Oct
02

Wax & Gold

Levine's Wax & Gold (1965) is one the 'classics' of Ethiopian studies in the socio-anthropological realm. Much ink has been spilled about his work (including the author himself added a Preface to the 1972 to explain his change of views), much work has also been inspired that draws on the wax and gold concept that Levine describes and employs. 

In many ways, this was a book of its time - similar to other ethnographic type works that emerged in the early decades within the discipline of anthropology. Levine has sections on history, coming of age, adulthood, roles, marriage, individualism, social organizations, psycho-social analysis; all of which focusing on the Amhara. This post won't delve into the content, but instead share his points on the idea of wax and gold:

  • "The apparent, figurative meaning of the words is called "wax"; their more or less hidden actual significance is the "gold"." (p. 5)
  • "This terminology is derived from the work of the goldsmith, who constructs a clay mold around a form created in wax and then, draining the wax, pours the molten gold into that form." (p. 5)
  • The chief delight of Ethiopic poetry is to attain a maximum of thought within a minimum of words. This effect is reached, as we have seen, through subtle allusions and plays on words." (p. 7)
  • "... wax and gold is so important in Amharic that some Amhara maintain that one does not properly speak the language unless he is well versed in the art of exploiting its numerous ambiguities." (p. 8)
  • "Just as the Amhara tends to be tight-lipped and evasive when confronted with questions he does not feel like answering, so he finds pleasure in stubbornly withholding his meaning from his audience through employing figures and allusions which no one can understand. This may be understood as a passive form of oral aggression." (p. 230)
  • "Unless there is some overwhelming personal advantage to be obtained from providing information, the Amhara tend to give answers - when they do not pretend not to understand the question - in terms so ambiguous as to be worthless" (p. 251). 

The 'wax and gold' tradition is one wherein ambiguity is praised as it conveys one's linguistic and intellectual abilities to speak with brevity and offer multiple meanings at once. Literal, straight forward viewed as simplistic and lacking of intellect, whereas the use of 'wax and gold' in communication conveys complexity and intellect.

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Sep
25

Whose Voice Matters in IPE?

New open access publication: Whose voice matters in the teaching and learning of IPE? Implications for policy and policy making

Abstract: Critical decolonial assessments of International Political Economy (IPE) curricula have found a continued dominance of Euro-Western perspectives. However, these critical assessments have often been of specific programs or courses. In this article, we open the canvas wider in our quantitative assessment of privilege and marginalization, by conducting an analysis of IPE curricula from universities from around the world as well as of one of the most widely used introductory textbooks in the field. We find that scholars based outside of the Euro-West are marginal, while those based in the Euro-West continue to be dominant – in all the assessed course offerings. We also find that female voices are marginal, in all locations. Knowledge production systems privilege Euro-Western male voices and perspectives, furthering a process of systemic cognitive and epistemic injustices. Building upon our analysis of teaching and learning content, this article critically reflects on the implications of when IPE meets policy, and offers avenues for the policy engagement to avoid the same processes of privileging and marginalizing, and thereby better situating policy making to avoid repeating failures resulting from the identified entrenched biases.

Link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14494035.2021.1975220 

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14494035.2021.1975220

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Sep
21

Contemporary Qatar

Edited books are challenging to summarize, this post surveys some of the chapters and key points that stood out to me in this new collection, Contemporary Qatar (2021), edited by Zweiri and Al Qawasmi.

Ch 1 outlines the challenges experienced by the new state, often driven by external actors but which slowed the process of state building, which included the oil embargo (1973/4), oil crisis (1979), Iranian revolution (1979), Egypt-Israel peace treaty (1979), Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), GCC (1981), invasion of Kuwait, Gulf War (1990/1), Soviet collapse (1991), Jordan-Israel peace treaty (1994), failed coup (1996). The resources that Qatar holds today, largely LNG, were not a certain investment in the 1990s, when prices were low, but paid off in the long run. LNG development began in 1991, with the first export in 1997, the economic benefits of this enabled economic diversification in the 2000s, and beyond. The authors also note the niche areas of diplomacy that develop: (1) peace diplomacy / conflict resolution in Yemen, Sudan, Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Eritrea; (2) higher education, with Education City, (3) Media  with Al Jazeera Media Network from 1996, and (4) Sport via 2008 Asian Games, 2011 Pan Arab Games, to FIFA and beyond.

Ch 2 is historical, and there are several book length efforts on this. I'll leave the summary as I have done that for the other books. Ch 3 on governance highlights unique directions of Qatar for the region, and what consequences this had - namely supporting a generation of young leaders and expanding freedoms, which created some tensions in the region with other nations whose leaders did not share this vision. Ch 4 covers political participation - there is much said about the 2021 elections, but municipal elections have been on-going since 1999; the author shows a relatively low voter registration, variable voter turn out, and declining candidates. This chapter is quite quantitative. There appears to be a need to delve into the qualitative aspects of why.

