The “Baku Project” by Spanish Researchers

A team of Spanish researchers Fransisco Colom Jover, José Antonio Carrillo, Vicente Plaza and Emma Gabaldà were awarded a European scholarship to do their research in Baku. Their research is focused on the way Baku has been growing and how its evolution has affected the coastline and the Caspian Sea.

While they are researching, it is becoming clear that there are some important problems related to the environment both in the coastline and the Caspian.

More information on the project, their work and more interviews can be found here.

Thoughts on ethnography and a slaughterhouse from the Annual Ethnography Symposium 2013

At the Amsterdam Ethnography Symposium, a full room of scholars, mostly anthropologists, is captivated by the charismatic speaker telling the tale of mass killing and normalization of such. The subject is the ethnography of a slaughterhouse. The element of story-telling is combined with stand-up comedy, when the presenter takes questions from the audience in the middle of the presentation, to add interactivity; there are elements of improvisation with the speaker radiating confidence, humour and the importance of the work he has done. And all with no notes, looking directly into the audience, interacting with it with skill, wit and charm. This is the scene from the closing keynote in the Ethnography Symposium that was different from other conferences I have attended. What was different was the grand emphasis on the element of story-telling,and the skill exhibited by presenters therein. It felt almost like in the story-telling place in Amsterdam where people gather to share their life experiences in a campfire-like atmosphere of Cafe Mezrab.

The talk of Tim Pachirat, an Assistant Professor of Politics in New School for Social Research in New York, was certainly the highlight of the conference, the literary and theatrical piece of art. He wrote a book based on his Ph.D. work at Yale under James Scott. The book is called “Every Twelve Seconds”. and tells us how we organize mass-killing in a modern society, how we create euphemisms to conceal its carnivorous nature, how we dislocate killing by separating the labour of preparing, executing and processing animals, and how the workers involved in different tasks of dealing with cattle in a slaughterhouse are prevented from socializing with each other. He posed a question at the end of his talk: “would it be different if you had to kill the animals which you so readily eat”?. And I can see why is this such a hard question to answer as it confronts people with the disliked thought of participating in a killing. A lot of food for thought.

However, his lecture also raised serious questions about the nature of the research he conducted. First, he has done covert research, not obtaining any consent from the workers of the slaughterhouse, and not disclosing his research identity. Although he argued that this was the only way to gain access, that may be seen unethical both towards his direct colleagues and the management of the slaughterhouse. Secondly, he has been depicting the scene, both in his notes and in his book (according to his lecture) in a non-sentimental way, that is, separating emotions, judgment or appeal to human senses such as disgust or excitement. I doubt the possibility of such endeavor of separation, let alone desirability in portraying an experience. One may go in depth in arguing for and against each of these points and that is not the point of this post.

What is worth mentioning, however, is that the book he wrote has a really interesting subject, and judging from how good a speaker Pachirat is, there is all ground to believe that he is also a prolific writer! I am looking forward to reading the book.

“Policy as Translation” at Policy Analysis Conference in Vienna, 2013

It is one thing for a concept and a network of scholars around it to get into the panels at conferences, and it is another thing when those panels are attended by a large number of people among whom are the distinguished policy analysis scholars with the world-wide fame. We can say with confidence that Policy Translation has reached that stature when it attracts the full room of interested policy scholars and students as it was in Vienna conference on Interpretative Policy Analysis. Read more “Policy as Translation” at Policy Analysis Conference in Vienna, 2013

Public Policy Bits: Techno-fixes?

Albert Einstein famously proclaimed that “you can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it”.  But we keep trying to fool ourselves that we can. We see technology as our ultimate solution, from extending our lives through synthetic biology, to arguing that we must have genetically modified food and other organisms as we are growing out of proportions, available food and resources. It is an old Malthusian argument, but with a naive hope that if only technology is there, we can continue our unsustainable, non-reflexive, impulsive and consumerist behaviour with no or little impact on ecosystems. Wrong! We can’t. Read more Public Policy Bits: Techno-fixes?

