Links & Contents I Liked 85

Hello all,

Welcome to this week's 'field edition' of the link review, including German reality TV in Africa, taking children on field research and my own reflection on 'the field' as a site/place/space of contestation and struggle; Peacekeeping and organized crime, Nepal's deadly roads and responses to Peter Buffet's article round off the development section. The anthro and academia sections feature free access to classic anthropological research articles, job interview experiences, the question whether a university would have saved Detroit & a new initiative that challenges the holy grail of journal impact factor.


New on aidnography
‘The field’ is where inequality persists–a reply to ‘Send them to the field!’
In my understanding of 21st century aid work, development research and anthropology we need to re-caliber our understanding of ‘the field’ to understand and challenge inequalities, (hidden) power dynamics and structural issues of the aid industry outside the rural starting/end point of development.
‘The field’ is where it hurts to go, where poverty and inequality exist, where people struggle and where injustice strikes-whether it is with slow Internet, unpaid internships, lack of clean water or irresponsible people in power.

Don’t take off ‘the field’ like a multi-pocketed safari vest!

How Organized Crime and UN Peace Operations Came to Converge In Fragile States

A new report from the International Peace Institute, "The Elephant in the Room," (...) suggests that organized crime–in its various forms–is a serious threat to peace in virtually every theater where the UN has a peace operation or mission: from Afghanistan to Kosovo, from Mali to Somalia. Yet, out of 28 currently deployed UN missions, less than half have a mandate with an explicit reference to organized crime, and even most of these lack the resources to implement their crime-fighting mandates effectively.
The example clearly illustrates that as trajectories of organized crime and peace operations converge, so too should operational responses. This is particularly important in fragile states such as Mali or Somalia, where the political economy of illicit activities can have a destabilizing impact on the entire region.
Really interesting new IPI report! A fascinating ethnographic case study on this topic is Carolyn Nordstrom's book 'Shadows of War' which is recommended for your academic summer reading list!

The tycoon, the dictator's wife and the $2.5bn Guinea mining deal

"This inquiry is very worrying for those of us who have been in the mining industry for a long time," said the source close to former president Conté. "I worry that they are looking for simplistic outcomes – black and white. Will they be brave enough to say that there is an overlap? The directors that have been running the mining industry are close friends with the people who are still the decision makers in this country to this day."
The source added: "Things are changing here, and it is good for the country. But it is still possible to pay for a mining concession. These days you just have to be a lot more careful about how you do it."
A long and detailed piece of excellent journalism from The Guardian. Let's hope that the future will be brighter for Guinea and her citizens as mining deals are reviewed and more money 'trickles down' to the majority of people.

What’s wrong with the Germans?

Scantily clad women on high heels are the staple of European TV entertainment — especially Silvio Berlusconi’s channels come to mind — and despite their blatant sexism and denigration of women, this genre hardly seems to raise eyebrows on a continent adrift; however, the prominent role of the ‘primitive’ Himba ‘tribe’ adds quite another vertiginous dimension to the spectacle of sexy yet farcical white women.
This could also be filed under 'Anthropology'...the good news about the article is that it gained substantial momentum in the German blogosphere and Thomas Blaser was asked by one of the biggest newssites/papers, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, to contribute another piece. The bad news is probably that shows like these thrive on controversial discussions and will gain more recognition, airtime etc. out of it without changing the concept.

Road kill

Highway accidents have become an epidemic in Nepal and the roads of western Nepal are particularly dangerous. And as with nearly all diseases, the poor are the most vulnerable. In the 12 months ending April, more than 110 accidents have killed over 140 individuals in the far-west alone. Since then, a dozen more have died.
Not just in Nepal have road accidents become a more or less silent epidemic. As more and more cars/motorcycles are sold in developing countries the infrastructure remains ill-equipped for the rapid growth-interestingly, car manufacturers are rarely part of the critique of multinational engagement in developing countries...

An Open Letter to Peter Buffet

We all agree that "safe" decisions beget the status quo. We are tired of the status quo. We're even more tired of those who have the means to change it, not doing so. So with all due respect, please stand up and risk your money. Show us you're willing to fail with 10 big bets to find the 1 approach that changes the world. Many of us - with much less means - already are.
Wayan Vota's open letter and the ensuing discussion which features many friends and colleagues is one of the best contributions to the Buffet debate. The piece on Non Profit Quarterly is a good summary/first response as well.

