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robertogreco : globalsouth   11

Zimmerman, A.: Alabama in Africa: Booker T. Washington, the German Empire, and the Globalization of the New South (Paperback and Ebook) | Princeton University Press
“In 1901, the Tuskegee Institute, founded by Booker T. Washington, sent an expedition to the German colony of Togo in West Africa, with the purpose of transforming the region into a cotton economy similar to that of the post-Reconstruction American South. Alabama in Africa explores the politics of labor, sexuality, and race behind this endeavor, and the economic, political, and intellectual links connecting Germany, Africa, and the southern United States. The cross-fertilization of histories and practices led to the emergence of a global South, reproduced social inequities on both sides of the Atlantic, and pushed the American South and the German Empire to the forefront of modern colonialism.

Zimmerman shows how the people of Togo, rather than serving as a blank slate for American and German ideologies, helped shape their region’s place in the global South. He looks at the forms of resistance pioneered by African American freedpeople, Polish migrant laborers, African cotton cultivators, and other groups exploited by, but never passive victims of, the growing colonial political economy. Zimmerman reconstructs the social science of the global South formulated by such thinkers as Max Weber and W.E.B. Du Bois, and reveals how their theories continue to define contemporary race, class, and culture.

Tracking the intertwined histories of Europe, Africa, and the Americas at the turn of the century, Alabama in Africa shows how the politics and economics of the segregated American South significantly reshaped other areas of the world.

Andrew Zimmerman is professor of history at George Washington University and the author of Anthropology and Antihumanism in Imperial Germany.”

[via: https://twitter.com/zunguzungu/status/1163504107690217473

in reference to:
“In order to understand the brutality of merican capitalism, you have to start on the plantation.” (Matthew Desmond)
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/slavery-capitalism.html
germany  imperialism  history  us  cotton  globalization  globalsouth  books  toread  andrewzimmerman  bookertwashington  alabama  africa  togo  cooton  agriculture  labor  exploitation  climate  poltics  economics  segregation  americansouth 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Verso: Empire of Borders The Expansion of the US Border around the World, by Todd Miller
"The United States is outsourcing its border patrol abroad—and essentially expanding its borders in the process

The twenty-first century has witnessed the rapid hardening of international borders. Security, surveillance, and militarization are widening the chasm between those who travel where they please and those whose movements are restricted. But that is only part of the story. As journalist Todd Miller reveals in Empire of Borders, the nature of US borders has changed. These boundaries have effectively expanded thousands of miles outside of US territory to encircle not simply American land but Washington’s interests. Resources, training, and agents from the United States infiltrate the Caribbean and Central America; they reach across the Canadian border; and they go even farther afield, enforcing the division between Global South and North.

The highly publicized focus on a wall between the United States and Mexico misses the bigger picture of strengthening border enforcement around the world.

Empire of Borders is a tremendous work of narrative investigative journalism that traces the rise of this border regime. It delves into the practices of “extreme vetting,” which raise the possibility of “ideological” tests and cyber-policing for migrants and visitors, a level of scrutiny that threatens fundamental freedoms and allows, once again, for America’s security concerns to infringe upon the sovereign rights of other nations.

In Syria, Guatemala, Kenya, Palestine, Mexico, the Philippines, and elsewhere, Miller finds that borders aren’t making the world safe—they are the frontline in a global war against the poor.

Reviews
“Empire of Borders reveals how the United States has effectively extended its borders throughout the globe, giving rise to a worldwide enforcement network that is highly militarized and profoundly dehumanizing. At a time when more people than ever before find their lives thrust against violent lines of separation, Todd Miller helps us understand the omnipresence of borders as an imminent threat to our shared humanity—a collective sickness that must be reckoned with before it forever reshapes our world.”

– Fransisco Cantu, author of The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border

“Joining meticulous documentation and vivid on-the-ground research in multiple border hot spots around the planet, Todd Miller pulls the veil off the layers of borders and their policing that shape our world, revealing a stunning and terrifying reality. The artificiality of borders, and the commitment of the world’s wealthy and powerful to preserve their wealth and power through them, have never been so clearly laid out.”

