The United Nations in Africa, and Africa in the UN: bureaucratic wrangling, translocal negotiations, and the politics of expertise
Marie Huber (Humboldt Universitaet zu Berlin)
Economy and Development
50 George Square, G.05
Thursday 13 June, 17:55-19:25

Short abstract:

This panel explores the micro-level negotiations between individuals situated within the United Nations and its partner organizations. It explores quotidian acts of knowledge creation, norm setting, and policy planning in order to understand how power operates within and through the UN in Africa.

Long abstract:

Rich scholarship exists on United Nations development projects and the role of expert-led knowledge production in Africa. Much of this research has focused on the impact of the Global North-development nexus on expanding African state bureaucracies during the intensive phase of development planning between 1945 and 1975 and IMF and World Bank-led economic austerity in the 1980s and 1990s. Our panel aims to build on and complicate this body of inquiry by focusing on the micro-level, quotidian, and bureaucratic negotiations that have generated policymaking and international norms, both within specific African contexts and within the apparatus of the United Nations itself. How have individuals situated within or working alongside the UN conflicted and cooperated to shape policies? How have these people served as experts and interlocutors who manage competing claims and political agendas? What can the micro-level aspects of knowledge production and policymaking tell us about the operation of power within and between the United Nations system and the places and people on which UN-led planning aims to focus? What does it mean to serve as a broker between local realities within Africa, government interests, and the "enchanted palace" of the United Nations - and how can we problematize this very framing by conceiving of the UN as a constellation of "local" actors and places, rather than an impenetrable, decontextualized behemoth? Paper topics could include but are not limited to development economics, cultural preservation, environmental conservation, human rights, migration and refugees, mining, and resource management.