In view of Yardena’s thought-provoking lecture on urbanisation and human rights in Brazil, this article based on an Amnesty International report is very timely and relevant. The Right to the City that we discussed, and issues of human rights in urban settings are becoming more and more urgent as the world becomes more urbanised in increasingly large cities. The need to assert a right to housing or access to basic resources may seem removed from many of our experiences in a country like New Zealand, but a lack of adequate housing or being forced from one’s house to make way for ‘development’ in the form of highways or Olympic preparations are very real concerns for millions of people in contexts like Brazilian favelas. I thought this article might help to provoke some thoughts about some of the issues that emerge in large urban centres and how that can impact on human rights, as well as providing some more background to Yardena’s discussion of the Brazilian context.
This is just an entertaining post looking at some classic Disney productions that come under criticism for their cultural stereotyping. In lieu of the popularity of our Disney example in the postcolonialism lecture, I thought I would share this with you all so that you could have a further think about the ways in which out lives are structured by stereotypes in something as apparently innocuous(?) as a Disney film. You may also like to think about the regular consumers of Disney films- young children- and how these culturally biased representations are normalised and passed onto them.
This week we have been addressing the UN and its place in International Relations, and it’s been pretty heartening to hear some thoughts and personal opinions and to have some debate going on in tutorials. If you are interested in the UN, from whatever perspective, and want to get an idea of how it operates, see some positives and negatives around organising nearly 200 groups to debate on a certain issue and experience the joys and frustrations of diplomatic negotiations then you may be interested in having a look at the UN Youth and the associated Model UN conference in Canberra this July (AMUNC). Although your first thought on model UNs may be that episode of the Simpsons, or alternatively you have no idea about model UNs and wouldn’t know where to start, they are great experiences, easy for newcomers to get to grips with, and really are very informative, not least because they can really help you to decide where you stand on certain issues. You may find that they help give you a new perspective on the UN. You’ll also usually end up meeting some like-minded people who you can endlessly debate with, and overall it is just a lot of fun. If you are interested, check out http://unyouth.org.nz specifically have a look at National Events- AMUNC is coming up in July and registrations are now open. Vicky Clarke is organising this year’s delegation to AMUNC, and you can email her if you are interested or want more information- firstname.lastname@example.org
Courtesy of one of your peers, this website illustrates why Wikipedia is not a reliable source of information and why critical reading is a very important skill.
POVERTY, MONEY….and LOVE
I came across this talk on TED this evening. If you haven’t heard of TED, it is a really amazing initiative with free talks from a very wide range of sources; academics, experts, entrepreneurs, activists. Unfortunately it is a bit trendy so you may find yourself faced with a talk by Bono, but don’t hold that against TED- there are some fantastic ideas and very informative presentations. This one by Jessica Jackley struck me as quite applicable to our course and some of its underlying themes. I think Jessica would find that post-structuralism resonates with some of her own ideas that she has presented. In particular I was struck by her points about the stories we are told about ‘the poor’. The idea that it is stories that shape how we consider the world and take action within it is something you might have recognised from our readings as discourse. In particular here, the concept of ‘the poor’ as miserable, hopeless and dependent is a dominant story or discourse told to those in developed countries from a young age. I think there is often a sense of guilt at our own comfortable lifestyles and a feeling that the problem is too big for us to be able to really make a difference, and we often assuage that with donations or petitions that we do not consider too carefully. The binary relationship of donor/receiver is a powerful way that our understanding of people in developing countries is shaped. It has become common in Western countries to donate to various poverty reduction programs and many of us unthinkingly support them without considering the power implications that underlie those transactions. We especially do not stop to consider what understanding of the ‘poor’ we are ascribing to and helping to perpetuate.
Later in the course we will be discussing poverty, aid and development and tackling issues about the dominant discourses that inform these issues, and we will be critically discussing concepts like ‘development’. It is certainly possible to critique the idea of microfinance as a development strategy and Jessica (as we all do) will still ascribe to certain ideas about people living in developing countries, but I think she makes some very good points about thinking for yourself- trying to see with your own eyes, listen with your own ears and question the stories that have been constructed into truths in the developed world.