Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Justice for Shayan Mazroei

On 7 September 2015 Craig Tanber, a member of a white supremacist prison gang who had recently been released after serving six years for an earlier homicide,  murdered Shayan Mazroei outside Patsy's Irish Pub in Laguna Niguel, California. Mazroei was an engineering student at Saddleback College in nearby Mission Viejo. It is quite clear from the evidence of eyewitnesses that Craig Tanber and his girlfriend Elizabeth Thornburg who assisted Tanber in escaping the scene of the crime are guilty of a hate crime. They clearly state that the perpetrators hurled racial insults at the victim before killing him. Yet, the Orange County District Attorney refuses to press hate crimes charges against Tanber or to charge Thornburg with being an accessory to the crime. Indeed she has not yet even been arrested. It is beyond my comprehension why these two individuals who were guilty of killing another man six years ago were not in prison on the night of Mazroei's murder. OC used to be run by law and order conservatives that were tough on crime.

I never met Shayan Mazroei, but this story has a personal connection to me by virute of geography. I used to drink and eat quite frequently at Patsy's Irish Pub where he was murdered. I am also familiar with Saddleback College where he was a student. I took Spanish and a library course there. At one time I worked there. It is amazing to me that one can murder multiple people in Orange County and still not be permanently removed from society. Currently they are not even talking about life for Tanber who has now killed two people. In the old days when conservatives ran OC the DA would be seeking the death penalty for scum like Tanber. But, those days are over and the current DA's office in Orange County is proving itself to be extremely weak on punishing Tanber and his girlfriend despite the fact that they are recividist violent criminals. Not only does Shayan Mazroei and his family deserve better, but the people of Orange County deserve better.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What is the Historical Role of German Diasporas in Africa and Asia?

The role of German diasporas in Africa and Asia even more so than Central Asia where many of them ended up is largely absent from the Afro-Asian discourse. This is despite the fact that starting in the 19th century large numbers of Germans moved to Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Central Asia in Asia. This was the subject of the panel I put together for the Africa-Asia: A New Axis of Knowledge conference. Despite the fact that the German diasporas in Soviet Asia at one time reached over two million people it does not seem to have any place in Afro-Asian discourse. A similar neglect can be observed regarding the German diasporas in Africa, primarily Namibia where some 30,000 still live. Our panel was the only one dealing with German diasporas in Asia or Africa at the conference and it got very little attention. Yet, the large size, strong ethnic identification, length of settlement, and economic contributions makes these among the most important German diasporas in the world. It also makes them important contributors to the history of Siberia, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and Namibia. Despite these facts attempts to integrate the study of the history of these German communities into a greater Afro-Asian scholarly discourse remains extremely limited. While currently there are many scholars in Africa that study China or India there are very few that study Central Asia. Outside my office the number who study ethnic Germans in the USSR is to my knowledge exactly zero. The subject is an important one that deserves its own academic conference. But, it is also one that has not managed to generate much interest due to institutional marginalization of the topic. However, if anybody would be interested in such a conference let me know.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Place of Central Asia in Afro-Asian Discourse?

One thing I noticed at the conference Africa-Asia: A New Axis of Knowledge is that scholars of those parts of Asia that were part of the USSR are still marginalized in Asian studies. At this major conference on all of Asia and Africa the only area less represented than Central Asia was the Middle East and North Africa. The lack of representation by Central Asia is more worrisome than that of the Middle East and North Africa because this latter area has its own scholarly organizations that have proven themselves able to engage in politically independent research. The same is not true for Central Asia. Those organizations devoted only to Central Asia are far too parochial and subject to influence by Central Asian governments and elites. There are after all only five Central Asian states and US and UK scholars are unduly deferential to the regimes in Bishkek, Astana, and even Tashkent compared to people studying other regions of the world. Even if the Caucasus are included the world view of such organizations is still rather limited. Which is one major problem. There is a reason why Asian studies exists. Would one study Vietnam solely in the context of Indochinese studies organizations and closely ally western scholarship with the viewpoint of Hanoi? But, for the most part Central Asia is included in the study of Eurasia which continues to suffer from an excessive Russocentric and Soviet mentality. Intellectual decolonization requires that the study of the region be placed among other post-colonial states not with the former ruling power. After all Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia are included in Asian studies not French studies. The argument that Russian and Soviet influence in Central Asia was greater than French influence in Vietnam is not an excuse for keeping Central Asia out of Asian studies and confined to a Soviet ghetto. In fact it is an argument for the opposite. British influence and French influence in West Africa is as great as Russian and Soviet influence in Central Asia. In fact in some ways it is greater. But, that is viewed as all the more reason to promote the study of places like Ghana and Nigeria in the context of Africa, not the UK and the white Commonwealth states. The negative influence of Soviet rule like that of colonialism needs to be countered in scholarship not reinforced like it is currently. Based upon their performance at this last conference in Ghana, Asian studies organizations like IIAS (International Institute for Asian Studies) and ICAS (International Convention of Asian Scholars) could do an awful lot more to incorporate and encourage the inclusion of scholarship on Central Asia within the context of scholarship on Asia. Currently the entire discourse of Africa-Asia excludes the former Soviet states leaving a huge lacuna in the scholarly map of Asia.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Africa-Asia: A New Axis of Knowledge Conference now over

