New Diversities • Volume 24, No. 1, 2022

Special issue: Covid-19 and the Racialisation of Migrants in the Global South

Guest Editors: SHANSHAN LAN (University of Amsterdam), WILLY SIER (Utrecht University) and ALDINA CAMENISCH (University of Neuchâtel)

List of Contents

Shanshan Lan (University of Amsterdam), Willy Sier (Utrecht University) and Aldina Camenisch (University of Neuchâtel)
Introduction: Covid-19 and the Racialization of Migrants in the Global South

Leona Vaughn (University of Liverpool), Allen Kiconco (University of the Witwatersrand), Nii Kwartelai Quartey (James Town Community Theatre), Collins Seymah Smith (James Town Community Theatre) and Isabel Zattu Ziz (Kibabii University)
The ‘Colonial Virus’: Racialized Narratives During Early Covid-19 in Ghana, South Africa and Kenya

The myth of African or African-descended people being innately resistant to Covid-19 emerged during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic (‘early Covid-19’) in media narratives originating in China and the Global North. This paper is based on a rapid collaborative research project which explored open-source information from the three African countries of Ghana, Kenya and South Africa to discover if, and if so how, public- and state-generated narratives of risk for preventing Covid-19 infection were influenced by this racialized myth of Black immunity to the virus. The study found that the narratives of perceived levels of the risk of contracting the virus were indeed inherently racialized and that the immunity myth was contained in widely held ‘infodemic’ narratives about innate African (Black) immunity. Moreover, race was also observed to play a significant role in local pandemic policies, their implementation and their impacts, including in narratives of risk responsibilization. The risk and prevention narratives about the virus, locally monikered as a ‘colonial virus’, illustrated a paradoxically simultaneous reinforcement of colonial imaginings of biological ‘race’ and ‘blackness’ with resistance to them. Analysing these processes of racialization in a specific time and place offers a unique insight into how racialized risk, which is inherently political and works to uphold existing inequalities of power, has impacted on African communities during this pandemic far beyond the initial myth of immunity.

Keywords: racialised risk, Covid-19, misinformation, pandemic, Africa

Linda Musariri (University of Witwatersrand)
Buyel’ ekhaya (Go back home): Xenophobia against Black African Migrants during the Covid-19 Lockdown in South Africa

Following the countrywide Covid-19 lockdown that brought the South African economy to a standstill, the government rolled out cash-based food relief projects to provide relief to impoverished individuals and communities. Competition over scarce resources intensified the ‘othering’ of non-South Africans as protests broke out. Some South Africans demanded that the government needed to ‘put South Africa first’. This paper examines how the outbreak of Covid-19 provides a historical conjuncture that brings together multiple forms of racialization (including racialization, post-apartheid nationalism and xenophobia). I explore the racialized margins of nationalism and citizenship that manifested during the pandemic and relate them to the racialization of black South Africans in apartheid South Africa. I argue that the pandemic served as a crucible in which long-standing anti-immigrant state policies and sentiments by some subordinated populations found expression and legitimacy, leading to black migrants from specific African countries being targeted. I therefore propose an understanding of xenophobia against black African migrants in South Africa as a new form of racialization based not on phenotypical difference, but on the intersection of class, nationality and immigration status.

Keywords: xenophobia, migration, racialization, Covid-19, South Africa

Dina M. Siddiqi (New York University) and Hasan Ashraf (Jahangirnagar University)
Pandemics Politics: Class, Gender and Stigmatized Labor in Bangladesh’s Garment Industry

The effects of Covid-19 dramatized yet again the fragilities and asymmetries built into global supply chains and the marginal structural location of Bangladesh – the world’s second largest clothing manufacturer – within the apparel supply chain. It was a reminder that the distribution of risk is highly asymmetric and falls disproportionately on gendered, classed, and raced laboring bodies at the bottom of the chain, usually located in the Global South. Against this backdrop, this article asks why and how pandemic discourses of stigmatization and othering largely congealed around the bodies of garment factory workers in Bangladesh.
At the heart of the paper is the question of how ostensibly essential labour is made expendable through governmental techniques and discursive practices that draw on gendered and classed tropes with strong colonial precedents. We argue that Bangladeshi garment workers’ shadow inclusion into or evacuation from this elastic and troubling category hinges on a complex assemblage of market rationalities, global supply-chain contingencies and national governmental determinations.

Keywords: Bangladesh, Pandemic, Garment Industry, Supply Chains

Clara Baumann (University of Duisburg-Essen & IMPRS-SPCE) and Luciana Denardi (National University of San Martín & CONICET)
Covid-19 and Digital Anti-Sinophobia in Argentina

While racial discrimination against people of Asian and particularly Chinese origin is well-understood in the Global North, its dynamics in the Global South remain under-investigated. Moreover, although Covid-19 contributed significantly to the reinforcement of sinophobic stereotypes around the globe, recent research has barely paid any attention to new forms of counter-reaction, such as those that evolve in digital channels, especially in Latin America. This paper sheds light on anti-Asian racism and the digitized counter-reactions of Chinese migrants before and after Covid-19 in the crucial case of Argentina. In the past, these migrants mostly remained silent when confronted with institutional racism. However, it was precisely the outbreak of Covid-19 that contributed to the creation of new forms of empowerment on online platforms by this racialized minority and that allowed them to present their demands to state agencies and to denounce sinophobic debates on social media. Methodologically, this study combines elements of process-tracing with both traditional and online ethnographic methods to explain these trickle-up effects.

Keywords: Digital Empowerment, Sinophobia, Covid-19, Argentina, Online Ethnography

Diana Yeh (City, University of London) 
Racialization and Racisms in and beyond Covid, Colour and the Global South: An Afterword 

Keywords: racialization, racisms, postcoloniality, relationality, epistemic justice, decolonizing knowledge