Announcement: Starting a New Job in September 2018

The time has come to make this news public — I am starting a new exciting job as an Assistant Professor (tenure-track) at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) in September 2018. ISS is located in The Hague although it is part of EUR. My responsibilities will include teaching in “Governance and Development Policy” Major, supervising Ph.D. students, conducting research and research funding acquisition and taking part in university administration.

ISS is an excellent institute where governance and development meet, and where the focus is placed at the developing world — both in research and education. No other university in The Netherlands can claim that the biggest majority of its students come from Africa, Latin America and Asia. This brings with it a great opportunity for exciting research from the perspective of Southern scholars/students, adding a much need diversity to the efforts to change the current unsustainable practices in the world. I am stepping down as a researcher at Utrecht University, but will maintain close links with the Environmental Governance group at Utrecht. I will remain Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

For communication — my Utrecht email will stop working from late August — thus it is best to write to my private email before I announce my new work email address.

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Can you design institutions for adaptive governance?

Professor Andreas Thiel from Kassel University and I published an essay in the “Handbook of Nature” this month. Our essay is titled: “Purposeful Institutional Change for Adaptive Governance of Natural Resources: How to Cater for Context and Agency?” It is about the issue of instituting rules for adaptive governance, and whether such design is possible. Drawing on the example of China and EU we claim that these attempts are necessary, but will not be deterministic in how such designs unfold and influence adaptive governance. Here is an extract from our introduction:

In recent decades, adaptive governance has been advocated for meeting the challenges of unpredictable and uncertain dynamics of Social-ecological Systems (SES) (Folke, 2006; Huitema et al., 2009). Scholars ascribe a multitude of virtues to adaptive governance, such as, for example, the preparedness of populations for disturbances associated with climate change (Pahl-Wostl, 2006). Adaptive governance stands for a set of meta-principles of governance which contribute to making societies less vulnerable to various shocks. What adaptive governance should look like has been discussed at length in the literature on SES (e.g. Huitema et al., 2009; Ostrom, 2010; Pahl-Wostl, 2008). However, little is known about how such adaptive governance emerges and how we need to think about purposeful institutional change in its regard. In this chapter, we want to specifically address these two issues. Hereby we argue that work on adaptive governance should to a greater extent focus on the role of agency in the emergence of adaptive governance in order to derive appropriate ways to bring the institutional dimensions of adaptive governance about. We develop this argument about deeper understanding of agency by discussing the emergence and functioning of polycentric governance, which is commonly seen as an essential part of adaptive governance.

To read the chapter — you can download it here.

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Western Political Science Association Conference in San Francisco

Next week from Wednesday to Saturday I will attend the WPSA meeting in San Francisco where I present a paper “Policy Translation: a Review of Current Research”. The programme of the conference is very exciting with many interesting panels in three sections of special interest — on public policy, environmental political economy and environmental politics. On Wednesday there is a whole day of workshop on Environmental Political Theory.

This would be my first American conference after a long time (2011) and a first American conference as such. My two other conferences were global that took place in America. So I am also curious to compare the approaches to science, although I do not expect too many differences in this globalised world.

If you are plan to attend WPSA — do get in touch so that we do not miss each other!

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Advice from Helen Ingram on Being in Academia for Early and Seasoned Scholars

In 2017, a double special issue of the Journal of the Southwest was published that celebrated the career of Dr. Helen Ingram (pictured) as a scholar, mentor and colleague. The special issue contains a number of essays written by world-class scholars in the U.S. and around the world and is a must-read for anyone interested in the subject of water policy and politics. Here is a recent review published in Water Alternatives about the Special Issue — a nice starting point to know what to read. Continue reading

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Отрывок из “Чумы” Альбера Камю

