Category Archives: The Geographical Journal

Utopia and saving the African rainforest – should Bob Geldof board this train?

By Emmanuel Nuesiri, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, USA

Bob Geldof. Photo Credit: Eric Roset. Available via CC BY 2.0

Bob Geldof. Photo Credit: Eric Roset. Available via CC BY 2.0

Bob Geldof is in the news again attempting to ‘save Africa’ from Ebola through Band Aid. While his original effort 30 years ago against famine in Ethiopia was welcomed, his current effort has been criticized by many as ill-conceived. However, Bob Geldof is not alone when it comes to visions of saving Africa. There is a history of individuals and institutions in the developed world, inspired by a utopian impulse to save African peoples and societies from real and imagined troubles, and usher in peace and prosperity.

Take Africa’s forestry sector during the colonial era. The utopian impulse to save Africa’s ‘edenic’ and aesthetic forests led the Society for the Preservation of the Wild Fauna of the Empire (SPWFE) to lobby for the setting up of protected areas. I show in my article in The Geographical Journal, ‘Decentralized forest management: towards a utopian realism’, that today, the utopian impulse to save the African forests has morphed into a discourse about reforming governance in Africa. Thus decentralised forest management, the forestry paradigm in place today, which has resulted in initiatives like community forestry, is not only presented as good for the forest, but as also necessary for moving Africa towards ‘good governance’. This utopian impulse to engineer an ideal society through forest sector reforms was given voice by community conservation advocates and amplified by bilateral and multilateral donors.

In 2006, as part of my doctoral studies investigating the transformative potential of community forests, I visited the Bimbia-Bonadikombo community forest (referred to as BB) in south-west Cameroon. During forest walk with BB forest patrol officers, we stumbled on artisanal loggers operating without license. The patrol officers accosted them and a violent scuffle broke out and the police were called in. The artisanal loggers protested strongly that from when BB was created in 2002, they have been restricted from using the forest and this has hurt them financially. So they are fighting for survival as they have no other source of regular cash income. In spite of its rhetoric of justice, fairness, empowerment and poverty alleviation, community forestry in this place provoked violent resistance.

Decentralised forest management might be aiming to produce a best possible world, a utopia for local forest people, but in countries like Cameroon, it has also produced strong opposition at national and local level. The romantic utopian might view this with resignation and even nihilism. The utopian realist would view opposition and even failure as grounds to revisit programme and project design, while not letting go of the utopian impulse for a just, fair, and post-scarcity society. Decentralised forest management programmes like Bob Geldof have taken some huge hit as it seeks to make a difference in Africa. However, its utopian and transformative power for a just and fairer society should continue to inspire. Where there have been failures let’s get back to the drawing board and re-examine our a priori design assumptions.

About the author: Emmanuel Nuesiri obtained his DPhil. in Geography from the University of Oxford. He is a research scholar with the Responsive Forest Governance Initiative (RFGI) at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, USA. His research interests include forests and climate change governance.     

 Nuesiri, E. O. (2014), Decentralised forest management: towards a utopian realism. The Geographical Journal. doi: 10.1111/geoj.12104

 Guardian, The (2014) Band Aid 30 becomes fastest-selling single of 2014. 18 November

 Gordon, B (2014) Why Adele was right to ignore Bob Geldof and Band Aid. The Telegraph 18 November

So what sort of climate do we want? Thoughts on how to decide what is ‘natural’ climate

By Chris Caseldine, University of Exeter

With the meeting in Copenhagen to releasing the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change synthesis report produced by Working Group I  in early November, it is timely to consider not only our response to likely changes in climate but also to look at just what sort of climate we are hoping to achieve (Caseldine, 2014). Possible implementation of various climate geoengineering schemes (Hulme, 2014), especially those under the banner of SRM (solar radiation management) which seek to mimic the cooling effects of volcanic eruptions to offset anthropogenic warming, has invigorated debate on the rights and wrongs of interfering with the  climate system. The ever increasing concentration of Green House Gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere (Friedlingstein et al., 2014) has though already built  climate change into the earth system for the next century so whether we like it or not choosing to reduce GHGs, or deciding to allow concentrations to rise will also impact on global climate.