– Aviva Chomsky, author of Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal

“Todd Miller’s Empire of Borders is an indispensable guide to our bunkered, barb-wired world. For more than a decade, well before Donald Trump landed in the White House, Miller’s reporting has revealed the conceits of globalization, documenting the slow, steady garrisoning of US politics behind ever more brutal border policies. Now, with Empire of Borders, he looks outward, to a world overrun with so many border walls it looks more like a maze than a shared planet. If there’s a way out, Miller will find it.”

– Greg Grandin, author of The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America

“Todd Miller takes the reader on a global journey following the ever expanding and violent border enforcement regime. Empire of Borders is an erudite and engaging exposé of the global war against the poor that is increasingly carried out through restrictions on the right to move. Highly recommended.”

– Reece Jones, author of Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move"
toddmiller  borders  books  toread  freedom  geopolitics  refugees  mobility  liberation  globalization  walls  us  surveillance  security  military  militarization  caribbean  centralamerica  canada  globalsouth  syria  guatemala  kenya  palestine  mexico  philippines  imperialism  politics  policy 
july 2019 by robertogreco
Episode 58: The Neoliberal Optimism Industry de Citations Needed Podcast
"We're told the world is getting better all the time. In January, The New York Times' Nick Kristof explained "Why 2017 Was the Best Year in Human History." The same month, Harvard professor and Bill Gates' favorite optimist Steven Pinker lamented (in a special edition of Time magazine guest edited by - who else? - Bill Gates) the “bad habits of media... bring out the worst in human cognition”. By focusing so much on negative things, the theory goes, we are tricked into thinking things are getting worse when, in reality, it's actually the opposite.

For the TEDtalk set, that the world is awesome and still improving is self-evidently true - just look at the data. But how true is this popular axiom? How accurate is the portrayal that the world is improving we so often seen in sexy, hockey stick graphs of upward growth and rapidly declining poverty? And how, exactly, are the powers that be "measuring" improvements in society?

On this episode, we take a look at the ideological project of telling us everything's going swimmingly, how those in power cook the books and spin data to make their case for maintaining the status quo, and how The Neoliberal Optimism Industry is, at its core, an anti-intellectual enterprise designed to lull us into complacency and political impotence.

Our guest is Dr. Jason Hickel."
jasonhickel  2018  stevenpinker  billgates  neoliberalism  capitalism  ideology  politics  economics  globalsouth  development  colonialism  colonization  china  africa  lies  data  poverty  inequality  trends  climatechange  globalwarming  climatereparations  nicholaskristof  thomasfriedman  society  gamingthenumbers  self-justification  us  europe  policy  vox  race  racism  intelligence  worldbank  imf 
february 2019 by robertogreco
Is "Show Don't Tell" a Universal Truth or a Colonial Relic? | Literary Hub
"In his essay “The Storyteller” (1936), cultural critic Walter Benjamin mourns the death of oral and communal storytelling, taken over in modern history by the novel, the “birthplace of the solitary reader,” and information technology with a rise in capitalism. Yet, what Benjamin posits as the organic evolution of oral, communal practices of storytelling into modern modes of storytelling, consumed by a reader in “privacy,” is in fact, the understanding of a Western history of storytelling as a universal one. As Maggie Awadalla and Paul March-Russell suggest in the introduction to their anthology The Postcolonial Short Story (2012), many non-Western countries did not transition “organically” from oral to written storytelling with a rise in capitalism. For many formerly or currently colonized spaces like South Asia, Africa, Caribbean, American South and Native America, there has always existed a rich, vibrant tradition of oral storytelling, one that was marginalized, often violently, through an imposition of an allegedly modern, white Western language and culture. In their study, Postcolonial Studies: The Key Concepts (1998), Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin defend “orality” not as a cultural precondition that morphed into a more advanced written culture, but orality as a counterpart to writing, where both co-exist, complement and transform each other constantly. This coexistence of oral and written modes of storytelling continues to thrive in postcolonial spaces, including those of Asia and Africa.

In her now-canonical essay “Characteristics of Negro Expression” (1934), Zora Neale Hurston makes a strong case for the use of vernacular—especially dialect and rhythm—in Black writing. In his story collection, Creole Folktales (1988) and equally canonical co-authored essay, “In Praise of Creoleness” (1989), Patrick Chamoiseau offers a manifesto for Caribbean storytelling that aims to free itself of French colonial gaze by transforming Martinican-French literature through a militant use of Creole. And while not through cultural theories or essays, contemporary writers like Salman Rushdie, Vikram Chandra, Roxane Gay, Junot Díaz, and Edwidge Danticat, among others, bring a strong, self-conscious vernacular in their stories. Their fiction questions not only an allegedly mainstream Euro-American storytelling marked by narrative brevity and an economy of words, as lauded by Edgar Allan Poe, John Barth and Francine Prose in their critical writing, but also the dominance of visuality in many fiction writing workshops with their show-don’t-tell credo, bolstered by our cinematic and digital age with its preference for images over sounds."