Amazing Barcelona: Water Management in a Museum!

How often do you see a scientific concept with which you have dealt in your PhD in a museum on a sight-seeing tour? A product of isolated and a bit weird scientists in an ivory tower cannot make it to the popular arenas such as musea, right? Alas, a surprise awaited me in Barcelona!

Read more Amazing Barcelona: Water Management in a Museum!

Water Governance, Policy and Knowledge Transfer. NEW PUBLICATION!

Guest contribution by Gül Özerol, Cheryl de Boer, and Joanne Vinke-de Kruijf.

“Water Governance, Policy and Knowledge Transfer: International Studies of Contextual Water Management” is the title of a new book published in May by Routledge as part of the book series Earthscan Studies in Water Resource Management.

A major finding of the book is that context matters in water management and that there is no panacea or universal concept that can be applied to all countries or regions with different political, economic, cultural and technological contexts. Yet it is also shown that some countries are facing pressing and similar water management issues that cut across national borders, and hence the transfer of knowledge may be beneficial. Overall, the book provides insights into the importance of context in water management and enables the readers to draw valuable lessons regarding the transfer of policies, concepts and knowledge from one locality to another.

Edited by a team of researchers from the University of Twente in The Netherlands, the book is a very welcome addition to water governance literature. Contributors of the book come from a wide variety of places and share a of experiences, whereas the editors and many of the contributors are connected to CSTM, the Twente Centre for Studies in Technology and Sustainable Development at the University of Twente. With its researchers specialised in policy studies, the CSTM has a long research and teaching history in water governance and environmental policies.

In addition to the introductory and concluding chapters, the book consists of two theoretical chapters and eleven empirical chapters. The theoretical chapters review the concepts that are applicable to understanding the interactions towards improved water management and explore the various ways that improved water management is given meaning. These chapters are followed by eleven empirical chapters that offer interesting theory-guided case studies from more than twenty countries in three continents: Europe, North America and Asia.

The empirical chapters of the book discuss the transferability of policy and governance concepts by analysing the contextual needs and factors. Transfers regarding a variety of water management issues such as flood risk management, drought, urban agriculture, drinking water provision and climate change adaptation are examined in three sections: 1- Transfer of established knowledge (cases from Romania, India and Canada) 2- Transfer of international concepts (cases from Kazakhstan, Turkey, Palestine, Vietnam and Mexico) 3- Transfer of an emerging concept (cases from the Netherlands, France, Spain, the United Kingdom and the European Union region).

Brundtland’s Second Coming: Global Tobacco Governance

The photo (credit John Kaplan, 1993) shows an eight-year-old street child in St. Petersburg, Sergei, who insists on smoking Marlboros. The Former Soviet Bloc including Eastern Europe and Asia now represent about 50% of all cigarette sales globally. The tobacco epidemic has been truly exported to the developing world. The powerful Big Tobacco companies targeted aggressive marketing and advertisement to promote American cigarettes. Read more Brundtland’s Second Coming: Global Tobacco Governance

Cigarettes for Children! Public policy issues around smoking

“Old Joe Camel cartoon advertisements are far more successful at marketing Camel cigarettes to children than to adults. This finding is consistent with tobacco industry documents that indicate that a major function of tobacco advertising is to promote and maintain tobacco addiction among children.” Read more Cigarettes for Children! Public policy issues around smoking

Requiem for Science?

I was once a member of a committee whose purpose was to hire a new colleague in our university department. Unimpressed with one of the candidates who claimed he was a ‘trouble-shooter’, the head of the committee, a distinguished scholar, said something I will remember for long. He said “a scientist is not someone who solves problems but who knows how to problematise things” Read more Requiem for Science?

River Basin Organizations and Global Governance. NEW PUBLICATION!

River Basin Organizations are ubiquitous nowadays. They carry different functions, forms and are founds across the world. However, what is the history of their evolution and who are the actors behind their prominence in water governance? Who are interested in the promotion of river basin organizations and how those actors have achieved their goals? Read more River Basin Organizations and Global Governance. NEW PUBLICATION!

