Potential famine among Syrian refugees has far-reaching implications for the Middle East

Erik van Ommering   Last week around 1.7 million refugees from Syria received the following text message on their cellphones:

“We deeply regret that WFP has not yet received funds to reload your blue card for food for December 2014. We will inform you by SMS as soon as funding is received and we can resume food assistance”

The message was sent by the World Food Program (WFP), one of the UN agencies that has played a vital role in supporting refugees from Syria in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Egypt. Hosting refugees “in the region” has been a key policy pursued by the Netherlands and other countries. Accordingly they seek to both provide aid in efficient manners and discourage refugees from seeking asylum inside, for instance, the European Union.

Purchasing basic food items in a Lebanese grocery story (photo by WFP, link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/69583224@N05/8713978464/in/set-72157633416163971)

Purchasing basic food items in a Lebanese grocery, © WFP

As refugees register in their respective host countries, they receive a special credit card (the ‘blue card’) that is charged monthly by the WFP with the amount of USD 30, enabling refugees to purchase basic food items in selected grocery stores. For many who own little more than the clothes they wore as they fled the brutalities of Syria’s war, this support has proved indispensable. Its suspension may therefore spur catastrophe.

Lees verder

Unilever Researchprijs voor thesis over Marokkaanse vrouwen en chronische pijn

Emmaly Berghuis    Op 27 november heb ik samen met twaalf andere studenten van Nederlandse universiteiten de Unilever Research prijs in ontvangst mogen nemen voor mijn masteronderzoek naar chronische pijn onder Marokkaanse vrouwen. Op de feestelijk verzorgde middag in het hoofdgebouw van Unilever in Vlaardingen hielden we posterpresentaties en kwam minister Jet Bussemaker van Onderwijs langs om ons toe te spreken.

Emmaly met haar begeleiders Edien Bartels (l) en Ina Keuper (r). © Nanning Barendsz

 

 

Over het veldwerk heb ik al verslag gedaan op Standplaatswereld. Mijn onderzoek ging over Marokkaanse vrouwen met pijn waarvan de oorzaak onduidelijk is. Vaak is dit pijn in de nek, schouders, rug, knieën en/of voeten. Deze vrouwen zijn ondervertegenwoordigd in therapieën en haken ook geregeld af met behandeling. Ik ben nagegaan hoe migrantenvrouwen betekenis geven aan chronische pijn vanuit een transnationaal perspectief. Daarmee bedoel ik dat deze vrouwen op heel wezenlijke, praktische of emotionele manieren verbonden zijn met meerdere leefwerelden die sterk kunnen verschillen. Ze onderhouden dagelijks contact met familie in het thuisland, door naar hun zorgen te luisteren, geld te sturen, of door daar op vakanties te gaan. Als migrante uit Marokko zoek je betekenis vanuit deze voor anderen min of meer gescheiden leefwerelden. Hoe zoeken migrantenvrouwen naar betekenis als het gaat om chronische pijn? In de verschillende leefwerelden bestaan eigen regels en verwachtingen ook ten aanzien van pijn. De conclusie van mijn onderzoek was dat ‘pijngedrag’ te maken heeft met het voortdurend navigeren tussen meerdere opvattingen over pijn uit verschillende leefwerelden.

Lees verder

Kinship and Taboo: Three Stories about Two Brothers and One Territory

15355549187_f26074e4c8_o

A hooligan attacks Albanian players during the Serbia-Albania football match, photo retrieved December 2 2014, Nazionale Calcio, via Flickr Creative Commons Attribution