Когда Риэ добрался до своего старого пациента, мрак уже полностью поглотил небо. В комнату долетал отдаленный гул освобождения, а старик, все такой же, как всегда, продолжал перекладывать из кастрюли в кастрюлю свой горошек.
– И они правы, что веселятся. Все-таки разнообразие, –сказал старик.
– А что это давно не слыхать о вашем коллеге, доктор? Что с ним?
До них донеслись хлопки взрывов, на сей раз безобидные, это детвора взрывала петарды.
– Он умер, –ответил Риэ, приложив стетоскоп к груди, где все хрипело.
– А-а, – озадаченно протянул старик.
– От чумы, – добавил Риэ.
– Да, –заключил, помолчав, старик, лучшие всегда уходят. Такова жизнь. Это был человек, который знал, чего хочет.
– Почему вы это говорите? –cпросил доктор, убирая стетоскоп.
– Да так. Он зря не болтал. Просто он мне нравился. Но так уж оно есть. Другие твердят: «Это чума, у нас чума была». Глядишь, и ордена себе за это потребуют. А что такое, в сущности, чума? Тоже жизнь, и все тут.
– Не забывайте аккуратно делать ингаляцию.
– Не беспокойтесь. Я еще протяну, я еще увижу, как они все перемрут. Я-то умею жить.
Ответом ему были отдаленные вопли радости. Доктор нерешительно остановился посреди комнаты.
– Вам не помешает, если я поднимусь на террасу?
– Да нет, что вы. Хотите сверху на них посмотреть? Сколько угодно. Но они отовсюду одинаковы.
Риэ направился к лестнице.
– Скажите-ка, доктор, верно, что они собираются воздвигнуть памятник погибшим от
чумы?
– Во всяком случае, так в газетах писали. Стелу или доску.
– Так я и знал. И еще сколько речей напроизносят.
– Старик одышливо захихикал.
– Так прямо и слышу: «Наши мертвецы…», а потом пойдут закусить.
Но Риэ уже подымался по лестнице. Над крышами домов блестело широкое холодное небо, и висевшие низко над холмами звезды казались твердыми, как кремень. Сегодняшняя ночь не слишком отличалась от той, когда они с Тарру поднялись сюда, на эту террасу, чтобы забыть о чуме. Но сейчас море громче, чем тогда, билось о подножие скал. Воздух был легкий, неподвижный, очистившийся от соленых дуновений, которые приносит теплый осенний ветер. И по-прежнему к террасам подступали шумы города, похожие на всплеск волн. Но нынешняя ночь была ночью освобождения, а не мятежа. Там, вдалеке, красноватое мерцание, пробивавшееся сквозь темноту, отмечало линию бульваров и площадей, озаренных иллюминацией. В уже освобожденной теперь ночи желание ломало все преграды, и это его гул доходил сюда до Риэ.

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Happiness??

Happiness?

What do you think about this film? Is this capitalism? Consumerism? Human stupidity? Power? Or is this too gloomy a portrait and there is more to life than this ugliness? I am curious what you think!

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Nature, Humans and The Anthropocene (Video in Dutch)

WATCH VIDEO

After a long break, here I am posting again. I hope that the most loyal readers still check the website, but no problem — even those who have forgotten about its existence are likely to come back soon as exciting stuff is going to come online! Continue reading

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Travel if you want to be happy

BALI

Happiness is somewhat a mantra in our contemporary world. Everyone is chasing it. Some researchers say that one needs purpose to be happy (e.g. logo-therapy of Victor Frankl and those who follow his ideas), others claim that it is work and structure that brings routine and feeling of contentment (e.g. Weber’s work on protestant ethic). Every religion has its own view on happiness, and some argue that it does not exist beyond a moment, and that suffering as much needed for a fully lived life as happiness.

My key to happiness (or whatever comes close to it) is travel. It does not have to be far, and it does not have to be romantic or exotic. What matters is that one moves beyond a habitual area where routine has taken shape, and where one is confronted with the key questions on what is really important, that space to contemplate and see oneself from the outside. I have just completed 2 months of traveling, mostly for work, and a little for fun. Wait! My work is fun! So this distinction makes little sense!

Below are the pictures from the week long exploration of Bali, Indonesia at the end of the period. Captures would tell you where these were taken or what these stand for!

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Reflexivity, positionality and normativity in the ethnography of policy translation

A new chapter on the role of reflexivity, positionality and normativity in using ethnography to study policy translation as a process is now available in the form of proofs. The final version will be published in the book “Translation in World Politics” edited by Tobias Burger and Alejandro Esguerra. Continue reading

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United Nations Global Environmental Outlook 6

(Click on image to enlarge) Dr. Farhad Mukhtarov has been invited to join the flagship publication of the United Nations Environmental Programme — Global Environmental Outlook 6 as a lead author. He will work in a exciting team of scholars and practitioners from all over the world on the chapter called “Policy Effectiveness”. Continue reading

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Stories from the field!!! Water governance stories from Jerusalem, Sabadell, Leicester and Milton Keynes!