"James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Sandra Cisneros, Gish Jen, Tiphanie Yanique, ZZ Packer, Rajesh Parameswaran—the list of contemporary writing affirming oral and aural alternatives over a sight-based focus of storytelling is long. And I haven’t even gotten started with poetry-in-color, including an aesthetic legacy of rhythm in writing spawned by Papa Césaire and the Négritude movement. What I’ve explored above is a brief sampler on a multifaceted use of orality that challenges the boundaries of a more standard Euro-American literary English with its emphasis on brevity, clarity, and good grammar. In playing persistently with language, sounds and syntax, multiethnic fiction does not shy away from “writing in scenes,” however, it does dethrone the reign of eyesight to stress the importance of other senses in fiction, and hearing in particular.

That said, the use of vernacular or dialect is far from unique to non-Western writers writing within or outside the West. Time and again, major writers across the world have challenged the status quo of a hegemonic language by using the vernacular in different ways. I’m thinking here of Shakespeare and Louis-Ferdinand Celine’s linguistic innovation within English and French respectively, and of pioneering poets like Kabir who used the vernacular in Bhakti poetry to challenge the rule of Sanskrit in medieval South Asian literature.

And yet, the examples of multiethnic fiction I’ve shared above have all been published in the last couple of decades, following complex literary and historic changes that include mid-20th century’s wave of decolonization that swept the “third world,” the Civil Rights Movement in the US, the institutionalization of Ethnic Studies in the American Academy, and the literary canon wars that followed. This recent, layered, global history has led to a higher visibility of non-white, non-Western voices in the Western metropolitan publication scenes of New York, London and Paris. The content within contemporary multiethnic fiction often talks of identity, home and displacement; they ask questions like who has power and voice and who gets marginalized or silenced, these ideas fleshed out obsessively in stories through plot, theme, form, language, or a combination.

Orality within fiction that is deliberately engaging with power dynamics between the West and non-West—as evident in the title of Rushdie’s story collection East, West—thus becomes more than just a stylistic device or virtuosity with craft. The shift in sensory focus within multiethnic fiction from images to sounds holds a mirror to our contemporary, complex literary history, guiding the reader further to ways in which these stories maybe constructed, read, or deconstructed. Orality here becomes a political stance, an ideological move reminding the reader over and again that what we consume as universal in story craft, literary history, or aesthetic taste is anything but universal."
orality  oraltradition  visual  via:vruba  2018  storytelling  walterbenjamin  culture  tradition  namratapoddar  globalsouth  maggieawadalla  paulmarch-russell  billashcroft  garethgriffiths  helentiffin  vernacular  zoranealehurston  creole  creoleness  folktales  writing  salmanrushdie  vikramchandra  junotdíaz  edwidgedanticat  edgarallanpoe  johnbarth  fancineprose  criticalwriting  howwewrite  literacy  multiliteracies  dialect  rhythm  patrickchamoiseau  caribbean  africa  asia  colonialism  english  alicewalker  imperialism  gishjen  jamesbaldwin  tonimorrison  tiphanieyanique  zzpacker  showdon'ttell  sandracisneros  roxanegay  ajeshparameswaran  négritude  papacésaire  haiti  aural  oral  sight  brevity  clarity  grammar  fiction  aimécésaire  martinique  léopoldsédarsenghor  léondamas  postcolonialism  louis-ferdinandceline  latinamerica  indigenous  canon 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Metafoundry 68: Specific Diseconomy
"ON LONDON: Not surprisingly, I’ve been asked a number of times to reflect on my experience in London. There were the minor details, like how signing for a credit card now feels like the past to me, chip-and-PIN like the present, and contactless still feels like the future (and I’m sad that the utility of contactless is severely compromised in the US because tips aren’t normally included in bills). Between the Brexit referendum fallout, the snap election, the Manchester and London Bridge attacks, and the Grenfell fire, it felt like an eventful and consequential six months in the UK. But what was most striking to me about living in London was how steeped the city is in colonialism and empire.

