THE POLITICAL ANTHROPOLOGIST
Women Warriors Sex, Violence, and the Media
Emoji: New Language or Trend?
Reductio Ad absurdum PAGE 18
What Do We Know About Mass Shootings?
Deconstructing and Dismantling The Rape Culture in India
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THE POLITICAL ANTHROPOLOGIST NOVEMBER - DECEMBER 2017
Women Warriors Sex, Violence, and the Media, p.10
Is a Languages Strategy Essential for Britain’s Economy to Prosper Post Brexit? Gabrielle Hogan-Brun
Women Warriors Sex, Violence, and the Media Kelly Oliver
What the West Can Learn from the ASEAN Way Edgardo Angara
Deconstructing And Dismantling The Rape Culture In India Parul Verma
Confucian Culture and the International Trend of Legalising Same-Sex Marriage Karen Lee
Race & Politics
Black Elite: Reductio ad absurdum Houston A. Baker and K. Merinda Simmons
Slavehood 2017 Peter Koenig
What Do We Know About Mass Shootings? Frederic Lemieux
Zombie Politics Alexander Cohen and Chase Pielak
It’s Not The Economy, Stupid! Graham Vanbergen
Sound as Popular Culture Jens Gerrit Papenburg and Holger Schulze
Emoji: New Language or Trend? Marcel Danesi
Duped, Guilty Pleasure, Irony, and Camp: Consuming Fake News Roscoe Scarborough
Social Media Speech: Published Globally, Censored Locally By States, Globally By Platforms Marie-Andrée Weiss
Wikipedia as Illustration of the Truth-Seeking Rationale for Freedom of Expression Mark Cenite
Right to be Disconnected - The Wave to Catch On Jasna Cošabic
Immigration, Food Justice and the Fierce Urgency of Now Julian Agyeman, Alison Alkon and Sydney Giacalone
Culture, Power and Applied Anthropology in a Corporate Setting Amitai Touval
Environment & Sustainability
Understanding the Sustainable Lifestyle Steven Cohen
Feed the Future of Agriculture with Vertical Farming Mark Esposito, Terence Tse, Khaled Soufani and Lisa Xiong
Nuclear Power and Public Fear in the Era of Climate Change Scott Montgomery
Production & Design: Angela Lamcaster Print Strategy: Stefan Newhart Production Accounts: Lynn Moses Editors: Elenora Elroy, David Lean Group Managing Editor: Jane Liu Editor in Chief: The Political Anthropologist Publishing Oscar Daniel READERS PLEASE NOTE: The views expressed in articles are the authors' and not necessarily those of The Political Anthropologist. Authors may have consulting or other business relationships with the companies they discuss. The Political Anthropologist: 3 - 7 Sunnyhill Road, London SW16 2UG, Tel +44 (0)20 3598 5088, Fax +44 (0)20 7000 1252, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.politicalanthropologist.com No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission. Copyright © 2017 EBR Media Ltd. All rights reserved. ISSN 2052-7403
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Confucian Culture and the International Trend of Legalising Same-Sex Marriage BY KAREN LEE
Steeped in centuries-old Confucian family order, China appears to be an unlikely place for same-sex marriage. A growing sense of activism, however, has seen more gay activists fight for their rights in court, mirroring a global trend – and emulating their counterparts across the Taiwan Strait – of embracing gays and lesbians into the institution of marriage.
onfucianism found a notable place in the 2015 case of Obergefell v Hodges, where the majority of the US Supreme Court, in conferring the marriage right on gays and lesbians, said “Confucius taught that marriage lies at the foundation of government”. While a swath of Netizens in China welcomed the connection between the sage and marriage equality,1 a
The Political Anthropologist November - December 2017
philosophy professor saw it as a “distortion” of Confucius, who would have condemned homosexuality as “a crime against humanity”.2 The picture is, in fact, more nuanced. Chinese society has not always been anti-gay; a subtle difference subsisted between same-sex behaviours and homosexual identity. Ancient China, which allowed polygamy, had been for centuries tolerant of – or rather, indifferent towards – homosexuality as long as it posed no threats to traditional family roles and social hierarchies.3 Nor was it a target of Confucius or his followers in their espousal of sexual restraint. Imperial China, in particular, was famous for the prevalence of same-sex relations in high society; hence, the tales of “the shared peach” and “the cut sleeve” which romantically depicted the “love” between the king and his male lover. A decree, which the Qing Dynasty passed in 1740 to punish consensual sodomy between
Teresa Xu, left, and Li Tingting, right, share a moment outside a beauty salon, where the two were preparing for their wedding. © CNN
men, was never strictly enforced. On the other hand, European missionaries, who have arrived ashore since the 16th century, brought with them Judeo-Christian teachings including monogamy and anti-homosexuality. The idea of “homosexuals as deviants” has since begun to seep into the national psyche, which culminated during Mao Zedong’s reign whose aversion to homosexuality as a “decadent bourgeois practice” saw systemic persecutions against homosexuals, particularly gay men.4 That included a hooliganism law (liumangzui), added to the Penal Code in 1957, which allowed authorities to incarcerate, impose electric therapy on, or in some cases, execute homosexuals.5 Although homosexuality was decriminalised in 1997 and de-medicalised in 2001, respectively, social stigma attached to gays and, to a lesser extent lesbians, remains. At the same time, marriage and its corollary, procreation, have remained central to Chinese family order. The words of Mencius, another Confucian sage, that “of the three forms of unfilial conduct, the worst is to have no descendants”, have for generations, led Chinese to believe that a son’s utmost duty is to continue the family line. Under China’s “patrilineal” conception of families, the route of lineage includes only those from the father’s side of the family with the same surname, with married daughters and their husbands being deemed “outside the family”.6 Unlike in the west where husband and wife form the axis of family in support of their adolescent children, traditional Chinese families revolve around the “vertical”
The legalisation of same-sex marriage appears to challenge traditional Chinese family order, rather than marriage per se. relationships between that of father and son and of mother and daughter-in-law, with the marital partners playing a secondary role. A Confucian classic, the Book of Rites (Liji), which proclaimed five cardinal relationships (Wulun) – including father and son, and husband and wife – as the foundation of ethics, stressed that everyone should “stay in his place” and eschew behaviours unbecoming of their status. Against this cultural backdrop, the legalisation of same-sex marriage appears to challenge traditional Chinese family order, rather than marriage per se. That homosexuals are, by nature, incapable of reproduction, invokes shame and impiety and alienates gays far more than lesbians, who generally face a lower degree of public disapprobation and pressure to marry. Hence, some gays ended up marrying and having children with straight women, whom became known as “Tongqi”, a derivative of “Tongzhi”, a Chinese term which means “comrade” but colloquially understood as “gay”. According to a retired academic, at least 14 million straight women in China are married to gay men – many of them unaware of the latter’s double lives – leading to a host of other social problems.7 An increasing number of closeted gays, therefore, opted for “sham marriages” (xinghun) with lesbians to shield their sexual orientation and appease their families. Still, the burden of fulfilling traditional gender roles – to stay in one’s place – may make same-sex marriage, which will see a “son-in-law” replace a “daughter-in-law”, for example, sound like a distant dream. Yet, social attitudes appear to be gradually changing amid growing activism. In January 2011, two men celebrated with 50-plus friends and activists in allegedly Beijing’s first gay marriage ceremony (following an earlier one by two lesbians in Guangdong province), the photos of which have set the Internet abuzz.8 Then in February 2013, prior to China’s annual parliamentary sessions in Beijing, about 100 parents of gays and lesbians, through a grassroots group that promotes LGBT rights, sent an open letter to the National People’s
Congress delegates demanding “marriage equality” for their children, albeit to no avail. A breakthrough, however, was made in December 2014, when the Haidian District Court in northern Beijing ruled in favour of a man against a clinic for subjecting him to electric shocks as part of a gay conversion therapy. Declaring that homosexuality is not a mental illness, the court ordered the defendant to compensate the plaintiff and a search engine to remove a related advertisement. A further milestone was reached in June 2015, when a gay couple filed a lawsuit against a civil affairs bureau in Changsha in Hunan province after it refused to register their marriage. In what activists hailed as the first of its kind, the court, on 13 April 2016, two days after a county-level labour tribunal heard China’s first transgender employment discrimination case, convened a hearing (in a packed courtroom) despite ruling against the couple, citing that Chinese law allows only “a man and a woman” to form a marriage.9 To the LGBT community, however, that the case was ever heard – and the degree of support and media attention it garnered – was unprecedented, a sign of the increasing readiness of gay activists to use the legal system to fight for their rights. Noting that gays the world over have joined forces to fight for the right to marry, Mr. Sun, one of the claimants who vowed to appeal, said: “If I hadn’t seen the outside world, then I wouldn’t care. But I have seen the outside world, and I feel terrible. China needs to take bigger steps”.10 He was alluding to an international trend of legalising same-sex marriage since 2001. At present, more than 22 mostly Western and European jurisdictions – spanning the continents of Africa, Americas, Australasia, and Europe – allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot. Taiwan aspires to be Asia’s first, its divided legislature having passed the first of 3 readings on 26 December 2016 amid all-out protests from both sides of the debate. While Taiwan prides itself on its openness towards homosexuality with a
Chinese court dismisses same-sex marriage lawsuit © China Development Brief
boisterous annual gay parade in Taipei, same-sex marriage remains a divisive issue, not only due to traditional culture and an outspoken Evangelical opposition but arguably also the “leapfrogging” manner in which the law is set to be changed. In Taiwan, state emphasis on gender equality saw it part of the employment law and school curriculum since 2002 and 2004, respectively. Yet the law has never explicitly protected gays and lesbians from discrimination.11 This probably makes the impending law change too drastic for those, who, though not necessarily oppose equality measures for same-sex couples, find the big leap towards same-sex marriage difficult to fathom. Hence, while there appears to be some bipartisan consensus – between the nationalist Kuomintang and progressives led by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party – that same-sex relationships be legally recognised, disagreement centres on whether it should be achieved by amending the Civil Code, which would make marriage, once and for all, a union of “two persons”, or by enacting a new “civil union” or “same-sex marriage” law. For those who embrace marriage equality, the latter, however, reeks of the infamous “separate but equal” doctrine prevalent in 19th century racially segregated
Because marriage is never a purely private matter and requires a degree of social recognition, a step-by-step approach, which allows people to acclimatise themselves to incremental changes, may help smoothen the legislative process and make the ultimate transition easier to accept. 8
The Political Anthropologist November - December 2017
America. Nevertheless, experiences from Europe and North America, for example, show that the road to same-sex marriage has often followed an incremental track, which begins from state decriminalising homosexuality and standardising the age of consent between heterosexual and homosexual acts, outlawing discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation, to allowing gays and lesbians to form civil unions or partnerships and finally, to marry.12 Because marriage is never a purely private matter and requires a degree of social recognition, a step-by-step approach, which allows people to acclimatise themselves to incremental changes, may help smoothen the legislative process and make the ultimate transition easier to accept. As one of America’s leading academic defenders of gay rights William Eskridge Jr. once wrote: “…a polity which is a democracy and whose citizens have heterogeneous views about important matters is one where immediate full equality is not always possible, not practical, not even desirable”.13 Despite the recent setbacks, both China and Taiwan have made great strides. China, which stopped treating homosexuality as a crime only two decades ago, now sees a growing league of gays and lesbians who dare speak the name of their love, some of them have gone the extra mile to fight for their rights in court. Without a history of incremental legal developments as described above, Taiwan is now debating in what manner the law should recognise the status of same-sex couples. Whatever direction they go, the issue of sexual minority rights is not to go away, and society will, sooner or later,
need to confront a difficult moral disagreement between fellow citizens. “In the process, we will need to listen, deliberate and reconsider, at the same time accommodate aspirations we used to think incompatible with ours. Sometimes we may need to change our views. And we cannot expect to always have our own way”.14 Again Confucius comes to mind, this time: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Featured image: Image from “Fighting for gay rights in China” video
Karen Lee is Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Sciences, the Education University of Hong Kong. Her research covers human rights discourse, rule of law, legal culture, and democratisation. She has recently published: “Beyond the ‘professional project’: The political positioning of Hong Kong lawyers”, International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice, 2017 (online), 1-11.
Protestor with sign that says "LEGALIZE GAY MARRIAGE", 2013 Photo courtesy: ABC
References 1 . h t t p s : / / w w w. b l o o m b e r g. c o m / v i e w / a r t i c l e s / 2 0 1 5 - 0 7 - 0 1 / what-would-confucius-say-about-gay-marriage 2.http://thediplomat.com/2015/07/confucius-on-gay-marriage/ 3.D. S. Davis and S. L. Friedman (2014). “Deinstitutionalizing Marriage and Sexuality” in D. S. David and S. L. Friedman (eds.), Wives, Husbands, and Lovers: marriage and sexuality in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Urban China, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1-38, p. 17. 4.http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/1503/the-lgbt-movement-in-china-public-perception-stigma-and-the-human-rights-debate 5 . h t t p : / / w w w. h u f f i n g t o n p o s t . c o m / ch i n a - h a n d s / t o n g z h i - c u l ture_b_5391045.html 6.Fei Xiaotong (1992). From the Soil: The Foundations of Chinese Society (Trans. G.G. Hamilton & W. Zheng), Berkeley, Los Angeles, Oxford: University of California Press, p. 83. 7.https://thenanfang.com/14-million-women-married-gay-men-china/ 8.http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2011-01/24/content_11908322.htm 9.http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2016/04/13/ court-rules-against-couple-in-chinas-first-gay-marriage-lawsuit/ 10.https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/28/world/asia/couples-lawsuit-isfirst-test-for-same-sex-marriage-in-china.html 11.Taiwan enacted the Gender Equality Employment Law and Gender Equity Education Act in 2002 and 2004, respectively. 12.Man Yee Karen Lee (2010). Equality, Dignity, and Same-sex Marriage: A Rights Disagreement in Democratic Societies, Leiden; Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, p. 40. 13.William N. Eskridge Jr. (2001). "Equality Practice: Liberal Reflections on the Jurisprudence on Civil Unions", 64 Albany Law Review 853, p. 871. 14.Supra note 12, p. 246.
Photo Credit: Universal Television
WOMEN WARRIORS SEX, VIOLENCE, AND THE MEDIA BY KELLY OLIVER
Women’s violence is given more media attention than men’s because of the connection between sex and violence in our cultural imaginary. Stereotypes of dangerous women as “femme fatales” and “black widow spiders”, and attractive women as “bombshells”, manifests a deep-seated fear of women’s sexuality as violent and women’s violence as sexual.
omen’s violence is given more media attention than men’s violence, not just because it is less prominent or because there are not as many women soldiers or militants than men. Rather, traditional stereotypes of women as “black widow spiders” or “femme fatales” who use their pretty smiles and their sex appeal to lure men to their deaths play into media representations of women’s involvement in recent military action. Because of the way that stereotypes of women’s sexuality as inherently dangerous and women’s violence as more threatening than men’s, the issue of women’s participation in the theatre of war is complex. Indeed, when military leaders or jihadists use women strategically as weapons, and when the media figures them as weapons because of their very presence in the theatre of war, women’s agency is difficult to locate. On the one hand, some conservatives blame women for their inherently violent natures, while some feminists blame male control of women for forcing them into these acts of war.
Women are figured as dangerous, even more dangerous than men, especially because of the cultural association between sex and violence.
The Political Anthropologist November - December 2017
From the young American women soldiers involved in abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, to captured American and British women Private Jessica Lynch and Seaman Lynn Turney, to Palestinian and Russian women suicide bombers, women are figured as dangerous, even more dangerous than men, especially because of the cultural association between sex and violence. On the one side, you have conservative commentators suggesting that the very presence of women in the theatre ovf war brings out sexual “whore house” behaviour and leads to violence. And on the other, you have feminist commentators arguing that these women are being used and manipulated by men. So, which is it? Are they pushed or do they jump, so to speak? How should we interpret women’s violence in the theatre of war? What is the status of women’s agency in situations where their roles are circumscribed by patriarchal stereotypes of femininity, female sexuality, and the association of sex and violence? It is telling that while women soldiers’ deaths get little attention in the media or from the American public, the women’s involvement in abusive treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and at Guantanámo Bay prison in Cuba continue to haunt debates over acceptable interrogation techniques and American sentiments toward these “wars”. When the photographs from Abu Ghraib first became public, there was a flurry of outrage and accusation. These photographs of pretty young women giving
thumbs up over dead bodies and naked prisoners stacked in piles or in sexual poses were considered “shocking” and mind-boggling; some considered the photographs themselves to be the real problem. Yet, at the same time, there was something strangely familiar about these photos. And, it is that combination of shock and familiarity that we must seek to understand. Remember, the smiling faces of Private Lyndie England and Sabrina Harmon, the poster girls of Abu Ghraib. One of the most famous images was of Private England, cigarette dangling from her mouth, holding the end of a leash around the neck of a naked Iraqi prisoner. And, Harmon was shown smiling giving the thumbs up signal over a dead body. The faces of the perpetrators suggest that they could be photographs in a high-school yearbook. These “shocking” images, however, are not only familiar to us from a history of colonial violence associated with sex, but also they are familiar to us from a history of associations between women, sex and violence. Indeed, in some sense, the association between sex and violence trades on stereotypical images and myths of dangerous or threatening women upon which our culture was, and continues to be, built. Women have been associated with the downfall of man since Eve tempted Adam with forbidden fruit. From mythological characters such as Medusa and Jocasta, to Biblical figures such as Eve, Salome, Delilah or Judith, to contemporary Hollywood femme fatales, women’s sexuality has been imagined as dangerous; even more so because we imagine that women’s sexuality can be wielded as a weapon by women against men. Perhaps the most extreme example of this fantasy as it appears in recent military engagement is the seemingly
These “shocking” images, however, are not only familiar to us from a history of colonial violence associated with sex, but also they are familiar to us from a history of associations between women, sex and violence.
Army guards, mostly men, but also a woman, attend an awards ceremony in the Detention Center Zone at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Nov. 2014 © Walter Michot
intentional use of female sexuality as a top-secret “classified” interrogation technique in Guantanámo Bay prison, where reportedly women interrogators stripped off their uniforms, rubbed up against prisoners, and threatened them with fake menstrual blood in order to break them by making them feel unclean and therefore unworthy to pray. The military’s “strategic” use of women both in Guantanámo and at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq have been described as techniques to “soften-up” prisoners. And a recent article published in the US military’s own journal Small Wars discusses the use of all female Marine units currently being used in Afghanistan to “wield the culture as a weapon” to “soften” interactions with local men and children. At the same time that women are being used to “soften-up” the enemy, women also are used to “soft-up” public perceptions of abuse and torture. Women are imagined as soft and vulnerable, but this seemingly is also what makes them so dangerous. Their seemingly innocent pretty smiles seduce and kill. The fantasy is that women’s bodies and female sexuality are in themselves dangerous. Age-old stereotypes play into the military’s use of women as strategic “weapons” because their very presence, particularly their sexuality, is imaged as dangerous and threatening. Again, it becomes difficult to discern women’s agency in these situations. Internet blogs and late night talk shows suggested that female interrogators performing the equivalent of a “lap dance” is titillating rather than abusive. In Women as Weapons of War, I show how news media repeatedly describe women soldiers as “weapons”. Women warriors are not referred to as women with weapons or women carrying bombs, but their very bodies are imagined as dangerous. For example, a columnist for The New York Times said that “an example of the most astounding modern weapon in the Western arsenal” was named Claire with a machine gun in her arms and a flower in her helmet;1 after news broke about female interrogators
On the other hand, their feminine wiles through which they use their beauty and innocence to commit violent acts, seemingly makes them more dangerous than men. at Guantanámo Bay prison, a Time magazine headline read “female sexuality used as a weapon”;2 and the London Times described Palestinian women suicide bombers as “secret weapons” and “human precision bombs”, “more deadly than the male”.3 An essayist for New York Times Magazine called women suicide bombers in Iraq one of “the extremists’ most lethal weapons” because insurgents “could use to advantage their traditional dress” to hide bombs.4 And in April of 2010, after two Chechen women blew themselves up at a subway station in Moscow, The New York Times and other mainstream media asked: “What Makes Chechen Women So Dangerous?”.5 Their answers echo the sentiment that there is something inherently dangerous about girls, about the lure of their smiles and ponytails, about their seeming innocence, that puts them a bove suspicion, and claims female suicide bombers are more deadly than males not only because women can enter crowded spaces inconspicuously but also because they inspire others. According to media reports, these so-called “Black Widows”, seeking revenge for Russian soldiers’ violence toward their families revive “a particular fear in the Russian capital, one that goes beyond the usual terrorism worries of a metropolis: the female bomber”, one that has become “a lurid obsession” in the Russian media since the 2002 hostage taking in a Moscow auditorium that involved several women captors. After using sleep-inducing gas, although most of the captors were male, “when [Russian] soldiers entered the auditorium they reportedly, as a first precaution, shot dead the Black Widows where they lay, lest they wake up and explode”.6 Women suicide bombers stir particular fears because “the women are indistinguishable on the street or in the subway – until they detonate their lads in the name of revenge”. According to a Los Angeles Times article “there was a pervasive fear of Muslim women who might be stalking the streets, indistinguishable until they detonated their explosives”.7 This so-called “pervasive fear” is of Muslim women who can pass themselves off as non-Muslim Russian women. These fears play
The Political Anthropologist November - December 2017
off of stereotypes of women as inherently dangerous and as Muslim women as even more so. Once again, stereotypes of women as inherently dangerous play into media and public perceptions of women’s violence. These reports in the popular press make it clear that women are considered more dangerous than their male counterparts. Because women and girls supposedly can pass themselves off as pretty, cute, and innocent, they are not as suspicious as men. On the other hand, their feminine wiles through which they use their beauty and innocence to commit violent acts, seemingly makes them more dangerous than men. Women’s violence is complicated by these stereotypes that colour the way we see women militants and women soldiers. In other words, their violent acts are interpreted in ways that are over-determined by cultural stereotypes that continue to associate sex and violence. The metaphor of attractive women as a “bombshells” makes explicit the deep cultural connection between women and violence. Their very bodies are imagined as bombs, and their sexual appeal is figured as dangerous.
Kelly Oliver is W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. She is the Author of fifteen scholarly books, including most recently Carceral Humanitarianism: The Logic of Refugee Detention (2017); Hunting Girls: Sexual Violence from The Hunger Games to Campus Rape, which won a 2016 Choice Award. Also she has published three novels in The Jessica James, Cowgirl Philosopher Trilogy. To learn more, go to kellyoliverbooks.com. References 1. Kristof, Nicholas D. (2003). “A Woman’s Place”. The New York Times. (Op Ed) April 5. A 31. 2. Dodds, Paisley. (2005). “Women used sex to get detainees to talk”. The Gazette. Montreal Que. Jan 28. A 15. 3. Jaber, Hala. (2003). “The avengers”. Sunday Times, London, Dec 7. p 1. 4. Rubin, Alissa. (2009). “How Baida Wanted to Die” in The New York Times Magazine, August 12. 5. Pape, Robert, et.al. (2010). “What Makes Chechen Women So Dangerous?” in The New York Times, op-ed. March 30. 6. Kramer, Andrew. (2010). “Russia’s Fear of Female Bombers Is Revived”. In The New York Times, March 29. 7. Stack, Megan and Sergei Loiko. (2010). “‘Black widows’ again stir fear in Moscow” in The Los Angeles Times. March 31.
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Deconstructing And Dismantling
The Rape Culture In India BY PARUL VERMA
Since the post-colonial era, India has witnessed a history of sexual assault, molestation, rape and violence against its women. On the rise of any communal riot or national conflict, the body of a woman becomes a semiotic territory, via which a violent sexual narrative is inscribed. This article explores the birth of the political anatomy of a woman, of which hierarchical
control and the normalising of the abuse (rape) of the anatomy, is deeply buried in the political and power discourse of rape culture.
ndia experienced a state of unfathomable auditory stimuli, when the Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh, a BJP politician, Babulal Gaur said, “Rape is a social crime which depends on the man and the woman.
It is sometimes right and sometimes wrong”(2014). With the nation already shocked by the compelling power of aberrant tendencies by the centralised power trying to normalise rape, another statement was put forth by the Andhra Pradesh Congress leader Botsa Satyanarayana on the Delhi gang rape, stating “Just because the country attained independence at midnight, is it proper for women moving at midnight?”(2012). These are the views from the government bodies that are involved in formatting the policies that re-structures the society. One cannot ignore how the governing power tacitly sanctions the degree to which society has assimilated the regressive devaluation of women and their sexuality, merging with the idea of submission to the male kingship, which has further had a direct role in shaping women’s selfhood. The bodies of women have become a hegemonic relation via which
patriarchy, misogyny and sexism acts and reacts and rape is one of the catalysts that sustain the supremacist essence of the male hegemon community. What imparts rape as “being normal” is the idea that sexual desires are male prerogative that can’t be curbed, the crass exacerbation of display of police apathy in handling rape cases, the idea that a “bad woman” is raped (reinforcing victim blaming) and the fear of stigmatisation suffered by rape victims and their families. As the article progresses, it will raise crucial questions around rape as a political discourse of declaring supremacy over the Other. How has the political subjection engendered the feminine body to perpetuate the silence and powerlessness, since post-colonial times? How can we deconstruct and understand rape as a product of the patriarchy manufactured “docile body”, without any agency of its own? What are the various techniques of dismantling rape which concentrates on exposing the localised forms that gender power relations take at the micro-political level, in order to determine concrete possibilities for resistance and social change? Deconstructing the Rape Culture (Political Discourse of Rape) The normalisation of rape has been practised in India since the post-colonial era where the primary conquest of the Othered community was not through the land, but through its women. In fact, panoptical male connoisseurs, who stood perpetually and gazed at the bodies of women of the Othered community, as a site of victory, have normalised the regressive
Rape and violence on the bodies of the women was the language via with they communicated their political narratives.
