Links & Contents I Liked 281

Hi all,

I'm back with another packed reading list for your weekend!

Development news: #AidToo updates from African Union, UN & EU; the dirty war in Cameroon; female Afghan coders & the opportunities of digital work; peak hype for insurance & development schemes? Ethnographic documentary from Maputo; will Mayors solve the refugee crisis? Journalists of color to follow; a major conference 'did not consider gender' when planning m/panels-plus tweets & fancy UN PR.

Our digital lives: Is the open plan office sexist? Does crypto repeat tech's gender inequalities? Do squatters need discipline? (Yes! to all of those questions!)

Publications: RCTs produce biased results (no really!); ICT4D & digital labor; mobile phones in the Pacific.

Academia: Powerful essays on depression & graduate studies, indigenizing Canadian academia & the competitive hardship of contemporary ethnographic research; plus, 10 types of meetings you love to hate!


New from aidnography

Dear Colonialism - guest post by Ami V. Shah

So in the name of viewpoint diversity, Dear Colonialism, let me suggest a radical notion. It is time for anti-colonial and decolonial viewpoints to be heard and to be taken seriously. It is time to stop pushing these views to the side claiming that they are a new orthodoxy when your orthodoxy still clings tightly to each wall of our homes.

You have never left.

Dear Colonialism, the world will never be rid of your effects, whatever your assessment of them may be. The reality of the world you created cannot be escaped. If you are so brazen, so strong, so able, so capable as to right the wrongs you see in our lands presently, then own the wrongs that are yours.
Development news
Exclusive: The 'professional apartheid' sidelining women at the African Union

Another memo, dated February  14 and addressed to Faki, among others, elaborates further on issues within the peace and security department. It is signed by five senior officials from the department’s administration and human resources wing. It describes a “poisonous” situation in the department, which is “too male-heavy in the upper layers”.
This memo accuses Chergui of abusing the powers of his office to secure his preferred candidates for positions, and interfering in the interview and recruitment process. Specifically, it refers to irregularities in the process to appoint an acting head of the crisis management division; and in the process to appoint a permanent head of conflict prevention and warning.
Simon Allison for the Mail & Guardian with another #MeToo problem at an international organization.

New U.N. tool will stop sexual wrongdoers from finding new jobs in aid world, official says

Plans for the U.N. screening tool to register workers found guilty of sexual misconduct were announced at the gathering of its agency heads in London this week.
"(It) is a screening tool so that when we have confirmed perpetrators of sexual harassment in the system, we can ensure that they are not able to move around," Beagle told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of the meeting.
Beagle said groundwork for the system, which will be managed by the secretariat, is complete and it was expected to be fully operational by the summer.
Umberto Bacchi for Thomson Reuters Foundation News on how the UN secretariat is responding to the #AidToo movement.

EU asylum agency in disarray amid alleged ‘psychological violence’
Staff harassment, a “culture of irresponsibility” and the use of “psychological violence” as a management tool are all prevalent at the EU’s lead agency for managing migration, according to allegations in internal documents seen by POLITICO.
The letters and emails paint a picture of an institution in deep crisis with experienced staff leaving because of alleged coercion and an absence of “rule of law” at the Malta-based European Asylum Support Office.
POLITICO reported in January that the agency’s Portuguese executive director, José Carreira, is already under investigation by the bloc’s anti-fraud office, OLAF, for alleged misconduct in procurement and human resources and possible breaches of data protection rules. He contests those charges and the allegations made in the new documents.
Jacopo Barigazzi for Politico with more bad news from inside another international organization.

'Dirty war' ravages Cameroon's anglophone region

They call it a "dirty war" - a silent conflict in Cameroon's anglophone region marked by near-daily attacks by separatists and a brutal army backlash that shows no sign of abating.
Over the past eight months, scores of police, soldiers and civilians have died in the heartland of francophone Cameroon's English-speaking minority.
Homes have been torched, shops looted, complaints of summary arrest and detention are common and, according to UN estimates, tens of thousands have fled their homes.
AFP with an update on one of the less well covered crises in Africa.
Female Afghan coders design games to fight opium and inequality
The course is exclusively aimed at females, aged 15-25, who are unable to pursue a four-year degree due to lack of funds or hail from families where they are prevented from enrolling in co-education schools.
“In Afghanistan the ability to work remotely is a key tool in the push for equality,” said Rasa.
Jalil Ahmad Rezayee for Reuters with another story of the possibilities of remote work as a tool for women's empowerment.

