Links & Content I liked 14

Hello all,

It's a bit unusal to start off the week with a fresh round of links and comments, but I have come across quite a few interesting items which I'd like to share while they are still 'fresh'...


UN slams Canada for First Nations treatment

"I am struck that despite being sixth in terms of development of the countries of the world, the indigenous peoples (in Canada) are in 66th place." Fellow panellist Anwar Kemal, a former Pakistani diplomat who served in Ottawa in the 1980s, noted the "alarming statistics" that show aboriginal people significantly overrepresented in the country's prison system. He also took issue with restrictions on the amount of federal money going to First Nations programming. "It has been noted that growth in funding for aboriginal programs has been limited to two per cent while the population is growing much faster than that," Kemal said. "There is discrimination against indigenous peoples that have been in the country throughout all history," added Ion Diaconu.
"Now we hear about discrimination against Roma in Canada, this is something new," Diaconu said. "The stigmatization, the stereotypes of Roma that were stated by the media or the minister, a new discrimination has arisen. The Roma are not accepted as refugees, they are rejected."
The actions of Canadian mining companies in South and Central America as well as Alberta were also raised.
Canada Mining Corruption: Survey Finds Canadian Provinces Seen As Riskier Than Parts Of Africa

Corruption in Canada’s mining industry is worse than in some African and Latin American countries, says a new survey from the Fraser Institute. Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories all ranked in the survey as more corrupt than Chile and Botswana. The remaining provinces and territories ranked better than any developing country, but were still seen as more corrupt than many U.S. and Australian jurisdictions. The study notes that Chile and Botswana have the fastest-growing resource sectors on their respective continents, suggesting a link between economic growth and lack of corruption. The Northwest Territories ranked as the most corrupt in Canada, with fully 16 per cent of respondents saying corruption would keep them from investing in the area. Sweden, Norway and Finland, as well as the U.S. states of Minnesota and Missouri, were ranked as the least corrupt in the survey that looked at 93 countries and sub-national areas and surveyed 802 mining companies worldwide.
Both articles a important reminders about 'development' issues and their impact 'at home'. More importantly, they are reminders of how casually the Conservative government treats 'good governance' when it comes to First Nation peoples and natural resources. Below is a link to an earlier story how Corporate Social Responsibility in the mining sector is mainly a facade:

Federal mining agency can't find work

A federal agency created by the Conservative government to mediate complaints about Canadian mining operations abroad has spent more than $1.1 million in the past two years, but has yet to mediate anything. At the same time, the agency — the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor — has racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel, entertainment, training, meetings, reports and other expenses, documents obtained by CBC News show. Renovations to a federal government office to accommodate the agency's three employees alone cost Canadian taxpayers $189,000. Its senior official, Marketa Evans, has been flying around the world to conferences, roundtables, workshops and other meetings — in all, 47 trips to Africa, South America, Washington and cities across Canada. She earns up to $170,000 a year. What the agency hasn't done is mediate a single complaint against a Canadian mining company, the third federal agency CBC News has uncovered that is spending a lot to achieve little.
Uprooting Grassroots Democracy. Nepal's community forests survived the war, now they are threatened by peace.
But as the trees grew into maturity and acquired commercial value, it coincided with the post-conflict erosion of local democracy, state-sanctioned corruption through all-party mechanisms and the criminalisation of politics. The fact that most community forestry user groups survived the war and pressure from corrupt politicians proves how resilient the model is. It has to be said that the Madhesi parties and the Maoists never really came to terms with the community forestry concept. The Maoist because it is just too democratic and too decentralised for their liking, and also because of a perception that forestry user groups across Nepal are UML-dominated. The Madhesi parties have seen the Tarai's hardwood forests as timber to be mined, and not as a natural resource to be conserved.
As important as community forestry has been in Nepal, I think that this story is very indicative of what happens in many post-war countries in the short- and medium-term after the official end of the conflict/war. The high, and sometimes overrated, expectations of how Nepal would turn into a prosperous, unified and strong nation over night are met with various 'shades of grey' in politics, the economy and other parts of society during the transition period. Conserving Nepal's natural resources is key to mitigate impacts of climate change, ensure local development and governance models, but also to attract international tourists. Nepal's future is less dependent on a constitution that politicians in Kathmandu have failed to agree on for almost 5 years and more dependent on how sustainable development can be achieved in rural areas.

Where are the Women at the International AIDS Conference?

How can we expect marginalized populations to stand up and be counted when no one is representing their views at such an important conference? As expected, this unequal participation on the plenary has sparked outrage from activists around the world, including the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS (GCWA), a worldwide alliance organization that has written a letter to the chairs of the conference coordinating committee expressing its disappointment about the exclusion of women living with HIV from the plenary table. GCWA said, “The lack of representation risks undermining the spirit and the power of the conference and its theme of Turning the Tide Together.”
Terry Mukuka makes an excellent point, but I'm more fundamentally sceptical about the ritualised global conference spaces and their potential for real change.

