#Occupy Harlan County

Harlan County, USA is a fascinating, Oscar-winning documentary about a 13-month long coal miners strike in Kentucky in 1973. It's an important piece of history with regards to labour movements, big corporations and the ongoing struggle against poverty and for a more equitable future-and it's very timely for the current political developments around the globe. The strengths of the documentary are clearly the power of the images (which is intensified by the absence of a narrative voice), the long-term involvement of the film crew with the miners and their families and a story that to some extent sounds somewhat familiar as the #Occupy protests are happening around the globe: Kopple and her crew spent years with the families depicted in the film, documenting the dire straits they find themselves in while striking for safer working conditions, fair labor practices, and decent wages: following them to picket in front of the stock exchange in New York, filming interviews with

New publication I like (03): Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation’s second volume

Berghof Conflict Research in Berlin has just released the second volume of its well-known Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation online with twenty new and revised articles: The Handbook brings together practitioners and scholars in conflict and peace studies, as well as related fields (development, human rights, etc.). It assembles in one place theory-driven debate (e.g. on concepts like social change, systemic thinking, civil society and state-building), method-orientated practice pieces (e.g. on nonviolent action, on mediation) and practitioners’ experience and reflection (on training, on evaluation). It builds from concrete experience in specific cases (Sri Lanka, Nepal, the region of former Yugoslavia, the Asia-Pacific region and many more) and reflects on current trends and issues. It draws attention to established practices and concepts, as well as to thorny issues, dilemmas and challenges (Introduction, p.9). The Handbook is undoubtedly a fantastic resource to g

AAA Webinar on Promotion, Tenure & Publications

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) held an interesting webinar last week on Promotion, Tenure and Publications .  The digital event was a fascinating conversation between three anthropologists, each with extensive background with the promotion and tenure process. The Committee for the Future of Print and Electronic Publishing   organized an online webinar to discuss the role of digital publications and the rapidly changing publishing landscape around us and how these forces intersect with promotion and tenure. The slides of the three presentations as well as the audio files from the webinar can be downloaded from their website , but I'd like to highlight a few key points of the presentations.  I'm aware that the context is the American university system, but most of the points apply to other educational cultures and context as well.  The three main points I took away from the presentations and that I'll focus on in my post are: 1. The scholarl

Evaluating the German Civilian Peace Service – civil society silence and the opposite of aid transparency

The evaluation of the German Civilian Peace Service (CPS) is a fascinating case study about how aid evaluations are still produced and disseminated, how German civil organisations have been paralysed by fear and how a professional evaluation exercise that follows the accepted guidelines and standards is essentially an item of non-communication and probably a better/worse example of the aid transparency debate than any discussion around data transparency and standards could ever be. What is the German Civilian Peace Service? Another instrument of the German government for civil society peacebuilding is the Civil Peace Service (CPS), founded in 1999. With a number of particular features, the CPS is a unique instrument that does not exist in other countries. From its inception, the CPS has been a joint instrument by governmental and non-governmental organisations involved in peacebuilding and development activities, such as crisis prevention, violence reduction, and all other types of

Who is going to pay for open aid data experts?

I just had a first look at the World Bank's latest Development Oureach Magazine on The Contours and Possibilities of Open Development and then came across an interesting post by Ian Thorpe on Open data-experience needed . Ian makes an excellent point about the value of knowledge and expertise, but I really started to wonder how this expertise is going to be paid for. I can understand that 'civil society' in developing countries may be able to provide the expertise, knowledge and comunication tools to engage with aid transparency in their country, but as more and more momentum seems to be generated around aid transparency, I wonder who will do this in donor countries or for international organisations.   The Bank's assumption may be that ' everybody with a laptop ' could do this, but the key point for me is time. I may be able to visualise, check and criticise data, but who is going to pay me for the hours, days and weeks I may have to spent in front of that

Nepal, orphanages and XL-voluntourism: Conor Grennan's 'Little Princes' and the complexities of development

The groundbreaking contribution of this post is, that the good old saying not to judge a book by its cover now needs refinement. When I read One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal I became almost immediately sceptical about Conor Grennan's book Little Princes . When you notice that the book is about Nepal, orphans, volunteering, orphans and a young American man finding his true calling you may want to roll your eyes, but the 119 positive reviews on are a good indication that people like the story and this kind of DIY development that combines having a great time, helping ‘the children’ of Nepal and returning home to marry a beautiful woman (you met through volunteering). Oh, and an NGO was founded along the way, too... But there are some more serious reasons why I read the book and am going to write a review about it. First, there’s my own academic interest in Nepal, more precisely how ‘development’ has been depicted over the years and d

Books I'd like to read: We Meant Well-How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People

"Everyone in Iraq was there on a series of one-year tours, myself included," he says. "Everyone was told that they needed to create accomplishments, that we needed to document our success, that we had to produce a steady stream of photos of accomplishments, and pictures of smiling Iraqis and metrics and charts. It was impossible, under these circumstances, to do anything long term ... We rarely thought past next week's situation update. The embassy would rarely engage with us on a project that wasn't flashy enough to involve photographs or bringing a journalist out to shoot a video that looked good. The willingness to do long-term work ... never existed in our world." These words by a US Foreign Service employee for 23 years sound so disturbingly similar to many other stories from Afghanistan and Iraq that I was first tempted to shrug my shoulders and just get on with my life. But my desire to read, review and most likely recommend another inte