INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE - Blessing or curse? Small-scale societies in a globalized world: Lessons from the Seychelles

International Conference

 Manchester Theatre, Anse Royale Campus, 6-7 March, 2019

Blessing or curse?

Small-scale societies in a globalized world: Lessons from Seychelles

 Concept

The scale of a society – the size and social complexity – has always been a decisive factor in its internal reproduction as well as its relationship to the outside world. There are both advantages and disadvantages of small scale in relation to political governance, economic viability and cultural reproduction. Only in the last few decades, however, small scale has taken on a new significance. In a world of container ships, Internet, inexpensive air travel, transnational NGOs, global challenges such as climate change, the vulnerabilities of small-scale societies have become more evident than before. This conference sets out to redefine the significance of small scale in the rapidly changing, interweaved, ‘overheated’ world of the 21st century, identifying its characteristics, its challenges, and its rewards.

The focus is on the issue of small scale in Seychelles from a variety of positions. Relevant fields of inquiry include, though are not limited to, the following:

 

  • Culture - The survival, use, and proliferation of Kreol Seselwa and other creole languages in small-scale societies; the effects of tourism, travel, and media on cultural identity; the social media and social, linguistic, and cultural identities; heritage management, food culture and oral traditions …
  • Ecomomy - Thelack of economic diversity, import dependency, and food security; cost of infrastructural development given that projects are small; ownership in tourism, foreign investments, ‘land grabbing’ …
  • Politics - Influence by foreign powers and military weakness. Domestically: clientilism, patronage, informal networks, two-bloc ‘moiety’ system emerging from small scale? Higher potential for genuine democracy because of short network distances between elites and citizens? Or ... ?
  • Society and relationships - Small scale creates generalists and jacks-of-all-trades, not specialists; limited scope for extended networks; lack of anonymity; role of civil society organizations; the question of social and cultural diversity.

Within this general remit, questions to do with, for example, law, sociolinguistics, health services and domestic literature/cultural production may profitably be raised. Sometimes, small scale may confer advantages; familiarity and informality may be a recipe for clientilism, but also for trust and flexibility in social relations. Inequality is less in small as opposed to large societies, and their relative simplicity removes the need for many auxiliary and bureaucratic services.

We enter the field in an explorative spirit in the hope that everybody will be surprised by some of the findings and perspectives presented.

 

Outcome

The desired outcome is an edited volume, published internationally, highlighting small scale and globalization with Seychelles as a case study, but with broader theoretical and political implications. We are looking forward to a conference where small scale is an advantage rather than a handicap: keeping to the spirit of the topic, the event will be focused, compact, productive and friendly, rather than sprawling, chaotic, confusing and anonymous.

 

For further information, please contact Thomas Hylland Eriksen This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or Penda Choppy This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

PROGRAMME

  • 6th March, 2019 – Manchester Theatre

 Opening ceremony

08.45         Arrival of dignitaries, guests, delegates and presenters

09.00         Welcome and introduction by Director CLCRI

09.05         Short address by Prof. Thomas Hylland Eriksen

09.10         Opening speech by Chairperson UniSey Council

 

Presentations

Time

Presenter

Title

Chairperson

09.20

Prof. Godfrey Baldacchino

Keynote Address: Thinking development: Islands and archipelagos

Penda Choppy

10.20

TEA-BREAK

10.50

Dr. Olga Klymenko

Scaling global in small and vice versa: Graphic verbs in Seychellois Creole and English

Aneesa Vel

11.30

Dr. Madina Regnault

Seychelles World Heritage Sites: A small scale approach

Aneesa Vel

12.10

Monika Bar

The legal profession in a small-scale society

Aneesa Vel

12.50

LUNCH BREAK

13.50

Mr. Justin Zelime

Language and educational equity in a small, post-colonial Nation – the example of  Seychelles

Thyra Faure

14.30

Dr. Indra Persaud

Teaching geographies of small and large, near and far: Is there room for multi-scalar identities in the Seychelles geography classroom?

