GW event: Why the World Bank Should Take a Human Rights Approach to Hydrodevelopment

Barbara Rose Johnston
Senior Research Fellow, The Center for Political Ecology, Santa Cruz, CA

This talk will address hydrodevelopment and its connections to crimes against humanity with reference to Chixoy dam in Guatemala.

When: October 23, 2013, 5:00-6:30pm

Where: 1957 E Street NW, Lindner Family Commons, 6th Floor
George Washington University, Washington, DC


Presented by the Culture in Global Affairs Seminar Series and the Global Policy Forum of GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs

Institute for Global and International Studies

Anthro in the news 5/13/13

• Go directly to jail: Prison sentence for Guatemalan dictator

Fundacion Myrna Mack
Official site.

Many major news media covered the sentencing of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt to a landmark 80 years in prison for genocide and crime against humanity. ABC News quoted Victoria Sanford, a cultural anthropologist at Lehman College, City University of New York, who noted that genocidal massacres occurred before and after Rios Montt, “but the bulk of the killing took place under Rios Montt.”

Sanford has spent about 50 months in Guatemala and participated in excavations in at least eight massacre sites. Several of the articles quote Helen Mack, a noted human rights activist, and sister of Myrna Mack, who was murdered in Guatemala in 1990 for her work on behalf of indigenous human rights .

• What would Paul Farmer say?

To Repair the World by Paul Farmer
U. of California Press

Time magazine carried an interview with medical anthropologist, medical doctor, professor, and health activist Paul Farmer, prompted by his new book, To Repair the World, a collection of his speeches including some of his commencement speeches.

The lead question is: “Are you ever tempted to tell graduates, ‘I could have saved thousands of lives with the money you spent on your degree?'”

Paul Farmer responds: “I don’t think of it that way. I think, Here’s a chance to reach out to people who probably are unaware — as I was at their age — of their privilege and to engage them in the work.” He was also interviewed on the Diane Rehm show.

• Presidential note of gratification

Leith Mullings, president of the American Anthropological Association, published an article in The Huffington Post, expressing her appreciation of President Obama’s acknowledgment of the importance of anthropology in a recent speech:

Leith Mullings
Leith Mullings

“As an anthropologist and president of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), I was especially gratified to hear President Barack Obama acknowledge the discipline of anthropology and support its scientific integrity. In a speech at the 150th anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences, President Obama said:

‘And it’s not just resources. I mean, one of the things that I’ve tried to do over these last four years and will continue to do over the next four years is to make sure that we are promoting the integrity of our scientific process; that not just in the physical and life sciences, but also in fields like psychology and anthropology and economics and political science — all of which are sciences because scholars develop and test hypotheses and subject them to peer review — but in all the sciences, we’ve got to make sure that we are supporting the idea that they’re not subject to politics, that they’re not skewed by an agenda, that, as I said before, we make sure that we go where the evidence leads us. And that’s why we’ve got to keep investing in these sciences.'”

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 5/13/13”

Washington, DC event on disaster response

Trends in Natural Disaster Response and the Role of Regional Organizations

Monday, April 22, 2013, 2:00 — 3:30 pm
The Brookings Institution, Saul/Zilkha Rooms, 1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC

Global demographic trends suggest that more people are living in areas vulnerable to sudden-onset natural disasters even as scientists predict that the frequency and intensity of these disasters are likely to increase as a result of the effects of climate change. These trends, coupled with recent high-profile mega-disasters like Hurricane Sandy and the drought in the Sahel, are raising global awareness of the need to build the capacity of national governments, civil society organizations and international actors to prevent, respond to and recover from natural disasters. The Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement’s third annual Review of Natural Disasters outlines these major disasters in 2012 and key response opportunities, in particular the role of regional organizations. Although regional mechanisms are playing increasingly important roles in disasters, there has been remarkably little research on their role in disaster risk management.

