Image Voyeurism, Trauma Porn, and ‘Doing Something’…for Yourself

* Please note: I absolutely oppose publishing the image of Aylan Kardi on this website*

Since my name is mentioned- and our short twitter exchange highlighted in Annick’s previous post as potentially the inspiration point for her piece- I feel I need say something.

First, I’ll acknowledge that the image we are debating hit me somewhere deep because the boy is the same size and age as my son. Those points of connection made me look at the image differently and that difference in how I saw the image made me feel embarrassed, upset, and unsure what it meant about how I saw the whole ‘package’ of asylum seeker images. So I’ve thought a lot about the image, the ethics around the image, and why some of us care about this image more than the hundreds of- arguably- equally harrowing images of asylum seekers (not just the people trying to get out of Syria or into Europe, but also the people in boats trying to get into Australia or held indefinitely in detention centers by the Australian government).

My point about ‘doing’ something was not merely some liberal notion of ‘activism’ or just giving some money to an organization. It includes deep reflection on our own role in the asylum seeker crises today. Of course, that might include sharing a narrative- but, for me, sharing the narrative is only helpful if it is driven by a desire to make ourselves uncomfortable, to reflect on our complicity and role in global politics, and a commitment to move forward with different steps than led us to the story.

As I just said in a FB post- there is a FINE line between 1) Witnessing and sharing stories 2) Making ourselves feel good: ie looking and listening so that we ‘feel aware’/politically active and- overall- better about ourselves (this bleeds into comments people seem to be making about ‘thanking god’ and ‘hugging kids more tonight’). Such statements are well meaning but really don’t help asylum seekers AT ALL. They are practices/sayings that make us feel good about where we are in the world, what side of history we are on, and how privileged we are. Such comments make me wonder ‘do we need such shocking images in order to care about asylum seekers or do we need them to make ourselves feel better?’ 3) Simple voyeurism and trauma porn.  An image is trauma porn when we  look at ‘terrible’ images so that we can shock ourselves, and then enjoy the feeling that washes over us as we look away and get back to our lives.

I would rather people- quite frankly- do nothing, than circulate an image or share a story of Alyan or any asylum seeker for their own personal gratification. To ‘do’ something political requires 1) engaging/reflecting on the politics of the image, the family and community it represents, and where we are positioned in relation to that family and community 2) asking ourselves how we benefit from borders, immigration quotas, policies that strip asylum seekers and relabel them ‘unskilled’ migrants or refugees + seeking ways that we can change our behaviors (not just our taxable donations). Continue reading

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On doing ‘something’ … as academics

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Yesterday the picture of little Alan (previously identified as Aylan), lying dead in the sand on the shores of the Mediterranean, circled the world. It provoked strong reactions from those who ‘witnessed’ his death in this manner and, not unlike the debates following some of the images shared after 9/11 (I wrote about that then), people questioned the ethics of sharing the images particularly without warning (see replies by some who shared here, here & here and note that his father wants the image to be shared if it can provoke action).

Indeed, it was  this tweet Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 11.35.40 AMfrom fellow Duck Megan MacKenzie that prompted today’s post (you can read our full exchange here). Her concerns are echoed, and expanded, in this piece (which also links to issues I discuss in a previous post on the #BBOG campaign). Of course there are things that we can do, even from the comfort of our own homes: We can sign petitions, such as this one from Avaaz or this one to force a debate in the UK parliament. We can share lists of things to do such as this one – and maybe get involved locally in Greece, Germany, or Italy (no matter where you are you can get involved locally – there are needs in San Francisco, where I am, and Sydney, where Megan is. If you have information for your local area, feel free to share them in the comments).

But …

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The Politics of Resettlement: Migrants vs. Refugees

We are witnessing the horror of war. We see it every day, with fresh pictures of refugees risking their lives on the sea, rather than risking death by shrapnel, bombs, assassination or enslavement. For the past four years, over 11 million Syrians have left their homes; 4 million of them have left Syria altogether. Each day thousands attempt to get to a safer place, a better life for themselves and their children. Each day, the politics of resettlement and the fear of terrorism play their part.

