Academia and Engagement - ISS

Academia and Engagement - ISS

Academia and Engagement


Also in this issue:

Child Soldiers and the future of Africa

Peter Waterman and the World Social Forum

Omar Barghouti on boycotting Israeli academics


DevelopmentISSues Volume10/Number1/May 2008


From the Editorial Board

Academia and Engagement

This DevISSues is about how those involved in academic research and teaching engage with real-life processes of advocacy and

social action demanding radical change. Advocates of change, whose goal it is to be a vehicle promoting that change, have

an on-going dialogue with scholars who can be advocates themselves. This theme was chosen not simply for its contemporary

relevance, but also because of ISS’ own history as an institute known for its progressive political and social stance.

Helen Hintjens’ introductory article deals with the idea that dialogue and engagement urgently need to take place. In her view,

being ‘engaged’ socially can be central rather than an addition to academic work. Academics should remain open to change just

as activists and advocates can be inspired by those whose lives are spent with theory and scholarship. Alumnus Daniel Chavez’

piece describes historically some individual and institutional changes in intellectual development from alternative sides of the

political spectrum. He suggests that over the last century or so, intellectuals and think tanks have become more conservative.

Even so, at the same time alternative social networks produce their own research and ideas, and these continue to spread

throughout the world. The plight of academics who claim the right to voice critical and controversial views during this era of

heightened security is the topic of a joint article by Eric Ross and Helen Hintjens. They show that academic work is increasingly

being monitored and that academic freedom needs full protection from censorship and repression.

Peter Waterman, an academic-activist for over 50 years, and lecturer at ISS for over 20 years, discusses his own history of social

engagement in an interview with Rosalba Icaza. Their discussion includes reflections on the World Social Forum in particular. In

another piece, an ISS student group set up this year, ‘Activists for Alternative Awareness’ describe their experiences at this year’s

World Social Forum in Belgium, as well as their work in promoting dialogue with a range of social actors on various issues at ISS.

Omar Barghouti points out that dialogue under extreme conditions can be problematic. The occupation of Palestine by Israel

has lead him to support the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, with the goal to pursue independence and avoid complicity

through supposedly open debate. Meghna Guhathakurta, following a post-doctorate through a collaborative project between

ISS and the University of Dhaka, highlights the strengths of developing theoretical frameworks while remaining entrenched in

the realities of the extreme-poor in Bangladesh. These articles on ‘advocacy and the academy’ all concern the broad theme of

dialogue, fostering debate on the value of interaction between academic circles and demands for progressive social change,

however it is defined.

On another note, the Prince Claus Chair has now gone into its sixth year. ISS is proud to host this year’s Chair, Alcinda Honwana,

whose prestigious career in development has focussed mainly on the vital question of how rehabilitation processes can support

post-conflict child soldiers. An interview with her in this issue addresses her past work and current interests.

The DevISSues board

About the cover

Kenyan boy-scouts carry peace flags as the 2007 World Social

Forum (WSF) kicked off with a march from Kibera, Africa’s

largest slum, in Nairobi, Kenya. The anti-globalization forum

was set up initially in 2001 as a rival to the World Economic

Forum. In 2007 over 80,000 people across the world attended

local venues to express their feelings on matters related to

economy, war and poverty across the world. In this DevISSues

edition various articles refer to the annual WSF and its

function as an alternative space for progressive dialogue.

The Institute of Social Studies

ISS is an institute for advanced international education and

research offering Diploma, Masters and PhD programmes.

The Institute generates, accumulates and transfers

knowledge and know-how on human aspects of economic

and social change, with a focus on development and


ISS is a leading centre in this field.

Development ISSues is also available on the ISS website at



4 / Advocacy and the Academy: : A Need for Dialogue

Helen Hintjens


5 / Portrait of an Iconoclast

Rosalba Icaza


8 / Challenging the Conservative Intellectual Hegemony

Daniel Chavez

Page 10 / Lessons Learned for Students

who are Activists for Alternative Awareness

Page 12 / Youth Transitions and Sustainable

Development in Africa

Page 15 / Global Terror Laws and Engaged Social Research

Helen Hintjens and Eric Ross

Page 18 / Just Intellectuals?

Omar Barghouti

Page 21 / Linking to Bangladesh

Meghna Guhathakurta

The views expressed in DevISSues are those of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute.


Advocacy and the Academy:

A Need for Dialogue

Dr Helen Hintjens

This DevISSues is devoted to trying to understand the special effort that may be required from us as scholars who seek to use our

work to supporting positive social change, however we define it. As Nahda Shehada, an ISS staff member and DevISSues board

member commented during discussions on this special issue, everyone is engaged in some way or other, whether they realise it or

not. Non-engagement in this view is simply not an option.

A few years ago, one commentator

on this subject noted that “it’s hard to

think of another time when there has

been such a gulf between intellectuals

and activists; between theorists of

revolution and its practitioners” (David

Graeber The New Anarchists, New Left

Review, Jan/Feb 2002: 61). Graeber

probably over-stated his case, even in

2002. Yet those in the academy who

think distance is needed for objective

social science may still outnumber

those who think that social change

can only be understood once we enter

into it ourselves, as participants rather

than only as observers. In Unexpected

Power: Conflict and Change among

Transnational Activists (Cornell

University Press, 2006) Shareen Hertel

shows that exercising power through

advocacy can be very unpredictable;

social change is often messy. Learning

from experience means that recipes

can rarely be followed. Studying

‘messy’ change can be a challenge for

scholars who like to know what they

are dealing with. Engagement and

dialogue changes not just our research,

but ourselves, and hopefully eventually

the world around us too. Thus

democratising society at large makes

little sense without democratising how

we teach, how we live at home, and

how we are in the workplace. Dialogue

is about this, opening up to forms of

engagement that are both enervating

and exciting.

