Links & Contents I Liked 110

Dear all,

This slightly more comprehensive link review makes for excellent end-of-beginning-of week reading! And best of all, it is a Ukraine-free round-up ;)!

After a few announcements on crowd-sourced development knowledge, there is Bosnia and the failures of liberal peacebuilding, Haiti and the shortcoming of child sponsorship and India and the failures of tax governance; Burning questions like 'why avoid hip gadgets for development?' or 'what do White House policy-makers really read?' and career-related issues on MPH and the crushing power of aid bureaucracies round off the development section.
Anthropology is all about writing more truthfully, more beautifully and more books! In Academia we look at fake conferences and their fake papers, a conference on the many faces of 'publish or perish' and an obituary of Stuart Hall from a Communication for Development perspective!


New on aidnography

ICT4D after Snowden
From the Snowden leaks to the ‘deep state’-why the surveillance state is an issue for development. 


Survey: Who are the aid workers and what are they really doing?

Yet we don’t know who they are. Not really. And in a context (at least in North America) where we want to know the details of, and form strident opinions about, the personal lives of musicians and fashion models, doesn’t it seem—well, strange—that we’re okay not really knowing these people whose day job is literally spending our money to make the world better?
I don’t think that’s okay. So I am working with Thomas Arcaro, professor of sociology at Elon University, to answer a deceptively simple question: Who are the aid and development workers of the world?
The study begins with a first step—an online survey, open to anyone in the aid industry who cares to invest the 25 minutes, or so, that it takes to complete (depending on how long one agonizes over the open-ended questions).
Just a quick reminder about J.'s latest project. Judging from the first nuggets he has been sharing on facebook, the survey is going strong and has already collected some interesting first responses.


ID100 is a new collaborative project to identify the 100 most important questions in international development.
With the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals fast approaching, and a new post-2015 development agenda emerging, ID100 will establish priorities for international development policy and research in order to tackle the world’s most urgent socioeconomic, political and environmental problems.
We’re asking policy makers, academics and civil society to contribute your burning issues in international development, for now and tomorrow. Together, we can shape the post-2015 agenda, and start asking the questions that matter.
Colleagues at Sheffield University have also launched a crowd-based project of gathering questions/opinions about the future of development after the MDGs.

Every Day Peace Indicators

The Everyday Peace Indicator project — a project of the University of Notre Dame in the United States, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in South Africa, and the University of Manchester in the UK — aims to investigate alternative, bottom-up indicators of peace. Funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the project operates in four sub-Saharan countries: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda and South Sudan. Taking its cue from studies in sustainable development, the project asks community members to identify their own measures of peace. It is based on the premise that local communities are best placed to identify changes in their own circumstances, rather than relying on external ‘experts’ to identify indicators for them.
Last not least a new project from the peace research field that also engages with local, bottom-up data.

The Bobs

The time has finally come – the 10th edition of The Bobs is on. You have until March 5 to submit the blogs and websites you find interesting and inspiring to the contest. Submissions are welcome in 14 languages.
It’s our 10th anniversary but don’t let that make you think we’re going to mess with something that works. The Bobs is still all about recognizing the hard work done online and off to promote freedom of expression, human rights and civil society.
Deutsche Welle is looking for the best initiatives for online activism-which concludes this week's list of announcements...

Bosnia presents a terrifying picture of Europe's future

The result is that ethno-nationalist elites, greatly responsible for war, were rewarded in peace not only by ethnic partition, but also with all the wealth of the territories they control. This was the elite that the international community and the EU, through their marginal politicians sent as "high representatives", treated as their main partners. Citizens were to be kept at bay.
But there is one big difference with the riots seen in other European cities, and this is where Bosnia speaks directly to Europe's current predicament: this is not a rebellion of discriminated and ghettoised groups, territorially contained on the outskirts of big cities. It is a rebellion of the whole population that has been subjected to economic impoverishment, social devastation and political destitution. In this, Bosnia is an image of Europe's future: ungovernable populations, exhausted by austerity measures and left to their own devices after the collapse of remnants of the welfare state – a state with no prospect for growth, run by elites of dubious, if any legitimacy who deploy heavily armed police to protect themselves against ordinary citizens.
While other countries are certainly making news headlines, Bosnia is not one of them. Although I am always cautious when writers analyze contemporary protests in a framework of 'this is indicative of what may happen in the EU', I do think that Bosnia is a good/bad case study of how 'liberal peacebuilding' has been failing ordinary citizens in many post-conflict societies.