Krisztina Rácz     On October 14, the Serbia-Albania football game made it to the news worldwide. The reason was not the excellent game but rather the fact that during the match a drone, or more precisely a banner with a map attached to a drone, was flown around in the stadium. It is a matter of dispute whether the map represents merely territories where Albanians live, or the politically charged Greater Albania; one would assume though that it is the latter because for instance Italy, a country with a large Albanian emigrant population, is missing from it, but it does include Kosovo, among other territories. With the flying of the drone in the stadium things got out of control: one of the Serbian players caught the banner, some of the Albanians players tried to take it away him, and then football fans (or hooligans, depending on the interpretation) joined the fight on the pitch. Very few Albanian football supporters were involved in the incident since they were banned from entering the stadium in the first place, due to security risks. When the referee instructed the players to leave the pitch, the police did not secure the Albanian players’ exit, so they literally escaped from the stadium amidst Serbian hooligans shouting “Kill, slaughter, so that Albanians don’t exist!” at them (in Serbian this scansion rhymes, and instead of ‘Albanian’ other ethnic denotations can be inserted, most often ‘Croats’). The person accused of flying the drone was held up for interrogation, but eventually released. The reason why he was not even officially detained for questioning is unclear: Serbian media report that it was because upon the request to identify himself he presented his passport, which was of the USA instead of Albania. It is not clear why this would prevent detention, but what is known is that the person in question, who allegedly controlled the drone from the VIP box, is Olsi Rama, brother of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić characterized the incident as a provocation. Serbian law has no provisions against taking drones into stadiums, however. Several days later the UEFA ruled that the official result of the match was 3:0 for Serbia, but Serbia was punished by having its 3 points taken away. Neither of the countries is satisfied with the result. Mr Rama’s official visit to Belgrade, planned for 22 October, was cancelled until further notice.

Lees verder

Doing Sankofa with multi-media artist Bernard Akoi-Jackson: What Zwarte Piet can learn from Ghanaian symbolism

DSC_0044

By Rhoda Woets. On a foggy morning in November, the artist Bernard Akoi-Jackson walks at a snail’s pace and courteously over the Ten Kate market in Amsterdam. His body and hair are covered in gold; a hand-made cloth, made from sown strips of different fabrics, is eloquently draped over his lifted wrists. On his feet are golden Ahenema slippers. Only the yards of red and yellow cloth that the artist wrapped around his waist offer some subtle warmth in the autumn cold. As a conceptual artist, Bernard Akoi-Jackson aims to break out of the confines of the white cube in addressing audiences in public spaces and to create work that reacts to its immediate environment. His work and performances are intended to spark off debate, and create new narratives in the dialogue between audience and artist. As Akoi-Jackson lived for a few months around the corner as an artist-in-residence of the Thami Mnyele foundation, the performance is also a farewell to the place and space where he bought food and cloth and interacted with market traders. Lees verder

500ste blog Standplaats Wereld!

Bron: Boogie en AJ

Bron: Boogie en AJ

Door Lenie Brouwer. Ongeveer vijf jaar geleden bespraken wij – enkele stafleden van de afdeling Antropologie – de kwaliteit van het publieke debat. Wij stoorden ons aan de negatieve toon van het islamdebat, hoe bijvoorbeeld de hoofddoek uitsluitend als een vorm van vrouwenonderdrukking werd gezien of hoe er alleen maar óver moslims werd gediscussieerd in plaats van met hen zelf. Een andere bron van frustratie betrof de discussie over ontwikkelingssamenwerking, hoe rechtse partijen dit debat monopoliseerden waardoor er weinig ruimte was voor nuancering . Wij misten een antropologische visie in deze maatschappelijke debatten en wilden onze kennis delen met een breder publiek. Maar als je een ingewikkeld maatschappelijk probleem weigert in one-liners te benaderen, dan is het niet eenvoudig je stem te laten horen in het publieke debat.
Daarnaast merkten wij dat het algemene beeld over antropologie nodig bijgesteld diende te worden. De koloniale en exotische erfenis zijn al lang geleden afgezworen en hebben inmiddels plaats gemaakt voor kritische studies over actuele onderwerpen als armoede, protestbewegingen of duurzaamheid, die niet alleen in het buitenland maar ook in eigen land worden onderzocht. Kortom, we hadden meer dan voldoende redenen om een antropologisch weblog te starten met als standplaats niets minder dan de wereld! Lees verder

Het Spinhuis: Reclaiming the Public University

spinhuis1

By: Touraj Eghtesad

In the first week of this academic year, a group of concerned students and ex-students squatted the Spinhuis Common Room, just two months after being closed down. This room was once the meeting spot for academics and students from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, until the University of Amsterdam decided that the profit made from real estate sales was worth more than cultural heritage.

‘I hate that I have to go to Roeterseiland now. The Spinhuis is so beautiful, it’s central and we had a real sense of community with the professors and students here.’ – Joanna, anthropology student.

The Spinhuis is a typical example of what the anthropologist David Graeber calls ‘zones of cultural improvisation’ in which ‘diverse sorts of people with different traditions and experiences are obliged to figure out some way to get on with one another’. The initial squatters were political activists, but we soon managed to include many non-activists who were delighted to witness this social space take shape. The Spinhuis Collective is not limited to anarchists: there are communists, liberals and non-political students. What unites them all is a sense of community and their drive to defend a free university, devoid of commercial interests.

posterUVA

The advertisement campaign of the UvA focuses on the ‘intellectual rebel’. This powerful imagery was helpful in legitimizing the Spinhuis action.

