In contrast to the ‘hyper-visibility’ of humanitarian aid designed and delivered by countries of the global North, humanitarian aid provided by countries of the Global South remains mostly unseen. In this interview, Dr Estella Carpi and Dr Mirian Alves de Souza, discuss how countries in the Global South, with a particular focus on Brazil, have […]The Role of Brazil in the North and South: Discussing Refugee Reception with Dr Mirian Alves de Souza — Southern Responses to Displacement
The Role of Brazil in the North and South: Discussing Refugee Reception with Dr Mirian Alves de Souza — Southern Responses to Displacement
I am sharing here a video the Global Young Academy I am a member of prepared to support LGBTQ rights on its international day. I support gender self-determination.
On Emotional Dissonance and Academic Excellence: The Need for Collective Learning.
Estella Carpi, Research Associate, University College London – Visiting Researcher, Koc Universitesi-Istanbul
Throughout the years, I have experienced how, as academic researchers and teachers, we can develop emotional dissonance from the contents and subjects of our own research. In this framework, academic excellence and high quality publications do not revolve around how people emotionally relate to such contents and subjects, but they rather demand structure, clarity of direction, and strategic skills to publish and boast impact.
In this paper I intend to build on my reflections about how my emotional approach to research has gradually responded to unspoken invitations to de-personalization and de-empathization during my 5-year experience in a British academic institution. I will discuss how the so-called excellence standards, the academic practice of awarding strategization and clarity of direction, and productivity expectations – all typically defined as the effective instruments of ‘neoliberal’ academia – can affect the researcher’s emotionality and intimate understandings of purposefulness.
My argument is that the ‘neoliberalization’ of academia is complexly interrelated with de-empathization in international research. Due to the ungenerous timeframes to conduct academic research and the institutional pressure for a large number of outputs, developing empathy during research becomes unlikely. In this context, the very idea of researching people, things, and processes often departs from the aprioristic need to publish. In turn, publishing successfully is possible only as a result of adopting standardized ways of writing and structuring knowledge. Such an intellectual standardization, importantly, is by no means the product of a universal and objective agreement on how we need to explore, analyze, and write – as it purports to be in the Global North’s academic institutions – but it instead remains a subtle cultural vector of anglocentrism which sweeps away alternative approaches to academic work. This process of removing alternative ‘writing selves’, who do not comply with or even resist hegemonic standardization, generates a twofold emotional dissonance in the subjects: first, the dissonance of excelling in academic publishing without actual empathy; second, undertaking a self-initiated process of removal of our own writing selves as a road to publishing, and, consequently, producing work that less reflects the way we are.
While, in the past, I have discarded the very possibility of teaching sensitization and emotionality to people – as that is based on a paternalistic ethos of moulding ways of being and on an uninformed and colonially-flavored compassionalization of legal, political and economic issues – I here raise the question of whether such a path is instead needed to reverse de-empathization. Departing from Rorty’s ‘sentimental education’, I will explore the possibilities to sensitize through formal educational processes and I will counter the eurocentric educational method by advancing the idea of ‘collective learning’. The paper therefore invites colleagues, especially scholars looking at vulnerable settings, to face their own ways of approaching and thinking academic work while often losing the tangibility of the injustice, the chronic predicament, and the very potential for transformation that international research is able to voice and tackle. The increasing co-optation of emotionality as a token of scientific and ethical legitimization in research makes emotionality taken for granted in ethnography-based disciplines and beyond, thus taking us to an inattentive, rushed, and self-defensive “of-course-I-care” approach.
The 21 of February was World Anthropology Day. The University of Milan has produced a video collecting anthropologists’ 30 secs responses to “why is anthropology needed?”.
Amazed by students’ insights and glad to have participated!
My article with Stefano Fogliata is out today open access in Archivio Antropologico Mediterraneo.
Abstract in italiano
Sulla base di interviste condotte nel 2018, questo articolo analizza le somiglianze e le differenze che intercorrono tra le sfide che i “fautori della cultura” – artiste in primis – cittadine libanesi e rifugiate palestinesi e siriane devono affrontare nel contesto libanese. Dopo un’illustrazione dello scenario storico-politico libanese e di come in esso la “resistenza culturale” emerge in modo poliedrico, gli autori individuano aree d’incontro e di potenziale solidarietà tra gruppi. L’articolo discute la cosiddetta “umanitarizzazione” dei finanziamenti, attraverso la quale vengono sostenuti e potenziati soprattutto i progetti artistici che possono fungere da strumento di neutralità politica e di “medicalizzazione” dei traumi post-guerra. Tale fenomeno genera in parte una depoliticizzazione ed esteticizzazione dell’arte, “demobilitando” quindi la vervepolitica dietro al lavoro culturale e, allo stesso tempo, lega la sopravvivenza materiale di tali spazi culturali a cicliche crisi umanitarie.
Abstract in English
Based on interviews conducted during 2018, this article examines the challenges that Lebanese citizen, Palestinian and Syrian refugee “culture-makers” – primarily artists – need to face in the Lebanese context, and how such challenges differ from or overlap with one another. After providing an overview of Lebanese political history and how, within it, “cultural resistance” emerges in a multifaceted way, the authors identify areas of encounter and of potential solidarity between groups. The article discusses the so-called “humanitarianization” of funding, through which especially the artistic projects that can serve as instruments of political neutrality and of “medicalization” of post-war traumas are supported. This phenomenon generates in part a de-politicization and aestheticization of art, thus demobilizing the political verve behind cultural work and, at the same time, linking the material survival of such cultural spaces to cyclical humanitarian crises.
Call for Papers for Swiss Anthropological Association 2021: Empathy in the Field. Can the Affective be Transformative?
