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P2-E: Imagining capitalism in transregional fraud schemes

The increase of financial flows between African and Asian countries has also brought about the increase of fraudulent schemes. Since the 2000s, email scams, pyramid schemes, Ponzi schemes and multi-level marketing schemes (MLMs) have been travelling between both regions. These frauds use the economic infrastructure between Africa and Asia that has been established in the last decades. Moreover, they refer to similar imaginaries of a globalized, middle-class lifestyle – in other words to similar collective fantasies of capitalism – to persuade victims. Based on fieldwork in Ghana, India and Kenya, the project will explore these fraud schemes as travelling models, which both make use of and spread particular understandings of capitalism.

These schemes will be studied by using multiple perspectives: As stories, the schemes make use of globally circulating fantasies of capitalism and adapt these narratives to local contexts. As economic strategy, these schemes allow people that are excluded from global capitalism to partake in it. As travelling model, these frauds spread certain capitalist norms; members of Ponzi schemes and MLMs are asked to transform themselves into business men and their social relationships into business relations. Fraudulent schemes may be a very particular form of transregional, economic interaction between Africa and Asia. Yet they can be used as a lens to explore how actors believe in imaginaries of capitalism, how they desperately want to partake in them and how they carry them from one place to the next.

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P2-A: Indian Ocean Imaginaries and Memories in Transregional Afrasian Spaces

This project addresses transformation of Indian Ocean imaginaries and memories in East and South Africa, Indonesia, Oman, Iran, Diego Garcia, China and India. Our research has so far demonstrated the limiting nature of the ‘Indian Ocean’ approach since Afrasian (Africa-Asian) interactions go beyond the littoral states of the Indian Ocean to Indonesia and beyond. This project therefore studies the cultural production and transformation of “Indian Ocean imaginaries” and "Indian Ocean memories” which we perceive of as “Afrasian imaginaries” and ”Afrasian memories“ (see Karugia 2017, Schulze-Engler 2014) within transcultural settings (Erll, 2011).

The central research question focusses on transregional connections between imaginaries and memories of the Indian Ocean region generated by historical African-Asian interactions on the one hand and the representation of today’s African-Asian interactions. We ask how the Indian Ocean works as a space of memory in Asian and African memory cultures. The ‘Afrasian Ocean’ world connects multiethnic communities. In some of these Afrasian spaces, we observe a paradigm-shift from competitive towards multidirectional memory (in the sense of M. Rothberg 2009). With our focus on Afrasian imaginaries and memories, we target the historical emergence and contemporary constitution of new transregional concepts of space. With its historical focus, this project contributes to lending historical depth to the analysis of African-Asian interactions within the AFRASO research programme as a whole.

Regarding Afrasian imaginaries, the project is based on the assumption that Afrasian imaginaries differ vastly throughout East Africa. We therefore analyze the corpus of East African literature in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda) from 1960 to the present day with a special focus on: concepts and images of the Indian Ocean area as a transregional cultural contact zone, representations of Asians, Asian culture and Asian countries and different versions of Afrasian imaginaries in coastal regions and the East African hinterland. The combined analysis of dhow literature in English and Swahili and the corpus of anglophone East African writing is designed to produce new insights into the complex genesis and transformation of Afrasian imaginaries and to provide differentiated answers to the question if and how contemporary images and concepts of the Indian Ocean as transregional contact zone build on earlier Afrasian imaginaries, or whether representations of current African-Asian interactions are characterized by a break with these historically generated imaginaries.

As regards Afrasian memories, we perceive them as „connective memories.“ They connect, reconnect and articulate transregional historical imaginaries. We analyze how the long history of exchange between Africa and Asia is remembered today and which functions such memories fulfil in the light of current interactions. Our assumption is that the centuries-old relations between both regions (trade, migration, slavery, indentured labour, soldiers etc.) are not simply forgotten in the face of today's Afrasian interactions (such as labour migration, tourism, transnational media cultures), but that they constitute a "space of experience" (R. Koselleck) against which the present situation is understood and expectations for the future are articulated. Museums, literature and other media, memory institutions and memory sites across the world of the „Afrasian Ocean“ address human interactions and power dynamics across time and space. We ask how Afrasian imaginaries and memories contribute to an understanding of present and future African-Asian interactions.

In the framework of AFRASO, our goals are to understand, first, the significance of historical imagination for transregional conceptions of space and, second, the importance of local imaginary and memory cultures for the representation and interpretation of current African-Asian interactions. In light of the foregoing, we are analysing the production of contemporary transnational imaginaries of citizenship, the complex negotiation of transcultural identities amongst old Asian-African and new Asian diasporas, claims of long-standing transregional socio-political and cultural links, new and old memory sites built or claimed by certain Afrasian communities and Afrasian bio-politics within old and emergent Afrasian diasporas.