Stranded iceberg calved from Dawes Glacier, Alaska, 2014. Photograph credit Chris Caseldine.

Stranded iceberg calved from Dawes Glacier, Alaska, 2014. Photograph credit Chris Caseldine.

Because of our increasing understanding of the climate system we are now in a good position to assess the likely effects not only of various forms of geoengineering but also of reducing or indeed increasing GHG emissions – so what sort of climate do we want and what do we understand by ‘natural’ climate? Palaeoclimate studies using a range of sources have provided evidence of climate characteristics before human interference and climate models can now exclude the human factor and determine likely future climate patterns should nature take its course. If however you look at the sort of climate envisaged for a low carbon world it does not easily translate into the sort of climates, and weather, that will be experienced, it is usually defined in terms of global mean temperature, levels of GHGs or increasingly in terms of climate stabilization, a term that is rarely formally defined – usually considered as the prevention of dangerous change, the possibility of exceeding some critical climate threshold or tipping point leading e.g to the total loss of Arctic summer sea ice and subsequent major reorganization of circulation patterns.

However much we manage to reduce GHG emissions or prevent the implementation of geoengineering schemes, climate, especially global climate will not though be more benign, it may not be climate as before, but can only be understood in the context of our knowledge of past climates. There is a real need to understand and explain what a move back to a more ‘natural’ climate will mean, and why if technology is seemingly available to tackle climate problems, to provide what is euphemistically called ‘climate solutions’, we should not adopt such procedures. We need a clear understanding of what we are aiming to achieve climatically, the grounds for following that trajectory and what it means for global populations.

About the author: Chris Caseldine is Professor of Quaternary Environmental Change in Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the Penryn Campus of the University of Exeter. He is a palaeoecologist and has carried out research into palaeonvironmental reconstruction, principally over the Holocene, in a range of environments including Iceland, Ireland, SW England and Southern Norway.

 Caseldine, C. 2014, So what sort of climate do we want? Thoughts on how to decide what is ‘natural’ climate. The Geographical Journal. doi: 10.1111/geoj.12131

 Friedlingstein, P. et al. 2014. Persistent growth of CO2 emissions and implications for reaching climate targets. Nature Geoscience, 7, 707-715

 Hulme, M. 2014. Can science fix climate change? Polity Press, 158pp.

 McGrath M 2014. IPCC preparing ‘most important’ document on climate change BBC

Après le deluge: the UK winter storms of 2013–14

By Klaus Dodds, Royal Holloway University of London

Spurn Head on the Humber being broken by the December 2013 Storm Surge Photo Credit: Environment Agency (reproduced with permission)

Spurn Head on the Humber being broken by the December 2013 Storm Surge Photo Credit: Environment Agency (reproduced with permission)

The UK winter floods of 2013-14 were unquestionably severe caused by winter storms that brought with them record levels of rainfall and long standing flooding to southern England, most notably the Somerset Levels. Other parts of the UK were also affected, coastal towns in Wales were battered by stormy weather and parts of the Scotland also recorded some of the highest levels of rainfall ever recorded. Political leaders of all the main parties were swift to visit affected areas, and the government organization responsible for flood management the Environment Agency and its embattled chief Lord Smith endured a barrage of criticism for late and or inadequate flood preparation, warnings and responsiveness. For weeks, stories and images of the flood and its impact on communities and infrastructure filled the airwaves. Some communities were affectively cut off while others lost their homes and possessions. The insurance industry estimated that the cost of the flooding exceeded £1 billion but it was lower than the estimated cost of the 2007 summer floods, which were put at over £3 billion.

