Links & Contents I Liked 29

Hello all!

This week's collection of links turned out to be dominated by the 'storytelling' theme: We are a 'storytelling animal' as new book confirms; a video diary of a war reporter, poetic reflections on 'dating a girl who travels', a personal account of a professor on his struggles with academia and alcohol in the quest to become 'bulletproof' and an article on mining and local resistance in Ecuador are all great stories and examples of how beautiful, violent, poetic and contradictory dealing with development and academic professionalism can sometimes be. There's more for you to explore and enjoy, of course, e.g. on taxes in Africa and on the deficiencies of NGOs' stress management.

Make stories part of your lifestyle ;)!

New on aidnography
‘Crucial days’ for Nepal. Still? Again? And for how long?
Reading some of the recent articles on Nepal, I was faced with an almost philosophical question: What if the ‘transition’ from the ‘old’ to a ‘new’ Nepal wasn’t really a process, but a convenient discursive construction to keep people motivated and hide the fact that many of the Kathmandu-based elite still don’t have a ‘vision’ for Nepal? Or maybe there is no ‘vision’ at all in the 21st century if your country is lodged between India and China and exposed to global development models?

Does the WWF help the industry more than the environment?
New book and WWF's legal threats instigate new debate in Germany
As strange as it may sound in a globalised world, but there is currently an interesting development-related debate going on and the chances are high that you haven’t heard about it. The problem is that the discussions around the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) have been almost exclusively taking place in Germany and German media.

How Kindness Sucks-Why Charities’ Stress Management is Worse Than Business’

A key mental error charity workers can suffer from is thinking they are Superman/woman and can single-handedly save the world. Been there, done that, got the burnout. The ironic denial that people are human and have limits is rampant in the third sector and a cultural norm in many major organisations.
Analytically, there can be a collective shadow and projection and odd projection issues around “the bad guys” which leads to some pretty bad behaviour. There can also be incompetent people working for charities who would be sacked in the business world immediately but are kept-on to nobody’s benefit in the 3rd sector out of a misguided sense of ethics.
Because they choose to. Many charities “can’t afford” stress management or resilience training and support for staff, adequate holidays or working conditions that promote wellbeing. What this usually this means they don’t prioritise investing in staff’s well-being and are either in denial about workplace stress or in a false economy of burnout.
Mark Walsh is a great guy who also runs a training consultancy primarily for third sector organisations. However, I really think he introduces many noteworthy points that are part of the development industry's work realities.

New Battles in an Old War: Ecuadorian Anti-Mining Activists Build Resistance, Develop Alternatives

Intag’s first confrontations with the mining industry not only brought its communities together in resistance, it also sparked a determination to develop viable alternatives to development fuelled by the extractive industries. There are now a raft of cooperatives and community groups in the region developing a broad range of projects from sustainable and organic agriculture to eco-tourism and green-energy production.
Great reporting from the frontlines of an extractive industry conflict in Ecuador. The challenges of not only resisting multinational companies but at the same time thinking about alternative approaches for a more sustainable future are particularly interesting.

Newly Leaked TPP Investment Chapter Contains Special Rights for Corporations

The new texts reveal that TPP negotiators are considering a dispute resolution process that would grant transnational corporations special authority to challenge countries’ laws, regulations and court decisions in international tribunals that circumvent domestic judicial systems.
“We are just beginning to analyze the new texts now, but they clearly contain proposals designed to give transnational corporations special rights that go far beyond those possessed by domestic businesses and American citizens,” said Stamoulis. ”A proposal that could have such broad effects on environmental, consumer safety and other public interest regulations deserves public scrutiny and thorough public debate. It shouldn’t be crafted behind closed doors.”
'Trade not aid' has been one of the development mantras for years, if not decades. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an important example of how little powerful special interests care about anything that remotely addresses 'development' issues. A little bit of PR, a few sprinkles of CSR and a pinch of aid, but the overall corporate 'dish' of maximising profits and discussing behind closed doors shall not be disturbed when it comes to trade agreements.

TEDxSussexUniversity - Mick Moore - Why should we tax Africa?

MICK MOORE is the Chief Executive Officer of the International Centre for Tax and Development (ICTD) and a Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), UK. (...) His main research interests are the interactions between governance and politics on the one side, and finance and the economy on the other. Mick became interested in the implications of tax and revenue for the quality of governance and development about two decades ago.
Everything you need to know about the links between taxation and governance in a 15-minute Tedx presentation.

The Complexity of the White Industrial Saviour Complex

It is easy to begin to see yourself as doing something weighty and important. After all saving the world is serious work. Relax. Get over it.
If you really want to make a difference, get out there and embarrass yourself and laugh at yourself on a regular basis. Not being afraid to look like a fool will help you learn faster, will make others more comfortable around you and empower them to make their own mistakes and learn too.
Failing to acknowledge and learn from your mistakes is the only real blunder you can make.
Contradiction: I don’t do this nearly as often as I should and it still requires a supreme effort of will to expose my white boy moves when dancing with Africans.
Insprired by Teju Cole's now famous response to 'Kony 2012', Steve Song's adds some great points to the debate of how and why you should(n't) get involved in international development

The Storytelling Animal: The Science of How We Came to Live and Breathe Stories

From War and Peace to pro wrestling, from REM sleep to the “fictional screen media” of commercials, from our small serialized personal stories on Facebook and Twitter to the large cultural stories of religious traditions, The Storytelling Animal dives into what science knows — and what it’s still trying to find out — about our propensity for storytelling to reveal not only the science of story but also its seemingly mystical yet palpably present power.

