2017 May Reviews


Kate Swanson and Rebecca Maria Torres. 2016. Child Migration and Transnationalized Violence in Central and North AmericaJournal of Latin American Geography. Vol. 15 Issue 3.

All of us have heard numerous news reports about the plight of Central American unaccompanied children attempting to cross the southern US border and held in the detention centers by immigration authorities. This article taps into a sensitive and poignant issue of children fleeing deadly violence at home, who encounter violence on their way and are treated as aliens abroad. It provides an especially vivid perspective on the issue given the extensive authors’ first-hand experience of work with migrant children. Children’s testimonies are full of heartbreaking details that illustrate their perceptions of risk and danger. Probably the most valuable piece of evidence Swanson and Torres present are the drawings by the migrant children depicting their journey. We highly recommend reading this article in order to go beyond the usually dehumanized news reports.

Abstract: In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of unaccompanied migrant children attempting to enter the United States. In 2014, total numbers peaked at 68,000 apprehensions, mostly from Central America and Mexico. Since then, rising immigration enforcement strategies within Mexico have decreased the ability of unaccompanied migrant youth to reach the US border. However, underlying factors driving child migration have not changed. Children continue to flee high levels of violence, particularly from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, which are currently among the most violent nations in the world. Yet, violence does not end for youth once they leave the borders of their countries; as youth ride buses, trains, boats and trucks north, they continue to encounter it along every step of the way. Due to increasing militarization and punitive immigration policies in the United States, migrant children contend with further violence when they cross the US/Mexico border. In this paper, we examine how varied nuanced manifestations of violence shape migrant children's lives and experiences. While youth may be able to escape immediate and corporeal violence, we explain how different forms of violence influence not only their decisions to leave, but also their journeys and encounters with Mexican and US immigration policies. We argue for a more spatially expansive understanding of violence that considers how state policies and practices extend far beyond national borders to negatively affect migrant children's lives.

Keywords: Children, Unaccompanied, Migration, Latin America, Violence, United States, Border

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/lag.2016.0029

Kai M. Thaler. 2017. Nicaragua: A Return to CaudillismoJournal of Democracy. Vol. 28 Issue 2.

Nicaragua presents a curious case where a leftist guerrilla leader has transformed into an authoritarian caudillo. How did Daniel Ortega, who led the socialist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) against a brutal dictatorship and later, as a president, implemented leftist reforms across Nicaragua, become turned to strongman rule eroding the modest democratic achievements in the country? Kai Thaler provides a very detailed account of the Ortega’s strategies and the surrounding economic context that have characterized his rule. In the conclusion, he is pessimistic about the prospects of democratization in Nicaragua. The article will be useful not only to those interested in the Nicaraguan politics, but to anyone studying the contemporary autocratic regimes in where the elections are hold as a façade.

Abstract: Nicaragua’s 2016 elections saw President Daniel Ortega win a third consecutive term, and his wife, Rosario Murillo, become Vice President, in the face of an opposition abstention campaign. Since winning the presidency in 2007, Ortega has consolidated control over Nicaragua’s institutions and economy while rejecting his revolutionary roots, stifling opposition parties and civil society, and enriching his family and associates. Ortega’s move from electoral victory to caudillo-style strongman rule offers a Latin American parallel to contemporary autocratic transitions in cases like Russia, Turkey, and Hungary. Absent a crisis, Nicaraguans face an uphill battle to restore democracy and avert a new family dynasty.

Keywords: Democratization; Caudillo; Authoritarian regime; Nicaragua; Daniel Ortega; Elections

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/jod.2017.0032

Mark Roberts, Brian Blankespoor, Chandan Deuskar, and Benjamin P. Stewart. 2017. Urbanization and Development: Is Latin America and the Caribbean Different from the Rest of the World? World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 8019.

When it comes to urbanization, Latin American and Caribbean countries appear to defy the norms. As Roberts et al. (2017) describe in a recent World Bank Policy Research working paper, Latin American cities display over-urbanization with respect to levels of development, while their Caribbean counterparts exhibit the opposite trend. While some suggest that these aberrant patterns of urbanization and development mark a failure of Latin American and Caribbean cities to realize their full potential, Roberts et al. explore the possibility that the over- and under-urbanization effects reflects a bias in the data. Can the concept of Latin American “over-urbanization” be revealed to be an “urban myth”?

Abstract: Two long-established stylized facts in the urban and development economics literatures are that: (a) a country's level of economic development is strongly positively correlated with its level of urbanization; and (b) a country's level of urbanization is strongly negatively correlated with the size of its agricultural sector. However, countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region appear to depart significantly from the rest of the world in these two basic relationships. Although Latin American countries appear to be significantly more urbanized than predicted based on these global relationships, Caribbean countries appear significantly less urbanized. However, analyses involving cross-country comparisons of urbanization levels are undermined by systematic measurement errors arising from differences in how countries define their urban areas. This paper reexamines whether Latin America and Caribbean countries differ from the rest of the world in the basic stylized facts of urbanization, development, and structural transformation. The analysis makes use of two alternative methodologies for the consistent definition of urban areas across countries: the Agglomeration Index methodology and a methodology based on the identification of dense spatially contiguous clusters of population. Both methodologies rely on globally gridded population data sets as input. There exist several such data sets, and so the paper also assesses the robustness of the findings to the choice of input population layer.

