Thursday, August 28, 2008

Roberto Mangabeira Unger

"But Unger doesn’t think Brazil should compete against the likes of China by giving its workers ever-lower wages. And he rejects the neo-Korean model because he wants to start an economic revolution from the ground up, not top down. Instead, Unger proposes that the government both tax and invest heavily. Voting should be made mandatory, as should savings. These measures would buffer the economy from the influence of international investors. This flies against the textbooks that say governments should prostrate themselves to foreign investment. Growth would not come from big business then, but from Brazil’s small enterprises. Instead of a tiny business elite dropping crumbs for the country’s poor, a broad middle class of small business entrepreneurs would form Brazil’s engine of growth. These small enterprises would get access to the credit and tax benefits that big businesses more typically enjoy. The benefits of the market should be shared broadly, not monopolized by big business.

In a way, the idea is very much free-market orthodoxy. Economic decisions would be made on a smaller, more local scale. Individuals know what’s best for themselves and should be encouraged to pursue their own self interest. Why should people cede control of their own destinies to large, distant institutions, be they government, corporations or the World Bank? By giving individuals the tools and freedom to succeed, they can take charge of their own prosperity.

The test for Unger is not only whether his ideas will succeed in the real world, but also whether they will be implemented in the first place. Politics has a way of hammering down the nail that sticks out the highest. Bold ideas that are nurtured in academia get watered down with compromise. But Unger’s appointment is the brightest hope in recent years that a new vision can transform the world. Brazil is an experiment worth watching."


Monday, August 25, 2008

"Play Yuh Mas Rev"

Mas playing priest dies

By ANGELA PIDDUCK, Trinidad Newsday, Sunday, January 20 2008

(This story was published first in 'The Anglican Outlook', the newspaper of the Anglican Church in the Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago in November 2001; and repeated in the same newspaper in its Christmas 2007/January 2008 issue following the Revd Fr Clifford Hendey's death in England on October 17, 2007.)

The Reverend Father Clifford Hendey (spelt correctly), the first Anglican priest in the Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago who "played mas", died in England on October 17, 2007, at the age of 77, after suffering from cancer of the pancreas for one year.

In recent years, what caused a "furore" in the then rather conservative church, raised just a few eyebrows when Canon Winston Joseph and Father Brian Jemmott played in masquerade bands at Carnival.

To quote from The Anglican Outlook: "The English priest, then 35 years and stationed at St Saviour’s (now Holy Saviour), Curepe, played with the Angostura Starlift Steelband on the streets of Port-of-Spain on Carnival Tuesday in 1966. Many people were horrified but Fr Hendey told the now defunct Daily Mirror he thought he had done nothing wrong." Reactions were mixed about Father Hendey’s Carnival activities.

Bishop William James Hughes summoned him to Hayes Court and administered a severe reprimand and considered whether or not to send him back to the United Kingdom "as he had caused irreparable damage to be done to the church. "I had ‘split’ it."

Father Rawle Douglin (now Bishop) commented that "although things might be lawful, they were not necessarily expedient."

The Sunday after Carnival 1966, scores of people flocked the St Saviour’s Church to see the ‘priest who played mas’ but were disappointed as he was due to take the service at St John’s, San Juan."

A packed-to-capacity Holy Trinity Cathedral where Father Hendey was delivering a series of lunch-time Lenten lectures, was counterbalanced by the congregation of St John’s, San Juan, locking him out of the church and waving banners inscribed with the words "We want a priest to say Mass, not play Mas’."

Neither St Saviour’s nor any of the other clergy had anything to say. In 2001, Father Hendey wrote Vernon Allick of the Anglican Outlook giving the reasons for his mas playing.

In late October 1958, the young priest who had recently arrived in the diocese, was "dropped off" at the Toco Rectory, and when Captain Clifford Beepat of the Church Army left for duties in the south, "I felt alone and isolated — abandoned even" said the late priest whose feelings were made even more acute by not having a car to travel out of the north coast , nor a phone by which to communicate with life beyond it. Added to which there were sensations of being an alien in a strange land as he had difficulty understanding the language although it was English, felt uncomfortable in what was for him excessive heat, and could not get English food. Father Hendey "missed to the point of frustration all the conveniences of life that were dependent on a supply of electricity."