India rape protests Photo courtesy: Getty Images
act of eroticised dysfunctional nationalism. This was witnessed during the partition of India (1947), where the vying religious communities (Hindu and Muslim) and their newly formed nations attempted to overpower each other by marking the women of the other side. Rape and violence on the bodies of the women was the language via with they communicated their political narratives. During the 1947 Partition of India, as the nation was mourning the segregation of the lands and the “once assimilated religious diversity”, as many as 100,000 women were abducted and raped. Muslim women were abducted by Hindu and Sikh men into India, and Hindu and Sikh women were abducted by Muslim men into newly partitioned Pakistan (Veena Das, Critical Events, 59). Women’s bodies were manifested into a political anatomy that communicated the language of nationalism and power. India, also synonymous as “Bharat Maata”, was portrayed as the mother, a woman that needed protection against the outside enemy. The idea of gaining control over the land through conquering the body of this “Bharat Maata” seduced the unconscious psyche of the male aggressive thanatos. The desire to possess it, see it, touch it, conquer it, claim it, wandered within the fantasy of men. Thus, women’s bodies became arenas of violent struggle. Women were humiliated, tortured, brutally raped, and murdered as part of the process that reflected the communal, national and religious conquest by the opponents. The rapes didn’t just lead to the violation of the body but it symbolised the political conquest. D.A. Low argues that while the men of the opposite side were killed, their women were abducted. Literary evidence provides accounts of women’s skin being marked with religious slogans, signing on the skin by the aggressor and imprinting of the patriotic slogans like “Pakistan Zindabad” or “Jai Hind”. The skin of a woman was not just sexually violated but it became a story via which the aggressor commented on its victory to the Other. The infiltrating of the Othered land through the coercive usage of militarisation was the objective,
The fantasy of taming the opposing community starts with disciplining the anatomy of the Othered woman. but the raping of a woman of the Other community had a subjective infiltration. Sexualised violence in wars and conflicts is neither incidental, nor is a question of sex. The state conveniently distanced itself from the depth of moral depravity and entrenched the view of women as semiotic territory, on which the intimate narratives of conflicts were inscribed. The infamous Kunan Poshpora rape happened on the eve of February 23, 1991. 125 Indian soldiers sieged a village, separated the men from the women and sexually assaulted more than 50 women, from ages 13 to 60. The intent was not only to terrorise and traumatise the people under assault, but here the rape (an intimate invasion) of the body transformed into a message of retribution to the Kashmir resistance movement. When historicising rape culture, one can witness the birth of the political anatomy of a woman, of which hierarchical control and normalising of the abuse of the anatomy, is deeply buried in the political and power discourse of this phenomenon. This political anatomy of a woman produces conversations, in particular the mode of violence and establishes hegemony between the opposing forces in power. In another conflict, similar imprinting of violence was witnessed. Reports presented by the Citizen’s Initiative and the Human Rights Watch stated that out of the 36 women killed in the Naroda Patiya massacre (February, 2002), most were sexually assaulted before their deaths; surviving women also reported being assaulted. According to Human Rights Watch, women and girls were “brutally raped before being killed”. Most of the rapes took place in public, and the victims were then killed and their bodies burnt. Among the women surviving in the relief camp, many suffered the most bestial forms of sexual violence – including rape, gang rape, mass rape, stripping, insertion of objects into their bodies and molestation. The fantasy of taming the opposing community starts with disciplining the anatomy of the Othered woman. The insertion of objects into the bodies during rape, is symbolic of the fantasy of penetrating and marking the culture of the Other. Since the political anatomy of the women is also the site of biological reproduction, the ideal fantasy of controlling and claiming victory over the Other, becomes accessible through mass rape and impregnating the women. Thus, rape culture in India has been normalised as an essential mechanism, through which the victimisers communicate, while stripping the victimised of their agency.
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Dismantling the Rape Culture (Socio-Legal Discourse of Rape) Due to the undocumented increase of rape during the partition, laws were introduced for the women who were impregnated by the rivals. The worst-case scenario was encountered when the victim was impregnated by her rapist. Dr. Kirpal Singh explains “though the Military Evacuee Organisation (M.E.O.) and Liaison Agencies had been established in Punjab in September, 1947, nothing was done at government level to alleviate the sufferings of the abducted women until 6th December, 1947, when the following agreement was made between the governments of India and Pakistan regarding the recovery of abducted women. The following decisions reached at the conference between the governments of India and Pakistan held on the 6th of December, 1947, were brought to the notice of all concerned for early compliance. Every effort was made to recover and restore abducted women and children within the shortest time possible. Conversion by persons abducted after 1st March, 1947, was not to be recognised, and all such persons were to be restored to their respective dominions. The wishes of the persons concerned were irrelevant”.(Singh, “Partition and Women” Abstracts of Sikh Studies, June 1999). What is worth noting in the above agreement is that the state policies were only introduced to address the recovery of the abducted women and the rape victims, it did not include any repercussions for committing violence against women. According to Kesic (Ibid, 273), “Although sexual violence of women in wartime has been known throughout human history, rape had not been recognized specifically as a war crime. Wartime rapes had not been investigated, prosecuted, or punished because no laws covered them. Like peacetime sexual assaults against women, they
Normalisation of Rape Culture
Political Anatomy of the Othered Women
remained crimes without a name.” Notable incidents of such crimes are: The Rape of Nanjing in 1937, the exploitation of Japanese “comfort women” used as sexual slaves throughout Asia during WWII, the mass rape of German women at the end of WWII, and the widespread rapes of women during the BangladeshPakistan war in the early 1970s (Ibid, 272). Violating the body of the women was normalised in the policies formatted to deal with the victims. The normalisation of rape culture has been prevalent since the post-colonial era and is identified as an “inescapable” violation of the object (women’s body), with obsolete stripping of the subjectivity of the object. What can be done to dismantle rape culture? What can be done to uproot the creation of the political anatomy of women, which is subjugated to the mode of violence to establish hegemony, between the two opposing forces in power? First and foremost, the government should format the policy, declaring sexual violence against women a human rights issue. The increase in rape cases around the world, molestation, female foetus killing, child marriage, are the result of the male dominant patriarchy, where its women are marginalised, leading the nation taking on the testosterone-laden culture of normalisation of violence against women. It is not just the genocide of the population, during and post conflict or war, but the “femicide” of the female community, who becomes the semiotic territory via which the violent hegemony is established. This femicide needs to be acknowledged and viewed as a human rights issue. The social awareness of the existing male supremacy within Indian society should be identified as malignant. The “ideal woman” as constructed by the patriarchy, is a woman who merges with the idea of submission to the male kingship, is pure and gentle and is singularly faithful towards the male partner (unconditionally) – this should be dismantled. In the presence of a strong woman a male experiences, what I like to call a “conceptual shock”, an encounter with a woman who deviates from the prototype constructed by the patriarchy. This “conceptual shock” is used as justification by the rapist, as he views the victim as a “bad woman”. The social awareness of how patriarchy is conditioning the prototype of its women is crucial. For example, in the documentary of “The Nirbhaya rape” 2012, when Leslee Udwin interviewed the charged rapists, one of the rapists expressed his “conceptual shock”. Mukesh Singh emphasised that the rape victim invited her own rape by being out on the streets at
night when she should have been at home “cooking and cleaning”. Adding further, he said that she should not have resisted the rape; if she had not fought back, if she had submitted meekly and quietly to being raped, he and the other rapist would not have thrust a rod repeatedly into her vagina, pulling her entrails out and battering her to death. The social injustice of rape culture will not cease without a true societal commitment to examining and addressing the social, political, and cultural power that the male community possesses over women and children. This differential power infiltrates every aspect of the world, through every patriarchal structure of society, particularly the family and gender relations, accompanied by the resultant attitudes and beliefs about female inferiority. This needs to be dismantled. The struggle is real and the resistance towards it is inevitable, until we achieve a equilibrium that celebrates egalitarianism, in its tonality. Featured Image: Women wearing colourful Saris Rajasthan India © ALAMY
Parul Verma is a scholar, political analyst, a post-graduate in Clinical Psychology and Culture and Colonialism, and an International Student Ambassador for Education in Ireland (Government of Ireland). Her work analyses the political-psychological-economical imperialistic regime in the Middle-East (specific to Israel-Palestine issue) and the on-going communal rise and minority lynching in India. Her work has been published in multiple international media outlets and academic journals. References • Das, Veena. Critical Events. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995. • Das, Veena. “Language and Body: Transactions in the Construction of Pain.” Daedalus 125 no.1 (1996) • Foucault, M., Discipline and Punishment: the birth of a prison, trans. A. Sheridan, Harmondsworth: Peregrine, 1977. • Bartky, S., ‘Foucault, femininity and the modernization of patriarchal power’ in I. Diamond & L. Quinby (eds), Feminism and Foucault reflection on resistance, Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1988. • Buchwald, Emilie, Pamela R. Fletcher, and Martha Roth. Transforming A Rape Culture. Minneapolis: Milkweed, Editions, 1993, 1995, 2005.
Reductio ad absurdum BY HOUSTON A. BAKER AND K. MERINDA SIMMONS
Reductio ad absurdum is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a “method of proving the falsity of a premise by showing that its logical consequence is absurd or contradictory”. In this article, the authors do just that when addressing the notion of the “Black Elite”.
Woman protestor with a sign that says: Black Lives Matter © PA
he millions stolen from Africa and transported around the globe for white European profit did not arrive at new world littorals ranked by class and status. The slave trade broadcast its preferences. The wish list included physically healthy males with strong labour power and robust African women endowed with childbearing capacity. Given the trade’s common assumption of the inferiority of all blacks, there was certainly not even a murmur of a possible “black elite”. In new world colonies of British North America, for example, Thomas Jefferson made clear in his Notes on the State of Virginia that he and his white planter class found no exceptions to their definition of African slaves as “brutes”. For Jefferson and his class, blacks were considered lower on the great chain of being than Native Americans. They were dark and fit only for brute labour in white agricultural fields. Still, profitable management of plantations was a demanding business. Slave owners soon found it convenient to designate some few among their chattel to those who they anointed more adept than others. There emerged Negro slave drivers and house servants. These blacks were exceptions
The Political Anthropologist November - December 2017
to the rule and gained small compensatory benefits for their enhancement of their masters’ profit and pleasure. The black majority remained consigned to the fields. And it was precisely, and ironically, the black majority that moved black America from bondage to what freedom we now possess. The fearless rebellion, creative genius, and abiding fortitude of the majority fostered freedom. Among generations of “experts on slavery”, the actuality of the black majority’s undeniable primacy in liberation has been consistently overshadowed by white popular and academic allegiance to the seemingly inerasable myth of American exceptionalism. This indefatigable myth holds, in every instance, that all and only white men are ordained and destined to gain fortune and run the world. This racist, mythical, and completely irrational mumbo jumbo has motivated and justified the following from white America: genocide of aboriginal peoples, rampant murder of blacks, global ecological disaster, massacre of thousands in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, inequity so gross the Borgia would discredit it. The most devout exceptionalists, however, still favour tentative loopholes of identity. For example, the need for “native translators and negotiators” gives birth to wanted posters for the exceptional “other”. Something on the order of: “Seeking somewhat smart and eager coloreds: Wanted for management position”. Management is understood to mean of your
people – the black majority in its incessant, righteous, and vociferous discontent with white racism and violence. Here, we witness the return of slave drivers and house Negros. When obtained, they assume the adjective “exceptional”. And indeed they are exceptions in the always endangered and unsettled habitus of the black majority. Yet, those of us who seek freedom and safety realise that black lives matter only when the black majority strategically repeats its everlasting “NO!” to the enduring American assault of white supremacy. Which brings us to the presidency of Barack Obama. There is no plausible denial that Barack Obama arrived with all the educational perquisites, donated capital, and dark money that condition “elite” acceptance in American electoral politics. But like the black mediators and middlemen for white privilege through generations, Obama had virtually no urgent and fundamentally grounded commitment to forwarding at all costs the interests of the black majority. Even though the black majority was fundamental to his presidential electoral victory, he was wont to pronounce himself the president of all America. Obama’s eight years in office were equivalent in their efficacy for the black majority to the alwaysmeager gains in store for the black majority when the “black exceptions” are in charge. The irrational exuberance that greeted Obama’s election blinded many to the unarguable fact that the white elite world runners would continue to refuse to cede one whit of their cultural, financial, and social power to black folks at large. It was the naïve and joyful pronouncements of “post-blackness” from the black exception chorus that prompted our collaborative production of The Trouble With Post-Blackness. When we began compiling the scholarly and creative offerings that would ultimately become The Trouble with Post-Blackness, something that could be called “the black elite” might have
seemed easily identifiable and consumable – available to anyone picking up a magazine with a photojournalistic cover story about the first family. While many progressives found much of Obama’s lofty rhetoric lacking, the visibility of what appeared to be a black elite was indisputable. One could imagine the ascent of a black power and excellence seemingly on par with white elites. The so-called Age of Obama effectively offered an image of an African American Dream – one still heavily reliant on Lincolnian rhetoric of humble beginnings and some hefty bootstrapping. The trouble as we saw it with “post-blackness”, then, was not its deconstruction of a presumably “authentic” racial performance. That authenticity has always been deeply suspect and post-blackness advocates were justified in their assertion that there are myriad ways to “be black.” What we questioned was the huge blind spot in their proclamation, namely its refusal to acknowledge that a sumptuously wealthy and powerful white American elite would never make social or structural adjustments that would cede a single watt of its power and privilege. The American Dream was violently constructed from the bones and bodies of African slavery. Blacks had no choice but to live in hope, a word that became the cornerstone of the Obama administration. Live in black hope until the dream is seized. In retrospect, of course, one sees that the eight Obama years were placeholder days until the excoriating founding forces of American white supremacy could regroup and inaugurate a business mogul as the forty-fifth president of the United States. There is not much talk of “post-blackness” in present arenas of power. The backlash to Obama’s ascent that swept Donald Trump into office was predictable to many progressives and people of colour, despite the shock and subsequent hand wringing on the part of white journalists who couldn’t
The Trouble with Post-Blackness Edited by Houston A. Baker and K. Merinda Simmons Columbia University Press
This indefatigable myth holds, in every instance, that all and only white men are ordained and destined to gain fortune and run the world. This racist, mythical, and completely irrational mumbo jumbo has motivated and justified the following from white America: genocide of aboriginal peoples, rampant murder of blacks, global ecological disaster, massacre of thousands in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, inequity so gross the Borgia would discredit it.
As long as a neoliberal vision of a post-racial era is seen as the endgame, specific policy moves to localise progress for specific communities will be seen as unnecessary and avoidable. believe the failures of their own statistical machine. There is a history as old as the republic, after all, of steps toward racial progress being met with intense policing of the boundaries that keep up and running white supremacist underpinnings of capitalism and the American democratic process. Marching and protesting these setbacks gives useful visibility to resistance efforts, but as long as a neoliberal vision of a post-racial era is seen as the endgame, specific policy moves to localise progress for specific communities will be seen as unnecessary and avoidable. In this case, a rhetorical nod to racial unity will continue to stand in for structural critique and localised agency. Seemingly defiant and activist proclamations and performances will continue to be wrapped in popular cultural trappings and sold to the gullible as radical action toward change. Meanwhile, the white owners and distributors smile at their profit. And the notion of an effective black elite for real social change remains a reductio ad absurdum.
Former President Barack Obama's Acceptance Speech, 2012 ÂŠ Ugandan Diaspora News
The Political Anthropologist November - December 2017
K. Merinda Simmons is Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama. Her books include Changing the Subject: Writing Women across the African Diaspora (2014), The Trouble with Post-Blackness (co-edited with Houston A. Baker Jr., Columbia University Press, 2015) and Race and Displacement (co-edited with Maha Marouan, University of Alabama Press, 2013). She is currently at work on a monograph entitled Sourcing Slave Religion: Theorizing Experience in the American South. Houston A. Baker is Distinguished University Professor of English and Afro-American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University. He is the author and editor of a number of books devoted to the criticism and theory of AfricanAmerican literature. His recent monograph titled Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals Of the Civil Rights Era received an American Book Award. He holds honorary degrees from a number of American colleges and universities.
Slavehood 2017 BY PETER KOENIG
We thought slavehood has been abolished a long time ago. Peter Koenig begs to disagree as he describes how we live in an oppressive depressive western civilisation, which we still call “democracy”.
hen in the 18th and 19th Century African slaves did not “behave”, they were cruelly beaten sometimes to death as a deterrent for others. They were deprived of food for their families. Their women were raped. They were traded to even harsher white masters. Their lives were worth only what their labour could produce. They were treated as subjects, devoid of human warmth. Today we have become all slaves; slaves to the powers of mafia banksters of finance; slaves to the western lie-propaganda; to the lobbies and their giant all dominating corporations – to the war-industry, because we happily believe what we are told about ever-increasing terrorism that needs to be fought with eternal wars; slaves to the environment-destructive hydrocarbon industry; to the pharma-industry; to the Monsanto-ised agroindustry; to senseless consumerism – and foremost – and summing it all up: to greed, endless greed that drives endless growth, nurturing endless competition fomenting adversity, destroying solidarity, instead of amical cooperation for a harmonious human cohabitation. As people of western nations, we are enslaved to an all-engulfing neoliberal fascism – to a predatory economy. Corporate lie propaganda drip-feds our brains. We haven’t even noticed it. We are enslaved to so-called “leaders”, put in office by obscure
The Market lets us live and strive and eat and dream of more. It feeds our greed as if there was no end. Slavehood to Nirvana or Neverland.
foreign masters of deceit – the ever-stronger corporate controlled propaganda machine – the six all controlling Zion-Anglo media, whom we believe whatever lie they vomit – because it is more comfortable to believe a lie than to confront the truth – that’s self-imposed slavehood. That’s how far we have gone. Because we are clearly on an almost irreversible downward track – sliding and running towards our own demise – into darkness – the darkness of chaos and bloody wars, endless wars against self-invented terrorism; wars that keeps our western economy running – and our armchair politics alive. Wars that kill and slaughter millions and millions – but all in “far-away” lands. We are told we are protected. Our police and military watch over us. The new gods – money and military. To prevent this endless terror chaos happening in our western spheres, once “proudly” called Europe or United States of America, Canada, Australia, Japan – and whatever other country has surmised to the western slaughter machine – we call for police and military protection in our own lands, we give them power to enslave us further to the Dark State – those Zionist – Illuminati – Masonic – Satanic forces that slyly command a worldwide slave trade, called The Market – the all commandeering Market. We adore The Market. We want to be integrated into it. The Market lets us live and strive and eat and dream of more. It feeds our greed as if there was no end. Slavehood to Nirvana or Neverland.
Although “pride” was never an appropriate term to integrate our soul and minds, as we the western powers – have for centuries enslaved, raped, exploited and slaughtered the indigenous people, those who have for millennia, for history of mankind survived and passed on our human genes from one murderous civilisation to another, always in the hope that the new one would see the light. We can only hope that the patience of these native people, the survivors, our saviours – will prevail, that before we disappear in darkness, in the void of a manmade blackhole, we will awake, open our eyes and seek the light – become finally human, the term we have fraudulently applied to ourselves – the western civilisation. Beware - anybody who contradicts this truth and course of events, is labelled a conspiracy theorist, defamed and out-laughed, stigmatised. We have to de-metricise. Abandon our western established parameters, they are made to enslave us – so that an ever-smaller elite satanic class that produces and manages the Clintons, Trumps, Obamas, Bushes, Blairs, Merkels, Abes, Hollandes – and soon probably Macrons – and many more of the same kind – may continue their feast. We are called to vote for these abject people, called politicians, most of them brain-and-mindless, who have been preselected by the Masters who control the globe, in the belief we are actually choosing people who represent our society, defend our needs, freedom, justice and equality. Every four or five years we fall for the same rituals and believe things will change. We never dig deep down to find the reasons why all stays the same – and gets worse, despite our unhappiness and despite our “democratic” votes. We are blind. Slavehood makes blind. We are more comfortable as blind slaves than as seeing humans. So, we keep falling for illusions. Our lives are grey-white like a foggy sky, no sun. The sun and its enchanting wonderful brightness has been eviscerated from our enslaved minds. We are living in an oppressive depressive western civilisation which we still call “democracy” – because our twisted, manipulated comfort-loving minds do not want to admit – that we are enslaved. That democracy has been a pipedream of some Greek Philosophers 2500 years ago. Nothing more. We stole the term from history as a pretext to wage wars, rape, exploit and – to enslave. Slavehood of 2017 – and maybe many more years to come – if we do not wake up soon – has gone global, very global. It’s the epitome of globalisation. We are being uniformed into colourless cubicles. Culture is massacred, language is synthesised
The Political Anthropologist November - December 2017
We are living in an oppressive depressive western civilisation which we still call “democracy” – because our twisted, manipulated comfort-loving minds do not want to admit – that we are enslaved. into Anglo-Saxon slogans – we are all supposed to think in globally recognised clichés; clichés repeated and perpetuated at nauseatum by Hollywood, the notorious mass-media; by the western education system, schools from primary to universities – private or state-run, are indoctrinating our kids with neoliberal dogmas that keep enslaving them. Independent thinking has become a crime, as it impedes the advancement of slavehood. Education is designed to kill individual thinking and the wide range of inventiveness – because it’s dangerous – for those who enslave and control us. “New-speak” education has to make us thinking what the system wants us to think. That’s what western education has become in the last 50 years – a farce to keep us as non-thinking idiots. Idiots are easily enslaved and exploited and sent to wars – to steal foreign resources to satisfy the greed of a few. We love to be cannon fodder, as we were told – enslaved – to believe that good patriots love to die for their country. We are blinded and avoid seeing that we are dying fighting to satisfy puppet leaders’ greed for power and money – whose power is nothing more than that allowed them by the Masters who control the world and who pull the strings on their marionettes. Wakeup from slavehood 2017! – Make 2017 the last slave year!
Peter Koenig is an Economist and Geopolitical Analyst. He is also a former World Bank Staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, RT, Sputnik, PressTV, The 4th Media (China), TeleSUR, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other Internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.
Criminology The "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign is surrounded by flowers and items, left after the October 1 mass shooting, in Las Vegas, Nevada October 2017. © REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus
What Do We Know About Mass Shootings? BY FREDERIC LEMIEUX
In this article, the author examines key elements defining mass shootings and the evolution of definitions over time. The article also scrutinises the characteristics of active shooters and the dynamics of these incidents. Finally, it looks at the impact of gun control regulation on the occurrence of mass shootings through the years and by comparison to other developed countries.
n Sunday October 1st 2017 an active shooter named Stephen Paddock, 64 years old, perpetrated the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history killing 58 persons and injuring more than 500 in Las Vegas. The criminal investigation showed that the shooter meticulously prepared the massacre by stockpiling multiple modified assault rifles and explosives, choosing the “perfect”
shooting vantage point and planning an escape route.1 However, this tragic incident is not isolated and other active shooters have shown similar level of preparation in the past (for instance James Holmes, Aurora 2012; Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Columbine 1999). Once again, the Las Vegas mass shooting reignited the debate on gun control but what do we know about mass shootings? Are they getting worse? Can they be prevented? To answer these questions, this article will shed light on the phenomenon of mass shootings by examining existing academic researches and available government data. This article places an emphasis on the definition of mass shootings, their characteristics and dynamics as well as the ability of our society to prevent them. What is Mass Shooting? Mass shooting is an act of extreme violence in which an individual armed
location with no cooling-off period between the murders. More recently, federal institutions and agencies such as the White House, Department of Justice, Department of Education, Department of Homeland Security agree on the following definition: “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined or populated area”.4 This definition implicitly assumes that firearms are used for the perpetration of the crime. These changes in definition impacted directly the number of cases included in studies and affected the comparability of studies conducted over time. Paramedics tend to wounded victims in 2015 San Bernardino attack © NBC news
with one or several firearms engage in a shooting rampage killing and injuring random people.2 Randomness is an important aspect of a mass shooting because it differentiates these incidents from multiple casualties violence like familicides, hate crimes or gang violence, which target very specific groups of people and have different root causes. Mass shooting and act of terror are not the same either. Terrorism, also known as political violence, is motivated by a political or social cause. For instance, the terrorist attacks that happened in Orlando and San Bernardino used mass shooting as modus operandi as part of a broader strategy of jihadist terrorism. In these cases, mass shootings are a mean (violence) to end (political cause). The vast majority of mass shootings do not fall into this category because they are perpetrated by individuals that have more personal motives such as vengeance and frustration. The formal definition and classification of mass shooting has evolved over the years. In 2008, According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an active shooter is defined as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area”. In its definition, DHS notes that “in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims”.3 Before 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) provided a more operational categorisation where mass shootings happen when four or more people are killed by one or more murderer(s) in a particular
Characteristics and Frequency of Mass Shootings In a study published in 2014,5 using the old definition of mass shooting that only includes incidents with four or more casualties, provides a descriptive analysis showing that mass shooting perpetrators were 35 years old on average and that their ages ranged from 13 to 66 years old. The vast majority of shooters are Caucasian and male (66% and 99% respectively). In 56% of the cases, signs of mental illness existed before the incidents occurred. It has been reported that 52% of the perpetrators committed suicide, that 17% were killed by police officers, that 30% were arrested, and that in only one case did a bystander stop the shooter by use of physical force (without a weapon). Regarding the weapons involved in these incidents, it has been established that in 59% of the cases, the perpetrators were carrying two or more firearms and that assault rifles were used in 26% of the cases. In 76% of the cases, the firearms were acquired legally through stores or private sales. The vast majority of the mass shootings happened in a closed environment, such as schools (16%), workplaces (29%), and commercial buildings like restaurants, shopping malls, or shops (23%). Finally, the total number of victims is established at 1090. More precisely, these incidents have caused 576 fatalities and 514 injuries between 1983 and 2013. Another study completed by the FBI in 2014 and using the new definition with no restriction on
It has been established that in 59% of the cases, the perpetrators were carrying two or more firearms and that assault rifles were used in 26% of the cases. In 76% of the cases, the firearms were acquired legally through stores or private sales. 24
The Political Anthropologist November - December 2017
During the period of the so-called “assault rifle ban” law (1994-2004), the number of mass shooting incident has reduced by 31% and the number of victims as a result of these incidents dropped by 45%. casualties reveals similar findings.6 The report has identified 160 mass shooting incidents between 2000 and 2013, with a yearly average of 6.4 incidents. A total of 486 persons have been killed and 557 injured. The report also shows that mass shooting incidents are becoming more frequent in the last seven years of that period (2006-2013) with annual average of 16.4 incidents. This trend has also been corroborated by another study conducted by Harvard University researchers.7 The active shooters have committed suicide in the majority of these incidents (56%) or have been killed by law enforcement officers (28%). In 13% of incidents, unarmed citizens have been able to restrain the active shooter. In the remaining cases (3%), active shooters have surrendered to police officers. Finally, the majority of mass shootings incidents took place in commercial (45.6%) and educational environments (24.3%). Can Mass Shootings Be Prevented? It is a very difficult question to answer since these incidents are difficult to predict. However, available data and studies tend to indicate that, by adopting gun control laws that restrict the accessibility to certain types of firearms (assault rifles), limit the firepower (e.g. magazine capacity), and prohibits certain category of person to acquire firearms (children, criminals, mentally ill), mass shooting occurrence and the number of victims can be significantly reduced. For instance, the number of mass shootings in the United States and the number of fatalities associated with these incidents have reduced substantially under the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 2004.8 More precisely, during the period of the so-called “assault rifle ban” law (19942004), the number of mass shooting incident has reduced by 31% and the number of victims as a result of these incidents dropped by 45% compared to the decades before (1983-1993) and after the ban period (2004-2013). Similar results have been found by other research.9 The relation between stricter gun control legislations and lower occurrence of mass shooting
incidents and their associated death toll is not only verified in the United States but also exists in other developed countries. A study examining the impact of the National Firearm Agreement of 1996 and the National Handgun Control Agreement (2002) in Australia between 1981 and 2013 shows that a drastic decrease in mass shooting incidents happened after 1996. Only one incident happened in 2002 at Monash University compared to 13 mass shootings prior to 1996.10 In many other developed countries, strict gun control legislations are in effect for several years and they have experienced far less occurrence in mass shooting. In other words, stricter gun regulations may not guarantee zero mass shootings incidents but can substantially reduce their occurrence and save a significant number of lives.