Thyra Faure

15.10

Ms. Ronia Anacoura

Language processing and pragmatics in plurilingual Seychellois learners

Thyra Faure

15.50

 

End of first day

 

 

 

 

  • 7th March, 2019 – Manchester Theatre

 

Time

Presenter

Title

Chairperson

09.00

Prof. Thomas Hylland Eriksen

The problem of scale at a time of overheated globalisation

Indra Persaud

10.00

TEA-BREAK

10.30

Prof. Mats Deutschmann &

Dr. Anders Steinvall

Exploring creole male stereotypes in  Seychelles using digital matched-guise methodology

Benjamin Vel

11.10

Dr. Ramola Ramtohul

Women’s political representation in small island states: A comparative analysis of Mauritius and  Seychelles

Benjamin Vel

11.50

Dr. Anne-Berenike Rothstein

Transgressive bodies – mythicization and representation of national female figures

Benjamin Vel

12.30

LUNCH BREAK

13.30

Penda Choppy

From island Creoles to global Creoles

Bernard Shamlaye

14.10

Mats Deutschmann

Anders Steinvall

Justin Zelime

Workshop on educational studies: how Seychelles can be a ‘test laboratory’ for various models that would be of relevance for various post-colonial L2 English medium of instruction contexts.

Bernard Shamlaye

15.10

 

Closing remarks

 

 

CONFERENCE DELEGATES AND ABSTRACTS

Godfrey Baldacchino (PhD, Warwick, UK) is Pro Rector and Professor of Sociology at the University of Malta, Malta; UNESCO Co-Chair (Island Studies and Sustainability) at the University of Prince Edward Island, Canada; and founding executive editor of Island Studies Journal. Author or Editor of some 50 publications plus some 130 peer reviewed scholarly articles. 

 

Keynote address: Thinking development: Islands and archipelagos

 

Thomas Hylland Eriksen is a professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo in Norway and president of the European Association of Social Anthropologists. He has published extensively on the social and cultural dynamics of ethnically complex societies. Eriksen is currently the principal investigator on the project Overheating: The Three Crises of Globalisation, which is funded by the European Research Council. His books, which include Small Places, Large Issues: An Introduction to Social and Cultural AnthropologyEthnicity and Nationalism: Anthropological PerspectivesFredrik Barth: An Intellectual Biography, and, most recently, Overheating: An Anthropology of Accelerated Change; and Boomtown: Runaway Globalisation on the Queensland Coast, have been translated into more than 30 languages.

 

Presentation title:The problem of scale at a time of overheated globalisation

Abstract: Overheating, as defined and elaborated in my books Overheating and An Overheated World, refers to a series of interrelated processes of accelerated change resulting from economic liberalisation and technological developments in the post-Cold War World. Transaction costs are greatly reduced (not least as regards transport), and dominant ideology and practice favours the free exchange of goods and services on a global scale. As a result, small economies find it increasingly difficult to compete not only globally, but also in the domestic market, and intensified global networking in communication, mobility and exchange also raises challenges for local identities and, indeed, the political autonomy of small societies.

 

Drawing mainly on examples from the Seychelles, the presentation explores the challenges in the realms of politics, economy and identity, but also emphasises the potential of small-scale societies to ‘punch above their weight’ on a global canvas.

 

Anne-Berenike Rothstein (PD. Dr. phil. habil) is Assistant Professor at the University of Constance, Germany. In 2013/2014 she was a Visiting Professor of French and Spanish Literature and Cultural Studies at the Humboldt University, Berlin. Her main research is in the fields of Myth and Hybridity, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Literature and Aesthetics of the 19th Century, Gender Studies. She has numerous publications and research projects. Currently she is leading a research group on ‘Tattoos as Memorable Palimpsest - Identification Levels and Potentials in War- and Post-War Periods’ and a transfer project on new digital mediation strategies for witnessing and commemorating.

 

Presentation title: Transgressive bodies – mythicization and representation of national female figures

Abstract: Each society has its own myths and mythical figures that are integrated into everyday culture and that have inscribed themselves in collective memory, creating and strengthening a cultural identity. This is particularly important for countries that have been strongly influenced by Europeans in their history (e.g. in South America and Africa).

