Links & Contents I Liked 108

Dear all,

We had a great two-day seminar in Malmö last Friday and Saturday and it was fantastic that a many ComDev students participated in lively debates on-site, online and very often in-between. In some ways, I am glad that this great seminar interfered with the weekly link review.
So just treat it as starting point into a new week with some 'fresh' links added over the weekend.

They finally made the satirical cartoon 'There You Go' into a movie; more on the state of development policy and practice from a U.S. foreign policy perspective as well as from Haiti, the Philippines & DR Congo-time for a 'boring development manifesto'?; critical reflection on HRW as part of the U.S. foreign policy think tank industry; better volontourism in Cambodia; better engagement of white feminists and good reads for aspiring humanitarians. In Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology goes open access and Academia is partially and literally, on 'organisational bullshit' together with BS on 'teaching creativity'; Foucault celebrated 43 years as engaged intellectual on prisons & another new open access journal, Big Data & Society, is coming to an Internet near you soon!


There You Go!

Around the world ‘development’ is robbing tribal people of their land, self-sufficiency and pride and leaving them with nothing.
Watch this short, satirical film, written by Oren Ginzburg and narrated by actor and comedian David Mitchell, which tells the story of how tribal peoples are being destroyed in the name of ‘development’.
The book is somewhat of a household commodity in the industry and I am glad that it was finally made into a short animated movie! Excellent presentation and discussion starter!

Development Bloat

Instead of being a mile wide and an inch deep, the practice of development should be narrower and deeper by focusing on those things that matter most to the poor. The political scientist Kim Yi Dionne has found that in Malawi, people who are HIV-positive or who have lost a loved one to HIV/AIDS ranked improved HIV/AIDS services very low among their priorities. They were much more concerned about access to clean water, followed by agricultural development. Yet most public donors don’t seem to care. And private donors, often heralded by free-market proponents as knowing better than public donors, are not much better: in August, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced plans to deliver Internet access to the five billion people who are not yet online -- a priority that Bill Gates called “a joke” when compared to eradicating malaria.
Marc Bellemare on mission creep, foreign policy and focusing on issues that really matter in development.

The Boring Development Manifesto

The real work of development is not glamorous. It’s not exciting. It doesn’t photograph well. It doesn’t make for great cocktail party chatter.
Francisco Toro's new blog looks like a great addition to the development blogosphere and his boring development manifesto has rightly gained some momentum in the past 1-2 weeks.

Haiti: the neoliberal model imposed on the country is failing its citizens

Although I saw a range of private and government programs attempting to provide better housing and employment opportunities for Haitians on this trip - for example, a Haitian-made tablet device by Surtab is an intriguing opportunity - the neo-liberal, exploitative economic model currently being imposed on the nation has failed many times before and leaves millions of citizens, many of whom I met and heard, in a state of despair and daily desperation.
Interesting insights into the 'reconstruction' efforts in Haiti. Is the international aid industry structured to repeat failures, i.e. unable to 'learn'?

Typhoon Haiyan: Can Philippines build back better?

But if there is one key lesson aid workers have learned from past disasters, it is that nobody can "build back better" better than the victims themselves, deciding what they want and how to get it. Outsiders can help, but in the end it comes down to the people who have to remake their lives. And in Tacloban, there is no shortage of local initiative.
A long and balanced piece on the reconstruction efforts after Haiyan. I really like this as a good example of development journalism: Many details, many local and international voices and an interesting contrast to the previous on Haiti and to balance 'on the ground' rebuilding with broader systemic issues that aid often cannot affect.

Islands of Stability or Swamps of Insecurity? (PDF)

2013 might enter into history as a turning point for both United Nations (UN) peacekeeping and the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) two decades of armed conflicts. Both accustomed to negative reporting and daunting outlooks, they are similarly
affected by a paradigm shift in international intervention that finds its precedent in MONUSCO
One of the approaches, slowly becoming an evergreen in diplomatic discussion in and on the DRC, consists in holding local elections. The neglect of rural and remote areas in eastern Congo has not only resulted in precarious security dynamics as shown above, it had evenly dismantled popular trust in the political system. Contrary to what has been erroneously argued by commentators such as J. Peter Pham or Jeffrey Herbst, the Congolese state is not inexistent beyond the major urban centres. It has developed into a twilight-styled construction that has forced main parts of the population to either accept predation or to find creative strategies to play according to the existing, often violent modes of social interaction. Local elections can, but only if held in an accountable manner, help restoring trust in the form of a new social contract between the state and its citizens. However, whether they will be executed remains a big question mark at this point.
A detailed and balanced review of recent international engagement in DRC. Great for non-experts like myself to catch up on conflict and peacebuilding beyond news

The Hypocrisy of Human Rights Watch

So why has Human Rights Watch (HRW)—despite proclaiming itself “one of the world’s leading independent organizations” on human rights—so consistently paralleled U.S. positions and policies?
This is a detailed article that appears to be based to facts and background research. I think that issues of revolving doors for senior non-profit and political figures, alliances with business groups and corporations with questionable ethical practices are an integral problem of a large part of 'NGOs' in and around Washington or New York. Many are part of the 'foreign policy industry' and often do not succeed in focusing on their mandate for risk for being shunned from insiders circles which may be particularly tricky for human rights work.

Hey Voluntourist, Take A Back Seat!