Most of my days in London were spent on a north-south axis that ran from Somerset House on the bank of the Thames (where I was working with design consultancy Superflux and with collaborators at King's College London), through Holborn where my gym was located, to University College London (established 1826, ending the four-hundred-year duopoly in English higher education held by Oxford and Cambridge, and to which King's was established in response), and the British Library. A friend of mine laughed at this, noting that my stomping grounds would be instantly recognizable to Victorians.

The walk from my gym to Somerset House (built at the end of the 18th century, and the administrative centre of England and its empire during the 19th century) took me past India House, opened in 1930 to house the administration for the subcontinent. It’s decorated with crests for different regions, and I found the one for the North West Frontier Province, where my parents were born and where my father lived until Partition, when his family relocated from newly-formed Pakistan to newly-reconfigured India, as part of what is likely to have been the largest migration in human history. Between my family history and my own life in Canada and the US, I describe myself as a British colonial four times over, which no doubt shaped my perspective. As well as the gorgeous administrative buildings, the Victorian public engineering that Britons take justifiable pride in was paid for out of the coffers of Empire. Bazalgette’s pioneering sewer system for London (built between 1859 and 1865) was an enormous public good paid for with public funds, because of the success of the imperial project, although it was almost more depressing to learn that it's since been privatized as Thames Water. Nearly half of Brits are proud of colonialism and think it was a good thing, and it inarguably was, if you’re British. Estimates by historians suggest that India accounted for about a quarter of the world’s economic output before 1700; a few years after Independence, it had dropped to less than 5%. Even the much-vaunted Indian railroads were primarily a moneymaking scheme for British companies, who maintained ownership and kept the profits, while Indian taxes backed the returns guaranteed to British investors.

I’m most familiar with India, because of my family history, but by far the most telling indicator of how colonialism transferred wealth away from local populations to England is to look at the list of former colonies: with only a few exceptions, the former colonies that are wealthy (like Canada, the US, Australia, and New Zealand) are the ones where the original inhabitants and societies were largely wiped out and supplanted by Europeans. The rest of the former Empire, the places where descendents of the original residents still comprise the bulk of the population, are desperately poor. Even if you don’t look at any other metric, this is still prima facie evidence for colonialism as an unprecedented transfer of wealth.

[I don’t think I go a day without thinking about how my family moved from one type of colony to the other, how that means that I grew up with all of the benefits of being on the right side of Empire, and that my society is built on a hill of skulls.]

I worked out of the Science Reading Room at the British Library, across the hall from the Asian collection. There was a large sign that read, “Learn more about your ancestors in India!” I was halfway through the small text before I realised, tipped off by the references to baptismal and pension records, that they didn’t mean my ancestors. On the Tube, I’d see ads for Las Vegas, ‘where your accent is an aphrodisiac’ (which is utterly absurd until you realize that it's a vestige of imperial propaganda); for the Crown Jewels, ‘Every stone tells a story’ (Prime Minister David Cameron refused requests to return the Koh i Noor diamond to India, on the grounds that if the UK ‘says yes to one, you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty’); for Fever Tree tonic water, ‘We go to the ends of the earth’ to find the quinine (tonic water was created in the early 19th century to make the antimalarial palatable to British officials stationed in Africa and India). In front of the Tate Britain, a bollard at the edge of the Thames indicates where ships would tie up to transport prisoners to Australia from Milbank Prison, which was torn down to build the museum. Outside London, Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry has an entire floor devoted to ‘Cottonopolis’ and how the industrial production of the region was the source of much of England’s wealth, in which there is literally one sentence about slavery and no mention of the destruction of the Bengali textile industry (nor the larger deindustrialization of India). I posted an excerpt about the word ‘pukka’ from a book about stepwells in India on my Instagram feed, and a stranger demanded to know where Jamie Oliver got the word from if it was Hindi. [While many of my examples are from India, other parts of the world have their own stories.]

If you've followed the links, you'll see that almost all of my citations are UK news outlets; it's not that there aren't lots of people in the UK who understand the full impact of colonialism. It's just that it's hard for me to understand how, if you've ever seen a list of famines in India under British rule, you could ever believe that colonialism was a good thing, or that it should be reflected in ads to sell me tonic water."