Especially in Latin American literature and culture there are striking female figures (e.g. for Mexico, Malinche; for Cuba, Cecilia Valdés; for Argentina, Eva Perón) who have a socio-cultural representation function that is constantly changing. As reflective figures of Latin American "culturas híbridas" (Nestor García Canclini, 1989), they are exposed to processes of inscription anchored in social history and can be defined as collective myths that undergo changes within an individual and collective memory of images and narratives that is steadily expanding. As "media of cultural memory" (Jan Assmann, 1992) they show themselves in changeable aesthetic constructions and media designs.

Based on myth theories, cultural studies and gender studies, the presentation develops a (re)definition of mythology in relation to (Latin American) female figures from a literary and cultural studies perspective and, at the same time, drafts a specific "body history" (Maren Lorenz, 2000). For the gender, social and (colonial) political power relationships are manifested in the respective representation of the body image and can be read as variations of the basic Latin American analogy between the female body and territory and the texts as "body(in)scriptions".

Starting from a myth definition that regards myth as an integral and cultural component of a socially and politically determinable group of people and additionally focuses mainly on two aspects (everyday myth and literary myth), mythicization is defined as a media transformation process. This will be discussed in a second step of the presentation on the basis of some selected examples from the Seychelles cultural area (stories, legends, songs). The presentation will address the question to what extent the myth definition – developed for the Latin American context – can be transferred to the comparatively smaller geographical context of  Seychelles, what function the mythicization of the figures acts in the collective memory of  Seychelles, what role is played in the globalized cultural landscape and what special significance the new construction of images and narratives by (digital) media has.

Overall, the presentation aims to provide new research perspectives on the relatively young research field of Seychelles literature and culture and tries to offer impulses for further (common) research activities of the CLCRI Institute.

 

Olga Klymenko is Associate Professor at the University of Seychelles, Department of Languages and Media, and Lectures on a wide range of courses for the BA English programme. Her scientific interests are in the sphere of verb meaning and argument structure, language typology, text interpretation and communication theory.

Presentation title: Scaling global in small and vice versa: Graphic verbs in Seychellois Creole and English

Abstract: One of the sensitive aspects of a small country like Seychelles is its language situation. Seychellois Creole, one of the country`s three official languages and the native language of the Creole population, is still evolving its way against the well-established monoliths of English and French, the other two official languages. Scaling Seychellois Creole in the contemporary language equilibrium in Seychelles draws attention to some conditions and effects of the current language coexistence, in particular, in its linguistic dimension.

As syntax and symbolism may be deemed as most important evidence sources in the language theory (Beckerton, 2005), the current paper zooms in on the above parameters of Seychellois Creole, exploring how the contact with English, a major European language, resonates in certain domains of its verb lexicon.

The paper sets out to explore to what extent creolization affects semantic processes, such as concept lexicalization, realization of semantic roles and semantic derivation. How different is a lexical paradigm for a certain concept in Seychellois Creole form its counterpart in English? Does the process of semantic derivation in Seychellois Creole parallel that of the source language or does it take a different shape and direction? Even if explicitly drawing on the source language on the level of conceptual meaning, how dependent is the associative meaning development? What factors, linguistic and/or socio-cultural ones, facilitate differences?

The above questions are explored in a comparative study of a number of English and Seychellois Creole lexemes conceptualizing the process of writing. Analysis of the way the semantic formula of the graphic act (the number and the roles of the participants engaged in writing) is lexicalized and syntactically instantiated in the above languages, as well as the study of connotations attached to the lexemes in question, provides some insightful data to generalize on the semantic aspects of creolization as one of the intrinsic processes of language development.

 

Indra Persaud is a senior lecturer and has research interests in geography education in small island developing states. She works at the University of Seychelles, as the Head of Department for Education, and coordinates the Master’s in Educational Leadership joint programme with the University of Mauritius, as well as the local PGCE and BEd programmes.

Presentation title: Teaching geographies of small and large, near and far:Is there room for multi-scolar identities in the Seychelles geography classroom?

