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Article

In a seemingly virtual era, maritime commerce and shipping retain a central role in contemporary global capitalism. Approximately 90% of global imports and exports currently travel by sea on around 93,000 merchant vessels, carrying almost 6 billion tons of cargo. Oceanic mobility and long-distance networks of trade are made possible and sustained by the life and labor of over 1.25 million seafarers currently working at sea as well as regimes of global security and governance. Yet, this oceanic world and its role in shaping politics, sociality, and regulation remains, for the most part, obscured and hidden out of sight in everyday life. As one of the oldest perils at sea, maritime piracy is not only a daily threat to seafaring and global shipping but makes visible this oceanic world and the larger networks of security and regulation that govern maritime commerce. In recent years, coastal Africa, specifically the waters off the coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Guinea, has seen an unprecedented rise in incidents of maritime piracy. The geopolitical and global trade importance of these areas has led to numerous national, regional, and international military and legal responses to combat this problem. While often seen as a seaborne symptom of failed states or criminality, maritime piracy has a more complex relationship with land- and sea-based governance. Occurring primarily in spaces that are politically fragmented but reasonably stable maritime piracy is better understood as a practice of extraction and claim making on mobility that emerges from deeper historical contexts and is linked to land-based economies and politics. Emphasizing maritime piracy in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Guinea within these wider historical and geographic contexts highlights the imbrication of the political and economic in shaping the emergence and transformations of this practice. This is not to deny the violence that constitutes maritime piracy, but to locate piracy within larger processes of mobility, governance, and political economy on the African continent and beyond. In addition to impacting local communities, seafarers, and global shipping, maritime piracy is key to apprehending challenges to global governance from the vantage point of the world’s oceans.

Article

Nora Hamilton and Patrice Olsen

Several distinct features have shaped Mexico’s political development, among them its geographic characteristics, including its proximity to, and shifting relations with, the United States; the existence of a significant indigenous population whose distinct cultures and interaction with the Spanish colonists helped determine the trajectory of Mexican history; and the Mexican revolution, which in turn shaped the political system and ideology of much of the 20th century. These in turn have influenced research issues and debates, including (a) conceptualizations of the indigenous populations and the impact of colonialism (caste system vs. mestizo/cosmic race), growing emphasis on size and identity of indigenous groups and other minorities, and the search for autonomy by indigenous communities; (b) foreign relations, and especially the impact of the United States, including annexation of half of Mexico’s territory following the Mexican–American War, foreign ownership and control of Mexican assets (dependent development, “triple alliance”), and the impact of globalization and neoliberalism (outward- vs. inward-oriented development, North American Free Trade Agreement, cross-border alliances); (c) the nature and impact of the Mexican revolution, including origins and goals of distinct revolutionary groups, the Constitution, reforms and their limits in the early postrevolutionary period, and the creation of a unique political system combining elements of flexibility and repression; (d) the role of the state, including debates regarding the independence of the state vs. class control, and its significance in the protection of national interests and promoting social reforms and economic development; and (e) migration, including U.S. recruitment of Mexican labor, increasing emphasis on the Mexican border and restrictions on migrants, contributions of Mexican migrants to Mexico (remittances, hometown associations and other associations linking Mexicans to their home communities), and cooperation of Mexico with the United States in controlling Central American migration. International research issues, including concerns about human rights and the rights of women, minorities and other disadvantaged groups, as well as developments in Mexico in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, have also had an important impact on Mexican research, among them (a) democratization, including the role of social groups, decentralization, and the limits to democracy (ongoing corruption, fraudulent elections, and continued poverty and inequality), and (b) the drug issue, including the emergence of the cartels and increased violence with the militarization of the drug war under the Calderón presidency, policy concentrating on kingpin strategy, and the role of the United States as drug market and supplier of guns as well as a source of assistance in the drug war focused on military aid and the destruction of drug producing areas. These conditions present formidable challenges to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose anticorruption, proreform agenda and widespread support brought hope for change.

Article

The question of membership and belonging is widely recognized to have been at the root of many political crises in Africa since independence. The legal frameworks for citizenship were largely inherited from the colonial powers and still show strong affinities across colonial legal traditions. However, most African states have enacted significant amendments to citizenship laws since independence, as they have grappled with issues of membership, aiming to include or exclude certain groups. Substantive provisions have diverged significantly in several countries from the original template. African states have shared global trends toward gender equality and acceptance of dual citizenship. In relation to acquisition of citizenship based on birth in the territory (jus soli) or based on descent (jus sanguinis), there has been less convergence. In all countries, naturalization is inaccessible to all but a few. Manipulation of citizenship law for political purposes has been common, as political opponents have at times been accused of being non-citizens as a way of excluding them from office, or groups of people have been denied recognition of citizenship as a means of disenfranchisement. Moreover, even in states where a substantial proportion of residents lack identity documents, it seems that the rules on citizenship established by law have themselves had an impact on political developments. The citizenship status of many thousands of people living in different countries across Africa remains unclear, in a context where many citizens and non-citizens lack any identity documentation that records their citizenship. The content of the law is arguably therefore less influential than in some other regions. A rapid development in identification systems and the increasing requirement to show identity documents to access services, however, is likely to increase the importance of citizenship law. In response to these challenges, the African continental institutions have developed, through standard setting and in decisions on individual cases, a continental normative framework that both borrows from and leads international law in the same field.