Jan
01

Education, Politics and Social Change in Ethiopia

In looking for research that explores the challenges of ethnic federalism and language in Ethiopia, I came across the book "Education, Politics and Social Change in Ethiopia" (2010), edited by Paulos Milkias (Concordia University) and Messay Kebede (University of Dayton). All of the contributing authors are based outside of Ethiopia, which is not necessarily negative, but I think it would have been a useful addition to have people more actively engaged in the Ethiopian education and political systems contribute. The book covers a range of topics: English as a medium of instruction, traditional and modern education, influences of western education, history of education, an Ethiopian theory of education, education and the Pentecostal movement, language politics, women and education, and power of educating.

I support the linguistic arguments made by Ngugi wa Thiong'o, and found Tekeste Negash's work (Chapter 1) an interesting read. While Ethiopia does not have a colonial legacy, it has adopted a colonial language for its primary medium of instruction: "The problem with English as a medium of instruction is even more complex. English is not only a language but it is a value system. Attending all classes in English is tantamount to the whole sale adaptation of the culture that the English language represents at the price of one's native language and the values such language contains." (p. 19) Recently, Ethiopia opted for dual language instruction (Afan Oromo and Amharic) in federal jurisdictions (Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa), which Tekeste suggested when this book was published in 2010: "I believe it is imperative that Ethiopia makes the transition from English into Amharic and Afan-Oromo by about 2025. To some readers of this paper, twenty years may sound a very long time; but 20 to 25 years is just enough to discuss the issue of the benefits of connecting to ones world view and of initiating the process of translation and reinterpretation of school materials as well the development of both languages." (p. 23).

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Jul
20

PhD: The Politics of Big Data

The Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA) of the Faculty of Humanities is looking for a PhD candidate to join the ERC-funded project 'Data Activism: The Politics of Big Data According to Civil Society'(DATACTIVE), with Dr. Stefania Milan as Principal Investigator. DATACTIVE investigates citizens' engagement with massive data collection, seeking to understand how activism evolves in the time of datafication.

As datafication progressively invades all spheres of contemporary society, citizens grow increasingly aware of the critical role of information as the new fabric of social life. This awareness gives rise to new sociotechnical practices taking a critical approach to 'big data' and massive data collection, which fall under the rubric of 'data activism'. Data activism takes at least two forms: re-activedata activism, whereby people increasingly resist the threats to civil rights that derive from corporate privacy intrusion and government surveillance (e.g., by means of technical fixes such as encryption); and pro-active data activism, whereby citizens take advantage of the possibilities for campaigning and social change that data availability provides (e.g., data-based advocacy). The DATACTIVE project explores how activism broadly defined evolves in the age of big data. We take a critical look at, among others, citizen empowerment through data; civil society's privacy practices; surveillance and internet activism; governance of data flows and internet infrastructure; open data and civic tech networks.

You will join an interdisciplinary team working under the leadership of Dr. Stefania Milan (the Principal Investigator) and collaboratively examining the emerging dynamics of data activism at the intersection of its social and technological dimensions. We offer a multidisciplinary, interactive and international research environment in a leading department (Communication and Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam currently ranks number 8 in the QS World Rankings).

More details.


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Jun
14

Rules for Radicals

Saul Alinsky was one of the most influential community organizers, activists and rabble-rousers of his time (1909-1972). His most well known work is "Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals" (1971). The book provides a wealth of interesting examples of community organizing, these stories and experiences make the book well worth the read, as do Alinsky's reader-friendly approach of having various lists of rules and principles to work with. He begins his work by situating his approach:

  • "As an organizer I start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be. That we accept the world as it is does in any sense weaken our desire to change it into what we believe it should be – it is necessary to begin where the world is if we are going to change it to what we think it should be. This means working in the system." (p. xix)

About his book he says that: "What follows is for those who want to change the world from what is it to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away" (p. 3). Alinsky deals with ethics (means and ends) and terminology (power, self-interest), without delving theory but focusing upon his experiences. The fourth chapter turns to the education of an organizer, which includes a list of traits and descriptions, as well as this interesting aside:

  • "There was a time when I believed that the basic quality that an organizer needed was a deep sense of anger against injustice and that this was the prime motivation that kept him going. I now know that it is something else: this abnormal imagination that sweeps him into close identification with mankind and projects him into its plight. He suffers with them and becomes angry at the injustice and begins to organize the rebellion." (p. 74)

About community organization, he writes:

  • "The first step in community organization is community disorganization. The disruption of the present organization is the first step toward community organization. Present arrangements must be disorganized if they are to be displaced by new patterns that provide the opportunities and means for citizen participation. All change means disorganization of the old and organization of the new." (p. 116)
  • "The organization has to be used in every possible sense as an educational mechanism, but education is not propaganda. Real education is the means by which the membership will begin to make sense out of their relationship as individuals to the organization and to the world they live in, so that they can make informed and intelligent judgments. The stream of activities and programs of the organization provides a never-ending series of specific issues and situations that create a rich field for the learning process." (p. 124)

On participation, he explains:

  • "We learn, when we respect the dignity of the people, that they cannot be denied the elementary right to participate fully in the solutions to their own problems. Self-respect arises only out of people who play an active role in solving their own crises and who are not helpless, passive, puppet-like recipients of private or public services. To give people help, while denying them a significant part in the action, contributes nothing to the development of the individual. In the deepest sense it is not giving but taking – taking their dignity. Denial of the opportunity for participation is the denial of human dignity and democracy." (p. 123)

In the middle class:

  • "The middle classes are numb, bewildered, scared into silence. They don't know what, if anything, they can do. This is the job for today's radical – to fan the embers of hopelessness into a flame to fight… It is a job first of bringing hope and doing what every organizer must do with all people, all classes, places, and times – communicate the means or tactics whereby the people can feel that they have the power to do this and that and on." (p. 194)
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