Frederic Lemieux is Professor of the Practice and Faculty Director of the Master’s degree in Applied Intelligence at Georgetown University. He received his doctoral degree from the School of Criminology at the University of Montreal, Canada. During his academic career, Dr. Lemieux has studied violent crimes including terrorism and mass shooting. His research findings have been published in peer-reviewed journal and books. References 1. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/03/us/las-vegas-gunman.html. 2. Bjelopera, J. P., Bagalman, E. S., Caldwell, W., Finklea, K. M., & McCallion, G. (2013). Public Mass Shootings in the United States: Selected Implications for Federal Public Health and Safety Policy. Washington DC: Congressional Research Service. 3. “Active Shooter – How to Respond.” Department of Homeland Security. October 2008. http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/active_shooter_booklet.pdf 4. Federal Bureau of Investigation (2014). A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2013. Washington D.C., Department of Justice. 5. Lemieux, F. (2014). Effect of Gun Culture and Firearm Laws on Gun Violence and Mass Shootings in the United States. International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences, 9 (1): 74-93. 6. Federal Bureau of Investigation (2014). A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2013. Washington D.C., Department of Justice. 7. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/mass-public-shootingsincreasing-in-us/ 8. Lemieux, F. (2014). Effect of Gun Culture and Firearm Laws on Gun Violence and Mass Shootings in the United States. International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences, 9 (1): 74-93. 9. Duwe, G. (2016). Pattern and Prevalence of Public Mass shootings in the United States 1915-2013. In Wilson, L. (2016) The Wiley Handbook of the Psychology of Mass Shootings. Wiley & Sons, Chichester U.K.: 20-35. 10. Lemieux, F., S. Bricknell, T. Prenzler, (2015) Mass shootings in Australia and the United States, 1981-2013. Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, 1 (3): 131-142.
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Zombie Politics BY ALEXANDER COHEN AND CHASE PIELAK
Zombies mirror deep seated cultural fears of lack of control, lawlessness, and powerlessness. In the modern world, they are a fascinating stand-in for our fears; while we cannot solve social problems, we can fantasise about defeating zombies, a ritual that is ripe with meaning.
e initially conceived of our project, Living with Zombies: Society in Apocalypse,1 as a response to the current ideological political system operating in America. Our society, we argue, is reflected in the zombie films, shows, and literature that are ever so popular at the moment. We consider, for example, AMCâ€™s The Walking Dead 2 and Max Brookâ€™s novel World War Z.3 In such works, zombies mirror deep fears of a loss of control of the self, government, society, and even civilisation. After all, what could be more frightening to a populace that is supposedly empowered by democratic norms and institutions than a host of mindless undead unable to make meaningful choices for themselves? Indeed, horror reflects the fears of the times, and such reflection is not limited to the American pathos. Dracula, for example, reflects the fears of Victorian England by evoking, in dark form, deep seated anxieties regarding globalisation and the encroachment of the menacing unknown that accompanied it. In contemporary America, zombies reflect a sort of dreadful zeitgeist that cries out that
We are glued to our phones and social media; we crave their dopaminerewarding glow like a horde craving flesh.
we, as a global society, are not in control of our own destiny. One needs not look far see these fears playing out in political action and popular discourse. In Europe, separatist movements are in vogue. The UK, seeking to regain control of its economic destiny from chaotic forces beyond the channel, has left the European Union in a somewhat shocking reversal of fifty years of foreign policy; internally, and somewhat ironically, many in Scotland seek to separate from London so that they, too, are not led by forces they believe to be beyond their control. Globally, we see a terrifying inability to rationally confront environmental crises like climate change, ongoing health crises throughout the developing world, and violent civil wars. Even as we grow closer together, our ability to actually help one another has never been more in doubt. We feel powerless to resist the challenges of our times, even as the horizons seem to continually darken. This is contrary to what we might expect, given that the advent of glimmering new technology ought to help us collectively organise and communicate by dispersing messages and
There is more to the cultural significance of the zombie than blind fear. This goes beyond the typical fin-de-siecle doomsaying. www.politicalanthropologist.com
information about shared problems across the world. Yet, in a foul irony, technology has done much to make us zombies. We are glued to our phones and social media; we crave their dopamine-rewarding glow like a horde craving flesh. And even within the glow, we find no satisfactory cure for our condition. In an amniotic world of “fake news”, posts and thoughts entirely divorced from logic, and good old-fashioned ignorance, the truth is murky. The idea that there even can be truth is increasingly under siege, and the notion that reasonable, competing perspectives can exist is drowning beneath the bile of political punditry and amateur hackery. In conditions such as this, powerlessness invariably follows. Few parts of the world have shown a powerlessness before this ignorance like the United States. After a Presidential campaign built upon an unusual amount of lies (even by American political standards), and the inauguration of a regime that has embraced the idea of “alternate facts” with the zeal that Orwell’s Inner Party promulgated doublethink as the psychic law of the land, many are unsure of what is real and what can be real. Consider, for instance, the many versions of a question posed to President Trump following the April 6, 2017 strike that sent 59 Tomahawk missiles careening into a Syrian airbase: what was the legal justification for the attack, absent notification of Congress? This has been posed by Senate Democrats and reporters alike, and no real satisfactory answer has been given. The question itself, though, is incredibly pertinent, as it betrays anxiety over questions that nobody would dare ask at a White House press conference: Are legal justifications necessary for war? To kill? Does law actually even exist? We operate in a time of the suspension of both normative/moral and perhaps to some extent juridical law. Giorgio Agamben presents this idea in State of Exception.4 For Agamben, laws, truth, and reason – the very backbone of rational society and logical civilisation – are in decline. Our fantasies (or, perhaps more appropriately, our nightmares) reflect this; our discomfort with the world appears as the zombie, a stand-in for existential terror.
But there is more to the cultural significance of the zombie than blind fear. This goes beyond the typical fin-de-siecle doomsaying. If we cannot control vague Presidential announcements, “news” organisations more concerned with merchandising than obtaining good sources, or the limp pathways to the Internet that, we once hoped, would deliver us from this murk, we can control zombies (even if they cannot be controlled themselves). This is the strength of the zombie. It is not only a signifier for what we fear, but its evocation attempts to render concrete the thing we hate. And something that we can kill. Through curing the zombie (whether it be through curing the contagion that causes it, or simply slamming a shovel to its skull), we are fighting to glimpse at our possible salvations.
THIS IS THE STRENGTH OF THE ZOMBIE. IT IS NOT ONLY A SIGNIFIER FOR WHAT WE FEAR, BUT ITS EVOCATION ATTEMPTS TO RENDER CONCRETE THE THING WE HATE. AND SOMETHING THAT WE CAN KILL. And we need this catharsis because we desperately seek to cure our powerlessness. So in a social ritual as ancient as sun worship, we create a monster. A Grendel. A Dracula. In this age, like those before it, even if the social problems around us have no apparent cure, the monster that we summon can be defeated. So we imagine countless ways to cure the zombie plague. We seek to cure our powerlessness by manifesting it, and then killing it, even if we cannot do so in the waking world. Film and literature have offered many ways to kill zombies. Sometimes, it’s a shovel to the head. Sometimes, it’s reason and science, like Will Smith’s Neville from I Am Legend.5 For
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These representations of real fears help us process a world of unclear information, government control, apparent lawlessness, and implicit voicelessness. characters in the film Warm Bodies,6 love and human connection seems to offer some panacea. For Max Brooks’ World War Z (the book, not the film), an efficient use of bureaucratic resources does the trick. Our need to create such monsters and play with the idea of destroying them is very much an attempt, on a metaphysical level, to control and harness the tidal forces that surround us. And just as we cannot always be successful in the walking world, heroes do not always entirely win. In fantasising control of the zombie hordes, a fantasy can quickly become nightmare. Consider, for example, Neegan on The Walking Dead, a hypermasculine villain who provides us some element of catharsis before the zombie hordes. In later arcs, Rick Grimes – our hero – perhaps necessarily becomes rather a mirror of Neegan than a democratic or freely operating leader. For both Rick and Neegan, suspending law is meant to be a cure, just as embracing alternative facts is a convenient way to instrumentally get around inconvenient truths like climate change and genocide. And this is why the zombie is so fascinating. These representations of real fears (or, if you like, fantasies or nightmares) help us process a world of unclear information, government control, apparent lawlessness, and implicit voicelessness. In fact, a deep analysis of zombie literature and films shows that these tropes are engaged throughout the zombie canon, even before George Romero’s Night of the Living
Dead,7 when the German impressionistic “pre-zombie” films presaged the rise of fascism, alongside early proliferating depictions of deep roots in the lawless oppression of Caribbean slaves. Yet, with somewhat grim eyes and ears we must acknowledge that many zombie infestations have no cure, and that visualising our enemy does not always mean that we can destroy it. Or worse, even an apparent cure lands us back in the tenuous place we were before the outbreak, a place in which the conditions for outbreak are already present. In many zombie films, the future remains unclear, and survival – rather than triumph – is the norm. Likewise, in the political sphere, we find ourselves wrapped in a deluge of questionable information from sources both high and low. The political valences of this argument remain clear, perhaps now more than ever.
Dr. Alexander Cohen studies and teaches American politics. His work in Political Science has appeared in venues such as PS: Political Science, The Social Science Journal, and Field Methods. Additionally, he is the co-author of Living with Zombies published by MacFarland Press. Dr. Chase Pielak teaches English at Auburn University. His previous books include Living with Zombies and Memorializing Animals during the Romantic Period. Shakespeare and Zombies: The Zonnets is forthcoming with McFarland Press. References 1. Pielak, C., & Cohen, A. H. (2017). Living with zombies: society in apocalypse in film, literature and other media. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2. The Walking Dead. Dir. Frank Darabont, Greg Nicotero, et al. AMC, 2011-2016. Web. 3. Brooks, M. (2014). World War Z: an oral history of the zombie war. Baltimore: Cemetery Dance Publications. 4. Agamben, G. (2005). State of exception. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press. 5. Lawrence, F. (Director), Goldsman, A., Lassiter, J., Heyman, D., & Moritz, N. H. (Producers), & Goldsman, A., & Protosevich, M. (Writers). (n.d.). I am legend [Video file]. 6. Warm Bodies. Dir. Jonathan Levine. Lionsgate, 2013. DVD. 7. Night of the Living Dead. Dir. George Romero. Continental Distributing, 1968. DVD.
It’s Not The Economy, Stupid! BY GRAHAM VANBERGEN
Europe is slowly spinning out of control. The Centrifugal forces of failing economics and politics are causing populism on the peripheral edges of the bloc. The push for power in Hungary and Poland is also coming to life in Austria and the Czech Republic, which in turn provides oxygen to the ever shrill voices of the secessionist movements that have seen Brexit, the Catalonia crisis and Italy’s Lombardy and Veneto regions calling for independence. They are all connected.
Scene from Occupy London Source: leninology.co.uk
hese are the escalating symptoms of political and economic fragility. The concentration of this failure has manifested itself as rising inequality and social injustice. Rights and suffrage go hand in hand and the solidarity of those less fortunate is finally being seen. Proper analysis of macroeconomics – that is the performance, structure, behaviour and decision-making of an economy as a whole will lead the impartial mind to conclude that average incomes have not just stagnated but declined when factoring in “real” inflation over the last four decades. Whilst citizens see economies recovering from the 2008 bank-driven financial collapse, their own economic experience is now turning into a crisis of daily life. If not for them, then for members of their family, usually the generation below. Increases in employment have not arrested the fall in living standards for the many whilst corporations see ever-greater levels of capital wealth,
We might have the lowest unemployment in Britain for forty-four years, but we also have one third of all children living in poverty.
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enriching their small management teams. This drives an inevitable cycle of lower consumption, that itself pushes down wages and so on. The employment landscape has also changed considerably over the last four decades. The middle classes have been affected by the rise of high-skill and low-skill work, leaving many no option but to resort to the latter. This large demographic has been “hollowed out”, as so many economists often report today. Deceptive economic reporting by government masks what is really going on. We might have the lowest unemployment in Britain for forty-four years, but we also have one third of all children living in poverty.1 How can this dichotomy of life in the sixth richest nation on earth exist? In 1997, General Motors, Ford, Exxon, Walmart and AT&T were the largest corporations in the USA. Ten years later, not much had changed – it was Walmart, Exxon, General Motors, Ford and General Electric. Another decade on and a seismic shift had already occurred. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon are the top dogs with the biggest market capitalisation. Only Exxon Mobil now makes it to the top 10. General Motors was the largest motor manufacturer in the world from 1931 to 2007. At its peak in the late 1980’s General Motors employed 350,000 workers not including tens of thousands more in the supply chain. In 2016, GM produced 10 million cars with just 200,000 workers.2
Facebook, a company founded in 2004 that employed just 15,000 people ousted GM from the top five US corporations a few years back. And whilst Facebook continues to grow exponentially, its global workforce has barely grown and now sits at just 17,016 (December 2016). These crest fallen corporate manufacturing behemoths that build and sell things, to this day still employ nearly three times as many workers as the so-called frontier firms, now known as tech giants. The diffusion of wealth is therefore being concentrated into the hands of so few that you can count them on one hand. This is evidenced by productivity verses wages. Since the beginning of the 1980’s productivity in the US, and many other western economies for that matter, has increased by almost 250 percent.3 In real terms, wages have fallen a very long way behind. From that you can deduct that political influences, those macroeconomic decisions over the economy, have been such that the workforce has not kept up with those productivity gains in any tangible way. Inequality was an unreported output. In this backdrop, western politicians and economists then forced to “trickle down economic” theory down the throats of its citizens. It hinged on two assumptions: all members of society would benefit from growth, and growth is most likely to come from those with the resources and skills to increase productive output. As we have since learned, that was the lie of political charlatan’s who were bankrolled by the very corporations who in turn funded shadowy, obscure think tanks and a subservient media to promote nothing more than the economic mirage of excessive neoliberalism. The “hollowing” out of the middle classes has led to millions entering what Britain politely terms as the “JAM’s” or Just About Managing.4 Academics like to refer to these hardworking but poor households as the “precariat” – a social class formed by people suffering from a condition of “existence
Whilst corporations continue to suck the wealth and well-being of nations, the state inevitably picks up the tab for this new and rapidly rising social class who can barely feed their families.
without predictability or security, which affects both material and psychological welfare”. Nearly 40 percent of all British citizens live in a world dominated by austerity that, by no fault of their own, end up stuck in JAM. Whilst corporations continue to suck the wealth and well-being of nations, the state inevitably picks up the tab for this new and rapidly rising social class who can barely feed their families. Half of all households in Britain are now dependent on state benefits to make ends meet. The shredding of the social contract is leading directly to those centrifugal forces referred to earlier. It is this that is tearing apart the stability of Western democracies. Economically, this injustice can be demonstrated no better than Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos. He is reportedly the world’s richest man, worth a staggering $90 billion. His personal wealth exceeds the annual GDP of two thirds of the world’s economies. To reach such stratospheric wealth his workforce permanently suffers brutally exploitative contracts and low wages the world over. A committee of British MP’s recently concluded that Amazon workers were routinely forced to sign “unintelligible contracts designed to stop them asserting their rights”. Europe’s real problem is not really immigration, the economy or the threat of the fourth industrial revolution. It is the loss of dignity, the loss of rights and the total loss of social justice as a result of the cynical exploitation of the working and middle classes by those who should know better, by those in power. Blowback is both inevitable and now visibly evident. When parents cannot feed their children, when families submerge under a sea of un-payable debt, when communities decay, this loss leads to unambiguous frustration and anger. When there is nowhere to go, no choice – anything but the status quo will do. Hence, we see the rise of populism, isolationism and extremism. Call it what you like, but it’s not the economy on its own that causes these reactionary responses. The economic ideology deployed since the 1980’s is a tool of the selfish and greedy and it has ended up cutting the umbilical chord between the state and its people. Those at the helm have become so corrupted by power and money they still fail to see what ails, fails and ultimately nails everyone else.
Society has to be included in economic models that return dignity, rights and justice – because it’s no longer about the economy, stupid!
Richard McKay Rorty (1931-2007), is an American philosopher. Among his most influential books are Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), Consequences of Pragmatism (1982), and Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989).
Occupy London Stock Exchange Protests Source: CNN.com
History tells us, when the social contract is severed, the state is in deep trouble. If Trump fails to make good on his promise to make America great again, what’s next? If the Conservative party fail to make a good Brexit deal, or indeed, any deal for Britain and the economy sinks into recession, what then? The American philosopher Richard Rorty gave lectures at University College, London and Trinity College, Cambridge about his controversial 1989 book “Contingency, Irony and Solidarity”. In it Rorty predicted with a high degree of precision that: “Members of labour unions, and un-organised unskilled workers, will sooner or later realise that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realise that suburban white-collar workers – themselves desperately afraid of being downsized – are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else. At that point, something will crack. The non-suburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for – someone willing to assure them that once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen and post modernist professors will no longer be calling the shots... All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.” Nearly thirty years later, we have Trump promising to drain the swamp, in a nation fully divided and what many consider to be, on the brink of civil unrest along with its alt-everything’s.
Did Rorty have such foresight as to predict exactly the trajectory of economic theory or did he simply look back in history to see the future? Bill Clinton’s 1992 election campaign advantageously used the then-prevailing recession in the United States as one of the campaign’s means to successfully unseat George H. W. Bush with the slogan “It’s the economy, stupid.” Today, taxing what is left of the dwindling middle classes to pay for an austerity they never caused whilst ostentatious billionaires parade across endless front pages of the glossies and financial pages will only accelerate the predictability of Rorty’s thoughts. At this juncture, politicians still have a choice. Pitching workers purely against productivity gains in an age of new technologies will only increase the precarious nature of life already blighting society and community alike. The tax burden has to revert back to corporate capital. Corporations need to understand their place in society. Society has to be included in economic models that return dignity, rights and justice – because it’s no longer about the economy, stupid!
Graham Vanbergen’s business career culminated in a Board position in one of Britain’s largest property portfolio’s owned by one of the world’s largest financial institutions of its type. Today, he writes for a number of renowned news and political outlets, is the contributing editor of TruePublica. org.uk and Director of NewsPublica.com. References 1. BBC -UK Unemployment at 44 year low: http://www.bbc.com/news/ business-40947087 2. Fortune 500 – 50 year database:http://archive.fortune.com/magazines/ fortune/fortune500_archive/full/1995/ 3. The productivity pay gap: http://www.epi.org/productivity-pay-gap/ 4. YouGov. Just About Managing: https://yougov.co.uk/news/2016/11/30/ who-are-jams-37-britons-say-they-are-just-about-ma/
The Political Anthropologist November - December 2017
Culture, Power and Applied Anthropology in a Corporate Setting BY AMITAI TOUVAL
Businesses rely on experts to intervene in situations in which organisational culture intersects with problems of power and control. While anthropologists are deeply interested in the linkages between culture and power, how does their critical approach align with organisational needs?
n the business world, some leaders invest in rituals that depoliticise bias, making it difficult for people to recognise and confront injustice. They invoke culture and cultural values to divert attention from unhealthy patterns. And they conjure the metaphor of the family and idealised personal dispositions such as individualism and choice to gloss over fraught labour relations, unequal opportunity, and systematic discrimination. Conversely, other leaders encourage managers and employees to reflect on their own values, and bring about positive change to the power dynamics in the organisation. They introduce greater diversity and better interaction with vendors, clients, customers and other stakeholders. Since the link between culture and power is a common theme in the writings of anthropologists, one would think that anthropologists have much to contribute to interventions that seek to develop cultural awareness as part of a process of
Image courtesy of the University of South Florida
maintaining or changing the power dynamics in the organisation (see “for-corporations research” in Urban and Koh 2013: 146-149). When analysing the workplace, anthropologists often ask which positions are associated with the most power, and who staffs these positions? Looking back in time, what social, cultural and economic forces produced the current state of affairs? Which norms and beliefs justify the current communication and interaction patterns? Which aspects of the power structure seem normal and natural and which aspects are contested, and by whom? For many anthropologists, research is a vehicle to awaken and engage the public’s introspective conscience. Anthropology describes the meanings that people attribute to their lives across different circumstances, showing these meanings to be contingent and malleable, which inspires some anthropologists to allege that their discipline has a liberatory potential. As one leading anthropologist argues, “considering counterhegemonies implies possibilities for general cultural deprogrammings” [sic] (Nader 1997: 723). Another leading anthropologist envisions the discipline “as a field of action” (Scheper-Hughes 1995: 419) that “colludes with the powerless” (420). In contrast to the preferences of anthropologists, corporate clients have only a limited interest
in making the linkages between culture and power explicit and, often, even less interest in changing those linkages. Business leaders seek to identify the cultural values that inform patterns of interaction, but rarely inquire about the broader social or historical contexts of cultural values. Their goal is to improve business outcomes, and to this end they rely on interventions that are designed by organisational development (OD) professionals. To explore the potential contribution of anthropologists to business challenges in which culture and power are key themes, I compare how anthropologists and OD professionals would approach the needs of a global company that has migrated jobs overseas and is now seeking to improve collaboration across its low-cost and high-cost locations. This example purposely mixes the negative and positive aspects of globalisation: There is job loss and, at the same time, a search for better cooperation. My analysis is based on an intervention with a global corporate entity based in the United States. Typically, when a multinational corporation moves jobs overseas, especially professional jobs, managers and employees in the high-cost location resist this change, making the migration of resources and responsibility to low-cost locations that much more difficult than it would otherwise be. In addition, globalisation is associated with the need to improve communication and collaboration across the barriers of culture, language, business division and time zone. Global corporations face the challenge of having disparate parts of the organisation communicate effectively. This was the situation in the global corporation that I describe below. To contend with these challenges, it hired organisational development (OD) professionals with insight into conflict and culture. Although anthropologists have a lot to say about both topics, they did not reach out to anthropologists. Indeed, the latter are seldom hired for such projects. One of the first steps that the OD professionals took was interviewing people across the organisation about their work experience. They discovered that managers in the high-cost locations are frustrated by the fact that when someone retires or leaves, precious business knowledge is lost. They prefer to grow local talent than shift jobs to low-cost locations. They want to have more duplication of knowledge and roles across employees
Anthropologists’ contribution in a corporate setting is contingent upon their willingness to follow the template of OD professionals. It also highlights anthropologists’ strengths: their critical stance and exploratory and searching disposition.