As a recent themed section on the UK winter floods 2013-4 published in The Geographical Journal argues, there is a great deal more analytical work to be done in terms of how we make sense of such extreme events and what we might learn in the aftermath. One noticeable element in the 2013-4 winter storms was the presence of social media and the role that tweeting and Facebook played in raising flood awareness (#floodaware #thinkdontsink) and the sharing of images and stories relating to the flooding. This autumn the Environment Agency has taken again to social media to warn audiences about flood risk and prevention measures. Citizens, in potentially affected areas, are encouraged to check the real time mapping and monitoring of rivers and coastlines.

Combining historical and cultural geographers with fluvial geographers and hydrological modellers, the themed section ruminates on the social, economic, political and physical geographies of the flooding and the storm surges. It poses questions not only about how flooding is understood (both scientifically and culturally) but also how it impacts on communities and landscapes, some of whom enjoyed greater publicity than others. Campaigners for the affected Somerset Levels were particularly successful in generating media attention, as were home-owners and businesses along the River Thames. Flood geographers, as we might term it, are also in the thick of things when it comes to flood forecasting and advising agencies on how government and communities should prepare in the future for such extreme events. Preparedness combined with individual and communal resilience have been championed as indispensable and perhaps social media provided a resource of sorts for such resilience as people shared advice and experiences of flooding.

But as our themed section also shows that rivers including flood plains are complex and lively spaces. They vary in terms of flood risk vulnerability and this is as much to do with their materiality as it is due to historic and contemporary patterns of human occupation. For centuries, humans have intervened in such environments and introduced flood embanking, channel dredging, and manipulated the volume and flow speed of rivers. Moreover coastal environments have experienced a patchwork of interventions from hard to soft forms of coastal engineering. We have, over the years, sought to intervene in order to mitigate, and even prevent unwelcome futures.

Lets hope if severe winter storms affect the UK again in 2014-5 we will be able to conclude that we are somewhat wiser as a consequence of our experiences in the winter of 2013-4.

About the author: Klaus Dodds is a Professor of Geopolitics within the Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London. Klaus is also the Editor of The Geography Journal.

The Geographical Journal themed section in full:

books_icon Dodds, K. (2014), Après le deluge: the UK winter storms of 2013–14. The Geographical Journal, 180: 294–296. doi: 10.1111/geoj.12126

books_icon Thorne, C. (2014), Geographies of UK flooding in 2013/4. The Geographical Journal, 180: 297–309. doi: 10.1111/geoj.12122 (open access)

books_icon Stephens, E. and Cloke, H. (2014), Improving flood forecasts for better flood preparedness in the UK (and beyond). The Geographical Journal, 180: 310–316. doi: 10.1111/geoj.12103

books_icon Lewin, J. (2014), The English floodplain. The Geographical Journal, 180: 317–325. doi: 10.1111/geoj.12093

books_icon McEwen, L., Jones, O. and Robertson, I. (2014), ‘A glorious time?’ Some reflections on flooding in the Somerset Levels. The Geographical Journal, 180: 326–337. doi: 10.1111/geoj.12125

books_icon Clout, H. (2014), Reflections on The draining of the Somerset Levels. The Geographical Journal, 180: 338–341. doi: 10.1111/geoj.12088

Other references:

60-world2 Ugwumandu J (2014) Severe winter weather to cost UK insurers £1.1bn, says ABI The Actuary, 13 March 2014

60-world2 Gov.uk (2014) Check flood warnings and river levels  

Another Islamic State? The Shifting Tactics of Boko Haram

By Stuart Elden, University of Warwick and Monash University

Military Presence in Maitama, Abuja (image credit: Stuart Elden)

Military Presence in Maitama, Abuja (image credit: Stuart Elden)

The Sunni Islamic group known as ‘Boko Haram’, active in the northeast of the country since at least 2007, came to much wider Western attention in April 2014 with the kidnapping of the school girls at Chibok in Borno state. It then somewhat slipped off the radar with events in Ukraine and the rise of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ in Syria and Iraq. The ‘Islamic State’ was formerly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, and then as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Al-Sham is frequently translated as either the ‘Levant’ or Syria, but part of the point is to encompass a much wider geographical area, and the group has been explicit about its aim of dissolving colonial-era boundaries between states. Foremost among these is the much-hated ‘Sykes-Picot line’ between Iraq and Syria, the result of the 1915-16 agreement between the French and British about how they would divide the lands of the Ottoman Empire if they were to defeat them in the First World War. The peace of Paris, following the end of that war, did indeed set many of these divisions, though it took two treaties for this region: the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920, which never came into force because of the Turkish war of independence, and then the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. The borders of Syria, Lebanon, Mandate Palestine, Iraq and Turkey all result from these agreements.