With the hectic pace of social change

it can be tempting to retreat inside

an ivory tower. But keeping ‘on top’

of development issues in our world

requires long-term exchange with those

we claim to defend; the low-paid, the

insecure, the landless and those who

struggle with injustices. The humbling

experiences involved can inspire new

ways of seeing things, as Ananta Giri,

a long-time visitor at ISS and Professor

False utopias based on

ideas of purity need to be

counterposed with real

cosmopolitan alternatives.

at the Madras Institute of Development

Studies in Chennai, describes and

analyses in his study Reflections

and Mobilizations: Dialogues with

Movements and Voluntary Organizations

(Sage, 2005).

Such letting go of certainties and

cherished theories is not easy.

But in striving for excellence in a

competitive climate we can as scholars

sometimes risk; “…cutting off that

effort to understand, to negotiate, to

compromise that living amidst and with

difference requires” (Zygmunt Bauman,

Liquid Times: Living in an Age of

Uncertainty, 2007: 87).

Social movements today form the

powerful backdrop of this issue. Their

tremendous power of solidarity, of

constructing new global and crosscutting

solidarities, can inspire us all.

What matters, in the worlds of Theodor

Adorno, is what I term the politics of

love, or; “the power to see similarity

in the dissimilar”. This is part of the

purpose of the World Social Forums,

which provide vital spaces for global

movements to meet and plan shared

actions and messages. World and

regional social forums have evolved;

becoming polycentric in 2006 to reduce

costs and make them more accessible

to marginalised groups, and being

completely decentralised in 2008 (there

was a WSF event in ISS itself this year).

Dialogue is vital for other reasons. Social

movements do not always espouse

democratic and positive paths of social

change. Under authoritarian leadership

or inhumane ideologies, social

movements can work for destructive

social change as well. Hatred for those

seen as different is a common thread in

such circumstances, and here dialogue

is more difficult. Intellectuals and the

academy need to keep channels open,

but not become apologists for those

with anti-humane practices and beliefs.

False utopias based on ideas of purity

need to be counterposed with real

cosmopolitan alternatives.

The cosmopolitan values that will get

it through an era that is increasingly

inhumane, need to be reiterated again

and again.

Helen Hintjens is Senior Lecturer in Development

and Social Justice at ISS. She can be reached at


Peter Waterman, a life-long activist and academic, taught at ISS from 1972-1998. Rosalba

Icaza, a new ISS staff member, discusses Peter’s own background in activism and academic

institutions. Having worked for years in teaching, researching and supporting social

movements, he has been very much involved in the annual World Social Forums (WSF). Despite

controversy regarding the forums’ dominance by larger NGOs, it can still be regarded as a

space that allows for marginalized representation and democratic processes.

Portrait of an Iconoclast

An interview with Dr Peter Waterman

by Dr Rosalba Icaza

What kinds of writings influenced

your approach to social movements

and your engagement with them in

the first place?

My family background, early youth and

adult life were with the international

Communist movement and with

Marxism. I am still inspired by the

Communist Manifesto of 1848, and

think that anyone who calls themselves

cultured should read it, especially in

light of neo-liberalism and globalization

today. In the 1980s I was very much

influenced by European and Latin

American writing on so-called new

social movements, and following that

by Manuel Castells’ massive work on

information capitalism. I’ve also been

very heavily influenced by feminist

writing which most poignantly taught

me that social emancipation isn’t

owned or led by any social group, and

nor does it belong to any one theory.

Recently I have been reading quite a bit

of Boaventura de Sousa Santos (there

are 6 or 7 of his books in English). I now

consider myself a Liberation Marxist -

someone concerned to liberate Marxism

from the Marxists and, where necessary,

even from Marx!

Peter Waterman signing protest form against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia during the ‘Prague Spring’. Prague, August ’68.


And liberate people from dominant

ways of viewing things? I recently

wrote a paper with Rolando Vasquez

when we came across this quote from

John Holloway (in Change the World

without Taking Power: The Meaning

of Revolution Today, Pluto, London,

2002): “…when we see things

through the eyes of the dominant

system, we suppress other ways of

seeing the world, other hopes and

ways of doing things”. Do you think

we in academia can look through

other eyes, the eyes of those without

positions of dominance?

Speaking only of ISS during the period

I was there, it was always geared

towards management of the Global

South. After the global intellectual and

political crisis symbolised by 1968, the

Institute witnessed a high tide of critical

social science – there was Marxism,

Dependency Theory, Maoism, Radical-

Nationalism and Populism. There was

teaching on peasant movements,

labour unions and organising, urban

movements, and later on, women’s

movements. Colleagues of mine from

elsewhere in Europe and the Third

World thought the Institute at that time

was a real hotbed of radicalism! But

the radical wave did run out of steam,

with the collapse of radical-nationalism

in the South and the short-lived nonaligned

‘Spirit of Bandung’ (Third

World non-alignment). Most guerrilla

movements in Latin America lost their

way and there was an obvious emerging

crisis of Communism. All this changed

things in many ways. I was never

personally convinced by the project of

‘development’. It still seems more about

management than about social change.