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in their high-cost location to create a modicum of redundancy. At the same time, they would like to be involved in the hiring of employees in the low-cost locations with whom they are expected to forge a close working relationship. Research into the hopes and frustrations of managers and employees in the low-cost locations revealed a different pattern. In low-cost locations, managers and employees crave to be included in strategy and planning. They want to contribute to assessment and evaluation and to improve the global firm’s processes. They want to know more about the impact of their work, find out how they can improve, and hear about success stories. Having interviewed managers across the globe by phone and in person, and analysed the norms and values that underlie the misunderstandings and frustrations that the research has uncovered, the OD professionals designed an on-site change management programme. The programme explored the distinct cultural frames of reference that make collaboration difficult. The facilitators of the programme asked the participants to propose interaction and communication improvements that would increase the accuracy of deliverables, prevent rework and enable employees in the low-cost locations to be better analysts and contribute more insight than is currently the case. Anthropologists would have been interested in the OD professionals’ research into cultural patterns, but critical of their limited immersion in the life of the corporation (Bate 1997: 1150). Furthermore, they would have sought to expand the scope of the research, and, inspired partly by normative concerns, inquire about the broader circumstances of the migration of jobs from the high- to the low-cost location: What policies motivate the multinational entity to move jobs overseas? What particular leverage do the divisions of the global corporation that shed jobs have over their employees? How do
families and communities cope with the fear and insecurity that such a process introduces into their lives? Anthropologists would have also been interested in the facilitated portion of the intervention in which managers and employees propose new communication and interaction patterns. But they would have probably not been satisfied by the task of proposing more effective patterns of behaviour and communication. Rather, they would have sought to develop a deeper awareness within the client organisation of the power imbalance between high- and low-cost locations. They would have asked how the new proposed interaction and communication improvements shift the power dynamics within the organisation. Would employees across locations enjoy equitable employment and promotion opportunities? Would managers in low-cost locations be able to initiate and lead strategic initiatives that would affect the organisation as a whole? Would the firm invest more resources in developing target markets in the low cost locations? Anthropologists would have also been curious to learn how managers and employees symbolically communicate their commitment to the proposed changes. Would the organisation rename some of its business units? Would the organisational chart be redrawn? And they would have tried to place the process that they have witnessed within a comparative framework, citing examples of “control by means of culture” across the globe (Nader 1997: 719). Moreover, anthropologists would have asked how their research findings, when made public, shape the reputation of the businesses and individuals that they study (Bate 1997: 1162). And following the self-reflexive turn of the last few decades, they would have inquired into their own motives for asking the questions that they do. This self-examination has almost a mystical function among some anthropologists who assume that a social science that is aware of its own prejudices and assumptions is of higher quality and therefore in a good position to elevate public discourse, encouraging people to examine the principles that guide their thinking, and affording them the opportunity to act with greater wisdom and compassion than is otherwise possible for them.
In contrast to anthropologists, OD professionals seek to fulfil their responsibilities to the business, and produce results that would support the business leaders’ efforts to serve the company’s shareholders. Inquiry into culture and power has little purchase in the boardroom, unless it could lead to improved communications and relationships, and, in turn, increase the efficiency and profitability of the organisation. Though rather specific, the example that I provide offers some general insight into the distinct approaches of anthropologists and OD professionals to interventions in which culture and power intersect. The example suggests that anthropologists’ contribution in a corporate setting is contingent upon their willingness to follow the template of OD professionals. It also highlights anthropologists’ strengths: their critical stance and exploratory and searching disposition. These energies are valuable if they can be properly channelled. Taking a step back, and reflecting on the potential fit of anthropology in a corporate setting, brings to mind marketing research. Indeed, there are a good number of anthropologists who are helping marketers understand how consumers draw on different products and services to create, maintain and enhance particular aspects of their identity across contexts (Ladner 2014: 17-18). But here, too, questions about culture and power abound, as well as ethical dilemmas (see Urban and Koh 2013: 145-146, 152; Ladner 2014: 87-99).
Amitai Touval has a Ph.D in Cultural Anthropology (Brown University, 2000). He teaches Marketing at the Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College / CUNY. He is the Author of An Anthropological Study of Hospitality: The Innkeeper and the Guest (Palgrave 2017) and a number of articles in scholarly journals and trade magazines. References 1. Bate, S. (1997). Whatever happened to organizational anthropology? A review of the field of organizational ethnography and anthropological studies. Human Relations, 50(9), 1147-1175. 2. Ladner, Sam (2014). Practical Ethnography: A Guide to Doing Ethnography in the Private Sector. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Cost Press. 3. Nader, L. (1997). Sidney W. Mintz Lecture for 1995: Controlling Processes Tracing the Dynamic Components of Power. Current Anthropology, 38(5), 711-738. doi:10.1086/204663 4. Scheper-Hughes, N. (1995). The Primacy of the Ethical: Propositions for a Militant Anthropology. Current Anthropology, 36(3), 409-440. Retrieved from http://www.jstor. org.remote.baruch.cuny.edu/stable/2744051 5. Urban, G., & Koh, K. (2013). Ethnographic Research on Modern Business Corporations. Annual Review of Anthropology, 42, 139-158.
Popular Culture BY JENS GERRIT PAPENBURG AND HOLGER SCHULZE
Sound is a subject through which popular culture can be analysed in an innovative way. From the roar of the crowd in a stadium to the sub-bass frequencies produced by sound systems in the disco era. Sound – not necessarily aestheticised as music – is inextricably part of the many domains of popular culture.
ound is an integral part of contemporary everyday culture. From the speech recognition system integrated in your computer’s operating system to the roar of the crowd in a stadium, from the sub-bass frequencies
produced by sound systems in the disco era to the sound image of advertising, sound – not necessarily aestheticised as music – is almost overly present in the many domains of today's popular culture. However, the sonic dimension of contemporary, globalised popular culture is not only represented by sounds you can hear, songs you can buy or effects you can sense. More fundamentally, what one calls sound is deeply constitutive for popular culture; it is driving its specific subjectivities, its economies, and its forms of knowledge. Thus, sound does not only reflect or represent contemporary cultures: it
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plays a crucial role in the transformations of cultures. Whereas sound is often thought of as an effect you mainly hear – foremost through one’s ears – research has more recently focused on the manifold effects of sound on the whole body in all its activities, perceptions, its affects and reactions. Sound is not anymore regarded as just an ephemeral, a cerebral, or an intricately fragile atmosphere; in the early 21st century it is an easily confirmable notion that sounds are materially, physically and sensorially dominant and present in all of our everyday lives, regardless of social class, gender roles, abilities, ethnicities, world region, whether one lives in an urban or rural area, whether one works in the public service sector or in an industry producing consumable commodities. In the sounds one hears the visceral and the affective potentials of popular culture can be traced. Analysing Cultures Through Sound As sound takes such a central role in contemporary cultures the research on sound is actually a study of sound as
both an integral and constitutive part of culture. An investigation of sound as popular culture would hence be more aptly described as a study through sound than a study about sound. Sound therefore not only provides commodities or objects which one might study; more precisely sound is a subject through which contemporary popular culture can be analysed in a way that allows us to listen to cultures: to echoes from the past, to the interfering resonances of the present, and all discontinuities and the contradictions that suggest a possible, a desirable or a feared future. Popular culture’s sound and its sophisticated design resonates with power structures now and then and one can study these structures by analysing historical and contemporary case studies of listening in various sound cultures. Through such an analysis one will be able to consider the ways contemporary practices of sound generation are applied in the diverse fields in which sounds are produced, mastered, distorted, processed, or enhanced. One striking example is for instance the examination of the noises of a baby monitor: a study of this rather minor and often overseen device makes it possible to analyse changes in domestic space beginning in the 1960s, including a new organisation of the
parent–child relationship in western urban family life, up to the expansion of technologies and habits of surveillance in everyday life. Another example would be research on sub-bass frequencies as they were produced by the sound systems of 1970s disco culture: this research allows us to explore a recent history of listening that is related to practices of dancing, of non-listening and tactile sound perception as well as to study the production of proximity, and maybe intimacy in a highly mediatised world. Through a study of loudness in popular music, we can identify listening practices that are designated as “legitimate”, joyful, affirmed and appropriate – or as “illegitimate” or unpleasant, criminal and disgusting. An analysis of video game sound design and location-aware technologies facilitate the study of a militarisation of the senses and the ambiguity of sensory distance. Scrutinising the sound of popular music productions allows finally for a cultural interpretation of recorded sound and its transforming and revealing role in various regional, social, gendered and race-related contexts. What do the voices of the researchers presenting their work in the famous lecture series “Technology, Entertainment, Design” (TED) tell us about contemporary subjectivities?
The Jackson 5 at the Bob Hope Show, 1973 Photo courtesy: http://www.michaeljacksonspictures.com/
The examination of the noises of a baby monitor: a study of this rather minor and often overseen device makes it possible to analyse changes in domestic space beginning in the 1960s Subjectivities that are driven by contemporary ideologies of almost infinite self-improvement and self-marketing – and that are expressed in voices that are sonically adapted to transmit well and efficiently over the laptop speakers through which curious citizens all over the networked globe will mainly be experiencing those presentations. Sounding Out Cultural Transformations However, sound can not only inform us about popular culture’s status quo, it can also be listened to as a trendsetter. Take, for instance, the new kind of economy that came up in the late 1990s related to sound. The emergence of a so-called “sharing-economy” and peer-to-peer networks was catalysed through music. This radical transformation of the media industry through the tech industry’s file-sharing platforms in the late 1990s was regarded as a model for a more general industry change, covering many top-selling industrial sectors. The film industry is one obvious example, but there is also the electric power industry – both of which have been affected by the so-called sharing-economy first practiced in the music sector. Furthermore, this shift towards an incorporation of sound can be deduced from the increased interest of leading tech companies’ in audio companies – such as Apple’s acquisition of Beats Electronics and Beats Music in May 2014, or Eric Schmidt’s extensive visit to the headquarters of Native Instruments’ Berlin in October 2014. Hence, this prognostic and exemplifying quality of sound allows for an
While most musical personae of popular culture these days carefully keep a certain distance to Trump, Trump’s populism encompasses a sonic dimension that is strongly informed by popular culture.
analysis of the contemporary state of a culture in its aptness to certain transformations, and its inclinations to upcoming distortions and ruptures. Right now, in the early Spring of 2017 for instance the contemporary efforts of Western cultures to struggle with rapidly growing authoritarian movements and more and more authoritarian, protectionist, and neo-nationalist governments – for example in the US – can be analysed by the manifold musical productions, by memes, and performances by artists from popular culture. The fear and the irritation triggered by these developments is audible and sensible in a growing number of activities not only in the tech and media sector in general but foremost and vividly in the field of musical and sonic production in particular. Artists voice their dissent not only in lyrics, but also in performances (e.g. at the Grammy Awards 2017) and in new record releases stating the eerie dominance of authoritarian politics and their impact on individual lives, especially from non-hegemonic groups of this society. This urgency of resistance generates new and maybe impactful sonic forms of resistance. Yet, popular culture’s sound can also coincide with authoritarian politics. Recently the German film critic Georg Seeßlen pointed out that emerging “Trumpism” with its “alternative facts” is heavily based in popular culture’s casting shows, in the imagery and performativity of comic super heroes and TV-series. These artefacts of popular culture though are definitely not about a linguistic representation of reality, but, instead, give their customers what they want or, rather, what they are willing to pay for (with money or with data). Besides popular culture’s pictures, its sound also resonates with Trumpism. In that case, a populist’s voicing of the popular is more than a sheer metaphor: it is a sonic phenomenon decidedly. Stephen Bannon’s vocal sound – in contrast to his messages, of course – seemingly differs not too much from the sound of the maligned left-liberal “establishment”. However the description of Bannon as an obscurantist, nearly invisible and camouflaged “Trump whisperer” – vis-à-vis, say, investigative loud whistle blowers – is as far as possibly inapt. Bannon’s neonationalist agenda is documented well in the form of easily accessible lectures and documentaries. However, the sound of the 45th President of the United States of America is thoroughly different. It moves up against an overwhelming, almost material dimension, where the aim of speaking – as Seeßlen puts it – is to make the other
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speechless, similar to the mannerisms of aggressive ranting and raving in the daytime tabloid talk show The Jerry Springer Show. In the end, tweets can often be closer to spoken language than to written text. In Trumps tweeting voice, not only the private person and the politician Donald Trump are merging virtually spontaneously. Moreover, the president speaks or tweets directly to the whole of his people and nearly intends to merge with all of them. While most musical personae of popular culture these days carefully keep a certain distance to Trump, Trump’s populism encompasses a sonic dimension that is strongly informed by popular culture. To analyse cultures and their transformations via sound excavates their underlying sound concepts: What are sounds for you or for me? What is an allowed property of sound (e.g. structure, pleasure, or innovation) and what is not being granted in a sound concept (e.g. vagueness, boredom, technophobia)? These sound concepts then signal their general positions and their impact in larger cultural areas: “Who sings the Nation State?” (Butler/Spivak) And who sings the resistance against a renaissance of neo-nationalism? Featured image: Chris Walla records The Thermals album "Personal Life" at Jackpot! © Jason Quigley
Jens Gerrit Papenburg is visiting Professor for Popular Music History & Theory at Humboldt University Berlin. He is the co-editor of Sound as Popular Culture (MIT Press 2016) and sound review editor of Sound Studies. An Interdisciplinary Journal (Routledge). His research interests include the media history of popular music as well as the history and culture of listening technologies. Holger Schulze is full Professor in Musicology at the University of Copenhagen and Principal Investigator at the Sound Studies Lab. His research focuses on the cultural history of the senses, sound in popular culture and the anthropology of media. Recent book publications are: American Progress (2015), Sound as Popular Culture (2016, ed.) and Krieg Singen: Singing The War (2017, ed.).
Emoji: New Language or Trend? BY MARCEL DANESI
As societies change and grow, language too, evolves. In this article, the author analyses the rise of the emoji as a means of communication. As a product of revolutionary technology, are emojis here to stay and continue to change our way of communicating or will they eventually fade out of the virtual world?
he choice of an emoji in 2015 by the Oxford Dictionary as its “Word of the Year” (the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji) caught virtually everyone off guard. By selecting a picture over an alphabetic word, the dictionary subtly acknowledged that something had changed radically in the way people write and communicate. The implication was that we might have entered into a new age – a post-print or post-alphabet age. Since then, emoji writing has seemingly become a veritable language unto itself, used not only by common people in their tweets, on their Facebook pages, on Instagram, and the like, but also by artists, politicians, advertisers and others. Emoji renditions or translations of pop songs, entire novels, and other popular texts are similarly cropping up everywhere. There is also now an emoji movie, with emoji figures as characters. Emoji versions of sacred or canonical texts like the
Bible and Lewis Carroll’s children’s writings are now starting to show up with some frequency. What is happening? Does emoji writing constitute a new visual language, communicating through the eye rather than through the ear (as does alphabetic writing)? With an ever-expanding use and availability of emoji on all kinds of digital devices, it is becoming saliently clear that something is definitely going on. The Oxford Dictionary explained that it selected the emoji because it “captures the ethos, mood, and preoccupations” of today’s society. Is the kind of literacy that has served us so well in the past lost its value and functions? The late Marshall McLuhan predicted that the Global Village, as he named it, would both look forward and backward – forward to a form of literacy that involves non-linear holistic modes of representing information and backward to an age when visual writing dominated, in Sumer, Egypt, China and other areas of the world. Nowhere is McLuhan’s assessment more verifiable than it is in the rise of emoji writing. But is it a revolution, an evolution, or just a passing fad?
The Oxford Dictionary explained that it selected the emoji because it “captures the ethos, mood, and preoccupations” of today’s society. www.politicalanthropologist.com
A third and very important factor to the rise of emoji is historical. In effect, emoji writing would not have spread if the modern mind was not conditioned to accept it as a “natural” outgrowth of various other trends. Unlike the Print Age, as McLuhan called the age that crystallised with the invention of the printing press, which encouraged, and even imposed, the exclusive use of alphabetic writing in most forms of communication and knowledge-making, the current Internet Age, encourages various modes of writing in tandem with alphabetic scripts. There are several patterns that have been documented by research since 2015 that are of relevance to answering the above question. First, not all forms of writing are emoji-based, especially in areas such as academia, science, journalism, law-making, and the like; in other words, emoji writing is limited to the informal register and used largely to impart a friendly and positive tone to texts, tweets, and the like. Second, emoji writing depends on technology, with emoji characters just a click away; without this easy accessibility, it is unlikely that emoji would have spread so broadly. Indeed, emoji writing allows for an easy
Source: aliang studio
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way to add emotional tones, from happiness and laughter to irony and critique, to messages. Tone can, of course, be conveyed through words and stylistic modulations, but it is much easier to do so by selecting an emoji from a keyboard, app, or website. A third and very important factor to the rise of emoji is historical. In effect, emoji writing would not have spread if the modern mind was not conditioned to accept it as a “natural” outgrowth of various other trends. One of these is the comic book, which blends images and words in a narrative framework, arguably recalling hieroglyphic writing. At the same time, art movements such as Dada, Futurism, among others, showed that the printed (alphabetic) word, laid out in a linear fashion, might have run its course. But even before such 20th century movements and trends, Lewis Carroll was already experimenting with the visual layout of writing. His “Mouse’s Tale”, is a visual play on “tail”, as can be seen in the configuration of the “tale”: Carroll was already sensing that the age of the alphabet may have been declining as the 20th century dawned. Attempts to make writing more visual can also be seen in an 1881 issue of Puck Magazine, a now defunct humour magazine. Its suggestions constitute emoticons, no less: So, the groundwork for visual writing was laid a long time ago. The advent of digital technology simply provided the physical tools to realise it. As the 1999 movie, The Matrix, emphasised, the digital age has reshaped our consciousness. Like the main protagonist of that movie, Neo, we now live “on” and “through” the computer screen. Our engagement with reality is largely shaped by that screen, whose technical name is the matrix, defined as the network of circuits that constitute a computer screen. But the same word also meant “womb” in Latin. The movie’s transparent subtext was that, with the advent of a digital age, new
generations are born through two kinds of wombs – the biological and the technological. The appearance and spread of emoji could only have occurred in the matrix in which we all live. In a sense, the visual writing that emoji permit is reflective of how children come up with their first words – their early drawings are essentially visual words or concepts. The way we read and write messages on a screen is vastly different with how we used to write them on paper. In the latter medium the written word, with its linear mode of presenting information, dominated. Of course, visual imagers in the form of illustrations were always a possibility, but a difficult one to carry out. With digital keyboards and apps now making emoji easily available, the illustrative function of images has evolved into a more systematic one. Whatever the truth, let’s be clear. Emoji are not words, in any traditional alphabetic sense, despite the Oxford Dictionary’s characterisation. They are standardised pictures that can (and do) replace words and phrases in, admittedly, an effective way. They do not substitute formal writing systems; rather, they reinforce, expand, and annotate the meaning of an informal written communication, enhancing the friendliness of its tone or adding humourous tinges to it. So are emoji a revolution or a passing trend? Will they be around in, say, 2099? How will writing literally look like then? Writing is itself a technology that, like all technologies, changes as the times change. As McLuhan remarked as far back as the early 1950s, a shift in technology entails a shift in modes of writing. Emoji in themselves are not revolutionary – the technology behind them is. So, they will likely morph into something else or disappear entirely as the technology changes. In the meanwhile, I sense a very important unconscious meaning in them. The most commonly-used emoji are smileys of
Emoji in themselves are not revolutionary – the technology behind them is. So, they will likely morph into something else or disappear entirely as the technology changes.
all kinds, which add bright and cheery nuances to routine digital communications. Maybe the Oxford Dictionary was right after all, sensing that an emoji captured a common preoccupation. As I was able to glean myself in conducting interviews with my students, who use emoji extensively, emoji unconsciously convey a “sunny” tone to human interaction, spreading light in a world where dark conflicts seem to be everywhere. They seem to convey a kind of aphorism, “Smile, life is short.” It is no accident that the most common emoji bear the color of the sun.
Marcel Danesi is Full Professor of Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Toronto. He is also coordinator of the Program in Semiotics and Communication Theory at Victoria College of the University. He is currently Editor-in-Chief of Semiotica. His latest book, The Semiotics of Emoji (Bloomsbury), examines the role of emoji in the Age of the Internet.
Is a Languages Strategy Essential for Britain’s Economy to Prosper Post Brexit? BY GABRIELLE HOGAN-BRUN People towards the Queen Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) and The Houses of Parliament wrapped in Union flags on June 2016 in London. © Odd Andersen AFP
Britain hopes to draw on the trade relationships of the former Commonwealth to grow its economy post Brexit. Could this place too much reliance on English as the language of trade? What do we know about the benefits of a languages strategy for the economy? Gabrielle Hogan-Brun explores. Wake-Up Call Following the EU Referendum there was a feeling that Britain could rely on a far larger range of economies post Brexit, in particular trade relationships with the former Commonwealth (presumably through English). Some people are in support of this proposition, others find Empire 2.0 a poor substitute for the EU.1 Or has the rest of the world moved on? After all, Australia, New Zealand and Canada only take around 3% of the UK’s exports, and the US is promoting a phase of trade protectionism. Seeking fresh trade relationships outside the Commonwealth, Britain may well come up against a language barrier. With growing markets from Brazil to China, and from Turkey through Indonesia to
With growing markets from Brazil to China, and from Turkey through Indonesia to Vietnam, more languages are going to feature more prominently in commercial exchange patterns worldwide.
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Vietnam, more languages are going to feature more prominently in commercial exchange patterns worldwide. Hence, as the global economy diversifies, the role of English as the language of international communication may well change. A possible characteristic of a Globalisation 2.0,2 such diversity could further challenge western, liberal market-based democratic values. Can the UK afford, post Brexit, to ignore the multilingual reality in this diversifying global market? Should it consider how to communicate with new trade partners overseas after it loses its reliance on the multilingual capabilities of the EU? Could Brexit be a wake-up call for a languages strategy? Indeed, does the UK have the political will for an education policy to grow a languages capacity? Opportunity Cost British businesses already suffer setbacks in export markets due to a deficient multilingual skills base. According to figures recently released by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages, the UK economy is losing around £50 billion a year in failed contracts because of a lack of language skills in the workforce.3 They also show how this shortfall in foreign language skills leads to a reluctance in tackling new markets: over 80% of small to medium sized enterprises operate only in English, yet over half say language skills would help expand business opportunities and build export growth.4
The future supply of this language resource looks uncertain because the UK government is planning to control the numbers of incoming foreign nationals. This move ignores that cultural diversity is a resource and creative force. The above figures suggest that loss of turnover and profitability is in a large part affected by communication barriers across language boundaries. Now that Britain is leaving the EU, there will be greater pressure to address its language related economic shortfall. Arguably, without a languages strategy, trade relations and export performance will suffer even more post Brexit. A recent Economist Intelligence Unit survey report on how cultural and language barriers affect business confirms that effective cross-border communication and collaboration are critical for the financial success of companies with international aspirations.5 Even if competitive costs are part of the deal on offer multilingual astuteness and intercultural sensitivity can be critical at the negotiating table. As Richard Hardie, former chairman of the investment bank UBS, puts it: “A deep understanding of foreign languages is often essential to the combination of cajolery and seduction many companies require in their international negotiations.”6 This means that native English speakers cannot simply take advantage of the rest of the world’s desire to learn their language. Just as monolingual Britons will not grasp the subtleties of interactions in international business, they do not know what gets lost in translation either, whether this is carried out by humans or electronically. Indeed, over half of the above survey’s respondents admits that misunderstandings have stood in the way of major cross-border transactions, incurring significant losses for their company. These tangible examples of key trade negotiations lost in translation point to the need for languages in business. Arguably, Brexit should give a strong economic incentive for the support of language training across all levels of society to help make a success of a new set of aspired trade links across the globe. At the policy level, this would require commitment to, and long-term strategic investment in, languages education at school as well as in further and higher education. For more immediate returns on investment, companies looking to trade overseas would
also benefit from support with language skills training. Similarly, as I argue in Linguanomics,7 the UK already has a large number of individuals whose bilingual skills can be harnessed to meet various language demands. Diversity as a Resource But now the future supply of this language resource looks uncertain because the UK government is planning to control the numbers of incoming foreign nationals. This move ignores that cultural diversity is a resource and creative force. Yet ancient civilisations, the Aztecs, the Chinese, the Romans knew about the benefits of hosting people from distant places as cultural brokers, to exchange ideas and gain access to resources. Today a multicultural workforce is a key resource in any organisation and can, if managed appropriately, have creative benefits that add value. Workplace observations show that mixed-language groups have a propensity to jointly find original solutions for practical problems.8 This is because participants activate different languages, thought patterns and knowledge systems as multiple keys to new concepts. Hence many companies around the world are strategically recruiting a culturally diverse talent pool to grow their organisation’s intellectual capital and cultivate a culture of innovation. Yet it
Linguanomics: What is the Market Potential of Multilingualism? (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017) authored by Gabrielle Hogan-Brun
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll | The Independent © Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
seems already that Britain risks to compromise its competitive edge if it goes ahead to impose restrictions on EU citizens. A recent testimony deploring the possible effects of Brexit limiting the transfer of knowledge, ideas and influence comes from an open letter by leading British architects.9 This warns that leaving the EU will damage the industry if practices across Britain cannot continue to employ EU staff. The letter states that this is about “a cross-fertilisation of cultures and of thinking that is really important in the creative sector”. It further stresses that “different people from different countries have a very particular and different approach to offer [which] is vital to our business” and that cultural diversity “contributes to the economy” across a range of cultural and creative industries.
