Links & Contents I Liked 257

Hi all,

Greetings from Tbilisi where an excellent ComDev teaching seminar is coming to its end!

It is also Friday-so there area links, readings, tweet & more to explore!

Development news: The political economy of violence in Mogadishu; aid spending according to Norway & China; technology & citizens' voices; local capacity in Puerto Rico; 'Africa Rising' based on faulty logic of growth? New challenges for GBV in Nepal; Ghana & the open-source encyclopedia of Africa; Lagos displaces citizens for art biennial; the Liberation of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde

Publications: Anthropology & the UN system; What is data justice? Journalism safety; Knowledge & trust in an overheated world.

Academia: Scholarly blogging & use of social media; decolonizing teaching; the blind spots of (journal) rankings.


New from aidnography

Development news
The Business of Fear in Boomtown Mogadishu

Business deals aren't done in Mogadishu to finance the war, he says, nor is ideology fueling the conflict. Rather, he says, war is waged in order to ensure that business continues to boom.
Somalia, Mac says, is a country in which almost everything is broken, where almost everything is in short supply, a "virgin state" without security, without structures -the best preconditions for business.
Fritz Schaap & Christian Werner for Spiegel Online International with an interesting take on the political economy of instability in Somalia.

Why do nations invest in international aid? Ask Norway. And China.

Although altruism may increase a country’s soft power, global development requires much more than generosity. As aid recipient countries become more assertive, and as the national interests of donors become even more closely tied with aid, we see a possible synthesis between the Western and Chinese intervention strategies in Africa.
In recent years, Western donors have been interested in monitoring and evaluating the impact of their aid. However, measuring impact has often been a challenge as different donors pursue different goals and approaches, and may at times even compete for influence. The impact of Chinese aid is particularly difficult to measure in the absence of credible and readily available information.
Dan Banik & Nikolai Hegertun for the Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog with some thoughts on the global changes in development engagement.

Appropriating Technology for Accountability (I). Rosie McGee: What roles do and don’t technologies play in citizen voice and transparency for achieving accountable and responsive governance?

The new institutional environment emerging requires new skills too. Both citizens and representatives need a new set of skills to be able to make the best of technology for democracy. These skills are not only about technology, but about civic participation and democracy at large. If these skill needs are not met, technologies can actually eclipse citizens’ voices and undermine or obstruct accountability and responsiveness.
Ismael Peña-López for ICTlogy talks to Rosie McGee about All Voices Count.

Rising up - not blown away: re-building Puerto Rico from the ground up
Some community organisations have thus become ‘local headquarter’ for the distribution of bottom-level relief efforts and play vital roles in coordinating and delivering relief. A showcase of such a ‘local headquarter’ is the community organisation Casa Pueblo in Adjuntas in the middle of the island. ‘Casa Pueblo’ is a longstanding and exceptionally well organised community organisation. With its strong roots in the community the organisation has become a first entrance and orientation point for any assistance coming to Adjuntas.
The organisation is also involved in the direct redistribution of relief to community members. Using their own radio station, Casa Pueblo is able to reach out to their community members and inform them about distribution times and goods available. Moreover, volunteer troops are sent out every morning in order to visit different areas in Adjuntas and bring water or other relief items to people’s houses. In order to guarantee fairness and accountability, it will be registered what help has been provided to whom.
Maria Klara Kuss & Miguel Rivera Quinones for IDS on the opportunities of local capacities and organizations in supporting humanitarian efforts in Puerto Rico.

The ‘Africa rising story’ was based on faulty logic – here’s how to fix it

A new economy founded on networks of small businesses, a post-industrial form of artisanship and integrated smallholder farming is the best chance for Africa to develop sustainably as well as to generate the decent and fulfilling jobs that millions of Africans rightfully aspire to.
Lorenzo Floramonti for The Conversation with food for thought and discussion-especially as a colleague from the same university recommends to the author to 'learn something about economic growth'...

Do numbers tell the real story of gender based violence in Nepal?

