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Hi all,

The developments at Third World Quarterly were definitely the top story in my networks this week-a fascinating case study about changing academic publishing cultures, core values of development research & broader questions about 'whose voices count' in debating international development in public arenas.

But there were many other interesting readings as well, of course:

Development news: Barbie Savior travels to Nambia; UN leadership & gender parity; Sri Lanka's adoption baby trade; the limits of what free menstrual pads can solve; how bad is the new Tomb Raider movie? How the ICRC avoided a PR disaster with the gaming industry; C4D & digital thinking; no apps necessary: topping up phone credit for refugees; BRICS have not been able to challenge global governance; field experiments & re-visits; new books on Bangladesh's & China's development; thinks tanks & female leaders; who belongs in the new Lagos? A long-read about Nigeria's conflicts in Jos; girl gangs of El Salvador.

Our digital lives: New university course in China on how to become an Internet celebrity: the Yoga-industrial complex; resettling in rural Nova Scotia; female art & empowerment.

Publications: Anthropology & hip-hop; Robert Chambers is back!


New from aidnography

 Development news

INTERVIEW: UN should be flagbearer when it comes to gender parity, stresses top official

And this is not only about numbers, although numbers are very important. But it also has to do with being able to attract and retain and motivate women. It also has to do with special, temporary measures when situations need to be corrected because of this parity gap. It also has to do with creating an enabling environment because there is a cultural aspect to it. And we also need a cultural shift. So as I said, I think this time we have targets that are bold but are realistic – that parity at the senior level should be reached in 2021. In most of the [UN] system, [parity] should be reached by 2026, and there will be a few outliers that will go until 2028. That is the ultimate target.
As UNGA comes to a close an interesting interview with Ana Maria Menéndez on gender and leadership inside the UN system.

Sri Lankan baby trade: Minister admits illegal adoption trade

Up to 11,000 children may have been sold to European families, with both parties being given fake documents.
Some were reportedly born into "baby farms" that sold children to the West.
Sri Lanka's health minister told the Dutch current affairs programme Zembla he would set up a DNA database to help children find their birth mothers.
About 4,000 children are thought to be have ended up with families in the Netherlands, with others going to other European countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the UK.
The BBC was one of many media outlets that has covered the story sparked by a Dutch TV program.

The Problem With Free Menstrual Pads

Giving out pads is only part of what needs to be done to help girls manage their periods. It's not a "silver bullet solution," says Bethany Caruso, a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University.
Courtney Columbus for NPR Goats & Soda with an important reminder that has been at the center of most development work since it started: Giving out 'stuff' always needs to be connected to local realities, broader social dynamics and power relations-and changing those will require a lot of efforts.

Tomb Raider: is the Alicia Vikander reboot just Gap Yah: The Movie?

White Saviour Barbie is so popular that they’ve now made a movie about her, starring Alicia Vikander. True, they’ve called the movie Tomb Raider for some reason, but anyone with half a brain can see from the trailer that it’s really about White Saviour Barbie.
Perhaps the film will have a bit more depth and all this gap-year malarkey has only been forced into the trailer for the purposes of exposition. After all, we’ve yet to hear her say either of the two sacred gap year mottos – “They don’t value life as much here” and “These people have nothing, but they’re so happy”.
Stuart Heritage for the Guardian is not happy with the latest trailer for Tomb Raider.

How the international Red Cross turned a PR disaster into DLC

It is that presentation that inspired the Laws of War DLC. In it, players take on the role of an international humanitarian aid worker. They are tasked with clearing unexploded ordinance from the same battlefields which they fought over in Arma 3’s base game. In the roughly five-hour mini-campaign, players see that fictional conflict from all sides, including from the perspective of civilians caught in the crossfire.
By creating prohibited cluster munitions as an in-game asset, and by also teaching the controversies surrounding their use, Rouffaer believes that gamers have a more complete picture of modern warfare for the first time. “Everyone on the forums says, ‘Yes! Thank you! Give us civilians and humanitarian workers and cluster munitions and we will use these new guns to eradicate as many of the first group as possible,” Rouffaer said. “But by saying that, it means that they will have consciously been saying, ‘We are going to break the law.’
Charlie Hall for Polygon with an interesting case study on gamifying humanitarian aid and the complexities for serious discussions between a billion dollar industry and traditional organizations like the ICRC.

8 reasons to think digital communication in development

Digital communication is more engaging and meaningful to the individual. It allows communication participants to effortlessly be part of and influence the dialogue, and to contribute and be recognized through co-creation and visibility. This explains the rapid growth of social media users worldwide.
UNICEF's Tomas Jensen with 8 important aspects of communicating development in the digital age-definitely food for thought! I wonder whether you could play devil's advocate and outline examples of how these 8 aspects can create exactly the opposite, negative effect...

How about we stop building apps for refugees and top up their phones instead?

