Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

February 27 2014

February 24 2014

February 21 2014

February 20 2014

February 19 2014

February 18 2014

February 17 2014

February 16 2014

February 14 2014

Ending Illegal Logging and Launching Forest Carbon Credits in Madagascar

 Illegally logged rosewood from Masoala and Marojejy in Antalaha, Madagascar via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

Illegally logged rosewood from Masoala and Marojejy in Antalaha, Madagascar via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

The new administration in Madagascar is seemingly making a concerted effort to curb down deforestation in Madagascar. First, new president Hery Rajaonarimampianina has made ending illegal logging of Madagascar rosewood a priority at his first executive meeting[fr]. Second, the Wildlife Conservation Society announced that the Government of Madagascar has approved carbon sales with Microsoft and its carbon offset partner, The CarbonNeutral Company, and Zoo Zurich. The funds from carbon sales will be used by Makira REDD+ Project for conservation, capacity building, and enforcement activities related to conservation of Madagascar's rainforest. It is yet to be seen whether these measures will be implemented in the field. 

Online Campaign to Restore Lebanon's Second Largest Library a Success

Screenshot of the Zoomaal petition site

When unknown assailants torched his library on January 3, Father Ibrahim Sarrouj responded by forgiving them. The assailants, supposedly Muslim fundamentalists, accused Father Sarrouj of attacking Islam by publishing a pamphlet claiming that Abu Bakr, Islam's first caliph, once beat Muhammad's wife Aisha with a newspaper.

The library in question is Tripoli's famed Al-Saeh Library, Lebanon's second largest and home to over 80,000 books of all kind. Despite security forces being notified that Father Ibrahim Sarrouj had been threatened by religious extremists, the library was still badly damaged. No one knows exactly how many books were destroyed, but it is estimated that the number may be as high as two thirds.

The irony is that not only did Father Sarrouj never write such a pamphlet – his library contained and still contains numerous priceless Islamic books – but the supposed event couldn't have taken place as it predates the invention of the printing press by 800 years. The supposed ‘accusation’ could not have therefore been made by someone who knows anything about history. But then again, historical accuracy isn't a usual feature of religious fundamentalism.

This crime didn't seem to be about anything. Father Ibrahim Sarrouj is known for his humanist principles in calling for Tripoli's unity. Muslims and Christians alike view him as one of them. He greeted everyone with As-salamu ‘aleikum (Peace be upon you). There was simply no ‘reason’ whatsoever, not even by fundamentalist standards, to attack the library.

How should we interpret this ridiculous and heinous crime? Should we read it as yet another victim of Lebanon's sectarian reality? Or should we just dismiss it as the product of a few marginalized individuals who don't have much to do other than attack knowledge?

The latter seems to be how the Lebanese decided to respond. Indeed, Lebanon as a whole condemned the burning. All major sectarian representatives issued condemnations and called for the criminals to face justice. Lebanon's netizens, Muslims and Christians, Druze and Atheists, sent their support to Father Ibrahim Sarrouj by the thousands. Everyone said “No.” But “No” wasn't enough. Something had to be done to restore the library. Enter “Kafana Samtan”.

Kafana Samtan, or “Enough Silence”, was launched on Zoomaal, an online Arab crowd-funding platform, just a few days after the attack. It was immediately backed with overwhelming support from both companies and average citizens. In just a month, it succeeded in getting US $35,000, thanks to 298 donors. How will the money be used? New bookshelves, a new front door, new wall painting, as well as buying back rare books and installing security equipment.

But that's not the end of the story. The Al-Saeh library distinguished itself in succeeding in getting Lebanese of all stripes together. Irrespective of religion or sect, the campaign gathered everyone in coming together for an obviously non-sectarian cause. This wasn't a Christian vs Muslim vs other Christian vs other Muslim scenario specifically because Father Sarrouj isn't one.

Having given up on trying to change things politically due to excessive nation-wide sectarian corruption, Lebanon's independent minds have taken to social media to gather funds, sign petitions, exchange ideas and influence their surroundings.

Will the “Kafana Samta” success story contribute to Lebanon's growing activist scene? One thing's certain, it has certainly allowed many to soften their negative perceptions and to essentially give hope in a country where hope isn't easy to maintain.

February 12 2014

Opponents of France's School Gender Equality Initiative Wage Misinformation War

13 January 2013 -

13 January 2013 – “We want sex, not gender.” A sign in French at a protest for family values. Photo by Mon_Tours via Flickr. CC BY-NC 2.0

[This post was co-authored by Jean-Pierre WetzelsElise Lecamp and Suzanne Lehn. All links forward to French-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

A recent pilot study in France about gender equality in schools has encountered heated opposition from those who view it as an attack on traditional family values and gender roles.