As an ISS colleague once remarked in

passing, ‘there seems little coincidence

between your research interests and

those of the Institute, Peter’; and in

many ways I think that he was right! For

example, when I left ISS, the courses

I taught were dropped. A shame, but

there it is. I just hope that today staff in

ISS are using to their own advantage

the growing body of scholarship that

is emerging about – and through

– emancipatory social movements, as I

believe there is some urgency to include

these. And who knows, the World Social

Forum may galvanise scholars the way

the Spirit of Bandung once did. I do

hope so, but I won’t bet my money on it!

Protesters at the 2007 World Social Forum in Kenya, attended globally by over 80,000 people. ANP / AGE.

Do you think it is possible for young

academics to engage with social

movements while there are strong

current trends of hyper-specialization

during their academic career?

Absolutely. While hyper-specialisation

may be taking place, there has also

been a mushrooming of academic

centres focused on the ‘global justice

and solidarity movement’. The WSF as

an expression of this global movement

is also a focus of research interest. There

are centres on labour movements,

women’s rights, peace and conflict, the

environment and so on, so specialization

is not all bad news! Most of these are

created by students and youngergeneration

academics, and much

of the socially-committed academic

research and writing tends now to be

less ideological and more specialized

than in the past. It’s more professional,

if you like. There is a growing wave of


reflection on the academy and activism,

and presumably this DevISSues edition

is an expression of that. We live in a

‘social movement society’ where social

movements are increasingly central,

major actors on the world scene,

and especially in many countries of

the South. If universities continue to

engage directly and democratically with

emancipatory social movements, then

the future of engaged academia looks

pretty good.

When I first joined ISS in 2007,

several people advised me to meet

you. We have both worked on the

WSF as a major ‘event’ of this new

global movement era. How did your

own involvement in WSF come about?

Well, my first ever ‘world social forum’

was a World Festival of Youth and

Students, organized by international

communism in East Berlin, back in 1951!

I was 15 years old, and it’s a very long

way from there to here. By the time I

wrote Globalization, Social Movements

and the New Internationalisms in 1998,

I was influenced by post-Communist

and post-Social-Democratic movements

of the 1980s and 1990s. I have always

supported the WSF and my partner

(one-time visiting ISS lecturer) Gina

Vargas from Peru, was heavily involved

with WSF from the start. I suppose that’s

how the connection began. A few years

ago, I co-edited a compilation with Jai

Sen and other friends (World Social

Forum: Challenging Empires, 2004).

The collaborative work with Jai will

continue with a couple more volumes

coming out in 2008. I’m pleased that

these publications are becoming basic

reference points for others going on to

study the WSF in more detail

This year the process aspect of the

WSF has been emphasized more than

the ‘event’ aspect, and smaller, local

but globally connected WSF events

were organized in over 40 countries

at the end of January. How do you

regard this development?

I regard the 2007 WSF in Nairobi as the

most controversial and disputed one

yet. A lot of common WSF problems

came to a head. What was obvious was

the dominance of bigger international

NGOs, the high cost of entry, how

difficult it was to access the site, and

the sheer commercialism of the event.

New problems were added to old ones,

with conservative churches openly

expressing hostility to sexual minorities,

for example. For 2008, the International

Council decided to learn from this

event, and wanted to stimulate WSF

events locally (see A3 article on pp10-

11). The date was set towards the end of


Maybe this is how the WSF should

evolve – in two directions at the same

time; into localities at national, urban

and rural levels, and into cyberspace!

Local groups could advertise their

events on the WSF site this year, and

anyone who attended could go back

and give feedback on the whole process

and read about other events.

Should the WSF not be more open

to newcomers and even enable them

to creatively find common solutions

to the pressing problems they face?

Low-caste people, slum-dwellers and

shunned minorities, like homosexuals

in Kenya, all complain they are

marginalised in WSF events. So how

democratic is the WSF really?

Now this is not a cop-out but it depends

on what you mean by democratic. My

experience of the Forums at different

levels is that they are more open than

any similar kind of event. The WSF has

a clear consensus (1) against neo-liberal

globalization and (2) in favour of forging

alternatives. There is obviously no way

the Forum organizers can micro-manage

such huge events, so everyone is able

to speak and be heard. There are

inequalities of power, but the space is

quite free. I have been present in one

WSF International Council meeting,

without any ‘right’ to be there, and

no one objected or even noted this.

Individuals and groups can give back

very critical feedback about the WSF.

And if criticism is a sign of freedom,

then this is a pretty democratic setup.

So, in my view, the WSF is actually

remarkably porous to people and

information – leaking both out and in

– so that you can have one foot in a

Forum event, and be equally at home

in a marginal or even counter-event

somewhere else in the host city. And

notice how the web, both inside and

outside Forum actions and events is

of growing importance. Through this,

oppositional voices are picked up,

distributed, ‘sold’ if you like, in and

around the Forums.

I regret that WSF is excessively

influenced by the big international

NGOs, which are incremental in their

general orientation. This is a problem

that is not always recognised. I think

it dampens radicalism, but this too

is a sign of democratic processes at

work. The major restriction on how

representative the WSF can be is its

class composition. Participation of

women is close to 50 per cent, but

around 80 per cent of those who take

part in social forums are university

educated. It is great in my view

that we have an anti-globalization

movement among the middle

classes internationally. But this does

marginalize the vast majority of the

world’s population. There is much

room for improvement in terms of how

democratic the Forums can be. There is

a danger that the WSF starts to shape

up as a counter-elite, social-democratic,

operation, influenced by 20th century

orientations and operations, and for my

part I hope it develops in more radicaldemocratic

directions. As Naomi Klein

once said at a WSF event, what we need

now is less civil society and more civil


If we look at the broader ‘global justice

and solidarity movement’, the trade

unions have been doing some really

inspiring work with low-paid workers,

like the cleaner’s campaign

( This

was inspired by Justice for Janitors in

the US and Justice for Cleaners in the

UK, and the movement in Holland has

already had some of its demands met.

