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Hi all,

Development news:
The UN & the Rohingya crisis; Africa is too expensive for manufacturing; how Angelie Jolie almost had a dinner date with Joseph Kony; Hungry kids don't learn well; a critical review of the WDR; Rwanda stops second-hand clothing imports; inside the shady adoption industry; how Puerto Rico has been screwed over; an art exhibition fail in China; female development economists; art & sexual violence; lingerie from Nigeria; undergrads meet local aid worker.

Our digital lives: The Leila Janah complex; how to win the Booker prize?

Academia: Harassment and field research.


New from aidnography 

The Lomidine Files (book review)

The story of Lomidine (also known as pentamidine), a ‘wonder drug’ thought to prevent sleeping sickness that was applied throughout colonial Africa in the 1940s and 1950s, is so much more than just an impeccably researched and vividly presented case study of medical anthropology. It is a historical inquiry into the very essence of how the French colonial state ‘worked’ and how a socio-political apparatus armed with a hubristic believe in the power of medical science subjugated native populations to dangerous medical interventions. Killing dozens of recipients, the mirage of a preventive wonder drug was eventually uncovered to be medically faulty and the story of Lomidine was hidden in public and corporate archives of the drug manufacturer. There are three outstanding features of the book that I will focus on in my review: First, the story is a well-crafted historical narrative. Second, the book is an exemplary case study of what ‘discourse analysis’ or ‘governmentality’ really mean from a research perspective. And third, as distant and outdated some of the practices of the 1950s now seem, the book opens up a fascinating arena for discussion of how we count, who counts and what counts in contemporary development efforts. Whether we discuss expat aid workers, communicating development or using randomized-control trials in research, Lachenal’s book is to some extent a mirror of beliefs and practices that have (and have not) changed since the end of the colonial era.
Development news
UN report on Rohingya hunger is shelved at Myanmar's request

Asked why the July study on Rakhine state was removed, WFP said earlier that it was withdrawn from the website “following a request by the government to conduct a joint review”.
WFP did not respond directly to questions about whether food aid cuts had left vulnerable people in need or whether it the agency had prioritised good relations with the government over the immediate humanitarian needs of the Rohingya.
For Years, U.N. Was Warned of Threat to Rohingya in Myanmar
But they faced stiff resistance from UNDP’s former executive director, Helen Clark, and the former special envoy, Vijay Nambiar, according to former U.N. officials and internal U.N. documents reviewed by FP. In private meetings, Clark and Nambiar repeatedly argued that frank criticism of Myanmar’s human rights conduct would be counterproductive and that the government was doing its best to improve, the officials said.
As early as late 2015, Eliasson pressed to have Lok-Dessallien replaced with a successor with more experience in crisis zones and a willingness to press the government more forcefully on human rights. But the effort was blocked by Clark, according to two former senior U.N. official.
Oliver Holmes for the Guardian and Colum Lynch for Foreign Policy. I often respond to articles like this by pointing out that UN organizations work with and through their host governments and do not want to be kicked out of countries. But then there is a looming genocide on the horizon and you wonder why this still can happen in 2017, 20 years after Rwanda and all...

Even Africa’s poorest countries are too expensive to be the world’s next manufacturing hub

The researchers are reluctant to speculate why African manufacturing costs are so high, but it isn’t difficult to imagine what some of the challenges would be. A lack of infrastructure such as transport networks and stable electricity in many poor African countries plus low levels of education will mean factory running costs and training the African worker are going to be more expensive than they need to be. This can get exacerbated by unhelpful regulation and poor policy.
Yinka Adegoke for Quartz on some of the challenges for African industrial development.

Secrets of the International Criminal Court: Jolie, Clooney and the World Fixer Psychosis

Ocampo then makes a statement which is possibly ironic, although it is taken seriously by the NGO, and may even be sincere: “[Jolie] has the idea to invite kony for dinner and then arrest him”
The plan is for her to fly to central Africa in March 2012 to see the sites affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army and meet the victims, accompanied by the cream of the American press.
Ocampo adds: “She is the one. She knows, she loves to arrest kony. she is ready. probably brad [now separated-from-husband and actor Brad Pitt] will go also.”
Ocampo tells Jolie she can be embedded with the special forces looking to arrest Kony, and Jolie replies that “Brad is being supportive”.
Two years later, in 2014, after visiting Invisible Children’s headquarters in San Diego, the now ex-prosecutor Ocampo offers to help raise funds. This could involve Sheikha Mozah, wife of the former Emir of Qatar, who has a charity called ‘Education Above All’. Ocampo says it will be easy to ask the foundation for “money to support schools in Uganda”.
He regrets that such a charity is not financing operations which could lead to Kony’s arrest.
In a bizarre throwaway comment, Ocampo then adds that the Sheikha “can finance arrest operation in her own way”, the implications of which are worrying.
Stéphanie Maupas & EIC Network for The Black Sea. I am a bit surprised how the leaks around former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo haven't received more attemtion-some very disturbing insights into how 'celebrities' think and talk about 'development'-or fooling Kony into arrest...