Called “ABCD de l'égalité” (the ABCD of gender equality), the initiative aims to break down gender stereotypes in schools, and French education authorities launched a pilot study in a few select schools over the course of four months to see how new teaching tools and materials would work with children.

But opponents see the initiative as an affront to what they call the natural differences between boys and girls and argue that the state should not be teaching children about private matters. A strong anti-ABCD campaign to stop it has been mounted on blogs and social network platforms and protets were organized in several cities under the moniker “Day of Anger“. Text messages encouraged parents to pull their children from schools on designated “School Boycott Days“.

logo_abcdegalite

Logo for France's ABCD of gender equality initiative

Public debate on the issue has been polluted by “untruths” to such an extent that the French education minister ordered information sessions at schools for parents to combat the rumors. Daily newspaper Le Monde also attempted to debunk some of the misinformation in an article called “Five rumors about the gender theory debate” published on 28 January 2013. The report highlighted several inaccuracies being cited by opponents, including a misquoted statement by French senator Laurence Rossignol that “children do not belong to their parents, they belong to the state”.

The second part of the sentence has proven to be entirely fictional, as shown by the following video posted by the website “Arrêt sur images”

In fact, the whole quote goes as follows:  “Children do not belong to their parents, the school must provide them with tools so that they can make choices for themselves later.”

In an interview, Rossignol explained that she never said the words “children belong to the state” and that she will take to court anyone who claims otherwise:

Another misconception about the gender equality initiative was the notion that teaching gender theory will be made mandatory in schools. Gaëlle Dupont wrote the following about that rumor:

Deuxième intox : l'enseignement de la « théorie du genre » devient obligatoire: Ce climat d'hystérie autour des questions d'égalité hommes-femmes ou de lutte contre l'homophobie débouche sur des phénomènes assez dramatiques, comme cette vague de SMS appelant les parents à retirer leurs enfants des écoles un jour donné pour dénoncer cet « enseignement obligatoire » du « genre ». Derrière ces rumeurs, on trouve l'extrême droite. Plus précisément, des militants proches de l'extrême droite qui ont monté un « jour de retrait de l'école », assurant que « l'Etat, sous couvert de lutter contre l'homophobie, introduit à notre insu la théorie du genre à l'école : homosexualité, bisexualité et transsexualité entrent dans tous les programmes scolaires ».

Rumour number 2: Teaching of  “gender theory” will be mandatory:  The current atmosphere of hysteria surrounding the issues of equality between men and women or the fight against homophobia has given rise to somewhat dramatic phenomena, such as the deluge of text messages inciting parents to withdraw their children from school on a specific day in order to protest this “obligatory teaching of gender”. The far-right wing is again behind these rumors. Or to be more precise, campaigners with far-right sympathies who have initiated this “School Boycott” day. Thet claim that “under the cover of addressing homophobia, the state is introducing gender theory at school without our approval: the notions of homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality are being introduced in school curricula”

Armed with this misinformation, opponents invoked the spectors of gender theory and government intrusion on social media and blogs to mobilize those against the initiative.

How Facebook and text messages are used to whitewash the wild rumour about “gender theory”

Spearheading the campaign against the ABCD of gender equality is Farida Belghoul [en], who once was an immigrant rights activist in the early 1980s. She set up several “information meetings” and called on parents to keep their children home as a boycott of the initiative and the supposed teaching of gender theory that the initiative implies.

The website Journée de Retrait de l'Ecole (School Boycott Day) was set up to document and organize the movement, and in just a few weeks, the Facebook page for the website, JRE2014, received 18,000 hits. Created on 19 December 2013, the page now counts 20,000 likes. Comments from parents who received text messages requesting them to remove their children from school are posted on the page. Céline Violette writes on the page [fr] :

Y-a-t-il une PETITION OFFICIELLE pour l'interdiction de l'INTRUSION de la théorie du genre à l'éducation nationale? Afin de permettre de compter tout le monde, père ET mère, et tous les citoyens qui n'ont pas d'enfant et qui sont conscients de ce qui se passe.

Is there an official petition to prevent the introduction of gender theory in school  ? It would allow to determine how many people, mother, father and citizens without children but who are aware of the risk at hand.

Statements from parents’ associations highlighted the links between the organizers of these boycott days and far-right movements and dispelled the rumor that gender theory would be taught at kindergarten level. Still, instructions were being given to parents by the “Boycott School Day” movement that these “Boycott School” days take place in private locations and not on public roads. 