Migrant and female cleaning workers

in the Netherlands number around

150,000 and have been often paid under

9 Euros an hour (before tax)! Cleaning

is a multinationalised capitalist industry

so trade unions have organized crossborder

campaigns fitted to each case.

In the Netherlands, the FNV is helping

cleaners themselves to come forwards

and organize. I would love to hear the

voices of such workers, the 70 percent

of workers who are still unorganized and

work in informal and low-paid work, at

the next WSF!

Peter Waterman taught Labour and International

Movements at ISS until he retired in 1998. He

is currently writing his autobiography due to

come out in late 2008. He can be contacted at Rosalba Icaza works on

governance, trade and development, and she has

just completed a study on the WSF. She can be

reached at


Challenging the Conservative

The Transnational Institute Experience

Dr Daniel Chavez

With the previously highly respected

concept of intellectual now being

reduced to very low standards, we are

nowadays suffering a sad bastardisation

of the notion of intelligentsia. A position

that used to be occupied by deep and

politically committed thinkers, is now

being replaced by a new generation

of ‘intellectual’ media stars, more

interested in promoting themselves

than developing innovative thinking on

how to effect change in a progressive

direction. Similarly, in viewing the global

spectrum of think tanks, the balance has

tilted towards conservatism – influenced

by the heavily funded US-born neocon

movement and the neo-liberal




The concept of the ‘intellectual’ first

appeared in France at the end of the

nineteenth century in the context of

the so-called ‘Dreyfus affair’, a political

scandal with nationalistic and anti-

Semitic overtones triggered by the

unlawful conviction for treason of a

promising young military officer. A

group of progressive thinkers and artists,

led by Emile Zola, launched a campaign

in defence of Alfred Dreyfus’s rights

(the J’accuse that titled Zola’s article

spurred the campaign to showing the

racism and biases that were underlying

the conviction). The group was referred

to as ‘the intellectuals’ in the French

press of the time. In its original context

the concept intimately linked creative

thinking to peaceful resistance against

injustice and oppression and the

promotion of solidarity. Tracing the

evolution of the concept from the

dreyfusards to our times, the towering

Spanish sociologist José Vidal-Beneyto

reclaims the concept of intellectual as

applicable to somebody who produces

original and relevant knowledge guided

by an intransigent public integrity that is

not contradicted by private behaviour,

and an unalterable commitment with

progressive collective action.

Unfortunately, the ethical and

epistemological legacy of the

dreyfusards is being eroded by the

rise of a generation of self-styled

‘intellectuals’ who seem to be the

product of a meticulous marketing

strategy, supported (or driven) by

powerful media conglomerates and

ambiguous political forces. A large

number of the ‘new thinkers’ are bornagain

conservatives with ideological

roots in the radical left. They are very

visible in Europe, but a similar sort of

‘intellectual’ can be found all over the

world, including in many countries of the

South. Social scientists and development

theorists are a minority among them.

The hegemonic group is composed of

writers (including world-famous figures

such as Mario Vargas Llosa, from Peru)

and philosophers (such as Bernard-Henri

Lévy, purportedly a generator of ideas

for France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy),

who doubtless write beautifully, albeit

with dubious rigour and little knowledge

of the vast array of issues they expound

on in their op-eds, articles, talks and

books – ranging from democracy

promotion to economic development,

the expansion of Islam, international

migration and climate change.


Besides individual intellectuals, the

other major current actors are the socalled

‘think tanks’, the overwhelming

majority of which lie on the right

side of the ideological divide. Think

tanks can be broadly defined as

non-governmental and non-profit

organisations that seek to provide

evidence-based advice on public policy

issues. Their purpose is to provide

an informed and independent voice

in policy debates, and to translate

ideas and emerging problems into

policy issues. They are also expected

to generate spaces for the exchange

of ideas and information among key

stakeholders in the policy formulation


Although think tanks have proliferated

across the world in recent years, they

are not new. What is new is that most

of the current generation of think tanks

are conservative, whereas historically

some of the most influential tended

to be rather progressive. The Fabian

Society appeared in Britain in 1884

as one of the earliest think tanks. It

aimed to counter the prospect of social

revolution through the promotion of a

set of gradual but progressive reforms.

Across the Atlantic, the Carnegie

Endowment for International Peace

was founded in 1910, seeking to find

peaceful alternatives to the looming

prospect of war. After World War II, the

objectives and structure of think tanks

began to change. In 1948, the US Air

Force provided financial assistance

for the launch of the mammoth Rand

Corporation, currently operating with a

budget of over US$150 million, supplied

by both public and private donors, and

a staff of over a thousand. Following a

steady rise, the most aggressive and

conservative generation of research

and advocacy centres emerged in the

1990s in the context of the end of the

Cold War and the global expansion of

free market economics. With a clear

right-wing agenda and openly financed

by private interests, the most notorious


Intellectual Hegemony:

are based in the US, although with

political clout reaching all corners of the

world. These include the Project for the

New American Century, the American

Enterprise Institute, the Heritage

Foundation, the Hudson Institute, the

Cato Institute, the Center for Security

Policy, and the Manhattan Institute.

