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New on aidnography
In addition to playing around with Wordle and creating nice clouds for every part of the official Busan document, I also counted words and based on this count this is the ultimate summary of Busan based on keywords and their occurence:
Development co-operation [with] our developing countries [in the] south [includes] efforts [and] commitments [for] effective aid support actors. Global [and] international sustainable effectiveness strengthen level[s] of implementation. [In the] end, public accountability [to] implement goals [and] principles [in a] respective partnership [comprises] new national, private policies [and] systems [for an] agenda [to] improve state progress. Busan actions [will ensure] inclusive development co-operation.
I think it is important to highlight the bureaucratic aid language, not just for the fun of it, but because many documents, proposals and reports are likely to be written that use or refer to the 'Busan declaration'. Maybe referring to the 'South' and 'South-South cooperation' or using 'accountability' is slightly different from previous documents, but in the end there is just a big bubble full of 'plastic words' and I am quoting from a great overview of the concept from Terry Kuny's blog:
1. The speaker lacks the power of definition; the words do not acquire meaning or nuance from their contexts.
2. As “context-autonomous” words that do not depend on their connections, they superficially resemble the terms of science, but lack the precisely defined meanings of such terms, and their freedom from associations. The use of the same word inside and outside science leads to the assumption of kinship, and to the words becoming independent norms. In the vernacular, these nephews of science become stereotypes.3. As a rule they originate in the vernacular, are adopted and reshaped by some brand of science, and then, like returning émigrés, rejoin the vernacular.
4. They have the character of metaphors inasmuch as they link the heterogeneous spheres of science and everyday life. They are distinct from metaphors in that they no longer evoke any image; they do not, like other comparisons, indicate their origin.
5. This makes their capacity to alter and illuminate their objects even more powerful. The less obvious their metaphorical character, the less it is noticed, and the more effectively it works. These words become commonsense, background concepts in our thinking.
So words, language and documents shape the reader's perception of the reality, but equally important they can also be the foundation for experts and their work:
25. These words form a bridge to the world of experts. Their content is actually no more than a white spot, but they transmit the “aura” of another world, in which one can obtain information about them. They anchor, in the vernacular, the need for experts. They are pregnant with money. They command resources, and, in the hands of experts, become resources.So Busan ultimately helps to create or at least equip new experts and knowledge products, e.g. on 'accountability', 'South-South cooperation' or issues such as 'climate change' or 'fragile states' that are mentioned in the second half of the document. These plastic words then become the cornerstones of organisation's strategies, their approaches to M&E and the worldview in which they operate to comply with the 'Busan agenda'. They will become powerful and 'real'-even if many will stress that this is 'just a diplomatic document'...
26. They can be freely combined, and they are eager to increase themselves through derivation and the creation of compounds. This modular capacity makes them an ideal instrument in the hands of experts interested in the speedy manufacture of models of reality.
27. Their scientifically authorized objectivity and universality make the older words of the vernacular appear ideological. A word like “communication” makes alternatives – conversation, discussion, gossip suddenly appear out of date.
30. The words cannot be made clearer by tone of voice, pantomime, or gesture, and cannot be replaced by these.
How Do We See the World? Discourses of International Development and Globalization
My project looks at public understandings of international development and globalization, especially those of youth in the UK. This project arose partly out of earlier research I did for my Masters which investigated the discourses of volunteer-tourism organisations that send people off on gap-year type adventures to help the world while having a fun holiday. Unsurprisingly, much of this discourse reflects and reinforces paradigms of ‘development’, the ‘third world’ and so on, which seem to be dominant far more broadly across society. I am fascinated by this dynamic process of hegemony – the work that goes into constantly repeating, reinforcing and realigning particular assumptions and narratives so that they become normalized and legitimized. This normalizing process happens in a highly interconnected or intertextual way – anywhere that humans communicate comprehension, meaning or reality about our world, from government policies, boardroom meetings and aid appeals, to news, advertising and education. I am trying to map out and understand some of these vast networks of meaning by investigating three key sites at which young people interact with them: schooling, travel and the media.Catherine Blampied's new blog looks very promising and I really like her PhD topic!
Calling All Boomers: Don’t Start More Nonprofits
As the philanthropy consultant Christopher Harris observed, our society again needs activists, not entrepreneurs. We need nonprofit organizations and foundations willing to challenge the fact that right now America’s celebrated social mobility is only downward. That won’t change unless millions of baby boomers shift their social commitment from an ill-advised and self-centered ambition to start a plethora of new enterprises and instead work together, and with others, to build the social, political, and economic movement required today.I think this article is very much linked to the brilliant analysis of Nick Kristof's approch to journalism featured in the following article. As many who work in development have observed over the years, the 'NGOisation' of (civil) society is a big problem and creates many issues around legitimacy and accountability if small NGOs are founded for the sake of absorbing development funds and because alternative opportunities are missing for often young and creative women and men. It is scary to imagine similar developments in the US and a powerful reminder that the international development and domestic charity 'industries' need to work together more closely and engage in meaningful debates around the present and future of civil society.
Be Aware: Nick Kristof’s Anti-Politics
In an article entitled “Sewing Her Way Out of Poverty,” Kristof again deploys his standard four-part formula. Here the Other is poverty, the object is Jane the former “prostitute,” and the saintly Westerner is a woman named Ingrid Munro who changes Jane’s backward ways: “Jane was pushed to save for the future, to lean forward.” The narrative continues as expected: From squalor and a life squandered, Jane carves her perilous path out of poverty, helping her children get to schoolI wrote about Nick Kristof and DIY aid last year and this brilliant, albeit long, essay explores many important issues in detail. The references to Deleuze and Guattari are interesting, because it helps us to think about the 'desiring machine' of helping, working in development or founding your own NGO that Nick Kristof sustains and the power and legitimacy he carries as a NYT journalist with a Pulitzer and a million Twitter followers...In the end, it comes back to 'plastic words', or, in this case, 'plastic narratives' that are more powerful than just being 'an article in the NYT'.
Alternatives for Reporting
Chris Roche provides an interesting overview over emerging forms of reporting, featuring story-telling, new ICTs, citizen journalism, maps and crowd-based approaches.
The problem with graduate degrees in international affairs and development?
The original post, Chris Blattman's response plus the comments a well worth reading. The challenge is that some key problems of today's academia (student debt, imbalance between supply and demand of opportunities for graduate students or increasing popularity of 'development' courses without proper embedding into the institution) meet the (new) realities of development (new models of charity, social enterprises etc., growing interest in and expertise of (local) development topics by the growing/new middleclass in some developing countries and well-known challenges of applying theory to real-world problems); simply founding your own NGO and 'doing your own thing' is as insufficient as pushing more students into MA and PhD programs. Finding the balance will remain difficult-and potentially become even more financially unsustainable in North America...