Abstract: The Indian Ocean microstate of Seychelles provides a unique site for the study of multi-scholarity. Although Seychelles is a tiny and relatively remote nation, it has a hybrid legacy of European colonialism and Cuban-inspired socialism that is now fused with present-day convolutions of global capitalism. Using a multi-scalar lens, extending from the individual to the global, this paper examines the forces that have shaped and continue to shape Seychelles’ education, making particular reference to the geography curriculum. By linking local stories to national and international narratives, the intricacies of geography curriculum-making help to unpack the forces that shape education in small communities. The multi-scalar politics of language, culture and power are shown to disrupt the geography classroom, challenging Seychellois teachers’ and students’ sense of place and Kreol identity.  Generally, the paper provides an important example of the way national education systems can be both resilient and vulnerable to the powers of the global economy.

Madina Regnault is an anthropologist with a background in Political Sciences. Associate researcher from EIREST (Interdisciplinary Team of Research and Advanced Studies of Tourism) of the University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, she is currently the Head of the Department of Tourism & Cultural Heritage of UniSey.

Presentation title: Seychelles World Heritage Sites: A small scale approach

Abstract: In the middle of the Indian Ocean, the archipelago of Seychelles, has two World Heritage Sites: the Aldabra Atoll (nominated in 1982), and the Vallee de Mai (1983). Focused on the small-scale angle, this paper will question theimpacts of the UNESCO’s recognition on the management of the sites, the touristification process, the identity and the sense of place. Based on qualitative methods (semi-directed interviews and participant observation), this presentation will analyze the socio-political consequences of UNESCO’s labeling at the local level. For a small-scale island like Seychelles, the local level blends in with the national one, leading to the involvement of the whole population towards territorial challenges.

Aldabra, first, is a heritage site but not a touristic one. The national and international recognition of this site led to the shared recognition of the value of this site amongst the population. Recently, when there were moves to establish an Indian naval base in the Assumption Islands (part of the Aldabra group), Seychellois people initiated a move to protect the site. This mobilization shows the resistance of the population against governmental plans regarding foreign imposition as well as its resilience to soft power strategies in the region.

The second World Heritage Site, the touristic Vallee de Mai, is gaining economic value coming from its UNESCO’s recognition. The income is also financing the management and conservation of the non-touristified site of Aldabra. In this small-scale society, the  ‘coco de mer’ (endemic to only one of the 115 islands of the archipelago) became a national cultural pride and its poaching is a national issue.

Justin Zelime is a lecturer in Language Studies at the University of Seychelles. He has a BA degree in Modern English Studies, a PGCE in English and a Masters Degree in English Language Teaching. Justin is about to complete his doctoral studies in the field of Education at Umea University, Sweden.

 

Presentation title: Language and educational equity in a small post-colonial nation – The example of  Seychelles  

Abstract: Over the last four years I have conducted a number of studies, on various levels of the Seychelles educational system, related to challenges and consequences of current language-education policies. The studies include: 1) analysis of educational policy documents such as the National Curriculum Framework and subject syllabi; 2) investigations of teacher attitudes towards teaching through English and/or Kreol Seselwa; 3) evaluating the learners’ ability to communicate their subject knowledge in English and Kreol Seselwa under exam conditions; and 4) investigating Primary 6 pupils’ ability to make meaning through their biliteracy practice. The presentation will make a summary of results from the different studies, where the overall findings indicate that current policies may contribute to educational inequity, especially given that the present-day system relies heavily on written examinations. I conclude that the full potential of using the mother tongue in learning contexts is not being realized, primarily as a result of deeply rooted negative attitudes towards Kreol Seselwa being used in educational contexts. From an analytical perspective, I use Nancy Hornberger’s Continua of Biliteracy framework (1989) as a model to describe how the four studies are interconnected systematically, with the aim to shed more light on the current language-in-education context of Seychelles, and how this system can be related to other similar L2 MoI contexts. Finally, the Continua of Biliteracy framework also provides the starting point for productive discussions on how potential improvements can be implemented.

Mats Deutschmann is professor of English at Örebro University. He has a long-standing relationship with Seychelles and his work has primarily focussed educational research and the role of Kreol Seselwa in the current school system. He is currently also leading a project that explores similarities and differences in attitudes and stereotypical preconceptions of male and female linguistic behaviour in Sweden and Seychelles.

 

Anders Steinvall is a Senior Lecturer (associate professor) at the Department of Language Studies, University of Umeå, Sweden.

