Links & Contents I Liked 195

Hi all,

TGIF! Time for a fresh link review from the wonderful world of development, digital culture and higher education!

Development news: The #allmalepanel gets a thorough feminist academic treatment; TV program on medical volunteerism; localization of aid without creating a new class of globalized organizations; giving refugees cash; from DRC to PNG-the difficult engagement with extractive industries; on the road with Afghan migrants; what really happened to Dag Hammarskjold? Who does ‘aid work’?

Our digital lives:…and I didn’t even get the T-Shirt-feminist writing in the age of new capitalism; Airspace: How platform capitalism helps to create familiar experiences in distant locations; the darker sides of authentic Internet fame. 

Academia: Proud not be a ‘serious academic’; theorising digital scholarship.


Development news

Responding to #AllMalePanels: A Collage

Are all-male panels (AMPs) a symptom of continuing gender inequality that needs calling out? Undoubtedly. Does ensuring the presence of women on every panel, or even creating all-women panels, offer an effective solution? I’m unconvinced.
Insisting that all panels should include women finds support because it is a direct and tangible response to a persistent phenomenon, made infinitely more frustrating by the blithe thoughtlessness that underpins its recurrence. It appears to be a small but welcome and quantifiable step toward correcting the chronic underrepresentation that women in the majority of professional fields still experience.
However, settling for this quick fix has some potentially serious side effects for gender equity and diversity. Apparent practicality aside, a “just add women” response to AMPs risks perpetuating not only the notion that gender is binary, essentialized and visible, but also that gender parity between women and men should to be prioritized over other axes of diversity.
The binary categorization of gender utilized in the AMP discourse, in which “woman” is the sole logical other of “man,” closes down space for other (non-western, non-binary) gender identities. It also reduces “women” to a reified identity husk, with the complexity and multiplicity of individual identity stripped out in favor of a single monolithic generic label.
Cai Wilkinson, Evren M. Eken, Laura Mills, Roxanne Krystalli, Harry D. Gould, Jesse Crane-Seeber, and Paul Kirby provide a multi-faceted engagement with the #allmalepanel discussion in their open access article for the International Feminist Journal of Politics. Even though they are approaching the topic from panel data and experiences in academia, the article provides tons of food for thought and discussion in other industries-including development, of course!

The Stream - Medical volunteerism

On The Stream: The risk and benefits of using medical volunteers to provide health services in the developing world.
Femi Oke and Malika Bilal host an 30-minute Al Jazeera English program on the challenges of medical voluteering and voluntourism in the global South. A good overview over the broader debate around 'volunteering'-and an interesting, interactive format to engage experts from around the globe in the discussion.

Volunteering Isn't Actually Making You Happy

If this is true, plenty of do-gooders right now are silently admitting to themselves that volunteering has done fcuk-all but add more stress to their week. The researchers speculated that one reason for these results may be that volunteering when you're young may just be seen as another chore or obligation. But when you're older, it becomes more personal or meaningful. They suggest that it may be beneficial to those who have been made redundant or have retired and have a more isolated life.
As a serious academic I should probably be careful about posting VICE summarizes of some research study, but it matches the piece on medical volunteering so well that I couldn't resist ;)!

Be careful what you wish for

Here is what we must avoid: transformation of the NGOs and CBOs of the Global South into auxiliaries of the Global North, as executors of the ‘soft power’, fulfillers of the national (security) interests of the Western powers, partners of the same global private sector that has driven underdevelopment and inequality, and advancers of both the neo-liberal and liberal agendas.
Marc DuBois on why the localization of aid is easier said than done and how local NGOs need to be careful avoiding a simple 'globalization' of their strategies.

The surprisingly simple economic case for giving refugees cash, not stuff

In a cash-based aid system, there will still be charities: There will just be a lot fewer of them. Without a specific mission tied to a physical item or particular service, many NGOs lose their raison d’etre.
“I believe that mobile money will be a bigger game changer in development than the green revolution ever was,” said Maura O’Neill, formerly chief of innovation at USAID and now a teaching fellow at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “If you don’t embrace at the leading edge of this change then someone will come in and say you’re irrelevant.”
Rather than shifting to cash, many organizations support vouchers, which require administration and staff comparable to in-kind donations, and offer similar fundraising advantages. All of this frustrates Andrew Harper, the UNHCR’s representative in Jordan, to no end. Having set up bank accounts for refugees in Jordan, he hopes other NGOs and agencies will convert more of their spending to cash, and put it in a unified account. He struggles for words, cursing. “I’m frustrated by the resistance and simple mindedness of some agencies,” said Harper. “You can say this: Making things more effective and efficient can be a threat to existing way of doing things.”
Elizabeth MacBride for Quartz with a very good overview on the 'cash not stuff' debate in humanitarian aid.