African ad image

1964 – Get out of Africa, American imperialists

Let's round off the development section with a nostalgic Pinterest collection of old advertisements/posters from/about Africa (and, yes, some critical anthropological interpretation is always necessary!)

100 most downloaded articles from AnthroSource

I am often asked about the most read articles. Looking at just the AnthroSource platform (which sits on Wiley Online Library), it’s amazing that at the top of the list is the 1956 American Anthropologist “Body Ritual of the Nacerima”– downloaded 11,413 times in 2012 alone. Which article is number 2? Check out AAA Top 100 Articles of 2012 (PDF version). All the articles listed will be ungated through the summer.
Ungated access to classic/popular anthro articles - LIKE!

Best Worst Job Interview

I’ve heard some crazy stories about weird interview committee behavior, too. Committee members falling asleep mid-interview, etc. Once, for a postdoc interview I was asked what my definition of critical thinking was and how I approached that in the class room. I replied that I thought it was the ability to draw connections between material in the course and events in the real world, and you do this linking up theoretical to the applied. To which my interviewer replied with an exasperated, quizzical, “Ohhh-kaaay.” That was the same interview where none of the interviewers were in the same room, it was done as a five way conference call.
Great debate over at Savage Mind on interview experiences.

taking children to an African country while you conduct research

I’ll just close with saying that I was lucky. Sure, my kid got sick — but she also got better. Though we lived in Malawi, we had the luxury of Western medical care. We had a great nanny. I got a lot of work done. We had access to safe, reliable vehicles. Most importantly, I am fortunate to have such a supportive partner who is a true co-parent AND who had the ability to go to rural Malawi for seven months without it having a serious, negative impact on his career/life.
Great practical advice from Kim Yi Dionne on taking children with you on your field research-amidst the framework of expat privilege and 'normal' life.

Forget MOOCs--Let's use MOOA

Asked if this "one size fits all" administrative concept was realistic given the diversity of problems faced by thousands of schools, Ginsberg noted that a "best practices" philosophy already leads administrators to blindly follow one another's leads in such realms as planning, staffing, personnel issues, campus diversity, branding and, curriculum planning. The MOOA, said Ginsberg, would take "best practices" a step further and utilize it to realize substantial cost savings
Massive Open Online Administrations in academia - sometimes the thin line between managerial realities and Onion-esque spoof becomes really, really blurred...

Henry Ford U?

Major private research universities offer significant employment; they’re often the largest employers in their host cities. (I know that’s true in Rochester, for example.) They bring in a steady influx of ambitious young people, at least some of whom stick around after graduation. They bring in significant research money. And they cultivate a separate source of power and talent from whatever local industries are hot at a given moment.
I live in a city in Sweden where a (public) university was founded in 1998 and has transformed the city ever since. But it didn't achieve this without the social, political and economic ties that the Öresund bridge brought with Denmark/the Copenhagen region. I guess Detroit may be a unique example where Richard Florida's dreams of transforming the old economy into a knowledge economy may not have worked and I'm skeptical that a university would have made such a big difference in the current educational funding climate in the U.S.

SPARC Innovator Award

But a growing group of scientists, publishers, funders, and research organizations are increasingly opposed to the broad use of the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) as the sole measure used to assess research and researchers.
In May of this year, 237 individuals and institutions signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), which calls for an improvement in the way the output of scientific research is evaluated. The declaration poses a bold proposition: that journal-based metrics should not be used as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, to assess an individual scientist’s contributions, or in making hiring, promotion or funding decisions.
Since it was issued just two short months ago, the statement has resonated in diverse corners of the scientific community and now over 8,000 supporters have pledged their support to the campaign by signing the online declaration.
For its leadership in addressing this critical issue, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition recognizes the creators of DORA as the SPARC Innovators for July 2013.
In addition to this being an interesting new initiative that critically engages with the 'impact factor' debate, the post also reviews some of the history behind journal impact measuring.


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