Interesting points and certainly an issue.
Nevertheless, at times I wonder how one can do it “right". As a first world revolutionary, one can either stay home, and be criticized for not knowing about the world or not engaging with the ‘real’ struggles of today, or one can travel to the third world and e accused of revolutionary tourism. Both can be true, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s all a matter of how sincere people are with their engagement it seems to me.
Similar about anthropologist: my main criteria is why people go somewhere to study. If it’s mostly to get a degree or brownie-points at home it’s one thing. if there is a genuine interest in understanding and making use of that knowledge productively, it’s something else. Things that are written for career purposes are generally contentless and boring to read, consequently hardly anyone will make use of it and so it makes little difference whether it’s written by a western academic, it seems to me.
Comment from: [Member]
I agree with you. The solution is not to stay at home and be an armchair anthropologist.
But Mona Abaza’s point - if I understand her correctly - is that researchers in Egypt are not treated as equals by their colleagues in the West, they are “reduced to service providers” for the academic tourists from the West who after a week in Cairo present themselves as authority on the so called “Arab Spring”.
She reminds us of the long history of the inequal relationship between the West and the Arab world. As another local researcher told me yesterday, chances to get quoted is much higher when you’re from a British university than from an Egyptian university (he gave some examples). As Abaza says “there is nothing wrong with providing services, had the relationship been equal, which was unfortunately never the case”
Then I suppose, they really get overwhelmed by all inquiries from researchers and journalists from around the world. During the four months of my stay in Cairo, I’ve stumbled upon numerous film makers and journalists who came to Egypt because of the revolution.
I absolutely get what you are saying. I still think it’s a matter of degree. when I was in Honduras in 2009 and filmed there, some local activists told me “what we really need is a camera like yours, everything else we can do ourselves". Now when I was back, this seemed to have changed somewhat – they appreciated the amount of work that had gone into presenting their case worldwide, as well as the translating and traveling around with the video, neither of which they could have done themselves. Also they noticed I hadn’t enriched myself using the footage – quite on the contrary.
Nevertheless, the issue is important and likely the re-foundation/re-organization of academia that has to happen some time in the near future will also have to address the issue of third world researchers not getting recognition for their work. The reason why so may Chinese and rich kids from former colonies stream to Europe to study is related to this. For example, one could set up a global structure of inter-financing between the different anthro associations and then sponsoring such things as plane tickets for third world researchers to cover similar first world protest events – Madison or London riots.
Comment from: martin [Visitor]
just a side-note: this is not something that relates only to the (what used to be called) “third world". the “second world” (i.e. the former eastern block countries) and its academia was treated in a similar manner (think of all the ethnicity studies of the 90s). and as this article distinguishing between theory and data-production also suggests it has to do with the political economy of academia. see for instance poblocki’s article here: http://coa.sagepub.com/content/29/2/225.short