The more irrational the rumor, the more the public seems drawn to it. In an article published on 1 February entitled “Day of anger, night of darkness”, journalist Jean Birenbaum expressed his concerns:

Pour le moment, ce compagnonnage avec un sombre nihilisme condamne les collectifs colériques à l'impuissance politique. Mais c'est aussi lui qui les rend si difficiles à combattre pour les partis traditionnels, de droite comme de gauche. […] Il y a ici un cauchemar pour quiconque demeure attaché à une éthique de la rationalité, qu'elle soit religieuse ou politique.
[…]
Par-delà les slogans politiques, la galaxie de la « colère » représente donc un défi lancé aux pratiques d'enseignement et aux institutions démocratiques. Si ce défi n'était pas relevé, alors le « jour de colère »pourrait bien devenir la nuit pour tous.

At the moment, this affinity for dark nihilism condemns these angry groups to political impotence. But it is also what makes the fight with them so difficult for traditional parties, be they right-or left-wing [...] This is a nightmare for those who remain faithful to an ethic of rationality, be it religious or political.
[…]
Over and above political slogans, this constellation of anger constitutes a challenge to both teaching methods and democratic institutions. If this challenge is not met, then the ‘Day of anger” could quite well become a dark night for us all.

In a somewhat reassuring turn of events, a humoristic page called the “Children's Plea” was created on the parody website Gorafi.fr. The Children's Plea demands that adults put a stop to the rumor fabrication and start acting as, well, adults [fr]:

Les enfants demandent donc que cessent ces rumeurs et fausses informations, qu’on les laisse retourner à l’école. Quant à la théorie du genre, ils estiment qu’elle n’a pas lieu d’être. « Des fois, les filles elles sont fortes comme les garçons, et même que hier Joachim il a perdu toutes ses billes contre Sofia de la classe de madame Dumas, on a bien ri » 

The children ask for an end to the rumors and false information so that they may be allowed to return to school. As for the whole gender theory issue, the children don't think that it means anything: “Sometimes, girls are as strong as boys. Just yesterday Joachim lost all his marbles to Sophia from Mrs. Dumas's class and we all had a good laugh”

Other initiatives have also pushed back against the campaign's rumor-mongering. Seeing how easy it was for rumors to take root in some disenfranchised areas with a large minority population, Kaissa Titous asked her former colleague and now campaign leader Farida Belghoul, who is of Algerian descent, to stop her School Boycott movement movement:

Tu voudrais qu’aujourd’hui nous faisions des alliances avec des forces politiques qui n’ont pas arrêté de prospérer sur la haine de nos quartiers et de ses habitants, qui nous agitent comme repoussoirs à chaque élection, qui nous accusent d’être des envahisseurs, qui arrachent les pains au chocolat et le pain de la bouche des Français de souche

Today you would want us to make alliances with political forces that have thrived on hating our people [minorities] and our neighborhoods. They are pointing at us as the culprits for France's aches at every elections, calling us invaders, who take away chocolate croissants and bread from the mouths of the “real” French people

February 11 2014

A Personal Tribute to Jamaican “Interventionist” Stuart Hall

As tributes to late Jamaican cultural theorist Stuart Hall keep coming, Jamaica-based blogger Annie Paul posts a personal and stirring acknowledgement.

Titled “A Stuart Hall-shaped hole in the universe…”, she begins by saying:

When I saw Stuart at his home in London on December 14, 2013, I knew he wouldn’t last much longer. He had been ill for years and his health had deteriorated considerably since the previous year when we celebrated his 80th birthday at Rivington Place, the art centre born of his inspiration and hard work. All the same his departure comes as a blow. It’s too early for me to come to terms with this loss, for Stuart has been a close friend and mentor since 1996 when he came to the University of the West Indies to speak at the Rex Nettleford Conference.

Paul chooses to share some of her own photographs in the post, which alone makes it extraordinary – snapshots of Hall with Paul herself; with David Scott, the editor of Small Axe magazine; a few pics of him both in England and in Jamaica. These are rare glimpses into the ordinary days of an extraordinary man. Paul says:

Stuart Hall was such an extraordinary thinker that his work ranged over a broad field of interests including visual art which was the one thing we truly bonded over. It was a preoccupation that didn’t get much coverage in other interviews which tend to focus more on his activism, his Marxism, and his political interventions.