Schools Are Full of Hungry Kids Who Aren't Learning Anything. Why Don't We Feed Them?

These twin crises of growing hunger and low learning have distinct causes, even where they overlap geographically. But a problem's solution doesn't need to be a mirror image of its cause, and school feeding may help make progress on both fronts.
As with any public policy, the case for school feeding rests on its effectiveness, affordability, and—a dimension that is particularly acute in fragile states—its feasibility.
Justin Sandefur & Divyanshi Wadhwa for the Center for Global Development on why hungry kids are a key challenge when discussing improving education.

The World Bank’s 2018 World Development Report on Education: a sceptic’s review

However, ‘quality’ is influenced by a host of factors, many of which may be normative, socio-political, and micro-political (i.e., informal institutions). The learning outcomes that are the subject of the WDR are produced through learning processes structured in formal schooling processes. And formal schooling processes are embedded in the overt and hidden curriculum of the schools and classrooms (i.e., values and the reproduction of those values in formal schools) that children of different backgrounds have access to, and how those children, in turn, are positioned within them.
For example, research in India shows that broader societal caste-based practices continue to affect how children experience schooling even within universalising initiatives. Based on emerging analysis from my current study of roughly 1500 school-aged children in Delhi, I argue that silent exclusion reflects broader societal exclusion and will impede meaningful learning even if children are enrolled.
Prachi Srivastava for From Poverty to Power reviews the new WDR.

Kids for sale: 'My mom was tricked'

It also confirmed a gut feeling: that something was amiss about the story the Ohio-based adoption agency had told Jessica and her husband, Adam, about Mata's background. The agency, European Adoption Consultants, told them that Mata's father had died and that her mother neglected her and couldn't afford to feed her. The paperwork said Mata had never attended school.
But in the months after she arrived in America, as Mata's command of English improved, she spoke glowingly about her mother. How they cooked together, how they went to church together and how her mother walked with her to school.
The Skype conversation, on August 29, 2016, confirmed Jessica's suspicions. As she absorbed the news, Jessica realized that she didn't participate in an adoption at all but had unwittingly "participated in taking a child from a loving family."
And she knew what she had to do: return Mata to her mother.
Randi Kaye & Wayne Drash for CNN with an important story of the shady global adoption industry. I reviewed an interesting book about the adoption industry in Guatemala a few years ago.

For Dignity and Development, East Africa Curbs Used Clothes Imports

Rwanda, in particular, is seeking to curb the import of secondhand clothes, not only on the grounds of protecting a nascent local industry, but also because it says wearing hand-me-downs compromises the dignity of its people.
But when countries in East Africa raised their import tariffs on used garments last year — to such a high level that they constituted a de facto ban — the backlash was significant.
Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura for the New York Times on African responses to second hand garment imports-perhaps the dignity argument is more interesting than the development aspect as protectionism is usually a double-edged sword.

Puerto Rico: when it rains, it pours

Puerto Rico was an important hub, in particular, for big pharmaceutical firms like Pfizer, which have kept many of their investments on the island even after ‘936’ was gradually ended. But Puerto Rico is no longer competitive in areas where 75-80% of expenses come from payroll costs. Puerto Rico needs to move up into higher-value manufacturing and services. It has a large number of educated bilingual workers. There is potential to turn the economy into a modern hi-tech service sector. But that would require government investment and state-run firms democratically controlled by Puerto Ricans. It’s the Chinese model, if you like. Puerto Rico is a small island that was exploited by the US and foreign multi-nationals with citizens’ tax bills siphoned off to pay interest on ever increasing debt, while reducing social welfare – all at the encouragement of foreign investment banks making huge fees for doing so. Now Puerto Ricans are being asked to keep on paying for the foreseeable future after a decade of recession and cuts in living standards to meet obligations to vulture funds and US institutions. And the troops will be sent into ensure that!
Michael Roberts with some important context on the multi-faced root causes of the crises in Puerto Rico.

Have a look at #HuCoB17 for more great tweets from a humanitarian conference in Berlin!

A museum in China put on an exhibit called “This is Africa” that compares Africans to animals

After receiving complaints from the African community, the museum removed the photos. African students complained to their university deans while others petitioned their embassies, according to students and professionals in these circles.
“It’s not shocking. Africans are not strangers to racism here in China or elsewhere. But it is sad that despite deepening economic connections and interactions between Chinese and Africans, there’s still clearly so much racism and lack of cultural understanding,” says Zahra Baitie, a Ghanaian master’s student at Tsinghua University studying global affairs.
Echo Huang and Lily Kuo for Quartz. File under: How not to communicate development...