'Memory', in this project, describes on the one hand elements of explicit, official memory culture (e.g. the remembrance of Gandhi in South Africa); on the other hand, we reconstruct what John C. Hawley (2008, 4), drawing on James C. Scott, has called "hidden transcripts": implicit, non-official, private and subaltern forms of memory, which, however, can be articulated in literature, photography, film and other media. Such imaginaries and memories have especially come to the fore in interviews we conducted with various groups of people in South Africa, East Africa, Oman, China and India as well as in our recent investigation of ‘travelling afrasian objects’ and ‘multidirectional mnemoeconomics’ (see Karugia 2017).

An Afrasian framework has allowed us to investigate transregional dynamics of interactions and relations between Africa and Asia across the vastness of time and space. This perspective has counteracted the danger of perceiving ‘Afrasia’ as a new transregional ‘container.’ Our research on Afrasian imaginaries and memories conceives of Afrasian’ as a sensitizing term that opens up new perspectives and as a new way of looking at and analyzing various contemporary dynamics in this transregion. We critically self-reflect on limitations of our ‘Afrasian’ perspective. This Afrasian way of looking at this transregion can only become productive if blurred spaces and places like its connectivity with Afrabia (Africa and Arabia) are adequately addressed (see Karugia, 2018 in preparation).

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P2-E: Imaginationen von Kapitalismus in transregionalen Betrugssystemen

Die Zunahme von Finanzströmen zwischen afrikanischen und asiatischen Ländern hat auch neue Betrugsmöglichkeiten eröffnet. In den letzten zehn Jahren sind Email-Scams, Pyramidensysteme, Multi-Level-Marketing-Unternehmen und andere Betrugsmodelle zwischen beiden Regionen hin- und hergewandert. Dabei verwenden diese Modelle die ökonomisch-technologische Infrastruktur, die in den letzten Jahrzehnten zwischen Afrika und Asien entstanden ist. Die Modelle beziehen sich auf transregional geteilte Vorstellungen eines Mittelschicht-Lebensstils, also auf geteilte kapitalistische Fantasien, um überzeugend zu sein. Basierend auf Feldforschungen in Ghana, Indien und Kenia wird das Projekt diese Betrugsmodelle als „travelling models“ untersuchen, die auf bestimmten kapitalistischen Vorstellungen aufbauen und diese verbreiten.

Die Erforschung dieser Betrugsmodelle eröffnet viele unterschiedliche Zugänge: Diese Modelle werden in der Form von Geschichten vermittelt, die an global zirkulierende Fantasien über kapitalistisches Wirtschaften anknüpfen und diese an lokale Kontexte anpassen. Sie können aber auch als ökonomische Strategie untersucht werden, die marginalisierten Akteuren die Teilnahme an der globalen Wirtschaft ermöglichen. Als letztes sind dies Modelle auch als „travelling models“ lesbar, die bestimme Normen kapitalistischen Wirtschaftens verbreiten; Mitglieder von Multi-Level-Marketing lernen beispielsweise, sich selbst als Geschäftsleute zu inszenieren und ihre sozialen Beziehungen in Geschäftsbeziehungen zu transformieren. Betrugsmodelle sind eine sehr spezifische Form der transregionalen Interaktionen zwischen Afrika und Asien. Sie können jedoch einen wichtigen Beitrag dazu leisten zu verstehen, auf welche Weise Akteure an kapitalistische Vorstellungen glauben, wie verzweifelt sie an Formen kapitalistischen Wirtschaftens teilhaben wollen und wie kapitalistische Normen transnational vermittelt werden.

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AFRASO Lecture Series: Interactions between China and Africa

The AFRASO-Lecture Series started on the 7th of May 2013 with the first session on “Working and Living Together: Realities of Life for Africans in Asia and Asians in Africa”. This session gave some insight into the everyday life perspectives of the thousands of Africans and Asian...

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S4-C: Afrikanisch-asiatische Interaktionen im Cyberspace. Transregionales Scamming.

Übersicht: 

Durch die neuen Verflechtungen zwischen Afrika und Asien eröffnen sich auch neue Betrugsspielräume für Scammer (419 Vorschussbetrüger). Das Forschungsprojekt untersucht diese transregionalen Interaktionen im Cyberspace zwischen Scammern und ihren Gegenübern durch ethnographische Forschung in Ghana und Indien. Dabei wird das Projekt der Frage nachgehen, wie Scammer die Grenzen zwischen Kontinenten und zwischen physischen und virtuellen Räumen benutzen und überschreiten. Aber das Projekt wird gleichzeitig untersuchen, wie Polizisten und andere staatliche Akteure neue Grenzen in transregionalen Räumen setzen und virtuelle Identitäten authentifizieren.