Ch 5 covers foreign policy (also covered by Kamrava, I'll avoid repetition here). Ch 6 explores the peace diplomacy, drawing on first hand experiences, and outlines the cases of Yemen, Lebanon, Sudan, Djibouti, Palestine, and Afghanistan. Some unique contributions in this chapter for those interested. Ch 7 offers a detailed case study on foreign relations with Palestine while Ch 8 outlines the expansion of military capacity and capability following the 2017 blockade of Qatar. Ch 9 broadens the conversation on sport in Qatar, moving beyond its international and tourism purposes, but also its cultural and bottom-up social drivers. Ch 10 re-orients the rentier framing of Qatar to one in the political realm, as a developmental state; this seems a useful re-conceptualization, as far too often broad generalizations are made of groups of states, which may not hold. Ch 11 covers the geopolitical of gas, specifically in relation to the US shale gas market and Qatar's LNG. 

Ch 12 is one of the few in this collection that address domestic social issues, it focusing on national identity. The drivers resonate with many other chapters (economic, education, big projects, blockade), what is unique about this chapter is that the author presents recommendations on how the emerging national identity issues could be address, which include: (1) cultural criteria for immigrants (in a country where the majority are not citizens); (2) a labour market shift that focuses upon the longer term / multi-generational migrants who are 'local' as opposed to revolving shifts of foreign workers; (3) strengthen public schools via state investment and training with an aim to increase their appeal and phase out coupon system currently in place for private schools; (4) ensure the urban housing policy facilitates residential structures that are intentionally mixed, slowly addressing the legacy of some families living in particular areas to enable greater interaction and solidarity across society. Ch 13 addresses the memory of the blockade, and makes an interesting case about the rise of nationalist sentiment before the blockade that enabled the government to take a bold stance, which thereafter increased nationalist sentiments. Ch 14 covers women in the workforce, with Qatar being positioned as having a low female work force participation and lacking a 'female friendly' work environment. However, the chapter would have been enhanced with regional and international comparisons - Qatar has relatively high female labour force participation (similar to Germany and the UK) and has a rate nearly triple that of other regional countries (e.g. Saudi, Egypt, Iran). The interesting question seems to be the converse - what enabled Qatar to be so different (while acknowledging that further progress could yet be made on enable greater labour participation). 

This is an excellent collection of works for those interested in Qatar. A limitation is that a lot focuses on the political and economic realms (domestic and international) and less on the social issues (other than national identity and female labour participation). Nonetheless, for those interested in the subject areas covered, this is an important contribution. 

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Aug
20

Ethiopia & Food Security

QUOTES:

  • "As every farmer will emphasize, there is no average household, average yield, average rainfall or average food security situation. Averages are imposed; they provide illumination but are not lived realities. Instead of focusing on averages, greater attention should be placed on the diversity of ways in which households encounter food insecurity" (p. 25-26)
  • "One of the greatest strengths emerging from the Stages of Food Security methodology is the depth of qualitative insight. The process resulted in a reformulation of questions and metrics, and their co-analysis facilitated the emergence of highly contextualized information about the socio-cultural, economic, political, historical and gendered vulnerabilities to food insecurity." (p. 130)
  • "Fertilizer and pesticide use similarly vary by crop, indicating how typical household questionnaires make invisible the intricate and informed choices that smallholder farmers make within their agricultural practices." (p. 162-163)
  • "Ethiopia is making progress in creating new programs and expanding the coverage of services, yet significant challenges remain. With almost half of all children under the age of five experiencing stunted growth due to malnutrition, the need for action is urgent lest another generation be denied the opportunity to fulfill its potential because it has been limited by food insecurity." (p. 205)


REVIEWS:

  • "Ethiopia and Food Security could not have come at a better time. The author, who has lived, worked and conducted extensive research in the country over many years, brings a wealth of knowledge to the subject, a greater empathy for the rural people who are the chief actors in the book, and a fresh perspective, making the work richer as well as more insightful." —Dessalegn Rahmato, Forum for Social Studies, Addis Ababa
  • "While applauding Ethiopia's remarkable success in drought mitigation and famine prevention, Dr. Cochrane provides a unique perspective on the complex drivers of food insecurity and options for alleviating them. Ethiopia and Food Security is highly recommended for anyone interested not just in understanding and measuring these problems but also in addressing them by designing effective programs, policies and services." —Teferi Abate Adem, Research Anthropologist, HRAF at Yale University
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