Friday 22 June 2012 I participated to a workshop in Leipzig, at the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, on the theme: “Identity, Politics, Place and Representation”.
The workshop had been preceded the day before (21.06.2012) by a public lecture given by Oren Yiftachel, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, with the title of – Urban Regimes and ‘Gray Spacing’: Between Privatizing Democracy and ‘Creeping Apartheid’.
An interesting lecture that touched upon “the impact of structural economic, identity and governance tensions on urban regimes. It draws attention to the pervasive emergence of ‘gray spaces’; that is, informal, temporary or illegal developments, transactions and populations. ‘Gray-spacing’ has become a central strategy to manage the unwanted/irremovable, putting in train a process of ‘creeping urban apartheid’” (Lecture abstract -2012, Yiftachel). This issues were analysed by referring to research findings related to various cities around Europe, Africa and Asia, and “with special focus on the ‘ethnocratic’ cities of Israel/Palestine”(Lecture abstract -2012, Yiftachel). Some of these aspects were also highlighted in his introductory lecture to the workshop, “Mapping the homeland”, but with an emphasis upon crucial issues of mapping and in particular on the effects that these can have on the lives of people who chose live or are forced to live on the margins of society. Maps, through the marking or unmarking borders as well as highlighting or ignoring them, become an effective tool of social and political control in any given territory.
The other presentations in the workshop spanned from issues related to the historical analysis of maps of the Holy Land to those of new graphic representations of Europe, or to those related to Moroccan nomads and their understanding of land ownership. The title of my presentation was “Sámi and Sápmi: Conflicts on issues of Identity and Space in the Finnish North” and I focused on some of the aspects related to the effect of mapping the northern forests done by cartographers and officials of the Forestry Department and the efforts of local herders to see their pasture territories recognized and on how the contentions are based, amongst others, on a different understanding of the notions of space, i.e. “forest vs. pastures” and of land tenure rights that are understood, as argued by Foucault, either within the sphere of the state sovereignty or, from a nomadic perspective, based more on a direct engagement with land and the uses it affords rather than as a result of planning activity.
Tomorrow, 28th June, will be also a very interesting day as there will be a public lecture by Ronald Niezen, from McGill University, at the auditorium of the Institute of Geography. The title is: “The Ethnography of the Unknowable: Public Opinion and the Pursuit of Cultural Justice”. The lecture will focus on the anthropological tool par excellence, participant observation, and challenge it effectiveness in the analysis of the processes of cultural identity formation by arguing that the “the dynamics of cultural identity formation now include the influence of abstract, impersonal, unpredictable “publics.” The processes by which distinct people define who they are, above all the ways they articulate and defend their collective rights and shape and represent their essential attributes, are now often negotiated and “mediated” (literally and figuratively) in collaboration with distant consumers of rights and culture”(Lecture abstract -2012, Niezen). The lecture will be followed on the 29th June by a day workshop, at the Oriental Institute of the University of Leipzig, on “Identity Politics in States with Nomadic/Indigenous Populations”. The workshop is divided into three main themes, Identity Politics in relation to a) Culture, b) Land, and c) Nature. Each session will be introduced by a keynote presentation that will address each of this topic and will then be followed by two presentations that will span from issues related to cultural rights and identity to those related to land rights and land use among indigenous populations and to nature protection and modern indigenous entrepreneurship. My presentation will touch upon issues of cultural identity, internal also to the Sámi community itself, in relation to social interaction with the national majority at times of confrontation over issues related to natural resources, land claims and of traditional and modern livelihoods.
I will let you know more after the workshop, but for anyone who is in Leipzig today, 28th June, you are warmly welcome to participate to the public lecture today at 18:00, at the auditorium of the Institute of Geograpgy, Talstraße 35!
These public lectures and workshops are organized by the SFB 586 AG 1 “Herrschaft” and SFB 586 TP E9 “Power Technologies’ Production of Space: Sámi Territoriality and Indigeneity” of the SFB 586 Difference and Integration at the Universities of Leipzig and Halle-Wittenberg, Germany.