The last major resettlement campaign in the US came after the Vietnam War. Over a 20-year period 2 million people from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam were resettled into the US.   The overall number of resettled refugees from this period is roughly about 3 million. Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria in 2011, Turkey alone has taken 2 million Syrian refugees within its borders. In short, Turkey has absorbed the same amount of war refugees in a four-year period that the US absorbed in five times the amount of time.

Turning to the Syrian case, which has produced the most refugees in any war in the past 70 years, we find a very dismal record of other than near neighbor resettlement. The Syrian conflict began in early 2011, and while the violence quickly escalated, I am taking the numbers of admitted Syrian refugees to the US starting in 2012. In 2012, the US admitted 35 Syrian refugees. In 2013, it admitted 48; in 2014, it admitted 1307. For 2015, the US is estimating admitting somewhere between 1000-2000 refugees. Even Canada, who tends to be more open with regard to resettlement and aid, has only admitted about 1300 refugees, pledging to admit 10,000 more by 2017.  In short, since the beginning of this war, one of the most powerful countries in the world, with ample space and the economic capacity to admit more people, has admitted an estimated total of 2400 people, and its neighbor, a defender of human rights, has admitted about half that. Thinking the other way around, the US has agreed to take in .0006 % of the current population of Syrian refugees, and this number does not does not take into consideration the 7 million internally displaced people of Syria, or the simple fact that one country (Turkey) has absorbed 45%.

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Getting Your APSA Preconference On: The Politics of Markets

I just got out of a half-day APSA pre-conference short course on the politics of markets, firms, and interest groups organized by the sociologist Edward Walker and political scientist Patty Strach. Having attended Thad Dunning’s short course on natural experiments in the past, I think there is a lot to be said for alternative formats to the traditional panel of papers and discussants. This morning, 9 panelists each reflected on a common set of questions with two discussants, Ed and David Vogel, weighing in on our remarks.

Fellow panelists including a number of folks who study American politics and business interest groups (Alex Hertel-Fernandez, Benjamin Schneer, Leah Stokes), but we also had a healthy contingent of people who study the comparative politics of states and markets (Graham WilsonTasha Fairfield, Alison Post). Others are exploring the private politics of corporate social responsibility (Tim Werner). While most of us were political scientists, some had appointments in business schools (Tim Werner, Tricia Olsen). The organizers did a good job mixing people at different levels of seniority and disciplinary focus and methodological practices, though I might have been the only straight-up IR person of the bunch.

For what it is worth, I thought I’d share my remarks on transnational social movements and markets, which reflects my sense of the state of the literature and  important questions that should be asked going forward. These remarks are informed by my experience writing my previous book, AIDS Drugs for All,  with Ethan Kapstein on AIDS treatment advocacy and market transformations. Since that book came out in 2013, we’ve been been refining and distilling further our work on social movements and markets in a piece that is wending its way through the review process. Continue reading

Gearing Up for the Academic Job Market: Getting Your Packet Together

It’s the last weekend in August, which means at least 1 of 2 things are happening:

  1. APSA drinking
  2. ABDs hurriedly working on their job market materials.

Since (a) is still a week away, I thought I’d take a second to offer some unsolicited advice on (b): job market materials. By job market materials, I’m referring to the CV, cover letter, writing sample, teaching portfolio, research statement, transcripts, and letters of recommendation that will make up the totality of what any academic hiring committee will know about you and your work.  It’s basically your academic life, condensed into something that can be sent easily in the mail or (increasily) uploaded to an HR website or sent over email.  It’s worth taking a lot of time to prepare these materials and to think about these materials as strategically important signals in the job seeking process.

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Friday Nerd Blogging: The End of Summer Movie Season

As the summer movie season ends, it makes sense to bring back Friday Nerd Blogging after spending most Fridays at the theatre.  This week’s invokes all kinds of IR, including resource conflicts, gender dynamics, and Tom Hardy:

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New Evidence on Gender Bias in IR Syllabi

The following is a guest post by Jeff Colgan, Richard Holbrooke Assistant Professor at Brown University, and is @JeffDColgan on Twitter.

