The containment chronotrope: The European refugee 'crisis' and shifting sovereignties in sub-Saharan Africa

11 April 2017

As part of the Lunchtime Seminar Series, the African Centre for Migration & Society invites you to a seminar titled The containment chronotrope: The European refugee ‘crisis’ and shifting sovereignties in sub-Saharan Africa presented by Loren Landau (South African Research Chair in Mobility and the Politics of Difference, African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand). Always uneasy with transformations engendered by human mobility from outside the wealthy (largely Christian) west, Europe’s current moral panic has generated unprecedented levels of interventions within Africa’s ostensibly sovereign territory. This paper considers how Europe’s defensive posturing and extra-territorialisation will reshape its relationship to Africa and Africans’ relations to each other and space. It argues that the billions of Euros dedicated to border control and the prevention of mobility within and out of African countries is generating a ‘containment chronotrope’. 

Supported by massive campaigns at counting and categorization and geographic and normative bordering, the efforts pathologise all Africans as potential movers/threats. In reframing the development project as one of movement control, Europe is providing direct military assistance to some of Africa’s most morally questionable strongmen and further naturalising national and sub-national boundaries as economic, political, and social containers. Ultimately the intention is to remove Africans from global time: from opportunities for material and personal mobility that will leave Africans isolated and liminal while reinforcing Europe’s territorial integrity and position in global economic and political hierarchies.

Professor Landau's use of the term ‘chronotrope’ is informed by Ayse 
Caglar’s lecture, ‘Migrants, City making and the Value Creation Processes,’ at the University of the Witwatersrand (8 March 2017). She, in turn, builds on M.M. Bakhtin, 1981. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M., translated by Caryl Emerson & Michael Holquist, University of Texas Press. You can read the full paper here.


Loren Landau holds an MSc in Development Studies (LSE) and a PhD in Political Science (Berkeley). Widely published in the academic and popular press, he is author of 'The Humanitarian Hangover: Displacement, Aid, and Transformation in Western Tanzania' (Wits Press), co-editor of 'Contemporary Migration to South Africa' (World Bank), and editor of 'Exorcising the Demons Within: Xenophobia, Violence and Statecraft in Contemporary South Africa' (UN University Press). He has served as the chair of the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA), is a member of the South African Immigration Advisory Board and of the editorial boards of International Migration Review, Migration Studies, and the Journal of Refugee Studies. 

He is currently the South African Chair in Mobility and the Politics of Difference, exploring comparative perspectives on how mobility is reshaping the politics of rapidly diversifying and expanding communities. Through examinations starting in South Africa and extending across Africa and elsewhere, it will identify and explain emerging forms of political subjectivity, political authority, and governance regimes in spaces 
characterised by continued mobility. In its initial
phase the concentration will be on the continent’s emerging urban estuaries: gateway zones characterised by transience, translocalism and social heterogeneity. As sites often loosely structured by state policy or dominant cultural norms, these estuaries are giving rise to novel modes of political community, institutional configurations, and practical ethics.

Date:    Tuesday 11 April 2017

Time:    12:30 to 13:30

Venue: ACMS Seminar Room 2163, South East Wing, Second Floor, Senate House, University of the Witwatersrand East Campus