Comparativ 27 (2017), 3/4

Comparativ 27 (2017), 3/4
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Portals of Globalization in Africa, Asia, and Latin America

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Comparativ. Zeitschrift für Globalgeschichte und Vergleichende Gesellschaftsforschung
Comparativ Universität Leipzig Leipzig Research Centre Global Dynamics IPF 348001 Ritterstrasse 24 04109 Leipzig GERMANY e-mail:
Matthias Middell

Portals of Globalization in Africa, Asia, and Latin America
herausgegeben von Claudia Baumann, Antje Dietze und Megan Maruschke

Table of contents



Claudia Baumann / Antje Dietze / Megan Maruschke
Portals of Globalization – An Introduction, S. 7
Portals of globalization is an analytical category introduced in globalization research to investigate how global flows are anchored and articulated in particular places. It has been used to analyse the way flows and controls come together on multiple scales, and how actors in these places actively manage global entanglements. Consequently, the changing positionality of these places in global networks can reveal the scope, function, and transformation of global connections and shifting spatial orders. Stemming from research debates on the historicity, regional difference, and spatial complexity of globalization processes, this issue seeks to strengthen empirical insights from different disciplinary and regional perspectives. It brings together research on past and present portals of globalization to facilitate the dialogue across disciplines in the social sciences and humanities. A special focus on a variety of local and regional contexts in Africa, Asia, and Latin America allows us to re-evaluate assumptions about the centres and peripheries of globalization processes, the mechanisms and directionality of circulations, and the asymmetries in global connectedness.

Megan Maruschke
Managing Shifting Spatial Orders: Planning Bombay’s Free Port and Free Zone, 1830s–1980s, S. 21
The free zone features frequently in research on contemporary globalization; the visible exploitation in zones reveals the inequality produced by global economic entanglement. Yet, there is very little historical research on how these practices may be related to elite and state-based globalization projects. Using official reports and correspondence from government ministries, this article examines two free-port and free-zone plans from the 1830s and the 1960s in Bombay, and follows them forward, concluding with the present port situation. These plans were never realized, but they may both serve as a lens through which we can identify the actors who pursue globalization projects, through which they seek to channel connectivity in particular places. Moreover, the concept portals of globalization draws attention to the variety of entangled spaces of what we call the global economy and how these have shifted over time.

Anne Dietrich
Exploring Changes in Cuba’s Ports and Hinterlands: Transition from US to Socialist Sugar Markets, S. 41
Referring to the concept of portals of globalization, I examine Cuban ports in relation to the development of Cuba’s economy and how they became integrated into various global networks. The aim of this article is to analyse the changes these ports underwent over time, starting from the early nineteenth century until today. While I focus on changes in the hinterland that took place in the nineteenth and early twentieth century – when Spanish and US investors dominated the Cuban sugar industry – in the first section of the article, I analyse port changes linked to foreign investments during the Cold War and in more recent years in the following two sections. By relating the changes at the ports to those that occurred in the hinterlands, I argue that the economic development in Cuba’s hinterland during the nineteenth and early twentieth century caused the island’s port expansion, while the modernization of the ports that has taken place since the second half of the twentieth century allowed Cuba’s economic recovery.

Matthias Middell
Portals of Globalization as lieux de mémoire, S. 58
Research on global flows has always put emphasis on nodes and the possibility to exercise regulatory power at certain places that are central to the organization of the mobility of people, goods, capital, and cultural patterns. Authors like Saskia Sassen have even developed a whole theory around the notion of global cities, which may not only become the hubs of globalized capitalism but also the hotspots of current class confrontation. Such approaches are rather loosely and sometimes even only rhetorically related to interpretations of global processes, where the local and the global are the only poles remaining in a borderless world. There is no doubt that global processes play out at local level, but there is ample evidence that other spatial formats (both scales of territoriality and non-territorial ones) remain important as well, or even gain weight in the organization and control of global flows. What interests me in particular in this context, is the role and function of places where global flows arrive and depart, are channelled through, and leave their stamp not only in warehouses but also in the mindset of people. It seems to me a functionalist reductionism to see them only as command centres of capitalism (often in a good old Western-centric perspective located in the Global North). Instead, I propose to look at them as growing in numbers and variety, and to focus on their histories, which has left a cultural legacy and may explain the unevenness of our mental maps, when it comes to the remembrance of globalization and its effect on current global processes.

Jochen Lingelbach
Refugee Camps as Forgotten Portals of Globalization: Polish World War II Refugees in British Colonial East Africa, S. 58
From 1942–1950, nearly 20,000 Polish refugees lived in over 20 camps in five British colonial territories. This article uses the concept of portals of globalization to analyse these camps in a frame that goes beyond national historiography. The interaction that took place between the Polish refugees and actors of the hosting colonial societies is regarded as a flow that local authorities tried to regulate. Colonial officials understood the poor, white refugees as a potential threat to the stability of the racially defined colonial hierarchy. The portals of globalization concept connects this local history with historical developments of global reach, which manifested in the refugee camps. This episode was, however, forgotten – i.e. did not become part of a collective memory – as it did not fit into any national narrative.

