New Article: Pluriversality and beyond: consolidating radical alternatives to (mal-)development as a Commonist project

University of Helsinki Global Development Studies Professor Barry Gills and University of Newcastle’s Dr. S. A. Hamed Hosseini published a new article entitled “Pluriversality and beyond: consolidating radical alternatives to (mal-)development as a Commonist project” in Sustainability Science Journal. The article is open access and available here.

This article addresses contradictions in the ‘pluriverse’ of radical alternatives to maldevelopment, and proposes a an integrative framework for fostering productive convergences among its forces. It argues that the 2020s and 2030s will be pivotal decades, in which the current global conjuncture, characterized by intensifying economic turmoil, climate change, and ecological crises, will translate into increased mass discontent, global polarization, political instabilities, and social unrest across the world. However, there is no reason to believe that this intensification of crises will automatically result in the end of unproductive divisions among the global left. Thus, we argue that a higher level of proactivism, at a meta-ideological standing, which we refer to here as the ‘Commonist Project’, is both necessary and possible. The article proposes a fourfold framework of how to promote sustainable convergences and solidarities, going beyond temporary pragmatic coalitions and alliances. This proposal draws on the idea of ‘commoning transformative knowledge’, realized through creating new transversal integrative assemblages of alternative-futures-making initiatives. In the end, the argument is empirically supported by drawing on the authors’ critical reflections on their own cross-organizational experiences of fostering dialogic and praxis-based methodologies across various groups and forces pursuing post-capitalist alternatives through the People’s Sovereignty Network.

New Article: Water and power, water’s power: State-making and socionature shaping volatile rivers and riverine people in Mexico

Global Development Studies Professor Anja Nygren has published a new article in World Development entitled “Water and power, water’s power: State-making and socionature shaping volatile rivers and riverine people in Mexico”. The article is open access and can be read here.

Water-related disasters have become more unpredictable amidst human-induced climatic and hydroecological changes, with profound effects on people inhabiting fragile river basins. In this article, I analyse drastic waterscape transformations and people’s differentiated exposure to water-related vulnerabilities in the Grijalva River lower basin, southeastern Mexico, focusing on how state authority is reinforced through waterscape alterations and how altered waterscapes shape state-making and scalar politics. Examining interlinkages between 1) state-making and governance; 2) resource-making and politics of scale; and 3) hazard-making and the dynamics of socionature, the article contributes to scholarly and development practice discussions on environmental vulnerability. I argue that the goals of consolidating state power and promoting development through massive waterscape changes and resource extractions have provoked hazards that are difficult to control, resulting in differentiated distribution of environmental benefits and burdens. Drawing on archival research, documentary analysis, thematic interviews, and ethnographic fieldwork, the study illustrates the overlapping and cumulative effects of state-making, politics of scale, and the dynamics of socionature on socially differentiated vulnerability. Although the forms of governance shift over time, statecraft as a mode of consolidating state authority and controlling lower-basin environments and residents persists. The government prevents social mobilisation through political persuasion and pressure, and disciplines residents to adapt to altered waterscapes, while allowing few changes in prevalent power structures. Simultaneously, the study demonstrates that water cannot be controlled by political rules and requisites, while local residents reinterpret dominant ways of governing through claim-making, negotiation, everyday resistance, and situational improvisation, albeit within unequal power relations. The study enhances understanding of water-related vulnerabilities resulting from recurrent, yet temporally remoulded agendas of state-making combined with socially differentiating politics of scaling and the dynamics of socionature, which altogether reformulate human-nonhuman interactions and make local smallholders and
peri-urban poor increasingly vulnerable to floods.

New Article: Urban Neighbourhood Forums in Ankara as a Commoning Practice

University Researcher Özlem Çelik has published a new article in Antipode entitled “Urban Neighbourhood Forums in Ankara as a Commoning Practice”. It is open access and can be found here.

The neighbourhood forums in Ankara began to convene during the Gezi protests in 2013 and lasted about three years. The activities of Ankara Gezi forums are urban commoning practices in terms of a new set of demands and methods. This paper conceptualises urban commoning practices as method, content, and demand. This framework offers an understanding of urban commoning that is not based on monetary transaction, but focuses on seeing commoning as a social process. Commoning is not ahistorical, rather it is engaged with the historical political potential of urban spaces. Commoning as method discusses organising in commons, commoning as content focuses on the form and meaning of political action, and commoning as demand emphasises the discursive use of right to the city. The case selection of this research enables us to reflect on how urban commoning is experienced in a city under less financial investment pressure, but at the centre of national-level politics.

