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This chapter summarises the important points of the book in order to make a case for the ever-increasing relevance of time, as well as to speculate on the implications of the results of the book on how we understand borders. It emphasises the importance of pushing beyond traditional resistance analysis by highlighting the limitations of any single analytical or theoretical viewpoint in presenting the deep complexity and paradox that African borders present. Anthropology and temporalised approaches’ importance is also emphasised by discussing how anthropologists of migration interested in a temporal perspective to migratory processes might apply innovative social science research methodologies to examine people with limited mobility at African borders and how they experience government.

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This chapter argues that there is a productive relationship between humanitarian interventions, moral/religious politics and migration governance at the border that emerges from the discursive acts of (de)legitimising humanitarian crisis through public discourse. This politics, in turn, shapes humanitarian and protection procedures, as well as conduct to migration, that are productive yet dangerous at the same time because of their fluidity and (re)dichotomising effect. The humanitarian sphere thus takes governmental authority over migrants to the extent that it becomes a site of power in the context at hand as it constructs the legible figure of the suffering migrant through moral sentiment. It is argued here that this sphere of political discourse has become a novel site of governing immobilities in border regimes because it gives rise to practices that can exclude Zimbabweans by their classificatory nature, particularly as regimes of truth and moral sentiment regarding the crisis that gave rise to their legitimacy become contested. This situation is complicated by the outsourcing of the management of immigration enforcement to third parties who offer in equal measure remedies and complications to issues of corruption and fraud at the border. It allows religious actors, humanitarian organisations, senior migrant men and the state to be involved in an economy of turning the misery of the abject into profit as they run with ideas that allow them to realise margins from the reality of mobility.

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This chapter situates the Zimbabwe–South Africa border in the predominant binary interpretation of African borders, which has endured over time in studies that take inspiration from Giddens’ structuration theory. It departs from these interpretations by arguing that the Zimbabwe–South Africa border is better read as a configuration of polymorphous performances that serve as an exterior geographical frontier and an interior social categorisation mechanism. This means that its main function extends beyond spatial characteristics to the deployment of multiple techniques of reinforcing the border through categorising migrants in ways that also show the centrality of time in migration governance. This relationship reveals a novel interpretation of borders that contributes to challenging the dominance of spatial perspectives in thinking about African borders. Temporality, in this context, also provides an alternative idea to theorise on migrants’ potential to evade border controls and challenge the goals of migration policies, which aids in contesting the dichotomy of agency–structure. In this way, it is possible to imagine how forces of domination and resistance feed off each other and charter a context-specific and ongoing contestation between power and agency that is productive but also does not offer a resolution to the structural issues at hand. Temporality and appropriation hence appear to be contingent frameworks to resolve the conundrums of domination and subordination in the footing of the clock, although the former takes place in ways that appropriate time through immobility without necessarily allowing the governed to shape and transform regimes of government. For Achille Mbembe, thus, power is not primarily a relationship of resistance or of collaboration but can be described as ‘illicit cohabitation’ resulting in the ‘mutual zombification’ of both the dominant and those whom they purport to dominate. This means the postcolonial state and its subjects reside within the same episteme in which wars are temporally waged, won and lost.

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This chapter argues that humanitarian activities have transformed the Zimbabwe–South Africa border into a space that is aligned with current and dominant migration governance practices and official discourses that emphasise migrant management, categorisation and containment. Indeed, it would be unfair to suggest that these are deliberate attempts, or that the assemblage of transit shelters in Musina forms part of a consistent assemblage of governance together with the formal state. However, it is clear in this assessment that attempts to administer their work in a technical and administrative manner enhances some humanitarian workers’ autonomy over migrants’ lives in ways that maintain the legitimacy of the bureaucratic state and its logics of classifying people as insiders and outsiders, victims and agents. This analysis pushes us to view immobilities as part of a broader typology of power that represents a novel way for humanitarian institutions to manage the lives of migrants. In the context of this book, it is important in showing the importance of going beyond binaries of state–non-state African border studies’ understanding of sovereignty, particularly when considering the role of moral sentiments, like discourse, in the conduct of conduct.

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The contestations that would sometimes occur at the humanitarian meetings are the focus of this chapter’s analysis. The chapter argues that the Zimbabwe–South Africa border is a place of ambivalence and indecision, allowing humanitarian personnel and faith-based actors to protect lives but also exercise political authority over migrants in transit shelters. Humanitarian workers’ autonomy over migrants’ lives established in 2008 justified the development of transit areas which required management while working with limited resources. This took place through an agreement between humanitarian actors and faith-based actors with the municipality, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and the police to allow undocumented migrants to reside in the transit shelters while they waited for their papers. There was a clause not to arrest those residing in the transit shelter. This agreement provided security to shelter inhabitants, although it came with certain restrictions that dictated their conduct as well as their timetable. The police would, from time to time, also violate the agreement when they deemed it necessary, which was instrumentalised by a discourse of criminalisation. Another source of ambivalence emerged from the further deterioration of resources in Musina, which led humanitarian workers and faith-based actors to be caught up in political squabbles over providing basic necessities at the men’s shelter. An example is how supporting the payment of a water bill was reduced to a question of not just what was ethical but also what was realistic within humanitarian organisations’ mandates, goals and budgets. This reveals the troubled yet productive relationship among humanitarian organisations, faith-based actors and the state that makes it difficult to know exactly what to expect from the border, revealing the limits of essentialising borders in humanitarian contexts.

