Showing posts from October, 2010

Corruption, consultants and contributions to academic life

I was part of an interesting seminar of the Nepal Study Group at the University of Trondheim/Norway last week. I presented and discussed with the audience via Skype which worked really well and I was able to listen to the other presentations and the discussion for three hours. It was great to be in Trondheim virtually and an important reminder about how relatively inexpensive technology can contribute to important academic exchanges. But this post is less about technology and more about one particular aspect that a Nepali participant raised in the discussion: How 'development' and its agencies are in his view 'corrupting' academics (and other parts of the elite) by hiring them as consultants.
After my presentation one Nepali member of the audience made a comment about how donor money has been 'corrupting' Nepal for a long time. This is a claim that I have often heard during my research and a point that was argued most prominently in Devendra Panday’ 'Nepal&#…

DIY aid: A report on a 'revolution' or merely an indication of how development journalism is changing?

Nick Kristof’s New York Times article on ‘venture philantrophy’ (D.I.Y. Foreign-Aid Revolution) made me think about the changing coverage of international development issues in the media, because as interesting as his case studies are, I do not think that they constitute a ‘revolution’ in foreign aid. Revolutions rarely start when the ‘Harvard Business School’ is mentioned in the third line of an article – but this more of an ironic remark on the side.  Nick Kristof certainly features three interesting, worthwhile initiatives that may be indicative of a new type of D.I.Y venture philantrophy, but deep down sound quite familiar to those who have been engaging with development issues for a while. I do not know the featured initiatives, but since I have been doing research on and in Nepal since 2002, I will focus on the initiative in Nepal to highlight some of my more critical remarks. The mere words ‘orphans-Nepal-primary school’ make me sigh a little bit. This is not exactly a revolutio…

Can Nepal escape the ritualisation of international peacebuilding?

This is a presentation I prepared and recorded with Camtasia for a conference in Kathmandu in July that I could not attend in person. The conference was entitled

Conflict, Transition and Possibilities for Peace in Nepal: challenges to engagement, practice and scholarship. The whole video is about 35 minutes long and covers four key areas:
What is ritualisation and why does it matter engaging with peacebuilding?The transnational work- and lifestyle of peacebuilding in the context of post-conflict Nepal The local discourse of engaging with peacebuilding rituals Critical, reflective and creative practice – how to challenge ritualsCan Nepal escape the ritualisation of international peacebuilding?
If you are interested in a pdf-handout or additional information just send me a message and I will share the presentation in a more accessible way.

Twittering your MA? Development studies, social media and challenging dominant discourses

During my small research project on ‘blogging development’ one issue that has come up a couple of times and that I had not thought about initially is how social media, i.e. Twitter and blogs, will change higher education in the development field. In short, the argument is that given the amount of information and the emerging sharing and debating culture how can a place like IDS (I just take IDS as an example, because I know it fairly well and know they appreciate critical debates) justify to charge £10,000 in fees for a 9-month course in England (which adds another £10,000 for living expenses and travelling-give or take)? As the MIT has started to put lectures and course materials online (interestingly enough, a year after the THE article, MIT now seems to contemplate to charge for its online content), why would you spend £20,000 on a social science-centred degree that primarily focuses on reading books and articles, writing essays and a longer dissertation at the end? I do not want t…

Why publishing aid data does not equal 'democratizing development'

I read Owen Barder’s comment on Robert Zoellick’s speech with interest, but I am hesitant to agree with the notion of ‘democratising development’ that he seems to find in the speech (interestingly, the comments section of this article is closed...). Zoellick was saying a few interesting, politically correct comments on aid transparency and, of course, nobody wants to disagree with him about the value of these endeavours. Nobody wants to see less data in the public domain or disagree that transparency is important. But this focus on data, on abstract numbers and seemingly neutral, objective statistics is by no means about to change development research or even ‘democratising development’. What is missing in Zoellick’s speech is the ‘institutional I’, the role of the organisation called World Bank, its internal discussions and use of the numbers rather than simply publishing numbers ABOUT developing countries. The underlying argument is that any aid organisation bases its programmes and…