DRC’s largest mine was just sold. And DRC got nothing.

When asked about the government’s position on the transaction, Minister of Mines Martin Kabwelulu questioned the opacity of the sale, adding that there must be a tax on the sale of the Congolese asset and that they will push the tax authority to claim it. But this tax may be more difficult to claim than they think. And while billions of dollars transfer between the two companies’ bank accounts, the citizens of DRC may not see a penny from the two billion dollar sale.
Kathleen Brophy on another detail of how 'the market' supports development...

DANCING WITH THE EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRY: The Limits of Normative Policies and Guidance

Meanwhile there are the many individuals that are now making a living from artisanal mining, a livelihood that can be threatened by a renewed large-scale and controlled mining operation. The situation is further complicated by the widespread distrust of the Bougainvilleans in their Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), whose ‘consultations’ on the re-opening of the mine they saw as manipulative. Although almost every department of the ABG had had a foreign adviser for several years, no citizen on the island had ever heard of any of the international guidance or ‘soft law’ references that are relevant here. Nor was there public conversation about the development choices that Bougainville could make: rely predominantly on this natural resource, or invest much more in agro-forestry where most people make a living from? In such a small place, these are choices that lead to significantly different futures. Finally, those seeking to broker an agreement and advising the ABG on its negotiation approach, were Australian. Irrespective of their actual integrity, this was a cause of deep distrust for many Bougainvilleans. They knew full well that the mine was originally operated by BCL, a subsidiary of Conzinc Rio Tinto of Australia, and that there are strong Australian interests in who will operate it again.
Koenraad Van Brabant utilizes his experience and observations from PNG to make some broader points about the complex 'dance' with and around extractive industries.
If you are interested in PNG and mining, Lasset's State Crime on the Margins of the Empire book is a great read and I reviewed it on the blog a couple of months ago.

Afghan Exodus: The re-emergence of smugglers along the Balkan route

This series of three dispatches stems from research carried out in Belgrade in June 2016 by AAN’s Jelena Bjelica, Martine van Bijlert and Fabrizio Foschini. During the course of their research, they conducted interviews with migrants, aid workers, volunteers and informed observers, visited the main gathering places for Afghan migrants in Belgrade and tried to gain access to the HorgoŇ° and Kelebija transit zones.
Jelena Bjelica and Martine van Bijlert with a detailed, almost ethnographic, account on the experiences of Afghan migrants leaving their country hoping to find a better life in Europe.


This website is an initiative of the Analysis and Advocacy Unit of MSF’s Operational Centre in Brussels. Included on this website are opinion pieces, book chapters and articles intended to stimulate debate. The website is organised along the thematics of access, aid environment, health policy and refugees/migrants.
We hope that the reflections contained in this website will be a small contribution to challenging the status quo and the way in which we respond to it as humanitarian organisations.
MSF continues to engage the international community with food for thought on the political complexities of humanitarian aid.

U.N. to Probe Whether Iconic Secretary-General Was Assassinated

Newly­ discovered documents revive claim that Dag Hammarskjold may have been killed by South African agents backed by the CIA.
Even though this is kind of a never-ending story, Colum Lynch's piece for Foreign Policy is a great read on UN and international history.

Who is the Aid Worker?

But of course this leads to huge misperceptions about what I do. The image of the heroic aid worker feeding a sick child or providing first aid to people fleeing war or violence is what everybody knows; yet I have never been directly involved in these sorts of operations, and in fact when working for human rights organisations there is often no assistance given whatsoever – it’s all about advocacy and raising awareness. But explaining that to an ‘outsider’ sometimes feels too clunky, too tiring….and sometimes one wonders, are they really that interested anyway in these finer details?
Gemma Houldey continues the discussion of what an 'aid worker' is; I agree with her that this is more than just a semantic or intellectual discussion. To some extent, I would call my communication for development teaching, research and engagement 'aid work'-knowing full well that most of it happens from a desk in Sweden. 'Aid work' has become an approach to do, but also to communicate global justice issues and be involved in debates about a fairer world-at home, 'abroad' and all along the aid chain!

