Cleaning up the “dirty little secrets” of research ethics: Reflections from the International Studies Association 2016

This blog is a follow-up to the authors’ online symposium on the evolving ethics of qualitative research in fragile states For policymakers, fragility and conflict are one of the 21st century’s key development challenges. Fragility is by definition heterogeneous and contextual—which is why qualitative research is such a good tool to help us understand exactly why “there” is so messed up, and what we could or should do to fix it. And so, perhaps logically, we—primarily young, western, tertiary-educated men and women—are doing more and Continue reading →

The Middle East in the Making of Modern Humanitarianism

Download the podcastFeed | iTunes | Hipcast | SoundcloudThe First World War and the fall of the Ottoman Empire are defining moments in the political history of the modern Middle East. This narrative is usually told through the lenses of the breakup of empire, the successes and failures of national movements, and the colonial involvement of British and French Mandates in the region. In this episode, Keith Watenpaugh offers a different approach to this story through a critical look at the role of American humanitarian Continue reading →

Patriotes, Mondialistes, and Sites of International Memory

In the opening decades of the twenty-first century, Europeans have returned to the political rhetoric of times we might have long thought past. Late last year nostalgia and disorientation resonated through the French National Front’s victory-cry at elections, as Marie Le Pen declared the world no longer divided left against right, but patriotes against mondialistes. Given the combination of challenges making European headlines—from collapsing economies to borders—the rhetoric of the right echoes a sense of threat posed to nations by globalization (a tone particularly resonant Continue reading →

Conscience in the Datasphere

Deluged in data for more than a decade, our reflex has been to articulate our fears and anxieties in the language of privacy. But it may be more appropriate—and useful—to think in terms of conscience. Etymologically, conscience is, of course, the “knowledge with” which we act, on which we are judged, and through which we achieve self-awareness. Today, this knowledge is produced in part through the steady streams of information we cede, emit and receive in the ceaseless data-flux that we now inhabit. We might Continue reading →

The Holocaust between Scholar and Public Intellectual

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. By Timothy Snyder. In his recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Corey Robin describes the position of the public intellectual as a dialectic: “On the one hand, he’s supposed to be called by some combination of the two vocations Max Weber set out in his lectures in Munich: that of the scholar and that of the statesman. Neither academic nor activist but both … On the other hand, the public intellectual is supposed to possess Continue reading →

Can Philanthropy Feed The World?: A Review Of David Rieff’s The Reproach Of Hunger

The world has done a remarkable job of feeding itself. Despite population growth, the Food and Agriculture Organization reports that the prevalence of hunger in most parts of the developing world has declined from 18.2 percent in 2002 to 13.5 percent in 2013. In part, this is because food itself has become more affordable. Prices of staple foods have declined (with occasional blips): in 1995 the average price for maize was about $350 per ton, in 1995 it was about $200 per ton, and last Continue reading →

Can a Citizen be Sovereign?

This is a pre-publication version of Patrick Weil’s essay, due to appear in Humanity this year. We post this version in light of pressing political developments in France that revolve around questions of citizenship, immigration, and sovereignty, precisely the themes explored here. Since the Rights of Man were proclaimed to be ‘inalienable’ irreducible to and undeducible from other right or laws, … man appeared as the only sovereign in matters of law as the people was proclaimed the only sovereign in matters of government. — Hannah Arendt Continue reading →

The Paris Climate Agreement in Historical Perspective

The COP21 accord signed on Saturday represents a landmark achievement in the fight against global climate change. The negotiations in Paris produced a binding commitment by 195 nations to restrict their greenhouse gas emissions. Despite years of effort, such a sweeping agreement had eluded negotiators until now. COP21, however, was not entirely without historical precedent. In addition to earlier, less successful attempts to limit greenhouse gas emissions like the Rio de Janeiro, Kyoto, and Copenhagen agreements, the talks in Paris also evoked older debates about Continue reading →

From Method to Market: Some Thoughts on the Responses to Tomayto Tomahto

In this final post, Deval Desai and Rebecca Tapscott respond to comments by Lisa Denney and Pilar Domingo, Michael Woolcock, Morten Jerven, Alex de Waal, and Holly Porter. Our paper, Tomayto Tomahto, is in essence an exhortation and an ethical question. The exhortation: treat and unpack R4F (for we limit our observations to research conducted for policy-making about fragile and conflict-affected places) as an institution of global governance, a set of complex social processes and knowledge practices that produce evidence as part of policy-making. The ethical question: Continue reading →

The Alchemy of Relationships and the Production of Evidence

This post is a contribution to an online symposium on the changing nature of knowledge production in fragile states. Be sure to read other entries by Deval Desai and Rebecca Tapscott, Lisa Denney and Pilar Domingo, Michael Woolcock, Morten Jerven, and Alex de Waal. The piece is a welcome provocation to discussion, even if ultimately I am left with the thought: there is a rather fundamental difference between tomatoes on a supply chain and the pursuit of understanding human experience. I show that here, intentionally choosing to write from Continue reading →