Negligent NGO with happy parents: Voluntourism and the voice of the local beneficiaries

The NGO is located in little town in the peripheries of Arequipa

Pauline van der Valk        I have always had a keen interest in the local beneficiaries’ perspective on development projects. It was only when I started my Masters in Anthropology that I learned more about the phenomenon of voluntourism. Scholars agree voluntourism is part of the tourism sector, but also acknowledge voluntourists combine leisure activities with development practices. For this reason I found this niche market in the tourism sector highly intriguing and I decided to focus my thesis on voluntourism rather than on development. During my preparatory work I had read up on voluntourism, and the first discovery I made was that opinions on voluntourism differ greatly. There is a myriad of works concerning this topic, and I read it all – from moderately positive scholars claiming voluntourism increases mutual cultural understanding, to plain depressing works from scholars arguing voluntourism reinforces underlying global North – global South power relations. My main interest was in gaining the perspectives of those on the receiving end of the voluntourism chain. For this reason I focused my research on the experiences of the local parents and their children involved in voluntourism: the local beneficiaries. I choose this particular topic because during the preparation for my fieldwork I was rather surprised to find that the perspective of the local beneficiaries was often overlooked or under highlighted.
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Shifting realities – #IstandwithCEU

Solidarity during the protest in support of CEU and academic freedom on 2 April 2017. (Photo courtesy of Index.hu)

By Georgette Veerhuis      A few weeks ago I was writing a blog about the Women’s Strike demonstration I attended on the evening of  Wednesday, March 8, in Budapest, organised both in honour of and critical of International Women’s Day, but I wasn’t able to finish it. There was no clear message, just speculations and a mere description of the event. In light of new events, however, it seems I can now more clearly reflect on the peculiar situation in which I find myself – how a changing attitude of the Hungarian government can shift my (academic) position and possibilities. And surely I won’t be the worst off. I have other privileges to fall back on… Lees verder

Why is Anthropology so Critical?

Portrait of Giambattista Vico by Francesco Solimena

By Matthias Teeuwen            I want to thank Ton Salman for his insightful take on the question whether anthropology is the most scientific of the humanities or the most humanistic of the sciences or both, it gave me food for thought. For one: how is it that anthropology is considered science? It seems that Ton sees the scientific aspect of anthropology in its critical function of looking past the representations and meanings of people and examining the empirical conditions in which they arose.

I very much agree with Ton on this point. But I think that this hybridity is easily misunderstood in the sense that the critical, scientific side of anthropology is emphasised at the neglect of the hermeneutical, humanistic side. Lees verder

A Journey to Experience: Tanzania-Kenya-Uganda

artikel-reis-ottlaBy Ottla Lange      In my first week of studying cultural Anthropology I had been told to write down everything I observe, when in a new or semi-new environment, within the first twenty-four hours. After this short period of time a person starts to become blind for the things that used to catch their eye. Now after travelling through East-Africa for two weeks – to visit the countries where my father, who died in the airplane crash of MH17, had spent most of his time working as an aids researcher – I can say that this could not be more true. Lees verder

Being engaged with the Middle East

Sheila Carapico (chair), Marina de Regt and Erika Cortes.

By Erika Cortes         Anthropology is a way of life. It, if I may, is life. It can present us life at its most complex state. And, more often than not, the topics we choose to work on as anthropologists usually stick with us beyond purely academic pursuits. Lees verder

Diet as a New Identity

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Photo by Gaya Nikolsky

By Gaya Nikolsky       Who are you? No, let me rephrase that to avoid a complicated philosophical debate. What is your identity? Okay, although this question is also quite complex, as an anthropologist I do have more grip on it. Your social identity is who and what you are to other people. Often, at least when regarding identity as a more superficial construction, it would involve different labels that will tell the outside world something about you… Or so it seems. Let’s leave it at that for now: your social identity is what you are to other people and it usually involves aspects such as your gender, sexuality, age, ethnicity, race, nationality, religion, career, hobbies etc. Lees verder

Some thoughts on film in ethnography

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Still from ‘Inside the Mind of Favela Funk’

By Ina Keuper     On 7 December the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology organized its second Ethnographic Film Day, which featured four rather different ethnographic documentaries. Former staff member Ina Keuper was there and shares some thoughts on Standplaats Wereld about these particular films and the role of this visual medium in anthropology. Lees verder

Match-making: the Pakistani way

matchmaking-pakistaniBy  M. Amer Morgahi      Migration has its own dynamic of bringing people together in situations or locations where they otherwise might not have thought of. However, migration sometimes also compels people to take certain steps, occasionally out of sheer desperation, otherwise just to make use of new possibilities created. Lees verder

Another Answer to the Question “What is Anthropology?”

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Photo by David Barnas on Flickr

By Matthias Teeuwen            As a student of cultural anthropology you are invariably confronted with the question: what is anthropology? It can briefly be answered by pointing to the etymology of the word: άνθρωπος (human; man) + λόγος (word; reason) = anthropology, the study of humans. However, this simple definition of anthropology soon gets swamped in the sheer diversity within anthropology: social anthropology, cultural anthropology, anthropology of crises, anthropology of religion, medical anthropology, digital anthropology, anthropology of the city, anthropology of music, etc….