It’s that time of year again, when professors are designing syllabi as fast as they can with deliberation and care. Recently I analyzed IR syllabi for PhD students. The data suggest a gender bias that instructors could easily correct.

The case that gender diversity is good for IR and political science has been made elsewhere, repeatedly and persuasively. According to APSA, women are 42 percent of graduate students in political science (in the US), but only 24 percent of full-time professors. If we assume that part of what it means to encourage female students to pursue academia in IR involves showing them examples of great research by women, early and often, then we ought to pay attention to our syllabi.

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APSA Tweet Up: Ducks Like Beer

westmalle-rubber-duck

Once again, those poli sci types on twitter (Marc Lynch, Dan Drezner, me, and the other usual suspects) will be meeting up at the APSA on Friday, August 4th from 5:30-7pm at the Parc 55 hotel bar (which I believe is on the second floor) which is across the street from the Hilton.

Note that the regular Hilton is undergoing renovation so the usual bar/lobby meeting arrangements will not work this time around.

#BringBackOurGirls, Feminist Solidarity & Intervention – Part Two

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 12.52.27 PMMy first post on the Duck focused on the emergence of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag and campaign, pointing also to the ease with which hashtags can get appropriated and campaigns derailed. Yesterday, #BringBackOurGirls Nigeria (@BBOG_Nigeria on twitter) started a one week campaign to mark 500 days since the abduction.

Given the continuation of the campaign, in today’s post I want to dig a bit deeper in examining the urge to do “something”: Why do some events capture our attention while others fail to produce any kind of reaction? What kind of reactions are helpful? And – for whom?

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So You Would Like a Job at a Policy School

So, in another installment on the job market front, I thought I’d weigh in with some thoughts on possible differences of job postings and hiring  processes at policy schools. Admittedly, this is an idiosyncratic take having just worked at one of them, but I think there may be some generalizable aspects from my own experience. I have also passed through two others as a post-doc. If my institution is any indication, policy schools tend to be heterogeneous interdisciplinary places which can make faculty coordination and hiring processes even more fraught than in a disciplinary department. So, here are some thoughts on what to look out for if you are aiming for a job at a policy school. Continue reading

The Future of Deterrence?

A long, long time ago, before I became a professor and even before I went to graduate school for my doctorate, I worked for a few years in the defense community. I was a Defense Analyst for the Strategic Assessment Center of Science Applications International Corporation (unfortunately, the SAC no longer exists), which was a small organization that dealt with issues of future war. We did much of our work for the Office of Net Assessment of the Defense Department under recently-retired Andrew Marshall. Our job, simply said, was to help DoD think about what war would look like 25 years or so down the line: What technologies might be around? How might those technologies change the way the US fights? How might potential adversaries respond? One of the weapon systems with which the office was particularly interested in was hypersonic projectiles. But, as this was in the mid- to late-1990s, most of what we were doing was mere speculation.

The future has arrived. Or is at least getting closer.

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Challenges to Academic Freedom Above the Wall

Why Worry About Online Media and Academic Freedom?  Um, because academic administrations have lousy instincts?  I have gotten involved in this whole online media intersecting with academic freedom mostly by accident–the ISA mess last year.  I am not an expert on academic freedom, nor am I an expert on the use of online media.  So, I could imagine a university representative being upset at me as an employee trashing their academic freedom/social media politicies and it not being entirely illegitimate (however, I would still do it and expect to be tolerated…).

On the other hand, observing a university that hired someone who specializes in the organizational dynamics of diversity and gender that then tried to silence that person who happened to comment on that university’s organizational dynamics of diversity and gender does make me want to comment about academic freedom and be glad that I am involved in an organized effort (the ISA’s Online Media Caucus) that aims to improve the climate for those who use online media.

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Opting for Trials Post-Conflict? Why the Structure of Losers Matters

This post was written with Lindsay Heger, who is Associate Director, One Earth Future Foundation.

