This panel reflects on the resurgent interest in brokers among scholars and practitioners in development, humanitarianism, conflict and migration, and invites contributions on the role of brokers in various regions and spaces. It also welcomes reflections about the (ab)use of brokers in research.
Recent years have seen a resurgent interest in the roles of brokers among scholars and practitioners in the fields of international development, humanitarianism, conflict and migration, covering a wide range of intermediaries. A focus on formal and informal brokers as material and symbolic facilitators of flows of goods, people, and norms opens up the analysis of development and political settlements beyond dominant institutional or centrist perspectives, drawing attention to the trans- and subnational dimensions, and providing a lens for understanding how structure and agency interact. The study of brokerage raises functional questions about bargaining structures and networks, but also provokes normative debates about opportunism, accountability, and legitimacy. This panel addresses the following questions: what are the motivations of brokers? What function do they have in the establishment of political order, the promotion of development, the consolidation of democracy? Under what conditions does reliance on brokers constrain/strengthen the political agency of marginalised groups? To what extent does brokerage vary in different settings and what are the effects of local variations? What methodological and ethical challenges are raised? We invite contributions from practitioners, policy makers and scholars on the role of brokers (individual or institutional) in various regions and spaces of encounter opened up by international development, humanitarianism, migration and conflict. We also welcomes critical reflections about the (ab)use of 'fixers' or 'interpreters' as brokers during the research process. The organisers welcome standard paper contributions as well as narrative and visual accounts of brokers' life stories (i.e. propose presentations that take a story telling approach) for an experimental panel.