My 13-Year Effort to Save a Boy in Haiti

But, as with most aid to Haiti, I don’t think it will have a long-term impact, at least not in this particular case. His life will probably resemble his father’s: he will work in the fields, he will collect wood, he will build a small house on his beautiful little island with views of the sea, and over time it will slowly, inevitably fall apart.
When Ervenson left Compassion, I debated whether I would sponsor again. On the one hand, I’m still not comfortable with the evangelism, and I worry about contributing to Haiti’s aid problem; on the other, I believe that the money can make a difference, though there’s no guarantee that it will. And then, less than two months after Ervenson left, Compassion sent me a letter from another boy named Widny. I didn’t request it, but it was sent all the same. Widny is nine years old. He lives on Haiti’s southern coast, about 130 miles from La Tortue. He likes math and soccer and the color yellow. I grabbed a pen, and I wrote him back.
I had quite an internal debate on this piece and whether or not I should share it. In the end, I think that this is a balanced piece on the motivations and limitations on child sponsorship. It was also a powerful reminder for me of how a particular Christian/missionary motivation is still very much part of the 'development industry' (and has so for longer than the modern 'development' concept is around). I am still not a huge fan of child sponsorship, but I know that it is a big business model for the charities that offer it.

India’s firm stance on tax could actually help investors

In essence, the Indian tax authorities allege the subsidiaries and affiliates of transnational corporations fix the prices at which they “book” transactions with one another to show low profits in India. These transactions could include transfers of goods in a production chain, services like management advice or back-office functions, loans, or intellectual property rights like the use of consumer brand names.
India may still be poor, but it is big, relatively powerful, has a fast growing economy, and provides a very attractive consumer market. While its tax authorities may not be beyond criticism, they are competent enough to know when big businesses might be offering their country a raw deal, and what they can do to try to level the playing field.
IDS' Mick Moore makes some very interesting points regarding tax governance in India. Corporations claim time and again that they want to play a bigger part in 'development'; but they usually want it on their terms and usually for a bargain: Building a school here, support women entrepreneurs there. Mick makes a compelling case that working with tax authorities, actually paying proper taxes, could be an investment in the future of good governance and a 'better' state with better services. But that would mean paying real money to the state, not just tokenistic CSR pocket money for the headlines-something large corporations usually find less appealing...

Hip Gadgets For The Developing World Won't Solve Global Poverty: Stop Making Them

It just seems too easy to transpose our obsession for the latest gadget or app on poor consumers in the developing world. Inventing a sexy, new product is not enough. It needs to also be something poor people would buy with their hard earned money. It needs to actually get to them. It needs to get repaired when it inevitably breaks. Unless you hit all of these criteria, your highly efficient solar powered nasal hair remover is not going to make a dent in anything--let alone global poverty.
Hugh Whalan points out some important and obvious truth about turning 'poor people' into consumers and assuming that hip consumerism will actually 'eradicate poverty'...

What do White House Policy Makers want from Researchers? Important survey findings.

Three aspects of scholarship appear to be most important: First, policymakers appear to want mid-range theory. Policymakers do not reject methodologically sophisticated scholarship across the board but do seem to find much of it not useful.
Second, brevity is key for policymakers. We suspect that the reason that Op/Eds are so influential among policymakers is only partly due to where they are published; another important aspect of their influence is their short length.
Policymakers find much current scholarly work – from across the methodological spectrum – inaccessible.
Duncan Green summarizes a new study on the needs of White House policy-makers. I think this study carries a great risk of being quickly generalized beyond WHITE HOUSE policy staff, experts at the highest echolon of policy-making. And yet, this study sends some interesting and mixed messages: First, forget about 'evidence' once and for all. 'Evidence' seems secondary at best-or maybe it is in demand for experts at different/lower levels of policy-making, e.g. research departments in federal ministries or agencies. Second, it raises the paradoxical question as to why Economists and Political Scientists are still so powerful as they often tend to employ complex quantitative methods-apparently the type that White House staff are less interested in...all in all an interesting study, but one that should be supplemented by some organizational anthropological research to find out what staff *really* read...

Is there a global health bubble? (Or: should you get an MPH?)

The problem is that there is something of an MPH bubble, especially in global health. The size of MPH classes has increased and – more importantly – the number of schools granting degrees has risen rapidly. Degrees focusing on global health also seem to be growing faster than the rest of the field. (I’d welcome data on class size and jobs in the industry if anyone knows where to find it.) This is happening in part because public health attracts a lot of idealists who are interested in the field because they want to make a difference, rather than rationally choosing between the best paying jobs, and global health has gotten a lot of good press over the last decade.
Brett Keller on the MPH bubble (part of the bigger Development Studies bubble) and how to prepare yourself for a better start in the MPH field.

Is the aid architecture crushing young aid workers?

It is understandably difficult for many aid workers to find their way in the early years – and the risk is that young aid workers become so compromised by the process of “making it” that they lose that purity, energy and optimism which is the hallmark of youth and the driver of successful outcomes in the complex world of humanitarian operations.
Every generation of aid workers have their particular set of struggles to overcome, even if in retrospect I believe we of the 80′s had it easier in our quest to achieve. The current generation of aid workers’ are not provided with the necessary freedom of thought and action to thrive and to make the best contribution possible.
The scary part for me is that you can almost replace 'aid' with any other industry and the changes in the past 20-30 years would still ring true for most of them...Too many people for too few jobs in the 'knowledge economy' don't blame 'development', but see it as part of a bigger picture of how society and economy have been changing...