They have been highly influential in

reshaping US domestic and foreign

policy, particularly under President

George Bush.

There are other, somewhat less

conservative, think tanks in North

America that counter the above. The

Brookings Institution, the Center for

Strategic and International Studies, the

Center for American Progress and the

Institute for International Economics

– also endowed with huge budgets

and staff – oppose the rise of extreme

conservatism, but fail to develop really

progressive alternatives. Further to

the left, we find the Institute for Policy

Studies, the Progressive Policy Institute,

the Council of Foreign Relations,

the Liberty Tree for the Democratic

Revolution, and the Polaris Institute (in

Canada), among others.

In Europe, the rise of ‘third way’

politics has also promoted the creation

of a series of research centres and

foundations aimed at ‘reinventing social

democracy’. On this side of the Atlantic,

however, the panorama is much more

varied. Most political parties have their

own think tanks, many more are broadly

aligned with one or another political

tendency, albeit presenting themselves

as ‘independent’, and many of those

tending to the left have good relations

with progressive counterparts in North

America and the South. Corporatefunded

think tanks are far less common

in Europe than in the US.

In the South, there tend to be more

influential think tanks with closer links

to social movements than to political

parties or corporate interests. Few

would categorise themselves as ‘think

tanks’, seeing themselves rather

as ‘activist research and advocacy

networks’. They are very active in

network-building at regional and

global levels, promoting joint initiatives

through processes such as the World

Social Forum, the Hemispheric Social

Alliance (across the Americas), or

Enlazando Alternativas (Latin America

and Europe). Examples include Focus

on the Global South (Asia), the Brazilian

Institute for Social and Economic

Analysis (IBASE), and the Third World

Network. This type of politically

independent and social movementoriented

research and advocacy

networks can also be found in the

North. They are usually characterised

by strong links with partner institutions

in the South and take advantage of

networking opportunities through Social

Forum processes. In comparison to

conservative think tank resources their

budgets are relatively small, and are

often associated with eminent names,

such as Walden Bello, Susan George,

Patrick Bond, Naomi Klein, Atilio Boron

or Boaventura de Sousa Santos – to

name a few – but their social status and

political profile have nothing in common

with media-star ‘intellectuals’.

The Transnational Institute (TNI)

is a prime example of this type

of movement-oriented type of

organisation. Perhaps the oldest of

the surviving progressive institutes

in the world, it was founded in 1974

as an independent, international

network of activist-scholars at the

TNI-organized seminar at World Social Forum 2007 with Walden Bello (Philippines),

Carlos Aguilar (Costa Rica) and Dot Keet (South Africa).

service of progressive movements.

All TNI programmes aim at having

a real social and/or political impact,

and conceive research as a tool to

advance progressive change. Since its

foundation, a central focus of TNI work

has been global inequalities of wealth

and power and the relationship of these

to the actions of the wealthy, powerful

states and transnational corporations.

Loyal to the tradition of resistance

against injustice and oppression,

and the promotion of solidarity built

by the dreyfusards and many other

committed intellectuals, TNI is devoted

to addressing ‘big themes’ and global

systemic challenges across disciplines,

across sectors and across continents.

There are undoubtedly many other

‘think tanks’ that specialise in one or

another of the themes covered by the

Institute, but few are able to make the

links both intellectually and politically

across them all.

Dr. Daniel Chavez, an Uruguayan anthropologist,

graduated from the ISS MA specialisation PADS in

1997 and from the PhD Programme in 2004. He is

currently the New Politics Programme Director at

the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. TNI has a

long history of working together with the Institute of

Social Studies. Its present Executive Director (Fiona

Dove), two Fellows, and many current and former

staff and interns, are also ISS graduates. You can

find out more about TNI at and you can

contact Daniel Chavez at


Lessons learned for students who are

Activists for Alternative Awareness

A³ stands for Activists for Alternative Awareness. Pronounced ‘A-cubed’, it is a student-run initiative at ISS outside of the formal

institutional structures. A³ was founded by an initiative of a group of seven current MA students, but which to-date includes twenty

or so members, depending on the projects and campaigns. Through the group’s campaigns and activities, they have found

themselves learning as much about organizational processes and awareness building outside of classes as within them. Since

the first term of 2007 the group has organized three different activities to build awareness and promote activism around different

themes; this article recounts each of them as well the lessons learned.

Alongside the MA programme

coursework, students are elected to the

central student board or encouraged

to set up various committees that

are supplied with financial and

administrative support for their activities

by ISS. Of course, students are also

able to create groups outside of that,

such as the Activists for Alternative

Awareness. Backed by the financial,

organisational and moral support of

Martin Blok and the Welfare Office, the

spontaneous forming of this group’s

activities brought opportunities to put

more alternative ideas into practice.

As none of the member students hold

particular roles within this group, they

purport to be nothing more than a

ISS students showing their banners during the Brussels march.

porous organization held together by an

interest to discuss and learn from one

other’s ideas concerning activism and



The Control Arms campaign was

organized in late October, 2007. It

originated from a well-known global

initiative of NGOs who are critical of

the unregulated global arms trade. A³

wanted to do more than just promote

awareness of this message within the

ISS community by providing detailed

information through flyers and a debate

with invited speakers. To promote the

conference they plastered the walls

at ISS with different-coloured posters

and disseminated bulleted fact sheets

for a week, each day with a different

theme. Similarly, the students received

The power of media

to manipulate and

incorporate biases into

the mainstream public

free t-shirts from Oxfam which were

distributed through a quiz held during

a lecture. For the conference itself,

representatives from Oxfam and

Amnesty International shared the floor

with one student who has practical work

experience in the field.