We’ve seen the rise of judicial means to bring human rights violators to trial in recent decades, both regionally and globally. Most famously, the International Criminal Court, was established after the Rome Treaty was ratified in 2002 in order to bring the most egregious state violators of human rights to to account for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes (though this court has not been without its controversies, most acute of which is that the court deliberately over-targets African leaders). There are also many arguments about the effect of the ICC, including the effects that having such an institution has on individual lawyers, judges, and other officials in the practice of law. The complementarity clause of the ICC, furthermore, might be spurring domestic legal institutions to change in anticipation of possible prosecution by the Court, creating a race to the top in terms of complying with the prosecution of war crimes in order to avoid facing the ICC.

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Living IR: Lessons from Manuela Picq’s arrest and detention

Photo of Manuela Picq being arrested. Photo used with permission.

Photo of Manuela Picq being arrested. Photo used with permission.

Over the weekend news came from Ecuador that Dr Manuela Picq of Universidad San Francisco de Quito, had been beaten and arrested while participating in a legal protest over indigenous rights as a journalist. Initially hospitalised as a result of injuries sustained at the hands of police, she was  informed that her visa had been cancelled  due to her having engaged in “political activity” and that she would be deported from Ecuador, where she has lived and worked for the past eight years. She is currently being held in a hotel that is used to detain illegal immigrants until her case is heard this afternoon.

[UPDATE: Manuela has been released after the judge ruled that her arrest was not justified and detention unreasonable.]

Once news had broken, the reaction has been swift and condemnatory from activists and academics alike. A petition on Change.org calling for Manuela’s deportation to be halted has gathered more than 6,000 signatures at the time of writing, letters of support are being sent to President Correa and his government, and a protest has been held in Ecuador.

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Convincing Waverers to Support the Iran Deal

When the Iran Deal was announced and supported by the P5 of the UN Security Council, I would have thought that the tide of elite opinion among US lawmakers would break  in support of the Deal, possibly including some Republicans (maybe Jeff Flake?), possibly enough to filibuster a no vote in the Senate. Now, it comes down to whether President Obama has the votes in either the House or Senate to forestall a veto override of what will certainly be no votes by both chambers to the deal.

While it still seems likely that the president has the votes to prevent an override, possibly in both the Senate and the House (though he only needs one chamber), it is going to be closer than it should.  It is a shame that it has come to this. Even if the notion of partisanship stopping at the water’s edge was always something of a myth, we are so far away from anything that ever gave a shred of evidence to support it.

An agreement that is overwhelmingly supported in the rest of the world (save by the current Netanyahu government in Israel) will likely narrowly survive an attempt to override a presidential veto of Congressional disapproval. I’m wondering what messages and what messengers could conceivably convince the waverers (that is, Democrats in the House and Senate) to announce their support for the deal?

We’ve had prominent Democrats (including Jewish Democrats such as Al Franken and Bernie Sanders) come out in favor of the deal, though Senate Majority Leader in waiting Chuck Schumer, also Jewish, opposes the deal.  Who are the other influentials? What are they saying?

In this post, I’ll bring in some strong arguments and signals of support from prominent Republicans of yore (like Brent Scowcroft and former Senator John Warner), military leaders (including a tantalizing hint from David Petraeus, nuclear weapons experts such as Gary Samore, treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Israeli security officials, prominent members of Congress who have come out in support of the deal, and columnists such as Fareed Zakaria, Nick Kristof, and Tom Friedman. I am not convinced Republicans are open to persuasion so the notion that Obama’s rhetoric turned them off of potentially coming around is risible. Democrats on the other hand may need some more ammunition. Here goes. Continue reading

One Size Fits Few

With all of the recent essays on the Duck this summer about the job market, citation indexes, and lack of confidence, there seems to be a brewing undercurrent about the anxiety of another academic year. Some of us maybe facing down a PhD defense and the job market for the first time, some of us compiling our pre-tenure review files, and some of us just generally feeling uneasy about a new area of research or a class we’ve never taught. Some maybe anxious about a new job they’ve recently arrived at. I can feel the collective tension reading through the posts and their comments.