Storytelling is a great gift and stories are powerful vehicles for change - and Maria Popova presents Jonathan Gottschall's book that has the science to back us up!

Tim Hetherington, Diary, 2010.

Diary is Hetherington’s stream of consciousness—a nonlinear sequence blurring the boundaries between foreign battlegrounds and the bucolic pastures of home. Yet the terms of war and peace are superseded by the internal struggle for meaning in the face of alienation—a battle fought both in times of conflict and comfort. Altogether this composition of cross-fading associations dramatically presents the way Hetherington sensed space, movement, and emotion.
So I’ve been dating a girl who travels
So is it worth dating a girl who travels? Definitely. In the end you end up traveling, too, but not necessarily always to other places, cultures, and climes. It takes some distance, after all, to get to know another person fully and completely. And when you’re cared for by a girl who travels, you’ll know that you’re as good as you are. She’ll take you in, with all your fears and insecurities, and believe in you — and that will be enough to send you soaring to heights you’ve never imagined.
And all she’ll ask in return? Just always be there. For a girl who travels can never just stay in one place forever. Her heart may be yours, but her soul longs for an affair with the entire world. You’ll have to let her go eventually, but not too much. Because there is always just one thing all travelers need at the end of the day.
'A girl who travels' - a great poetic analogy of the stories behind many 'aid workers'

Anthropology Brand: Any Progress?

I began blogging by reflecting on branding anthropology. That was February 2011. There now seems to be a larger and healthier ecosystem of anthropology blogs. However, some recent posts considering the role of anthropology, its importance, influence, and outreach suggest there might not be so much change in the anthropology brand. But people are trying
Great selection of read-worthy anthropological blogs!


You Are Not Special Commencement Speech from Wellesley High School

The Wellesley Commencement speech has gained some virtual momentum this week, but I was particularly intrigued by the reference to 'DIY aid' and volunteering:

As a consequence we cheapen worthy endeavours. And building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans (7'30").
Not Quite Bulletproof

Review committees will never stop picking over my record, and deans will continue to question my trajectory. My version of the War of 1812 acts more like an anesthetic than a prompt for ovation. The lecture seems longer and more boring than the actual conflict to me; I can only imagine the horror of my audience. Colbert refuses to call.
I do not rank among the bulletproof, which comes as a relief. Feeling less repulsive feels OK.
Another personal, reflective story in this week's links-this time about academia, alcoholism and the quest to become an academic 'bulletproof' superhero...the pressure is not just in academia, but as often there are interesting parallels to the development world...

Just Because We're Not Publishing Doesn't Mean We're Not Working

They do not see us reading, talking with—and listening to—colleagues, or translating new information into class notes or research ideas. They do not see us struggling to find out what is important in the overwhelming amount of new information in every discipline. Yet such consumatory scholarship is fundamental to up-to-date teaching, to the initial stages of research projects, and to institutional and community service based on expertise rather than just good intentions. A descriptive label for scholarly consumption is a first step. Those of us outside the research universities next need to begin talking about consumatory scholarship within the university, evaluating it and, eventually, using it when conveying the university's core values and activities to the rest of the world.
Yes. the academic process involves strange, and even worse, time-consuming tasks such as reading, thinking and drafting ideas ;)...

Academic journals and the price of knowledge

Getting over this prestige barrier is a final hurdle to change researchers' minds about publishing in open access journals and really moving people into this open environment. And it's not so much the idea of peer review that's the barrier, because open access journals by and large have the same quality peer review mechanisms as subscription access journals, but it's the measurement of impact of journals that we need to get over. And subscription access journals right now, many of them have the highest citation rates or impact factors in their disciplines, and that's what universities and funders are using to judge the performance of their researchers.
The transcript of the radio programme doesn't really offer new insights into the current debate on academic publishing, but is a good summary for reference the discussions.

'Open access' science publishing row heats up

A new low-cost scientific journal unveiled on Tuesday with an unusual business model will add to the pressure on publishers like Reed Elsevier and Axel Springer and stoke the debate over free access to research.
It is backed by venture capitalist Tim O'Reilly and will publish research in biological and medical sciences using a revenue model based on a one-off payment ranging from $99 to $259 for lifetime membership per researcher, rather than payment per paper or subscription by readers.
Interesting new development-but I wonder how the 'prestige barrier' can be addressed with this model - especially outside certain science disciplines where quick, open access may count more than in social science or humanities - but I'll definitely follow the debate and keep you informed :)! P.S.: Springer Science+Business Media is not part of the German Springer AG-in case this was implied by the reference to 'Axel Springer', but then again, it was probably my fault to rely on MSNBC's fact-checking...


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