In the framework of SEG Jahrestagung Colloque Annuel de la SSE Annual Meeting of the SAA, this year with the theme of Re-viewing the field: Contemporary debates and approaches to fieldwork, which will take place at Monte Verità (Ascona), 22-24 April 2021, along with Dr Eda Elif Tibet, I am convening the following panel:
Empathy in the Field: Can the Affective be Transformative?
Dr Eda Elif Tibet, Institute of Geography, University of Bern, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Estella Carpi, Migration Research Unit, University College London, email@example.com
In this panel we would like to explore the inter-space between academic intellectuality, ‘research excellence’, and human sensitivity. On the basis of our own emotional intimate experiences, in the academic environment, the interconnection between these factors is left undiscussed and, emblematically, is not seen as necessary. This omission in the intellectual debate even makes such an interconnection unlikely.
Western scholarship is largely a product of an educational system based on the Cartesian division between “rational thinking” versus “emotions” that are associated with “irrationality”: such binaries are being challenged in today’s reformations of fieldwork, especially for those who work on issues related to vulnerability, displacement, and poverty.
Throughout the disciplinary history of Anthropology, un-empathetic approaches to vulnerable subjects have been documented to have negative and even dangerous effects on a personal, societal and policy level. As many anthropologists have ended up instrumentalizing “the ethics” and the “impact value” of the science itself for intellectual benefit, they have often been criticized for being “insensible”, “unemphatic”, “biased”, “doctrinated”, “colonial”, “cynical”, “hostile”, “discursive”, “categorical”, “exclusive”, “racist” and “ethnocentric”.
In light of these emerging discussions, this panel intends to discuss if and how “sentimental education”, as introduced to western scholarship by Richard Rorty, can serve as an affective tool to sensitize scholars whose research issues relate to diverse forms of vulnerability (E.g. economic, political, and social).
In more detail, the questions we would like to explore are: Can “sentimental education” help to produce empathic research? If so, can empathic research lead to fairer scientific representations and a stronger transformational potential for vulnerable people and settings?
While Anthropology has long sought to challenge the need to “clean” theories and methods from emotionality, yet it has not approached emotionality as a transformative tool. In this panel, we rather aim to engage with emotionality as an intellectually honest road to scientific knowledge and transformative research. We invite papers discussing epistemological approaches and fieldwork tools that guide ethnographers in moving from the discursive to the affective, from the apathetic to the empathetic, from the colonial to the decolonial, in terms of theory and methods.
Engagements through multimodal media and auto-ethnographies are also encouraged.
We kindly request prospective participants to submit their paper proposals using our digital forms at:
Thank you very much!
An excellent book by Prof. Asli Vatansever and the subsequent discussion with scholars based in Finland, Germany, and Italy, on the social expectations and theorietical conceptualizations of refugeehood, exile, and nomadic life. This is an extremely important contribution to what it means being an at-risk scholar nowadays in societies where the academic sector is per se relying on precarious work.
Recording of the first talk in SAR Italy’s Fall Speaker Series is now available
On 15th October we held the first event of the SAR Italy Speaker Series with the launch of Asli Vatansever’s book: At the Margins of Academia (Brill, 2020). Asli engaged in a discussion with Magdalena Kmak from Abo Akademi University, Finland. A recording of the online event is now available.
Dear all, I’ve started drafting the ‘Funny-Tragic Handbook of Academic Idiocy’. I’ve already collected 53 ‘entries’ since I moved to the UK (and I’m afraid there’ll be plenty ahead yet). Please, do not hesitate to share your funny and appalling anecdotes, or even just sentences. Any format is welcome. The content will range from statements brimming with self-overestimation published in the social media, to plagiarism, exploitation, and any serious issues you had no ‘court of appeals’ for to advance your claims and pursue justice. The primary aim is having the Handbook accessible online, but I’m exploring the possibility to have it published with PM Press or other radical publishers. If you’d like to contribute, take the anonymous survey at:
Your name and contact details will not be shared with me, and you are free to both modify your answers until you complete the survey, and take the survey more than once if desired!
This article is my ethnographic self-critique, and it comes from my heart. But it also comes from a chronic stomachache. The ache of clashing with ‘epistemic powers’ in Dahiye’s Hezbollah-led municipalities and in Akkar’s humanitarian space. Anthropology has often responded to such issues of ‘research invalidation’ by inviting us to accept this unavoidable ‘tension’. I suggest that more efforts should be made towards the counter-epistemologies coming from the ‘field’. We cannot remain at the ‘centre’, and end of the story…
Read on Contemporary Levant:
Fieldworkers in politically sensitive spaces traditionally need to negotiate their presence in the field with local (in)formal authorities and epistemic power-holders. I illustrate how attempts at both holistic politicisation and neutralisation of the research space can question ethnographic knowledge production. Drawing upon the anthropology of silence and agnotology, I interrogate the whats and hows of ethnographic authority and local validation of ethnographic research when political and epistemic powers complexly and discontinuously overlap. By examining how knowledge is boasted about, concealed or questioned by political and humanitarian actors, I examine the ways in which a lack of political protection, as well as overt advocacy, shape different modalities of access – or lack of access – to the field. Against the backdrop of a growing body of literature on the ethics of research in settings affected by political transformations and emergency crises (such as today’s Arab Levant), I try to upend ethnographic confidence as a self-centred process of knowledge production. I instead rethink it not only as an ethical but also an inter-subjective effort towards a more effective integration of the counter-epistemologies of field interlocutors into our own research.
I’ve just finished attending one of the most useful trainings ever. In all honesty, calling it ‘useful’ is minimizing its effect on my personal life.