When the then Bishop Noel Chamberlain declined Hendey’s request for repatriation, at his own expense, an agreement was reached that in return for remaining on the north coast for 12 months, he would be posted elsewhere in the diocese.

Faced with this 12-month sojourn which eventually became seven years, Hendey said, "I had to deal with two options, assimilate or disintegrate mentally. Of course, I chose to assimilate, which choice was made easy by the open-heartedness of all Toconans, especially that of the young people. But assimilation could not lead to disappearance. It had to be a positive and creative assimilation that would enhance my ministry."

"So I formulated for myself — it was a thoughout and conscious formulation — a theory of what I called an Incarnational Ministry which would mean exchanging ‘absolutely and totally’ my "Englishness" for "Trinidadianness." The method by which this would be achieved would be a progressive assimilation into Trinidadian culture at all levels." Father Hendey began by learning to speak as his Toco parishioners, to adopt their vocabulary, colloquialisms, accent and speech rhythms, and then to preach in his newly learned language. Then he exchanged formal English attire for North Coast informality, together with the daily rhythm of life and its customs, by which to live.

"Clock time means nothing, ‘liming’ is village communication and entertainment, greet everyone one met with in the street or along the trace by his/her Christian name prefixed by Mister, Miss or Missis, as the case might be — the older heads that is. "Boy" would do for my contemporaries in age."

In the next stage, he entered into the folk culture of Trinidad which in the rural communities meant practising rather than merely observing the art of folk dance, drumming, playing a pan, and participating in village wakes.

"This I achieved, if only at an elementary level. But the progression to total assimilation leading to an Incarnational Ministry had to go further if it was to be completed, as far as playing mas’ in Port-of-Spain, the epicentre of Carnival."

"My first experience of Carnival in Port-of-Spain was in 1960 — two years after I had arrived in Trinidad – and the first mas’ I saw as I stood at the bottom of Frederick Street waiting for the parade of bands was a solitary Roman Soldier on his way to his band’s headquarters. I was spellbound.

Here before my eyes, was a proud man in shining silver armour and blue silk — as true a Roman as there ever had been when Imperial Rome was at the height of its splendour and power."

"That" I thought "is for me." Playing mas’ will be the climax of my assimilation into Trinidadian culture that will make an Incarnational Ministry real. Mas’ playing would be the outward sign of an interior assimilation." It was not until 1966 however that Father Hendey finally played mas’ with Starlift’s "Splendour of the Himalayas."

The Mighty Cypher sang in 1967 a calypso "If the Priest could play, Who is We"; and Lord Bryner sang "Play Yuh Mas Rev."`Father Hendey played mas’ for three consecutive years.

Father Hendey says: "I sensed from remarks and comments made to me — a general feeling that a more generous assessment of, and attitude towards, Carnival had been unlocked... That the long held view by many citizens that Carnival was the work of the devil, despite it being a national festival, had been challenged and found wanting… For me to have played mas’, three times in all, was a final rite of passage that assimilated me into Trinidadianism which enabled me to practise my theory of an Incarnational Ministry; and I know that it worked… Doors and ears were opened to me post mas’-playing than were before; but, it all began in Toco, of which village I still consider myself a "Toco Boy." Clifford Hendey’s assimilation was completed when in 1968 he married Vera Brereton, the third child of Fitzroy and Angelina of Sangre Grande and a nurse in the second parish to which he was sent after Toco.

So that when Father Hendey left Trinidad in August 1971 to return to the United Kingdom after almost 13 years: "The island went with him in the presence of his wife and three daughters, Christine, Frances and Michelle."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tim Ingold on why anthropology is not ethnography

Radcliffe Brown quoted by Tim Ingold

"‘A pig does not become a hippopotamus … On the other hand a society can and does change its structural type without any breach of continuity.’"

And in his own words...

"THE OBJECTIVE of anthropology, I believe, is to seek a generous, comparative but nevertheless critical understanding of human being and knowing in the one world we all inhabit. The objective of ethnography is to describe the lives of people other than ourselves, with an accuracy and sensitivity honed by detailed observation and prolonged first-hand experience. My thesis is that anthropology and ethnography are endeavours of quite different kinds."