[See also: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:dc6ff8124465

"[M]y society is built on a hill of skulls" is the most visceral expression of this particular truth that I've ever heard. https://twitter.com/debcha/status/911689430347415558 "
https://twitter.com/jkriss/status/911691879799865344

"Of course, my joke cortex goes straight for this: https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/things-this-city-was-built-on-besides-rock-n-roll "
https://twitter.com/jkriss/status/911695089134481408 ]" ]
debchachra  2017  london  colonialism  capitalism  india  uk  history  society  inequality  imperialism  england  canada  britain  britishempire  globalization  europe  globalsouth 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Girls of the global South can’t fix the world alone | Aeon Ideas
"Generally, the international development community sees rather particular ways of being a girl as healthy and modern. In short, empowered, modern girlhoods are marked by individualism and entrepreneurship, consumerism, delayed marriage and motherhood, participation in the wage-labour market, and positive public expressions of sexuality. It’s a model of girlhood most associated with the white, middle-class experience. In contrast, girls living in poverty, in rural areas or in neighbourhoods rife with violence, crime or drugs find themselves classified as ‘at-risk’, ‘backward’ or ‘failed’ girls. So are girls who prioritise the wellbeing of their faith communities and families, and who value solidarity over individualism. But, all is not lost – education, empowerment and/or leadership projects posit that failed girls can be transformed into empowered, modern girls.

My research in Pakistan, however, highlights women and girls for whom the white, Western liberal ideal of girlhood is neither possible nor desired. These girls viewed waged work not as a ‘choice’ or a ‘right’ but as a form of compulsion, primarily because the work opportunities available to them are often contingent and highly exploitative. They called for strengthening local systems of support, including faith-based governance bodies, councils and civil society organisations. The Western international development community typically deems such institutions as patriarchal, oppressive and unaware of ‘best practices’. However, my participants found these organisations supportive, especially when public/state-sponsored social services were absent. It is these local organisations that step in when development agencies leave or are unable to sustain projects.

No one is suggesting that all local organisations are exemplars of gender justice – the jirga (village council) who ordered the murder this May of 16-year-old Ambreen in Abbottabad for helping her friend escape the village to marry is clearly not! What I am suggesting, however, is that there are many ways of being a girl. Surely, if girlhood is important, and girls are important, then girls and women in the global South also deserve a say in what kind of life they want, and how to live it.

In practice, the attention on the figure of the girl makes social development appear as yet another individualised project. It avoids attention on the structures, systems and networks that actually produce the economic, social and political marginalisation of girls. For example, the search for new markets in Africa and Asia, corruption, colonial legacies, and the War on Terror all deepen poverty and displace hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people. But the international community asks girls to take personal responsibility for their welfare. For instance, Nike Foundation’s campaign Girl Effect portrays girls as ‘co-creators of new solutions’ to poverty. How are adolescent girls going to address state corruption and the War on Terror? No one is denying the agency of girls; indeed, I have documented such forms of resistance. However, we cannot expect girls to do this work in the absence of an authorising environment. Putting the onus of solving systemic problems such as poverty, terrorism and disease solely on girls, rather than calling for political solutions, is in reality contrary to the interest of girls.

The convergence on the figure of the girl should be greeted with skepticism. These campaigns tend to render invisible some of the biggest problems afflicting girls in the global South. In the case of Pakistan, for instance, we can begin by acknowledging the political and economic conditions that make the lives of girls and their families precarious. This would include advocating for living wages rather than simply ‘jobs’. It would involve protesting the exploitation of the country’s natural resources and its people by transnational capital. It would call for legal measures to provide safe working environments, and holding the Pakistani state accountable for re-investing in the enervated social service sectors. Ending the rampant corruption among the political elite, as demonstrated by the recent charges of money-laundering against the prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s family, would also help girls because it would help Pakistan. Not coincidentally, it is Sharif’s daughter who is leading USAID’s Let Girls Learn project in the country. As long as attention remains on girls, instead of elite corruption and exploitation, the revenue streams for the Sharif family remain open.

Effective feminism, feminism for the people instead of the elite one per cent, requires structural changes to political and financial institutions to improve the wellbeing of women and girls. We should not allow feminism to be reduced to window dressing that can be used to transform girls into flexible, low-paid and underemployed workers – the ‘human capital’ needed to reproduce current inequalities."

[also here: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/southasia/2016/08/12/for-many-women-and-girls-the-white-western-liberal-ideal-of-girlhood-is-neither-possible-nor-desired/ ]
policy  girls  gender  womanhood  colonialism  2016  globalsouth  politics  government  patriarchy  poverty  development  feminism  work 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems — The Development Set — Medium
"“If you’re young, privileged, and interested in creating a life of meaning, of course you’d be attracted to solving problems that seem urgent and readily solvable.”"

"Let’s pretend, for a moment, that you are a 22-year-old college student in Kampala, Uganda. You’re sitting in class and discreetly scrolling through Facebook on your phone. You see that there has been another mass shooting in America, this time in a place called San Bernardino. You’ve never heard of it. You’ve never been to America. But you’ve certainly heard a lot about gun violence in the U.S. It seems like a new mass shooting happens every week.

You wonder if you could go there and get stricter gun legislation passed. You’d be a hero to the American people, a problem-solver, a lifesaver. How hard could it be? Maybe there’s a fellowship for high-minded people like you to go to America after college and train as social entrepreneurs. You could start the nonprofit organization that ends mass shootings, maybe even win a humanitarian award by the time you are 30.

Sound hopelessly naïve? Maybe even a little deluded? It is. And yet, it’s not much different from how too many Americans think about social change in the “Global South.”

If you asked a 22-year-old American about gun control in this country, she would probably tell you that it’s a lot more complicated than taking some workshops on social entrepreneurship and starting a non-profit. She might tell her counterpart from Kampala about the intractable nature of our legislative branch, the long history of gun culture in this country and its passionate defenders, the complexity of mental illness and its treatment. She would perhaps mention the added complication of agitating for change as an outsider.

But if you ask that same 22-year-old American about some of the most pressing problems in a place like Uganda — rural hunger or girl’s secondary education or homophobia — she might see them as solvable. Maybe even easily solvable.

I’ve begun to think about this trend as the reductive seduction of other people’s problems. It’s not malicious. In many ways, it’s psychologically defensible; we don’t know what we don’t know.

If you’re young, privileged, and interested in creating a life of meaning, of course you’d be attracted to solving problems that seem urgent and readily solvable. Of course you’d want to apply for prestigious fellowships that mark you as an ambitious altruist among your peers. Of course you’d want to fly on planes to exotic locations with, importantly, exotic problems.

There is a whole “industry” set up to nurture these desires and delusions — most notably, the 1.5 million nonprofit organizations registered in the U.S., many of them focused on helping people abroad. In other words, the young American ego doesn’t appear in a vacuum. Its hubris is encouraged through job and internship opportunities, conferences galore, and cultural propaganda — encompassed so fully in the patronizing, dangerously simple phrase “save the world.”"



"We are easily seduced by aid projects that promise play. The SOCCKET, an energy-generating soccer ball, made a splash in 2011 when it raised $92,296 on Kickstarter. Three short years later, the company that created it wrote to its backers: “Most of you received an incredibly underwhelming product with a slew of manufacturing and quality control errors… In summary, we totally f*#ked up this Kickstarter campaign.”

Reading their surprisingly candid mea culpa, I couldn’t help but wonder where the equivalent message was to the kids in energy-starved areas whose high hopes were darkened by a defunct ball.

In some cases, the reductive seduction can actively cause harm. In its early years, TOMS Shoes — which has become infamous for its “buy one give one” business model, wherein they give a pair of shoes for every one sold — donated American-made shoes, which put local shoe factory workers out of jobs (they’ve since changed their supply chain).

Some development workers even have an acronym that they use to describe these initiatives: SWEDOW (stuff we don’t want). AIDWATCH, a watchdog development blog, created a handy flow chart that helps do gooders reality check their altruistic instincts. It begins with the simplest of questions — “Is the stuff needed?” — and flows down to more sophisticated questions like, “Will buying locally cause shortages or other disruptions?”

Second, the reductive seduction of other people’s problems is dangerous for the people whose problems you’ve avoided. While thousands of the country’s best and brightest flock to far-flung places to ease unfamiliar suffering and tackle foreign dysfunction, we’ve got plenty of domestic need."



"I understand the attraction of working outside of the U.S. There’s no question that the scale and severity of need in so many countries goes far beyond anything we experience or witness stateside. Why should those beautiful humans deserve any less of our best energy just because we don’t share a nationality?

(And I’m not arguing that staying close to home inoculates kids, especially of the white, privileged variety, like me, from making big mistakes.)

But don’t go because you’ve fallen in love with solvability. Go because you’ve fallen in love with complexity.

Don’t go because you want to do something virtuous. Go because you want to do something difficult.

Don’t go because you want to talk. Go because you want to listen.

Don’t go because you loved studying abroad. Go because, like Molly Melching, you plan on putting down roots. Melching, a native of Illinois, is widely credited with ending female genital cutting (FGC) in Senegal. But it didn’t happen overnight. She has been living in and around Dakar since 1974, developing her organization, Tostan, and its strategy of helping communities collectively address human rights abuses. Her leadership style is all about finely calibrated moments of risk — when she will challenge a local leader, for example — and restraint — when she will hold off on challenging a local leader because she intuits that she hasn’t yet developed enough trust with him. That kind of leadership doesn’t develop during a six-month home stay.

The rise of the social entrepreneurship field in the last few decades has sent countless young people packing across continents. In 2015, global nonprofit Echoing Green received 3,165 applications for about 40 fellowship spots, the majority of them from American applicants interested in social change abroad. For the last decade, recent college grads have been banging down the doors at places like Ashoka and Skoll World Forum, both centers of the social entrepreneurship universe, and SOCAP, focused on impact investing. And, to be sure, a lot of those grads are doing powerful work.

But a lot of them, let’s be real, are not. They’re making big mistakes — both operationally and culturally — in countries they aren’t familiar with. They’re solving problems for people, rather than with, replicating many of the mistakes that the world’s largest development agencies make on a much smaller scale. They drop technology without having a training or maintenance plan in place, or try to shift cultural norms without culturally appropriate educational materials or trusted messengers. Or they’re spending the majority of their days speaking about the work on the conference circuit, rather than actually doing it.

This work can take a toll on these young, idealistic Americans. They feel hollowed out by the cumulative effects of overstating their success while fundraising. They’re quietly haunted by the possibility that they aren’t the right people to be enacting these changes. They feel noble at times, but disconnected from their own homes, their own families, their own friends. They burn out.

There’s a better way. For all of us. Resist the reductive seduction of other people’s problems and, instead, fall in love with the longer-term prospect of staying home and facing systemic complexity head on. Or go if you must, but stay long enough, listen hard enough so that “other people” become real people. But, be warned, they may not seem so easy to “save.”"

[Two responses:
https://medium.com/the-development-set/the-global-development-long-game-a1a42b8c67ee#.36h0y6rtl
https://medium.com/the-development-set/the-hand-that-gives-9187a8ccfcd0#.3x4h3miel ]
courtneymartin  designimperialism  humanitariandesign  problemsolving  colonialism  solvability  2016  privilege  virtue  complexity  mollymelching  roots  culture  idealism  cznnaemeka  guns  homelessness  homeless  prisons  criminaljusticesystem  tomsshoes  aidwatch  globalsouth  disruption  charitableindustrialcomplex  socialentrepreneurship  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  capitalism  power  control 
january 2016 by robertogreco
The City of the Global South and its Insurrections: Algiers, Cairo, Gaza, Chandigarh, and Kowloon | THE FUNAMBULIST MAGAZINE
"On November 10th, I was invited by friend Meriem Chabani to give a small lecture in Paris in the context of the exhibition New South that she curated around six architecture students’ thesis projects engaging cities of the Global South in Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Burkina Faso, Morocco and the Canaries. I started writing a digest of this presentation here the next day but the Nov. 13 attacks occurred and I am profoundly sadden to announce that, Amine Ibnolmobarak, the brilliant and kind author of the project for Mecca in this exhibition, was killed in the shootings. Despite the shock of this news and the difficulty to mourn in the maddening noise of the journalistic and political state of emergency, his friends gathered around his family, and remembered with emotion his life in the great hall of the Beaux Arts school last Friday.

The City of the Global South and its Insurrections: Algiers, Cairo, Gaza, Chandigarh, and Kowloon ///

This presentation constitutes a rather shallow examination of five cities’ reciprocal influence between their urban fabric and their insurrections and counter-insurrections operations. In order to make the presentation clearer, I produced a few new maps and thus propose to include my slides here, as well as a few notes to explain them."



"CONCLUSION ///

The criminalizing discourses that took the Kowloon Walled City for object as well as its inhabitants, even if based, to a certain degree on a actual facts, is common to all neighborhoods presented here. These discourses construct an imaginary of these neighborhoods that prepares the policed and/or militarized interventions against the urban fabric and its inhabitants. The insurrections evoked throughout this presentation are sometimes less the historical accomplishment of their inhabitants than a narrative forced upon them in order to (re)gain the full political control of these urban formations. As described in another recent article, the rhetorical use of “bastions” or “strongholds” to talk about these neighborhoods or other similar ones, contributes (more often than not, deliberately) to their transformation or demolition orchestrated by the State, sometimes including the very lives of their inhabitants (like in the case of Gaza)."
algiers  algeria  cairo  egypt  gaza  palestine  chandigahr  india  kowloon  hongkong  china  northafrica  asia  globalsouth  léopoldlambert  cartography  history  cities  urban  urbanism  architecture  design  insurrection  colonialism  decolonization  colonization  lecorbusier  battleofalgiers  alilapointe  tahrir  tahrirsquare  militarization 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Failures of Our Global Imagination | Civicist
"The problem with first world problems, and why we need to shift the way we talk about global tech"



"It’s time to abandon the First World/Third World dichotomy. Whether or not this dichotomy was a helpful one at some point in the past, it’s no longer helpful now. The “Third World” has glittering skyscrapers and glowing smartphones, and the “First World” has decaying neighborhoods and entire swaths of the country without broadband. There are very real and important differences between rich and poor countries, and these dynamics play out at the level of international relations, all the way down to the mundane and often humiliating work of applying for visas. But this framing creates a divide that limits our capacity to understand the vast spectra of the way human beings live in the 21st century. I don’t yet have a better vocabulary for this, but I hope someone smarter than me can figure that out. For now, I do use the phrases “developing world,” “global south,” and “poor countries,” but I’d like to have a better framework. Any suggestions?

Remember the diversity of ways we use communications technology: that includes connecting with people we care about and depend on. In contrast to narratives about vanity, slacktivism, and luxury when it comes to tech in the middle-class West, so much of the conversation about technology in the global south focuses on information and practical communications, like around agricultural trends and educational material. This is good and important work. But highly pragmatic use cases are just part of the reason anyone has used communications technology. Informal markets from Asia to Africa are filled with music and movies, like a Bluetooth-powered Napster, and people are just as likely to send text messages and Facebook posts to check in with friends and loved ones as they are to access important healthcare information and market reports. These things can coexist.

Like a city, the internet and mobile phones provide for a vast diversity of human needs, which include the basic human need for companionship, support, and access to joy in the face of suffering. Fortunately, this part of the global imagination doesn’t require too much effort: Just think of how everyone you know uses technology, the number of apps, the different ways they laugh, smile, cry, and scowl at what they see behind those plates of glass.

Shifting the narrative is such a critical part of the motivation behind my work with global internet cultures, and the above are just a few ideas for how I think we can do that. But more important than trying to know everything about the world is establishing a culture of knowing that we don’t know. The assumption that we can parachute into a foreign culture with formal expertise and knowledge and make things better has never been acceptable, and it has led to a lot of unnecessary suffering, especially in colonized countries. The fact that people in marginalized parts of the world can now call out misguided attitudes and perceptions about them will go a long way, and those of us with access to media and policy can do well to amplify and extend these voices.

But it is also not possible to know every detail about other people’s lives. Attention is limited, as is time. We can learn everything we can about the day to day of rural Laos, but the conflict in Mali will seem completely opaque. Instead, it’s more important to know that we don’t know, know that we need to listen to those who have greater familiarity, and to know that there are ways to go further. Adopting an attitude of humility and curiosity can take us much farther than an attitude of assuredness and assumption. This seems to me like a good place to start—and if you have other and better ideas, I’d love to hear them."

[Also posted here: https://medium.com/@anxiaostudio/failures-of-our-global-imagination-8648b2336c2c ]
anxiaomina  firstworldproblems  internet  thirdworld  firstworld  diversity  slacktivism  vanity  luxury  technology  globalsouth  communication  asia  africa  latinamerica  mobile  phones  smartphones  selfies  advocacy  refugees  2015  privilege  narrative  empathy  thirdworldproblems 
october 2015 by robertogreco

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