The irony was that, despite all the

fanfare and the generally positive

response from students and staff, the

aspects of ‘activism’ and ‘awareness’

were somewhat muted; the flyers had

been intended to target students

based on their specialisations and so

attract them to the conference. But by

midweek, and following all of the poster

announcements, many complained

of being saturated by the advertising.

As a result people gained a general

knowledge of the issues, but little in

actual detail. Similarly, as both invited

speakers essentially supported the

campaign, little substantive debate

emerged from the conference. Some

students, in turn, seemed as attracted to


the event by the prospect of free drinks

and t-shirts as they did to learning more

about the issue itself.

Nevertheless, the campaign created a

lot of attention and allowed people to

become more informed on the topic.

For A³ it was a generally successful first

step, although the real goal was to

actually enthuse other students enough

to become engaged themselves.


Acting under their dual leadership

roles for both A³ and the International

Relations (IR) committee (most of

the students are in both groups), a

series of ISS events were organized

in conjunction with the World Social

Forum (WSF) – a global initiative to

promote an alternative to the capitalistminded

World Economic Forum

held annually in Davos, Switzerland.

Following a successful “Forum of

Social Movements” with ISS faculty

and representatives from local

Dutch movements, the IR committee

organized a trip for over 40 ISS students

to Brussels, Belgium to participate in

the Belgian version of the WSF (this

year’s WSF was held simultaneously at

numerous international locations; the

group chose Brussels for its proximity

and pertinent themes). Expectations

were high for the trip with the prospect

of meeting various social movements

and NGOs, but the Forum turned out

to feel more like an educational day

for tourists than a meeting space for

social action, what with only a few

large-scale NGOs being represented.

The apex of the group’s disappointment

came at the end of a long day when

local police prohibited the group from

marching on the streets and displaying

the ISS banners – with critical messages

of awareness on world issues – in

public. In response, a majority of the

ISS students waged a silent protest

against the impossibility of freedom

of expression on the so-called Global

Day of Action. By taping their mouths

closed and writing various messages

over the tape, such as ‘silent action’

or ‘democracy’, the group effectively

created interest from passers-by,

and even from representatives of the

Belgian mass media that recorded the

protest and interviewed some of the

ISS students. While this was far from

the original intention of the trip, the

entire day was a lesson in public apathy

(lack of participation in Brussels Social

Forum), societal jurisdiction (local police

authority over the group’s free speech),

and group bonding with a common

purpose (silent protest). In the end, the

day felt like a gain in ISS spirit, rather

than a loss in not reaching expectations

and objectives.


Following the lessons from the

Control Arms campaign, A³ chose a

new direction for their second major

awareness campaign; the power of

media to manipulate and incorporate

biases into the mainstream public.

The main events of this campaign

ISS students waged a

silent protest against the

impossibility of freedom of

expression on the so-called

Global Day of Action

would be a public dialogue that

included various members of the Dutch

mainstream and alternative media

(this time with a broader spectrum of

viewpoints) and a Saturday morning

student workshop highlighting different

styles of alternative awareness. Rather

than follow the standard, traditional

publicity campaign as they had done

for the Control Arms campaign, A³

created a more innovative way to

grab people’s attention based on the

campaign’s theme itself; the members

created a false television news video

exploiting a fabricated story of financial

scandal at the ISS. The initial plan

was to use footage from ISS students

who had been asked questions

about a completely different subject

– corruption and scandal in their home

countries. By manipulating the student’s

words, A³ wanted to create a sense of

impassioned anger over the misuse

of their words and intrigue about a

potential scandal within ISS; enough

to motivate a large attendance at the

media-awareness conference. During

the process however, they realised that

because of the sensitivity of the subject,

they should limit the hoax interviews to

members of the group.

Only eight posters were hung within

the ISS building, depicting a fake

newspaper article bearing the headline

The faked newspaper headline for the media

awareness campaign.

“Scandal at ISS”. The rumour then

ran that there was a scandal within the

school, with the video evidence to prove

it. Having ISS administration informed

before the newspaper was hung up was

invaluable, not only in maintaining its

legitimate status as an ‘outside’ student

group, but in the ability to continue the


Attendance and involvement at the

debate was high, with the video

highlighting the role of media today

and the legitimacy of who can decide

what is ‘news’. Students’ reactions to

discovering that the video was fake and

a means to draw publicity were mixed;

many were not happy at being misled

and were worried about the institution’s

reputation, but they got the point

behind the promotion of the campaign.

The initiative continues to give the A³

members a deep understanding of

event management and promotion,

the challenge of achieving ISS student

involvement, and the delicate nature

of balancing a group identity of being

both inside and outside the realm of

formal institutional regulation. However

it is the spontaneous nature of planning

the events and overcoming unexpected

problems that A³ members value as the

biggest reward of their hard work.

The seven A³ members interviewed for this piece

were Ana Rodrigues, Daniel Mejia, Joanna Cabello,

Jasper Hootsman, Krista Hund, Paula Ellinger and

Daniel Seth Shapiro. The Media Awareness and the

Belgium World Social Forum videos can be found

with the online edition of this article at www.iss.



