Saturday, February 10, 2018

Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga: "What Do Science, Technology, and Innovation mean from Africa"?

UM-trained MIT Prof Clapperton Mavhunga still stirring it up: "I look at science, technology and innovation today and i'm sure you would agree, they are very reductionist. Science is a social activity...and i'm saying this at Google but it's as if technology were just it that obvious? Or could it be that ... in reducing it to gadgets we are missing out on something else? The same with innovation, reduced to a very commercialized idea."

His questions about what makes it into curricula, what is deemed "knowledgeable" in an era of "Africa rising" cannot be urgently enough circulated and contested. His stretch to suture together historical work with these "key words of their time" for a next generation continues to be quite a lift for a young scholar. His interrogation of how heroes are made for Africa, then and now, and the notion of heroism, seems salutary as many of us scholars and teachers scramble after attention from the Africas' and the Americas' wealthiest tech entrepreneurs in ways that make them into de facto heroes (and/or villains) of our era.

Some of his advice?  "The best way to be effective in the world is to be humble before knowledge. Don't act as though you monopolize the space of common sense and reason."   Go blue!

His concerns? Africa has many exquisite critical thinkers and many who get things done in practice. But we need to continue bringing these two together; making those who excel in practice more critically aware, and critics more engaged in actual doing and building of things. Let us keep building the spaces where those twain shall meet. Proud of my UM colleagues doing this now in Ethiopia, Ghana, Gabon, and here at home with our upcoming Galaxy event linking our campus to the social and environmental matrices around us through getting key practices linked with critical concepts and into curricula, both at home and abroad!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Leaders in thought and action

This piece about Thought Leaders is troubling. 

More and more of my students--Europeans, Africans, Americans--fit the description in the last few paragraphs of this piece as new public intellectuals. They are straddling the academy, small businesses, cooperatives, social movements, non-governmental organizations, and other sectors. They know universities may not or cannot extend a secure embrace to them. Yet they cannot bear to participate in business or government as usual. So they are ceaselessly refining a new kind if bricolage, building new forms of economy perhaps even of society. 

They are so vulnerable but also so smart. They work so hard. They are relentlessly engaged, theoretically astute, realists or even cynics yet also able to delight in this world. They give me so much hope. They take so much care--of me, of their environment, of each other. Some days i feel if i did nothing more than support them and serve as a bridge among them i would have lived as i was intended...

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

IEN: Call to Action - Trump Can’t Build DAPL Without a Fight

 IEN: Call to Action - Trump Can’t Build DAPL Without a Fight

Water Protectors, cold and exhausted, are rallying again. All i have done thus far is send some coats, and forward some posts. But as the veterans and the native americans and the allies of various kinds out there huddled in tents on the Dakota plains rally for a last stand, I want to know what more I can do. Listen to our three part series on the recent history of NODAPL activism on the digital media platform "It's Hot in Here" to get oriented, if you are only now getting involved.

Meanwhile, the term "intersectionality" has worked its way into the activisit lexicon, and the word "nasty" is getting appropriated and ever better defined to mean creative, disruptive, hard hitting--but not hateful nor illegal--actions (embedded in this show is a great discussion of just that term).

Last sunday, at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Ann Arbor, from the sanctuary during the sermon I heard a great formulation of the intersectionality question. Actually, I heard it on loudspeakers while sitting in the social hall, typing in information on recommendation letter forms for my students who seek to move on from school and make at least a living wage making the world a better place. This is really not corporate consulting, i fear. Then again, maybe the intersectionality of social movements is like a whole new meaning for "mergers"?

While i pondered this, our interim Minister asked:

"why would we hone in on single issue action? None of us leads single issue lives...."


So whether water is your thing, or indigenous rights, or fossil fuel transcendance,  be alert (sooo much nuance to the information out there; so many versions of reality...did anyone hear the BBC interview this morning on Russian domestic politics?) We need critical thinking skills more than ever to discern different vantage points and assess them against evidence. Tune in or turn out. Work on a brief or help out on a blockade. Stay hopeful.

Friday, October 28, 2016

SNRE Campfire Again...

It is that time of year again, and how i love the leaves, the logs, the legacies...

Friday, October 7, 2016

Country Bee, City Bee

The way Philippe Huau and Jean Francois Mallein handle bees is mesmerizing. They are methodical, almost meditative. Often the only sound I hear above the hum of buzzing bees in their beeyards is an occasional guttural sigh of regret if ever they crush or damage a bee. Mostly they don't. 

Over years of visiting their collaborative queen rearing operation in southern France, my daughter and i have learned to trust their mostly Buckfast bees, which are among the most docile and productive on the planet. We now work without veils, gloves, or even long pants, enjoying the sunny afternoons in the sunflower-strewn countryside. We can feel the breeze of bees' wings near our ears--or the curious crawl of their feet on our forearms--without any alarm (photo of Jean Francois right, by Austin Martin).

To me, it is a dream come true. The U.S. Peace Corps taught me to keep bees in the region of Bukavu (then Zaire), and deployed me in the Central African Republic, with hundreds of hives of Apis mellifera adansonii to monitor. Those bees are far more defensive. That means you spend more time running crazily through underbrush trying to lose the cloud of them that are after you than you do watching their work or tasting their honey (think winnie the poo...but more deadly). For Peace Corps me, it also meant a lot of fat lips, swollen eyes, and itchy fingers or ankles after evenings out with the bees. They seemed expert at finding ways in around the edges of my veil, gloves, socks and shoes. When i think of all the bees that stung me--each one that died to defend their community from my blundering interest in their inner workings--I feel strangely grateful. 