Presentation title: Exploring creole male stereotypes in Seychelles using digital matched-guise methodology

Abstract: In their study on socialization patterns and boys’ underperformance in Seychellois schools, Geisler and Pardiwalla (2010) speak of a “growing crisis of masculinity”, manifested in statistics such as a ten-year life expectancy difference in favour of women, alarmingly high levels of substance abuse amongst younger men, underachievement of boys in schools and high unemployment rates among young males. According to the authors, males are generally disempowered by stereotypical views of males as “irresponsible”, “unreliable” and “secondary to women […] in life generally”. Similar gender patterns have been observed in other ex-slavery Creole cultures such as the Caribbean, and some scholars argue that these structures have historical origins dating back to slavery. Under these structures, white slave masters had rights over all children and women, and slave males had their role as husbands and fathers forcibly taken away from them (Maiche, 2003; Bwana and Bwana, 1996; Chang-Him 2002; Beckles, 2004). According to Beckles (2004), slave masculinity was dishonoured by the condition of being “kept” and “kept down” and also rendered “socially dead” by the denial of aspects such fatherhood.

In this study, we seek to explore aspects of Seychellois stereotypes of masculinity through so-called matched-guise experiments. Through digital manipulations of voice quality, we produce identity-warped male and female versions of the same monologue recording – a short humble apology. We then ask respondents to listen to the recordings and respond to the same in a short online questionnaire, where we ask questions relating to their impressions of the apology and the speaker. Dimensions here include honesty-dishonesty; politeness; weakness-strength; reliability-unreliability etc. Differences in results of responses to male and female versions of the apology give strong indications that Seychellois stereotypically view males as weak, dishonest, unreliable and careless. We discuss potential consequences of such constructions and also propose awareness-raising measures for how these destructive, historically-produced scripts of gender can be rewritten.

 

Ramola Ramtohul is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Gender Studies in the Department of Social Studies of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Mauritius. Her research interests and publications are in the areas of gender and politics  in multicultural contexts, postcolonial women’s mobilisation, privatisation in the African higher education sector and high net worth migration and citizenship.  She is currently co-editor of the Journal of Contemporary African Studies and a member of the CODESRIA Executive Committee. 

 

Presentation Title: Women’s political representation in small island states: A comparative analysis of Mauritius and Seychelles

Abstract: The area of island studies is characterized by a gap at the level of research and data on gender issues. This paper will examine the gender dimensions of political representation in two Indian Ocean island states, Mauritius and Seychelles. The paper will discuss the gender dimensions of scale, boundedness, isolation and fragmentation that are characteristic of island states in the contexts of Mauritius and Seychelles. The Indian Ocean beach islands of Mauritius and Seychelles both inherited British colonial structures and became independent in 1968 and 1976. While Seychelles and Mauritius have a lot in common, primarily being Indian Ocean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) with a colonial history, populated by migrants and with tourism being a key industry, yet the two islands differ markedly at the level of political trajectory and women’s representation in parliament.

Mauritius maintained a sustained multiparty democratic rule since independence in 1968, but Seychelles was under autocratic rule just after independence following a coup in 1977. Multiparty democracy was eventually restored in Seychelles in 1992 after almost 15 years of one-party rule and a new constitution was adopted in 1993. Since 2016, the National Assembly of Seychelles is made up of a majority of members of the opposition. Neither the Constitution of Seychelles (1993) nor that of Mauritius makes any provision for quotas or reserved places to enhance the representation of women in the National Assembly and political parties in both islands have not adopted voluntary quotas to increase the representation of women in parliament or advocated in favour of the quota system. Yet, as argued by Yoon (2011: 112), women have achieved a ‘respectable’ level of political representation without quotas in Seychelles. Seychelles has indeed made significant progress in the domain of women’s presence in politics and parliament. The percentage of women in the National Assembly of Seychelles has fluctuated between 23.5% and 43.8% over the last 23 years (CEDAW Seychelles, 2018: 8). The number of female parliamentarians peaked to 43.8% in 2011 and Seychelles was ranked 4th in the world from 2011 to 2016 for women’s representation in parliament with these figures achieved without a quota system. In Mauritius however, women’s representation in parliament has remained consistently low since independence in spite of continuous democratic rule, at 5.7% in 1983 and 1987, peaking at 17.1% in 2005 and falling to 11.6% in 2014.