In West Africa, the territories of states are also determined by their inheritance of colonial-era boundaries. Many boundaries run north-south, whereas Muslim-Christian divisions tend to run east-west. What this means, in Nigeria especially, is a seemingly stark division in the country. All of the northern states that have implemented Sharia legal codes voted for Muhammadu Buhari in the last presidential elections, whereas all the southern states except Osun voted for Goodluck Jonathan. When Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died in office in 2010, Jonathan, as his vice-president, succeeded him. Jonathan has since won an election in his own right, and has recently declared he will run again in 2015. To win, he wants to stabilize the situation with Boko Haram, something that seems increasingly out of reach.

Nigeria has seen political violence and challenges to its territorial integrity before, with the Biafran war of independence between 1967 and 1970, and there has been a long-running challenge to the oil industry in the Niger Delta. Boko Haram has to be seen within Nigeria’s political-geographical context, as a group challenging Christian rule, the inequitable distribution of resources within the country, with an aspiration of a stricter form of Islamic law.

But it can also be seen in a wider regional context. Africa has long been seen as a focus of a wider ‘war on terror’, though most attention was paid to the Horn of Africa. But the stationing of a drone base in Niger, the French-led intervention in Mali, and the challenge of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM), especially since the fall of Gaddafi’s regime in Libya, has brought more attention to this region. Many claims for Boko Haram’s links to AQIM or to al-Shabaab in Somalia have been made, though these are likely looser than generally suggested.

In the past few weeks Boko Haram has been back in the news, after the Nigerian government announced a ceasefire had been agreed and the release of the Chibok girls was imminent. Unfortunately this turned out not to be the case. Some days later Boko Haram’s leader, Abubaker Shekau, gave an announcement stating that no such agreement had been made, and there have been a series of bombings, kidnappings and battles with the Nigerian military. But alongside these all-too-familiar attacks, Boko Haram have also shifted tactics, seeking to take over territory rather than just launch short raids. Several towns and villages in the northeast have been taken over, including, most recently, Chibok itself. The major town of Mubi was seized and the retaken by the state. Boko Haram have also declared themselves an ‘Islamic State’ and, on some reports, a Caliphate, though by this they likely meant simply an area ruled by Islamic law. While Boko Haram has long worked as more than a military operation, earlier this month former US ambassador John Campbell has suggested they are in the process of ‘moving toward governance’ (2014). Just as Iraq, Nigeria faces a profound challenge to its territorial integrity.

About the author: Stuart Elden is Professor of Political Theory and Geography at the University of Warwick, in the Politics and International Studies department. In this role Stuart spends two months a year at the Centre for Urban Science and Progress at New York University, and at Monash University where he holds an adjunct appointment as Monash Warwick Professor in the Faculty of Arts.

books_icon Campbell, J (2014) ‘Nigeria’s Boko Haram Moving Toward Governance?’, Africa in Transition: Council for Foreign Relations, November 7

books_icon Elden, S. (2009) Terror and Territory: The Spatial Extent of Sovereignty, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

60-world2 Elden, S. (2014a) Boko Haram: An Annotated Bibliography. Progressive Geographies [open access]

books_icon Elden, S. (2014b) The Geopolitics of Boko Haram and Nigeria’s ‘War on Terror’, The Geographical Journal 180 (4), 414-25

60-world2 International Crisis Group (2014) Curbing Violence in Nigeria (II): The Boko Haram Insurgency, Africa Report 216 [open access]

60-world2 Mantzikos, Ioannis ed. (2013) Boko Haram: Anatomy of a Crisis, Bristol: e-International Relations [open access]

60-world2 Walker, Andrew (2012) “What is Boko Haram?”, United States Institute of Peace Special Report [open access]

 

Italy: A Tale of Popular Geographic Circulation

by Benjamin Sacks

Italy: designed by geography. © 2014 Wikimedia Commons.