Insurance hits peak hype in the aid & development biz – but what do we really know?

What frustrates me is the lack of investment in M&E – yes, we need to explore new and innovative schemes, take a punt on promising ideas, but this must come with solid learning, evidence building and robust M&E. And up to now, this has been notably lacking. While it is perhaps not surprising that insurance companies have neither the skills nor interest in considering the impacts on gender, equity, social cohesion, female-headed households, the landless, or whether there are negative unintended consequences – the donors funding these schemes really should.
Debbie Hillier for fp2p raises important questions about the development impact of insurance schemes.

Maputo - Ethnography of a Divided City

This film project seeks to visualise one of Africa’s divided cities, and is part of the research project “The Ethnography of a Divided City. Socio-Politics, Poverty and Gender in Maputo, Mozambique” headed by the Chr. Michelsen Institute and funded by the Norwegian Research Council. While the film relates actively to the research project, it approaches the themes of that project from new and original angles and ANIMA has had full artistic freedom in its filmic approach. A focus on the people inhabiting the city’s so-called bairros (districts/areas) provide a privileged view of the way in which symbolic and material boundaries of various urban spaces are contested, negotiated and, ultimately, inscribed onto mental maps of the city.
Inge Tvedten for CMI introduces a documentary film from Mozambique that developed alongside a more traditional research project.

How Small Data Can Improve Access to Justice for the Poor

When collected and analyzed, this data can help identify the problems that matter to a community. It can shape the best ways to address those problems, and it can help us assess the actual impact of a particular solution. Small data can also give us the information to persuade governments and private funders to invest in the provision of community-based justice systems by demonstrating how a low-cost solution can save money—and, sometimes, prevent a costly crisis.
While it does not replace large-scale legal needs studies, collecting this data is less expensive because it is generated through the day-to-day provision of legal services. It also adds an important complementary picture; it reflects experiences navigating real-time legal processes, whereas surveys often rely on people’s recall or perceptions.
Matthew Burnett & Tom Walker for Open Society Foundations on how small, real-time data matters for justice processes.

“Mayors Will Rule the World”

We are thinking about special development zones or about changing certain cities by setting a framework of rules and regulations. These regions would then no longer be governed by the normal Libyan law but would have their own rules. This is something that is familiar from special economic zones. But special economic zones are usually places where factories are built and workers go for work. We are taking this a step further, arguing that we also need to move towards governance, and that there need to be special forms of governance, too, since it is not just about business or the economy.
Fabrice Braun talks to Killian Kleinschmidt for the BMW Foundation. My first thought was 'Oh dear, Paul Romer's ill-fated "charter cities" are back on the agenda'. His idea has never gained any significant traction. My second thought was 'Oh dear, this could be an open invitation for the EU and global securitization apparatus of migration to finally get processing camps-just under the guise of more friendly-sounding "refugee cities"'. My third thought was 'Oh dear, "special governance" usually means less freedom and fewer human rights'. You mention the example of Dubai-a place that is special indeed, but only because of the caste system it maintains. There is also the paradox that if "refugee cities" do well, the outside, unstable in Libya or Somalia for the foreseeable future, will actually either be jealous-or, an unstable 'state' will negatively affect 'refugee cities'-or cities won't do well and will essentially remain refugee camps. Interesting food for thought-but more a vision than a concept that seems implementable from what we know about fragile states and the security industry that is predominantly interested in keeping refugees where they are rather than providing an 'incentives' to migrate.

12 Development Journalists Of Color We’re Following Right Now

When we wanted to diversify our development news diet, we ran into a major problem: international development journalism is really, really white.
Bright Magazine with a list of amazing journalists to follow on Twitter & beyond!

‘Manels’: Male speakers outnumber women two to one at UN climate talks

Of the 39 side events with announced speakers at talks in Bonn, which started on Monday, just one third have an equal gender balance or majority of women on their panel. 65% of all listed speakers are male.*
A spokesperson for Climate Focus, who helped organise an all-male panel on Tuesday, recognised the need to be more thoughtful about representation in the future.
“Gender balance obviously wasn’t considered when putting together the panel but was noticed by ourselves during the event and also brought up during the event by the panellists,” he said.
Soila Apparicio and Megan Darby for Climate Change News. Who organizes a development-related conference these days and only realizes at the event that they didn't consider gender balance?!?