Continue reading “Washington, DC event on disaster response”

New book: Climate change, indigenous peoples, and legal remedies

This extract is from a review in the blog PowerEngineering:

Elizabeth Kronk, associate professor of law and director of the Tribal Law & Government Center at KU, has co-edited Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: The Search for Legal Remedies with Randall S. Abate, associate professor of law at Florida A&M University. The editors gathered work from a collection of legal and environmental experts from around the world, many of whom hail from indigenous populations. Their entries examine how climate change has affected indigenous peoples on numerous continents and how future legal action may help their cause.

“As far as I know it’s the only book of its kind,” Kronk said. “There are lots on climate change, but none that I know of that examine the effects of it on indigenous people. A lot of times when you hear about climate change people say ‘when or if this happens.’ Well, it’s already happening, and indigenous people especially are being forced to deal with it.”

The book examines climate change through an indigenous perspective in North and South America, the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand, Asia and Africa. The contributors, all either practicing lawyers or law professors, both explain the problems faced by indigenous populations and break down attempts to devise legal, workable solutions.

Upcoming event: State of the World 2013 book launch and symposium

On Tuesday, April 16, the Worldwatch Institute will release the latest edition of its annual flagship publication, State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible?, in Washington, D.C.

The event will feature some of the book’s key contributors, who will share their expertise and ideas on the three main themes of the book, discussing how the term “sustainability” should be measured, how we can attain it, and how we can prepare if we fall short.

Speakers will include:

Worldwatch President Robert Engelman and Project Co-directors Erik Assadourian and Tom Prugh

Contributing authors Jennie Moore of the British Columbia Institute of Technology, Pat Murphy of the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions, and science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson

The symposium will take place from 1:30 to 5:00 p.m. on April 16 at 1400 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036. A reception with food and refreshments will follow the event. Space is limited, RSVP here . You can also pre-order a copy of the book here.

Email Grant Potter at if you have any questions.

The 64 best cultural anthropology dissertations, 2012

See also the best cultural anthropology dissertations of 2011, 2010, and 2009.

Again, this year, I did a key term search in Dissertation Abstracts International to find dissertations completed in 2012 that address topics related to the anthropologyworks mission and heart.

Trophies. Flickr/Snap®

I searched for anthropology dissertations related to human rights, justice, migration, gender, health, violence, conflict, environment, and energy. As someone commented last year, this post could be called “Best cultural anthropology dissertation abstracts” since I do not read every dissertation listed. It’s true — I choose my favorites on the basis of their abstracts, assuming that an abstract does have something to do with the body of the dissertation.

So, here are my 64 picks for 2012: cultural anthropology dissertations, mainly in the U.S., that address issues that I think are really important. I am sorry that I cannot provide a more global list, since so many excellent and important dissertations are written outside the U.S./Canada. Maybe others will address this gap?

All the best to my readers, and Happy New Year 2013!

  1. Living in Limbo with Hope: The Case of Sudanese refugees in Cairo, by Gamal Adam. York University. Advisor Daniel A. Yon. This dissertation, about Sudanese refugees in Cairo, highlights the resilience and hope that distinguish refugees’ lives. The research has resulted in three key findings. First, the refugees have adopted a resource pooling strategy, which includes living in larger households, exempting the newcomers from rent and purchase of food for some time, and ensuring that the individuals who have more resources contribute more. Second, the traditional gender roles have changed and in some cases reversed, many spouses have separated, and children have lost the rights of play and education. Third, refugees are hopeful in celebrating events and setting plans for a better future despite the turbulent experiences they have gone through; most of them are resilient people who encourage each other and are rejuvenated by speeches delivered during various events which they celebrate.
  2. Documenting and Contextualizing Pjiekakjoo (Tlahuica) Knowledges through a Collaborative Research Project, by Elda Miriam Aldasoro Maya. University of Washington. Advisors: Eugene Hunn and Stevan Harrell. People in Pjiekakjoo (Tlahuica), Mexico, have managed to adapt to the globalized world. They have developed a deep knowledge-practice-belief system, Contemporary Indigenous Knowledges (CIK), that is part of the biocultural diversity of the region in which they live. I describe the economic, social and political context of the Pjiekakjoo, to contextualize the Pjiekakjoo CIK, including information on their land tenure struggles, their fight against illegal logging and policies governing the Zempoala Lagoons National Park that is part of their territory. The collaborative research is influenced by the ideas of Paolo Freire and, as a translational work, it draws on the New Rationality proposed by Boaventura De Sousa Santos that appeals for cognitive justice.
  3. Career Women in Contemporary Japan: Pursuing Identities, Fashioning Lives, by Anne Stefanie Aronsson. Yale University. Advisor William Wright Kelly. This dissertation explores what motivates Japanese women to pursue professional careers in today’s neoliberal economy and how they reconfigure notions of selfhood while doing so. I ask why and how it is that one-fourth of women stay on a career track, often against considerable odds, while the other three-fourths drop out of the workforce. I draw from interviews gathered during fieldwork in Tokyo between 2007 and 2010 with 120 professional women ranging in age from early twenties to mid-nineties. I organize these interviews along two main axes: the generation when each woman entered the workforce, and the work sector she entered. I look at five work sectors – finance, industry, entrepreneurship, government, and academia – that attract women because of the new career prospects that emerge as the sectors’ institutional policies change.
  4. “If ih noh beat mi, ih noh lov mi” [If he doesn’t beat me, he doesn’t love me]: An ethnographic investigation of intimate partner violence in western Belize, by Melissa A. Beske. Tulane University, advisor Shansan Du. I examine the cultural underpinnings which normalize gender-based intimate partner violence (IPV) in western Belize and efforts of local activists to diminish the problem. I use multiple methods to investigate why women in heterosexual dyads have come to begrudgingly accept or even justify abuse by their male partners with discourses that conflate “love” and “violence.” Joining forces with former NGO colleagues, I initiated a sustainable survivor assistance program. Continuing to incorporate new members since my time in the field, the group now offers occupational and educational assistance to survivors leaving abusive relationships, and the shelter has expanded as well and thus remains a vital resource for women across Belize and surrounding countries.
  5. Infected Kin: AIDS, Orphan Care and the Family in Lesotho, by Mary Ellen Block. University of Michigan, Advisor: Elisha Renne. This interdisciplinary dissertation in anthropology and social work examines the intersections of HIV/AIDS and kinship and its impact on orphan care and the family in rural Lesotho. It is based on fieldwork in the rural district of Mokhotlong, Lesotho. I find that HIV is a fundamentally a kinship disease and therefore: interventions for AIDS orphans need to include caregiver support; the household should be considered as a salient unit of analysis, evaluation and intervention; and biomedical or biocultural interventions for HIV/AIDS that need to incorporate the underlying theoretical framework of HIV as a kinship disease in order to be effective.
  6. Continue reading “The 64 best cultural anthropology dissertations, 2012”

A different kind of cooking show

For those of you (including me) who enjoy watching TV cooking contests, we know that the worst that can happen is that an aspiring winner is perspiring, or the presentation was chaotic, or the judges made nasty comments about the taste of one of the dishes.

For millions of women who cook family meals, especially in developing countries, the challenges are quite different. There is no panel of judges and no “time’s up” called out to arrest the work of the contestants in their well-equipped stainless-steely kitchen.

Rob Bailis speaks at the Elliott School of International Affairs, Nov 3, 2011.

Instead, there is a “killer in the kitchen” which calls time’s up for mothers and children who spend a lot of time inhaling cook stove fumes.

On November 3, Rob Bailis, assistant professor of environmental social science in the department of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University, gave a CIGA seminar entitled, “Arresting the Killer in the Kitchen: The Promises and Pitfalls of Commercializing Improved Cookstoves.”

Bailis took the audience on a rich and insightful tour of how improved cook stoves could have a major positive impact on women, children, and the environment. His talk drew on knowledge about the effects of various types of fuel for daily cooking on the cooks and the wider environment.

His slides included maps of types of household fuel in various regions of the world. He brought together data from the fields of environmental studies, public health, and local surveys.

He discussed the “energy ladder hypothesis” which says that as people get wealthier, they use cleaner fuels. As I was listening, I was thinking: okay, this doesn’t sound good for the earth, given the way the economy is going.

Another point to share is this: Bailis said that Western development experts have been pushing improved cook stoves for three decades but there is very little evidence about their effectiveness in terms of reducing health risks for cooks/children and reducing deforestation and other environmental problems.

China is the country to watch on improved cook stoves. Of the 200 million improved cook stoves in the world, 80 percent are in China. Let’s hear about the “best practices” there and how they might be replicated elsewhere.

Thirty years is a long time, especially without much to say in terms of what works. Time to switch channels and get back to the cooking throw-down.

Maybe we need a TV show about what works in development?

Update from Professor Rob Bailis:
In fact, there is evidence that some improved stoves certainly improve quality and, based on that, we can justifiably hypothesize that if families adopt such stoves and use them regularly, then their air quality will improve and their health risk will be reduced. More importantly, there is evidence of this – just last week (about a week after my presentation) a paper was published in the Lancet by Kirk Smith and his team. This reports the results of the first randomized control trial based on improved cookstove adoption. They found that the stoves they promoted reduced the incidence of severe forms of respiratory infection by around 30%. So the evidence exists. What is lacking is program-specific follow-up to understand whether a given intervention is resulting in effective and long-term stove adoption. But, like I hinted at in my talk, the carbon markets are having an interesting influence on project monitoring by creating elaborate protocols to make sure stoves are actually used.

Japan: Looking ahead to recovery

Guest post by Jin Sato

On April 4, 2011, the Asia Society and the Japan Society co-sponsored a Japan town hall meeting in New York City to discuss questions related to the recent earthquake. Several prominent experts constituted the panel which was moderated by Fred Katayama. Topics and questions for discussion were formulated by Jin Sato of the University of Tokyo and visiting democracy and development fellow at the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, Princeton University.

The event was taped and can be viewed by clicking on the image below.

Questions were clustered into three areas in order to generate broad discussion about the disaster’s impact on Japanese politics, economics and social life, as well as to assess the extent of the uniqueness and historical significance of the changes for the Japanese people, and for Japan as a nation:

1. Japan’s Reliance on Nuclear Energy: The Politics of Risk Sharing

Japan has only 20 percent self-sufficiency in primary energy supply and more than half of that is nuclear power. Historically, the main rationale for advocating nuclear power was to enable Japan to be more self-sufficient. More than 30 years ago, during the incidents of “oil shock” and petrochemical shortage in the 1970s, the Japanese people learned the lesson of dependence on fossil fuels. Given the magnitude of the ongoing catastrophe, questions such as these arise:

  • Is it time to question Japan’s dependence on nuclear energy as the primary domestic source of electric power?
  • Given this kind of catastrophe, is it appropriate for Japan to allow the private sector to continue to manage this kind of high-risk operation?
  • What should be the role of the government?
  • How do we democratically control high-risk operations?
  • Will a growing awareness of the inequitable distribution of risk lead to the Japanese public questioning of the reliance on nuclear energy?

2. The Future of the Japan Brand: Economic Fallout of the Disaster

Historically, the myth of superior Japanese technology has prevailed and even in this tragic series of events, the international community was shocked to discover the failure of the “failsafe” Japanese nuclear technology and safety mechanisms. Questions include:

  • Will this incident signal the beginning of the end to the myth of Japanese technological superiority?
  • What will be the impact of the current nuclear crisis on Japan’s reputation as a high-tech exporter and more generally on the “Japan brand”?

Continue reading “Japan: Looking ahead to recovery”