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This chapter situates the book’s concern with immobility and crisis in the conversations about migration governance, borders and temporality that have emerged in anthropological migration studies. Based upon an empirical and theoretical inquiry into the constitution of Zimbabwean migrants at the Zimbabwe–South Africa border as political subjects, the three arguments of the book are presented. First, the making of the Zimbabwe–South Africa border and migration governance regime is not merely a territorial process but one situated in time and space. Second, what we are seeing in the context at hand, as elsewhere, is not merely direct regulation of mobility by the state but also through bureaucratisation of displacement in humanitarian institutions that have stepped into matters regarding the management and care of migrant lives. Third, the Zimbabwe–South Africa border is not as knowable as the common power–agency binary may suggest. It is, rather, a site of ambiguity that produces paradoxical effects for immobile migrants in different places and times, culminating in ambivalent political subjectivities. These three arguments are organised within the book’s proposed framework of governing immobilities in an attempt to raise important considerations for the broader landscape of migration and border studies and the African border studies literature.

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This chapter dives deep into life in the men’s transit shelter and some of the men’s encounters with the shelter management’s practices, set tasks and religious ceremonies. It focuses on the space and living conditions there, which reveals the daily impact of humanitarian politics related to contestations over water as well as pastoral strategies and discourses. As highlighted in the previous chapter, the local arrangements in place would allow humanitarian personnel to protect lives but also exercise political authority over migrants in transit shelters. This ambivalence suggests that a conception of power that leaves room for appreciating migrants’ agency is needed. The chapter argues that there is a relationship of governmentality between the men and humanitarian actors highlighted by the production of the shelter space as a negotiated settlement between state and non-state actors, regulatory mechanisms meant to keep transit shelter inhabitants in the good books with police and the religious activities of the space, the rents of occupying it and other factors that altogether contribute to the penetration of power into individual body discipline. The chapter is organised around the concept of ‘minimalist biopolitics’, which helps to describe a regulatory technology of life concerned with an emerging care for life itself, as opposed to a mere emphasis on the state’s sovereign power to take life (Rozakou, 2016). This minimal biopolitics is driven by religious ritual and politics that is, in and of itself, inseparable from religion’s use of a mechanism to instil behaviour that is not at odds with the state’s attempt to police criminality associated with migrants, and to ensure that the informal agreement by humanitarian actors and the state is upheld. In this border regime, these all come together as forms of governance connected to state power in one way or another, without the actors themselves always being attentive to it.

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Governing Immobilities

Only 15 kilometres away from the border of Zimbabwe, Musina is an obscure town in South Africa that the media cast into the public eye in the wake of the 2008 Zimbabwean economic crisis.

Taking as its starting point the arrival of thousands of displaced Zimbabwean migrants at Musina, this book presents valuable new perspectives on the temporality of migration and the governance of immobilities. The author explores the role of humanitarian actors in supporting migrants, and examines the outcomes of government-led activities in the longer term.

This is an insightful assessment of how state and non-state practices intertwine in the management of largely immobile people, and of the importance of time in understanding African migration and borders.

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Given the humanitarian situation discussed in the previous chapter, it may be easy to conclude that the everyday control of migrant bodies transforms them into Giorgio Agamben’s concept of ‘bare lives’. This chapter explores how disruptions shape the waiting modes of irregular Zimbabwean migrant men who have arrived in South Africa but are unable to travel further into the interior. The chapter argues, using Lauer’s (1981) temporal framework of social time, that while waiting is one aspect of regulating these migrants, it is also an aspect of them seeking agency in the Zimbabwe–South Africa border regime. This demonstrates how immobilities can be conceptualised in both time and space. In the chapter, the intersections of immobility and agency indicate that the relationship between resistance and control in waiting is ambiguous. This casts doubt on the idea of immobility as an experience that causes people in humanitarian camps to recognise the state of bare life.

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This chapter focuses on the dynamic but often conflicting global forces and local responses in the field of education reform. Global economic forces drove certain aspects of the case of Costa Rica. For instance, pressure from multinational corporations induced the Costa Rican government to change its national curriculum. These corporations needed more skilled labour to continue their operations in Costa Rica and called on the government to modernize its education system to meet the needs of capitalist development. In 2015 the Public Education Ministry (Ministerio de Educación Publica [MEP]) implemented education reforms containing a new curriculum to retain technology companies and satisfy capitalist development. With Costa Rica being a hybrid social-democratic, capitalist system, the MEP had to find a way to blend the concepts and practices that underlie the traditional Costa Rican vision with that of the foreign investors. This blending undermined the legitimacy of the reform effort and threatened to exacerbate gaps in student learning across the country. In response, the MEP turned to international guidelines for planetary citizenship to inform their inclusive education efforts and developed the Tecno@prender programme to ensure students in socioeconomically vulnerable zones had full access to technology.

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