In less than 3 weeks I am setting out on my research trip to conduct an interpretive study of flood risk management policy at the local level in the city of Leicester, the UK. At the same time, I supervise three students who will conduct similar studies in three other cities, namely Roos Haasnoot in Jerusalem, Esme Arnott in Milton Keynes, and Rafaela Reznik in Sabadell Continue reading

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Central European University and Academic Freedom

Last week has been unprecedented in the history of the Central European University (CEU) — it was reported in the most prestigious media outlets such as The Guardian, The New York Times, Bloomberg, The Financial Times and many others. The reason for such an uproar is the tabled legislation in the Hungarian Parliament which would effectively make the operation of CEU in Budapest impossible.

The way CEU reacted reflects the leadership style of Michael Ignatieff who proved to be politically alert and enterprising, a quality rarely found in academics. In the times when rectors are usually appointed as managers and often come from the private sector, the decision to put Ignatieff in lead reflects a unique position of CEU in the liberal world of universities. It is undoubtedly this understanding of the importance of the “academic freedom” by Ignatieff the academic, that pushed him to react in such a broad and intense manner effectively invoking all available remedies to oppose the draft legislation. The media coverage, the diplomatic pressure from the US Embassy, the global academic movement garnered in support of CEU — these are the tools from his toolbox put in use.

CEU will win regardless of the outcome of the decision. It has already benefited from the unprecedented publicity and I would say it is perhaps a leader in the world in terms of combining academic excellence and societal engagement. It is an institution of highest quality you frankly do not find anymore in Europe. There is space to think and explore and there is money for scholarships with no immediate career pressures. As a Ph.D. student at CEU, I spent 4 and a half years researching a topic making use of an excellent library, world class speakers visiting the University (such as Bruno Latour, Joseph Stiglitz and many others) and taking up an opportunity to spend a year at the Oxford University in 2007/2008 — a unique opportunity open to CEU students in cooperation with the Opean Society Institute and the British Council. I did not publish articles while at CEU, but instead, I read broadly, made friends with people from dozens of countries and matured as a person and an academic. CEU is truly special in the way it triggers critical thinking that few other universities do.

Some time ago I reviewed an essay of Edward Said titled “On Defiance and Taking Positions”. It is about the role of a public intellectual in our society. The essay starts with the following paragraph:

Compared, say, to most African, Asian, and Middle Eastern Universities, the American university constitutes a relatively utopian space, where we can actually talk about the boundaries of the academy. In other universities in other parts of the world, of course, the academy is part of the political system and academic appointments are necessarily, very often the case, outright political appointments.

It is precisely this type of independence from political appointments that Orban is trying to end in a country which is becoming increasingly authoritarian. Edward Said goes on to establish the role of an intellectual in society in a following manner:

But I think, once you get out of the academy into the larger world, then the intellectual plays a particular role, and this role is essentially — it is perhaps easier to define it in terms of negatives — an opponent of consensus and orthodoxy, particularly at a moment in our society when with authorities of concerns and orthodoxy are so powerful, and the role of the individual, the voice of the individual tend not to be heard. So the role of the intellectual is not to consolidate authority, but to understand, interpret, and question it: this is another version of the notion of speaking the truth to power, a point I make in my book Representations of the Intellectual.

And then perhaps the most important is the following sentence of Edward Said:

There’s nothing more maddening in our own time than people who say, “Oh no, no, that’s controversial; I don’t want to do it”; or the habitual trimming refrain, “No, no, I can’t sign that because I mean, you know, I may disturb matters and people may think the wrong thing about me”.

It is this type of public intellectuals which this world needs and increasingly lacks, and CEU was a place to cultivate and empower such voices. This is why Orban closes it. And the same reason was at play when Erdogan closed universities and fired professors and deans, Putin closed the European Humanitarian University, Aliyev closed the Qafqaz University and many other leaders push universities in their own countries to comply, academics to keep quiet and become professionals instead of being intellectuals.

The Central European University is a fore-post against such attempts, an institution that is essential for an open society, for democracy, even for public memory to be preserved in the times when every authoritarian leader attempts to write his/her own history. CEU is not fighting for itself, it is fighting for the future of universities in the world. As simple as that.

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The Slow Living

Reading this fantastic essay on slow living and slow writing by Jasmine Ulmer. Just started. Very interesting. Why am I writing in short sentences? Because this is the new “cool”, this is how Trump is governing. It’s fantastic. You’ll love it.

