Mar
19

The Global Majlis

Career diplomat and current State Minister Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari wrote "The Global Majlis" (arabic 2015, translation 2016) as an "intellectual autobiography". The book draws on reflections from his work in Syria, Lebanon, France and the US, as well as in Qatar (published by HBKU press). Culture emerges as a key thread throughout the book, as it does in the thought and work of the author; he describes in the Forward: "I tackle the issue of distinctive cultural character versus universal cultural character in the context of culture and development. I describe how my perception of literature and the arts has evolved. I talk about the public space as a place for public discussion, beginning with the majlis tradition in our countries and extending to new media trends" (p. viii). A few interesting notes:

"The politician's role is to build on what is positive and inspire hope among people." (p. 9)

"We should not be tricked by the might of the machine behind globalised culture. Cultures are quintessentially local, and they cannot be eliminated unless the societies that produce them disappear. Yet at the same time, local cultures do not exist in isolation from historical shifts. They are not rigid and cannot afford to be so; in order to survive and thrive, cultures must accommodate changes and developments without losing their essential characteristics" (p. 14)

"Isolationism and retreating into one's identity because of globalisation's hegemony is in the end a crude expression of a culture of fear, and of a stale perception of what constitutes culture." (p. 140)

"Education in my view should emphasize tolerance, refinement and enlightenment. It should seek to help young people to go beyond instinct and natural capability, by developing their skills and talents to be able to change themselves and reform their society to be prosperous, upstanding and harmonious. The Quran reminds us 'God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves', and the instrument of bringing about this change is education and the educational institution." (p. 149)

"I was raised in a culture that does not understand education to be limited to the attainment of degrees, no matter how vaunted those degrees are and how much they help one find employment. Education in our culture and tradition is a duty for all those who want to follow the path of truth, and an endless sea in whose waters we should cleanse ourselves for as long as we live. I believe that seeking knowledge is akin to the dynamism of life in its progress and decline, or the sea in its ebb and flow. We elevate ourselves and increase the value of our symbolic capital by reading and learning, and we retreat and impoverish ourselves by being content with what we already know." (p 150-151) 

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Mar
14

Secure the Base

Secure the Base (2016) is a collection of speeches that Ngugi wa Thiong'o gave. His other works include Decolonizing the Mind (1986), An African Renaissance (2009) and Theory and Politics of Knowing (2012), amongst many others. A few quotes:

"It is fair to say that 'tribe', 'tribalism' and 'tribal wars', the terms so often used to explain conflict in Africa were colonial inventions. Most African languages do not have the equivalent of the English word tribe, with its pejorative connotations that sprung up in the evolution of the anthropological vocabulary of eighteenth -and nineteenth-century European adventurism in Africa. The words have companionship with other colonial conceptions, such as 'primitive', the 'Dark Continent', 'backward races' and 'warrior communities.'" (p. 9)

"It is not hard to see the roots of this identification with cultural symbols of Western power. The education of the black elite is entirely in European languages. Their conceptualization of the world is within the parameters of the language of their inheritance. Most importantly, it makes the elite an integral part of a global-speech community. Within the African nations, European tongues continue to be what they were during the colonial period: the language of power, conception and articulation of the worlds of science, technology, politics, law, commerce administration and even culture." (p. 42)

"For a long time now, I have advocated moving the centre from a handful of European nations to marginalized nations, and then creating conditions for a healthy dialogue and equal exchange among them all. Although this has been couched in mainly linguistic and cultural terms, my concerns embrace the wholeness of a community - the economic, political, cultural and psychic." (p. 59)

"I want to suggest that our various fields of knowledge of Africa are in many ways rooted in that colonial tradition of the outsider looking in, gathering knowledge with the help of native informants, and then storing the final product in a European language for consumption by those who have access to that language." (p. 71)

"We cannot afford to be intellectual outsiders in our own land. We must reconnect with the buried alluvium of the African memory - that must become the base for planting African memory anew in the continent and in the world. This can only result in the empowerment of African languages and cultures and make them pillars of a more self-confident Africa ready to engage with the world, through give-and-take, from its base in African memory." (p. 76) 

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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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Oct
16

Funded MA: Education for Sustainable Development

Location: Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Start Date: September 2017

Salary: $12,000/year stipend (with possibility of further scholarship opportunities)


THE PROJECT

Sustainable Development cannot be achieved through one sector alone, yet education in particular is seen as a vehicle to move us towards this goal. While there is a plethora of literature that examines the role of formal education for sustainable development (ESD), to date there has been very little research that examines the potential role for non-formal and informal education. The Arts (i.e. visual arts, performance arts, and literature) may be one form of informal ESD that can have a significant influence on the development of cultural norms and therefore play a critical role in creating the cultural changes needed to achieve a sustainable future. However, preliminary investigations to date have found that there are very few scholarly works associated with the topic. This dearth of found materials may be a result of poor bibliographic indexing by scholarly databases, because the materials are located outside of conventional scholarly mediums (e.g. websites, playbills, exhibition catalogues, and other grey literature), or simply because there are few written materials on this subject. The purpose of this research is to identify scholars, artists and practitioners working in the area where the Arts, ESD and sustainability intersect in order to document their conceptualizations of the role the Arts could/should play in achieving a sustainable future; to thoroughly examining the extent to which both the scholarly and grey literature addresses sustainability and the Arts. Further, it has been recognized that scholars, social innovators and artists are often isolated from each other, because of limited opportunities for knowledge exchange and dialogue, and a lack of common methods for knowledge mobilization and translation. As such, this research aims to develop and encourage collaborative partnerships and intellectual exchange among artists and scholars engaged in the intersection of the Arts, ESD, and sustainability.

RESPONSIBILITIES

This position will help with Phase 1 of this research which aims to identify scholars, artists and practitioners working in areas where the Arts, ESD and sustainability intersect; better understand how those working in this area conceptualize the role the Arts could/should play in achieving a sustainable future. Responsibilities will include identifying potential participants for the study; conducting in-depth interviews with participants; data entry and management; contributing to data analyses; conducting background research and report writing; and other clerical organizational duties as required. It is expected that students will undertake this work as part of their Masters thesis at Dalhousie University (with the suggestion of enrolling in the Master of Environmental Studies program in the School for Resource and Environmental Studies).


Interested individuals are asked to submit their application including a cover letter, curriculum vitae and the names of two references, to Dr. Tarah Wright.

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