Today’s blog is a guest post from Fahim Safi. Originally from Afghanistan, Fahim is now seeking asylum in Belgium and acts as one of the administrators of the mind-boggling group, “Mobile Credit for Refugees and Displaced People.” This volunteer-run organization has already provided over $750,000 of mobile credit to people on the move. No this isn’t yet another effort to build “apps for refugees” here — it’s simply a question of topping off their phones, and it’s one of the smartest solutions we’ve seen.
Fahim Safi for NeedsList. This sounds like a great and unglamourous way to support refugees and their communication-no new app, no hackathon, no European capital city-based incubator involved!

BRICS needs a new approach if it’s going to foster a more equitable global order

But it’s hard to see how they expect the bank to meet this commitment if it continues to place more emphasis on speed in project implementation than on identifying and managing the adverse environmental, human rights and social effects of its projects. To fulfil their commitment to promote a more just and equitable global economy the BRICS will need to up their game.
There are reasons to think the BRICS leaders could be persuaded to adopt a human rights based approach to making global economic governance more democratic and responsive to the needs of developing countries and for a more just, equitable and sustainable global economy. They, and their colleagues in other developing countries, are governing societies with continuing, and some cases worsening poverty, inequality, unemployment and environmental degradation levels. And they don’t seem to have an effective strategy for meeting this challenge.
Danny Bradlow for The Conversation wonders whether BRICS summits and the new development bank are really having an impact in promoting alternatives to traditional global governance approaches.

Six Questions with Chris Udry
Tavneet Suri spent time in the communities in Akuapim in Ghana that Markus Goldstein and I had surveyed five years previously. She documented remarkable changes in the external environment facing pineapple exporters, driven by the introduction of sea freight routes that substantially reduced transportation costs. This, in turn, changed the relationship between farmers and exporters in important and subtle ways that Rahul Deb and Suri model in their JDE paper. This is a great example of a light touch “re-interview”; it did not depend on access to individual level data from the earlier research, but by building on the original survey was able to observe institutional changes that would otherwise have been obscured.
David McKenzie & Markus Goldstein for the World Bank Development Impact blog talk to Chris Udry about field experiments.

Two top authors compared: Hossain on Bangladesh and Ang on China

So what I would dearly love to see is the two of them forming a dream team to swap countries (or methodologies), because I want to know more about the missing ‘why’ in China, and the ‘how’ in Bangladesh. The traumatic chaos, bloodletting and famine of Maoism must have had at least as profound an impact on China’s decision makers as the events of the 1970s in Bangladesh. And Ang could help Hossain more fully explain the alchemy by which a chaotic and ineffective government somehow gets officials to do good things (or at least not get in the way). I’d also like Hossain to take a look at the gender aspects of China’s rise – almost entirely missing from Ang’s book.
Duncan Green for fp2p talks to Naomi Hossain and Yuen Yuen Ang in light of his recent reviews of their respective books.

Do think tanks need more female leaders?

Whether female leaders foster gender equality depends on both the individual leader as well as the nature of the organization’s structures, processes, and norms. In a blog post on the gender dynamics of knowledge organizations, Priyanthi Fernando, former Executive Director of Sri Lanka’s Centre for Poverty Analysis reminds us that “A discussion of women’s participation and ascension to leadership roles in think tanks [assumes] that think tanks are also gendered organizations, and that somehow women led think tanks could behave differently, and that there are organizational practices that might ‘relieve some of the barriers to inclusion and promotion that women face in think tanks.’”
As a starting point, it is essential to look at both the organization and how gender is integrated across its policies and practices, as well as the leader’s style and characteristics. This is an essential next step for anyone interested in understanding why and how female leadership should be fostered, the difference it can make, and the importance of supporting organizational approaches to gender equality.
Shannon Sutton for IDRC with more food for thought on gender and leadership in the philanthropic sector and another reminder to engage with power relations that go beyond a female leader.

OluTimehin Adegbeye-Who belongs in a city?
Underneath every shiny new megacity, there's often a story of communities displaced. In this moving, poetic talk, OluTimehin Adegbeye details how government land grabs are destroying the lives of thousands who live in the coastal communities of Lagos, Nigeria, to make way for a "new Dubai."
LONG READ: Seven Bloody Days of Summer
His hypothesis is that the transition from military to democratic system of governance unwittingly hurt the status quo. “Pandora’s box opened over the land with the allocation of resources and political positions as democracy came in 1999. Abacha was no longer there to keep a lid on things with his iron fist so underlying tensions and rivalries that could not erupt under military rule, came to the fore. That year, we were running all the time. If it wasn’t Kano, Kaduna, Lagos. Democracy had become demon-crazy.”
Has democracy been an enabler of violence? The jury remains out on that; in the meantime, there have been repeat episodes of the crisis in 2002, 2008 and 2010. The trauma remains for survivors and their families even as the Middle Belt remains a potential hotspot for violence. Even more scary is the fact that both indigenes and settlers used weapons they kept in their possession from the first crisis — and those tools of trade remain dormant but ready.
Eromo Egbejule reports from Jos in Nigeria with events that culminated in September 2001 and shed a light on the complexities of the country's developments since the end of Abache's dictatorship.