Times, they are a-changin’

Regardless of one’s personal perspective on Greg Mortenson and Three Cups of Tea and the Central Asia Institute, and even if this particular lawsuit is lost, we are now living in a time when donors can and will take us to court if they can make the case that we painted a picture in our marketing and PR which did not convey reality. Those of you who work for an NGO that markets or fundraises in the United States, take a close look at your employer’s fundraising material and ask yourself how it makes you feel, knowing what you know about the real world of implementing humanitarian relief and development in the field.
Should NGOs be held accountable in a court of law for 'misleadinng' PR? I'm more cautious about the changing times that J. sees on the horizon. Three Cups of Tea is a particular example based on a single narrative created through his book and its subsequent promotion. This single narrative was enforced by a particularly convincing speaker - two things that often work well in the North American self-help universe...But there is no 'Mr. Oxfam' [you can also insert your favourite charity here...] who travels around the world promoting one book to encourage donations. Three Cups highlights many problems of lacking accountability and transparency, but I'm not sure whether it's really about 'misleading PR'.

ICTs, social media, local government and youth-led social audits

The potential of new technologies, including digital mapping to promote accountability, is only as powerful as the offline systems into which it is integrated. Without offline engagement, existing community systems of trust and recognition will be threatened and thus undermine any online work. The youth must remain grounded within their existing work and use new technology to amplify their voices, build their network, share their stories and lessons and learn from and engage with others.

An interesting guest post on Linda Raftree's blog. As fascinating as the potential for digital mapping and virtual means of accountability is, the last paragraph really sums up well the key challenges.

The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa

African agriculture is currently at a crossroads, at which persistent food shortages are compounded by threats from climate change. But, as this book argues, Africa faces three major opportunities that can transform its agriculture into a force for economic growth: advances in science and technology; the creation of regional markets; and the emergence of a new crop of entrepreneurial leaders dedicated to the continent's economic improvement. Filled with case studies from within Africa and success stories from developing nations around the world, The New Harvest outlines the policies and institutional changes necessary to promote agricultural innovation across the African continent. Incorporating research from academia, government, civil society, and private industry, the book suggests multiple ways that individual African countries can work together at the regional level to develop local knowledge and resources, harness technological innovation, encourage entrepreneurship, increase agricultural output, create markets, and improve infrastructure.
It's great that Calestous Juma's book is now available for free download. However, the question remains why it needed a buy-back arrangement with Oxford University Press in the first place to create open-access. An institution like Harvard should choose open access right away, given their 'brand recognition' and quality assurance.


How to Get a Job as an Anthropologist
I may sound heretical to some of you by suggesting that post-anthropological disciplinary affiliations are necessary. But one gains much less than one loses by fundamentally aligning oneself with the orthodoxy of a specific discipline. One one hand, the qualitative and critical social sciences are converging. Critical theory and ethnographic or textual methods run across all the disciplines above. On the other hand, replicating the discourses specific to a discipline is important for the survival of that discipline and I am glad some people are monogamously “physical anthropologists” or whatnot. But my argument is that this practice of disciplinary orthodoxy is dangerously myopic for a discipline and puts the job hunter in a situation with few options. I preferred to bring scholarship from other disciplines to anthropology, and though it proved difficult to buck anthropological tradition by studying contemporary technoculture in America, it provided me a wider repertoire of skills that apparently translate into numerous disciplines and a blessed job offer.
Being a 'development anthropologist' I pretty much agree about the 'wider repertoire of skills' that I have obtained during my research, studies and writing - but I also agree that it puts me in a difficult situation in the contemporary academic job market where clear disciplinary affiliations seem to be preferred by many institutions.

Stop Spike TV from looting our collective past!

Cancel the scheduled show "American Diggers."
This show, as advertised by Spike TV, will follow a team "led by former professional wrestler-turned-modern- day relic hunter Ric Savage as they scour ... battlefields and historic sites, in hopes of striking it rich by unearthing and selling rare pieces of American history."
"American Diggers," as described, encourages and glorifies looting and the antiquities trade at the expense of American history. Although the items pilfered by the team are acknowledged to have "great historical and cultural significance," these items are sold for individual profit.
Simply plucking valuable historical items from the ground removes these items from their context. If excavated systematically by a team of trained archaeologists these sites could prove invaluable to our cultural history. The team and Spike TV are clearly more interested in turning a quick profit than in history and education, but by glorifying these irresposible actions they are encouraging the public to follow suit.
You know this old saying how the US has supposedly the 'best and worst in television', right? And then somebody throws in a HBO miniseries or a great PBS documentary. But what about those other 95% of television-especially if you don't have a super-fancy and expensive cable package? You are faced with channels like Spike TV and their amazing efforts in dumbing down everything from archaeology to history or anthropology...


Historians in Public
Perhaps our aspirations are misplaced. Must we publish an op-ed in the New York Times, be interviewed on CNN or Bloomberg News, or have our books reviewed on scores of channels and blogs? Is there a national public sphere? Is it in material space or is it digital? Is it bounded? Global? National? Local? It may be helpful to go back to John Dewey’s passionate rebuttal to Walter Lippmann’s books on public opinion.[37] Lippmann, having energetically assisted the Wilson administration propaganda efforts during World War I to manipulate public opinion, had after the war lost faith in the public. He wrote two devastating books in the 1920s: Public Opinion (1922) and The Phantom Public (1925). Modern life, he argued, is too complex for ordinary citizens, who might have managed in Jefferson’s America. He proposed a passive public, managed by plebiscites rather than elections, with the work of governance done by “experts” and “insiders,” the latter of which he considered himself. John Dewey called Lippmann’s Public Opinion “perhaps the most effective indictment of democracy as currently conceived ever penned,” and it prompted him to write a counter to it, The Public and Its Problems (1927).[38]
A long essay by historian Thomas Bender on historians and public engagement-certainly applicable to many other disciplines and great food for thought (or at least food for bookmarking and reading later on this week...)


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