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Anthropology and the Military

Below is a comment i left on Marc Tyrell's blog re the McFate/HTS situation.

Here are some other links to informative commentary on what is taking place.

Open Anthropology
Culture Matters
Savage minds
Washington Post
Mother Jones
Blue Girl Red State
If i Ran the Zoo
United States Institute of Peace

I believe persons involved in Anthropology need at the very least to consider much of the information and come to a personal understanding of the issues.

My thinking as posted to Marc Tyrell's blog:

Hi there and thanks for putting forward another punta de vista on the McFate situation.

Having followed the internet trail on this for a few months now I read with interest what you had to say.

Im struck by the differences in how many persons with anthropological backgrounds engage the issues.

For me, and my subjective 21st century ideas on what anthropology is and should be, it is an oxymora - like cruel kindness - to place military action and anthropology together. This is made even more problematic when the military action is preemptive because as such any anthropologist on the ground who at some level believes they are trying to help the situation is nonetheless an apologist for the use of military force against people who were not aggressors. It feeds into a wider notion that the action in Iraq was lawful, which it was not, and provides legitimacy to the US political myth that the action in Iraq was about 9/11 when its really about oil and geopolitics. Anthropology needs to recognise how it is being used to effect this hegemonic mind f**k, both in Iraq and afghanistan…

Another interesting cultural difference between your idea on anthro and mine, was this notion of the group and interaction you use, i liked the picture you painted, however i prefer to look at things from the individual up, and the individual’s ability/agency to perform many different acts depending on the audience situation. Ie performance, and performing certain behaviours, mannerisms, language, cultural identifiers etc is at the basis of social interaction. Sometimes peoples’ performances are as close to honest as can be, many times, the honesty is removed for necessity and need be that good or bad, and then there is the performance of those who deliberately try to mislead, something i believe McFate has done on many different levels from the anthropology community, the general public, the military community, herself and most importantly the people on the ground who she is claiming to help.

Anthropologists, in my humble opinion (and related to the experiences in our anthropological past - anthropology mixed with the military always harms someone) should be involved in non military solutions to cultural difference and furthermore, again from my point of view, should be against coorperation between the military and anthropology.

Military action is rarely about redistributing wealth to make things better for all persons in the world, the current military complex is about sustaining neoliberal capitalism, stratification and capturing new markets. And while i doubt there is such a thing as a doctor evil sitting in a room making individual decisions to perpetuate the vast economic and social inequalities in the world - the system is nonetheless self perpetuating. The connection between anthropology and the military makes this perpetution worse by legitimising it under a cloak of benevolence which is only khaki green deep.

At a fundamental level i think this mcFate situation raises ideas about what sort of world you want to live in, one that continues along the same path it has been on since 9/11 or something better. i know im for the latter.

The partnership of the military and anthropology is a symbolic performance that explicitly rejects the idea of fundamental societal change and keeps our eyes focussed on the short term road in front of us which is certainly not heading toward social justice but rather a increased acceptance of the current militarised world.

To end, I guess i sound like an old hippie (not that there is anything wrong with that), but i became an anthropologist because i wanted less war and inequality in the world, less gun diplomacy, and more understanding and honesty.

The McFate saga might paint on the surface this is what she is about, but as we all know you have to get beneath the surface to really see what is going on, and embedding anthros with military units creates an asymmetrical situation between those we study and ourselves. Whats worse is it misrepresents the actual work the military is trying to perform as positive, when infact it is nothing short of a strategic invasion that the UN deemed unlawful.

The views that have sprung up around the mcFate issues made me feel disheartened at first but now im reinvigorated because we are all (as both you and max point out) being politicised by the issues, being public intellectuals because we must take a stand in order to define our intellectual projects. As people draw their lines in the sand perhaps those who are against the combination of military and anthropology can mark their field and ethics as such, while those who disagree can mark their terrain as such. Or perhaps its far more complex than this duality…for me though it isnt - anthropology and the military is an oxymoron