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Feature Jayakumar Christian

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Feature Jayakumar Christian

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Fe at u re Vi v G r i g g

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Fe at u re Vi v G r i g g

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Feature Kendi Howells Douglas

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Feature Scott Bessenecker

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Feature Scott Bessenecker

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Column John Shorack

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C o l u m n To n y C a m p o l o

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C o l u m n C . R o s a l e e Ve l l o s o E w e l l

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C olumn B er t Hickman

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C o l u m n S i u F u n g Wu

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C olumn Claudio Oliver & S am Ewell

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Rev iew Andrew Menzies

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Review Doug Priest

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Rev iew Shane Anderson

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Review Stephen Burris

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Review Craig Brown

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BLOOD, SWEAT AND TAKEAWAYS by Craig Brown

This BBC series treads familiar ground, almost mimicking reality TV in its approach: take a mix of young Brits, some obnoxious, some caring, all of them with a superficial understanding of the issues before them, and throw them in to the deep end of Southeast Asia. They bitch, moan and complain—one leaves—and, after a few weeks, including one in which they live as Thai rice workers, take on pseudo expert status based on what they have ‘experienced.’ Despite examples of genuine—but limited—transformation, the question around this show is do we learn anything new? The focus is primarily on the journey of the Brits rather than the issues of material poverty and the poverty of choice. The flaw in Blood, Sweat and Takeaways is the limited engagement with the key issues of poverty since we are seeing them through the lenses of raw personalities whose transformation could be described as progressing from ignorant to “basic.” By series end, we have hope for the participants, but can’t be so optimistic for the poor they visited. The stories that grip you are, for example, of “Jiab.” a young mum working in a chicken factory on the outskirts of Bangkok, who has left behind her son in order to support him. At series end, Stacey accompanies and pays for Jiab to return home for a reunion with her son. It’s heartbreaking to watch the reluctant son embrace his mother, then heartbreaking all over again to watch him gently kiss her, only to know that this brief interlude will soon end and the cycle of separation and regret will start afresh. “I hope one day to be able to live with my son,” she laments. Her wish is so simple, but her situation so complex. Then there’s the story of the (nameless) sex worker the Brits meet as they celebrate the end of “living” like the food workers of Southeast Asia (with added benefits


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such as optional hotels and private medical care). On average, the sex worker earns significantly more than a factory or rice worker, but she is visibly upset as she tells the Brits about her two children, and her reluctance to be in the sex industry. They patronize her, telling her that that she must be making great sacrifices in doing what she is doing. They can see how factory work dehumanizes someone, but fail to see that what is happening to this woman is also dehumanizing. “I want one man,” she says imploringly, “but what can I do?” Again, the poverty of choice stares us starkly in the face. Still more disturbing is the argument that then breaks out with a male tourist who claims that sex workers are “empowered,” which stands in stark contrast to the tears and despair on the face of the sex worker. She is again marginalized, as we see the Brit women reduced to tears of frustration in the ensuing screaming match. Again—they are our eyes and ears. Yet it is the workers in these situations who touch our hearts. The audience of Blood, Sweat and Takeaways needs to be satisfied with the minor transformation of Westerners to find this series transformative. On a positive note, it does touch on deep issues of being separated from family and our imagined best self in order to survive, the links between Western consumption and developing world poverty, and tourism and the sex industry. The hope in this series is that Westerners can learn—but the basic learning we see here is still a large step away from alleviating and empowering those living in poverty in Southeast Asia. Series Directed by James Christie-Miller and Ed Levan Aired by BBC 3 (4 episodes)


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New Urban World Journal  

New Urban World Journal. Edition 1.

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