Policy makers and gender specialists need to realise that GBV could just be the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of the existing problem. There is a need to move beyond the discourse that relies on problematic assumption that equates women with weakness and vulnerability. Furthermore, recent studies on GBV mapping and intimate partner violence as well as experiences of practitioners such as doctors and counsellors, police officers and women rights activists indicate many ‘hidden’ GBV cases that go unreported, often considered as ‘family affairs’.
There are existing socio-cultural norms, expectations and the associated stigma surrounding marriage and dowry system, masculinities and son preference. Furthermore, exposure to modern communication technologies such as ‘cyber VAWG’, and incidents of GBV during disasters have added up vulnerabilities for women and girls in many ways.
Sudeep Uprety for South Asia @ LSE with an important reminder that progress along the lines of traditional development ideas and indicators needs to catch up with the complexities of the (digital) society.

Nana Oforiatta Ayim’s Open-Source Encyclopedia of African History Starts With Ghana

Her very latest project is an attempt to decolonize the concept of an art gallery: She is calling it the Mobile Museum, which will travel to all 10 regions of Ghana, stopping in towns, asking for keepsakes, photos, jewelry, antiques, and heirlooms from locals, and then displaying them, along with their backstory, within the structure in the center of town. She hopes that, through displaying personal objects in an egalitarian fashion, she and others in the community can engage together with their own living histories in open ways. “We’re trying to upturn the idea of why we give certain objects value and not others. Your object, your letters, your stories have as much value as those of the conquerors,” she says. “We always have [in museums] this one golden object that is the most valuable. Well, who gets to say what’s valuable, if it’s valuable to this family?”
Alex Frank for Vogue features a fascinating artist and her project-not the kind of story I'd usually expect to find on the Vogue website!

Life in Lagos imitates art as squatters evicted for biennial exhibition

Visitors to the biennial who learned what was happening on the other side of the shed were shocked. However, most were unaware of the evictions taking place. Oshun tried to stop them, but as Legacy was not charging him to use the space, he had little power.
Setting up a biennial in traffic-choked, expensive Lagos has not been easy. With no funding, artists were asked to pay their own way and Oshun, an artist and curator known for his meditations on jollof rice, did not know until weeks before the launch whether he would pull it off.
Ruth Maclean for the Guardian on the complexities of bringing the global art-industrial complex to Nigeria...

A handbook for revolution

Luis Cabral and Aristides Perreira, Cabral’s confidants and successors, struggle to apply theoretical insights developed in the bush to the actual task of ruling two newly independent states. Amidst a weakening Third Worldism in which institutions of global finance are deployed to bend radical regimes that refused to submit to the emerging neoliberal order, they struggle to heed the warnings Cabral put forward. Instead, both emerge as strongman, ruling their respective countries in ways unrecognizable to their depiction as hopeful revolutionaries in the text. Yet regardless of the disappointing trajectories both Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde have taken, the PAIGC struggle for liberation deserves the attention it is only now starting to receive.
Zachariah Mampilly for Africa Is A Country introduces a new edition of Basil Davidson’s No Fist Is Big Enough to Hide the Sky: The Liberation of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, 1963-74.

Our digital lives

Is the United Nations Broken?

But there is another side to the U.N. that is not mired in cynicism and disillusionment, and it rarely makes headlines. Despite all of the examples we can find of the dark side of global governance, there continues to be an abiding sense of hope that often attaches to the U.N., a hint of growth in the blighted soil of its failures.
The groundswells of activism that emerge from a global (and seemingly growing) sense of humanity, united by ideals of accountability, democracy, and justice, are another part of the story of the United Nations. The U.N. is a meeting place for activists and state representatives—one in which they can gather, away from the political pressures at home, and talk through their issues. Global movements of women, children, people with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, and, most recently, those who are LGBTQ would not have had nearly the kind of success they have had without access to participation in the U.N. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, for example, was penned at the U.N. in 2006.
Ronald Niezen for Sapiens introduces a forthcoming book that looks as many aspects of UN work from an ethnographic perspective. Sounds great!