Empirical evidence from the growing field of language economics suggest that, when a language strategy is put in place, the benefits often exceed the costs. Returns on Investment Leaving the infrastructure of the EU could give Britain a strong incentive for support with language education and training across all levels of society. English only will not be effective in sustaining future economic growth as the country aims to connect with fresh markets overseas.10 Hence the government needs to commit to long-term investment in a range of foreign languages to match the changing language demands post Brexit. Empirical evidence from the growing field of language economics suggest that, when a language strategy is put in place, the benefits often exceed the costs.11 Moreover, research confirms the economic value of growing a multi-language skills base. There is now an opportunity and a need in Britain to channel existing bilingual resources, to introduce foreign languages as a compulsory subject in school and in vocational training and to provide language support for companies. Lessons can be learnt from the past. For millennia, civilisations around the world have benefitted from
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opening up to the stimulus of other cultures and ideas.12 In preparing to leave the EU, Britain should note that trade and languages have always gone hand in hand, offering opportunities for expansion and development. As history shows, ignoring this will almost certainly lead to economic stagnation.
Gabrielle Hogan-Brun is the author of “Linguanomics: What is the Market Potential of Multilingualism?” (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017). She is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bristol, UK, and has worked with various European organisations on language policy in multilingual settings. She is Series Editor of Palgrave Studies in Minority Languages and Communities. References 1. Blitz, J. (2017) Post-Brexit delusions about Empire 2.0. Financial Times, 17 March 2017. https://www.ft.com/content/ bc29987e-034e-11e7-ace0-1ce02ef0def9 2. Barber, L. (2016) Globalisation 2.0 – an optimistic outlook. Financial Times, 24 February 2016. https://www.ft.com/ content/3dffc316-bad3-11e5-b151-8e15c9a029fb 3. Quoting Baroness Coussins, in: Richardson, H. (2014) Modern languages “recovery programme” urged by MPs. BBC News, 14 July 2014. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-28269496 4. Brexit and Languages: A checklist for Government negotiators and officials. All-Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages (APPMFL). ht t p : / / b r e x i t l a n g u a g e s a p p g m f l . w e e b l y. c o m / uploads/9/2/0/9/92099188/appgmfl-mfl_brexit_embargoto17oct.pdf 5. Competing across borders. How cultural and communication barriers affect business.The Economist. Intelligence Report. Perspectives, 25 April, 2012. http://perspectives.eiu.com/economic-development/ competing-across-borders 6. Quoted in: Reisz, M. (2014) Language degrees: when the words are not enough. Times Higher Education, 11 December 2014. https://www. timeshighereducation.com/news/language-degrees-when-the-wordsare-not-enough/2017413.article 7. In: Linguanomics: What is the Market Potential of Multilingualism? (2017: 79 f). London/New York: Bloomsbury Academic; see also: “This Post-Brexit Linguanomics”, in: Kelly, M.H. (Ed.) (2017) Languages after Brexit. How the UK speaks to the world. London/New York, Palgrave Macmillan. 8. Grin, F., Sfreddo, C. and Vaillancourt, F. (2010) The Economics of the Multilingual Workplace. New York/London: Routledge. 9. Rogers, R., Alsop, W. et al. (2017) Leading architects: EU nationals must not be used as a Brexit negotiating chip. The Guardian, Letters, 14 May 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/14/ eu-nationals-must-not-be-negotiating-chip 10. Echoing this sentiment across the Atlantic is US economist Lawrence Summers’ Tweet (2017, January 8). @LH Summers 7:45AM. https:// twitter.com/LHSummers/status/818121551501467648. 11. Examples are Switzerland, Quebec and Catalonia. For more information see: Gazzola, M. and Wickström, B-A (Eds) (2016) The Economics of Language Policy. Cambridge MA; MIT Press. 12. Hutton, W. (2016) Trade is the lifeblood of humanity. Closed doors lead to closed minds. The Guardian, 13 November 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/13/ america-trade-deals-donald-trump-nafta-isolationism
What the West Can Learn from the ASEAN Way BY EDGARDO ANGARA
The rise of ASEAN shows how consensus-building, more than the rule of the majority, can help nations overcome religious and racial divisions to achieve shared goals. The West, too, can learn from the ASEAN way of musyawarah (consultation) and muafakat (consensus), which has sustained and strengthened the community in the last 50 years.
he rise of the ASEAN community is a curious study of how cooperation and consensus, more
than the rule of the majority, can help nations overcome deep divisions in religion, law and race in the pursuit of common goals. To some Western observers, the ASEAN propensity to build consensus in the midst of discord is a source of puzzlement and frustration as the members have refused to press and criticise each other on major issues confronting the 10-nation bloc, from human rights to maritime disputes. Indeed, such a noninterventionist policy is enshrined within the ASEAN
Charter itself, which commits members to “respecting the fundamental importance of amity and cooperation, and the principles of sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, non-interference, consensus and unity in diversity”.1 It is, however, precisely this focus on unanimity in its decision-making process, rooted in the ASEAN way of musyawarah (consultation) and muafakat (consensus),2 which has given the ASEAN community the stability and resilience to grow and thrive in the last 50 years. Today, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is an unqualified success. It is one of the most dynamic regional blocs standing toe-to-toe with the European Union, and is even considered by some as the most successful supranational grouping in the world. Composed of 10 countries, ASEAN is home to the world’s third-largest labour force with an economy that is poised to become the world’s fifth-largest by 2020, and, by some projections, the fourth-largest by 2050.
ASEAN is home to peoples of various racial origins, including the Han Chinese, the Indo-Aryan and Dravidian peoples of South Asia and the Malay-Austronesian race. Three of the world’s major religions – Christianity, Islam and Hinduism – are practiced in the region, and, at times, right next to each other.
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo walks with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the Malacanang Palace in Manila on April 2017, ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.v © Chip Somodevilla Getty Images
In 2016 the combined GDP of ASEAN countries was collectively worth $2.5 trillion, almost double the $1.3 trillion measured in 2010. In that same period, according to the World Economic Forum, GDP per capita across the region grew by 76 percent.3 Within Asia, only China and Japan have bigger economies. The bloc’s population of 650 million citizens accounts for a staggering 10 percent of the world population, making it the biggest geopolitical bloc by the number of people, according to the WEF. As an investment destination, ASEAN is topnotch. It is the fourth-largest exporting region in the world, accounting for up to 7 percent of global exports. Furthermore, more than half of the consumer base in ASEAN is young – under 30 years old. The Philippines is entering its “demographic sweet spot” with more working people than dependent children and retirees. This will reap substantial rewards, including higher per capita income, higher savings rate, and a broader tax base. Another sector that has boomed is tourism. All together, the 10 ASEAN states drew more visitors in 2013 than France, the world’s top destination. Three years ago, the World Cruise Industry Review projected that Asia may attract 7 million visitors by 2020, representing a fifth of the global cruise industry.
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ASEAN will get a sizable portion of this market, considering its 25,000 island-destinations on offer. By contrast, the Bahamas has only 7,000. What makes ASEAN’s success even more impressive is that it has done it amid deep divides in religion, race and legal tradition in Southeast Asia. ASEAN is home to peoples of various racial origins, including the Han Chinese, the IndoAryan and Dravidian peoples of South Asia and the Malay-Austronesian race. Three of the world’s major religions – Christianity, Islam and Hinduism – are practiced in the region, and, at times, right next to each other. For instance, the world’s largest Muslim country, Indonesia, maintains brotherly ties with Asia’s largest Christian country, the Philippines. Such religious and racial divisions tend to degenerate into outbursts of conflict in most parts of the world, but in ASEAN, people mostly live in peaceful coexistence with each other, with some notable and unfortunate exceptions, as in Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis and the long-running Muslim insurgency in the southern Philippines. There, too, is significant diversity in terms of legal traditions. Where most former British colonies, like Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam follow common law (largely unwritten, precedent-based) systems, Thailand and Vietnam adhere to a continental or codal (“Napoleonic”) legal system. The Philippines follows a mixture of the two. Such diversity “puts Southeast Asia at a distinct disadvantage in terms of fostering regional cooperation,” according to Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, and coauthor of “The ASEAN Miracle: A Catalyst for Peace”.4 “When ASEAN was founded in 1967, most experts expected it to die within years.” he said in a commentary published in August. The Singaporean academic noted that Southeast Asia at the time was a poor and deeply troubled region described by the British historian C.A. Fisher as the “Balkans of Asia”.
“The Vietnam War was underway, and the Sino-Vietnamese War was yet to be fought. Many viewed the five non-Communist states that founded ASEAN – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand – as dominoes, set to be tipped over by a neighbour’s fall to communism or descent into civil strife,” Kishore said. In 1967, when the five founding members signed the Bangkok Declaration, the primary objective was to ward off the threat of foreign interference that loomed heavily over the region during the Cold War. This signalled the transformation of the region “from battlefield into a marketplace”, as explored by Balazs Szalontai in “The end of the Cold War and the Third World: new perspectives on regional conflict.”5 Soon, according to Kishore, even ASEAN’s “communist enemies” Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam joined the bloc. “So, too, did Myanmar, ending decades of isolation,” he said. “Asean’s policy of engaging Myanmar drew criticism from the West, but it helped lay the groundwork for a peaceful transition from military rule,” Kishore said, pointing out the contrast with the West’s policy of isolation toward Syria. As the region grows, however, threats and challenges persist. One is the Islamic State and the scourge of religious extremism. In March 2015, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, speaking at the 14th Asia Security Summit, described ISIS’s declaration to establish an ASEAN wilayat (province) under its caliphate as a “grandiose, pie-in-the-sky dream”.6 He nonetheless predicted that it was not far-fetched for the terrorist organisation to aim to establish a base in the region, “somewhere far from the centres of power of state governments, where the governments’ writ does not run”. His words proved prophetic. The plan materialised in Marawi City in southern Philippines, where fighting continues between government forces and militant sympathisers of the terrorist group. ASEAN has long been threatened by radical extremism. Many young Southeast Asian Muslims went to Pakistan in the 1980s to help Afghani
jihadists defend against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. They were radicalised by such groups as al-Qaeda. When they returned to their home countries in the 1990s, they founded their own groups, such as Jema’ah Islamiyah, which was responsible for the 2002 bombing in Bali and the 2000 “Rizal Day” bombings around Metro Manila. The plan to form an antiterrorism pact between the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia is thus highly urgent. Besides terrorism, maritime disputes aggravated by China’s island-building activities and militarisation of the South China Sea rank among the most disturbing and disruptive challenges to ASEAN’s future development. Though not all members are party to the disputes, ASEAN’s insistence and emphasis on consensusbuilding makes it difficult for the bloc to take any decisive position beyond calling for a toothless Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. Pundits have argued that such a decision-making process is a weakness of ASEAN, leading to ineptness in responding to humanitarian crises and security issues besetting the region. Other commentators, however, believe this approach is preferable to the Western model. Edith Terry, an Adjunct Professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, wrote that such a “lowest-common-denominator approach” was in fact why ASEAN “holds up well amid disappointment with the Bretton Woods institutions”.7 She said: “ASEAN will never face a Brexit. Its fundamental promise to its members is that it does not challenge their sovereignty. Its Jakarta-based secretariat is the opposite of the bureaucratic Babylons of the European Union, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade
Government troops take positions as they head to the frontline as fighting with Muslim militants in Marawi city May 2017, Philippines. © AP/Bullit Marquez
The plan to form an antiterrorism pact between the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia is thus highly urgent. www.politicalanthropologist.com
Organization or the UN and its many offshoots. It has a staff of 300, compared to 100 times that in EU headquarters in Brussels.” Unlike the World Bank, IMF or the UN, according to Terry, ASEAN does not have an equity structure that gives richer members more say but, instead, calibrates its dues to the paying capacity of its poorest members. The flip side of such an argument is that the requirement for unanimity among the 10 ASEAN states opens the window for interference by big external powers, such as China and the United States, whose attempts to peddle influence within the grouping are no secret. In January, Kilian Spandler, a political scientist and board member of the Germany-based think-tank Young Initiative on Foreign Affairs and International Relations, wrote an analysis with the intriguing title: “What Can ASEAN Teach the EU?”8
UNLIKE THE WORLD BANK, IMF OR THE UN, ASEAN DOES NOT HAVE AN EQUITY STRUCTURE THAT GIVES RICHER MEMBERS MORE SAY. Whereas before, the European Union had shown little interest in learning from the ASEAN experiment, Spandler said this changed recently as a consequence of domestic challenges in Europe arising from “populist and xenophobic reactions toward the increased immigration by displaced persons from outside the continent”. “Just like that, EU policymakers have become very interested in how countries like Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines managed to keep conflict between people of Malay, Sinic, and Indian ethnicity, Christian and Muslim belief, or indigenous and immigrant origin at bay,” Spandler said. Thus, he said, ASEAN has begun to develop its own “normative power” – a term used to describe the EU’s ability to influence others’ ideas and create a beneficial international environment by projecting its values abroad. “ASEAN appears to have found a unique selling point beyond its trade potential, and this has brought the organisation closer to the goal
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of a level playing field with its European partners,” Spandler said. In the next 50 years, ASEAN may achieve a level of economic and political integration that is similar to that of the EU. Its economic and social fundamentals are strong and stable, and, barring major obstacles, the bloc appears to be on its way to becoming a major power. The European model, however, clearly is not the suitable one to follow. Instead, ASEAN will do well to continue on the path of longevity and relevance that has sustained it for the past 50 years – the ASEAN way. Featured Image: Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations gather for a plenary session of the biyearly summit in Manila, Philippines on April 2017. © ASEAN50/Released
Edgardo J. Angara spent most of his professional career in public service and law. He was Senate President (19931995) and Senator for four six-year terms, serving as a legislator for 23 years. He was a Founding President of the ASEAN Law Association (ALA); President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) (1979-1980); and the Philippine Bar Association (1975-1976). References 1. The Asean Charter. h t t p : / / w w w. a s e a n . o r g / w p - c o n t e n t / uploads/2012/05/11.-October-2015-The-ASEAN-Charter-18th-ReprintAmended-updated-on-05_-April-2016-IJP.pdf 2. “ASEAN’s Third Way?” by Daniel Wu, The Diplomat. https://thediplomat. com/2011/11/aseans-third-way/ 3. “ASEAN is 50, and it’s come a long way. Here’s why you should care,” by Alex Gray, World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/01/ asean-is-50-and-it-s-come-a-long-way-here-s-why-you-should-care/ 4. World View, by Kishore Mahbubani, Philippine Daily Inquirer http://opinion. inquirer.net/106070/asean-at-50 5. “From battleﬁeld into marketplace: The end of the Cold War in Indochina, 1985-1989,” by Balazs Szalontai, “The end of the Cold War and the Third World: new perspectives on regional conflict.” http://www.academia.edu/25628812/ From_Battlefield_into_Marketplace_The_End_of_the_Cold_War_in_ Indochina_1985-9 6. Keynote Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Shangri-La Dialogue. http://www.pmo.gov.sg/newsroom/transcript-keynote-speechprime-minister-lee-hsien-loong-shangri-la-dialogue-29-may-2015 7. “Asean at 50 is a model that has aged surprisingly well,” by Edith Terry, South China Morning Post. http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/ article/2105746/asean-50-model-has-aged-surprisingly-well 8. “What Can ASEAN Teach the EU?” by Kilian Spandler, The Diplomat. https://thediplomat.com/2017/01/what-can-asean-teach-the-eu/
Duped, Guilty Pleasure, Irony, and Camp: Consuming Fake News BY ROSCOE SCARBOROUGH
Drawing on forty in-depth interviews with self-proclaimed “bad TV” watchers about their media consumption, this research examines how people consume fake news. There are four modes of consuming fake news. Conventional consumers either avoid or are duped into reading or viewing fake news. Alternatively, others consume fake news as a guilty pleasure, ironically, or with a camp sensibility.
e are inundated with fake news, but lack an understanding of how audiences consume these stories. Fake news sensations include: “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement,” “RuPaul Claims Trump Touched Him Inappropriately in the 1990s,” and “WikiLeaks CONFIRMS Hillary Sold Weapons to ISIS... Then Drops Another BOMBSHELL! Breaking News.” While some readers are duped by these stories, others consume these stories intentionally. Any research on fake news or policy recommendations on how to stymie its impact must begin with an accurate typology of how audiences consume fake news. In research conducted with Charles Allan McCoy on non-conventional media consumption, we interviewed forty self-proclaimed consumers of “bad TV”.1 Our research examines how consumers
purposefully engage with media they consider “bad”. Most of our interviewees consume television, online, or print journalism in at least one unconventional way. Rather than developing a typology of consumers, we map modes of consuming “bad” culture inductively. This research suggests that there are four approaches to consuming fake news: conventional, guilty pleasure, ironic, and with a camp sensibility. Consider the case of Pizzagate – a fake news cataclysm linking Hillary Clinton to a fictitious child-sex ring. Conventional consumers either interpreted this story as factual insight into the life of “Crooked Hillary” or flagged it as rubbish to be avoided. However, many readers enjoy fake news because it is fake news. Guilty pleasure readers consume the story as a diversion or release from daily stresses. An ironic reader enjoys mocking Pizzagate as something that is “so bad it’s good”. A campy reader loves the exaggerated themes and satire of the outrageous accusations. An individual might adopt a preferred approach or shift among these four modes of engaging with fake news. Conventional Consumption For those employing a conventional mode of consumption, fake news is something to be avoided.
Audiences using a conventional mode of consumption avoid fake news or are duped into reading or viewing it accidentally. www.politicalanthropologist.com
An insurance salesperson describes selecting a newspaper: “If I had my choice, it would be The New York Times every single day of the week, but we’ve been on and off. Also, The Daily Progress gets on our nerves... It doesn’t have anything meaty in it. It doesn’t have any substantial news articles... It was just rife with typos and ridiculous turns of phrase. It was embarrassing...” (57, female) Similarly, a government retiree dismisses any media that is not serious journalism or high culture: “There are people who have a paradoxical view of some things. They watch things just to amuse themselves, but that’s not something I do.” (female, 83) These women avoid fake news because it is factually inaccurate, it violates their tastes, or it is an unwanted diversion. Consumers using a conventional mode of consumption evaluate journalism based on the veracity of its content and their personal tastes. These conventional consumers expect rigorous reporting of objective facts, often filtered through a preferred ideological lens. Audiences using a conventional mode of consumption avoid fake news or are duped into reading or viewing it accidentally.
Consuming fake news as a guilty pleasure is not about the acquisition of facts. Alternatively, these consumers are seeking diversion. Guilty Pleasure Guilty pleasure consumers feel shame or embarrassment about their consumption of fake news. A
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swim coach describes the moral dilemma of a guilty pleasure consumer: “I really don’t like watching it, but it’s like a train wreck, I’m drawn to watching it, if that makes sense. Every time I watch, I think, ‘This is horrible. I can’t believe I’m watching this.’ ” (26, female) Similarly, a university student outlines his experience of consuming media in the guilty pleasure mode: I know it’s not necessarily like high quality, but I like it anyway. Like if someone says they have a guilty pleasure of eating at McDonalds, that is not necessarily good for them, they aren’t getting much out of it, but they like it. Something they go to, it’s easy to access, a lot of other people like it, they know it doesn’t do much for them but it feels good. So, it serves no long-term purpose but it just makes you feel good in the moment. (23, male) Consuming fake news as a guilty pleasure is not about the acquisition of facts. Alternatively, these consumers are seeking diversion. Guilty pleasure consumers of fake news seek mindless entertainment after a long day of work or a reprieve from serious cultural engagement. Rather than reading rigorous journalism, guilty pleasure consumers opt to read fake news about Hillary Clinton’s involvement in a child-sex ring or the Pope’s endorsement of Donald Trump. Those who consume fake news as a guilty pleasure know the stories are inauthentic, yet read for entertainment, escape, or hedonistic zeal. Irony Ironic consumers enjoy fake news because it is so bad that it is enjoyable. Irony allows consumers to mock the content or delivery of fake news stories. A security guard describes his ironic viewing of local news: I watch local news ironically, because it is so low budget, a lot of people just starting out in the business and it’s often just really bad. So, I constantly make fun of the little teases. “Local man dies,” I’d think, “I know a local man. I better watch to see if it’s someone I know.” [Scoffs] “Will it be nice this weekend? Your weather after this break.” Why not just say, “Your weather will be nice this weekend?” Now, I know they need to make money or whatever, but it’s just ridiculous. (46, male) Ironic consumers revel in ridiculing news stories. Fake news stories, such as accusations of Donald Trump assaulting RuPaul, are prime for ironic consumption because these stories are perceived to
Establishing an exhaustive typology of how people consume fake news is necessary. This is a prerequisite step toward the development of policy recommendations to alleviate the pernicious epidemic of “alternative facts”, misinformation, and media manipulation that thrive when fake news is ubiquitous. be absurdly unbelievable or inaccurate. Fake news is mocked for sport by the ironist. Any news story that falls short of consumers’ aesthetic tastes or expectations is open to ironic consumption. Irony is apt when gaffes occur or when production is of low quality. One graduate student outlines the need for sincerity: “It’s funnier to watch people who are being sincere. I guess part of the ironic viewing is that it’s watching people who tried to make something sincerely fail pretty badly. Now, if he’s trying to make something bad then it’s not as fun to watch.” (29, male) The ironic mode works best when consumers think producers and journalists are not “in on the joke”. Thus, irony is well suited for reading or viewing of fake news that makes its way into mainstream media outlets. Camp Rather than reveling in how bad a story is ironically, those with a camp sensibility admire fake news for being ridiculous or over-the-top. The ostentatiousness, satirical themes, and willful exaggeration of fake news make it ripe for consumption using a camp sensibility. A retail employee describes camp: It’s campy and it’s fun and it pokes fun at them but not the point of being mean... You can’t really stay mad at watching something so bad. [Laughs] I don’t know if that makes sense. It’s so bad, where it’s good... and they took the time to do something so horrible. [Laughs] I guess that is the mindset; it’s just funny that way. (30, female) In addition to appreciating content, those utilising a camp sensibility celebrate the authors or producers of fake news. A veterinarian expresses this type of admiration: “I respect the hell out of them because they are the greatest con artists in the entire world. You are watching a person do the pinnacle of their profession.” (37, male). The extreme theatrical quality and over-the-top themes give fake news a perversely sophisticated appeal to camp consumers. Consuming Fake News It is misguided to presume that all news consumers
seek fact-based journalism and avoid fake news. Conventional consumers desire rigorous journalism from mainstream news media sources and only consume fake news by accident. Yet, there are many others who consume fake news intentionally. Guilty pleasure consumers think of fake news as the fast food of news; it is an escape or reward for serious cultural engagement or other taxing work. Those consuming ironically enjoy fake news because “it’s so bad that it’s good”. Camp consumers celebrate the exaggerated, bad taste of fake news. Many readers or viewers shift among these four modes of consumption, often selecting an approach based on their mood or social context. Most discussions on why people read or watch fake news operate under the faulty assumption that audiences misinterpret these stories as authentic news. This reductive model misses out on a range of ways that audiences consume fake news stories. Many consumers are not seeking mainstream news media products or rigorous journalism, especially not exclusively. Establishing an exhaustive typology of how people consume fake news is necessary. This is a prerequisite step toward the development of policy recommendations to alleviate the pernicious epidemic of “alternative facts”, misinformation, and media manipulation that thrive when fake news is ubiquitous.
Roscoe C. Scarborough, Ph.D is in the department of sociology at Franklin and Marshall College. His research interests include media audiences, culture, inequality, theory, and qualitative research methods. References 1. McCoy, Charles Allan and Roscoe C. Scarborough. 2014. “Watching ‘Bad’ Television: Ironic Consumption, Camp, and Guilty Pleasures.” Poetics 47:41-59.
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEECH:
PUBLISHED GLOBALLY, CENSORED LOCALLY BY STATES, GLOBALLY BY PLATFORMS
BY MARIE-ANDRÉE WEISS
Social media sites allow us to instantly share information, opinions and images all around the world. However, not all of these posts are deemed legal by the laws of the different countries, or even by the private rules of the social media sites. Is this censorship?