But seriously, you need to read that article about slowness of being. The unbearable slowness of being in this age of fast food, fast love, fast career, fast death. Here is the reference — go and get the article and read it. And then see if you are OK with the scholarship you are having now.

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The New Brave World

Many things happened in the last month since I wrote my last post. For example, Trump is the leader of the free world now. And he is already proving the oxymoron-like feature of that sentence — with his ban on Muslims from 7 countries to enter US and his rhetoric on Mexico and Brexit.

What is to expect from the future has become increasingly less clear. Democracy has proved to be much more vulnerable than people expected, and now, with an attack on press, the US media is experiencing what media in Azerbaijan, China and other countries has dealt with for a long time.

“We live in the post-factual world”, people say. There is a lot of discussion of “alternative facts”. Truth has become a currency in the hands of politicians (some would say has always been). Media organizations are pressed to dance by the tune of the powerful. It has become acceptable to have an “opinion” on anything — such as “I think that torture works, but it is up to the general to decide the policy”. Looks like the modernity is dead — the modernity where one referred to science, to arguments, to rationality. Opinions now substitute facts, and this is scary.

These recent political developments open up zillion of opportunities for constructivist research, through narratives and framing, as well as studying discourses. But furthermore, it shows that policy is far from an enterprise oriented at rational problem-solving. It has a very strong expressive function — to show to your population and others where your values are. Take the latest policy of Trump on the Muslim ban. It has no logic for problem-solving, will have no positive effect on anti-terror war, but it has a clear goal — to communicate to domestic and foreign audience that a) he is serious about his promises; and b) that he sees Muslims as a threat and signs up for the nativist vision of citizenship in the U.S. Expressive of symbolic politics has taken central stage.

Shortly, Trump is very dangerous, the small countries in the pocket of US already start to emulate the political trends from the other side of the Atlantic. But it also offers opportunities for us to understand how contemporary democracy works and what public policy has to contribute in these uncertain times.

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Interview on Water, Environment and Consumption Issues of Baku and Azerbaijan (2013)

In an earlier post from 2013, I mentioned the project on New Baku implemented by a few Spanish researchers, which resulted in a very informative and interesting website New Baku. Within this project, the researchers made a number of interesting interviews with scholars, experts and inhabitants of Baku, among them, they also talked to me. The video recording of this conversation is below.

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Travel Grants Available to Ph.D. Candidates for International Conference on Public Policy, Singapore June 28-30 2017

3rd INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
ON PUBLIC POLICY (ICPP)
Organised by the International Public Policy Association (IPPA)
28th-30th June 2017
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

PANEL T08P13 / Policy Narratives: Frameworks, Methods and Case Studies

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Deadline for PAPER Proposals: 15th January 2017

GRANTS. Please note the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy is pleased to support PhD students presenting at the Conference by providing free on-campus accommodation and will also support the participation of academics from developing countries in Asia by providing travel subsidies of SGD $500 to qualifying applicants. The UNDP is also pleased to support the costs of scholars’ travel for participants presenting papers in panels marked “eligible for UNDP grant”. All grants are awarded on a competitive basis based on the quality of the abstract. Information on the procedure to follow to apply for grants and student subsidies is available on our website Continue reading

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Oxford Handbook Chapter — Transfer, Diffusion, Adaptation, and Translation of Water Policy Models

Finally the chapter “Transfer, Diffusion, Adaptation, and Translation of Water Policy Models” in the Oxford Handbook on Water Politics and Policy is out online. The book itself will be printed next year. Continue reading

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Art: Blurring the Boundaries

This paper from 2011 in Nature.com discusses how artists and scientists can benefit each other in new and interesting ways. Above all, the complex, rewarding and at times frustrating experiences of interdisciplinary collaborations is at display through such innovative work. Another added value of such projects is the tuning of communication strategies of making science and scientific work salient in public, including the disturbing, pessimistic and dystopic visions of it.

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Trump proved — we live in parallel worlds!

Trump’s presidency proves one point – that social constructivism explains the world much better than realism, positivism or whatever. Propaganda, framing of messages, providing false hopes, marketing messages to a desperate constituency — these all proved to be more important than reasons and facts. With this regard, I want to make 2 smaller points clear, as follows Continue reading

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Away from Dependence on Fossil Fuels and onto BIOECONOMY! New paper!

Good news! “Away from fossil-fuels and toward a bioeconomy: Knowledge versatility for public policy?” is finally out Continue reading

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