Six Questions with Rohini Pande

I remember when Esther Duflo and I were just getting started and we co-wrote a paper on dams and their impact on development. A senior male World Bank economist wrote to our senior male colleagues at MIT and Yale asking that they review our work and correct our mistakes. These days, I don’t get undermined that way within the profession, but still – and this is a problem for female development economists, in general – I will meet with a policymaker in South Asia, and he will be looking over my shoulder wondering where my male superior is. For those of us who are now in positions of seniority in the profession, I think it is essential that we promote young women in both academic and policy settings and not undermine their intellectual authority in any way.
I got involved in CSWEP to look at issues for women who didn’t do their undergraduate education in the US but come here for graduate school or for a job. There has been a lot of discussion on pipeline issues for women in economics PhD programs, but I continue to believe that we don’t focus enough on, first, improving the low numbers of foreign female applicants for PhD programs (relative to their male counterparts) and, second, identifying the specific hurdles for women who did not start (or complete) their education in the US and, as a result, lack access to the networks that their US-educated peers have. We know a lot now about how networks build self-confidence and pave the way to positions and promotions.
David McKenzie talks to Rohine Pande for the World Bank Development Impact blog.

Look that monster dead in the face: tackling domestic violence in lesbian relationships

Through video, music and movement, it takes the audience on an emotional journey. Directed and performed by Khundayi, alongside musician Bongile Lecoge-Zulu, it formed part of the SexActually festival in Johannesburg last month. At a post-performance discussion, one woman said the performance reminded her of abuse she had experienced herself; another said it had made her think differently about her abuser’s actions, allowing her to see his flaws.
Tiffany Kagure Mugo for Open Democracy on art, healing and social change.

Armor and Lingerie

Osakwe’s collection earlier this year was inspired by what she described as a “middle-class Nigerian girl going on a booty call.” In Lagos, that girl usually travels by the yellow danfo buses that career through the streets, and has practical problems to consider, like what to wear on the ride to her date and how to get to her job or school early the next morning. “What is seduction to her? It’s not a pretty journey,” Osakwe said. “How does that middle-class girl get it on? Because sex is so taboo, but we know we’re all f&%€#ing like rabbits.” The answer, Osakwe reasoned, is clothing that is erotic but protective—not a short skirt and heels but a long, strapless red dress, evoking the traditional wrapper, that can easily be dropped in the act of seduction. Though she hesitates to tell Nigerian buyers that she draws inspiration from sex workers, clients see her clothes as an illicit escape: a chance to feel more exciting, less restrained.
Alexis Okeowo for the New Yorker with a story from the 'new Africa' with Nigeria as a growing powerhouse of cultural production.

What can we do?

So, what was accomplished by having this local aid worker from Jordan talk to a bunch of young undergraduates from the Global North? Social change is sometimes generated by focused and dramatic historical moments, but more often than not change is caused by the accumulated impact of countless seeds cast onto the vast landscape of our world. Some of these seeds will germinate immediately, some only after much time has passed. Hala’s words and infectious smile are now part of these student’s memories, and my hope is that in time their actions will, collectively, indeed move the needle forward.
Tom Arcaro shares some reflections from a discussion his undergraduate class had with a local aid worker in Jordan.

Our digital lives

How to think about Leila Janah

So, to return to the title of this blogpost, how should we think about Leila Janah? The key is to think, and to resist the temptation to cast NGO leaders as saviors. It’s also crucial to remember that good intentions are not enough. So much of the reporting on Janah focuses on her big heart, and her personal story; it’s hard to resist a pitch about an attractive young Harvard graduate, out to save the world. Very little of the coverage asks whether Samasource is actually doing good, at what cost, and at what scale. If it did, Janah might not have the hubris to present her ideas as “an exciting new foreign aid model” that could overhaul the World Bank and IMF.
In the end, though, this isn’t about Janah. It’s about the reporters and book publishers and conference organizers who perform little or no due diligence when it comes to nonprofits. They may think they’re helping, by shining light on a hero or heroine. In truth, they’re doing a disservice to nonprofits–especially those that go about their business, quietly and effectively.
Marc Gunther for Nonprofit Chronicles. Her book is on my reading list-and I also shared some reflections on the topic earlier this year in a slightly more academic essay...

How do you win the Man Booker prize? Move to New York or London

A lot of people read one new novel a year – on holiday perhaps, or over Christmas. They read the prizewinners. And it’s sad that it appears writers working in English must still “do time” in the culturally dominant northern metropolises to be taken seriously. What the Booker ought to do is take London readers to Bengaluru or Hokitika, rather than the other way around.
Lucy Diver for the Guardian on the globalized hubs of the book industry.


Harassment in the Field

In an interview, the study’s lead author, Robin Nelson, an assistant professor of anthropology at Santa Clara University, said that while reports of assault made headlines in relation to the 2014 paper, the new study sheds additional light on less severe but nevertheless damaging violations of professional conduct.
“There are more hidden kinds of discrimination, such as gender tests and men and women being assigned different kinds of jobs at field sites -- that kind of thing is discrimination, as well, and is quite ubiquitous,” Nelson said. “We’re trying to point out that this is a range or continuum of behaviors.”
Colleen Flaherty for Inside Higher Ed on new research on sexual harassment during academic feidl research.


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Dear white middle class British women: Please don't send used bras (or anything, really) to Africa