approximately 100 Junior Fellows from 27 African, American, Asian and European countries. The PhD students benefit from a clearly structured, academic and career-oriented training as well as a genuine expertise in the African studies which has increased continuously since the foundation of the University of Bayreuth. The international network with Partner Universities on the African continent creates even more so excellent conditions for the research of our Junior Fellows.

Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (uni-bayreuth.de)

Migration control, forced immobility and violent mobilization in the border triangle of Burkina Faso, Benin and NigerHide

The externalized European ‘migration management’ in West Africa has technologically modernised and militarized border posts threatening visa-free travel, freedom of settlement and borderland economies in parts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). At the same time, one can observe intensified and asymmetrical violent conflict in some of these borderlands. In this project we aim to understand to what extent forced immobility relates to violent mobilization and constitutes an unexpected result of European migration control on the African continent. In an interdisciplinary team we aim to conduct a multi-sited ethnography at the border triangle of Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger studying the various practices and ramifications of movement and stasis and their relations. We study migration control, forced immobility and violent mobilization as a paradigmatic case of multiplicity that will allow us to understand some consequences of how Europe is situated in Africa and, in turn, of how Africa and Africans are situated in the world.

Migration control, forced immobility and violent mobilization in the border triangle of Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger (uni-bayreuth.de)

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