February Blog :There goes the neighbourhood

The fact is that issues of safety and danger, adventure and precaution, intimacy and exposure, are highly specific to particular conjunctures of people and places in a way that defies ready generalisation about public/private space. Perhaps to get our bearings on these micro territories in a less socially abstracted way we need a comparative urban phenomenology supplied by local inhabitants themselves. Consider for example the varieties of hopes, fears, expectations and actual strategies of circumnavigation being enacted along the High Street on a bright Spring Saturday morning by :
A toddler in a push chair
Two teenagers looking for their friends
A Family shopping expedition
A party of sightseers from an American air base
A chronic sciatica sufferer
An agoraphobic
An elderly woman who has been the victim of street crime
A homeless schizophrenic
It seems unlikely that the range of such experiences will best be captured by using abstract philosophical language viz ‘being like through being other’ or ‘making visible the non public’ (Taussig). When it comes to setting these accounts against one another, we need some alternative way of establishing the limits/ conditions under which each could be somehow accommodated within a single, if multivocal, narrative frame. That is the task we have set ourselves in Living Maps in creating a new Atlas of East London consisting of maps made by groups of local people in areas undergoing rapid social and demographic change. It is an exercise in citizen social science that offers a different way of generating innovative urban policy based on locally situated knowledge but operating within a wider trans-local frame.
Phil Cohen conducts a wonderful anthropological symphony around his East London neighborhood. Great Sunday afternoon reading and one of the best 'love letters' to 'informants' that I have come across in a while!

Love in the Time of Ethnography

So how can one write about people like Adamsky and Eve-Marie, without falling into the traps of postcolonial rhetoric? What I have tried in this text is to follow the facts and let them speak for themselves (which of course is a rhetoric trick itself). Yet, what I tried to convey to the reader is a deep respect and empathy for the subjects of the study, and the decisions they made for their lives, which eventually left them both transformed. I am not here to condemn them, or judge them in any way, but to express a sense of their humanity, their conflicts and often-contradictory aspirations.
David Picard adds to our Sunday serenade on how to write ethnography beautifully and truthfully!

AE interviews Didier Fassin (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ)

Would you encourage graduate students to read fiction?
I would encourage anyone to read, in general, and read fiction, in particular. And as far as graduate students are concerned, I would do so not in a utilitarian manner, not to become better ethnographers or write better ethnographies, but rather to enlarge their intellectual perspectives, to open their mental world to imaginaries and possibilities, and simply to have the experience of the pleasure of literature. If ethnography could produce this kind of experience for its readers, it would certainly have a much stronger impact on society, and anthropologists might regain some of the space they have lost in the public sphere during the past decades.
I think that Didier Fassin does an excellent job in this interview to comment on anthropological 'writing cultures', but as long as many students are 'miseducated' to write uninspiring PhD theses and conform to academic journal standards, engaging anthropological writing may be reserved for those 'who made it' and have the security to write and engage in more meaningful ways...

My Ten Steps for Writing a Book

To get the creative juices flowing, I sketched out a flow chart of how I tackle a project from start to finish. The chart surprised me. My quirks and old habits turned out to be a defined system, one that I have implemented for each of my books without even knowing it.
Carole McGranahan share advice on how to write a book...I would probably add as #11: 'Wait 1.5-2 years to see the book finally getting published by an academic press'...

Publish or Perish 2014 Notes, Thoughts, Links
Lots and lots of interesting content to discover here...

Publishers withdraw more than 120 gibberish papers

Among the works were, for example, a paper published as a proceeding from the 2013 International Conference on Quality, Reliability, Risk, Maintenance, and Safety Engineering, held in Chengdu, China. (The conference website says that all manuscripts are “reviewed for merits and contents”.) The authors of the paper, entitled ‘TIC: a methodology for the construction of e-commerce’, write in the abstract that they “concentrate our efforts on disproving that spreadsheets can be made knowledge-based, empathic, and compact”.
Although much of the coverage of this topic focused on the 'fake' papers, I think the bigger issue is that these often stem from 'fake' conferences that spam my Inbox on a regular basis. Publishers need to be more vigilant about such conferences and how organizers are trying to sneak in their sub-standard outputs to claim that their proceedings are published in 'reputable' repositories.

Goodbye to a rigorous and socially relevant public intellectual

These days, there is a tendency to focus on ‘employability’ and ‘relevance for business’ when people in power debate the relevance of Humanities and Social Science. In different but highly overlapping ways Stuart Hall’s Cultural Studies was, and Communication for Development is, concerned with contemporary cultural questions and with the social relevance of analysis, with living interventions, tests and trials that study and engage the spaces and means people ‘claim’ or take in their hands as ways of existing, resisting and developing their own lives.
My dear colleagues Thomas Tufte and Anders Hög Hansen on Stuart Hall, Communication for Development and the 'impact' of critical scholarship.


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