Editorial: COVID-19, Inequality, and Social Stratification in Africa

Associate Professor Franklin Obeng-Odoom has published a new editorial in the African Review of Economics and Finance entitled “COVID-19, Inequality, and Social Stratification in Africa”. The article is open access and can be found here.


The global health emergency reflects systemic global inequalities central to which is social stratification in Africa. While existing analyses frame Africa as needy of global ‘help’, this editorial argues that whether in terms of the economics of inequality, pandemics, or recovery, Africa can teach the rest of the world key lessons.

New Article: Afro-Chinese Labour Migration

Associate Professor Franklin Obeng-Odoom has published a new article in the Forum for Social Economics entitled “Afro-Chinese Labour Migration”. It can be found here.

Labour migration is, perhaps, the most widely discussed economic issue today. Yet, its underpinning theory and its empirical tests have remained largely Western-centric. In turn, the causes, effects, and policy options for the substantial, but widely neglected, Afro-Chinese labour migration, are poorly understood. By systematising existing data, this article shows that Afro-Chinese labour migration experience is far more complex than what neoclassical economics suggests. Driven, or, at least moulded, not so much by the migrant as a rational utility-maximising individual but by holistic processes of ‘circular, combined and cumulation causation’, Afro-Chinese migration, and Afro-Chinese relations, more generally, have contributed to economic growth, but at the cost of much socio-spatial displacement, and socio-ecological degradation. Added to these social costs is widespread labour exploitation. So, the insidious attempts by the state, business enterprise, corporate finance, and capital to consider migration as a ‘spatial fix’ for economic growth are questionable. Seeking to wall out migrants, embarking on widespread surveillance, pursuing migrant scape-goating, and framing migration as a Malthusian problem are, however, not a panacea. The social costs of migration need to be directly redressed, among others, by redesigning the institutions that shape the conditions of labour. Doing so would require leaving behind neoclassical economics theories of migration and exposing their vested interests. Social economics theories and theorising that more comprehensively address the labour migration problematique and strongly emphasise the coupling of migration, economic, and social policy can usefully be considered as alternatives.

Editorial: Global Climate Emergency: after COP24, climate science, urgency, and the threat to humanity

Development Studies Professor Barry Gills and Leeds Beckett University Sociology Professor Jamie Morgan have published an urgent editorial about the global climate crisis in the journal Globalizations.

The abstract is below, and the full article is free to read, here:

Global Climate Emergency: after COP24, climate science, urgency, and the threat to humanity

by Barry Gills & Jamie Morgan

This Special Editorial on the Climate Emergency makes the case that although we are living in the time of Global Climate Emergency we are not yet acting as if we are in an imminent crisis. The authors review key aspects of the institutional response and climate science over the past several decades and the role of the economic system in perpetuating inertia on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Humanity is now the primary influence on the planet, and events in and around COP24 are the latest reminder that we live in a pathological system. A political economy has rendered the UNFCCC process as yet a successful failure. Fundamental change is urgently required. The conclusions contain recommendations and a call to action now.

Press Release: Fight­ing for biod­iversity loss in Mad­a­gas­car re­quires greater col­lab­or­a­tion between re­search­ers and man­agers

Development Studies Lecturer Aili Pyhälä has been working as part of a multidisciplinary team of scientists from the University of Helsinki to help fight biodiversity loss in Madagascar National Parks by working with park managers and studying their perceptions of how to best handle protected areas. Dr Pyhälä is also a lead author of the resulting article based on their findings. Check out the press release below for more information, and the link to the open access article!

Fight­ing for biod­iversity loss in Mad­a­gas­car re­quires greater col­lab­or­a­tion between re­search­ers and man­agers

Pyhälä, A., Eklund, J., McBride, M. F., Rakotoarijaona, M. A., and Cabeza M. 2018. Managers’ perceptions of protected area outcomes in Madagascar highlight the need for species monitoring and knowledge transfer. Conservation Science and Practice. In press. doi: 10.1002/csp2.6.