Links & Contents I Liked 211

Hi all,

One moment you are reading an interesting story-the next moment it’s already time for the Friday link review!

Development news:
UK reviews development consultant spending; Compassion International wins Rusty Radiator (for video, not their organization's name...); Afghanistan’s first female rapper; ‘Made in Rwanda’ & the complexities of Chinese engagement in the garment industry; front line health work successes in Uganda; why Ford president shouldn’t have joined PepsiCo board; political correctness, feminism and bad taste-Cards Against Humanity edition; white fragility.

Our digital lives:
#blacklivesmatter and digital movements; representing the new Africa; sociologists take celebrity seriously.

The Bright and Dark Sides of Data-Driven Decision-Making; Gendering War & Peace Reporting; The cost of coherence; Trends in UN Peacekeeping fatalities.

Academia: Ethnographies of the neoliberal university; making academic conferences accessible and inclusive.


New from aidnography
Books I Liked 01 (short book reviews)

One of the things I realized this year is that I am actually reading more interesting books than I am able to review individually for the blog.
To try out a new format and share some interesting reads with you before the holidays and before 2016 will be wrapped up, I am sharing two new and also very different book reviews with you.
Wesley Lowery’s book is based on his experiences as a Washington Post correspondent who has been covering police brutality in the USA and community responses beyond #blacklivesmatter.
Nicole Dennis-Benn’s novel takes us to Jamaica, following the lives of three women and their struggles with social change and society’s expectations.
Development news
Britain's foreign aid budget pays out billions of pounds to consultants

Billions of pounds of funds from Britain's overseas aid budget intended for the world's poor have been spent on western consultants, an investigation has revealed.
International development secretary, Priti Patel, will review all foreign aid contracts after analysis showed that consultancy spending had doubled to £1bn ($1.26bn) a year since 2012, with British companies overcharging across the sector.
One think tank charged £10,306 ($13,000) to write a single blog post and two consultants were each paid £12,000 ($15,000) to produce a six page paper on disaster resilience, The Times revealed, after an analysis of more than 70,000 financial transactions.
Brendan Cole for International Business Times. Overcharging (I'm not quite sure what that actually means if companies deliver products at an agreed price) or fraudulent practices are not OK, of course. But adding consultants and the private sector to the aid industry is an essentially neoliberal idea that conservative governments introduced in the 1980s/90s. So the fact that the famed 'business sector' is part of the problem and often not of the solution slowly needs to be sinking in in many different parts of the UK government...

Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste

The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post.
Pentagon leaders had requested the study to help make their enormous back-office bureaucracy more efficient and reinvest any savings in combat power. But after the project documented far more wasteful spending than expected, senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it by discrediting and suppressing the results.
Craig Whitlock and Bob Woodward for the Washington Post with a quick reminder that real waste happens when defense ministries are involved and as unacceptable as waste is in the aid industry it will always pale against the stuff the military gets away with.

Rusty Radiator Awards Finalists 2016

This video is the epitome of ‘poverty pornography’ as it focuses solely on the bare lives of the suffering children and fetishizes their bodies (e.g. their swollen bellies because of starvation). It presents people in the South as helpless and unable to overcome their sufferings without help from the outside.
Congratulations! You have a Rusty Radiator Award... :(

Afghanistan's first female rapper: 'If I stay silent, nothing will change'

Life has not been easy for Paradise Sorouri. In the past seven years, the 27-year-old has been forced to flee her country twice, received more death threats than she can count, and was brutally beaten by 10 men on the street and left to die. Her crime? She covers her head with a baseball cap instead of a hijab, raises her voice for women’s rights, and is Afghanistan’s first female rapper
Eliot Stein for The Guardian on rap and the power and challenges of challenging cultural boundaries.

To stop relying on Western hand-me-downs, African countries are importing Chinese textile companies

Still, Ma, who has been working in textiles in developing countries for more than 16 years, believes she is uniquely equipped to meet the challenge. Unlike Huang and other Chinese managers who grow frustrated with their local staff, she says she tries to understand her employees and how they work best. “You just have to know them,” she says.
The company is not yet profitable, but she expects this year to be better. Ma anticipates more Chinese production moving to Africa as Southeast Asia becomes saturated with Chinese factories searching for cheaper locations. She will still have been the first in Rwanda.
And perhaps most importantly, she relates with the government’s campaign to wean the country from chagua.”In China during the 1980s there were also a lot of people wearing old, second-hand clothing. Now, not a single person is wearing recycled clothing. I think that for a country’s civilization to progress you do need to stop that.”
Lily Kuo for Quartz with a nuanced story about second-hand clothing, Chinese investors and 'Made in Rwanda' garments. It's complicated-and most likely not sustainable to simply produce more new 'stuff' regardless of location and value chain...

