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Hi all,

Development news: JK Rowling takes on voluntourism; MSF, Kayla Mueller and caring for humanitarian aid workers; let’s talk fraud, NGOs! The overworked nonprofit employee is the new normal; are aid organizations wasting money in rural Nepal?

Our digital lives:
The differences between photo-op and policy Justin Trudeau; more critical Silicon Valley journalism needed; analyzing #Brexit tweets; surveillance as feminist issue

Why don’t students read? Can you fix the academic conference business?


New from aidnography
This Present Darkness (book review)

In the end, Ellis is careful not to buy into a simple globally organized crime narrative with Nigerians at the heart which ‘underestimates the degree to which business, organised crime and politics have become integrated through their mutual interests’ (p.229).
But he does not let individuals off the hook by defending themselves that today’s crimes are somehow rectifying past wrongs and are justified by historical, colonial, pre-modern developments.
Read this book!
Add it to reading lists of your courses as an exemplary case study of how history, ‘development’ and globalization ‘work’. Recommend it to colleagues who are interested in historical narratives that are well researched and richly illustrated with examples and yet can claim to tell history-in this case the history of Nigeria-in a way that respects places and people and leaves everybody who engages with the book a wiser person!
Development news
The World Humanitarian Day mockery

Yet, however skilled or brave humanitarians may be, their efforts are wasted without the real political leadership to resolve conflicts and share the global responsibility for hosting people fleeing conflict.
Last week, I celebrated World Humanitarian Day with a special book review, but James Munn is absolutely right that celebrating aid workers is not enough.

In 13 Epic Tweets, J.K. Rowling Shut Down People Who Think "Voluntourism" Is a Good Thing

J.K. Rowling is known for shutting people down on Twitter (...) and now she's speaking out against another idea: "voluntourism." Over the weekend, the Harry Potter author tweeted about her charity called Lumos before someone asked her to retweet a message about an organization that offers volunteer experiences in orphanages abroad.
Lisette Mejia compiled the Twitter exchange. I read a couple of comments along the lines of 'it is important to criticize voluntourism, but why does it still need celebrities with very little development expertise to grab the attention of the public?'

Doctors Without Borders Refused to Help American ISIS Hostage Kayla Mueller

The organization's top U.S. official said the group had no obligation to help the young American woman because she was not their employee.
"I don't think there was a moral responsibility," Jason Cone, MSF's U.S. executive director, said in an interview with ABC News. "We can't be in the position of negotiating for people who don't work for us."
Cone said Mueller had not been asked by the group to come to Syria and would have not have permitted her to travel there if it had been asked because of her American citizenship.
James Gordon Mee, Megan Christie, Brian Epstein & Brian Ross for ABC News. The debate about aid worker security, self-care and professionalism in war zones continues.

The Niger Delta’s oil wealth has made inhabitants’ lives worse

As my book shows, many insurgents eventually reveal that personal interest — getting oil wealth for themselves — trumps community interest. In short, it’s not just multinational corporations and the Nigerian government that are making Niger Delta communities worse off. Purported advocates may also use community grievances for their own purposes.
Kim Yi Dionne interviews Omolade Adunbi for The Monkey Cage blog. An interesting contemporary reminder that adds nicely to my latest book review on the history of organized crime in Nigeria.

Social Media Crackdown: The New Normal for Africa?

Anyimadu says efforts to stop dissent online may ultimately prove futile.
"The unique thing about technology and social media is that it's constantly evolving, and I'm sure that as ways of shutting down social media evolve, so will ways of getting around those kinds of shutdowns," Anyimadu said.
Jill Craig for Voice of America. Developing countries currently present an important new 'frontline' for digital debates and governments are as keen as ever to control dissenting voices.

It's time to talk about fraud in aid agencies

It’s not hard to answer. Counter-fraud work carries the odour of “administration costs”, while successfully detecting fraud upsets the public, provokes institutional donors and can give ammunition to our critics. Preventative work is not much more attractive; badly-designed procedures and systems can create bureaucracy that slows delivery. Myths and misconceptions underpin much of this, and when we do dust off the fraud portfolio, our efforts are often underfunded. We’ve all sat through the impenetrable, life-sapping slides of a “fraud workshop” facilitated by whichever finance officer drew the short straw this time.
Oliver May on why NGOs take short-cuts on fraud prevention and investigation-and why it matters to take fraud more seriously.

What Anthropologists Can Learn from Designers (And Vice Versa)

Where the similarities end, design researchers have unique contributions to make to anthropology. The most exciting to me is how design research translates ethnographic insights into actionable policies. Deeply immersive and long-term anthropological fieldwork is difficult to finance and not intended to turn into actual change. Design researchers make compromises that allow them to carry out immersive and iterative research to support change within the institutional realities of development.
Marielle Velander with a timely reminder for students and new graduates to combine different talents to work 'in development'.

The Plight of the Overworked Nonprofit Employee

Mary Beth Hastings, who has more than 20 years of experience working in the world of global-health organizations, has witnessed this in a variety of workplaces throughout her career. “Too often, I have seen the passion for social change turned into a weapon against the very people who do much—if not most—of the hard work, and put in most of the hours,” Hastings recently wrote on her blog. “Because they are highly motivated by passion, the reasoning goes, they don’t need to be motivated by decent salaries or sustainable work hours or overtime pay.”
Jonathan Timm for The Atlantic. A very interesting and nuanced piece. Between more regulations and demands from funders, a culture of exploiting young/free labor and a changing labor market, non-profit workers are squeezed even more...