Italy: designed by geography. © 2014 Wikimedia Commons.

In 2002 Harvard historian David Armitage advanced his groundbreaking ‘Three Concepts of the Atlantic World’, a part-historiographical, part-theoretical attempt to describe the transnational movement of peoples, goods, and ideas in the early modern era. Admitting, of course, that the Atlantic Ocean cannot be conceived of in isolation to the Pacific, Mediterranean, or Indian oceans, or indeed to non-Atlantic continents (an point since strenuously articulated by Peter Coclanis), Armitage proposed three, intertwined paradigms: Circum-Atlantic, or ‘a transnational history'; Trans-Atlantic, or ‘an international history'; and Cis-Atlantic, or a ‘national or regional history within an Atlantic context’ (15). In sum, Armitage argued that we could not analyse or articulate national histories without critically accounting for time, context, and space. A study of Cadiz, Spain, for instance, historically one of the Atlantic’s most important and dynamic ports, cannot be comprehensively accomplished without: identifying its particular relationship(s) with other ports, nations, peoples, and ideas, its geography; or how ideas, groups, goods, and communications circumnavigate the sea (and the world) before returning in often exotic, repackaged forms.

While still a relatively recent phenomenon in historical study, geographers have long practised precisely the same analytical methods. Federico Ferretti’s recent Geographical Journal article is an excellent case-in-point. In ‘Inventing Italy – Geography, Risorgimento and National Imagination’, Ferretti documents and critiques how politicians, geographers, journalists, and merchants united – both consciously and unconsciously – to promote a modern worldview of ‘Italy’ from 1861, following Giuseppe Garibaldi’s successful efforts to merge the various Italian peninsular states. As their discussions and depictions of a unified Italy spread, so to did global conceptions of ‘Italy’ as a singular national identity, gradually erasing centuries-old perceptions of Italy as a squabbling cornucopia of city-states. From a narrowly topographical standpoint, Austrian chancellor Klemens von Metternich famously dispelled any notion of a united Italy as ‘a mere geographical expression'; a collection of micro-states connected only by their shared space on a geographically ideal and compact peninsula with convenient physical boundaries (403). But the coterie of writers, politicals, cartographers, and populists who tasked themselves with promoting post-1861 Italy swiftly dispelled this gross misconception.

Recalling Derek Gregory’s conception of ‘geographic imaginations’, Ferretti supports the view that political “realities” are often entire or partial geographical constructs, products of sociocultural and economic belief shifts. Or, to put another way, if they believe it, it is real. Italy had to market itself to become a legitimate force.

In the three decades prior to Italian unification, Count Annibal Ranuzzi devoted his life to the promotion of a serious, unified Italian geographic discourse. He and colleagues developed sophisticated correspondence networks with such established organisations as the Royal Geographical Society and l’Académie des sciences. Apart from his extraordinary technical and networking abilities, Ranuzzi was also an adept political strategist. In 1840, observing the rapid growth of formal geographic study throughout Europe and North America, the Count declared that a vital ‘shift’ must soon occur in the discipline’s maturation: ‘Critical geography, comparative geography, is just being born, and much time will be needed before it penetrates and prevails over the entire field of geographical studies’ (409). Geography, as Ranuzzi and a mélange of progressive European experts realised, could be promoted as a potent political tool – the active, engaged study of people, power, and states.