Living Goods’ Avon-style model is more than a novelty, it saves lives

“The entrepreneurial aspect for us is a means to an end for us,” said Shaun Church, president of Living Goods, in an interview with Humanosphere.
Donors wanted to know the impact the community health promoters where having on the health in their communities. They paid for a study that could measure the impact. Innovations for Poverty Action, a U.S.-based independent research organization, was brought on to run a large-scale randomized study of Living Goods in Uganda.
The results published in late November were better than expected. Community health promoters helped reduce child mortality by 27 percent and infant mortality by 33 percent. Neonatal mortality also was 27 percent lower, overall health knowledge improved and people were more likely to take preventive health measures compared to areas without community health promoters.
Tom Murphy for the Humanosphere on an innovative model for front line health work in Uganda.

Should funding agencies also share in the sacrifice of social change?

Throughout history the outright rejection of privilege and unequal power structures has been a key tool of social transformation: think civil rights or women’s liberation or pretty much any successful social movement. The insider route can lever some changes when it’s connected to outside pressure, but no one has ever transformed the establishment by joining it. The pressure nearly always works in the opposite direction, though subtly and over time, narrowing the horizons of possibility so that they conform to what’s expected. After all, the more invested you are in any system the less likely you’ll be to confront it.
That’s why the impact of a very public rejection of Pepsi’s invitation could have been so powerful: a signal that finally, a major foundation is willing to loosen its ties to the corporate world and focus its full attention on those tens of thousands of people who are working at the sharp end of social change.
Michael Edwards for OpenDemocracy on why the Ford Foundations president should have refused a seat on the PepsiCo board.

How I Went From Loving to Hating Cards Against Humanity: BUST True Story

In the past few years since my ex and I broke up I’ve tried to excise CAH from my life, but it’s unavoidable, trending on Facebook. My ex has softened his line on political correctness, vowing in the media to “punch up” at people and institutions in positions of cultural power. Women have been hired, although not to create content. Cards like the transphobic “passable transvestites” have been removed. But it’s difficult, if you are a wealthy cis-gendered straight white man who thinks CeCe McDonald wouldn’t have plead guilty if she was truly innocent, who believes that in the absence of evidence we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about George Zimmerman’s culpability, to “punch up.” The “a black male in his early 20s, last seen wearing a hoodie” card has yet to be expunged from the expansion packs.
Phoebe Rusch for Bust with a long essay on (the limits of) political correctness, feminism, human decency and the cynical? ironic? Cards Against Humanity game (which I have never played yet...).

Wrestling with my white fragility

Movements can save us. They have advanced societies throughout history and throughout the world, and they will again. Our shared pain and our vision for its transformation is what binds the souls in the movement, creating bridges of understanding and pathways back to love and courage we cannot yet see.
Our duty in this sector, at this moment globally, is to unleash people power. That must be our sole focus, our relentless pursuit, our greatest joy. And with our bodies and our planet under threat, we have no choice but to take such tender loving care of ourselves, that taking care of others becomes an easy expression of self, of community, of resistance.
My pain is my strength, and that is why I don’t just want to by an ally to those working for racial justice and global equity, I want to be a comrade (as described in this useful, yet daunting guide). I don’t know how to do this, exactly, or if I have what it takes. I’m scared of that too. Turns out though, my whole broken self is all I have to offer to the resistance.
Jennifer Lentfer with a powerful reminder that personal and social change are interlinked (I'm not doing her reflection really justice here...)

Our digital lives
#BlackLivesMatter and the Power and Limits of Social Media

Black Lives Matter also faces the challenges of decentralization. There are different chapters and arguments over who represents the movement. But decentralization also helps ensure that killing the leaders won’t kill the movement. Yates describes the old style of organization as “the singular- figure model of black liberation — which was often a man in a suit, at the top, and having him be the microphone for people.” Yates explains, “we didn’t realize it didn’t work until we saw what happened, and they repeatedly killed that leader. It took the wind out from under a movement.”
Mckesson says he met some of his closest friends through Twitter. “We trusted each other because of a digital space first and that trust manifested in physical ways, it manifested in offline work.”
Emily Parker and charlton mcilwain put #blacklivesmatter into a broader context of digital activism.

One Story, Many Countries: Why Does The Media (Still) Stereotype Africa?