Stuart Hall at Good Hope Estate, Trelawny, Jamaica, 2004 - Photo by Annie Paul

Stuart Hall at Good Hope Estate, Trelawny, Jamaica, 2004 – Photo by Annie Paul

She links to a post she wrote in November 2013, in which she reviews The Stuart Hall Project, the John Akomfrah film about him, which she hopes will be screened in Jamaica soon. In it, she says:

One of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century, Stuart Hall, was born and brought up here, made his career in Britain, become an intellectual powerhouse there, and is virtually unknown in the land of his birth. So true what Jesus said: A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country. Ah well.

Still, she shares links about his life and work in an effort to make “young people here realize that Jamaicans excel not only in track and field and music but also in the intellectual arena…”

Another piece of memorabilia Paul shares in the post is one of her “treasures”:

…a letter Stuart wrote to the Librarian at Birmingham U so that I could gain access to their inner sanctum.

She ends with an upload of an interview she did with Hall, titled The Ironies of History:

The Ironies of History:An Interview with Stuart Hall by Annie Paul

The interview (read it, above) begins by quoting Professor Grant Farred of Duke University:

Such was Hall’s impact on the US, British, Euro pean and Australian academy via cultural studies, mainly through a range of essays he published during the 1980s, that by the 1990s he became one of the preeminent intellectuals in the world. In truth, because of the international rise of cultural studies, Hall came to be regarded as an academic star, an intellectual celebrity, and a philosophical guru: he became the incarnation of cultural studies, first in Britain and then in the United States, widely anointed as the spokes man for the politics – and the endemic politicization – of the popular, the theorist in the fore front of politicizing (all) identity.

In it, Paul discusses with Hall everything from immigration and deportation to dancehall music, black masculinity and homophobia. He talks about art, architecture and visual culture. He even talks about himself and his work:

I was an interventionist, my writing is interventionist ok? That is to say I write in order to intervene in a situation, to shift the terms in which it’s understood, to introduce a new angle, to contest how it has been understood before; it’s an embattled form of writing…a kind of intellectual interventionism.

This is a kind of politics in theory, because it’s interested in struggling thought – struggling in thought. Not interested in the production of pure truth, absolute truth, universal truth. It’s interested in the production of better ideas than the ones we used to have. So it’s a kind of struggle in thought, a struggle with thought and a struggle inside thought, struggle inside thinking to change the terms of reference with which we’re thinking. There’s also a politics of thought in the sense that it wants to make the ideas useful for some purpose; it wants to help people think more clearly about their situation or to help to advance nationalism in a more progressive direction or to help the world become a more equal and just place.

The image used in this post is by Annie Paul, used with permission.

Remembering Dr Alison Jolly, Lemurs of Madagascar Expert

Dr. Alison Jolly, Primatologist  1937-2014- Public Domain

Dr. Alison Jolly, Primatologist 1937-2014- Public Domain

After leading a distinguished career as a primatologist at the Berenty Reserve of Madagascar, Dr. Alison Jolly has died at home in Lewes, East Sussex, aged 76. Dr. Jolly, a PhD researcher from Yale, made her name as the first scientist to do an in-depth account of the behaviour of the ring-tailed lemur, L. catta, beginning field work in 1962. David Attenborough recently wrote : ‘not only they but the people and land of Madagascar captured her heart’. 

February 10 2014

Remembering the Jamaican Cultural Theorist Stuart Hall

Jamaican-born cultural theorist Stuart Hall has died at the age of 82 in England; netizens and academics all over the globe were shocked by the news, though Hall had been ailing for some time. He reportedly died of complications arising from kidney failure.

The UK Guardian's obituary described Hall as an “influential cultural theorist, campaigner and founding editor of the New Left Review”. One of the founders of British Cultural Studies, he regarded popular culture as capitalist and dominated by the ruling class. He studied media and its impact on ideology, becoming a major proponent of reception theory and expanded the scope of cultural studies to deal with race and gender. His work was particularly meaningful to black West Indian immigrant communities, as he explored ideas of cultural identity, race and ethnicity, especially as they related to the diaspora experience. Rather than viewing identity to be determined by history and culture – and therefore fixed – he saw it as fluid, ongoing and subject to change.

Facebook was overflowing with status updates that reflected the respect and admiration people had for the man and his work. Upon hearing the news of Hall's death, Rhoda Bharath said:

I can't even begin to describe how bereft I feel about Hall's passing… What a loss!

Arc Magazine posted a striking portrait of Hall by Antonio Olmos, adding:

We have just learned of the passing of Stuart Hall, champion of cultural studies and one of the Caribbean's leading intellectuals.

Our condolences are extended to those whose lives he touched with his generous work.

Rest well in peace Sir.

Arc's Facebook update directed readers to its website, where it posted about Hall's life and work in greater detail.