Geography is a remarkably natural means of political persuasion. Maps, as Ranuzzi depicted, beautifully lend themselves to manipulation, self-interest, and national celebration, á la J B Harley and David Woodward’s scholarship. The printed word – journal articles, journalism, literary accounts, and travel writing – on Italy too promoted a sense of ‘the nation’ both before and after Italian unification. Although Ranuzzi was sadly marginalised following unification for his complex political relationships, his efforts – as well as that of his contemporaries – strongly influenced the establishment of national, pan-Italian learned geographical societies and even, in the mould of the Royal Geographical Society and the National Geographic Society, Italian imperial expeditions serving dual academic-political goals.

books_icon Armitage, D, ‘Three Concepts of the Atlantic World‘, in Armitage, D and Braddick, M, eds., The British Atlantic World, 1500-1800 (London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002).

books_icon Coclanis, P, ‘Drang Nach Osten: Bernard Bailyn, the World-Island, and the Idea of Atlantic History‘, Journal of World History 13.1 (Spring, 2002): 169-82.

books_icon Ferretti, F, ‘Inventing Italy. Geography, Risorgimento and Natiional Imagination: The International Circulation of Geographical Knowledge in the Nineteenth Century‘, The Geographical Journal 180.4 (Dec., 2014): 402-13.

The UK’s response to a rapidly-changing Arctic

By Richard Hodgkins, Loughborough University

Brøggerbreen: Photo credit: Richard Hodgkins

Brøggerbreen: Photo credit: Richard Hodgkins

The House of Lords has established an Arctic Committee, with a remit to “consider recent and expected changes in the Arctic and their implications for the UK and its international relations”. The Committee has already started taking evidence, and has just issued a call for written submissions. The UK has more of a natural claim to be interested in the Arctic than many probably realise: it is the northernmost country outside of the eight Arctic States, with the northern tip of the Shetland Islands being only 400km south of the Arctic Circle. The House of Lords’ interest largely stems from the rapid environmental changes evident in high northern latitudes, which are warming at least twice as quickly as the global average (Jeffries et al., 2013). In fact, as I argue in my recent commentary published in The Geographical Journal, the Arctic is almost uniquely susceptible to rapid change brought about through climate warming, mostly as a result of strong, positive feedbacks driven by the loss of snow and ice (Hodgkins, 2014). A greatly more accessible, ice-free Arctic Ocean particularly holds out the prospect of significant geopolitical change in the high North in the coming decades. Given current tensions between Russia and the west, this change may not necessarily be achieved harmoniously.

Our response to a changing Arctic should of course be informed by thorough understanding, free from assumptions, misconceptions or fallacies. It should not therefore be assumed that warming, by ameliorating the Arctic, will necessarily “improve” its environment or ecosystem. For instance, sea ice loss, warmer sea-surface temperatures and greater accumulation of freshwater are likely to stratify the ocean, preventing the free cycling of nutrients from shallow to deep and actually limiting biological productivity: “A warming Arctic… will simply be an ice-free version of the desert it already is” (Economist, 2013). Furthermore, the strong, positive feedbacks of “Arctic amplification” ensure that the actual atmospheric temperature increase in high northern latitudes will be much greater than the global average. Under a business-as-usual scenario, a mean 3.7°C global average temperature increase is likely by the 2090s. This implies a warming of 9°C over large parts the Arctic (IPCC, 2013). This rate of warming – which is not a worst-case scenario – exceeds anything previously encountered during human occupation of the Arctic. Terra incognita et mare incognitum, our response to the changing Arctic cannot be anything other than unprecedented; it’s to be hoped that it’s also wise.

About the author: Dr Richard Hodgkins is a Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography at the University of Loughborough. 

60-world2 The Economist. 2013. Tequila Sunset.

books_icon Hodgkins, R. 2014. The 21st-century Arctic environment: accelerating change in the atmospheric, oceanic and terrestrial spheres. The Geographical Journal, in press.

books_icon IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). 2013. Summary for Policymakers. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

books_icon Jeffries, M., Overland, J., Perovich, D. 2013 The Arctic shifts to a new normal. Physics Today 66, 35‒40.

Ethnic entrepreneurs in Seoul, South Korea: Who are they? And why are they important?

