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.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Brokership and belonging: the role of Rio de Janeiro's paramilitary networks in shaping political settlements
Through an investigation of 'milícias' (paramilitary-style networks) in Rio de Janeiro, this paper explores how local level bargaining and brokerage can shape subnational political settlements. These processes can be shaped by geographies of difference, place, and histories/imaginaries.
This paper explores the ways in which bargaining processes at the local level can shape subnational political settlements. Based on a relational study of brokers in Rio de Janerio's West Zone urban hinterlands, this paper examines the mediation of power between different network specialists able to navigate and manage different lifeworlds. It draws on participant observations, interviews and oral histories with key informants, and classified documentary archives from a state Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry. Specifically, it focuses on the spatial relationship between two brokers within the 'milícia,' a paramilitary-style network of policemen, firefighters, politicians, civic leaders, administrators, drug traffickers, and civilians that dominate the West Zone. In negotiating political support, resources, coercive power and information between themselves, these brokers endeavour to balance the tensions within their own personal friendship and the worlds of their friends and families, the demands of residents in the community where they live, the institutional pressures of the 'milícia' network, and the external effects of a macro-political landscape undergoing a tumultuous process of reordering. This paper finds that the shape of political settlements, and, therefore, the shape of violence, can be affected by geographies of difference, binding notions of place, and shared histories and imaginaries.
No Formalities Please!: A Study of Informal Institutions & Broker Practices in Municipal Governance of New Delhi
The study looks at day to day practices of street-level brokers in the MCD (Delhi) and how they mediate citizen services. The paper further looks at citizen (& stakeholder's) response to these informal institutions through the Helmke & Levitsky framework and also its reflection of good governance.
The Citizen Services Bureau (CSB) at the Municipality of Delhi (MCD) commenced in 2003 to provide basic administrative services like registrations, revenue collection, bookings etc. to facilitate with ease the most tangible inter-actions a citizen may have with the closest form of government. This included the installation of not just new infrastructural logics of public governance, but also a bid to reconfigure a new civic culture of accessibility, transparency, ac-countability and efficiency (Dudley et al, 2015). Under these conditions, access to citizen services often gets partially compromised due to private interests through informal means. This paper situates itself in the bewildering world of informal mediation peopled by brokers, touts, middlemen in New Delhi that has over the years embedded itself within the CSB initiatives. Located in this complex intersection between the State and these extra-state private players are the 'public', that interface with both. While interrogating these cultures of in-formality, this study probes the key motivations for brokers to engage (& sus-tain) in mediation work along with their legitimacy with service seekers, not to mention the different institutional and governmental responses (e-governance, doorstep delivery of services) to these practices.
The study findings were analysed under the Helmke & Levitsky (2014) framework on the interplay between formal and informal institutions and combined with an assessment against selected Good-Governance indicators to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of informal brokerage practices for (administrative) service delivery. The paper also provides some policy recom-mendations around e-governance and administrative reforms in Delhi.
Spatial Adhocism - Theorising Brokerage at State and its Margins
The research analyses how spatial politics operates through networks of brokerage in Kolkata. It also shows how instead of complete annihilation of people at the margins the state also partially rehabilitates them through adhoc relations.
Understanding of the neoliberal state in the postcolonial world often overlooks the illegibility that the state maintains at its margins. The state deliberately makes its ghostly presence in those sites not only to reinstate hegemony but also to produce new relations and to partially rehabilitate people at the margins for its political survival. This rehabilitation happens through practices of clientelism, negotiations and bargaining where the postcolonial state acts as a facilitator. The research analyses these relations and defines spatial adhocism as reordering of socio-spatial arrangements through these relations. Taking cases of Loomtex jute mill movement and anti-squatter eviction movement in Kolkata, this ethnographic research attempts to develop a typology of spatial adhocism both at the state and its margins. This typology also showcases the infrastructure and resource utilisation strategies that are essential for understanding the politics of brokerage. Here spatial adhocism acts as an apparatus not only to analyse the state's role in brokerage but also portrays how 'networked mobilisation' of power enables people at the margins to exert spatial rights. Finally, the research shows how new subjects and praxis are produced through spatial adhocism for our understanding of the postcolonial state.
Brokering Trust in Development
This presentation tells the story of one local development broker in Myanmar. It takes us from the broker's early years as a democracy activist to his adulthood working for various foreign development organisations in the rule of law assistance field.
This presentation tells the story of one local development broker in Myanmar. It takes us from the broker's early years as a democracy activist to his adulthood working for various foreign development organisations in the rule of law assistance field that emerged after political transition in 2011. The broker's narrative will provide insights of his motives, his function, and his Janus-faced position while struggling local and foreign actors and their interests. A dominant focus will be on issues of trust as the broker, in lieu if foreign actors' lack of prior proof of trust, take on the role as a trusted link between foreign practitioners and local and national counterparts. While doing so, however, he is repeatedly criticized for being too close to foreigners and their interests.
Spatial Brokers and Brokered Space in Post-War Transitions
This paper brings together critical theories of space, geography and brokerage to understand the agents that fix, subvert, resist and translate border dynamics in post-war transitions.
This paper brings together critical theories of space, geography and brokerage to understand the agents that fix, subvert, resist and translate border dynamics in post-war transitions. Looking specifically at the social productions of the 'margins' and their dynamic relations with different centres of power, the paper examines the inherent contradictions and tensions that emerge as states and subjects attempt to negotiate, navigate and smooth out the ruptures of war and the violence of transition. Drawing on illustrations of political brokers from post-war Sri Lanka and Nepal, we explore 'territorial flexibility', 'spatial fixes' and 'borderscapes', as part of the paradoxes of capitalist flows and territorial logics; and as part of the multiple modes through which power is organized and concretised, as well as distorted, checked and transplanted. These lenses help us to examine borders as inchoate and flexible institutions, made and unmade through the movements and practices of the interlocutors - the brokers - who push, pull and orchestrate the circulation of goods, capital and ideas across and between them.
Unfolding brokers' role on preying inequality: who catalysed modern slavery?
Brokers are the bridge between the Global South and North for the vulnerable. Brokers shape the epistemology of the world for the poor. Unfortunately, all too often, brokers are the culprits for human trafficking. This paper unfolds the brokers' fascinating role in the cases of modern slavery.
"We search cheap and obedient labourers all over the world, allowing ship-owners to earn profits, and we help people in developing countries to get a job." One of the brokers from the Giant Ocean case, an infamous case of human trafficking in Cambodia, was charged for 10-year sentence by the Cambodia authority but still believed that he was just helping people.
Victims of human trafficking were tortured, beaten, and in the worst cases, murdered. However, brokers who sent them into various working destinations still get a way to continue the (illegal) business for decades. How do they play with the global inequality, settle the government officials, lure the victims, and make impossible possible?
This paper focuses on brokers who work on a global scale and involved in crimes of sex trafficking, forced labour, or various forms of modern slavery. Instead of looking at the abuse at victims' working environments, the paper analyses the unique characteristics of brokers, mapping out the systems operating around the broker.
By highlighting the role of brokers, the paper particularly aims to contribute to the existing knowledge in combating modern slavery. More generally, the paper contributes to understanding the organic interaction between the Global South and North, by taking unpacking the role of the brokers.
Brokers of Conflict: Afghan and Iraqi military interpreters and other Locally Employed Civilians
In this paper I argue that the position of contemporary Iraqi and Afghan military interpreters and other Locally Engaged Civilians (LEC) can be usefully interpreted against the backdrop of colonial histories of brokerage from which certain structural patterns can be derived.
In this paper I will present my research into the claims to rights and protection by Afghan and Iraqi military interpreters and other Locally Employed Civilians (LECs) based on 50 semi-structured interviews with LEC and their advocates, as well as media and policy document analysis. Considered traitors by some people from their own communities, they turned to the Western states that employed them for protection and rights. I will argue that their powerful yet precarious position can be understood in the context of a long history of colonial and modern brokerage. Global processes such as conquest, war, international development and migration create interfaces between different communities, and produce a demand for brokers who can mediate across linguistic, cultural, social and political boundaries and negotiate the divergent interests of unequally situated groups. While brokers have to be understood within their own context and time, I suggest that it is possible to identify some structural patterns which can shed light on the position of contemporary Iraqi and Afghan LEC. These structural patterns help to understand the emerging demand for brokers and the opportunities for social mobility created by military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, the blurred lines between translation and mediation, and finally, the mutual suspicion about (dis)loyalties. As with many historical brokers who were mistrusted as traitors, it is ultimately the brokers themselves, in this case Afghan and Iraqi LEC, who feel betrayed and discarded.
The Process Of Development Information Brokering In Zambia
This paper is a narrative of my experiences as an International Journalist/development researcher and communication consultant in Zambia. it highlights some of the reasons why I do this work,the joys and challenges that it brings and how it impacts on development,democracy and political processes.
Access to information is a key component to decision making and development. For international organisations, creating projects in developing nations may require consulting local people about situations obtaining on the ground.
As an international freelance journalist, I usually get contacted by such organisations to work as a researcher and communication consultant, to acquire and share development information. My motivation for doing this includes the desire to contribute towards development. Knowing that my work will help policy makers form programmes that may bring development and transform lives , makes it important for me to produce information that reflects the truth and the type of analysis that puts development issues into proper perspective, and help politicians and other development players to formulate appropriate policies. As an information broker, I act as an intermediate between people, thereby bridging the communication gap and providing networking opportunities between organisations and communities, including grassroots and amplify voices of the voiceless.
Some of the challenges of being a freelance researcher includes working with limited resources, not having automatic access to information from some organisations, etc.
Against this background, I would like to present a paper that shares these experiences, starting with an overview of how work is assigned, prepared for, and executed, as well as the quality control process that ensures that the information and analysis provided is factual.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.