I’d like to add one more perspective to the discussion in a hope to ease this tension. Much of what has been said before is from well within the “traditional” view of academia; a view where one has a tenure-track job or where one is attempting to get a tenure-track job. The reality is that getting or keeping these jobs is very difficult, and I cannot rehearse the myriad of factors that go into each. However, what I do think is important to note is that in these previous discussions there is a working assumption that once one is offered or has a tenure-track job, one will do anything to take or keep it. The Holy Grail must be achieved at all costs.

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Affective or Effective? War Child’s Gamefication of Conflict Experience

Gamification is “is the application of game elements and digital game design techniques to non-game problems, such as business and social impact challenges”, to borrow the course description from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania’s Gamification MOOC.

The approach has been used to try and improve employee productivity, facilitate risk prevention education (and indeed many other forms of education) , resolve social conflict, and, perhaps less surprisingly, in marketing. And just in case you thought there were any contexts in which gamification couldn’t be used, militaries are already in on the act, with both the US military and the Israeli Defence Force using it to try and cultivate favourable attitudes and support and get their message out to target audiences. Gamifiying conflict by militaries was always going to be controversial, especially when they’re actively engaged in warfare as the IDF discovered in 2012, although gamification guru Yu-kai Chou argues that this is actually just coming full circle given that most games are predicated on mimicking the essential characteristics of war in the first place.

But if trying to make war appealing and “fun” will strike many people as a negative (or at least highly pragmatic) use of gamification, what about efforts aimed at highlighting the horrors of war? Helen Berents recently responded to the release of a viral advert from UK charity War Child that is designed to raise awareness of children’s experiences of conflict. Using Storify, this post presents the debate that ensued (minus the bit that happened on Facebook, which I’ll leave Helen to summarise), and considers the role and efficacy of emotion in trying to mobilize people in support of a particular cause.

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The collateral damage of performance metrics

This is a guest post from Daniel Mügge who is an associate professor of political science at the University of Amsterdam and the lead editor of the Review of International Political Economy.

In two recent posts, Cullen Hendrix, and Daniel Nexon and Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, have tabled important pros and cons of Google Scholar (GS) as a base for measuring of academic performance. And the flurry of reactions to their blogs reveal just how central and touchy and important an issue this is.

The debate so far concentrates on gauging the “quality” of an individual scholar, and how different approaches are fraught with biases. But when we weigh the merits and demerits of something like GS, there is another level that’s so far ignored: the collateral damage that managerial tools of quality control do to the academic enterprise as a whole. Continue reading

Academia isn’t Baseball

PTJ

PTJ’s Essential Player Statistics

This is a guest post by both Nexon and Patrick Thaddeus Jackson. Standard disclaimers apply.

Cullen Hendrix’s guest post is a must read for anyone interested in citation metrics and international-relations scholarship. Among other things, Hendrix provides critical benchmark data for those interested in assessing performance using Google Scholar.

We love the post, but we worry about an issue that it raises. Hendrix opens with a powerful analogy: sabermetrics is to baseball as the h-index is to academia.  We can build better international-relations departments. With science! Continue reading

Debating Covert Intervention and the Democratic Peace

One reason that Patrick I stepped down as a permanent contributors to the Duck of Minerva was to develop ISQ Online as a forum for intellectual exchange surrounding International Studies Quarterly pieces.  I think readers of the Duck will find the exchanges there interesting, and so I’ll be using (abusing?) my ‘standing guest’ privileges to call attention to them.

ISQ recently published—on early view—a piece by Michael Poznansky entitled “Stasis or Decay? Reconciling Covert War and the Democratic Peace.” In the final round of review, two of the referees proved very enthusiastic but one still expressed significant reservations. So we offered him the opportunity to have ‘the debate’ in public by authoring a rejoinder. The result, Tarak Barkawi’s “Scientific Decay.”

ISQ Online offers us the opportunity to continue these sorts of exchanges. Hence, we now have a symposium, “An Extended Debate on the Utility of the Democratic Peace Thesis.” In it, Poznanski and Barkawi go another round.

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