Chess as War and Meditation

I had a nice childhood — full of happiness, joy and drive. Chess took a large part of my childhood and I had great people to share it with having grown in Baku. In this little essay I recount on my experiences of being a ‘chess-kid’ in Baku in the 1990s, it was originally prepared for the chess magazine of Caissa-Amsterdam club, September 2012.

The Art of Translation: My Visit to Guggenheim Museum

Recently I went to the Deutsche-Guggenheim Museum in Berlin (yes, they also have a subsidiary there) to see an exhibition that inspired the name to this blog and bore the title ‘Found in Translation’.

My favourite piece is the video installation which shows the video used to teach English language to Latino children in the U.S. By using words and scenes, which are culturally sanctioned, language is a medium and a means to create a new reality in the mind of a child. Often sterile, advertisement like, those pictures are nothing less that colonizing the minds by illusions of idyllic life that is somehow linked just to the faculty of English language. Wow!!! And that is the feeling you get going through the installations. Strongly recommend to see the summary of this event here!

The exhibition was devoted to the theme of translation in language and in our lives as essential sense-making, as the process through which our identities are shaped but yet the process which often remains second-hand, in the shadow and under-rated. The curator of the exhibition, Nat Trotman, to my unspoken joy, has written the following: Read more The Art of Translation: My Visit to Guggenheim Museum

Working from home: freedom or luxury?

Copyright of the picture: The Economist. You must have heard of the recent ban by ‘Yahoo’ to work from home…Now, as in the picture, workers are chained to their workplace, either they want it or not. I must say, in unison with plethora of evidence from elsewhere, that the ‘presence in the office all week’ policy is out-dated, discouraging and above all — is difficult to defend. Read more Working from home: freedom or luxury?

Interview with Professor Martin de Jong on “Institutional Transplantation”

An interview with Prof. Martin de Jong of Delft University of Technology on ‘Institutional Transplantation’. Prof. de Jong is one of the ‘founding fathers’ of the policy transfer school in public policy. The book he has co-edited in 2002 and entitled “The Theory and Practice of Institutional Transplantation” has become a classic in this area. In this interview Martin tells us about his work, hopes and challenges with regard to cross-national learning and movement of policies and ideas.

Emotion and Policy Analysis

By Farhad Mukhtarov. It is not clear how to reconcile emotion and policy analysis which seem to encompass different worlds. The first is enveloped in subjectivity, whereas the second claims to be objective; the first occurs mostly in private sphere, whereas the second is mandated and takes place in public arena. The challenge is great: we know that emotion is important in policy making and often key to politics, but we do not have a faintest idea how to account for emotion in political analysis. The one who gets this problem solved deserves a Nobel Prize. Read more Emotion and Policy Analysis

European Commission and Multi-level Governance

The DG Regio held an open Day on 11 October 2012 within which a workshop entitled ‘Troubling multilevel governance: coordinating spatial interventions” was organized. Regional development is perhaps the best example in which multi-level governance manifests itself as an extremely complex phenomenon.

Among several participants from various institutions was also our colleague Paul Stubbs whose talk can be watch online here from minute [40:00]. In his presentation on multi-level governance in South-eastern Europe he has stressed that Regionalism is about complex and inter-related networks and flows and that regions, or what we perceived as regions are imaginary, imagined — but not arbitrary. Who constructs regions and how these constructs influence the processes of production and consumption is key to understand in multi-level governance. Once the notion of regions as constructs is floated, then the basis of what may seen as solid distinction between the local, the national, the regional and the transnational becomes fuzzy.

It is interesting to see that ideas on the malleability of scale find their way to the bureaucrats of the European Commission, and indeed, the fluidity of policy and the politics of scale need to be emphasized at the forums of policy-makers much more. What also needs to be done, however, is developing clear methodologies on how to deal with such issues in real-life policy design. What does it mean for policy design that scale is constructed, malleable and dynamic? What does it mean for policy that there is inherent complexity and contingency? What does it mean to policy that meanings constantly are shaped and interpreted in myriad different ways? These are the questions that policy makers and scientist need to confront.