Betrüger zitieren Vorstellungen des kulturell Fremden in ihren E-Mails, um das Gegenüber von der Authentizität ihrer virtuellen Identität zu überzeugen. Gold im Überfluss, willige Frauen in Flüchtlingscamps – solche Bilder des kulturell Fremden sind die Grundlage überzeugender Erzählungen. Die Erforschung der digitalen Interaktionen ermöglicht eine Kartographierung des imaginären Raums kultureller Fremdheitsbilder, welcher Akteuren als vermeintlich objektive Orientierung dient.

Diese neuen transregionalen und digitalen Verflechtungen sind von radikalen Verunsicherungen geprägt – die konventionellen Bilder des (afrikanischen) Fremden und die vermeintliche Authentizität digitaler Begegnungen bieten keine Orientierung mehr. Angesichts dieser Verunsicherungen setzen Internetnutzer neue Methoden ein, um Vertrauen in digitalen Interaktionen zu etablieren. Polizisten in Afrika und Asien arbeiten daran, bürokratische Identitätskategorien wieder herzustellen. Diese Praktiken sind als Versuche lesbar, in transregionalen Räumen neue Grenzen zu setzen.

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AFRASO Publications

Beek, Jan ; 2016 ; Cybercrime, police work and stroytelling in West Africa ; Africa ; 86 (2)

Talks and Lectures

Beek, Jan & Julia Verne ; Introduction: Geteilte Forschung ; Friday, December 4, 2015 ; Goethe University, Frankfurt
Beek, Jan & Mirko Göpfert ; Gemeinsam ethnologisch forschen: Feldgeschichten teilen ; Friday, December 4, 2015 ; Goethe University, Frankfurt
Jan Beek ; Doing Area Online: Internetkriminalität zwischen Afrikaund Indien. ; Friday, January 29, 2016 ; Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Beek.Jan ; DEAR SIR OR MADAM – Internetkriminalität in Afrika und Asien ; Friday, March 6, 2015 ; Goethe University, Frankfurt

S4-C: African-Asian Interactions in Cyberspace. Transregional Scamming.

Übersicht: 

The new African-Asian interactions are also opening up new opportunities for African and Asian scammers (419 Advance Fee Fraud). The project studies these transregional interactions in cyberspace between scammers and their counterparts. Based on ethnographic research in Ghana and India, the project asks how scammers make use and thereby transgress boundaries between continents and between physical and virtual spaces. However, the project also studies how police officers and other actors aim to set new boundaries in transregional spaces and authenticate virtual identities.

African scammers often use the image of the African other in their emails. Virtual identities derive their authenticity from such references to images of the cultural other – the abundant gold or the willing African mistress. Actors use such images of the cultural other as supposedly objective orientation, thus scammers can refer to them to create compelling narratives. By researching interaction in cyberspace, the project maps these imaginary spaces of the cultural other.

By using conventional images of the cultural other and the supposed authenticity in their fraudulent narratives, scammers ultimately undermine these forms of orientations. Their transgressions lead to radical uncertainties concerning transregional and virtual spaces. Some actors seek new methods to authenticate their counterpart in cyberspace. Still, police officers and other state officials try to re-establish bureaucratic categories of identity and set new boundaries.

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AFRASO Publications

Beek, Jan ; 2016 ; Cybercrime, police work and stroytelling in West Africa ; Africa ; 86 (2)

Talks and Lectures

Beek, Jan ; Transnational Cyberfraud and Cyberpolicing ; Tuesday, November 11, 2014 ; School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi
Beek, Jan & Julia Verne ; Introduction: Geteilte Forschung ; Friday, December 4, 2015 ; Goethe University, Frankfurt
Beek, Jan & Mirko Göpfert ; Gemeinsam ethnologisch forschen: Feldgeschichten teilen ; Friday, December 4, 2015 ; Goethe University, Frankfurt
Beek, Jan ; Finding Scammers: Kriminalpolizeiliche Ermittlungen gegen Internetbetrug in Ghana. ; Thursday, April 24, 2014 ; Goethe University Frankfurt
Jan Beek ; Doing Area Online: Internetkriminalität zwischen Afrikaund Indien. ; Friday, January 29, 2016 ; Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Beek.Jan ; DEAR SIR OR MADAM – Internetkriminalität in Afrika und Asien ; Friday, March 6, 2015 ; Goethe University, Frankfurt
Beek, Jan ; Cybercrime between Africa, Europe, and India ; Wednesday, October 8, 2014 ; University of Mumbai
Beek, Jan ; Cyber Fraud and Policing: From Africa to India ; Thursday, October 30, 2014 ; Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi