Links & Contents I Liked 301

Hi all,

I just returned from 2 great days at AidEx in Brussels-probably one of the best non-conference meeting experiences I had in a long time!
While I'm still digesting my insights I also compiled link review no.301 after last week's anniversary celebrations :) !

Development news: Race & #globaldev; how (lack of) data kills in Yemen; orphanage tourism again; privatizing wars prolongs them; the price of superficial stability in Mali; Ebola clinical trial; how World Vision engages with media; uplifting, beautiful stories from Trinidad & Tobago, India & dementia care.

Our digital lives: The (male) capitalism behind period tracking apps; the digital celebrity
apolitical industrial complex behind "Girl, wash your face"; an anthropologist in Silicon Valley.

Publications: An annual report you actually want to read; how a women's movement succeeds in Indonesia since 2001.

Academia: Kenya's neoliberal academy; reflections on an anthropology virtual conference; the relentless pressure to publish.


New from aidnography
My key learnings about #globaldev 20 years after I took my first undergrad course (Links & Contents I Liked 300)

Development news
We need to talk about race and development

I want to hear from black women who benefit from development assistance, but I also want to hear from those who are leading it; from the ministers, the academics, the journalists, the health professionals and the CEOs. Numbers in every one of these categories are depressingly low. People of colour who work in the UK’s development sector will often share the same nationality and some of the privileges of the white aid worker, but may look like, and feel closely connected to the recipients of development.
Lorriann Robinson continues the push for debate, action and change around the aid industry's deep-rooted inequalities.

Deaths before data

In recent conversations with more than half a dozen aid workers and food security experts, some, including technical staff with access to UN figures on hunger in Yemen, said they believed the threshold for famine had already been crossed in certain parts of the country.
Others were less sure and said famine “could” be present, or predicted that it would not be declared at all – possibly because the required data remains unavailable. In a grim irony, famine may prove impossible to declare because humanitarians are unable to count the dead in pockets of the country from that very famine.
Samuel Oakford for IRIN with a reminder that despite all the talk and some action around data or digital innovations the humanitarian system still relies on the political infrastructure of the 20th century with real impact on lives and well-being of some of the most vulnerable populations.

Calls mount to stop orphanages exploiting poor children to lure money, tourists

Traffickers have worked out that orphanages are good business and can attract large donations, leading to a global boom in orphanages, from Cambodia to Haiti, which often lure children from poor rural families with promises of an education.
Emma Batha for Thomson Reuters Foundation with an overview over current efforts to curb orphanage voluntourism which is booming besides the fact that the topic has received a lot of media attention throughout the last few years.

Why Using Foreign Contractors Helps Prolong Foreign Wars

Contractors find themselves in compromised situations, with complex loyalties, which may affect the conduct of the war itself. Raj was doing nothing to actively try to extend the war in Afghanistan, yet it was also clear that he did not want it to end—because that would mean termination. The majority of those that the U.S. is employing to fight its wars have a vested interest in seeing those wars continue despite their dangers.
With the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan, some might hope that democratic control over U.S. foreign policy will improve, but exactly the opposite is happening. While the number of contractors the U.S. is employing in Afghanistan has decreased, it has not decreased as quickly as the number of troops. This means that while in 2011 there were approximately 1.5 contractors for every U.S. soldier in Afghanistan, there are now three contractors for every soldier, making contractors increasingly the face of the U.S. presence. Furthermore, as the war wanes, contractors like Raj are looking for work elsewhere: Syria, Yemen, Russia and the Central African Republic
Noah Coburn for Zocalo with a sobering read. None of it is surprising, but the normalization of contractors and their negative impact on wars and conflicts should be much higher on our peace research agenda.

New Report: “Mali’s Tragic But Persistent Status Quo”
The report’s second main argument is that the formal, externally- backed mechanisms intended to stabilize Mali and resolve its conflicts are implicated in perpetuating violence. The peace process envisioned by the 2015 Algiers Accord has been rocky and problematic. Alongside implementation problems, the design of the Accord unwittingly encourages ambitious politicians and violent entrepreneurs to create new militias as a means of seeking representation in the structures established through the Accord. Nevertheless, foreign powers appear comfortable with both the Bamako-based political class and the Tuareg hereditary elite in Kidal, occasionally contemplating sanctions against members of the latter but showing no appetite to displace either group.
Alex Thurston shares insights from his report for Germany's Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung. Another sobering read on how the 'international community's' stabilization efforts hardly lead to peace and social change.