Smallness is a salient feature of both islands, yet women’s political trajectories and success seem to differ substantially. Drawing largely from published sources, this paper will examine women’s political representation in Seychelles and Mauritius and attempt to explain the different trends in gendered political presence in the two islands. The paper will also discuss the implications for women’s political empowerment in small island states.

 

Penda Choppy is the Director of the Creole Language and Culture Research Institute at the University of Seychelles. She periodically teaches Postcolonial Literature and Creole on the BA English and BA French programmes, respectively, and is interested in the dynamics of creole cultures which evolved from Slavery and Colonialism.

 

Presentation title: From island Creoles to global Creoles

Abstract: Creoles from the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean have for a long time been described in  literature as culturally hybrid populations, as a result of 17th century colonialism and slavery. The continued evolution of new cultural forms in such creole societies has established a definite creole ‘genre’ in popular culture that has come to be recognized as a brand, worldwide. For example, creole food, creole music, creole styles are recognizable brands associated with creole societies like Louisiana, Seychelles, Reunion, Martinique, etc. However, more and more, Creoles living in small scale societies, and who very often have no other identity, have come to realize that they must share their creole identity with practically the whole world, since as a result of globalization and the recent acceleration of migration, the metropoles of the world are becoming centers of creolization in the sense of mixing, hybridity etc. Robin Cohen, for example, sees creolization as the selection of particular elements by communities or individuals, from incoming or inherited cultures, and the endowment of new meanings to these  elements that are different from those they possessed in the original cultures, and then creatively merging these to create new varieties that supersede the prior forms (Cohen, 2007). Is this the same process that occurred in places like Seychelles and Martinique, and is this what is happening in Europe, with the advent of immigration from the Global South? Or should the term creolization be reserved for a particular historical and sociocultural situation resulting from plantation slavery? In other words, is creolization a global or localized phenomenon?

 

Monika Bar

Presentation title: The legal profession in a small-scale society

Abstract: This study aims to examine the functioning of the legal profession in Seychelles, and explore some of the challenges and opportunities encountered when practicing law in a small-scale society. With only around 50 practicing lawyers and 20 judges, how does the legal profession deal with some of the common challenges encountered by all legal systems?

Based mainly on observation and interviews, the study will attempt to present a snapshot of the modern legal profession in Seychelles today.  It will focus on such issues as the education and training of new lawyers (including barriers to entry into the profession, and the standard of education available), how the profession tackles common ethical challenges (including corruption), and the opportunities for individuals given the limited numbers of professional competitors.  The study will also attempt to draw some broader conclusions about the impact, if any, that ‘smallness’ might have on the rule of law and access to justice in a small-scale society.

 

Ronia Anacoura

Presentation title: Language processing and pragmatics in plurilingual Seychellois learners Abstract: While bilinguals process two languages simultaneously, trilinguals process three. This in itself implies more selection and more control. As Festman explains, “multilingualism is like multitasking… the more languages you have to process, the higher the level of concentration and application needed” (2018:240).

As is the case for most if not all multilingual countries, the languages of Seychelles vary in function and status. The plurilingual Seychellois therefore has to activate target languages and deactivate non target ones according to the context or pragmatic cues. There is a need to not only master but to control the different language systems in order to limit interference. However because the language systems are in constant interaction, there are bound to be instances of interference through code switching or mixing as well clashes in the interpretation of lexical content.

By observing the discourse productions of Seychellois learners, the present (ongoing) research seeks to identify the above such phenomena, by paying particular attention to the pragmatic cues, the instance of code switching and mixing, as well as incidences of lexical clashes across languages.

By applying a psycholinguistic and neurocognitive approach to my observations, I hope to shed some light on the cognitive disposition of the plurilingual Seychellois and, subsequently, accomplish the following:

  • Establish whether Seychellois learners compartmentalise their language in relation to the communication context.
  •  Determine whether linguistic constructions differ according to language and context.
  •  Have a better understanding of the way linguistic constructions occur in the cognitive process of Seychellois learners.

 

The presentation is an overview of present work in progres and does not claim to have undisputable answers to any of the above queries.

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