Bio

Timothy Raeymaekers

I don’t remember how many times I have rewritten this page. My wife calls me an eclectic, and means it as a compliment. My daughter has a list of forty things to ask to the Christmas Man. I asked her to erase all but one. In these folly times one ought to start to say no to certain things. Not long ago I threw away my IPhone, I stopped smoking years ago, I hate Facebook but I like good company in a physical sense. I am an activist in certain respects, particularly when it comes to the right to move freely. But I am a ‘passivist’ when it comes to formulating tailored policy advice for the sake of ‘development’.

Ever since I wrote “Conflict and Social Transformation” with my colleague Koen Vlassenroot in 2004, I have remained interested in the relationship between protracted crisis, violence and social change. What is the relationship between the various crises we are facing today – of war, economic hardship, of ‘modernity’ – and wider social transformations occurring in society in general? Is violence inherent to any form of government emerging from such situations? And how does our subjective uncertainty and the ways we manage risk relate to these wider and widening crises? These questions have brought me to do research in Africa, and increasingly also in Europe, on questions of protracted armed conflict, hybrid governance, post-war reconstruction, ‘informal’ economies and social innovation, but also on forced migration, asylum and the reproduction of sovereign rule in the margins of the state.

After an education in contemporary European History (University of Ghent) and International Relations (London School of Economics) I had a short career in journalism, at a defunct journal called MaoMagazine. I subsequently worked as an activist and analyst at the International Peace Information Service (IPIS), working on corporate crime, illegal arms sales and minerals trafficking, mainly in Central Africa. Particularly my work on the coltan trade attracted wide international attention, resulting in a parliamentary investigation in Belgium and Uganda (the so-called Porter report: pdf) and contributing to various international arrests.

After IPIS I moved to Ghent University to write a PhD thesis about the role of informal business in the transformation of political order during Africa’s Great Lakes war. In my ethnographic research I concentrated on the changing role of cross-border commerce in the reconfiguration of local government, focusing on biographical life histories and the political economy of informal war-time trade (see publications). A manuscript titled Violent Capitalism and Hybrid Identity in Eastern Congo has been published with Cambridge University Press in 2016.

Today, I work as a lecturer in Political Geography at the University of Zurich. I have widened my research scope to border studies (margins, frontiers), forced displacement and migration – always associating in-depth critical research with creative work and political activism.

contact me at timothy.raeymaekers@geo.uzh.ch

Recent Posts

Felandina eviction

Two days ago, the mayor of Bernalda, Domenico Tataranno, officially announced the imminent eviction of the migrant ocupation La Felandina, located in the industrial zone of Metaponto. The building has been occupied since a year by approximately 600 migrant workers, a majority of which are in possession of regular residence papers, according to official police sources. The migrants offer their labour to agricultural enterprises in the area. Since a few years the Basilicata and Calabria coastline has effectively become Southern Italy’s grocery garden: from the famous strawberries harvested in early Spring to the fruit and vegetables that are cultivated here over the Summer and Autumn, production continues throughout the year. Farmers sell their produce under often unfavourable contracts to the big distribution networks through intermediaries located in Puglia and Campania.

Speaking at a public meeting, the mayor said he took his decision after a long series of meetings with the Prefecture, Town Hall, and competent authorities – notwithstanding the acknowledgement, by the territiorial prefecture, that migrant workers who come to the area have difficulty finding alternative forms of accommodation. “It will be up to the State, through the security forces, to implement the eviction in practice. We will try, with the collaboration of those poor people, to find the best solution from a logistic point of view,” Tataranno concluded.

In March this year, the head of Basilicata’s Migrant Policy Coordination, Pietro Simonetti officially promised a temporary reception facility for 150 seasonal migrant workers, which so far has not been concretely defined. In the meantime, therefore, migrant workers have no other alternative other than occupying a new site.

Migrant tent camps in Metaponto, March 2018

It is not the first time it comes to such tensions in the area of Metaponto. Already in 2018, the mayor of Bernalda ordered the clearance of various tent camps located under the town’s bridges and in the many abandoned warehouses in the area. Like much of Basilicata, the area continues to be affected by a progressive abandonment, driven by a lack of institutional capacities and employment opportunities. Specifically, the 2018 eviction followed an open letter in which Metaponto’s residents denounced the, in their view, “disproportionate” presence of immigrant citizens who come to the area to work. Declaring a state of emergency, they asked the mayor to restore law and order in the area. 

The same year, two agricultural entrepreneurs and one gangmaster based in Metaponto had been officially indighted for illicit labour recruitment, which has become an offence under the new anti-racket legislation. Altogether, these events reveal once more the paradox of the current legislative context, which regards migrant labour intermediation as a criminal offense, but at the same time refuses to address its root causes beyond a mere logistical perspective. 

La Felandina (c) OMB
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