A pivotal day in world’s response to Ebola nears: the launch of a clinical trial

It is unusual for unlicensed drugs to be used in such quantities outside of the context of a clinical trial. In this case, the authorization came through a sort of compassionate use protocol established by the WHO.
The idea was that the protocol would serve as a bridge to allow use while a clinical trial was being designed and signed off on by the numerous parties that have a stake in the process. But that process has taken longer than many people anticipated, and there has been frustration and concern about continued use of experimental drugs that have been shown to increase survival in animal studies, but may or may not work as well in people.
Helen Branswell for Stat with some fascinating details on the implementation of the first clinical trial for Ebola drugs...lots of technical and ethical challenges involved.

Busting a Myth: There’s very often not an app for that!
Developed in a ‘bubble’, many apps duplicated existing well-used communication platforms. They didn’t take into account complex issues of trust, how information (and rumors) spread, nor how rapidly the political and protection landscape changed. Additionally, there was demonstrated naivety around data protection and the political sensitivity related to information being shared. I spoke to several disheartened developers who had challenges accessing the information they needed for their app, they also shared their frustrations with lack of resources for roll-out and updates. Developers were lost in humanitarian coordination structures and inhibited by agencies’ financing constraints. Yet, the hype continued, hackathons were rife, and the number of ‘you need an app’ calls I received increased.
Katie Drew for UNHCR. This is quite an interesting post. None of this should have been surprising in 2015 (which wasn't exactly the digital stone age) and yet in 2018 we are still discussing 'include the community' as if this only now came up in #globaldev discussions...

How Do NGOs Attract News Coverage in a Digital News Landscape?

I found that media relations employees at WVUS employed a set of strategies to elevate particular factors of newsworthiness and reduce barriers to news coverage for campaigns and topics where news coverage would best align with organizational goals. In day to day work, the main strategy revolved around compliance, which involves intentionally adapting to news organization needs. In following this strategy, the NGO emphasizes the newsworthy elements of campaigns or topics that are of interest, even going so far as to create news events that are timely, novel, and near the media markets of interest in order to attract coverage.
Ruth Moon for Humanitarian News Research Network summarizing her research on how World Vision USA is engaging with media.

Eulogy of my grandmother, Adwina Miriam Johnson

“I used to have to wash clothes for everybody, and long ago you had to iron the clothes and you would have to cook, and if you wanted to use coconut you would have to grate the coconut. I would cook for everybody, make breakfast in the morning, cook lunch 12 o’clock, make dinner again. That was plenty, plenty work. Then I would comb my two sisters’ hair then I would do mine. And then I would go to school.”
After leaving school she went what is called in Tobago “walking for sewing”, sewing classes which were customary for girls at the stage in their lives. She also began to learn shorthand and bookkeeping.
This commercial turn to get by as a widow was met with a creative zest that is still on display in her living room today: Tall white ceramic vases sit on the floor; on the shelf a green eyed ceramic white cat sits among red flowers and a white ceramic unicorn rears up on its hind legs; floral crochet work adorn the tops of sofas and armchairs which host plump satin cushions, deep red, too pretty, in fact, sit down on, let alone touch. All were made by her.
She also applied this burst of creativity and passion to her food and baking, displaying kitchen skills that would make her famous locally and have her grandchildren salivating whenever they knew she was coming to visit them in Canada or England.
Her mother taught her to cook from a young age. She would cook for the whole family, but, she said ” it was no fancy dishes”, mostly stew peas, rice, provisions and the big Cavali fish her father used to bring home from the village. A woman’s cooking group she joined in Fyzabad opened her eyes up to even more ideas.
Soon she was bringing hot sponge cakes out of the oven and pone and macaroni pie too. Taking advantage of that great abundant mango tree that stands guard, arms outspread, in the middle of her back yard she would make red mango, and if you were lucky – very, very lucky – mango ice cream, too.
Amandla Thomas-Johnson for Media Diversified looks back on her gradmother's life in Trinidad & Tobago-a unique life that still touches on so many aspects we conveniently summarize under 'development'...

How love and a taste of honey brought one Indian woman’s 16-year hunger strike to an end

In July 2016 she shocked the country and her supporters by abruptly announcing an end date to her fast. “Nothing had changed in people’s mindsets after 16 years,” she says. “I really wanted to change myself, the environment, the tactics, everything.”
Instead, Sharmila said, she would marry Coutinho and continue her struggle by running for Manipur’s parliament.
To Loitongbam, the plan was hopelessly naive. Democracy in India can be grubby; most citizens still vote along caste or religious lines, and votes are brazenly traded for money or gifts. It is no place for saints.
“I told her, Sharmila, you are like uranium, you have enormous spiritual power,” he says. “But just as you need technology to convert his uranium into atomic energy, you need a whole infrastructure behind you. Without it you cannot convert spiritual energy into political power. But she just didn’t listen.”
Michael Safi for the Guardian with a great story from India on social change, love & so many other powerful and beautiful things.

Parables of Care at The 2nd International Amsterdam Comics Conference

Simon will discuss further the creation of the comic Parables of Care: creative responses to dementia care, in terms of hypotactic correspondences of form, emotional ambiguity and story.
Amsterdam Comics aims to further the interaction between the academic study of comics and its practice.
Ernesto Priego for Parables of Care. This is a really interesting visual storytelling project and some of the stories around dementia care are very touching and always full of love and tenderness!

Our digital lives
Period-tracking apps are not for women

This app wasn’t designed for me. It wasn’t designed for anyone who wants to track their period or general reproductive health. The same is true of almost every menstruation-tracking app: They’re designed for marketers, for men, for hypothetical unborn children, and perhaps weirdest of all, a kind of voluntary surveillance stance.
“The act of measurement is not neutral,” Levy wrote. “Every technology of measurement and classification legitimates certain forms of knowledge and experience, while rendering others invisible.” Sex tracking apps and their ilk “simplify highly personal and subjective experiences to commensurable data points.”
Kaitlyn Tiffany for Vox on the female datafied self & surveillance capitalism, one app at the time...

“Girl, Wash Your Face” Is A Massive Best-Seller With A Dark Message
But to my mind, her core philosophy itself is emblematic of a huge division in American thought that dominates our national discourse: Are people who have problems responsible for fixing them themselves? Or is there some collective responsibility that we are shirking — does a society owe something to all its members? There are dark implications in making everything a matter of personal responsibility, which is Hollis’s bias. She asks us to interrogate and deconstruct the lies that we’ve believed about ourselves, and I wonder how that lens would function if we turn it on the lies she promulgates in Girl, Wash Your Face.
Being empowered to let go of my anxiety or self-criticism as a wealthy white woman is certainly helpful to me, and I appreciate that message from Hollis on a certain level. But my anxiety is largely rooted in unrealistic fears, whereas many women don’t have the opportunity to go back to college or own a house from which to be liberated. Hollis’s book is in many ways a return to the kind of second-wave feminism that privileged the liberation of middle-class straight white women from the domestic sphere while at the same time completely ignoring — or actively opposing — the rights and needs of poor and queer and nonwhite women. Hollis, who has four children, doesn’t mention child care at all in the book until the acknowledgments, when she thanks her nanny
Laura Turner for Buzzfeed with a fascinating feature that says so much about 'our times', the creation of digitalized celebrities, discussions around feminism & the state of capitalism in North America.

An Anthropologist in Silicon Valley

What has kept my attention, fueled my intellectual interests, and allowed me to endure, even prosper, as the odd person out during the last 36 years—after all, my colleagues are still primarily physicists, chemists, mathematicians, computer scientists and engineers? My response to this question requires a brief and partial tour of some of the intellectual terrain I’ve explored as an anthropologist in Silicon Valley. Along the way, my research has allowed me to disrupt normative views of work and workplaces and to nudge corporate imaginaries—in small but still important ways—toward consideration of a broader range of human experience.
Jeanette Blomberg for Anthropology News. Interesting insights-but given the current debates around the impact of platforms I wonder how powerful the impact of corporate anthropologists like Blomberg really has been...

Thousand Currents Annual Report 2018

Characters gather in a room, and on each wall, there is a door. The doors are marked FOOD, ECONOMY, CLIMATE, and LEADERSHIP. A tattered book (representing the past), a ticking clock (representing the present), and a pair of goggles (representing
the future) discuss which door to go through. Characters know that each door leads to a different future future.
This is certainly not a document for the pdf graveyard where most annual reports are going to end up! Thousand Currents' report features a screenplay that discusses the past, present & future of development (?).

Movement-building for Accountability: Learning from Indonesian Women’s Organizing

PEKKA’s combination of national advocacy with grassroots organizing and countervailing power has influenced national social programs and broadened women’s access to the legal system. Improved access to the courts allows women to obtain legal documentation of their own civil status. This allows women to legalize a marriage that was valid under Islamic law or file a divorce case that will enable her to be recognized as the head of her family. The experience of gaining legal documents may build the knowledge and confidence required to obtain a birth certificate for their children, thereby securing opportunities and access to social services, including education, for the next generation.
PEKKA engages in cross-sector alliance-building with local government, Islamic authorities, national policymakers, and international development agencies. This creates the political space and legitimacy needed to navigate complex cultural and political dynamics and deflect those forces opposed to public accountability and social inclusion.
Nani Zulminarni, Valerie Miller, Alexa Bradley, Angela Bailey & Jonathan Fox for the Accountability Research Center on how to build, maintain and re-invent a feminist movement that was started in 2001!


The dangerous rise of neo-liberal universities
A new school of thought is emerging in East Africa which challenges the rise of the academic capitalism inspired by rabid marketisation of university programmes and challenges the idea of the current university system as an effective vehicle for social and economic development.
“The issue is that just like the colonial and national development models of universities in Africa, the neo-liberal epoch is foreign initiated,” Munene told University World News.
He said attempts to transform a system that had foreign roots by adding more foreign concepts in order to make it more relevant only masks the maladies affecting the sector and hence its failure in national development.
Wachira Kogothe for University World News on higher education in Kenya.

Reflections on #displace18

Whether taking place in North America, Europe, or the global South, the nodes proved to be spaces for unusual forms of conference participation and interaction. “It’s ethically righteous and strangely intimate,” one node organizer reflected once the conference was over. “Our conversation was much more open and participatory than a Q&A would have been.” The organizer of another local node reported that “a nice unexpected result was the attendance of a host of people (particularly students) who were not affiliated with local universities, but were based in the area and found their way to the node events.” We could see through social media that these local convergences were happening in different places: the many New York City–based anthropologists who came to watch the plenary together at the Wenner-Gren Foundation, or the thirty professors and students from various Toronto universities who gathered for two days of panel screenings and discussions at that node. Em had developed and circulated a series of ways by which node organizers could facilitate collective forms of place-based participation, such as brief critical commentaries, modes of affective response, and creative forms of expression. Many nodes shared post-it notes that they had used to facilitate discussion.
Anand Pandian for Cultural Anthropology with lots of insights into how to create an international conference in the form of a virtual and distributed event.

Publish and Perish: A Plea to Deans, Faculty Chairpersons, University Authorities

Item: In preparing a tenure review report, or assisting in an entry-level appointment process I read the file – a dozen articles or so. One is strikingly good. A handful, truly mediocre. One or two, real garbage. From the same hand, from the same mind. How so uneven? We cannot be at our best in everything we put out, but I am talking discrepancies that go beyond that standard distribution. Item: I’m a commentator in our post-doc workshop. I later meet with the young scholar to give detailed comments and suggestions for the work. You’ll need, I say, a good few months, maybe half a year’s more work to produce what could become a splendid piece. The post-doc looks at me forgivingly: ‘It won’t happen. My dean expects us to publish seven pieces (!) in two years. I have to move on.’ This ‘quota’ may be at the higher end but is not atypical. I later see the piece, in its original form, on SSRN and eventually in some journal.
Joseph Weiler for EJIL:Talk on academic publishing under neoliberal conditions.


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