Protestors gather outside the CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nations of Ecuador) in Quito, Ecuador.
Yesterday, in Quito, Ecuador, hundreds of Indigenous people from around the country, including those from the Amazon, the Sierra and the Coast, gathered outside the offices of CONAIE (the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador), in the north of the city, to continue the fight against a government plan to close the organisation’s headquarters. CONAIE is among the largest and longest standing Indigenous organisations in Ecuador, and its work focuses on defending the rights, territories, culture and lives of millions of Indigenous people who make up approximately 25% of the country’s population.
I am writing this blog post to encourage academics and activists from around the world to sign the open letter, drafted by CONAIE, in support of the organization and the indigenous peoples that it represents in their struggle to maintain control of the building, which is a key strategic part of the indigenous political community. (more…)
Since August in the UK we’ve been commemorating the outbreak of WW1. The various reasons for this memorialising overlap, but they can reflect an individual’s political Weltanschauung and attitudes to the Great War. For some, the 800,000+ Tommies who died sacrificed themselves in a heroic struggle against the forces of militaristic totalitarianism represented by Germany. While for others, the WW1 represents plutocrats sending young men to their deaths while many industrialists and manufacturers profited from Britain’s war economy only to then lead us, via economic ruin, to another war 21 years later.
There’s less cynicism about the Christmas Truce. This means it’s been hijacked by everyone from supermarkets to UEFA and restaged as a football match to market their values (incidentally there is little evidence any football match took place let alone one between German and British and Commonwealth troops). Although for many combatants the truce was primarily a magnanimous gesture to bury the dead, it was a reality and, indeed, in some sectors of The Western Front, it lasted for longer than Christmas. Troops in these instances were threatened with execution if they didn’t reengage in killing the enemy (for more listen to eyewitness accounts in the Imperial War Museum’s Archives). (more…)
*This is a guest post, written by Jo Byrne
Casual work and debt
According to a recent report by TUC, one in twelve people in Britain are in precarious employment with figures rising by 61.8% for men and 35.6% for women since 2008. That means that 1 in 12 people are living a life of economic insecurity, and, at this time of year, it also means that thousands of parents or grandparents will be uncertain if they can afford to buy gifts for their families at Christmas. Yet the pressure to consume (to eat, drink and be merry!) is so great that many will begin the new year in unmanageable debt, often as the result of short term payday loans: typically the only form of credit available to the most economically vulnerable in society.
I am lucky. In my adult life I have never been out of work for a significant period of time. But a few years ago, just before Christmas, I found myself jobless and desperate. I had returned from living abroad stone broke and up to my eyeballs in debt. I signed on for Job Seeker’s Allowance, which at the time (2010) was around £65 per week, and despite the fact that I was living a very modest life in a shared house, I was not able to make ends meet. Though I am grateful for the help I received from the government at that time, the amount of money provided is simply not sufficient to live with any real quality of life. In fact, according to a report by The European Council, it is not even enough to survive. While I was looking for work, I went further and further into my overdraft and using my ‘emergency’ credit card became a regular occurrence.
Fortunately, before things got too desperate, I received a call from a friend who had a senior position in a local call centre offering me a temp job over the Christmas period. (more…)
Image credit: PhD Comics www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1723
In a previous post (which can be found here), I mentioned the ‘impostor phenomenon’ and how I and many people I know who work in academia have experienced it in some form or another during their career. The ‘imposter syndrome’ (identified by Clance & Imes, 1978, pp. 1-2), the feeling that leads the self-declared impostors to believe that they are not intelligent and that anyone who thinks otherwise has simply been fooled, is usually accompanied by a fear that one day some significant person (a colleague, boss, parent, or partner) will catch them out and realize that they are a fraud. It is incredibly common among academics and is even more common among those who are not in the ‘elite’ category normally associated with academia, i.e. white, wealthy men. Thus, impostor phenomenon is particularly prevalent among women, ethnic minorities and/or any under represented populations (see e.g. Peteet, Brown, Lige & Lanaway, 2014).