By Minkyung Koh and Ed Malecki, Ohio State University

For the past decade, Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, has witnessed the emergence of two groups of ethnic entrepreneurs: Nigerians and Pakistanis. Even though South Korea has experienced a rapid increase of immigrants from all over the world, their emergence is an unexpected phenomenon because most immigrants to the country are labor workers or spouses from less-developed countries, or elite foreigners from developed countries. Who are these entrepreneurs, why are they in Seoul, and what does their emergence mean for Seoul and other Asian cities?

Ethnic business in Itaewon, Seoul (photo by Minkyung Koh)

Ethnic business in Itaewon, Seoul (photo by Minkyung Koh)

Ethnic entrepreneurship studies have developed mostly in Europe and America which has relatively long history of immigration. In this literature, Ethnic entrepreneurs have been depicted as separated from the host country and depending on the coethnic community.  However, our case study (Koh and Malecki 2014) finds that ethnic entrepreneurship not only relies on their coethnic community but also can be not separated from the Korean host society. Pakistani entrepreneurs in Seoul, who mainly do import-oriented business from Pakistan, are similar to the traditional ethnic entrepreneurs who are largely independent of the host society. To purchase Pakistani goods, they transact with mostly Pakistani entrepreneurs throughout Korea and resell goods to the Pakistani community. In contrast, Nigerian entrepreneurs concentrate on exporting Korean goods to Nigeria so they are deeply connected to Nigerians as well as Koreans.

In a globalising era, why are these ethnic entrepreneurs important? How can we explain their transnational trading activities? As traders, their transnational activities cross borders and contribute to visibility in urban landscapes and the flows between home and host countries. Ethnic entrepreneurs in Seoul are spontaneous actors of contemporary globalisation. Their trade connections are an instance of ‘globalisation from below’, which represents the processes of global activities by voluntary actors (Mathews et al. 2012). The emergence of ethnic entrepreneurs in Seoul shows that immigrants are not passive agents who follow global economic or political power.

Is this globalization from below possible to only Pakistanis and Nigerians? We carefully answer ‘no’. Transnational trading activities in Seoul are also expanding beyond the Nigerians and Pakistanis. Other ethnic entrepreneurs such as Mongolians and Uzbekistanis run their businesses in Seoul, too. The rapid growth of ethnic communities and entrepreneurs demonstrates that Seoul facilitates – and is constructed by – the globalization from below by immigrants. The fact that the Korean government has released a set of measures to promote foreign entrepreneurs (Gov’t luring foreign entrepreneurs) reflects this new phenomenon. And it seems that this measure may contribute to the continuous growth of ethnic entrepreneurs.  The relationship between ethnic entrepreneurs (or immigrants) and cities has received little attention in urban studies. Research on world cities focuses mainly on economic and technological functions (GaWC 2014). Our article would be a first step to probe the relationship between migrants and cities.

Even though our article probes the globalisation from below by ethnic entrepreneurs in Seoul, we would like to expand its applicability. Already other cities such as Guangzhou in China or Hong Kong also have experienced African entrepreneurs (Mathews 2007; Mathews and Yang 2012). Asian cities have been considered to be accelerating a homogenizing globalisation mainly emulating Western global cities so that their actual localized globalisation has not been fully explored. In contrast to typical indices of global cities such as cross-border linkages initiated by transnational corporations and foreign direct investment, this globalisation from below by immigrants might be a footstep to understand grounded globalisation of Asian global cities.

About the authors: Minkyung Koh is a PhD student in the department of geography at the Ohio State University. Ed Malecki is a Professor of Geography at the same institution. 

60-world2 GaWC 2014 The world according to GaWC 2012 Accessed 11 May 2014

 Koh M and Malecki E J 2014 The emergence of ethnic entrepreneurs in Seoul, South Korea: globalisation from below The Geographical Journal doi: 10.1111/geog.12111

 Mathews G 2007 Chungking Mansions: a center of “low-end globalization” Ethnology 46 169–83

 Mathews G, Ribeiro G L and Alba Vega C 2012 Globalization from below: the world’s other economy, Routledge, New York

 Mathews G and Yang Y 2012 How Africans pursue low-end globalization in Hong Kong and Mainland China Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 41 95–120