Our digital lives
My feminism will be capitalist, appropriative and bullshit merchandise

Now, imagine for a second, my face when I recently found out that there is a vast array of merchandise that bears those words and my name for sale on the internet.
And yet, other people thought it was fair to profit from my work, my name and these clumsy words I string together out of desperation. These people thought it was acceptable to try to make the money that I do not even have. Not a single one of them thought of my material conditions and wondered if this was OK, if I had enough to get by or if I was profiting out of my work.
Flavia Dzodan on public writing, new forms of capitalism in the digital economy and how a quote from her writings ended up on a T-Shirt.

Welcome to Airspace: How Silicon Valley helps spread the same sterile aesthetic across the world

As an affluent, self-selecting group of people move through spaces linked by technology, particular sensibilities spread, and these small pockets of geography grow to resemble one another, as Schwarzmann discovered: the coffee roaster Four Barrel in San Francisco looks like the Australian Toby’s Estate in Brooklyn looks like The Coffee Collective in Copenhagen looks like Bear Pond Espresso in Tokyo. You can get a dry cortado with perfect latte art at any of them, then Instagram it on a marble countertop and further spread the aesthetic to your followers.
Schwarzmann critiqued the lack of locality in generic places, but Haid’s company suggests a different, paradoxical definition of locality: desirable places should be both specific enough to be interesting and generic enough to be as convenient as possible, consumed quickly and easily — equal parts authentic and expendable. In his 1992 book Non-Places, Marc Aug√©, the French anthropologist, wrote that with the emergence of such identity-less space, "people are always, and never, at home." If we can be equally at home everywhere, as Roam and Airbnb suggest, doesn’t that mean we are also at home nowhere?
Kyle Chayka for The Verge on the globalized and globalizing power of platform capitalism.

Sex, lies and YouTube: The predatory side of internet fame

Is it the stars' responsibility to draw boundaries around themselves? Do the fans need to dial back on their obsessions? Do platforms and the companies built around them need to better educate fans and creators about how to create a safer Internet culture?
Saba Hamedy for Mashable with a detailed long-read on how to deal with whatever fame you get from your Internet activities and how you and your family need to be prepared for experiencing the darker side of the web.

Hot off the digital press

Social Media Analytics Department For Work and Pensions Research Seminar
Wasim Ahmed with a very comprehensive overview over social media tools, software and analytics.

I’ve Got a Serious Problem with “Serious Academics.”

Moreover, social media has created opportunities for public engagement by scholars who don’t fit the stereotype our Guardian essayist privileges. Speaking as an academic at a non-elite institution who doesn’t look or act like a Serious Academic (as I’ve been repeatedly told), I can say that me and others like me have found social media to be a democratizing and invigorating scholarly space. This blog, and my activity on Twitter, has opened my scholarly world to places and people I would have never interacted with otherwise. None of my journal articles reached 500,000 readers; my blogging on the Confederate flag and the racism inherent in southern secessionism did, though.
I’m at a small, non-elite school in flyover country. I’m the product of state universities, not the Ivy League. I wouldn’t be in the scholarly conversations I’m in without using social media as a lever. My work, my teaching, my publishing-none of these would look like they do without the communities and relationships I’ve been able to develop on Twitter.
Kevin, the Tattooed Professor, makes some excellent points on why academics should engage with social media and the digital world; my own blogging and digital engagement is built on a similar premise that it is an essential learning-by-doing part of my job and that it helps my branding activities, however small they may be.

Special Edition: Theorising digital scholarship

But as with all forms of excitement, it tends to dissipate when confronted with the reality of digital scholarship. This reality is intimately tied up with the politics of higher education – the university and its hinterland. The challenges that would naturally be brought to bear on digital scholarship – time, engagement, impact, status, esteem – tend to be magnified in the world of academia. Those unused to the peculiarities of academic life might think that the opportunities provided by digital scholarship – publishing, access, impact, networking, dissemination – would prove manna from heaven for the dedicated academic, keen to promote their work and engage with a wider public. To some extent, they are right, but in other ways this innocent-eyed take is wide of the mark. The ideals of digital scholarship are tempered by the realities of academia, with its powerful prestige economy alongside the pressures of a diversified workload. While digital scholarship provides routes to publishing and impact, so important to the modern university – taking advantage of the digital revolution should come with an advisory sticker attached. Because it’s not so much about publishing, impact etc., but the right kind of publishing, impact and the rest.
The new open access Journal of Applied Social Theory with its first issue on digital scholarship with a focus on the possibilities of the digital meeting some of the realities of academia.


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