The Girl Gangs of El Salvador

Elena had never been a typical gang recruit, or a typical gang member—her social class, her relationship to the boss, and even her sexuality reserved for her a rare position as an insider-outsider. But she could have just as easily become a typical victim.
When she saw those dead bodies in the dirt that day, Elena had kept her cool. As soon as the car rolled past the police and the caution tape, she told her friend to drive, just drive, to keep on driving. Then, one of the lucky ones, she engineered a way to disappear herself from El Salvador altogether.
Lauren Markham for the Pacific Standard Magazine with a long read from El Salvador and troubling insights into the lives of female gang members and the broader context of violence in Latin America.

Our digital lives
University Opens Course for Aspiring Net Celebs

Beginning this semester, Chongqing Institute of Engineering, a private university in southwestern China, is offering a three-month course for aspiring internet celebrities, Beijing Youth Daily reported Thursday. The program is run in cooperation with a local company, which will be in charge of teaching the first crop of 19 students how to be better livestreamers.
“They said that after graduation, the school will arrange for us to sign contracts with the company to be wanghong,” one of the students told Beijing Youth Daily, using the Chinese word for such online celebrities. “I think it’s great — if I do well, I can become famous.”
Wang Lianzhang for Sixth Tone with some of the latest developments in digital celebrity aspirations in China...

Do yoga, work harder: how productivity co-opted relaxation

“These companies that sell relaxation tools and techniques are kidding themselves if they don’t understand this is part of an acceleration of our economy and expansion of work into all aspects of our life,” says William Davies, a lecturer at Goldsmiths University and author of The Happiness Industry. “It’s a cruel mentality where everything can be used or should be useful, and if it isn’t, I’m not trying hard enough. That’s one problem. The other problem, of course, is that where you once had things that added intrinsic value for people, they’ve become captured in some way.”
Paula Cocozza for the Guardian on life hacks, the happiness industry and the yoga-industrial complex...

Chemistry of Fire

When I was an outsider, an Obruni, I belonged to universities and jobs and professions—the necessary, easy belonging of adulthood. But I found little satisfaction there. Jobs change, classes end. Now, as I tug on my heavy yellow gear and try not to trip over my own feet, I realize it is the excitement and camaraderie of service, of answering the pager-bomb, that has made this rural Nova Scotia village more of a home than any other place I’ve lived.
Emily Bowers for Understorey Magazine reflects on her return to her parental village in Nova Scotia after more than decade working in Africa to find fire-fighting and belonging.

The Latin American Women Artists Who Fought Patriarchy with Their Bodies

Despite this, few of these artists would have referred to their work as “feminist.” Instead of a desire to advocate for women, their sensibilities were heavily shaped by the revolutionary struggle and the widespread resistance of their respective countries—even if their works did reflect a repertoire of issues addressed by feminism, such as motherhood, civil rights, and sexual violence.
“Many of these artists were active in left-wing movements,” explains Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, co-curator of the exhibition “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985” at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. “But for them, the rights of women were secondary, and the Left considered that feminism was bourgeois and imperialistic.”
Beyond Latin America, crucial to this dialogue are the Chicana and Latina artists who were working in the United States at the time. “Usually the Latin American and the Latina / Chicana art worlds are kept separate, which is an artificial, colonial construct,” Fajardo-Hill argues. “Latina and Chicana artists were responding not only to patriarchal politics that were as oppressive as those faced by their counterparts in Latin America, but also to a second-wave feminism that was often indifferent to the issues faced by women of color.”
Benoît Loiseau for Artsy reviews a new exhibition project in Los Angeles, but also shares fascinating insights from Latina and Chicana artists and their struggles for empowerment.


Hip Hop Constellations

This guest-edited issue is titled ‘Hip Hop Constellations’—a title the editors Nanna Schneidermann (Oslo and Akershus University College) and Ibrahim Abraham (University of Helsinki) use in order to highlight the idea of popular music as significant but contingent social practice. The articles published here hence cover various values and significations that hip hop culture takes on in Denmark, Mexico, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and between Sweden and Chile. The broad sweep of this issue ranges from
neo-liberal socialist ‘gangstas’ to the nostalgic sampling of ‘national culture’, all the way to hip hop as the ‘outsourced’ vehicle of the Scandinavian welfare state’s projects. It is through the breadth of the material analysed in this issue that one begins to appreciate the special character of hip hop as both inseparable from certain key ideas and imagery that approaches universal
recognisability, and as a field that remains susceptible to the significant revaluation of constituent symbols or ideas.
New open access issue of Suomen Antropologi.

Can We Know Better?: Reflections for Development

Robert Chambers contrasts a Newtonian paradigm in which the world is seen and understood as controllable with a paradigm of complexity which recognizes that the real world of social processes and power relations is messy and unpredictable. To confront the challenges of complex and emergent realities requires a revolutionary new professionalism. This is underpinned by a new combination of canons of rigour expressed through eclectic methodological pluralism and participatory approaches which reverse and transform power relations. Promising developments include rapid innovations in participatory ICTs, participatory statistics, and the Reality Check Approach with its up-to-date and rigorously grounded insights. Fundamental to the new professionalism, in every country and context, are reflexivity, facilitation, groundtruthing, and personal mindsets, behaviour, attitudes, empathy and love.
Robert Chambers' latest book is available open access from Practical Action Publishing!


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