From Jamaica, Annie Paul referred to his death as “horrible news”, and proceeded to post a series of links and photos about his life and work as part of her mourning process, including this video of Hall speaking with C.L.R. James:

In another update, Paul admonished the Jamaican media for not picking up on the significance of his death:

Have yet to hear any announcement on local media of the passing of Stuart Hall…

Stuart Hall (R) reading a copy of The Caribbean Review of Books at at Hellshire Beach, Jamaica; June 2004.  Photo by Annie Paul.

Stuart Hall (R) reading a copy of The Caribbean Review of Books at at Hellshire Beach, Jamaica; June 2004. Photo by Annie Paul.

In a blog post that was published soon after the 2012 debut of John Akomfrah‘s film about Hall, “The Unfinished Conversation”, cultural studies professor Nick Mirzoeff wrote:

It’s a remarkable piece of visualizing theory and history. Shown on three screens simultaneously, the film visualizes, in a sense, what it must have been like to be Stuart Hall in his earlier career. The three screens would be showing personal photographs, filmed interviews from various periods, archive film and photography, news footage and so on. Meanwhile the sound would blend music, often jazz, with Hall’s commentary and radio interviews and other sound, such as the sea or machinery. It was a polyphony, edited so that all the sounds and images reinforced rather than disrupted each other.

There were powerfully revelatory moments throughout. It turns out–did I somewhere know this?–that Stuart has Sephardic-Jewish in his family tree. In the film, we see his mother and that lineage is visibly apparent–it’s mine, too, so I’m allowed to say this. Was there some affinity that I had felt, having worked with Hall when I was a young activist and editor on Marxism Today, and always taking his thought to be a lodestone? Perhaps.

He commented on other revelations in the film:

It turns out that Hall was part of a group that opened a radical coffee shop in Oxford in the crisis of 1956. The Soviet invasion of Hungary changed a generation away from orthodox Marxism-Leninism and cultural studies would not have happened as it did without this break. At the same time, Britain and France invaded Egypt over the nationalization of the Suez canal, their last imperial folly.

Sitting in the coffee shop called The Partisan, with its sign designed in impeccable lower-case sans serif font, Hall was interviewed about his views. Time and again, he calmly stressed that he was angry, angry over the invasions, angry over the disregard for young people in Britain, angry that

for fifteen years at least we have been without any kind of moral or political leadership.

Out of that anger came the New Left Review.

Mirzoeff continued:

Watching it now, over fifty years later, I felt intensely that we had somehow let this young man down, that it would be entirely possible for another such young man or woman to sit down today and say exactly the same thing. And it is indeed what we have been saying this past year. The spectre that entered the room was this question: will this demand still be unmet in fifty more years from now? Or was leadership perhaps the wrong thing to ask for? Reflecting back on 1956, a moment he felt “defined” him, Hall noted in terms so familiar to us:

Another history is always possible.

The film ends with this caption

For Stuart Hall. In gratitude. And respect.

My eyes filled with tears. In the crowded screening room, I was not alone.

On Twitter, condolences streamed in from all corners of the globe:

Some Twitter users shared the aspects of Hall's work that affected them the most:

Others suggested what they felt were the most appropriate ways in which to honour his memory:

Some just admitted that the world – and its intellectual space – felt emptier without him:

Gerry Hassan acknowledged Hall's astute analytical powers:

One Twitter user, Sean Fernyhough, quoted director John Akomfah:

Akomfah's latest documentary about Hall, The Stuart Hall Project, can be viewed here. A shorter clip is here.

@cfidelmorris acknowledged the great impact of jazz music in Hall's life – specifically the music of Miles Davis:

Professor Nicholas Mirzoeff summed up the general feeling with this tweet:

The photograph of Stuart Hall used in this post was taken by Annie Paul; uploaded by Nicholas Laughlin and used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license. Visit Nicholas Laughlin's flickr photostream.

February 09 2014

An Info-Activism Tool-Kit on Women's Rights Campaigning

Tacticaal Tech's Info-activism Toolkit on Women's Rights Campaigning

Tactical Tech's Info-activism Toolkit on Women's Rights Campaigning

The Women's Rights Campaigning: Info-Activism Toolkit by Tactical Technology Collective is a new guide for women's rights activists, advocates, NGOs and community based organizations who want to use technology tools and practices in their campaigning. This has been developed in collaboration with advocacy organizations from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Egypt.

This Toolkit has been customized from an updated version of two earlier toolkits: Message in a Box and Mobiles in a Box. The website will soon be translated into Arabic, Swahili, Bengali, and Hindi.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00
Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl