Posts tagged ‘history’

Some Things I’ve Written, or I’m Still Alive

By , 29 September, 2015, No Comment

Though I’ve been very quiet on here since starting my PhD, I have actually been commenting quite a bit elsewhere on these here interwebs. For those who aren’t on Twitter (where I do extensive self-promotion in between posting pictures of my food), here are some things I’ve blogged.

I’ve been writing a regular monthly column for the website SciDev.net (who cover the intersection of science, technology and development) on the role of the private sector in development. I’ve covered:

Fairtrade and other attempts at ethical consumption will probably not work, even if they make us feel better about ourselves

Automation imperils employment in the developing world. Anthropologist James Ferguson’s has bold (but ultimately unworkable) vision for a society without jobs.

India’s new ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ law mandating firms donate to social projects is really an inefficient tax on corporate revenue, and a step backwards.

The best way to empower women in business might not be the C-suite, but the supply chain: hire women-owned businesses to source your parts or supply consulting services.

India exploits a loophole in international trade law to sell cheap drugs to sub-Saharan Africa. If they change their policies under US pressure, poor Africans will suffer.

In a world of finite resources, one-shop oil, gas and mining towns are planning for the day when the goods run out. Companies should help.

I’ve also blogged a little bit for the blog of my department’s policy journal, which I briefly edited last year. Recent pieces include:

How the Iranian government charmed the Western press, and thereby saved the peace process.

Foreign correspondents lie, or how news organizations conceal the work of local fixers they employ in conflict zones.

What is capital, and how did capitalism survive the financial crisis? An interview with economist Geoffrey Hodgson.

I’ll try to remember to cross-post all future blogging here going forward, and maybe even find time to write some original pieces for this site again soon*.

Finally, I’ve been interviewed about my research over on BBC Radio 3. It’s a special episode on Indian history, so I’m talking about the East India Company, who are one of several key historical predecessors for the kind of contemporary corporate politics I’m researching for my PhD.

 

*Don’t hold your breath.

Why I am not a SlutWalker

By , 29 September, 2011, 2 Comments

On Saturday, I am going to SlutWalk. I have decided to attend the rally, where some of the walkers will give speeches explaining why they’re there, but not the march.

As someone worried that the feminist movement is losing steam, I am thrilled to see that feminist causes can still get people, especially young people, on the streets. And while I welcome the intention to combat a culture that feeds violence against women – that is a noble feminist cause if ever there was one – I am deeply uncomfortable with the way SlutWalk has framed that cause. Attending the rally allows me to be a friendly observer, to listen and try to understand, whereas marching felt like something I should do only if I felt, truly, that SlutWalk’s message was mine.

SlutWalk began as a response to the callous comments of a Toronto cop who told women that they could avoid sexual violence by covering up. He was voicing the idea, still common in some quarters, that a woman who dresses scantily or has sex often or with many partners has ceded her sexuality to the public sphere – it is now out there for anyone to use. She’s asked for it. Implied is the notion that most women don’t like sex, and therefore that affirmative consent – of a woman asking for sex explicitly when she wants it and not being forced to participate in it when she doesn’t – is impossible.

Affirmative consent was framed quite neatly in the 1970s with the slogan, “Whatever I wear and wherever I go, ‘yes’ means ‘yes’ and ‘no’ means ‘no,’ ” Because it requires people to understand female sexuality, affirmative consent has gotten a big boost from shows like Sex and the City, which, despite its flaws, helped mainstream the idea that women like sex too, and not just the vanilla kind you see written up in Cosmo‘s advice pages. In gender studies departments, this is often referred to as ‘sex-positivity.’ And it’s great.

What distinguishes SlutWalk is a decision to affirm female sexuality by appropriating the word so often used to degrade it: slut.

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Assorted Questions on Egypt

By , 3 February, 2011, 2 Comments

A quick post at Foreign Exchange laying out what I see as outstanding questions as we head into the wee hours, Cairo-time. Here’s hoping one of the intrepid reporters there right now takes some of these on:

…for the last few years, the key value of Egypt’s relationship to Israel has been economic: some $500 million worth of total trade in oil, food crops, consumer products, growing at a remarkable rate-roughly doubled since 2007 alone. If the political peace holds, but relations are frostier post-Mubarak, as Israeli representatives say they will be, and if the borders around Gaza tighten as a result, what happens to that trade? Or, will the dependency of populations in both countries on that trade prevent a political regression?