What i should feel is embarrassed.  I looked like I belonged in a P4 containment lab, or a some NASA craft, with all my light colored protective gear covering every square inch of my flesh. The beekeepers i worked with would bother the bees only to harvest honey, and then shimmy up into trees half naked, moving lighting fast with a burning torch of particular grasses prone to confuse or sedate the bees, but ready to burn them if things got out of hand.  I imagine when they think of me they feel amused, for I was the sting magnet--contrasting with the darkness in my white cotton, slower to move through the landscape, sweaty and scared.  But i was hella good natured about it. You have to hand it to Americans for that. When i think of themi feel awe (and of course, concern...many have had to give honey and other food to militias at gunpoint in recent years, or have had to abandon their bush beekeeping altogether for fear of being kidnapped, or worse--if only Americans weren't implicated in the political economies that have armed so many Africas so disastrously). But I digress. 

Today on It's Hot in Here, we'll be talking about a different kind of beekeeping. Not out in the sudano guinean plateaux, nor in the medieval villages of rural France, but right smack in the middle of downtown Philadelphia, city of brotherly love, and bee lore. We'll be talking to Don Shump, a city guy who has seen his share of country beekeeping in Pennsylvania, too. We want to have a conversation about the different cultures of keeping bees that span farms and towns (Photo of Don, left, from his website, accessed October 7 2016). 

With the first bees ever making it onto the endangered species list this month, those of us behind the radio show want to keep on having the pollinator conversations; you can find some from our archives about urban beekeeping in Detroit,  and about wild bees on Michigan farms, along with more info about Jean Francois Mallein and Philippe Huau

Wish JF and Philippe were here this evening, to sit down with Don around a glass of Pastis. I know we'd talk of the politics of selective breeding in bees...does colony collapse disorder warrant such blatant manipulation of nature? Do farmers who need their crops pollinated see the answer to that differently than the boutique beekeepers of urban parks and rooftop gardens? 

Tune in to learn more, and start your weekend with a little Friday afternoon us live at (or get the fab new app for that from the apple store). 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Environmental justice: are organizations making fair progress? - environmentalresearchweb

And the beat goes on...Alejandro Colsa Perez wrote from London this week,

 with news that people are still thinking through our first flush of questions on how grassroots environmental movements formalize into Environmental Justice Organizations, and what challenges that presents for accountability to their original bases and places.

Great to get science media attention for such social questions. Check out the story here:  Environmental justice: are organizations making fair progress? - environmentalresearchweb

We also found formalization creates opportunities to expand networks, and knowledge bases. This teamwork connects our graduates across their respective work places in upstate New York (Sarah), coastal Michigan (Katie), Washington DC's EPA circles (Bernadette), and European policy Circles (Alejandro). New networks, still being developed and some using the EJOLT atlas and academic partnerships with Barcelona, will connect our new cohort of environmental justice students. Hope they can build on the legacy of this careful work to identify not only organizational trends but also empirical evidence about the top 40 most influential environmental justice cases in the US since the movement's inception.  Stay tuned...

and thanks for your legacy here Alejandro!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Krampus Dance

After doing the rounds of a few earnest and convivial holiday parties in Ann Arbor last Saturday night, I struck out for Ypsilanti's Krampus Ball. From the demon jingle babies in the windows of the Dreamland Theater upon arrival, it was clear this would be a change of pace... 

So many people were doing so much work to make the Krampus magic. Steadfast radio personality Mark Maynard manned the keg, ceaselessly filling cups with cold amber ale. The dj's flung confetti intermittently on the dancers, while feverishly consulting about what tunes to play and pointing the strobe where it most needed to go. The puppeteer climbed up and ensured his characters were dancing to the beat, working both hands as his associates lovingly fed him speared sausage chunks on toothpicks so as not to interrupt the dance of those tiny creatures. 

There had clearly been hours of prep work in some of the costumes, from the elaborate makeup with chiaroscuro effects drawn on the naked torso of the most terrifying and regal Krampus, to the blood smeared dentist elf from rudolf like you have never seen him...

Then again there was the work of WEARING these no doubt unbearably hot and sweaty getups, especially a carpet-like goat costume, or the taped together crutches and stilts of the largest Krampus, whose embrace i won't soon forget. On the dance floor as during the parade he made me feel like beauty, with her beast who lumbered painstakingly, purposefully through the crowds. 

All of this was a labor of love, that had no apparent qualms about being  obvious, messy, collective, boisterous, creative, and self consciously counter-commercial-christmas-culture. It was a night of play but also work, together, to resurrect and celebrate the spirits of christmas that cannot inhabit the bourgeois mantle or hearth; that are anathema  to expensive parcels arranged under glowing trees in grand foyers with the clink of ice cubes that signals the single malt has begun. PBR cans littered the countertops and arms of chairs, and were handed out merrily more or less regardless of participants' ability to pay (thank you, Ypsilanti!). Debauchery never seemed so democratic. 

Switches were wielded with delight, as were dry ice, balloons, beautiful strange puppets,strobes, curtains  (and yes, you can pay attention to the man behind the curtain). The final implements emerged during the parade at the end, which featured electric base and lit torches that brought bar-goers into the streets, woke sleeping dogs and brought residents to their windows (see footage, here). 

The torches, far from being a symbol of those coming to inflict terror and torture on those who might be magical--or even just different-- instead took their place alongside the brightly colored lit wreaths on each lamp post of Michigan Avenue. They marked this season's rituals and helped all of us move through the darkness of these times, together.