The three days of the Africa-Asia: A New Axis of Knowledge conference was well worth attending. The food was great and the band on Friday night was out of this world. Some of the academic panels were pretty good too. I learned a lot about the Sindhi diaspora in Africa, the relationship between Indian and African film, and the Indian Ocean slave trade. As is obvious from above, India was well represented at the conference due to its large size, population, and political influence. However, the dominant theme of the conference seemed to be Chinese-African relations. So much so that it seemed that often speakers were using Asia and China as synonyms. Yes, China is important internationally and especially as regards to Africa. But, a lot of Asia wasn't covered at all. Most of the papers dealt with China or India and a handful of others covered Japan, Korea, and Indonesia. There was nothing at all on Vietnam, Pakistan, Iran, the Philippines, or the entire Arab world just to mention some of the larger states in Asia and in the Arab case in Africa as well. Central Asia was represented only by our panel which had a paper on Kyrgyzstan by me and a paper on Kazakhstan by Eric Schmaltz as well as a paper given in another panel on irrigation in Uzbekistan.

Unfortunately, very few people showed up to our panel on ethnic Germans in Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and Siberia. We had a total of seven, but some came late and other left early. So there were only three audience members there for the whole panel. Out of those three attendees one was a colleague of mine here in Legon, one was a Canadian post-graduate students doing a PhD in London, and one was a South African scholar specializing in Sinkiang. I don't know if the Canadian woman was paying attention or not since she was completely silent throughout the entire question and answer and discussion period. That left my colleague and the South African. Which meant in terms of reaching a new audience that had not previously been exposed to the topic we can only verify a total of one South African anthropologist. Of course one person is infinitely more and better than zero, but I expected a larger audience.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Central Asia underrepresented at Africa-Asia: A New Axis of Knowledge Conference

Tomorrow is the Africa-Asia: A New Axis of Knowledge conference here at the University of Ghana. While large Asian countries such as China, Japan, and India are well represented, Central Asia is not. Other than my panel which includes my paper dealing with Kyrgyzstan and another one dealing with Kazakhstan there is only one other paper at the conference dealing with Central Asia. This is symptomatic of the declining scholarly interest in the region internationally in recent years.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Coauthored article on Russian-Germans now available

I have now put up the article I coauthored with Eric Schmaltz and Ron Vossler seven years ago. "'In our hearts we felt the sentence of death': ethnic German recollections of mass violence in the USSR, 1928-1948," Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 11, no. 2-3 can be found here on my page. Any comments on the article can as always be left here.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Economic Prospects for Ghana

The Ghanaian economy's prospects for the short and medium terms remains quite grim. There does not seem any possible way to improve the value of the cedi to more than 3.5 to the dollar before the end of the year and it is quite likely that the exchange rate will be worse than 4.5 to one. It is currently 4 to one down from 1.6 to one when I started working here in 2011. In real terms this means my and everybody else paid in cedis rather than hard currency has seen their purchasing power decline by two thirds. The devaluation of the Chinese Yuan has put even more pressure on the currency in addition to the ever increasing problem of an ever expanding import bill in dollars and very low cocoa prices. Short of actually creating a value added export industry there is no solution to this problem. Unfortunately, there has been no efforts in this direction since the 24 February 1966 coup and it is unlikely that anything will change in the next fifty years on this front. The leadership to convert Ghana from an import based economy to one based on the export of manufactured or even agricultural goods other than cocoa has been completely absent among its civilian politicians since the overthrow of Nkrumah. The lack of electricity has not helped matters. In fact by discouraging foreign investment and hampering what little manufacturing exists it has put even more downward pressure on the cedi. Even important public institutions like universities and hospitals do not have electricity.  This week the university had only two and a half days of electricity, hardly the makings of a "world class university." I don't think there is any hope for the cedi. Eventually Ghana is going to either have to voluntarily get rid of it like Ecuador did or lose it involuntarily like Zimbabwe did. Only after one of those two events will it be possible to have a currency that does not resemble the German Mark during the Weimar Republic.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

New article on Crimean Tatars

I have put up a new article at my page. There you can find "Soviet Ethnic Cleansing of the Crimean Tatars" which was published in print form in issue number 15 (2014) of International Crimes and History. For some unknown reason the editors have me listed as an associate professor when I am a mere lecturer. I think it is because I used to be an associate professor when I worked in Kyrgyzstan. Maybe in Turkey titles like professor are permanent and can not be lost by going to a lower position at another institution? At any rate it will be many decades if ever before I am an associate professor at the University of Ghana.  I am still just a lecturer.

Friday, September 04, 2015