Showing posts with the label shadows

Radical Approaches to Political Science (book review)

You have to be a bit of a polsci nerd to fully enjoy Radical Approaches to Political Science. Roads Less Traveled, a collection of essays by German political scientist Rainer Eisfeld. 
But if you choose to indulge in this eclectic collection, I can almost promise you that you will come across new and interesting insights from fields of inquiry that are certainly not political science mainstream or well-covered by conventional literature. And even though Rainer Eisfeld does not explicitly talk about ‘international development’ he actually presents quite a few things that are relevant in the context of regime (changes), history and the complex shades of grey that often get lost in dominant black and white narratives. The research and writings that were part of my undergraduate degree in political science in Germany were part of the canon that Eisfeld criticizes right from the beginning as ‘political studies (that) have largely been reduced to a functionalist science of “managing” parlia…

Is silence still golden? The curious case of Jim Kim's World Bank leadership

Have you heard from the World Bank recently?
Or, more precisely, have you read much about the Bank recently? I haven’t.
Well, that’s not entirely true: I read about the 'Big Idea 2013: Learning Fast From Failure' by President Jim Kim.
But given the amount of debate during the nomination process (Selection versus Election: A Wasted Opportunity at the World Bank?), Kim’s first months in office have really turned out well for the Bank – from an organizational communications standpoint.
Any question about the legitimacy of the nomination process, accountability of the Bank or other criticisms all but died down when the KoreanChinese-American medical doctor/anthropologist took over the leadership of the Bank in July 2012.

So what can ‘we’ (development researchers, anthropologists, political scientists, blogger) learn from this ‘golden silence’ that has since engulfed the Bank and took it out of the critical headlines?

No matter how ‘big’ and ‘powerful’ an organization is, we still t…

John Marsh: Why Education Is Not an Economic Panacea-insights for development?

John Marsh just published an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on 'Why Education is not an Economic Panacea'. The article is long and a bit confusing to read. It is based on the author's experience in an education project for poor members of the community:
The idea was simple. Faculty from the University of Illinois would offer night classes in their areas of expertise [...] for anyone in the community who was between the ages of 18 and 45 and lived at 150 percent of the poverty level of income or lower. [...] Students who completed the nine-month course would receive six hours of college credit, which they could then transfer to other institutions of higher learning. Everything would be free: tuition, books, even child care at a nearby community center. We named it after a similar program in Chicago, the Odyssey Project.
In short, the programme was based on the well-known dicussion that 
education pays, and pays more than ever. If so, it must …

New paper I like (02): Scholars Who Became Practitioners

At first sight and read, Nora Lustig's latest CGDev paper looks like an unspectatcular working paper with a long sub-title: 'Scholars Who Became Practitioners: The Influence of Research on the Design, Evaluation, and Political Survival of Mexico’s Antipoverty Program Progresa/Oportunidades'. The summary does not really tell you why I like this paper either:
Celebrated by academics, multilateral organizations, policymakers and the media, Mexico’s Progresa/ Oportunidades conditional cash transfers program (CCT) is constantly used as a model of a successful antipoverty program. Here I argue that the transformation of well-trained scholars into influential practitioners played a fundamental role in promoting a new conceptual approach to poverty reduction, ensuring the technical soundness and effectiveness of the program, incorporating rigorous impact evaluation, and persuading politicians to implement and keep the program in place. The involvement of scholar-practitioners also …

The London riots – a development review

Don’t worry, this is not another post about what has been happening in London and other parts of the UK over these past few days. Well, in some ways it is, because among many, many, many other things the riots and the immediate political reactions offer some interesting, humbling lessons for those who try to make sense of development and its challenges. Especially for those who may not be involved in development debates on a routine basis this could be a good opportunity to reflect on some broader issues. It could also be a great opportunity for those high-level policy-makers and strategists to question some well-known assumptions about development dynamics. For the sake of brevity, I will limit my comment to three areas: Complexity, uncertainty and democracy.

Complexity: Believe it or not, there is no single story that can explain social problems
As more and more commentators step forward, a highly complex picture emerges that includes historical, economic, social and cultural proble…

The WWF and the industry-What role for environmental organisations in the age of multinationals and biofuels?

On Wednesday the German public broadcaster ARD showed the  documentary 'The pact with the Panda-What the WWF is not telling us' on the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) and its close links to international companies, especially in the areas of biofuels (soy beans and palm oil). The documentary focused on Indonesia and Argentina, but there was also a critical case study from India about tiger conservation efforts and eco-tourism. The documentary is in German, of course, and there are no subtitles. There have been heated discussions on both the German and Swiss WWF websites - again, in German. More than 600 comments are quite unusual for the German Internet-sphere and it really shows that the documentary hit a nerve. This has the potential of a German/European version of the 'Three Cups for Tea' story.
I can't really provide a detailed summary here, but there are a couple of interesting points with reference to the WWF, but more importantly the rather depressing do…

Who is 'the development industry'?

The short answer: Most of the time 'we' are the development industry - not just 'them' (those with Landcruisers and daily allowances)...

Mina, a volunteer with Engineers Without Borders in Ghana shared some interesting reflections on how he perceives 'the industry' in the country. And he posted a few pictures to prove it: Fancy cars, fancy offices, fancy daily allowances – an often shared impression of how people (including local NGOs with cars, offices and allowances) perceive one of the key ills of development: It has become an 'industry', a market-place for transnational professional, knowledge and their 'wares' from dubious consultancy reports to endless workshops.
But I also think that this analysis is short-sighted and ignores some of the essential global dynamics behind said industry. I usually don't turn my posts into heavily academic contemplations, but please allow me two short quotes to illustrate my point theoretically. First, t…

New paper I like: The ethnography of corruption. Research themes in political anthropology

Today just a short post to share Davide Torsello's interesting paper on 'The ethnography of corruption: research themes in political anthropology' with you. I came accross a link to the paper on the very readable website/blog of the Anti-Corruption Research Network.The premise for his review is the lack of anthropological contributions to the corruption debate:
One striking feature of the booming literature on corruption in the social sciences is the comparatively weak role played by anthropology. A recent World Bank review notices that anthropological studies dealing with corruption cover about 2% of the relevant scientific literature. The reasons for this “silence” can be investigated trough a multidimensional attention to the methodological, empirical and theoretical positions of the discipline.
This is an academic paper (euphemism for being a bit dry to read at some points ;), but the range of resources to capture the multi-dimensionality of the topic and the anthropolog…

The Taliban Shuffle – a transnational professional review

World Development Report 2011 – creating a ‘non-place’ for development debates?