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Censorship by the States by Blocking Social Media Some countries, fearing the power of social media to inform and help people organise either revolutions or crimes, have chosen to censor it, either selectively or entirely. For instance, Algeria, Tunisia and several other countries blocked Twitter in 2011 during the Arab Spring. Turkey blocked Twitter in 2014, reportedly to prevent further speech about alleged corruption of its Prime Minister. However, the Turkey Constitutional Court ruled that such blocking violated freedom of speech and ordered the ban to be lifted. In November 2015, France’s law authorising a state of emergency was modified to give power to the minister of police to interrupt any online communication service “inducing to commit acts of terrorism or vindicating them”. North Korea announced in March 2016 that it has permanently blocked access to Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Different Countries, Different Freedom of Speech Laws It may be a tort, even a crime, to post about some topics, if deemed so by the law of the land. What is forbidden speech? It depends. There are some universally recognised values, such as fighting terrorism or paedophilia, and so posting paedophilic images or using social media to prepare terrorist attacks is generally forbidden. Other ideas, while outrageous, such as denying the holocaust, are a crime in one country, as it is in France,
but legal in another, as in the United States. Similarly, while lèse-majesté is not enforced in the UK, albeit a monarchy, it was enforced in the Republic of France until the European Court of Human Rights held in 2013 in Eon v. France that the French lèse-majesté law violated the right of freedom of expression as protected by article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In Thailand, however, article 112 of the criminal Code states that “[w]hoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to 15 years” and Thailand 2007 Computer Crime Act allows for the prosecution of individuals who use the web to criticise the Thai monarchy. In 2015, a man was sentenced to thirty years in jail for having insulted the Thai monarchy on Facebook. Even reading posts which have been lawfully posted in one country can be a crime in another country: a June 3, 2016 law added article 421-25-2 to the French criminal Code, which makes a crime punishable by two years in jail and a €30,000 fine to “usually consult an online public communication service which provides messages, images or representations which either directly incite the commission of acts of terrorism or glorify such acts” if they include images or representations of voluntary acts of violence threatening life. However, it is legal to consult such sites if “carried out in good faith” or if one is a journalist, a scientist, or if it is done to be used as evidence in court. Determining if Speech is Legal is Not Always Easy In the UK., Section 127(1) (a) of the Communications Act 2003 prohibits sending “by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character.” What speech is forbidden by the Act must be determined by judges, but social media users may have different opinions on what is indeed “indecent” or “of menacing character”. A British man was prosecuted in 2010 under Section 127(3) for having posted on Twitter “Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I am blowing the airport
sky high!!” He testified he had had no intent to actually blow up the airport, but was merely expressing his frustration about the airport being closed. The Crown Court of Doncaster found the message to be of “menacing character” and the man had “intended the message to be menacing, or be aware that it might be taken to be so...” But the High Court of Justice found in 2012 that the tweet was not sent with the intent “that the message should be of a menacing character” nor that the tweet was sent by the offender “[being] aware of or to have recognised the risk at the time of sending the message that it may create fear or apprehension in any reasonable member of the public who reads or sees it.”
registering for the service. The penalty for violating these rules is the suspension, either temporary or permanent, of the account, and thus effective censorship of speech. The “Twitter Rules” forbid users to “promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease”. This particular rule could have originated in the European Union rather than in the US. Indeed, while the First Amendment protects hate speech, as long as it is not fighting words, which are words “likely to provoke violent reaction”, European Union laws do not protect hate speech. A Frenchman was sentenced in March 2016 by the Paris criminal court to two months in jail for having posted two anti-Semitic tweets. Another Frenchman who had posted a tweet comparing former Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira to a monkey was similarly sentenced in June 2016 by the same court. The judges noted that the hashtag used on the tweet, #SoutienaLeclere (#SupportforLeclere) referred to Anne Sophie Leclere, a politician sentenced to a fine and jail time for having posted a similar message on Facebook. Such speech, while repugnant, would likely be protected in the US by the First Amendment.
The broad scope of First Amendment protection is justified by the need for speech to be as free and diverse as possible so that a robust marketplace of ideas can thrive for the benefit of the public.
The European Union Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of November 28, 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law even asks Member States to criminalise “conduct publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin”. This Framework was cited by the code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech online developed in 2016 by the European Commission in cooperation with Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft and YouTube. By signing the code of conduct, the companies agreed to remove illegal hate speech in less than twenty-four hours and to remove or disable access to it. However, Twitter does not take down every single message which can be interpreted as hate speech, frustrating some users, who recently noted that the platform was keener at removing content infringing the copyright of the Olympic Committee than rape threats. When Barring Nudity, Even Child Nudity, May Lead to Censorship of Speech Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, explains in its Community Guidelines that only “photos and videos that are appropriate for a diverse audience” may be posted. It forbids posting images of female nipples, but allows “photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding... Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too.” Facebook’s view on nudity is slightly different. The world’s biggest social media site explains, in its Community Standards that it “restrict[s] the display of nudity because some audiences within our global community may be sensitive to this type of content – particularly because of their cultural background or
AP photographer Nick Ut holding his famous photo of The Napalm Girl © Bytesdaily
age”. Nudity is not universally viewed as taboo, yet images of Australian Aboriginal women wearing traditional paints over their bare chests were globally censored by Facebook in 2016. Art is not exempt, and Facebook temporarily suspended in 2013 the account of the Musée du Jeu de Paume in Paris because it had posted on its Facebook page a photograph of a female nude taken by an artist exhibited at the time by the museum. Even though French law allows the publication of nudes which are not obscene, Facebook’s private rule prevailed. Even more concerning, Facebook took down, in the summer of 2016, a post made by Norwegian author Tom Egeland which featured “The Terror of War”, a photograph taken in 1972 by Nick Ut of Phan Thi Kim Phuc, a terrified Vietnamese girl running to escape a Napalm attack. The young girl is naked, and Facebook does not allow child nudity. Facebook even suspended temporarily Egeland’s account. This led the Aftenposten, Norway’s largest newspaper, to publish an article commenting on the issue which was illustrated with the same photograph. Aftenposten posted the article on Facebook, and it was taken down. Espen Egil Hansen, Aftenpostnen editor-in-chief, then published a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO. Calling him the “world’s most powerful editor,” he urged him “to realize that [he is] restricting [Mr. Hansen’s] room for exercising [his] editorial responsibility” and concluded: “I think you are
abusing your power.” Mr. Hansen quoted in his letter a report recently published which revealed that a majority of people around the world are getting their news mainly from social media: it can be argued that Facebook is a publisher, and that the risk of corporate censorship of news is real. On September 9, 2016, Facebook reinstated the post, explaining that “[b]ecause of its status as an iconic image of historical importance, the value of permitting sharing [this image] outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal.” The broad scope of First Amendment protection is justified by the need for speech to be as free and diverse as possible so that a robust marketplace of ideas can thrive for the benefit of the public, an idea first expressed by Justice Holmes in his dissent to the 1919 Abrams v. United States Supreme Court case: “the best test of truth is the power of thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.” In order to protect the public against corporate censorship of the news, should social media sites be considered a market place of ideas? This would liken them to public forums, where the limits of free speech are set by the First Amendment, not by the private entities providing speech platforms. Therefore, social media sites would no longer have the power to choose which speech is not allowed on their sites, nor could they choose which news is published, or not. Such an extreme measure is not likely to happen anytime soon. #Wewillsee.
Marie-Andrée Weiss is an attorney admitted in New York, where she practices intellectual property, privacy, and social media law. She has also passed the French bar. This article stems from work she is doing as a Fellow of the Stanford-Vienna Transatlantic Technology Law Forum to research transatlantic views regarding free speech on social media.
Wikipedia as Illustration of the Truth-Seeking Rationale for Freedom of Expression BY MARK CENITE
Empirical evidence for the truth-seeking rationale for freedom of expression – the assertion that truth prevails in a free marketplace of ideas – is difficult to interpret. Analysis of how Wikipedia functions, and the accuracy of its content, provides preliminary indications of the validity of the truth-seeking rationale and its limits.
rationale for protecting freedom of expression that ranks among the most cited is the truth-seeking rationale. According to this rationale, information and opinion should circulate free of government controls. The sanguine conclusion is that truth, or at least the best ideas, will prevail in the end. The evidence for this sweeping conclusion is limited and disputable, as this article demonstrates. Given the paucity of solid evidence from other contexts, this article suggests that Wikipedia can serve as an illustration of how relatively unfettered expression can lead to the best content prevailing, at least in some circumstances. Despite the limited evidence for it, citations of three famous sources of the truth-seeking rationale are frequent. An early expression of the rationale is from English poet John Milton’s Areopagitica (1644),
his defense of free speech, in which he uses a metaphor of Truth and Falsehood wrestling and Truth winning in a fair match.1 Areopagitica has been cited 478 times in law review articles published since 1982 that are available in LexisNexis Academic; there are also 49 citations of it in federal and state cases available in the LexisNexis database from throughout United States legal history.2 Another source for the rationale is English philosopher John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty (1859), in which he advanced the argument that truth will prevail and that a side effect of the struggle to identify the truth is that participants in the debate, and those in the audience, may gain a keener appreciation of the truth that finally emerges. A search for citations of Mill’s On Liberty and “free speech” returns 1,683 hits from law reviews and 65 hits from the US cases since Mill’s publication of the work.3 Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes is often cited for the view the truth would prevail in the “marketplace of ideas”, though Holmes did not actually use the exact phrase, but instead words with similar meaning: “[T]he best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.”4 A LexisNexis search for “Holmes” and “marketplace of ideas” yields 2,979 hits in law reviews and 193 hits in cases.
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Analysing Wikipedia as a contemporary example of a well-functioning free market of ideas is preferable to making a statement, on blind faith, that truth emerges.
In the sentence after Holmes advanced this “marketplace of ideas” rationale, he wrote that it “is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year, if not every day, we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge.”5 Is the rationale merely a prophecy? What are the results of the ongoing experiment? What evidence can one cite of the free marketplace of ideas actually creating conditions in which the best ideas prevail? We shall discuss national comparisons and a famous study of the incidence of famine in liberal democracies. Though the illustration is imperfect, we argue that analysing Wikipedia as a contemporary example of a well-functioning free market of ideas is preferable to making a statement, on blind faith, that truth emerges. Evidence for the Truth-Seeking Rationale: National Comparisons One might say that the truth-seeking rationale is being tested regularly, if one contrasts debates in societies that enjoy more freedom of speech with others. In free societies, does truth displace falsehood? If we simply look at the national level, there are too many confounding variables to make comparisons rigorously. The most difficult question is how to assess the outcome variables: How does one choose the variables to examine to assess which ideas are true (or best) and whether they have prevailed? A less complex but real concern is assessing the level of freedom of expression in nations; ratings and rankings of organisations like Reporters Without Borders and Freedom House are fraught with controversy for being subjective, biased, or imprecise.6 Limited evidence supporting the rationale comes from Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize winning economist, who found that there has never been famine – widespread hunger that results in part from human error – in a functioning democracy with a free press.7 He suggested this correlation is not spurious, but may actually be a result of causation. Sen suggests that in free societies, citizens
and the press take the steps necessary to intervene in the sequence of missteps that results in famine. Free expression is a factor that facilitates discovery of better arrangements for distributing basic resources; the best ideas prevail, at least in this very narrow context. Despite the weakness of the evidence for it, the truth-seeking rationale has become something of a cliché in free societies. The rationale has its detractors, however, such as legal scholar Alexander Bickel, who wrote, “[W]e have lived through too much to believe it”, for one must ask “whether our experience has not taught us that even such ideas [as proletarian dictatorship, segregation, or genocide] can get themselves accepted” in the marketplace of ideas.8 Legal scholar Lee Bollinger wrote that if truth emerges in the long run, it may be too late for many who suffer through the process.9 “Market failure” theorists point out that just as entirely free markets sometimes fail to produce the best outcomes and can benefit from government regulation, the marketplace of ideas can fail: lack of economic resources can prevent some from participating in debates that are controlled by wealthy media owners and dominated by voices backed by big promotional budgets.10 Sceptics of the truth-seeking rationale abound; the founding Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, was among those who emphasised that freedom of expression would lead to “a mess” unless people were sufficiently educated for a well-informed, rational debate: “This free-for-all, this notion that all ideas should contend and there will be blinding light out of which you will see the truth – ha!”11 Wikipedia as Marketplace of Ideas Given the paucity of good tests of the truthseeking rationale, we ask: To what extent does Wikipedia approximate a free marketplace of ideas? And to what extent do the best ideas prevail there? The tentative conclusion of this article is that Wikipedia providves suggestive evidence that a marketplace of ideas operates surprisingly well for truth discovery. Wikipedia, founded by Jimmy Wales
Free expression is a factor that facilitates discovery of better arrangements for distributing basic resources; the best ideas prevail, at least in this very narrow context. www.politicalanthropologist.com
contributors from any constraints – freedom from editing before publication as well as freedom from government censorship – creates a platform that may be one of the closest approximations of an international free marketplace of ideas.
in 2001 and governed by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, has long ranked as one of the most-visited Internet sites.12 Anyone can write or amend Wikipedia articles. A user can register for a screen name, but one of the core, immutable rules of Wikipedia is that one does not need to register for a username to make edits.13 Wikipedia mandates a “neutral point of view”: Contributors are to make articles that emphasise the facts that people agree upon and, when covering controversies, mention disagreements and attribute them to their sources.14 Users can tag content that departs from content guidelines.15 Wikipedia has administrators who have powers to do things like lock a page temporarily when users get involved in “edit wars” (repeatedly changing the content of a page)16 or when “vandalism” occurs, including violations of guidelines such as adding abusive language, nonsense, or personal attacks to an entry.17 Is Wikipedia a Functioning Free Market of Ideas? No one claims Wikipedia is perfect, and the ease with which one may make changes has been the target of jokes and critiques.18 How well does Wikipedia approximate a free exchange of ideas? Contributions might be likened to a grand debate in the town square among all who wish to contribute – no matter how ridiculous, misguided or inaccurate their views. As in a debate, there is no guarantee
that one’s contributions will be accepted. Users are encouraged to correct each other’s errors, update information, and to call attention to bias. The difference from a debate is that in Wikipedia the conclusion is digitally written down, and collectively edited and rewritten, to reflect at least a temporary consensus. Wikipedia is like a free marketplace of ideas in that it lacks vetting at the point that a contribution is made. In free speech jurisprudence, the most disfavoured type of censorship is prior restraint, a kind of censorship in which content is vetted and suppressed (or restrained) prior to its circulation; subsequent punishment (after publication) is seen as a preferable way to control expression, and better yet is no punishment at all, but simply more debate on the issue (sometimes called “counter-speech”).19 On Wikipedia there is an absence of anything remotely analogous to prior restraint – there is not any sort of editorial vetting of content prior to circulation. There is also absence of prior restraint in a more classic legal sense on Wikipedia: Wikipedia generally does not carry out the many requests from governments around the world to remove content.20 Government agents can make their own alterations to content, but they are individual users like any others.21 The comparison of Wikipedia to the free press is an imperfect analogy. However, the freedom of Wikipedia
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Does the Best Content Prevail on Wikipedia In a free marketplace of ideas, truth is supposed to prevail, according to this rationale. Does it? There is limited but encouraging evidence regarding the factual accuracy (the truth or falsehood) of the entries. In a frequently-cited study published in Nature, experts compared the entries on 42 scientific topics in Wikipedia and in the Encyclopedia Britannica, whose articles are written by paid subject experts.22 For example, both sources’ articles about the centre of our solar system, the sun, were examined. Across the pairs of articles, there were four errors in each source that were judged serious. On average, each of the Britannica articles contained 3 errors that were judged minor, compared to 4 minor errors in each Wikipedia article. Wikipedia is different in other ways, however; entries are far more up-to-date, and its scope is more comprehensive. In a 2012 preliminary study conducted by Wikimedia Foundation in cooperation with Oxford University, Wikipedia articles in multiple languages were compared to entries in other encyclopedias in those languages. Across multiple disciplines, expert judges found Wikipedia articles superior in accuracy and references, though
Wikipedia is like a free marketplace of ideas in that it lacks vetting at the point that a contribution is made.
Wikipedia provides a useful example for teaching and for illustrating the truthseeking rationale in action because its input is free of any sort of restraints and the output is high quality.
regulations control some kinds of expression, including offensive content. The rare instances in which Wikipedia’s editors intervene suggest that the marketplaces of ideas may function best when it is relatively, but not completely, free.
Wikipedia was weaker in style and overall ratings for some articles.23 The Journal of Oncology Practice also found similar accuracy of Wikipedia entries and a professionally edited database of medical information, though Wikipedia was judged less readable.24 What to conclude from these studies? Wikipedia’s free marketplace of ideas seems to have produced a high standard of accuracy compared to expert authors. Lower readability and style ratings for Wikipedia, plus the slightly higher rate of minor errors in one study, are perhaps compensated for by the more comprehensive and up-to-date coverage.
Mark Cenite is Associate Chair (Academic) at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information, part of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He has a law degree from Stanford Law School and a PhD in Communication from the University of Minnesota. He is a winner of multiple awards for teaching Law in Singapore, and has also taught Law in the United States and Hong Kong.
Preliminary Conclusions Wikipedia provides a useful example for teaching and for illustrating the truth-seeking rationale in action because its input is free of any sort of restraints and the output is high quality. Because it is designed to allow contributors freedom from central control, and because its operators resist efforts to censor it, Wikipedia operates as an ongoing test of the whether truth prevails when, to paraphrase Milton, truth and falsehood grapple freely. So far, the accuracy of Wikipedia has proven reassuringly comparable to other sources that are authoritative by traditional measures. Wikipedia’s “edit wars” and “vandalism” are also potentially revealing. Perhaps crowdsourcing of the truth in a free marketplace of ideas works best when more neutral subjects are involved, such as the mundane scientific entries about the sun in the Nature study. But when matters of passionate dis-agreement are involved – such as articles about controversial figures like Donald Trump – Wikipedia’s authorities, its editors, intervene in the free market and block some contributors or lock the page. Once again, the comparison to regulation is thought-provoking; even in many relatively free societies,
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References 1. “And though all the windes of doctrin were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licencing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falshood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the wors, in a free and open encounter.” John Milton, Areopagitica (1644). 2. Results reported here were from searches conducted on 19 September 2016 in the LexisNexis database in the category “US Law Reviews and Journals” from all available dates (since 1982), and in the category “US Federal & State Cases” from all available dates. The search term used was simply the title “Areopagitica.” 3. The search terms were “Mill” within 5 words (/5) of “On Liberty” and the term “free speech”. 4. Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616, 630 (1919) (Holmes, J., dissenting). 5. Abrams, 250 U.S. 616, 630 (Holmes, J., dissenting). 6. Reporters Without Borders is available at https://rsf.org; Freedom House is available at https://freedomhouse.org. A podcast criticising the methodology of Reporters Without Borders is Bob Garfield’s interview with Max Fisher, “No, US press freedom is not in dire decline,” WNYC’s On The Media, Feb. 14, 2014, at http://www.wnyc.org/story/press-freedom-not-decline 7. Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (1999). 8. Alexander Bickel, The Morality of Consent 71, 76-77 (1975). 9. Lee C. Bollinger, The Tolerant Society 74 (1986). 10. Jerome A. Barron, Access to the Press: A New First Amendment Right, 80 Harv. L. Rev. 1641-1678 (1967). 11. “Intellectual Free-For-All Not for the Masses, Says SM Lee,” Business Times (Singapore) (Oct. 6, 1995). 12. See Alexa Internet, http://www.alexa.com 13. “Wikipedia: Rules,” https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Rules 14. “Wikipedia: Neutral point of view,” https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view 15. “Wikipedia: Tagging pages for problems,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Wikipedia:Tagging_pages_for_problems 16. “Wikipedia: Edit War,” https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Edit_war 17. “Wikipedia: Vandalism,” https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Vandalism 18. “Will Wikipedia Mean the End Of Traditional Encyclopedias?” The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 12, 2006). 19. Thomas I. Emerson, The Doctrine of Prior Restraint, 20 Law and Contemporary Problems 648-671 (1955), at: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/lcp/vol20/iss4/10 20. Wikimedia reports that Wikipedia received 243 requests to take down content from January through June of 2016 and none were granted. See https://transparency.wikimedia.org/content.html 21. There are some caveats to the argument that Wikipedia is free of government control, for authorities can of course punish contributors in their jurisdictions, and nations including China block Wikipedia, thus blocking not only readers but contributors. See Jimmy Wales, “State of the Wiki: Free Expression and Wikipedia,” speech at Wikimania 2015, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6p50HVv1rU4 22. Jim Giles, Internet Encyclopaedias Go Head to Head, 438 Nature 900-901 (15 December 2005). 23. Imogen Casebourne, Chris Davies, Michelle Fernandes, & Naomi Norman (2012), Assessing the Accuracy and Quality of Wikipedia Entries Compared to Popular Online Encyclopaedias: A Comparative Preliminary Study across Disciplines in English, Spanish and Arabic. Retrieved from: http://commons. wikimedia.org/wiki/File:EPIC_Oxford_report.pdf 24. Malolan S. Rajagopalan, Vineet K. Khanna, Yaacov Leiter, Meghan Stott, Timothy N. Showalter, Adam P. Dicker & Yaacov R. Lawrence, Patient-Oriented Cancer Information on the Internet: A Comparison of Wikipedia and a Professionally Maintained Database. 7 Journal of Oncology Practice 319-323 (2011), at http://www.jop.ascopubs.org/content/7/5/319.full
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RIGHT TO BE DISCONNECTED – THE WAVE TO CATCH ON BY JASNA COŠABIC
This paper analyses the possible influence of the French labour law reform – the “right to be disconnected” – on other countries and the benefits of preserving work/life balance which might be jeopardised by the rapid development of IT technologies and digital ways of communication.
he French law provision on the right to be disconnected entered into force on 1 January 2017, and the storm of comments, analyses, opinions, cooled down a bit, but, now questions remain. What effects will such a law produce? What will happen next and where? The French law made an initial capsule of change, but shall it influence the wave of similar provisions in other countries? Let us first reflect on why the “Law to disconnect” was adopted in the first place. France, being the country where roots of modern human rights protection were made such as in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, opted for a provision enabling the protection of the work/life balance in the modern world of digital technologies, which are developing ahead of time. The use of IT devices, accompanied by the flare of social networks and other communication tools, were widely accepted in society as a new way of communication, allowing for prompt and instant information. However, that wide acceptance, at one point in time, seemed to have given a negative “boomerang effect” on the life of employees, allowing for too much interrelation of their private and work life. Such
The use if IT devices were widely accepted in society as a new way of communication, allowing for prompt and instant information.
interrelation, erasing the clear borders between private life and work, gave the French Minister of Labour a hint as to pursuing legal regulation that would provide for the “right to disconnect”. Accordingly the legal provisions at issue were adopted back in August 2016, known as El Khomri law, after the minister Myriam El Khomri who induced the labour reform at issue. The provisions of the law are not dramatic nor do they carry the interference of the state in functioning of French enterprises. It provided that companies with more then 50 employees should adopt procedures in order to enable the employee to exercise a right to be disconnected with a view to ensure the respect for periods of rest and leave as well as for private and family life. The modality of providing for such rights is upon the companies. We may wonder, why the provision relates to companies of more then 50 employees. One possible answer would be that those are well established companies, the business of which will not be impaired by the limitation on the connectivity, and giving chance to start-ups which are financially in disadvantaged position. So the law leaves to those “plus 50” companies open hands in determining the modality of the exercise of the right to be disconnected, without interfering with their work. However, the “disconnection” after office hours is not a total novelty in the contemporary business world.
In 2012 Volkswagen agreed to stop routing emails 30 minutes after the end of working hours and to start again 30 minutes before.1 The company wanted to give their workers some uninterrupted rest time. Daimler in Germany introduced the praxis for their employees while they are on holidays that e-mails sent to them would be erased, with the corresponding auto-reply to the sender that the mail was being deleted, and the instruction to send it again when the person is again in the office.2 Some big IT companies such as Google and IBM also developed strategies on work/life balance in order to pull out the most creativity from their employees. Google in Australia, for example, encouraged their employees not to check emails outside of working hours.3 IBM in Austria made it possible for their employees to practice yoga or massage in order to provide them for “inner balance” to be “relaxed at work”.4 In a situation when in some developed countries the unemployment rate is at minimum or close to it, it may be hard to attract the qualified workers. This is especially true for workers in the IT sector, which is developing rapidly. Thus it is often the case that companies offer snacks and drinks, flexible working hours, the ability to be disconnected at private time, organised shuttle to work, relaxation in office through playing table tennis, billiard or gym workout, resting and mediating during work hours, team building , not only outside of office, but at some relaxing out of city venue. The aim of these benefits is the wish of good standing companies to have an employee who is relaxed, without stress, and energised, understanding that thus he/she would most benefit the company. The concept of a good work/life balance brings overall health benefits, prevents workers from being overexerted, and enables getting the best out of them in return. In the modern business world it is predominantly understood that a person with a preserved private life will be most productive in their professional life.
The concept of a good work/life balance brings overall health benefits, prevents workers from being overexerted, and enables getting the best out of them in return. 62
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Thus, the well established principles of labour law such as rest between two working days, week rest and annual leave must be preserved and not jeopardised by the overwhelming digital era enabling people to always be reachable. Can you imagine giving your employer your private land line number so you could answer calls when you come home? No, of course not. Well, the availability of employees started to increase with the arrival of cell phones, and progressed further with the Internet development supported by the ever evolving spurt of devices interacting with each other, through the growth of Internet of Things devices. While it is common for certain professions to be “on call” after work, such as medical workers, police officers, prosecutors, etc., where preservation of lives and public safety is at stake, such availability after work is not necessary nor in public interest for many other branches especially with regards to private employers, except for increasing their profit. Whether some client of a trade or IT company will get an answer within one hour, no matter the time of day, may not be of utmost importance, if a society gets accustomed to the meaning of “time off ”, resulting in waiting for the new working day to start, to be normal. Thus, in the hustle of digital development, one must not forget the basic relationship of work and life. And why this relationship is important. Do workers live to work, or work to live? Is the purpose of work to enable a decent life for a worker and his family, in which they would be able to enjoy the benefits of work after working hours, or subjecting the private life to work, giving the latter the priority? Although the question appears to be primarily philosophic, as to what is older – the substance is that every person needs private time off work, in order to allow the full growth of his or her personality. This issue is far beyond the “quiz” question: “Do you consider your career your life, or a means to earn money?” If a person is obliged to respond to e-mails during his rest time, then he may not rest effectively. While he is out of office, he is not really out of work. Can you imagine an IT expert sitting at the beach side, during his annual leave time, with his laptop on, not really being aware of the sea waves splashing the shore just there beside him? Can that be counted as a holiday? The purpose of annual leave is to have a worker being refreshed once having got back to the office, ready for another tour of work, all until the next annual leave. Constant availability on the Internet
and the obligation to respond to e-mails, texts, various messengers, inevitably lead to the sooner “burnout” of such an expert, and the decrease of his overall productivity time-frame. At the end, the companies would suffer loss being obliged to more quickly change/replace their employees, in order to have a fresh working force. Such a “burned out” worker, being squeezed out from the company may be put at the social burden of the state, which again leads to more expenses. If we add to that, health issues which may arise from not having enough rest, there may be further expenses for the state health system. Understanding of such an unfavourable outcome could lead the states plea for respecting the correct work/ life balance and for introducing the “right to be disconnected” into their legal systems. “Overtime” was and has been the way to deal with excess work. However, it has statutory limitations which usually well define the “overtime” and “compensatory time off ”. Nonetheless, if companies are left loose-handed in requesting their workers to stay online when out of work, they could evade limitations set by overtime and alike institutes, by sending employees home just after the work hours finish but obliging them to stay online, and thus evading not only overpayment but compensatory time off, as well. Not limiting overtime, or denying compensatory time off, leads again to the “burnout” of workers. In that regard can we speak of the “the right to be disconnected” as an evolving human right? Whether it would make a separate human right or not, it certainly is a part of the right to respect for one’s private life which is protected by the European
The industry should take into consideration that their most important assets are people. Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. There are two possible scenarios in the incorporating of the “right to be disconnected” in state legal systems. Whether the governments shall opt for adopting a law at short notice and imposing rules for companies, or, on the other hand, for letting the companies themselves pave their own way for such an approach, wishing to make an attractive employer fighting for qualified workers in the fast growing competitive labour market, and then frame the existing practice in law, is for them to decide. Either way, the industry should take into consideration that their most important assets are people. No matter how technologies may be developed, humans are the ones that carry technology. A quality worker is a worker that is inspired, creative, and not a burned-out, exhausted, over-exerted employee whose private life is impaired with constant obligation to be online. Those are the values of any democratic society that must not be undermined with the growth of the digital era we are living in. Jasna Cošabic PhD is Professor of IT Law and EU
Law at Banja Luka College, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Besides her scientific work, she writes op-eds and legal analyses in the field of IT technologies and human rights. Her texts are being published in Austria, Slovenia, Belgium, Greece, USA and Canada. References 1.http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-16314901 2.https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/08/daimlers-germanemployees-can-set-emails-to-auto-delete-during-vacation/376068/ 3.http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/national/aussie-employees-have-right-to-disconnect-from-work-after-hours/news-stor y/ bce9ba83fbbd0dfbd74050380858b9ba 4.http://www-05.ibm.com/employment/at/diversity/balance.htlm, 6/2007.
