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Illegal but Licit

Transnational Flows and Permissive Polities in Asia.

Willem van Schendel (Asia Department, IISH & University of Amsterdam) has received a four-year grant for an international research programme on forms of globalisation-from-below. The programme, co-directed with Prof. Li Minghuan (Xiamen University, China), involves researchers from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and the Netherlands. The programme is financed by NWO-WOTRO, the Netherlands Foundation for the Advancement of Tropical Research.

The programme Illegal but Licit focuses on transnational practices that are considered acceptable (licit) by participants but are often illegal in a formal sense. It looks at flows of poor people and goods across international borders - movements that are not allowed by states but are not 'organised crime' either. States declare these practices illegal and yet states themselves are often involved in them. The programme argues that methodologically the social sciences have been more adept at studying fixity than movement and it seeks to develop new tools to understand transnational movements. The programme takes a comparative perspective. It is built around four projects examining transnational flows across regions of Asia (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, China, Israel, Dubai), focussing on participants' identities and notions of (il)legality and (il)licitness. It seeks to develop a comparative and interdisciplinary approach to them, and to produce new methods for studying transnational practices.

1 september 2005