So instead of falling into the old Afro-pessimism stereotype, media reporting needs to guard against being limited to the latest ‘positive’ narrative. Simple binaries are not sufficient in telling the news of such a vast and multifaceted area. The rising African middle classes and the economic elites are only one dimension. Despite all the stories of booming success, of which there are many, we need to remind audiences of other narratives.
Suzanne Franks for the European Journalism Observatory presents some key findings from the 'Africa's Media Image in the 21st Century' book project.

Maybe Now We'll Start Taking Celebrity Seriously

Finally, and this is where we need to diverge, having learned from, Boorstin, it is important to recognize the enormous political potency of celebrity. Celebrity is not mere mindless diversion, or distracting illusions, under certain conditions its attention capital can be leveraged to link up with various other sorts of economic, social and political capital, to create a perfect storm of world-altering societal transformation.
Robert Van Krieken for the Sociological Review with slightly 'academic' essay on some of the historical aspects of celebrity and populism. On the other hand, I am a bit puzzled that sociologists only *now* start to take celebrity more seriously?! In communication for development we have been discussing these topics for a couple of years now...

Hot off the digital press
The Tyranny of Data? The Bright and Dark Sides of Data-Driven Decision-Making for Social Good

we highlight both the positive opportunities that are created through data-driven algorithmic decision-making, and the potential negative consequences that practitioners should be aware of and address in order to truly realize the potential of this emergent field. We elaborate on the need for these algorithms to provide transparency and accountability, preserve privacy and be tested and evaluated in context, by means of living lab approaches involving citizens. Finally, we turn to the requirements which would make it possible to leverage the predictive power of data-driven human behavior analysis while ensuring transparency, accountability, and civic participation.
Bruno Lepri, Jacopo Staiano, David Sangokoya, Emmanuel Letouzé and Nuria Oliver with a new open access paper.

Gendering War and Peace Reporting

War reporting has traditionally been a male activity. Elite sources like politicians, high ranking military officers and state officials are collectively still dominated by men, and it will take more than the presence of an increased number of female journalists to change this male hegemony. There is, though, no deterministic link between sex/gender and more peaceful news or a more peaceful world. This book offers analytic approaches to how traditional war journalism is gendered. Through different case studies, the book reveals how the framing of different femininities and masculinities affects the reporting and our understanding of war and conflicts.
An interesting new open access book from our Scandinavian Nordicom colleagues.

Emergency gap: The cost of coherence

This paper questions the basis and wisdom of the WHS’s transforming of humanitarian action into a support mechanism for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), realigning the ultimate humanitarian goal towards ‘ending need’. After setting forth the issue in greater detail, this paper examines these old and new policy fixes through three interlinked flaws:
• Contradiction at the conceptual level.
• Misjudgement of the nature of the problem and disregard for the lessons of history.
• Underestimation of the impact upon a humanitarian sector that is already slow, inflexible, politicised and progressively less able to meet the emergency needs of people in crisis.
The international aid sector must address basic, immediate necessities and simultaneously recognise the fullness of human needs and aspirations. It must work to dismantle barriers and strengthen complementarity across those responding to people affected by crisis. Crucially, it must do so while preserving the distinctions between the humanitarian and other sectors that are critical and fundamental to its identity and effectiveness.
Marc DuBois with a new report for MSF's Emergency Gap project.

Has UN Peacekeeping Become More Deadly? Analyzing Trends in UN Fatalities

The analysis reveals that overall UN fatalities are not substantively on the rise. Indeed, total fatality ratios are declining. Nevertheless, this decline does not equally apply to all types of UN fatalities; there is strong evidence that UN fatalities due to illness are on the rise. While these findings are important, further research is needed to adequately examine whether UN peacekeeping missions have become more dangerous in recent years.
Marina E. Henke with new report from the International Peace Institute.

Ethnographies of Academia #UniversityCrisis

This thematic section – Ethnographies of Academia – is hence intended as a critical inquiry into how academics are variously processing their workplaces now.
The Allegra Lab with a special thematic section on how academia and academics 'work' in the neoliberal university.

Ten Ways to Make Conferences Accessible to People with Disabilities

Rarely have I seen disability given much thought in conference planning, even when the topic is diversity and inclusion.
Here are ten ways to making your conferences more inclusive of people with disabilities. Many of them cost little to nothing other than a little forethought.
Debra Guckenheimer presents simple steps of how to create more accessible and inclusive academic events. See also #inclusiveasa for more discussions on this topic.


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