INGOs paying Rs 80,000 to Rs 180,000 per month to rent a flat in Gorkha

UN agencies and INGOs such as Oxfam, UNDP, Save the Children and Care Nepal pay more than Rs 80,000 every month for a flat. CRS, an organization working in Gorkha district, pays Rs 180,000 per month as rent. It has rented the building of the Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Most of the newly-built houses in the district are occupied by INGOs and UN agencies. Similarly, the INGOs and UN agencies are spending huge amounts on hired vehicles. Every agency has hired two to five vehicles on average.
Narahari Sapkota's piece leads itself to aid organization-bashing in rural Nepal. I am less convinced about simple 'supply-and-demand' assumptions; landlords don't have to charge international organizations high rents and importing and owning vehicles is tricky for foreigners in Nepa. And the post-quake effort generally has been slowed down by both aid bureaucracy and inefficiencies in the systems in Nepal that have been nurtured since the day aid arrived for the first time 6 decades ago...

Who to follow on Twitter if you’re interested in international development, media and communication
A good list supplied by Melanie Archer from BBC Media Action.

Our digital lives
Contrast Between Photo-Op Justin And Policy Trudeau Is Night And Day

When was the last time you heard anyone in the government talk about pipelines, arms deals, fired scientists, criminal records for pot possession, Bill C-51, the Trans-Pacific Partnership or any of the other big-ticket issues? Now, think of how easy is it to recall Trudeau marching in a parade, jogging with a world leader, joking with Obama, photobombing a wedding or the litany of other non-substantive moments in his first year as leader.
The contrast between Photo-op Justin and Policy Trudeau is stark, and there does not seem to be a shift in strategy coming out of the PMO.
James Di Fiore for Huffington Post. His comment continues an interesting debate that already featured in last week's link review where the power of mediatization created through Trudeau's official photographer was the topic.

Access, Accountability Reporting and Silicon Valley

“The biggest challenge to producing a story like the Amazon piece, or any reporting about the tech community that challenges the community’s idea of itself, is that tech wants, expects, and quite often gets upbeat pieces,” Streitfeld says. “There’s a sense, in too much tech reporting, that when you cross the bridge into Silicon Valley, you’re in a world where the old rules of journalism don’t apply. One of the biggest clichés of Silicon Valley is when they say, ‘It’s not about the money. We just want to change the world.’ Sometimes that even may be true. But that’s a reason for better coverage, not weaker.”
Adrienne LaFrance on tech sector journalism and how the powerful sector that claims to 'change the world' needs more critical scrutiny.

How Leave won Twitter: an analysis of 7.5m Brexit-related tweets

There is clearly a pattern in the way the referendum campaign unfolded on Twitter, with those wanting to leave communicating in greater numbers and with greater intensity. Districts with a greater share of Twitter users supporting Leave also tended to vote for leaving the EU, so that Twitter activity correlates with voting in the referendum.
Yet we must be careful to avoid over-interpretation, in particular regarding claims that social media can predict election outcomes, the problems of which have been pointedly enumerated. Finding a pattern in the data post hoc is quite a different thing than confidently identifying and interpreting the pattern ex ante – Leave leads on social media by a much larger margin than it did in the vote, so it is not at all clear how one should have interpreted results from a Twitter analysis before the vote. The problem is, we lack demographic descriptors of social media users according to which we may weight or interpret results.
Stefan Bauchowitz and Max Hänska present their analysis of #Brexit tweets. Important points about 'post-hoc patterns' versus 'ex ante' analysis and prediction.

5 reasons why surveillance is a feminist issue

It is no coincidence that the first book on feminist surveillance studies considers fertility screenings, ultrasound images, birth certificates, surrogacy blogs, police photos of domestic violence and the likes as racialised, gendered, classed and sexualised technologies of surveillance alongside those traditionally considered surveillance proper. With a nod to bell hooks, the authors call the ways in which surveillance practices play into the hands of privilege “white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchal surveillance”.
Nicole Shepherd for GenderIT adding to the emerging more nuanced and diverse critique of our digital surroundings.

A List of Female Technology Policy Experts

That escalated quickly. This list started with 15 names of women with insight on a particular issue of law and technology policy. In just over 24 hours, we have over 230 names of a wide variety of experts and over 100 more not yet added. They represent the spectrum of seniority, experience, political and policy views.
Susan Hennessey compiled this important overview.


Why Don't Students Read?

Surveys of undergraduates confirm what many of us suspect from our classroom experiences: most students do not complete assigned readings before class (Burchfield and Sappington 2000; Hoeft 2012). Yet we must resist the common assumption that they are simply lazy, uninterested, or not serious about their learning. As I emphasized in a previous post, it is important to understand our students’ lives and the many factors that affect their coursework.
When anthropology professor Cathy Small—writing under the pseudonym Rebekah Nathan (2005)—enrolled as a freshman at her own university, she, too, found herself skipping assigned readings and finding ways to limit her workload. Students, she argues, do not ignore assignments lightly. Rather, as they try to balance multiple course requirements, organizational meetings, paid employment, and social and familial responsibilities, they make quick decisions about what to prioritize.
A good reminder from Angela Jenks that spending too much time on elaborated readings lists with 'interesting' readings may not correspond with the realities of the student experience.

‘Conference Business’ as Usual?

The conference could open up more to the public by holding lectures, discussions, seminars, round tables and workshops that welcome the public, politicians or stakeholders. The great accumulation of international resources could be also used to create various educational events for youth. The exchange can productively work both ways – for example, working groups or panels could be formed in which sociologists, political actors, NGO representatives and people concerned with particular social issues can discuss these issues together.
If a conference is organized by a 'study association' it is most likely beyond repair. As much as I appreciate Tomáš Bek, Petr Kubala and Terezie Lokšová's suggestions the best way of engaging with the political economy of academic mega-conferences is not attending.


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