Category Archives: Political, Economic and Urban Sociology

Don’t Quote Me On This!

Here is a photo I took of an elderly woman in Jandiayacu. She is one of very few people (possible only five remaining) who speak and have a deep knowledge of the Sapara Language. The knowledge of Sapara people is not written down; it is an oral tradition that has been recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

 

I am not going to cite, quote or reference anyone in this post, and I wonder if that will change the opinion of those who read it. Does citing someone else make what I write more valid, more accurate or more valuable? Citation and referencing are an important part of academic writing; it is a painstaking, laborious and often frustrating process that is, unfortunately, unavoidable. Of course, I understand why it is necessary. When communicating ideas or concepts it is useful to use citations to provide signposts to our readers should they want to know about something in more depth or detail. It is also important when we are talking about ‘facts’, particularly historic occurrences, statistics or things people have (supposedly) said. But there is another side to this practice that is more of a burden on the writer than it ought to be. (more…)

Going Out of My Mind in Jandiayacu

 

The Airstrip in Jandiayacu

This is a photo I took in July, 2014, during my fieldwork in Jandiayacu. Jandiayacu is a Sapara community in the Amazonian region of Ecuador. It is accessible only by plane or a difficult journey on foot and by canoe, which takes several days.  (click for full size image)

 

So often we talk about being rational, making decisions based on established facts and existing knowledge, as if it is, and should be, the aim of all people at all times. Ways of being or knowing that sit outside of accepted knowledge can open a person up to being dismissed, discredited or ridiculed, particularly in the academic world. Anybody who knows me knows that I am a somewhat methodical and ‘rational’ person (most of the time). I love questions and puzzles and finding answers, and I struggle with things being disorganised, chaotic or inefficient. This is probably why I have found beginning my research with the Sapara nation, an Indigenous people here in Ecuador, so difficult. (more…)

Is England’s World Cup failure symptomatic of Capitalism’s malfunction?

The Premiership Trophy

Football is England’s national sport. It’s played in every city, town and school in the country. The English Premier League is the richest league in the world. For millions of English fans who contribute this wealth, watching football either live or on TV is effectively a costly tax on their devotion to their club. Why then does England lose to smaller nations with fewer players and less money to invest in talent? (more…)

The “Sharing Economy”: is sharing really caring?

By krzyboy2o (milkshake anyone? Uploaded by JohnnyMrNinja) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The ‘sharing economy’ is on the rise and it might just revolutionise the way we buy and sell things.  It’s a fascinating new development, which one one hand may be seen as empowering and anti-corporate, or alternatively, as a threat to existing small businesses; a means for deepening existing inequalities of ownership; or something which appears vulnerable to the very corporations it seeks to replace. It’s also known as ‘collaborative consumption’ or the ‘peer-to-peer economy’, but whatever you want to call it, it’s pretty likely that you have already been a consumer or maybe even a ‘provider’ in this emerging marketplace. If like me, you’ve used a car-share website, or rented out a room in a stranger’s house, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

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UKIP and ‘The Wrong Type of Immigrant’

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Source: http://www.ukip.org/ukip_reveals_new_billboard_design

It remains to be seen if a surge in support for the right-wing nationalist UK Independence Party fulfils its mainstream media billing “as a seismic shift in the political landscape”. Voter turnout was low; around 34%, and, ironically, given UKIP’s obsession with Europe’s threat to Britain’s legislative sovereignty, there were few domestic policy issues at stake. UKIP has little meaningful to say about, for example, schools or the health service. Its self-defining agenda is to prevent immigration. (more…)

Removing the homeless from the streets

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The New York City Rescue Mission recently posted a video on their website of a social experiment examining whether or not a person would recognize his/her own family member dressed to appear homeless. To no surprise, the test subjects did not recognize their family member as they walked past them on the street. Watching the powerful video not only puts homelessness into perspective for those individuals who did not recognize their own family, but also raises questions for all of us as to whether we pay attention to the homeless. In the United States the homeless are often associated with negative connotations. Our constructed realities of the homeless consist of dirty, lazy individuals who are likely drunk, on drugs, and/or mentally ill who commits crime to survive. These negative meanings attached to have serious consequences for how we should respond to the homeless, typically guiding punitive policies that interweave narratives of homeless persons and public health issues (Amster, 2003). The associated negative connotations with the homeless provide the public with a basis to remove the homeless from public space in the name of safety. (more…)

Men and Global Gender Justice

A side-event at the 2012 meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Attribution: Silje Bergum Kinsten/norden.org via Wikimedia Commons

A side-event at the 2012 meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Attribution: Silje Bergum Kinsten/norden.org via Wikimedia Commons

The Huffington Post recently ran an article by Juliana Carlson, Assistant Professor of Social Welfare at the University of Kansas and member of the Mobilizing Men in Violence Prevention research collaboration, on the topic of men’s global engagement in the prevention of violence against women and girls.  She argues that “men and boys have been largely relegated to the sidelines of violence preventions efforts” but that a growing movement “aims to create structural change by engaging boys and men in conversations about equality, gender expectations, family health, fatherhood, and the concrete, positive roles they can and do play, such as sharing caregiving and being a role model for younger generations.”  The proliferation of NGOs doing this crucial work with men and boys extends well beyond the prevention of violence against women and may signal a larger shift in human rights and global development discourse.  (more…)

Nudge yourself better: how to become your own Choice Architect

switch

By: Adam Gault
Collection: OJO Images
http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/

My PhD research is about changing people’s behaviour  – how to make people lead better, greener, more sustainable lives. A key part of my outlook is how insights from so-called ‘Nudge’ theory might be used to foster change in individuals. Who better to use as an individual case study, than myself?

The basic premise of Nudge is that we can improve people’s behaviour not just through the old-fashioned interventions of the State like taxing things or making things illegal: ‘shoving’ people to comply; but by subtly ‘nudging’ people to make better choices, whilst still allowing them the freedom to make bad ones. The book titled ‘Nudge’ by Sunstein and Thaler has become a bestseller since it was published in 2008, and Nudge (also known by its fancier academic name of ‘Libertarian Paternalism’) has quickly become a mainstream policy discourse in many western countries. In the UK’s coalition government it seems to have found an especially receptive audience.

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The Crimean War of Signatures

 

Source: ft.com

 

On March 18, Vladimir Putin signs a treaty with his Crimean counterpart Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov to welcome Crimea into the Russian Federation after the referendum on March 16.

On March 20, Obama signs an executive order to impose sanctions on senior officials of the Russian government as well as an additional agreement allowing sanctions on ‘key sectors of the Russian economy’.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman, the prevalence of heroin and the experience of homeless drug users

Source: http://www.emcdda.europa.eu

 

Just about four weeks ago the public was shocked: Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his New York apartment. But what most people talked about after the first trauma was not only that the world had lost a great actor. It was the needle in Hoffman’s arm.

Hoffman had suffered from drug and alcohol problems earlier in his life. The public knew about that. Most people, however, believed him clean for the last 23 years. Hoffman himself was in fact not reluctant to talk about his addiction in more straightforward and honest ways. As he told the Guardian in 2011:

“I know, deep down, I still look at the idea of drinking with the same ferocity that I did back then. It’s still pretty tangible. I had no interest in drinking in moderation. And I still don’t. Just because all that time’s passed doesn’t mean maybe it was just a phase.” (more…)