Immigration, Food Justice and the Fierce Urgency of Now BY JULIAN AGYEMAN, ALISON ALKON AND SYDNEY GIACALONE
Food justice recognises that one’s experience of the food system is determined by and is inseparable from one’s class, race, gender, cultural background, and age. The concept of food justice both complicates and makes possible the potential for food to be used as a novel lens into environmentalism, justice, race, and cultural identity.
Students of California State Univeristy fighting for food justice, Spring of 2014
n a recent OpEd in the Boston Globe entitled “Trump Spills the Beans on Who Grows Americans’ Food”, we described how the new administration’s immigration policies can create an opportunity for dialog about the intersections between immigration, agriculture and food. Around 2 million of the people who plant our crops and pick our fruit are undocumented, accounting for fully 50 to 70 percent of total US farm workers. Others are food chain workers in food production, distribution and restaurants. Our food system is implicated in many of what Omi and Winant (1994) call racial projects, political and economic undertakings through which racial hierarchies are established and racialised subjectivities are created. The administration’s plans for tightening Federal immigration laws, act as racial projects in that they define who is a legitimate subject deserving of workplace protections, and who is regarded as an alien “other”.
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With the administration’s goal of increased deportations, research studies have emerged in the past months trying to answer a question which was rarely discussed during the campaigns: how will a Trump presidency impact our agriculture and food system, including the price we pay to feed ourselves? While an important question, discussion of these interlinked policy arenas must go deeper than immediate price impacts. The crucial point is not that Trump’s policies would devastate a functioning agricultural industry; instead, they would expose it as a thoroughly exploitative labour system that industry insiders and successive government leaders alike have quietly supported. We should not be surprised at the impacts Trump’s immigration policies could have on our food given the way our nation has built its food system. Prices today are artificially low because our use of underpaid, overworked, unprotected labour has subsidised our food system, resulting in cheap food at the cost of precarity: human suffering, invisibilisation, and marginalisation. Key conservative constituencies in the farming and restaurant industries are already finding themselves fighting against the president’s policies, igniting debates unlike those we traditionally see between the right and left. In focusing on this vulnerable population, Trump may
have unintentionally forced a national conversation around immigration and food justice and perhaps even forged unlikely political alliances. It’s a conversation our nation has avoided for far too long, and we may just have a golden opportunity in today’s political climate, with a coming together of resistance against discriminatory, racist, and xenophobic policies. What does it really mean to grapple with how food – and all the stories food entails – intersects in our nation’s history, and what does this story mean when entering our nation’s new political era? Put more simply – why could food be an important gateway into these intersectional conversations? Food has entered the political and popular conscience of our nation in the past several decades, most notably through the work of writers like Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, Eric Schlosser and Marion Nestle and movies such as Supersize Me and Fed Up. The work of this growing alternative or sustainable food movement generally focuses on building resistance to large scale, high chemical and energy input, monocultural farming and create support for smaller scale, local, sustainably cultivated and low-processed foods. This popular, dominant narrative encourages participation toward a sustainable food movement by supporting an individualist, green consumerist philosophy, a “vote with your fork” to change the status quo of the food system. Because this strategy is disproportionately available to those with the wealth, education and time to make use of alternative food systems, replete with their farmer’s markets and community supported
Food justice recognises that one’s experience of the food system is determined by and is inseparable from one’s class, race, gender, cultural background, and age.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order to have local law enforcement help enforce Federal immigration laws. © Evan Vucci AP
agriculture, the food justice movement arose to highlight the ways that low-income communities and communities of colour are both disproportionately harmed by industrial food systems and underrepresented in the alternative food movement. To Pollan’s assertion that to eat healthfully and sustainably in the 21st century, one should stay clear from “anything, your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food”, the food justice advocate asks “Who’s great-grandmother?” (Alkon and Agyeman 2011: 3). Positionality matters; some great-grandmothers were given scraps from the table, others had their food demonised. Food justice recognises that one’s experience of the food system is determined by and is inseparable from one’s class, race, gender, cultural background, and age. The food justice movement begins with “an analysis that recognizes the food system as itself a racial project and problematizes the influence of race and class on the production, distribution, and consumption of food” (ibid: 5). The concept of food justice both complicates and makes possible the potential for food to be used as a novel lens into environmentalism, justice, race, and cultural identity. The centrality of food as a way to begin conversations around justice lies in both its intersectionality (there are few topics, from climate change to land use to community activism, that one cannot connect to food) and intimacy (we all eat, we are all implicated, we all have different foodways reflective of our culture and experiences through food). Everyone is at the table when it comes to food (pun intended), and the work of food justice is to center that table as both structurally unjust and socially created, thus recreate-able. It is here that we see possibility for novel conversation and change. Indeed, we would argue that the alternative food movement needs this national conversation, engaging as it does with justice issues that have not been central to the movement’s critique. From the foregoing, it is clear that difficult but essential conversations around agriculture and food
policy are beginning to happen. At the gateway to these conversations is a contested politics of food that sits at the intersection of environmental concerns, racial justice efforts, and cultural autotopographies and sovereignties. The question therefore becomes: how should we use this political moment, this fierce urgency of now, to have these conversations? Who should these conversations include? How could these emerging and perhaps novel relationships be used to guide efforts to achieve both justice and sustainability, or what we call “just sustainabilities” within the food system as a whole, but also in larger critical areas of justice currently under attack? Support may come from sanctuary cities. While there is no evidence for this at present, there is a huge opportunity for mayors to build on their basic premise of not using city resources to enforce federal immigration laws, with policies to directly enhance immigrant wellbeing. One key policy arena must be food. In these uncertain times, immigrants increasingly use their food and foodways as an umbilical link between “home” and here. Cities could look for creative ways to ensure food justice, that is key to supporting these foodways, including access to community gardening and other urban agricultural opportunities. They could also develop greater general awareness of the policies promoted by food, farm and restaurant workers’ organisations and other non-profits, policies that also directly benefit low-income native-born workers throughout the food chain. But to start the conversation, activists in the alternative food movement need to go beyond their privileged positionalities and dominant narrative of merely providing sustainable, ecological alternatives in order to truly challenge agribusiness’s destructive
Fruit pickers harvest strawberries at a farm in California. © Edgard Garrido
In these uncertain times, immigrants increasingly use their food and foodways as an umbilical link between “home” and here. Cities could look for creative ways to ensure food justice, that is key to supporting these foodways, including access to community gardening and other urban agricultural opportunities. 66
The Political Anthropologist November - December 2017
power. To do this they will need a broad coalition of supporters. We argue that such support can best be found in immigrant communities and the campaigners for immigrant and food-chain worker rights, in the low-income communities and communities of colour that have been, and are currently, most deeply harmed by our current exploitative food system. That support may come as well from both progressives and conservatives in farming and restaurant industries who until now thought they were on opposite sides.
Julian Agyeman PhD FRSA FRGS is a Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University in Medford, MA. Alison Alkon PhD is Associate Professor of Sociology at The University of The Pacific, in Stockton, CA. Sydney Giac alone is a senior studying food justice through anthropology and environmental studies, at Tufts University in Medford, MA.
Understanding the Sustainable Lifestyle BY STEVEN COHEN
A sustainable environment and economy are possible only if they provide support to a sustainable lifestyle. This is a way of life that sees material consumption as a means rather than as an end and attempts to ensure that consumption has as little negative impact on the biosphere as possible.
hat is a lifestyle? It’s a peculiar word, but it is what people do with their time: work, recreation, entertainment, travel, social life, family life, religious life, education/ learning, hobbies, and so on. It also includes the setting within which they undertake these activities – where someone lives, where they work, where they play, and where they pray (if they pray). What does lifestyle have to do with sustainability? It’s not simply what you do, but how your lifestyle impacts natural systems. It is clear that sustainable urban systems lead to a sustainable environment and economy only if they provide support to what we might call a sustainable lifestyle. This is a way of life that sees material consumption as a means rather than as an end and attempts to ensure that the materials consumed have as little negative impact on the biosphere as possible. Definitions of sustainable living in the literature generally refer to using as few resources as possible, reducing carbon footprints, and reducing environmental damage.1,2 The United Nations Environment Programme defines sustainable lifestyles as “rethinking our ways of living, how we
As we examine the sustainable lifestyle, it is not only about what we are choosing to consume, but where we are choosing to live.
buy and what we consume but, it is not only that. It also means rethinking how we organise our daily life, altering the way we socialise, exchange, share, educate and build identities.”3 Environmental advocates often focus on individual behaviour and say we need to develop lifestyles that consume less and do not damage ecosystems. On a worldwide basis with billions of people aspiring to higher levels of material consumption, individual reductions in consumption in the developed world will have little real impact. But I have hope that we can and are changing the nature of consumption just as we are changing the nature of work. To be clear, we cannot survive without food, air, water, clothing and shelter. But due to automation we need fewer people to make and manage those things. As we examine the sustainable lifestyle, it is not only about what we are choosing to consume, but where we are choosing to live. Globally, more people live in urban areas than in rural areas, with 54 percent of the world’s population residing in urban areas as of 2014.4 These ideas of closed systems of production and consumption are central to the concept of the sustainable city. As the mechanisation of agriculture reduces rural employment and as the Internet communicates the appeal and seductiveness of urban lifestyles, more and more of the world’s population is moving to cities. Cities are culture hubs with dense populations, which means resources can be reused and shared easily and effectively.
Consumption and Work in the 21st Century All of us inevitably consume resources in the course of our daily lives. We plug our computer into the electrical supply, we turn on the climate control, we turn on the lights; we bathe, dress, and eat. Some of us fill up the gas tank of our car. Rather than being defined by the size of one’s home and the consumer items one possesses, the sustainable lifestyle involves a search for different values. For example, even a huge home could be designed with geothermal climate control, have a solar water heating system and could be designed to reduce its environmental impact. You can build a zero energy house on the outskirts of Houston and drive your electric car all over, or you can live in an apartment in Portland and bike, walk and take the light rail. These choices in homes, possessions and experiences are lifestyle choices, and they all have resource implications. Contemporary lifestyle decisions are made possible by an economy where less and less of the GDP is devoted to the manufacturing of food, clothing and shelter. At one time, that was virtually all the economy did and it was how people spent all of their time. How we spend our time is changing. Today, we spend less of our time pursuing our basic needs, which means that more of our work and our time must be devoted to other pursuits. Part of this is due to the fact that work is no longer limited to the office or factory or to particular times of day. In the global economy the workday is always beginning somewhere. The Internet and cloud computing mean that analytic work and written work can take place anyplace at any time. So too can meetings. They can become Skype sessions or conference phone calls. While I remain convinced that humans require live interaction and in person contact to be effective, a high proportion
of communication is electronic and require few incremental resources to be undertaken. I am quite certain that we spend more time than ever communicating professionally and personally. Peer-to-peer markets, known as collaborative consumption, or more commonly “the sharing economy”, also demonstrate changes in the way we consume and use goods and services. The sharing economy has become an appealing alternative for environmentally conscious consumers that are concerned about climate change and sustainability. With sharing, less energy is needed for transportation and production of goods, and less waste is created as everyday products and services are shared among a group of people.5 We are learning how to share autos, cabs, clothes, bikes and even homes when we travel. By allowing people to consume less and own less, thereby using fewer resources, the sharing economy promotes urban sustainability.6 According to the MIT Sloan Management Review, the sharing economy has the potential to “unite cost reduction, benefit augmentation, convenience and environmental consciousness in one mode of consumption”.7 It is a system built around the utilisation of unused or underused resources.8 Owning less invariably means less waste. The challenge these emerging companies face is proper management, and cities must strategise on efficient regulations for the sharing economy.
We are learning how to share autos, cabs, clothes, bikes and even homes when we travel. By allowing people to consume less and own less, thereby using fewer resources, the sharing economy promotes urban sustainability.
The Political Anthropologist November - December 2017
Example: Sustainable Waste Management One of the most unique sustainability challenges lies in managing material flows. Garbage, or what environmental engineers call solid waste, presents immense difficulty for communities and government officials. Any casual look at New York City’s public recycling bins will provide a sense of the difficult road New York must travel to reach anything approaching the “zero waste” ideal of places like San Francisco. Paper bins are filled with bottles and the bottle bins are filled with a wide variety of unsorted waste. However, the city has proven in the past that progress is possible. New York City has eliminated indoor smoking in public places. New Yorkers have learned how to comply with alternate side of the street parking rules and some are even learning how to stop jaywalking. So it is possible that waste disposal behaviours could change. It is more likely that we will get better at automated waste sorting and so one waste stream can be subdivided when the waste is processed. Zero waste is an element of the concept of a circular economy. In a circular economy, all waste from consumption becomes an input into new production. Inevitably there is some leakage in the tightest circular production process. But the goal is to move from a linear model of production-consumption-waste to one more closely resembling a circular model. I don’t think of zero waste as an achievable operational goal, but rather as a model and an aspiration. It is a way to think about resource use and waste management, rather than an absolute target. It requires a paradigm shift or a new way of thinking about consumption and garbage. The Future of the Sustainable Lifestyle So how do we transition to a sustainable lifestyle? We have already begun to
transform our energy, consumption and waste systems. It is not difficult to imagine continued progress, but the only way it will happen is if people are positively attracted to the sustainable lifestyle rather than punished for their attraction to unsustainable consumption patterns. This does not require a monolithic one-size-fits-all limited way of life. What unifies the people pursuing a sustainable lifestyle is that consumption is a means and not an end. The winner isn’t the one who accumulates the most stuff, but the one who lives the fullest life, however that is defined. The key to the sustainable lifestyle seems to be the pursuit of a sustainable culture. According to researchers from the University of Groningen, by creating a dynamic in which pro-environmental behaviour is not only the “right” thing to do but also aligns with the
What unifies the people pursuing a sustainable lifestyle is that consumption is a means and not an end. The winner isn’t the one who accumulates the most stuff, but the one who lives the fullest life, however that is defined. “norm” of society, those behaviours become what is referred to as “normative goal framing”. Observing others participating in a sustainable behaviour can encourage one to adopt those habits as well.9 Researchers who have examined interventions to increase environmentally friendly behaviours found that the key to success is linking those behaviour changes to shared values.10 Culture and values are far more powerful forces of social change and consumption patterns than regulation. In America, Prohibition didn’t end drinking; if anything it might have encouraged the consumption of alcohol. If someone wants to buy 50 pairs of shoes and ride around in the water on their speedboat that should be their right, but hopefully the images of interesting and exciting work and play will reflect the growing understanding of the need to minimise the damage of our work and play on the planet that sustains us. We are learning how to live more sustainably in our day-to-day lives. We are using bikes more, walking more, smoking less, and paying more attention to what we eat. Our cities are developing green
infrastructure to reduce the impact of flooding on our streets and waterways. Young people are increasingly interested in experiences and less interested in owning things like big houses and flashy cars. More and more of our time is devoted to the low impact consumption of music, movies, news, games, social communication and anything else that appears on our smart phones. Young people think about where their food comes from and its impact on their own health and the health of other living beings. How we spend our time and what we do every day will continue to change. Human ingenuity guarantees it. What is not guaranteed is that our inventiveness will take into account the health of our natural systems. But the growing number of people determined to live a sustainable lifestyle will help ensure that this new chapter of economic evolution will not be the final chapter.
Steven Cohen is the Executive Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and Professor in the Practice of Public Affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. References 1. Regenerative Leadership Institute. 2007. “What Is Sustainable Living?” RLI Blog, February 17. https://www.regenerative.com/sustainable-living. 2. Winter, Mick. 2007. “Sustainable Living: For Home, Neighborhood and Community.” Napa, CA: Westsong Publishing. 3. United Nations Environment Programme. 2011. “Visions for Change: Recommendations for Effective Policies on Sustainable Lifestyles.” http://www.unep. fr/shared/publications/pdf/DTIx1321xPA-VisionsForChange%20report.pdf. 4. United Nations (2014) “World Urbanization Prospects 2014 Revision.” Department of Economic and Social Affairs. http://esa.un.org/unpd/wup/ highlights/wup2014-highlights.pdf. 5. Belk, Russell. 2010. “Sharing.” Journal of Consumer Research 5: 715–734. doi:10.1086/612649. 6. Hirshon, Lauren, Morgan Jones, Dana Levin, Kathryn McCarthy, Benjamin Morano, Sarah Simon, and Brooks Rainwater. 2015. “Cities, the Sharing Economy and What’s Next.” National League of Cities. http://www.nlc.org/sites/default/ files/2017-01/Report%20-%20%20Cities%20the%20Sharing%20Economy%20 and%20Whats%20Next%20final.pdf 7. Matzler,K., Veider, V., & Kathan, W. 2015. “Adapting to the Sharing Economy.” MIT Sloan Management Review. http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/ adapting-to-the-sharing-economy/ 8. Bond, Andrew T. 2015. “An App for That: Local Governments and the Rise of the Sharing Economy.” Notre Dame Law Review Online, 90 (2): 77-96 9. Steg, Linda, Siegwart Lindenberg, and Kees Keizer. 2015. “Intrinsic Motivation, Norms, and Environmental Behavior: The Dynamics of Overarching Goals.” International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics 9: 179-207. doi:10.1561/101.00000077. 10. Miller, Dale T., and Deborah A. Prentice. 2016. “Changing Norms to Change Behavior.” Annual Review of Psychology 67: 339-361. doi:10.1146/ annurev-psych-010814-015013.
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Feed the Future of Agriculture with Vertical
BY MARK ESPOSITO, TERENCE TSE, KHALED SOUFANI AND LISA XIONG
One big misconception is that produce grown from nontraditional methods is of lesser quality, and it’s time to put it to rest. In this article, the authors elaborate on the much needed innovative future of agriculture and how it plays as a “new tech” that revolutionises farming.
estaurants, food trucks, take-out counters, and the like: classic destinations you go to meet friends or just to ensure you get enough calories for the day. Despite the importance of this quotidian activity, food prices are rising at an alarming pace. This has been the recent trend whether you are in Dubai, New York, London, Paris, or Shanghai. Cambridge, UK, is no exception. Mat, a local restaurant owner, revealed: “We are always trying to get the best quality food with appealing prices, but the price just keeps on hiking up.” There is, of course, cheaper meat and produce, but the quality is lower as a result. These lower quality food sources are often laden with heavy pesticides and chemicals for ease of storage and transport. For the consumer, restaurateur, and food retailer, there is no clear picture of how and when food costs might begin to stabilise.
Mat’s situation can be seen as a miniature narrative of the global issue at hand: food pricing pressure triggered by a wearing down of traditional agriculture. On average, food prices have gone up by 2.6% annually in the past two decades on a global scale.1 In the UK, grocery prices have risen 0.2% annually since 2014. In America, the same situation occurs. In 2011 alone, US food prices increased by 5%.2 In the east, China experienced 2.7% food inflation in 2016.3 These ongoing rises in food costs persist around the world and threaten a baseline quality of life as more and more of our disposable income goes into buying food. Trends Analysis: Why is Traditional Farming Frustrating Us? Traditional farming refers to field farming, which requires labour, amenable weather conditions, adequate sunshine for photosynthesis, irrigation, and pesticides and herbicides to protect crops. These crops then require travelling long distances from farmlands in other continents to get to local tables. These activities in and of themselves do not reveal the reasons why food prices have been rising steadily, but using the DRIVE framework to investigate the megatrends influencing agriculture,4 we can
Nice leafy vegetables at the Sky Greens vertical farm in Singapore / Reuters
On average, food prices have gone up
by annually in the past two decades on a global scale.
According to the FAO, food production must increase by 70% before the year 2050 in order to meet global food needs. detect reasons why traditional farming is no longer working as well as it used to. • Demographic and Social Changes When compared to the rise in global population, it becomes clear that the global food supply cannot keep up with demand. According to the FAO,5 food production must increase by 70% before the year 2050 in order to meet global food needs. What’s more, this growth must happen against a headwind – urbanisation trends are pushing people away from farming as a profession while taking over arable land at the same time.6 Meanwhile, cultural changes related to diet preferences among younger generations have taken a leap. More people are converting to vegetarianism and “superfoods”; foods like antioxidant-rich kale and protein-packed quinoa are favoured over conventional empty-calorie, carb-heavy foods like potatoes and processed dry pastas. In addition, local food initiatives have become more than a passing phenomenon. Demand for meat and produce from local farms continues to rise in response to environmental concerns and the conviction that fresh, not frozen, is the higher quality, better-tasting food. • Resource Scarcity Agriculture takes up more than 70% of global water consumption. This tension over water usage adds to the total cost of agriculture. Food loss in the supply chain is another issue as perishable crops blemish and spoil during harvesting, packaging, processing, and distribution. According a report on food from field to fork, some activities could waste up to 50%.7 Moreover, the distance that some foods must travel shortens the number of days on the
market, again cutting down on the amount of food available to consumers. • Inequality In addition to longstanding problems with malnutrition and widespread poverty in developing countries, inequalities related to food prices have also arisen in industrialised countries. In places like the US, the cost of fresh foods have led vulnerable populations to opt instead for budget-priced, high-fat processed fast food. The consequence of these food “choices” is a nationwide obesity epidemic as well as an increase in the number of people developing diabetes. As demand for food and the costs of agriculture continue to rise, the prospects of improving these health and hunger conditions for low-income families will not be great. • Volatility Agriculture is no stranger to volatility, which remains one of the industries most vulnerable to natural disasters. Climate change has caused more frequent extreme weather events in recent decades, which damages an entire season’s worth of harvest and worsens the rise in food prices. Higher temperatures also make crop pests more rampant. In addition, mutable government rules on crops can also drive up food prices. In the US, current ethanol mandates account for 10-15% of food price hikes. On top of that, regulations on herbicide, pesticide and fertiliser use are also positively related to lower crop yields.8 These forces, which determine the direction of price volatility, are here to stay. Given these observations and changes seen through the lens of the DRIVE framework,9 the likelihood that traditional farming can continue to be a reliable and affordable source of food production is not that likely at all. Vertical Farming is Born Out of Challenges. One answer to food supply problems is coming from research labs to our dining
tables. Vertical farming, a term coined by Dickson Despommier in his book The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century in 2010,10 is the agricultural practice of producing food vertically in stacked-up layers. These farms make use of enclosed structures, like warehouses or ship containers, and can also be integrated into skyscrapers. Called “grow houses”, they provide a controlled environment to grow crops using soil pots in a hydroponic or aeroponic system. In this environment, crops receive the right amount of light, nutrients, and heat, regulated by an algorithms monitor. Here are some pioneers in the field: • AeroFarms: A Local Farm AeroFarms, harboured in a renovated steel plant in New Jersey, US, uses vertical farming to grow fresh and affordable produce. The annual yield is 130 times greater than that of a traditional field farm with the same surface area, and water consumption is 95% less than field farming, with zero pesticide use.11 One of the main virtues of vertical farming is independence from the land, or, to be more specific, the soil. The company employs aeroponics on a reusable fabric. Rather than exposing crops to sunshine horizontally, AeroFarms uses LED lights and manipulates the light spectrum to best fit their crops’ growth requirements. The products are then sold locally in grocery stores and supermarkets. • Fujitsu: Vertical Farming for Medical Needs Fujitsu, who made their name as an electronics maker, has experimented with vertical farming in empty semiconductor plants in Japan. They launched to market a low-potassium lettuce for patients suffering from kidney disease.12 The lettuce has only 100 mg of potassium per 100g of lettuce, which is less than one-fifth of what traditional lettuce contains. Due to the controlled environment, nutrients level can be manipulated to produce this distinctive lettuce. The demand has proven itself, with the market estimated to expand from ￥23.4 billion in 2013 to ￥150 billion in 2025. • Sky Greens: Growing Produce When There is No Arable Land Sky Greens is the first vertical farm to feed Singaporean dwellers in the densely populated and farmlanddeprived region.13 The imbalance between 250 acres of farmland available to feed a population of five million has pushed growers in the direction of vertical farming. Sky Greens grows vegetables in A-shaped towers with an efficient rotating system for crops to absorb sunlight, which emulates the tropical climate
AeroFarms has build the world's largest vertical farm. Photo credit: Floto Warner
of Singapore. Each tower can produce up to 10 times more than a field farm with the same surface area. • Growtainer: Ready to Scale Growtainer operates mobile and high-density vertical farms in modified 20’ or 40’ shipping containers.14 The modular units are simple and user-friendly. With all the necessary utilities set up inside, these small and insulated hydroponics farms can be monitored and operated remotely through the Internet, and even over smartphones with an app. The Growtainer system can be used in schools, restaurants, and military bases for leafy vegetables. Growtainer offers three major advantages: food security, year-round growing capacities, and simple operation. The company is scaling, with an increasing number of clients coming from the northeastern US, Thailand, and Vietnam. Due to various factors related to geographical location, cultural difference, political support, investor dynamics, and local agricultural market conditions, what works for the above companies might not work for others entering vertical farming. Government policies on funding vary in different countries and even regions within local regulations. Dietary habits can also influence market popularity of certain crops. To identify such trends, partnerships with players in local food supply chains would provide practical insights on local barriers. Other challenges persist. In some regions, people are sceptical of this innovation and misunderstand vertical farming as “artificial vegetables”, which do not come off as particularly appetising. Though there may be no single model for vertical farming, its advantages over traditional field farming cannot be overlooked.
