Week 9 Blog Post

This week’s reading was the book Dams, Displacement and the Delusion of Development. The books focuses on the development of the Cahora Bassa Dam along the Zambezi River and how it drastically impacted the livelihoods of thousands of Africans. The authors explain that originally

colonial planners promoted information on the dam claiming that long term economic benefits would outweigh any short term “disruptions” (95). In promoting the project, colonists claimed that there would be positive socio-economic outcomes occurring as a result of the dam, when in reality, in developing the dam these outcomes were actually undermined. The planners claimed that this would lead to educating more children, however, the opposite is true. Isaacman and Isaacman discuss that without their spouses present after relocating, women relied on their children to help produce food preventing the children from attending school. The authors state that the colonial planners “underestimated the extent to which resettlement would shake the very foundations of the relocated communities” (95). Despite Mozambique achieving Independence in 1975 and the removal of barbed wire and guards securitizing the location, families were still unable to return to their previous homes because the area was now under water. Their only option was to remain where they lived now.

According to the authors, colonial planners asserted that the dam was about using technology to control nature and ensure human progression. The authors discuss that the accounts given did not articulate this but did the opposite. Many Africans lived in crowded camps, and encountered unpredictable discharges of water that destroyed their homes. From the personal accounts provided in the book,  nature was controlling where the people were allowed to live.

What planners were saying would occur with the dam was actually false predictions of what would actually occur.

Question 1: Did planners involved with the development of the Cahora Bassa Dam create the large infrastructure and remove people from their land in hopes of bringing positive social change or do you think the objectives they had in mind were only established to promote the dam?

Keira Gagne


Week 5

Keira Gagne

This week’s focus is on the role social media plays in contemporary conflicts. Innocent Chiluwa and Adetunji Adegoke discuss how people have utilized social media to express their reactions to Boko Haram’s action in Nigeria in the article “Twittering the Boko Haram Uprising in Nigeria: Investigating Pragmatic Acts in the Social Media.” The  article provides actual examples of tweets and compares the content of the tweets to what the writers are feeling about the solution. The article asserts how people are able to express their opinions of Boko Haram and why the group is committing these acts. The article provides a good description of what Boko Haram is and how it began. The article is interesting because it presents various suggestion on stopping Boko Haram from  committing more violence and various theories denouncing the group. The article is interesting in comparing the various tweets, however, it does not provide an in-depth analysis of how social media is utilized in conflict situations.

Question: Are those who utilize social media in discussing Boko Haram in Nigeria educated about the current situation or providing opinions without any previous knowledge of the conflict?

Neoliberalism revisited: Entrepreneurship, Consumerism, and Global Capital

Keira Gagne

This weeks readings focus on the concept of neoliberalism in African countries. The articles discussed issues of consumerism in a globalized world. These articles were interesting to read because it was interesting to learn about how capitalism can drastically impact social relations in a country.

Thomas’ article discusses the social relations between Black consumers and Jewish entrepreneurs in South Africa both during the Apartheid and afterwards. The article discusses the skin lightening venture of entrepreneurs Abraham and Solomon Krok. Thomas explores the history of skin lighteners and the changing demographic and reasons for purchasing this product. Thomas also mentions whether or not it is appropriate for businessmen who were born into a Jewish immigrant family to market to Black consumers. The Kroks’ relationships with Black consumers led them to dominate the skin lightening industry. However, Thomas discusses how the Kroks’ brand image changed once they encouraged consumers to follow dangerous directions such as using multiple lightening products.  Thomas claims that the Kroks’ are attempting to improve their reputation through providing financial support to an Apartheid museum.

Lee’s article discusses the entrepreneurs in the funeral industry who are benefiting from ongoing epidemics in South Africa.  She discusses three main issues with the funeral industry. First Lee discusses mobility. She discusses how different funeral practices causes debates regarding ensuring cultural practices are followed. The second issue Lee expresses is that African countries are becoming more westernized. The third issue is the lack of women’s involvement in funeral practices and industry. According to Lee, entrepreneurs take advantage of the epidemics in African countries.

Reflection Question

1. After reading Rebekah Lee’s article “Death on the Move: Funerals, Entrepreneurs, and the rural-urban nexus in South Africa,” is the burgeoning funeral industry in South Africa a result of the expanding global economy or the ongoing epidemics in the country such as HIV/Aids as discussed in Lee’s article? Is this a response to serious health concerns occurring in South Africa? Should there be more emphasis on treating these epidemics instead of providing more for the actual funerals?

Week 2 Readings: The Political Economy of Disease in Africa: From AIDS to Ebola

This weeks articles focus on the social implications in fighting AIDS and Ebola in Africa.

Saez and Abramowitz both discuss the multiple ways that Anthropologists could assist in fighting the current Ebola outbreak.

Saez asserts that social scientists have an important role to play in addressing the epidemic. Anthropologists have gained knowledge from their past research that would be valuable in this situation as well as having the ability to conduct further ethnographic research to gain a better understanding of how the disease was spreading and how to prevent it from spreading further.  Saez discusses burial practices as an example. Saez explains that attending a burial and having physical contact with the deceased is a social practice of kinship. Saez asserts that changing burial practices would improve hygiene and according to Anthropologists would drastically alter  a cultural social practice. Saez asserts that anthropologists knowledge of social practices can impact how the epidemic is treated.

Abramowitz also asserts that Anthropologists have valuable knowledge and experience to provide in helping to resolve the situation. However, Abramowitz details ten specific reasons that Anthropologists can contribute to fighting the Ebola epidemic. The ten reasons include anthropologists coming together as a community to strategize on possible solutions, sharing their network of local contacts with global health experts, teaching epidemiologists how to count the dead in West Africa. Abramowitz provides detailed explanations of each of the ten ways anthropologists could assist with the Ebola epidemic in Africa.

The third article discuses the interaction between religion and HIV/AIDS. The article discusses how religious actors mobilize in addressing the health concerns. Burchardt explains that

religious actors may mobilize to engage other actors in shaping policies or could instead shun politics in the prevision of services.

I found Saez and Abramowitz articles detailing how anthropologists could assist with the Ebola epidemic to be the most interesting. Prior to reading these articles, I was unaware of how much Anthropologists could contribute to the situation. While, the articles were interesting in detailing how Anthropologists could assist, lacked information on how Anthropologists have assisted in similar situations. All three articles lacked further background knowledge on the Ebola epidemic and on AIDS.

Discussion Question

Abramowitz mentions a phone call with Doctors without Borders in her article when she was told that Medical Anthropologists were only asked for assistance on rare occasions. In what circumstance would Medical Anthropologists be called upon to provide assistance.What makes the current Ebola epidemic not one of these circumstances?