Here I propose an understanding of what anthropology is based on the juxtaposition with philosophy, and with philosophy I mean that branch of philosophy that regards humans: philosophical anthropology. Anthropology and philosophy seem to share an engagement with the limits of the human:[1] What is human and what is not? Or, stated differently: what is the result of nurture and what is the result of nature? Lees verder

Wind Energy

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By Alexander Dunlap    Wind Energy is undoubtedly my favorite of all the energy systems, which retains an immense potential for eco-logical sustainability. This potential, however, can be utopic, dystopic or somewhere in between, which is intimately intertwined with the futures people wish to create. Before moving to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region in Oaxaca, Mexico to investigate the impact of renewable energy on semi-subsistent Indigenous groups (Zapotec and Ikoot), I knew that wind projects triggered, what is known in political ecology as, ecological distribution conflicts. These are conflicts arising from development projects that affirm regional power inequalities, unequal distribution of benefits and negative ecological impacts without adequate compensation. This type of conflict was visible in the Isthmus, intertwining with the regional historical and institutional context. That said there are other far reaching and often neglected implications of wind energy development. Lees verder

Rereading Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Ethnographer”

Jorge Luis Borges 1951
Jorge Luis Borges 1951, by Grete Stern

By Matthias Teeuwen        I have read “The Ethnographer” and “Dr. Brodie’s Report” without thinking much of it. Sure, I had found it curious that Borges, who ranks among my favourite authors, would devote some of his writings to ethnography, but I haven’t thought much of it. Or, to be precise, I had planned to do my thinking on it at a later time. So when I came across an article in HAU Journal (2016, Volume 6, nr. 2) by Edgardo Krebs who argues that the anthropologist Alfred Métraux was Jorge Luis Borges’ inspiration to write the two stories, my curiosity was piqued. By reading the article by Krebs and re-reading “The Ethnographer” I have come to see the story as a challenge to the ethnographic endeavour of anthropology. Lees verder

Vamos a la lucha!

colombia1By Lieke Prins         During the three months of my fieldwork in Medellín (the second-largest city in Colombia) I researched the political ideology of social science students and how this ideology manifested itself in practice. In order to understand their position and their actions, I lived with two Colombian students and participated in their day-to-day life. From the very first moment that I met the two girls, I noticed their passion concerning the construction of peace, their resistance movements against the politically right capitalist mindset, their fight for justice and their search for human security. Not only did they resist, they dedicated all of their time to build – for what they believed to be – a better Colombia. During interviews, observations and heaps of informal conversations with my roommates and their peers I started to understand the conflict, the political ideology and the actions of the students step by step. However, on the 17th of March, during the national strike I felt and experienced the pain and the hurt and the necessity for change for the first time. Lees verder

Stable Instability: renewed turmoil in Ethiopia (part 2)

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Qilinto prison burning, Addis Ababa 3 September 2016.  Opposition voices state that not the fire but the prison guards killed more than 60 inmates, most of them political prisoners fleeing and trying to reach safety. © Ethiogrio

(This is the second part of an earlier published article)

By Jan Abbink        Next to the demands for more economic rights and protection, the wider background factors of the spreading protests were: mounting dissatisfaction with authoritarian party politics, the interfering presence of party cadres in local life, the lack of accountability of the government, unresolved land allocation issues, lack of proper compensation for those removed from the land, the dismantling of civil society organizations in the last decade, the lack of political and civic freedoms, and the lack of a well-working justice system (as people say, one cannot really bring complaints against the government and get one’s right in the courts).

There is also a longer-term social dynamic involved: large groups of youth are unemployed, and there is still a large urban underclass that is often excluded from high school or vocational education and from jobs. New cultural-political youth movements – in both the classical political sphere as well as in the cultural domain – are seen with suspicion by the government and under close scrutiny. Also, emerging local ethnic elites in the various regional states have been cautiously putting forward new demands – and, paradoxically, their emergence and assertiveness is an achievement of the ‘ethnic politics’ of empowerment that the Ethiopian ruling party and government instituted since 1991 and which has led to many smaller ethnic groups getting ‘special districts’. The ethno-regional rivalry is now also seen in the serious tensions within the ruling party, where the four branches, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM) are not always in agreement with the dominant Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).  Lees verder

How to keep in touch with anthropology

Annual Day of Anthropology, 20 May 2016
Annual Day of Anthropology, 20 May 2016

By Ina Keuper  For many students the last week of their studies at the anthropology department of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) has ended today, for Bachelor’s students as well as Master’s. They have worked hard on finishing their final assignment, a thesis with which they prove their proficiency in writing an academic text within the time and word count set for it. The Master’s students presented the drafts of their thesis on the Master’s Festival of last week’s Tuesday, June 14th, while the Bachelor’s did so on the Bachelor’s Festival of Thursday June 16th. Lees verder

Should we all radicalize? Anthropology in times of capitalist crises

A response to the inaugural lecture of Dimitris Dalakoglou, Chair in Social Anthropology at VU University Amsterdam.

Refugee crisis in Europe, via creative commons
Refugee crisis in Europe, via creative commons

By Herbert Ploegman            As Dimitris Dalakoglou argued in his inaugural speech “Anthropology and Infrastructures. From the State to the Commons”, on the 13th of June, “our humanity and our human lives” are truly at stake in the events unfolding at the borders of Europe. He referred in particular to the people trying to cross the Mediterranean while facing extreme risks of drowning, but also to the modified forms of governance in Southern European countries over the years that we understand as crisis. Lees verder