The reporters themselves seem to have become the story in the last 36 hours in a way that reminds me somewhat of the press crackdown in Pakistan in the waning hours of the Musharraf regime, but even more of the press evangelism of the 1830 revolution in Paris which old readers will know I spent some time mulling over many moons ago. Actually, what we’re witnessing across North Africa and the Middle East is somewhere in between the two, and I’m still working out how they fit together. Stay tuned.

Germany’s Radical Center

By , 7 October, 2010, No Comment

I’ve been off the blogs of late because of a Very Exciting Project that I’ll discuss when it’s ready. But I’m back, with a post on Foreign Exchange about the so-called German miracle:

The econo-world has been abuzz about Germany because the country has done a remarkable job outperforming its first world peers as it emerges from the Great Recession. Last quarter, it went on a 9% growth rampage. This year, it’s expected to grow over 3%, compared with less than 2% for the most of the developed world. When econo-wonks process those stats, they try to claim the success story as a victory for their preferred models, while constructing any downsides as failures of the other side. They are wrong to do so.

Instead, the argument I make in the post is that the German model is a happy historical accident. And as you may know, I enjoy arguing that history matters. But I also resist the notion that history is everything. So while I think it’s important to understand the present-day German economy as a product of its history, I don’t the like the argument–which smart people still make–that present-day Germany should make its decisions about the future on the basis of some guilt about its past.

Jaipur: Adventures in Time and Space

By , 13 February, 2010, 4 Comments

A few weeks ago, I took a weekend business-cum-pleasure trip down from Delhi to Jaipur. I was there to attend the Jaipur Literary Festival, a 5-day conference of writers, journalists and artists organized by Namita Gokhale (a great champion of Indian writers) and William Dalrymple (the dean of expats in India). But the Lit Fest has grown far beyond literature related to India into what might be the largest free gathering of its kind anywhere in the world.

I spent most of my time in newsy panels on everything from terrorism to regional politics to civil liberties, featuring such personal heros as Steve Coll, Lawrence Wright, Anne Applebaum, Asma Jahangir and Niall Ferguson. If 1% of their collective wisdom seeped into my brain, I’ll have done well.

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New Media = Back to Basics

By , 19 December, 2008, 1 Comment

Another interesting debate in class today, where I got a bit heated and yelled at some fellow classmates who were trashing news executives for “failing” to find a way to pay for what they see as the one true journalism–i.e. objective, general-interest and long-form. I tried to remind them that this model was a 20th century anomaly; for most of its history, journalism has been short, snappy, niche and opinionated. Why are we all hung up on mourning a fluke?

I don’t rejoice when old media companies go down; I think longtime professionals have a level of expertise that is more, not less, valuable in the emerging niche media world and I want them to stay in the field and on the airwaves. To do so, I believe we in media have to take the long view and recognize that the place media is headed looks an awful lot like the places we’ve been in the past, so we can calm down and drop this obsession with 1970s style reporting.

To that end, in addition to yelling at my classmates, I’m researching and writing about older media models that might serve as more relevant precedents: one model is the Victorian radical press, which I’ve described in today’s Columbia Journalism Review. This winter, I’ll be combing the 1830’s French press for another option. Where and when else should I be looking?

Plus ca change…

By , 26 September, 2008, No Comment

In my history of media course, we had a guest lecture by a young scholar of 18th century European print culture the other day. Dr. Will Slaughter is a protege of pioneering cultural historian Robert Darnton. Darnton basically maintains that there has always been a news media, because any spreading of information counts as news. The transitions from people gossiping in living rooms (c. 1700), to gossiping in streets (c. 1750), to writing down their gossip (c.1800), to videotaping that gossip (c. 1950) are technological superficialities. He denies that there’s any historical moment where mass media is born (and thus, denies any theories that link mass media to the rise of mass/democratic politics in the mid-19th century).

Slaugther applies Darnton’s theory to the present:

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Call me old-fashioned

By , 27 August, 2008, No Comment

I know we’re in the age of Web 2.0 now, where the pursuit of information gives way to the pursuit of links, ways to connect and think about information.

Call me old-fashioned, hungover from Web 1.0, but I still get a kick out of raw information troves like this project to digitize the Dead Sea Scrolls. One may wonder why, 10 years into the Internet Age, we still haven’t scanned and uploaded all the pre-web written material. Well, obviously, there’s a lot of it. But more importantly, most old documents can’t handle radiation and bright light. Which is why this project is so exciting. If this Israeli venture works out, and we apply the same technology to other ancient tomes of wisdom, we might finally get that universal library, the digital Alexandria, webheads have been heralding since 1995.