Anthropology and Political Science: Dialogue or Contact Zone?

By Farhad Mukhtarov. As we reported earlier, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) is currently hosting its 2012 annual session in San-Francisco. Within this session there is a roundtable arranged for the discussion of the dialogue between public policy and anthropology. Our colleague Paul Stubbs has given a short talk in which he emphasized the recent development sin this field as well as what each of the discipline can learn from each other. Below is the script of the talk and in a few days we will provide a full analysis of the roundtable. Read more Anthropology and Political Science: Dialogue or Contact Zone?

International Workshop on Water Security, Jerusalem 17-18 December, 2012

The Jerusalem Water Group of the Hebrew University is organizing a Workshop entitled “The Securitization of the Water Discourse” and to be held on December 17-18 in Jerusalem. The key-note speakers at the workshop will be Aaron Wolf, François Molle, Eran Feitelson and Max Boykoff. The theme of the workshop is the securitization of the water issues and the impact such moves have on how water is imagined and managed. The securitization of water is a problematic issue because of its paradoxical outcomes. On the one hand, an issue becomes politically ‘hot’ and is easily put on the agenda of politicians when it is framed as a security matter. Read more International Workshop on Water Security, Jerusalem 17-18 December, 2012

International Conference on “Lost and Found in Policy-Translation?”

Reposted from the IKS (Institute of Korean Studies) website. The IKS organized an international academic conference with the title…

Read more International Conference on “Lost and Found in Policy-Translation?”

Bio-Economy Transition and Land Grabs

Energy transition to bio-based materials for fuel and heat is experiencing hype. Such transition has many attractions: away from fossil fuels that generate the climate change and dependence on the Middle East and Mr. Putin, as well as new forms of governance in which food, fuel, materials and medicine will come from an integrated source of bio-refineries. Revitalization of agriculture is another advantage with often promised rural development in the lesser developed corners of the world. The picture however, is far from straightforward. The land in Africa and Asia is being hastily bought or rented by transnational businesses for the purpose of growing fuel crops. Moreover, the greenhouse balance of such crops was brought in question, too.

One of the most captivating talks at the Earth System Governance Conference in Lund, Sweden this April was by Margaret Carol Lee. The subject of the presentation was on land-grabbing in Africa. She called this as “the crime of the new scramble for the Africa’ black gold — land”. The presentation can be seen here. She started with three stories about the land grabs by TNC (transnational corporations) in Ghana, Ethiopia and Mali. One of the most interesting points that the speaker made was that land grabbing as it is practiced for the crops that are later used for bio-renewables represent a new form of colonialism, but the one where the number of ‘colonizers’ is greater, and most importantly, where the nation-state governments are closely involved. It is indeed an interesting observation that it is the corrupt or inept governments of African states are the ones to blame for the transactions that give away the communal land on lease by transnational corporations and governments of other states from the ‘Global North”. She also mentioned that it is never just the land grabbing, inevitably it is about the water, ecosystems and linked to them socio-cultural systems. She was however optimistic at the end of the presentation, citing a growing number of international networks in support of local agriculture and against land grabbing. The speaker also has made it clear that she did not suggest that there is no need for investment in Africa, what she underlined was the benefits from investment should be shared by the African countries and not to go to the Global North.

While the talk by Margaret Carol Lee has indirectly linked land and water grabbing, there are more emerging studies which do so explicitly. The latest issue of Water Alternatives edited by Lyla Mehta, Gert Jan Veldwisch and Jennifer Franco deals with the issues of ‘water grabbing’ more directly. It has interesting articles on land/water grabbing in Africa, ‘water grabbing’ around the world and the implications of land grabbing on water resources. We are certainly seeing a new critical issue in the water policy and governance context — the global phenomenon of investment in agriculture and land grabbing and impacts of water resources, which however, only now are starting to come into the lime-light. The more attention to this critical point in the future — the better.

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