Vertical farming offers additional choices and growth potential that traditional farming techniques cannot realise. It is economically sensible, environmentally friendly, tech-savvy, and most importantly, health-sensitive. For managers interested in expanding into vertical farming, there are ways to minimise the expensive learning curve and improve their chances of success: Change the Perception of Farming and Invest in “New Tech” Traditional farming has been characterised as labour-intensive, vulnerable to climate change, and remote to a modern and urbanised lifestyle. In some places, farmers are associated with poverty, naivety, lack of education, and isolation. Few people are aware that vertical farming is likely to redefine the farming industry and revive its charms for educated young people. In the vertical farm, farmers are the new techies. Accuracy in operations and knowledge of computer-controlled systems and data analytics are prerequisites for vertical farming. Farmers are now data analysts, bio-scientists, and system supervisors. Understanding this transformation in farming provides managers with leverage in communicating the need to embrace vertical farming with different stakeholders. Promote Farming Innovations and Educate Consumers The average consumer has the misconception that produce grown with nontraditional methods is of lesser quality and taste. Promotional campaigns are a tactic that companies can use to interact with consumers explicitly to clarify the value of non–field farming crops and educate them on the nutritional and environmental benefits of vertical farming. Like wine-tastings, foodtasting events provide guests with the opportunity to sample hydroponic and aeroponic produce and judge the taste for themselves. These events also lend well to
The Political Anthropologist November - December 2017
generating social media buzz. Vertical farming is not Frankenstein food, but might as well be without any efforts to educate the public. Encourage Local Food Culture Through Governments and Food Associations Governments and relevant associations are excellent networks to push local food culture. They are invested in the local economy, and local food production has been shown to help create employment.15 The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs of Canada actively pursues a regional local food strategy, and they have funded more than $40 million in projects in the province for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.16 Such government support is a sign that local food movements are a source of economic development with no signs of abating. Change of the Perception of Investors Investors are essential if vertical farming is to scale successfully. AeroFarms, for instance, required six rounds of funding from nine investors, for a total equity funding around $95.8 million, to get to where they are today.17 To attract the attention of investors, the company does not label itself as a nontraditional farm but rather as “an urban agriculture and cleantech company”.18 Talking points to build consensus include the trend toward using technology to grow nutrientspecific crops like Fujitsu’s low-potassium lettuce. Another key point to stress is the profitability potential. Vertical farming’s high productivity rates, reduced water usage, and quality produce yields higher earnings at lower cost. Conclusion Vertical farming is not a fairytale; it is happening now. Though vertical farms can never be expected to replace traditional farming entirely, it is likely that they will have to complement each other if we are to meet the food demands of tomorrow. Vertical farming offers additional choices and growth potential that traditional farming techniques cannot realise. It is economically sensible, environmentally friendly, techsavvy, and most importantly, health-sensitive. From grow house to table, vertical farming is revamping the future of agriculture.
Dr. Mark Esposito, PhD., is a SocioEconomic Strategist and bestselling author, researching MegaTrends, Business Model Innovations and Competitiveness. He works at the interface between Business, Technology and Government and co-founded Nexus FrontierTech, an Artificial Intelligence Studio. He holds appointments as Professor of Business and Economics at Hult International Business School and Grenoble Ecole de Management and he is equally a faculty member at Harvard University since 2011. Mark is an affiliated faculty of the Microeconomics of Competitiveness (MoC) network at Harvard Business School's Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness and is currently co-leader of the network’s Institutes Council. Dr. Terence Tse is an Associate Professor at ESCP Europe London campus and a Research Fellow at the Judge Business School in the UK. He is also head of Competitiveness Studies at i7 Institute for Innovation and Competitiveness. Terence has also worked as a consultant for Ernst & Young, and served as an independent consultant to a number of companies. Hee has published extensively on various topic of interests in academic publications and newspapers around the world. He has been interviewed by television channels including CCTV, Channel 2 of Greece, France 24, and NHK. Dr. Khaled Soufani is Professor of Management Practice (Economics) and Director of the Executive MBA in the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge, where he also directs the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the Circular Economy Center. He has published extensively in the area of financial
management and economic affairs of small and medium- sized enterprises. His current research interests relate to fast-expanding markets and the economics of innovation. Lisa Xiong is a candidate to the Executive Doctorate of Business Administration at Ecole des Ponts Business School. She works as Teaching Associate for business schools in Europe, UAE and China. Her research interests cover inequalities, Chinese economic development, entrepreneurship and open innovation. Lisa is a linguist and social science investigator. Her ability to navigate both the east and west cultures allowed her to serve different communities, enterprises and clients in different parts of the world. References 1. Fao.org (2017). FAO food price index. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved from http : //www.fao.org /worldfoodsituation/foodpricesindex/en/ 2. USDA (2017). USDA ERS - Food prices and spending. Retrieved from https:// www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/ag-and-food-statistics-charting-the-essentials/ food-prices-and-spending/ 3. Scutt, D. (2017). Inflation in China is heating up fast. Business Insider. Retrieved from http:// uk.businessinsider.com/inflation-in-china-is-heating-up-fast-2017-2?r=US&IR=T 4. Esposito, M. and Tse, T. (2017). Thrive in the new normal, DRIVE in uncertainty. The European Financial Review. Retrieved from http://www.europeanfinancialreview. com/?p=5577. 5. Fao.org (2009). Global agriculture towards 2050, How to feed the world. Retrieved from http://www. fao. org/fileadmin/templates/wsfs/docs/Issues_papers/HLEF2050_ Global_Agriculture.pdf 6. See Esposito and Tse, 2017 7. Goldenberg, S. (2016, July 14). From field to fork: the six stages of wasting food. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/14/fromfield-to-fork-the-six-stages-of-wasting-food 8. Orland, S. (2012, March 15). Why are food prices so high? Forbes.com. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/steveodland/2012/03/15 why-are-food-prices-so-high /#25b24bb46962 9. See Esposito and Tse, 2017 10. Despommier, D. 2010. The vertical farm: feeding the world in the 21st century. New York: Thomas Dunne Books 11. AeroFarms (2017). AeroFarms is on a mission to transform agriculture. Retrieved from http://aerofarms.com 12. Matsutani, M. (2014, May 13). Fujitsu harvests low-potassium lettuce grown in semiconductor plant. The Japan Times. Retrieved from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/ news/2014/05/13/national/science-health/fujitsu-harvests-low-potassium-lettucegrown-plant-clean-room/ 13. Krishnamurthy, R. (2014, July 25). Vertical farming: Singapore's solution to feed the local urban population. The Permaculture Research Institute. Retrieved from https://permaculturenews. org /2014/07/25/vertical-farming-singapores-solution-feed-local-urban-population/ 14. Growtainer (2017). The portable production facility of the future. Growtainer. Retrieved from http://www.growtainers.com 15. Kneafsey, M., Venn, L., Schmutz, U., Balázs, B., Trenchard, L., Eyden-Wood, T., ... and Blackett, M. (2013). Short food supply chains and local food systems in the EU. A state of play of their socio-economic characteristics. JRC Scientific and Policy Reports. Joint Research Centre Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, European Commission. 16. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (2017). Local Food Report 2016. Retrieved from http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/about/local_food_rpt16.htm#2015 17.Crunchbase (n.d.). AeroFarms. Retrieved from https://www.crunchbase. com/ organization/aerofarms 18. See AeroFarms, 2017. 19. Chang, J. (2014). An analysis of Chinese buzzwords in the snake’s year. Journal of Arts and Humanities, 3(2), pp. 78.
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“North Korea and the World is essential reading for those pondering the reasons for the endless frustrations of U.S.-DPRK relations. Clemens, relying on many decades of thoughtful reflection about the complexities of global diplomacy, especially U.S.-Soviet relations during the Cold War, has written a masterful study useful for policymakers, scholars, and laymen alike.” —Journal of American-East Asian Relations “Recommended for anyone who seeks both an in‐depth and thorough examination of the events and contexts that brought the global community to this point as well as a desire for an informed perspective on the possible way ahead.”—H-War “Rather than simply examining the arms control and security benefits of engagement with North Korea, Clemens adds complexity to the discussion by raising questions about negotiating with a regime often characterized as evil due to its human rights record and about the trade-off between addressing peace and security concerns versus human rights.”—Arms Control Today “An important and comprehensive commentary on the present status of North Korea and its relations with the world, and the United States in particular. It argues against continued reliance on the tried and not-so-successful policy of containment that the U.S. and the West have employed against Pyongyang since the end of the Korean War, concluding that yes, sometimes we must negotiate with evil.”—Gregory J. Moore, editor of Korean Nuclear Operationality: Regional Security and Nonproliferation “Clemens’ book a densely researched study that reflects not only the author’s previous work on North Korea but also his wideranging other scholarship on Russia, complexity science, and international relations generally.”—Mel Gurtov, author of Pacific Asia: Prospects for Security and Cooperation in East Asia In North Korea and the World, Walter C. Clemens poses the question, “Can, should, and must we negotiate with a regime we regard as evil?” Weighing the needs of all the stakeholders— including China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea—he concludes that the answer is yes. After assessing nine other policy options, he makes the case for engagement and negotiation with the regime. There still may be time to freeze or eliminate North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction. Grounded in philosophy and history, this volume offers a fresh road map for negotiators and outlines a grand bargain that balances both ethical and practical security concerns. 464 pages | Hardcover $39.95
Nuclear Power Jungliangcheng power plant in Tianjin, China. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Nuclear Power and Public Fear in the Era of Climate Change BY SCOTT MONTGOMERY
To discuss nuclear power requires discussion of public anxiety, particularly fear of radiation. Such fear exaggerates levels of actual risk and poses a hurdle to progress in non-carbon energy in the West, while nuclear power advances elsewhere. China and Russia will soon gain leadership of nuclear power over the US, posing major questions for the future.
o write about nuclear power and its future, there’s no avoiding the matter of public anxiety. Perused with a calm eye, the dread surrounding this energy source, which accounts for the great majority of non-carbon
electricity in Europe and the US, largely returns to fear and trembling about radiation. Not dealing with this factor is thus to allow the proverbial elephant in the room to hold a family reunion. What follows therefore begins with a discussion of this anxiety before looking at the new nuclear era the world has lately entered. A few years ago, I was hired to run a workshop on communication for a group of scientists at a well-known US government agency, most of whom worked on radiation safety. When asked what they thought about public attitudes on this topic, most deferred to official agency statements or changed
the subject. One researcher, however, took me aside and in a lowered voice, as if confessing a dark deed, told me: I rarely talk about my work or about radiation, Chernobyl, etc. What most people feel they know about these things, probably from decades of news hysteria and other sources, is too misinformed. They don’t want to hear what I have to say, not really. It would take many hours to correct any part of this. And you’d be climbing a steep hill the whole time. By the way, you can’t use my name.1 In the years I’ve spent researching nuclear power (NP), I’ve managed to gain responses on the question of popular attitudes from dozens of experts. None of these people ever worked in the NP industry. They were radiologists, health physicists, nuclear physicists, radiobiologists, and medical researchers working on the impacts of ionising radiation (that is, radiation able to remove an electron from an atom). What they told me was quite striking, though unsurprising. It is common knowledge in this expert community that public fear of radiation, and the media tendency to legitimise it, are out of all proportion to the actual
risk determined by decades of research. Much of the public, for example, unfortunately believes that any level of exposure is dangerous. Fear is felt to be justified no matter the dose level, type(s) of radiation, or exposure pathway (skin, inhalation, ingestion). It has also become clear that such fear is responsible for actions causing the great majority of casualties in nuclear accidents. Bluntly put, dread of radiation has proven more perilous than radiation itself. How do we know this? From research on four key groups: 1) Japanese survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki; 2) populations living in areas of high natural background radiation; 3) workers in various industries who deal with radioactive materials; and 4) residents affected by fallout from Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. Radiation dose is measured in milli-Sieverts (mSv), with higher levels considered to start around 1,000 mSv, where radiation sickness is significant but fatal cancer risk is 5% or less. Low doses are usually viewed as below 100 mSv. At such levels, lifetime cancer risk is extremely small or undetectable.2 While a statistical risk (<0.01%) has been interpreted down to 50 mSv/year, millions of people live in parts of the world where doses from natural background radiation range from 30-200 mSv. Repeated epidemiological studies have shown no added risk for cancer in any of these places.3 By “added” I mean in addition to the expected risk of 25%-33% in most societies, due to tobacco use, air pollution, exposure to certain chemicals, poor diet, and other factors. In the Chernobyl accident, over 99% of the resident population affected by the fallout received doses in the 5-33 mSv, including evacuees. After 30 years, a total of 47 deaths and roughly 4,000 cases of thyroid cancer have been attributed to radiation from the worst nuclear accident in history (no fatalities are associated with Three Mile Island and none are predicted for Fukushima).4 The question must be asked whether this constitutes a true “catastrophe”. It is a necessary question when we compare the many hundreds of deaths among the public from oil/gas explosions
It is common knowledge in this expert community that public fear of radiation, and the media tendency to legitimise it, are out of all proportion to the actual risk determined by decades of research. 78
The Political Anthropologist November - December 2017
(e.g. the 1984 San Juanico disaster in Mexico) and hydroelectric dam failures, and most pressingly the >1 million premature deaths annually caused by air pollution due to coal and oil use.5 There is another reason to refocus our understanding of Chernobyl. This too is well-known in the expert community but much less appreciated in the rest of society. Work by medical professionals, such as Evelyn Bromet, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, documents the widespread presence of “depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, general distress, and medically unexplained somatic symptoms (e.g., fatigue, severe headaches, muscle and joint pain)”. And there are yet other impacts to consider, brought by evacuation: Families were sometimes separated, and pregnant women were told to have abortions. Evacuees were not welcomed by the communities where they were resettled... Doctors attributed diseases and symptoms to Chernobyl indiscriminately [and the] psychosocial fallout from Chernobyl was then compounded by the political and socio-economic turmoil following the break-up of the Soviet Union.6 With Fukushima, where no radiation injuries to any member of the public occurred, over a thousand people died as a result of the evacuation. This included hospital patients and elderly people who needed nursing care, plus others with heart ailments and others who suffered from stroke. As with Chernobyl, stigmatisation by others and by oneself, has become a serious problem for many.7 There seems a worrisome irony here. Emergency response programmes are predominantly aimed at protecting the public from radiation. Yet the evidence from actual accidents shows that this emphasis can be misplaced. By embodying public fear, it can encourage rushed evacuations, while downplaying the need for resources to address medical and psychosocial impacts of an event. Why do people so fear radiation, and therefore in many cases NP? The reasons are complex. Moreover, they have an evolving history. A simplified (but still accurate) overview might begin with the visions left by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, images that blended in the 1950s with government secrecy and misinformation about fallout from atmospheric tests. Claims by some scientists about multi-generational genetic damage were later disproven yet still became part of nuclear lore. By the 1960s and 70s, the rise of environmentalism foregrounded worry
over nuclear waste. But in the Vietnam Era, opposition to NP was also motivated by deep concerns over growing power of the state, specifically the “military-industrial complex”, with NP as both sign and symbol of failing democracy and an endangered planet. Tyranny didn’t arrive, but Three Mile Island and Chernobyl did. These two accidents, and the media gales they gave rise to, helped elevate dread about radiation, a reality revitalised by Fukushima. During all this time, proliferation worries have been real too. But they are not what keeps people up at night or leads them to vote and march against a NP plant or waste site planned for their area. In today’s world, various elements of this benighted past tend to melt together for many people into an alloy of suspicion and angst. An intimidation factor – the feeling that radiation and NP are too complex to grasp (not true) – adds to the sense of vulnerability. Yet this is far from true for everyone. A significant portion of the environmental, scientific, high tech, and business communities, as well as many younger people concerned about climate change, are either unpersuaded that NP represents an existential threat or view it as a much-needed non-carbon source of electricity. Such is all the truer now that major nations and auto makers have vowed to electrify the car by 2040. This is a good sign for the future. NP, after all, is shaping up to be a growth industry for the 21st century in many parts of the world. This truth may sound impossible to some in the West, but the numbers bear it out. Today, two-thirds of humanity live in countries with nuclear power; by 2050, the figure could well be 75% or more. Here are some figures to contemplate. In late 2011, soon after the Fukushima accident, there were 433 operable reactors in the world. Six years later, after two dozen permanent
Even with a large number of further closures, say 200 or more, the world could see over 600 operating reactors within a few decades. shut downs, the number had climbed to 449, with 57 more reactors under construction8 and plans and proposals in a wide variety of countries for over 500 more.9 In a majority of nations with NP, older reactors that have been well-maintained and updated over time are now being relicensed for a further 20 years of operation. While this will extend their operating lives into the 2040s and 50s, there is much discussion about further relicensing if further upgrading is done. Such considerations make sense against a background of climate change, lethal pollution from carbon energy, and possible future cost constraints. It bears emphasis that the original 40-year licensing period was applied for economic reasons, not engineering ones, as the time needed for loan repayment and some degree of profit-making. Yet even with a large number of further closures, say 200 or more, the world could see over 600 operating reactors within a few decades. There is more than a small possibility that China alone will build as many as 300-5003 of various sizes, given its extensive plans. Russia and India also have major expansion plans underway that together total more than 100 new reactors. No less important, however, is the growth of NP into countries where it
has not previously existed. Naysayers love to call this a matter of “paper reactors”. Yet in the past few years, real physical plants have been started or are about to start in Belarus (2 reactors), United Arab Emirates (4), and Turkey (4). Other countries where the choice of NP sites, financing options, and signed agreements with vendors have continued to move forward include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Poland. Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose main job is to provide guidance and monitoring of civilian NP programmes worldwide, has been especially busy in recent years. It has been called on to help develop the legal and policy basis for nuclear programmes in nearly two dozen in Africa, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and South America.10 None of this guarantees that all such programmes will result in reactors being built, of course. Yet to deny that a strong level of global interest exists, or to claim it is temporary and misguided, would be both naïve and condescending. Thus, a key question: why are these nations attracted to NP? The answer is that it helps provide a real solution to their most pressing energy needs. Surging demand for electricity is one of these, a reality in many developing nations. At least 1.1 billion people have no access to electricity, with another 2 billion having only intermittent power. Economic growth is constrained in many nations by power availability, while much farm produce spoils due to lack of refrigeration. Energy security defines another issue, one that merges with the need to lower carbon emissions. NP satisfies these requirements at a high level, providing massive amounts of non-carbon power with the smallest footprint of any source, allowing a nation to shift away from dependence on fossil fuels. Neither can it be denied that nations are drawn to NP for the prestige it can give to a country’s image.
China, in a sense, provides an overall model – and lesson – for this. Having pursued a breakneck pace of development from the late 1990s to 2013, it sought energy security in colossal use of its most abundant domestic resource, coal. The result has been an equally immense level of pollution, with severe impacts on public health and rising levels of dissent. More recently, China’s government has moved assertively to develop non-carbon sources. Though far from solving its carbon energy problems, China has set a precedent by combining all non-carbon sources, including nuclear and renewables, into one category. It is a sign of recognition that both sources are required to deal with pollution and climate change. China’s NP programme is unique, and huge.11 Since 2013, it has been completing 6-7 new reactors each year, reaching a total of 38 in late 2017. Its plans are to have just under 100 by around 2030, with over 140 more now proposed to follow. At this point, it appears certain that China will surpass the US (99 reactors) as the world’s leading NP nation within 15 years. China’s plans include developing reactors of varied size and output, using current and advanced designs adapted from western and Russian sources. A big part of China’s long-term effort will involve exports of its technology and investments in other country’s programmes, as shown, for example, by its participation in the UK’s Hinkley Point C plant. For Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, such plans are part of the One Belt One Road initiative launched by the current President Xi Jinping. The only other country with a comparable programme is Russia, which has developed its own successful reactor technology for export. Rosatom, the Kremlin’s NP entity, has signed agreements of various kinds with as many as 32 countries for building and financing NP plants. Given the economic sanctions on Russia for its seizure of Crimea, many observers doubt more than a small handful of these will ever see broken ground. Such a conclusion appears sensible at the moment. Yet, somehow, Rosatom is right now building 2 reactors in Belarus and will very soon (2018) begin 4 more in Turkey. Though the firm is undoubtedly in no position to pay for dozens of reactors itself, the new export landscape is proving more adaptable than the old build-in-your-own-pasture approach.12 It seems another tragic irony that much of the advanced world simply watches as other parts of
It seems another tragic irony that much of the advanced world simply watches as other parts of the globe move ahead with a non-carbon technology the West itself invented.
The Political Anthropologist November - December 2017
the globe move ahead with a non-carbon technology the West itself invented. Such is particularly true for the US, the once-and-future world leader whose nuclear industry is in dire trouble with little help from government. Such is happening even as the country’s chief global rivals become the new world forces in a technology humanity needs to combat climate change. For those much concerned with non-proliferation, a nuclear future run by Russia and China can hardly be reassuring. In this new context, radiation/nuclear angst translates into a serious hurdle. The world will move ahead with nuclear power regardless. But there will be much to bemoan if the West indeed proves to be so scared of its own peaceful and productive creations that it cannot adequately deal with the greatest and most long-term global threat we all now face.
Scott L. Montgomery is a Geoscientist and Faculty Member at the University of Washington, Seattle (USA). After 25 years in the energy industry, he now teaches, lectures, and writes on energy-related matters. His most recent book, with US diplomat Thomas Graham Jr., is Seeing the Light: Making the Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century. References 1. Quoted from: Scott L. Montgomery and Thomas Graham, Jr. Seeing the Light: Making the Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century. Cambridge University Press, 2017; 2. These points are extensively covered in: Timothy Jorgensen, Strange Glow: The History of Radiation. Princeton University Press, 2016. Some of this information is also covered on Dr. Jorgensen’s website devoted to the book, at: http://www.timothyjorgensen.com/index.htm 3. S.M.J. Mortazavi, M. Ghiassiu-Nejad, and M. Rezaiean, “Cancer risk due to exposure to high levels of natural radon in the inhabitants of Ramsar, Iran.” International Congress Series 1276 (2005), 436-437; http://www.sums.ac.ir/~mmortazavi/paper2.pdf 4. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Chernobyl: Looking Back to Go Forward. Conference Proceedings, 6-7 September 2005, Vienna, 43-116. http://www-pub.iaea.org/ books/IAEABooks/7717/Chernobyl-Looking-Back-to-Go-Forward 5. Kiran Stacey, “India air pollution poised to exceed China’s,” Financial Times 14 February 2017, https://www.ft.com/content/dbcb8502-f1d8-11e6-8758-6876151821a6 6. Evelyn J. Bromet, “Mental Health Consequences of the Chernobyl Disaster,” Journal of Radiological Protection 32:1 (2012), N71-N75. http://iopscience.iop.org/ article/10.1088/0952-4746/32/1/N71/meta 7. Akira Ohtsuru et al., “From Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Fukushima 3: Nuclear disasters and health – lessons learned, challenges, and proposals.” The Lancet 386, 1 August 2015, 490-497. http://www.thelancet.com/series/from-hiroshima-and-nagasaki-to-fukushima 8. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Power Reactor Database, https://www. iaea.org/pris/ 9. World Nuclear Association, World Nuclear Power Reactors & Uranium Requirements, http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/facts-and-figures/world-nuclearpower-reactors-and-uranium-requireme.aspx (September 2017). Accessed 12/10/2017 10. See varied stories of such work at: IAEA Press Centre, https://www.iaea.org/press 11. World Nuclear Association, Nuclear Power in China, http://www.world-nuclear.org/ information-library/country-profiles/countries-a-f/china-nuclear-power.aspx 12. Scott L. Montgomery, “Russia: a global energy superpower that is much more than a petrostate,” The Conversation, 14 April 2016, https://theconversation.com/ russia-a-global-energy-powerhouse-thats-much-more-than-a-petro-state-57766
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Karen Lee looks at Confucian Culture and the International Trend of Legalising Same-Sex Marriage; Kelly Oliver examines Women Warriors Sex,...
Published on Jan 6, 2018
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