Keywords: City to City Alliances; Regional Urban Development; Economic Growth; Urban Economics; Urban Economic Development; Urban Communities; Economic Theory & Research, National Urban Development Policies & Strategies; Industrial Economics

Link: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2948486

Dave A. Louis, Keisha V. Thompson, Patriann Smith, Hakim Mohandas, Amani Williams, and Juann Watson. 2017. Afro-Caribbean Immigrant Faculty Experiences in the American Academy: Voices of an Invisible Black PopulationThe Urban Review.

Louis et al.’s (2017) account of the Afro-Caribbean faculty experience in the U.S. begins at the beginning, acclimating the reader to the history of Caribbean immigration starting in the mid-nineteenth century. After a review of policy developments that have helped, if slowly, to address the problematic “White space” that has traditionally consumed American higher education, the authors describe the challenges Afro-Caribbean faculty continue to endure. The remainder of the article presents a synthesis of five accounts of Afro-Caribbean professors’ experiences in the Ivory tower, marked with “strained and contentious relationships with White faculty peers and White students.” Read their article and consider, where do we go from here?

Abstract: Afro-Caribbean immigrants have been an integral part of the history and shaping of the United States since the early 1900s. This current study explores the experiences of five Afro-Caribbean faculty members at traditionally White institutions of higher education. Despite the historical presence and influence of Afro- Caribbean communities and the efforts within education systems to address the needs of Afro-Caribbean constituents, Afro-Caribbean faculty members continue to be rendered indiscernible in higher education and to be frequently and erroneously perceived as African–Americans. The study examines the lived experiences of these individuals in the hegemonic White spaces they occupy at their institutions with both White and Black populations. Through their narratives, issues of stereotyping, microaggression, and isolation are addressed. The participants also offer solutions to address these issues by university administrators, department heads, faculty development professionals, diversity officers, policy makers, and other stakeholders. The voices in this study shed light on an overlooked, misunderstood, and under- researched population within our faculty ranks in the American Academy.

Keywords: Afro-Caribbean; Black Faculty; Microaggression; Caribbean Immigrants

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11256-017-0414-0

Patrick Clark. 2017. Neo-Developmentalism and a “Vía Campesina” for Rural Development: Unreconciled Projects in Ecuador's Citizen's RevolutionJournal of Agrarian Change. Vol. 15 Issue 2.

On paper it seems that the Correa government in Ecuador has one of the strongest policy frameworks for food sovereignty in the region. Yet as Patrick Clark contends, the neo-developmentalism of Correa’s administration is largely not compatible with a food sovereignty / via campesina model of rural development. A decline in the power and influence of rural social movements created this “disjuncture between policy and practice,” Clark argues, which he ties to the post-neoliberal “return of the state.” He notes how Ecuador came to embrace the concept of food sovereignty, a process which he interestingly links to an “epistemic community of NGOs and social movement leaders.” These “political origins” are important for understanding the food sovereignty movement’s diminished fortunes since 2008, posits Clark, and in his mind they help explain why food sovereignty became “an empty signifier for state-led development.” Ultimately, this article offers some important reflections on the concept of food sovereignty and development.

Abstract: From the outside, it appears that the government of President Rafael Correa in Ecuador has put in place a legal and policy framework for a vía campesina model of rural development, inspired by food sovereignty and buen vivir. Recent studies have, however, concluded that a considerable disjuncture exists between this framework and the actual agricultural policies and programmes implemented by the government. In this paper, I provide a broad overview of the agricultural and rural development policies under the Correa government and analyse some of the causes of the gap between the policy framework and policy implementation. I argue that Ecuador under Correa speaks to the difficulties of reconciling a vía campesina approach to rural development with a neo-developmental economic model. I focus on several issues in particular in order to explain the disjuncture: how the growth of “vía campesina” proposals and political discourse in Ecuador since the 1980s coincided with significant processes of agrarian change; the transformation of rural social movement federations from a sociopolitical force into a political/electoral force and the subsequent decline of these movements; and the deepening integration of small-scale producers into domestic agribusiness commodity chains and the growth of national agribusiness firms during the Correa government.

Keywords: Ecuador; Food Sovereignty; Peasant Essentialism; Rural Social Movements; the State

DOI:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/joac.12203

Marie Meudec. 2017. Ordinary Ethics of Spiritual Work and Healing in St. Lucia, or Why Not to Use the Term ObeahSmall Axe. Vol. 21 Issue 1.

What does the term Obeah signify? In this article, Marie Meudec problematizes researchers’ use of the term, suggesting that the word is malleable. As she highlights, Obeah is often associated with witchcraft, sorcery, and evil, yet practitioners consider ethics to be deeply associated with it (though practitioners don’t tend to actualize use the language of Obeah). From this latter perspective, Meudec suggests, “‘obeah’ becomes a place for ethical thought.” As such, she suggests that Obeah be defined not by its practices, but that it should be understood as a “moral burden” instead.

Abstract: The purpose of this essay is to understand the language of spiritual work and healing in St. Lucia as well as the moral impregnation of the term obeah. This ethnographic study of ordinary ethics of obeah explores the significant gap between the designation and auto-legitimation of healers and spiritual workers. Because, in most cases, the term is not used by practitioners to identify their spiritual and healing practice, the author proposes to relocate the definition of obeah from its specific practices to its moral burden. This approach helps reevaluate the use of obeah in social science writings related to the St. Lucian context. Social scientists must be very attentive to not contribute to the othering of healing and spiritual practices and to consider their involvement in its construction.

Keywords: Spiritual Work; Ordinary Ethics; Othering; Self-Identification

DOI:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/07990537-3844034