As the Financial Times reports, President Yar’Adua’s health has been in question before. It looks like he should be OK this time. But this raises questions about his potential for re-election and about likely successors. In many respects Yar’Adua has been just what Nigeria needs–a leader who unites more than he divides.
In the lead-up to Copenhagen, it makes sense that climate issues will be linked to all the evil in the world. Still, the concern about linkages between weather and conflict are not new in African studies. Ted Miguel’s work has linked rainfall (via the economic shocks associated with it) to conflict in Africa and the murder of witches in Tanzania. Some consider it at the root of the conflict in Darfur. Still, a number of researchers have pointed out that the link between climate change and conflict is — at a minimum — not very simple and perhaps very problematic (see here and here, for instance). Much as Thad Dunning has demonstrated in Crude Democracy that oil need not be the curse we make it out to be, we should be careful to understand the conditions under which climate change may (or may not) impact the likelihood of conflicts in Africa.
Last weekend was the annual meeting of the African Studies Association, held this year in New Orleans. Despite the awful timing (why would anyone ever choose to have a conference right before Thanksgiving?), I definitely enjoyed it. It is a great opportunity to get input on one’s own work from disciplines as far afield as history and anthropology. I find that such feedback can greatly encourage lateral thinking. For instance, I had the opportunity to go to Stephanie Rupp’s talk on Saturday on Ghanaian attitudes towards China’s increasing involvement in infrastructure development. In that talk she discusses China’s involvement in constructing the Bui Dam in Ghana, a subject I am studying as well. But the neat thing is that she does this from an anthropological perspective, drawing on survey research.
One of the highlights of a conference like this, especially for young faculty such as myself, is getting to know others who are doing work in similar areas. Since my graduate student days, I have found participating with the African Politics Conference Group to be a great way to meet a lot of these people. One of their more interesting upcoming projects is a mentorship program for graduate students. Much of the time, there is only one Africanist teaching in any given graduate program. The idea here is to create a pool of Africanist professors that graduate students could call on when their own research interests/needs cannot be met within their own department. I also think this could be an excellent way for those of us teaching at liberal arts colleges to have occasional engagement with graduate students. Sandra Joireman (Wheaton) is one of the current organizers of this initiative.
The BBC reports today how humanitarian aid was used to facilitate military action in the DRC. Doctors without Borders (MSF) is one of the bravest and most savvy of aid organizations. If they ever choose to leave the region, many will be worse off.
My students are doing a fantastic job in our current Introduction to International Politics.
One of their assignments for the term is to post on the course blog reactions to readings and recent news events, relevant to the course. Here are links to a few of the highlights so far this semester:
On the news:
Blogging and parenthood has not been a successful combination lately. I have basically put the blog on hold because I felt something had to give. But now I hope to gradually increase my blogging. Why? Well, I think Chris Blattman suggests a number of reasons why blogging has been useful for him (see “Is this my final blog post?”). Below are some of his highlights, mixed with my own views about why this is useful. It quickly becomes clear that blogging is both a public service and a selfish activity:
1. It is an efficient way to share information (e.g. provide general advice to students)
2. Regular writing is a great opportunity for critical reflection on current research projects, teaching, and everything we read.
3. Blogs serve as a repository for our ideas. Chris cites Dani Rodrik who apparently calls his blog his academic memory.
4. It is a way to connect with a broader intellectual community. Chris notes that he regularly gets information about interesting things to read, funding opportunities, research opportunities…
Now, I have barely started blogging, but incredibly it has led to small, but interesting research and work opportunities and intellectual connections. Even with just a few posts. Generally, the come in the form of emails rather than comments on the blog itself. But still, this has been a great.
And so, the blogging will continue…