Youth Transitions and Sustainable

Development in Africa

An interview with Professor Alcinda Honwana

Last year marked the five year anniversary of the Prince Claus Chair. The position

was created to continue the work of the late Prince Claus (1926-2002) by supporting

research and teaching in the field of development coordination. This year Professor

Alcinda Honwana, Director of the International Development Centre at the Open

University, accepted the offer to hold the chair for the 6th year, beginning in April

2008. This interview highlights a number of aspects of her background and work.

Could you briefly review your

academic career?

Prior to my professional career, my

family and country’s social-political

environment already set the stage

for my academic interests in cultural

politics, war and social transformation.

As a youth I was active in the National

Youth Organization and concerned with

Mozambique’s post-colonial future as

the country sank into civil war between

1977 and 1992. I obtained my education

both within Mozambique and abroad,

covering history and geography before

settling into anthropology. It was in

this context that I became interested

in the role of spirit possession and

healing practices during and after

the Mozambique civil war, and in

post-conflict social reintegration of

individuals and groups. I focused on

the ways in which communities dealt

with the hardship of the war and

managed to negotiate transitions and

in particular the transition from war

to peace. My comparative studies of

post-war child and youth rehabilitation

in other countries such as Angola,

the Democratic Republic of Congo,

Colombia and Sri Lanka reveal similar

characteristics to those in Mozambique.

The phenomenon of child soldiering

is a critical one to examine in the

context of war and transitions to peace

as it dramatically upsets established

boundaries between childhood/

adulthood, victim/perpetrator and


Currently my research concerns postconflict

rehabilitation and reintegration

of young people, their transition to

access full citizenship and their potential

to contribute to development in African

societies. Recently however I have

become more interested not just in

child-soldiers, but youth in general. The

world in which these young men and

women are making their transition to

adulthood has changed dramatically

with the enormous impact of rapid

globalization, the explosive growth of

information technology, the spread of

HIV/AIDS and increase of conflict and

war in the last decades.

You have researched both rural

institutions as well as worked

with NGOs in supporting youth

rehabilitating processes. How do you

see both of their roles?

NGOs and international multilateral

agencies have been deeply involved

in the protection and service provision

for war-affected children and youths.

They see child soldiering primarily as a

humanitarian issue and try to address

it by supporting them on the ground.

One of the problems that arise from

focusing on child soldiers as simply a

humanitarian problem is that it often

overlooks the socio-economic and

cultural processes needed to resolve

the problem. In other words, the links

between child soldiering and social

and economic development are critical

to fully address the problem. Taking

them out of the armies into wardevastated

communities will not solve

their problems unless education, skills

training and employment are available

to provide former child soldiers with the

prospects for a better future.

However, child soldiers are often treated

by NGOs as a homogenous group

of victimised children. While I would

agree that most of them are victims,

they are not so homogeneous – some

joined at the tender age of 8 while

others are 17. And while they start as

victims they also become perpetrators

of terrible atrocities. So child soldiers

become this complex and interstitial

category of people straddling between

childhood and adulthood, between

civilian and soldier, and between victim

and perpetrator. Most international

treaties and conventions place children

within the 0-18 age bracket, traditionally

recognised as a time for nurturing

and protecting. Under ‘normal’

circumstances this is fine, but for some

young men who are coming out of war

at the age of 16 and 17 they no longer

want to be seen as children. Indeed,

their communities don’t regard them as

such any more; they might have gone

into the war as children but they come

back as young men. They want to be

independent, have a job and take care

of their lives.

Moreover, apart from entering military

life at different ages, young people

also experience it differently. Girls are

often victims of sexual violence and are

made wives of soldiers. Some receive

military training to defend the camp

while male soldiers are fighting in

military incursions. Their labour is also

exploited as they are made to cook,

clean the camps and search for water

and firewood. Boy soldiers involved

in combat may react differently to

their situation. Some may experience

a lot of fear and never grow into their

military role, as opposed to those who


may excel in what they do to please

and become the favourites of the

commanders. For many child soldiers

the possession of a gun empowered

them in ways that they never expected.

They could terrorise people, kill, loot

and get all the girls they wanted. In my

work I try to show the complexity and

contradictions in these children’s lives,

located in this twilight zone between

being simultaneously child and adult,

victim and perpetrator. Humanitarian

agencies and NGOs tend to regard

these young soldiers simply as victims.

And while this is certainly valid, the story

is never so simple.

How do you see this complexity

reflected in the rehabilitation process


The healing of war trauma and

reintegration of these youths into

society will always be a major challenge.

In Mozambique the limited number

of local psychologists led to the

use of foreign psychologists from

western Europe and North America.

The experience did not work so well,

because psychology is in my view a

social and cultural construction; some

kind of social and cultural empathy, and

the sharing of similar world views, needs

to be established between practitioner

and patient. This is not to say that

foreign practitioners can’t help, but that

the social and cultural contexts differ

greatly, not to mention dealing with the

vast populations affected in countries

like Mozambique and Angola.

Through my research on social

reintegration of war-affected

populations I came across an amazing

repository of post-conflict healing

practices for children and youths

conducted by families, healers, diviners

and religious groups. Such practices

were instrumental in restoring harmony

and solidarity in the communities in

the aftermath of war. Many distressed

children desperately needed

forgiveness and social re-acceptance

after committing random killings and

other war atrocities; some needed the

psychological relief for their traumatic

experiences; others just needed

solidarity, compassion or food and

shelter. Rural ‘religious institutions’

of this kind attracted large followings

after crisis situations in Mozambique

and Angola, as they were able to

provide some support during the

huge emotional upwelling. The rituals

of spiritual cleansing, the ceremonial

acceptance back into their families, or

the presence of a healer that can grant

pardon for a youth’s past atrocities

are just some of the mechanisms that

helped restore balance into society after

the war.