Ready to go when crisis strikes

Since 1993, UNDAC (United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination) has been the first international emergency response team to arrive at the scene of over 281 disasters.
UNDAC celebrates 25 years with an interesting visual timeline of events and engagements.

Our digital lives
The Subtle Sexism Of Your Open Plan Office

Fascinatingly, the study did not start out as an examination of gender specifically–it was meant as an examination of how workplace culture shifts when office design changes radically. It was only when Hirst, who conducted interviews on-site and spent a lot of time observing the workplace, began to feel pressure to dress in a more feminine way herself that she began to wonder about it. “She was surprised by the unusual amount of care she took over her own appearance, a degree of self-consciousness that she found burdensome as time progressed,” the researchers write. “To ‘fit in’ with the modern, clean aesthetic of the building itself and a dress code that was widely adopted, she departed from her usual preference for wearing jeans and no makeup; adopting a smart trouser suit and putting on makeup.”
Katherine Schwab for Co.Design. Even though the findings are based on a small study they definitely raise some interesting questions. One of the paradoxes of our current work culture is that despite the fact that we know open plan offices are bad, they continue to be build (including in academia where I work in a similar environment...).

The first rule of being a woman in crypto is you do not talk about being a woman in crypto
But on its current path, crypto is replaying the same inequities that came before. Men still overwhelmingly dominate the technology’s development and the accumulation of resulting wealth—though the gender of Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym for bitcoin’s inventor, remains unknown. Without a concentrated effort to change the industry’s course, it will further entrench the existing gender gap in finance and tech, this time in an unregulated and anonymous environment.
“What you’re observing is really a reflection of the much larger complications of gender and work and power in American society,” says Joy Rankin, a historian of gender and technology and an assistant professor at Michigan State University. “This is a microcosm of all of the challenges of a developing, burgeoning sector of the economy that has a lot of promise but is therefore also fraught with high stakes.” The lack of diversity in crypto has implications beyond a basic sense of fairness. If blockchain really does redefine the global financial system, the uniformity among its creators will result in biased products.
Karen Hao for Quartz with yet another aspect of how gender and inequalities are interwoven in the tech industries problems.

Paradoxes of Hierarchy and Authority in the Squatters Movement in Amsterdam

It remains a fascinating and important movement that shows the value of fusing the pragmatic need for housing with anarchist approaches to life and politics. I got to know this movement in the 1980s before Kadir’s direct involvement.
Although the book’s sociological lens is useful as an analytical tool its emphasis in the inconsistencies and flaws sometimes miss the true achievements of this movement. This is particularly important at a time when the nature and importance of transgressive sub-cultural movements are again in the spotlight. Indeed the difficulties of the movement insisting on its own normative structures around the acquisition of specialist squatting skills from DIY to legal expertise to which members were expected to conform, far from being a weakness might hold important lessons for future movements.
Bruce Sterling reviews a new book for Wired.


Why all randomised controlled trials produce biased results

Researchers and policymakers need to become better aware of the broader set of assumptions, biases and limitations in trials. Journals need to also begin requiring researchers to outline them in their studies. We need to furthermore better use RCTs together with other research methods.
Trials involve complex processes – from randomising, blinding and controlling, to implementing treatments, monitoring participants etc. – that require many decisions and steps at different levels that bring their own assumptions and degree of bias to results.
Alexander Kraus with an open-access article for the Annals of Medicine. 9000 views already-that's as academic viral as things get ;)!

Manchester Workshop

An overview report from the workshop provides more detail about emerging research themes, digital policy issues, and summarises the workshop structure and content.
The Development Implications of Digital Economies (DIODE) Strategic Research Network at Manchester University with a short paper with a lot of food for ICT4D thought!

