The Decade of the Leak

After the first major Wikileaks release and the subsequent “manhunt” for Julian Assange, I dubbed this the Decade of the Leak. I was referencing the news that was just waning in popular discussion of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. That leak was just starting to pass from public memory as a new leak – this time of information – was the topic du jour. Then came the “Palestine Papers.” Now we’re hearing about the leaking nuclear reactors in Japan, after a massive series of earthquakes and tsunamis devastated the country. We are seeing two concurrent catastrophes for global capitalism: the rush for abundant, cheap energy causing ecological crises, and the struggle by centralized powers to control information in a decentralized, globally interconnected web of information. These twin catastrophes are likely to (1) continue and expand in ways we can’t predict, and (2) significantly alter the ecological, economic and political world we live in for many decades to come.

More thoughts on the matter to come soon….

Review of “Pathologies of Power” by Paul Farmer

In Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor, Paul Farmer combines his experiences as a physician and anthropologist in the Third World to bring forth evidence and analysis of poverty.  While primarily focused on health, and profiling the effects of Tuberculosis, AIDS and other diseases on particular locales, his experience in treating patients beaten by members of military dictatorships and those who experience malnourishment point to deeply social health problems.  As he quickly demonstrates, military attacks on civilians and AIDS are equally socially determined problems. Continue reading

Review of “Grassroots Postmodernism” by Esteva and Prakash

Esteva and Prakash’s Grassroots Postmodernism presents a powerful theoretical model for alternatives to development.  In reading this accessible, yet deep survey into the competing ideologies of development and local people’s power, one is confronted with a text rife with aphorisms that challenge the sacred cows of global development. Continue reading

The Information Society and Cybernetic Sexual Adventure

Sigmund Freud posited that the pleasure principle dictates the purpose of one’s life, and the search for pleasure dominates mental processes, no matter how insurmountably the reality principle interferes (1961, 25). We can experience pleasure only as an “episodic phenomenon,” he argues, and we seek to moderate claims to happiness. We do this through multiple methods: through technology, intoxication, attempting to control our internal impulses and needs, the development of illusions, fetishizing objects, seeking enjoyment aesthetically, among others (ibid. 26-34).

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Post-development theory, alternatives to development and activist anthropology

In “Anthropology and the Development Encounter,” Arturo Escobar discusses the past approaches of development anthropology as problematic.  He focuses on the epistemology of development, the complicity of anthropologists in the modernization approach of development, and the Western worldview assumptions that pervade the discourse even among critics of development within the discipline.  In this short response, I will focus my attention on the alternative episteme Escobar offers, particularly in his discussion of alternatives to development and indigenous resistance to the development process.  I will then quickly profile Nash’s view of activist anthropology, and argue this methodology offers the applied anthropology of development an avenue to explore alternatives to development.

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Characterizing a paradigm shift: The UN discourse on sustainable development as the greening of globalism

Below is the introduction to a 15,000 essay I just completed, summing up the theoretical and historical basis for my critique of UN environmental discourse, particularly the UNCED documents. This was completed for a graduate social theory course, and will be used in different sections of my thesis. I have only provided the first 3 of 61 pages here. People who wish to discuss these points more specifically may email me, and will send the entire document for further discussion.

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Quotes from Lorenzo C. Simpson, on Technology

Both from Technology, Time, and the Conversations of Modernity, by Lorenzo C. Simpson:

“['Technology'] refers to that set of practices whose purpose is, through ever more radical interventions into nature [...], systematically to place the future at our disposal [...] through hastening the achievement of a goal located in the future; through control over what occurs in the future [...], and through maintaining a given state while containing and reducing the period of deviations from it.” (p. 24)

“The technological reduction reduces experience to resources, tools and products, just as the scientific ‘world’ consists of constructs and pointer readings. We might then well understand science and technology as forms of life, but they are forms of life lacking ‘depth’; that is, they are essentially worldless.” (p. 48)