What is data justice? The case for connecting digital rights and freedoms globally

Bringing together the emerging scholarly perspectives on this topic, I propose three pillars as the basis of a notion of international data justice: (in)visibility, (dis)engagement with technology and antidiscrimination. These pillars integrate positive with negative rights and freedoms, and by doing so challenge both the basis of current data protection regulations and the growing assumption that being visible through the data we emit is part of the contemporary social contract.
Linnet Taylor with an open access article in Big Data & Society.

New global study documents best practices on the safety of journalists

One of the weaknesses of these country-wide mechanisms, as also pointed out in the study, is the fact that the mechanisms are largely dependent on foreign funding to function. Also, a lack of coordination and agreed joint priorities amongst international media development organisations and amongst local media development actors in some of the countries surveyed, has in some instances weakened the overall impact of the efforts made to improve safety.
International Media Support with a new study that continues their excellent work on freedom of speech and global journalism activities!

Free e-book from Overheating

In sum, then, by focusing on processes of change with global/transnational and local dimensions, we aim to explore the relationship between knowledge and interests, local and translocal levels of decision-making, and local responses to rapid change. The question ‘Who to trust?’ is implicit throughout, and may be supplemented by the question ‘Why should I trust them?’. Situations where information is consciously held back for strategic reasons are explored, as are direct confrontations between community-based groups and external actors, but critical discourse analysis indicating the boundaries of discursive universes is also here. While we are alerted to the fact that the knowledge claims of anthropology must, inevitably, be interrogated on a par with the other situated knowledges in question, we mainly explore contrasting/conflicting knowledge regimes and their implications, with an emphasis on the power–knowledge nexus and the situated character of knowledge amidst rapid change.
Thomas Hylland Erikssen and Elisabeth Schober with a new open access E-Book.


The scholarly use of social media

Nordicom Information asked some academic users in the Nordic countries about their strategies and experiences in the most popular platforms of social media. (...). It seems that core issues are how to find time to produce content, keep yourself motivated and find networks relevant to your own research.
Maarit Jaakkola for Nordicom-Information with an interesting overview over scholarly social media practices.

Reasons to be blogging...1 2 3....

Secondly, blogging helps me to think more clearly. I write and compose a post as a means of turning my abstract thoughts and disparate ideas into some coherent and meaningful whole. This post for example, started life as a series of notes on my smartphone after a conversation. You might be surprised how many posts I actually discard. Those that are actually published represent my thinking more clearly, and blogging helps me to reflect upon, and crystallise those ideas.
Steve Wheeler's approach to blogging sounds very familiar to my own practice.

Yes, we must decolonise: our teaching has to go beyond elite white men

A decolonised curriculum would bring questions of class, caste, race, gender, ability and sexuality into dialogue with each other, instead of pretending that there is some kind of generic identity we all share.
It is telling that efforts to inject some breadth and variety into teaching are being dismissed as “artificial balance”. The assumption here is precisely the problem – that the best of all that has been thought and said just happens to have been produced in the west by white upper-class people, largely men.
Priyamvada Gopal for the Guardian with an important reminder that 'decolonizing the curriculum' is not just about 'add global Southern voices and stir', but requires us to re-think how we teach and how we select knowledge for our classes.

Research assessments based on journal rankings systematically marginalise knowledge from certain regions and subjects

For the reasons above, we believe that more inclusive research assessments are needed to overcome ongoing marginalisation of some peoples, languages, and disciplines in evaluation. Some efforts, such as the Dutch “new standard evaluation protocol” for the social sciences and the “Norwegian model” of research assessment that is sensitive to regional journals, have moved in this direction – trying to account for the value of various disciplines and local research. However, a creative and radical reform in research evaluation from research councils and universities is needed in many other countries that follow traditional quantitative methods.
Facing the challenges posed by sustainable development requires us to transform the concept of excellence from an elitist view, defined at a distance from society, to a more community-oriented, inclusive view, which encourages engagement. Such an understanding could produce research evaluations that support socially robust knowledge and are sensitive to the relevance of many diverse types of knowledge that are currently underestimated.
Diego Chavarro & Ismael Ràfols for the LSE Impact Blog with an overview of research that highlights what academic gut instinct has already been telling us: Rankings are never just an 'objective' collection of data! Another important aspect in the 'decolonization' debate!


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