As impostor phenomenon has entered mainstream discourses surrounding academic success (and failure), numerous books and articles (such as Clance, 1985, this Forbes article, or this advice for new students at MIT) attempt to offer ways to understand and deal with this newly acquired insecurity; the fear of failing because you feel like an impostor. Oftentimes, it is said that feeling like an impostor is something that we need to overcome, and that ‘faking it’ is an important part of doing so (for example, Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, 2012). This is almost certainly the case for people in academia who are undermining themselves unjustly, particularly women and first generation graduate students who tend to face significant internal barriers to success (see e.g. Gardner, 2013). I would argue, though, that in some instances (particularly in my own experience) feeling like an impostor can be a legitimate emotion, because that is exactly what we are.
Here is a picture of me and a Sapara boy taken on my camera by a girl in Jandiayacu, the Sapara community where I began my research.
Nobody really talks about how or why his or her research failed, or what you are supposed to do when you can see that the fieldwork you are in the middle of might be doomed. Those who decide to leave their research uncompleted rarely write up their experiences, and so the lessons that can be learnt about what not to do during your research, and how to avoid a similar outcome, are forever lost in the private notebooks of the ‘failed’ researcher (Wolcott, 2005, p. 214). I am sure I can’t be the first person to be six months into their fieldwork and be seriously doubting the entire process and already wondering if it is salvageable. So I have decided to write a post about why I think my research is going wrong. (more…)
The boundary demarcating literature and anthropology seems to be porous; frequently subject to incursions but nonetheless heavily policed. Two decades ago, in the midst of the ‘Science Wars‘, Stephen Reyna suggested rather unflatteringly that “the literary anthropologist’s final product appears to be her or his impressions of Others’ gossip.” For now, the tables seem to have turned. Very few anthropologists or sociologists interested in money, finance and accounting can have carried out their inquiries without encountering the work of Mary Poovey, a Professor of English. The anthropologist Jane Cowan has emphasized the extent to which novels can “speak to socio-historical-political analysis,” acting as a spur to research, while an upcoming conference at the University of Kent plans to explore how far Science Fiction can be used as a tool of anthropological analysis. So, this week, in the final installment for the ‘Capital Ideas’ mini-series, the subject is the treatment of kinship, capital and inequality in John Lanchester’s 2012 novel, Capital. (more…)
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…)
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…)
This week BBC News asked “can wearable tech make us more productive?” The news package covered a research project which has the broader purpose of investigating impact of wearable connected tech on every aspect of our lives. The umbrella term that (albeit loosely) confederates connected technology is the ‘Internet of Things’. Its advocates believe the Internet of Things is one of the most compelling ideas of the twenty first century. The original definition of the Internet of Things referred to inanimate objects that had an electronic product code so they could be inventoried. Now, thanks to IPv6 (which provides 3.4×1038 addresses on the Internet), as utility (or the market) demands it, all our everyday objects such as TVs, microwave ovens and cars can be allocated an address on the Internet and offer the potential to transmit and receive digital data. However, an IP address is not a prerequisite of the Internet of Things. The term can also refer to devices that have the potential to produce digital data for the Internet. This includes technologies of the ‘quantified self’, such as the GPS enabled sports watch I use for example. (more…)
[By Pete Souza (White House Flickr Account) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]
A few weeks ago, President Obama announced a new initiative
designed to increase opportunities for young Black and Latino men. Acknowledging that Black and Latino men lag behind other groups in educational achievement and employment, while outnumbering white men in jails and prisons, at first glance, the President’s “My Brother’s Keeper
” campaign seems like a much needed and timely project. However, when examining Obama’s rhetoric more closely, the initiative falls short of addressing the root causes and structural reasons for racial disparities in the US and instead perpetuates a neoliberal language of individual responsibility.