Many students involved with the Spinhuis feel a sense of community in this space that they had yet to feel at university. Members of the collective constantly remind each other that running the Spinhuis demands hard work, but that they do not mind it because it is meaningful. Public services are being provided to students and non-students who come to enjoy a quiet study atmosphere during the day and fun, informative events every night of the week. They have been overwhelmingly popular, as universities provide too few opportunities for students to organize free cultural and political events.

‘The Spinhuis taught me a lot about being the change you want to see and how life can be different if you step outside the social norms. There are so many possibilities now that I never noticed before.’ – Jan, 26, UvA graduate.

There seems to be a widespread ‘squat stigma’, whereby people refuse to attend squatted social centres because they are an attack on private property. I invite those people to come see for themselves what they have missed out on. In fact, anyone can feel free to organize events at the Spinhuis. So far these have ranged from parties to discussion nights; cinema nights to benefit dinners; activist meetings to poetry readings. If these things are not appealing, there is the cheapest food and in all of central Amsterdam and coffee, tea and snacks are free.

Spinhuis2

The Spinhuis Common Room.

The Spinhuis is safe for now, as the University of Amsterdam has another month to provide evidence that they have plans for the building (which they currently do not). In the most recent court ruling, the judge decided that this was an act of civil disobedience and that a speed eviction had no legitimacy as long as the space is used in the public interest.

In the meantime, the university community’s support for the Spinhuis and its principles will go a long way. The ideal of the university as a ‘community of learners’ is still worth defending. The example of the Spinhuis shows that when students are given an opportunity, they can also create amazing practical outcomes. They are not just consumers of education waiting to become working adults, but are also actively engaged in shaping the society they want to live in.

For more information, check hetspinhuis.wordpress.com

“Ontwikkeling is conflict”: Jan Pronk op de VU

266px-Jan_Pronk_portraitDoor Nadine Goeree. Op 24 oktober j.l. gaf oud-minister van Ontwikkelings-samenwerking prof. Jan Pronk een lezing bij de Afdeling Sociale en Culturele Antropologie aan de VU. Hij was uitgenodigd in het kader van het NWO-WOTRO Integrated Research Programme (IP) Development as a Trojan Horse?: Foreign Large-Scale Land Acquisitions in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar and Uganda dat geleid wordt door Sandra Evers, universitair hoofddocent bij de afdeling. Tijdens de lezing gaf Prof. Pronk zijn visie op ontwikkelingssamenwerking, duurzame ontwikkeling en conflicten. Zijn visie is gebaseerd op zijn achtergrond en ervaring in de afgelopen vijftig jaar. Jan Pronk heeft economie gestudeerd en verbindt ontwikkelingssamenwerking met economische mogelijkheden, en ook met de toenemende globalisering. Pronk’s belangrijkste stelling was dat ontwikkeling gelijk staat aan conflict.

Volgens Jan Pronk staat ontwikkeling voor een proces van verandering en verbetering. Dit proces wordt gevormd door de waarden en principes van de deelnemers. Bij ontwikkeling zijn personen of groepen betrokken die verschillende bijdragen willen of kunnen leveren. Om ontwikkeling te laten slagen moeten de personen voor wie de ontwikkeling bedoeld is willen veranderen en participeren. Zelden is er ultieme overeenstemming in de gewenste vorm van ontwikkeling tussen de verschillende betrokkenen. Actoren streven naar vooruitgang, die in sommige gevallen door beperkte beschikking tot land of (financiële) middelen niet haalbaar is. Globalisering is volgens Pronk een economisch en technologisch proces waarbij het behalen van winst voorop staat. Door de toenemende globalisering neemt ook het aantal conflicten toe. Binnen een economisch proces kan er sprake zijn van een win-win situatie, doordat meerdere partijen erop vooruit kunnen gaan. In politiek opzicht kan er sprake zijn van een win-verlies situatie, waarbij de ene partij zich moet schikken naar de wensen van de andere partij. Het behalen van winst binnen een economisch proces kan ook negatieve consequenties hebben voor de betrokkenen. Zo kan er een conflict ontstaan. Lees verder