Celebrating the work of Robert Chambers

The IDS Alumni Association celebrated the work of Robert Chambers last week with a special event and the launch of the book ' Revolutionising Development: Reflecting Forwards '. I did not attend and just want to take this opportunity to share and collect some impressions and follow-up comments from the event.  First, it is always fantastic to see Robert 'in action' and this flickr album is a fantastic proof that Robert and well and active! I hope that they will add more reflections such as Kamal Singh's who shares his insights at the end in this 9-minute video . Kamal is the CEO of Khanya-acidd, the African Institute for Community-Driven Development . IDS director Lawrence Haddad shares some reflections in his latest blog post : I have only worked in the same place as him for 7 years. He is inspirational, visionary, full of energy and directs his ego into his work and not into his own position. In a room full of gurus at IDS today, he was the guru's guru

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 anthr

Some reflections from an academic job interview non-dialogue

I was surprised when I was invited to an academic job interview to a university in the North of the UK. Although the department appeared to be focussing on International Relations and Security Studies they were looking for a lecturer on conflict and development. A good friend of mine was also invited so I knew from the beginning that I was not the only potentially fig-leaf anthropologist or qualitative researcher; we were five candidates in total from a range of well-known UK development studies departments. However, there was no preliminary phone interview and in the end the experience turned out to be quite frustrating, though shedding at least a few insights into recruitment practices at highly ranked British universities. The 20-minute presentation of my research in front of a group of about 15 staff members went well, but there were literally two short questions afterwards because of time constraints (friends in the US told me about 30 minute presentations and a thesis viva-like g

The Taliban Shuffle – a transnational professional review

I had no idea that I would find self awareness in a combat zone, a kind of peace in chaos. My life [in Afghanistan and Pakistan] wouldn’t be about a man or God or some cause. I would fall in love deeply, but with a story, with a way of life. (p.13) Kim Barker's book ‘ The Taliban Shuffle: Strange days in Afghanistan and Pakistan ’ is a highly recommended, accessible and thought-provoking read for everybody who works in the transnational, transient sphere of expatriate employment in developing countries or conflict zones. The book is less interesting if you are looking for factual information on post-9/11 ‘AfPak’, because most of Kim’s stories about the challenges of the international intervention (diplomatically phrased) have been written down before. Life in ‘Kabulistan’, the odd ‘embed’ with American troops and the messiness of Pakistani politics are hardly news, even if Kim has come close to some key, powerful, flamboyant and/or ruthless politicians of those two countries

What The Oprah Magazine can teach us about development

I like Oprah. She is an amazing woman, entrepreneur and her advice and insights have probably changed the lives of many people for the better. I also like international development. So when I was reading the May 2011 edition of her magazine (‘Live, love & thrive – All the way to 95!’), some of the contradictions, challenges, paradoxes and things that are good and bad about development were represented by the complexity of meaning and the ‘discourse’ of the magazine. Although this is hardly a new insight, it is fascinating how engaging with and selling an aspiration meets all sorts of challenges in the ‘real world’. As much as development has a mantra of ‘eradicating poverty’, Oprah’s empire, mainly her new OWN TV channel, has a mantra of ‘try to live the good life’. Live better, more reflective, healthier, or, to quote from the cover of the May edition, discover ‘6 superfoods’, learn how to ‘forgive anyone’ and get the ‘prettiest skin of your life’. I know, many similar publica

Alphaville – a development review

I know, I know…I actually blame it on my new ebook reader. I have really increased my readload in the past couple of weeks and hugely enjoy reading books electronically and writing about ebooks and academic publishing . So that’s why there is another of those ‘development reviews’. But, on a more serious note, I do enjoy reading books that are not directly related to development, but still help me to think and reflect about some interlinked and intertwined issues between development and other parts of society, different times in history or simply different ideas. The buzz around Kaplan’s and Duflo’s recently published books is interesting to observe and maybe that’s another reason why my reading is going into a different direction. So Michael Codella and Bruce Bennett's Alphaville. The title and subtitle basically say is all: Alphaville: 1988, Crime, Punishment, and the Battle for New York City's Lower East Side . The book reminded me of ‘The Wire’ minus the broader politic

The Thank You Economy – a development review, part 2/2

This is the shorter and more practical second part of my take on the Thank You Economy (TYE) and its value for discussing some of the current and future developments of aid, especially around the ‘social’ aspects and ‘development 2.0’. The first part focussed on the actual book review and some general observations. Just a brief reminder of what Gary Vaynerchuk means by TYE: In short, [companies] are going to have to relearn and employ the ethics and skills our great-grandparents' generation took for granted, and that many of them put into building their own businesses. We're living in what I like to call the Thank You Economy, because only the companies that can figure out how to mind their manners in a very old-fashioned way and do it authentically are going to have a prayer of competing. Note that I said you have to do it authentically. I am wired like a CEO and care a great deal about the bottom line, but I care about my customers even more than that. That&#