The Moral Economy of Mobile Phones

The moral economy of mobile phones implies a field of shifting relations among consumers, companies and state actors, all of whom have their own ideas about what is good, fair and just. These ideas inform the ways in which, for example, consumers acquire and use mobile phones; companies promote and sell voice, SMS and data subscriptions; and state actors regulate both everyday use of mobile phones and market activity around mobile phones. Ambivalence and disagreement about who owes what to whom is thus an integral feature of the moral economy of mobile phones. This volume identifies and evaluates the stakes at play in the moral economy of mobile phones. The six main chapters consider ethnographic cases from Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Vanuatu. The volume also includes a brief introduction with background information on the recent ‘digital revolution’ in these countries and two closing commentaries that reflect on the significance of the chapters for our understanding of global capitalism and the contemporary Pacific.
Robert J. Foster & Heather Horst with a new open access book from ANU Press!


My experience with depression in academia

It’s now been about a year and a half since I began opening up about my experience of depression. There have been many points when I felt that I was just complaining without feeling better, or when I did start to feel better, only to get totally knocked out when some new source of stress came up. But the average trend of my feelings has been decidedly upwards, towards a place of much greater self-understanding and much less fear and shame. Talking about my emotions has deepened many of my friendships, as I found that people tended to respond to my admissions about mental health not with derision, but by sharing stories about their own challenges. It’s helped me to have a calmer, happier, and more trusting relationship with my current partner, knowing that I can now communicate openly about any problems that might arise. It’s improved my performance at work, as it let me address some productivity issues which I hadn’t even realized were related to depression, like what used to be a horrible habit of procrastinating on email. And it’s allowed me to feel curious about the world again, which, as someone who still hopes to finish her PhD research some day, is very reassuring!
Come for Rachel Strohm's important post-but stay for the comments and the discussion which adds important nuances to the debate(s).

Indigenizing Canadian academia and the insidious problem of white possessiveness

What does this mean for Indigenization or Decolonization of Canadian academe? It means that the majority of the people making decisions are white. It means that arguments for changes to institutions have to be filtered through whiteness, through white bodies (both human and institutional), and that white people still, largely, operate to own, control, and command what any changes to a campus looks like. (This is what Dr. Sara Ahmed articulates when she discusses the notion of ‘white men as buildings’ in British academe (Ahmed 2014)). It means that racialized students, staff, and faculty are at an extreme disadvantage (and even at risk of serious sanction, expulsion, or firing) when they raise questions of racism and ethical violations in Canadian universities. It means that Indigenous faculty have to be the ‘good’ kind of Indigenous (inoffensive, mystical, peace-full) or else be labelled as trouble-makers or, for Indigenous women, risk being seen as the ‘angry Indigenous woman’ stereotype. It means that Indigenization is not Decolonization (Giroux 2017).
Zoe Todd with a powerful post on whiteness, the limits of decolonization and Canadian academia.

Competitive Hardship: ethnographic guilt and early-career pressure to conduct ‘authentic’ fieldwork

Amongst my own cohort of anthropologists, I detect rather a deep-set sense of anxiety that our own research, much of which is posited in communities and topics outside the parameters of what once would have been considered legitimate ethnographic research, will pass muster. Ethnographic ‘depth’ can be easily confused with an exoticised search for authenticity, which in turn can frequently become synonymous with emotional or physical hardship. This is further exacerbated by a wall of silence surrounding the ethnographer’s own personhood and situation in the field, and the complex realities of living and working in fieldsites where total immersion and isolation, if desirable, is practicably impossible due to digital connectivity. Anthropological lines of enquiry have diversified enormously in the past decade, and notions of how to construct a fieldsite are also in flux. Hegemonic structures within the academy, including teaching curricula, funding requirements and job application processes still disproportionately represent the old school however, and until these catch up with the present diversity of research, early-career ethnographers will continue to feel insecure, anxious, and pressurised in this key rite of passage.
Jennifer Cearns for The New Ethnographer with an important essay on how anthropological field work is changing radically and leaves a new generation of researchers exhausted, pressured to stretch limits of field work and still faced with traditional academic structures.

Why Are We Meeting Like This?

But have you ever met anyone who genuinely feels that most of these meetings are useful, productive, efficient or enjoyable? Me neither.
I can only speculate that we continue having so many meetings because of a few good ones we had in the past -- we’re hoping to recapture the magic. Perhaps that’s why meetings are standard practice and a significant demand on everyone’s time, especially for those in administrative roles. And certainly, collaborative, innovative, thoughtful and productive meetings are worthwhile.
Gary W. Lewandowski Jr. for Inside Higher Ed with a typology of meeting nightmares that most of us have experienced in one way or another...


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