When I raised my concerns about the effectiveness and dangers of this program, the organiser's response was to say that she was inspiring people from developed nations to care. She was “lighting a fire” underneath them, so that they would do more good in their lives in the future. My response to this was "what is the point of this, if you don't make a difference to people's lives in Cambodia?"
Often, the answers to all the problems are often right in front of us. Foreigners should take a supportive role in helping people access resources, be they financial, technical or otherwise — not pretend to help while really putting ourselves in the picture.
WhyDev's Weh Yeoh on his mission to make voluntourism and its participants more educated in the case of Cambodia. Keep up the great work and writing!

Dear white feminist public figures…

I’m sorry for picking on this one example, especially when (sadly) there’s many more out there – but writing headlines like “23 Awesome Feminist Digital Campaigns That Changed the World” when 22 out of the 23 examples originate from the US, the UK and Canada, is, to my mind, incredibly reductive, and actually slightly offensive. Given mainstream prejudices already prevalent in those countries, your article is only strengthening the popular (but obviously, invalid) view that feminism is a ‘western’ ideology, not found in the rest of the world.
If you’re in a position where you are able to, then why not travel? It’s still valid to read about other peoples’ experiences, but it’ll give you a whole new dimension to actually meet them, see what they’re talking about, and hear about them in person.
Zara Rahman's comment on celebrities and 'feminism' sounds very familiar to other areas of '(under)development' that they often talk about...

Ten Books to Read Before Becoming a Humanitarian

There are hundreds of academic texts on humanitarian aid, several memoirs and numerous books criticising the sector. For those considering a career in the sector, and those still new to the sector, here is our list of ten books that together represent a good introduction to the challenges, criticisms, adventures and hope that together provide an insight.
Great selection, though from a research and teaching point of view I would slightly disagree about 'Emergency Sex' being explicitly excluded from the list; whether you like it not not, it opened the door for 'Aidwork lit'...


We all have stories to tell (our own and that of others) so it was with great interest that I read this piece at the tail end of 2013 on the guardian on #readwomen2014 just at the time that I had picked up two books written by aid worker women. Marianne Elliott’s, Zen Under Fire: Finding Peace In The Midst Of War , and Jessica Alexander’s, Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Work.
Two fresh book reviews from Zehra on women writers and their contribution to the 'Aidworker lit'.

Opening Access: Publics, Publication, and a Path to Inclusion

By giving an ever wider community of scholars greater control over their time and resources—as they provide the essays, peer reviews, and other contributions that constitute our journals—we seek to help democratize our academic institutions. This is an ambitious goal but one that we hope each of you reading the first open-access issue of Cultural Anthropology is as eager to pursue as we are.
A leading anthropological journal goes open access! This will be an interesting and important journey to watch!


Learning to Think Outside the Box

Traditional academic disciplines still matter, but as content knowledge evolves at lightning speed, educators are talking more and more about “process skills,” strategies to reframe challenges and extrapolate and transform information, and to accept and deal with ambiguity.
Dr. Puccio developed an approach that he and partners market as FourSight and sell to schools, businesses and individuals.
The point of creative studies, says Roger L. Firestien, a Buffalo State professor and author of several books on creativity, is to learn techniques “to make creativity happen instead of waiting for it to bubble up. A muse doesn’t have to hit you.”
This NYTimes article says more about the inner workings of the academic industry than about 'teaching creativity', people/institutions/academics are really willing to sell out-as long as there are students who are willing to pay for a course/subject/degree.

Shooting the shit: the role of bullshit in organisations (PDF)

This article argues that a great deal of both ‘talk’ and ‘text’ in organisational settings is, ultimately, bullshit. By ‘bullshit’ I mean the type of organisational speech and text that is produced with scant regard for the truth and is used to willfully mislead and to pursue the interests of the bullshitter. Bullshit is particularly prevalent in immaterial roles that lack a clear sense of social
purpose. In these contexts, employees try to occupy themselves by engaging in bullshit. They do this by circulating discourses which are strategically ambiguous, over-packed with information and deliberately fleeting in nature. In order to construct these discourses, they frequently turn to examples set by the management fashion industry. When bullshit begins to take hold of an organisation, it can have surprisingly positive effects. It can create a
positive image for the company and can help to increase self-confidence and build legitimacy. However, this often comes with some distinctly darker consequences: primary tasks are crowded out, valued occupational identities are compromised and stakeholder trust is undermined. Ultimately, bullshit leaves us with organisations that may be appealing on the surface but are
distinctly brittle.
Interesting article...although it comes with a bit of irony as it is published in a journal called 'M@n@gement' to underscore it's digital, 2.0 credibility

43 Years Ago Today: Foucault’s Statement on French Prisons

On February 8, 1971, Foucault and a group of other activists issued this now famous statement on the conditions of French prisons during a press conference.
The organization, Groupe d’Information sur les Prisons (Prison Information Group), sought to disseminate information on the French prison system. They interviewed prisoners, family members and guards and published their findings in pamphlets to spread awareness about the inhumane conditions prisoners were forced to live in.
Those good old days of sociologists having a real, critical and political interaction with 'society'-and mainstream media would even listen!

First Volume Contents III: Forthcoming contributions from researchers at Oxford Internet Institute and Microsoft Research
Preview of some of the contents of Big Data & Society-a new open access journal that will be launched soon!


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