Johannes Knierzinger
Mining Towns as Portals of Globalization: The Arrival of the Global Aluminium Industry in West Africa, S. 94
The article discusses the cultural, political, and technical dimension of West African bauxite mining and processing towns as portals of globalization. In the analysed company towns of Fria, Sangarédi, Kamsar (all in Guinea) and Edéa (Cameroon), mining and processing went along with the emergence of new systems of rule that (1) strongly depend on profit-maximizing investors; (2) rest on transnational corporate chains of command, and (3) install new “plutocratic orders” in remote regions, where little capital has circulated before the installation of the facilities. Previously existing social orders have strongly changed with the influx of workers’ salaries and diverse measures of corporate social responsibility. Transnational mining companies and their managers on-site assume, in fact, political functions. The article questions the long-term societal impact of these portals of globalization.

Ana Ribeiro
Brazilian Development Cooperation and Portals of Globalization, S. 111
This article addresses portals of globalization within the framework of Brazilian development cooperation, which serves as an engine to increase Brazil’s economic and political influence in other parts of the former Portuguese empire. The text employs the concept of portals of globalization as places where cultural transfers and technology exchange occur by looking at the increased production of export goods. Development cooperation projects embody such places of transfers and exchange between the state actors directing them, while boundaries become blurred between what ‘local’ and ‘foreign’ elements are in projects’ construction and practice. The case study drawn upon is that of Brazil-Mozambique development relations in the public health sector in Mozambique, as a case of South-South cooperation.

Nicholas Dietrich.
Disentangling the Regionalization of Law Enforcement in Southern Africa. S. 131
This article contributes to the growing literature on new regionalism(s) in two ways: It first exposes regional police cooperation as a neglected subject area in the study of regionalism/regionalization. The case of the emergence of the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (SARPCCO) is used to contextualize the regionalization of policing in relation to a perceived globalization of crime since the 1990s. The article then introduces the framework portals of globalization as a methodological tool to study processes of regionalization. The framework is used to deepen the analysis of SARPCCO by helping to more concretely identify the actors, places, and spaces in and through which regionalization, as a multi-actor and multilevel process, takes place.

Ulf Engel
Headquarters of International Organizations as Portals of Globalization: The African Union Commission and its Peace and Security Policies, S. 151
With a view to analyse the changing spatialities of power and shifting sovereignties in current processes of globalization, this text investigates the headquarters of the African Union. It does so through the lens of portals of globalization and a focus on (1) new, dense practices emerging in response to experiences in the field of peace and security; (2) newly established social spaces of communication, and (3) forms of cultural learning, creativity, and innovation emanating from this condition. The case study on the African Union and its partnership with the United Nations demonstrates that such an approach could add value to the understanding of international organizations and their role at the centre of managing the reterritorialization of contemporary processes of globalization.

Micha Fiedlschuster
The World Social Forum as a Portal of Globalization: Complex Spatialities in Social Movement Studies, S. 171
Applying the concept of portals of globalization, the goal of this paper is to capture the significance of the World Social Forum (WSF) for the alter-globalization movement. Since 2001, the WSF brings together social movements and other civil-society actors that are ideologically or geographically disconnected. It offers a transnational space for sharing experiences about globalization processes and for facilitating the flows of ideas on how to influence the course of globalization. Analysing the politics of space, place, network, and scale in the WSF, the paper shows that the concept of portals of globalization helps to capture the spatial complexity of the forum. I argue that the WSF is not simply a place of anti-neoliberalism but a portal of globalization that inhabits different actors competing for the recognition of their interpretation of the nature of globalization.

Claudia Baumann
Managing Processes of Globalization: A Spotlight on the University as a Key Institution in the 21st Century, S. 186
This article looks at the heightened role of universities in the global knowledge age. Flows of people, ideas, and also capital in the academic realm continue to multiply, propelling global connectedness and contributing to the reshuffling of the hitherto prevailing political orders. Universities are understood as places where these flows are instigated and controlled. The article adds insight to the field of global higher education by emphasizing universities in the Global South, to better understand their role in shaping processes of globalization. Four arguments guide the reader, the first of which explains how universities have been discursively rescaled. The second argument looks at university-state relations and increased institutional power. Differentiation in the higher-education landscape and academic hierarchies are examined in the third part, while section four reveals shortcomings of mobility figures aggregated at national level.

Autorinnen und Autoren, S. 203

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