However, while these community

healing and cleansing rituals offered

forgiveness and reacceptance into

community and, thus, helped facilitate

their psychological and emotional

recovery, the fact that former young

soldiers have no education and

marketable skills, and have no access to

employment or other forms of livelihood

makes them vulnerable to a myriad

of problems. In these circumstances,

programmes for healing waraffected

youth must be complemented by job

creation and skills-training programmes.

A general alleviation of poverty is

urgently necessary in order to offer

these young people some prospect of a

better future.

Could you mention some of your

interests for future research?

Child soldiers only make up a

fraction of the young population of

Africa; I am becoming interested in

understanding the youth more broadly

across the continent. Much of the

younger generation is attracted by

modernisation and the city, and want

to change the status quo. However,

their permanent migration to urban

spaces decouples them from rural

societal rituals such that a divide is

emerging between the traditional and

the modern.

I am interested in understanding how

new societal rituals are designed

that can bridge these divides. How

can youth find proper representation

and citizenship so that they are less

marginalized? Underlying this is the

question of how Africa can harness the

potential of this, its next generation?

Historically, youth have always been

at the forefront of major social

transformations, and so they need to

be today as well. Understanding African

youth and recognising their needs and

potential is essential for the future wellbeing

of the continent.

Alcinda Honwana’s inaugural address for the

position of the Prince Claus Chair is available at It provides a

supplemental history of her past work and current

interests. Full references to this article can be found

in the digital version at More

information on the Prince Claus Chair can be found


Adolescent boys wearing civilian clothes walk away from the weapons they once carried as child soldiers. UNICEF/ HQ01-0093/Stevie Mann


ISS News & Publications

Alumni: Receiving Alumni Newsletter?

Did you study at ISS, but do not receive the Alumni

Newsletter? Then we may not have your (correct) email

address. Please send an email to with Alumni

newsletter in the subject line and we will make sure that you

receive all future newsletters.

Alumni: Organize a Refresher Course

Would you like to refresh or deepen your knowledge

in a certain field? Contact ISS to develop a proposal for

a Refresher Course. Refresher courses are intended for

alumni who studied at ISS 2-12 years ago with a fellowship

from Nuffic (NFP) – and preferably are a member of the

Netherlands Alumni Association. The courses are aimed

to increase the impact and prolong the effect of earlier

NFP-funded training in the Netherlands. They usually last

about two weeks and take place in a NFP-eligible country. If

you want to find out more about how to set up a refresher

course, please contact Wieke Blaauw at

Submission deadlines for each year are in October.

Merit Medal for Thanh Dam

Truong and Peter Knorringa

Dr Thanh Dam Truong and

Dr Peter Knorringa of ISS

received the Merit Medal ‘for

the development of women in

Vietnam’ from the Vietnam

Women’s Union (VWU) on

20 March 2008 in Hanoi,

also attended by ISS Rector

Professor Louk de la Rive

Box. The VWU has conferred

the Merit Medal “in order to

express its high appreciation and to recognize the efforts

and effective cooperation offered by ISS to VWU in general,

and the contribution of the two consultants in particular

for the development of women in Vietnam.” ISS is involved

in several projects that were implemented by the VWU,

including the ‘Training of Women in micro & small

enterprises, phase 2’ and ‘Strengthening the Central Women

Cadres Training School towards Establishing the Women’s

Institute of the Vietnam Women’s Union.’

Winners of Development and Change subscription!

In the last edition of DevISSues a call went out to renew

your subscription. Five winners would randomly be picked

from those that kindly replied to this request; in addition to

DevISSues they also will receive a free annual subscription

to Development and Change! They are Mohammed Shafi

Agwani (India), Tanchainan Sucheela (Thailand), Hwan Koo

Lee (Korea), M.A. Hannan (Bangladesh), Arockiaraj Mariasusai

Rai (India).

Nobel Peace Prize

The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize has gone to the

Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC)

and to Al Gore for popularising research on the matter.

ISS’professors Hans Opschoor and Mohamed Salih are both

participants in the IPCC as review editors of the panel’s

publications. This prize can be considered as a major

recognition for their scientific work.

Staff Publications

EU Development Policy and Poverty Reduction: Enhancing

Effectiveness. Wil Hout (ed), Ashgate Publishing, 2007.

Monitoring and Evaluation of Soil Conservation and

Watershed Development Projects. John Cameron, et al (eds),

Science Publishers, 2007.

Trade Unions and Workplace Democracy in Africa. Gérard

Kester, Ashgate Publishing, 2007.

International Law and the Question of

Western Sahara. Karin Arts and Pedro Pinto

Leite (eds), IPJET, 2007.

Foreign Investment, Human Rights and the Environment:

A Perspective from South Asia on the Role of Public

International Law for Development. Shyami Fernando

Puvimanasinghe, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2007.

The Feminist Economics of Trade. Irene van Staveren, et al

(eds), Routledge, 2007.

Global Democracy and the World Social

Forums. Including articles by Rosalba

Icaza Garza and Rolando Vázquez.

Paradigm Publishers, 2008.

Advancing Refugee Protection in South Africa. Jeff

Handmaker, et al (eds), Berghahn Books, 2007.

Religion and Society: An Agenda for the 21st Century.

Gerrie Ter Haar, Yoshio Tsuruoka (eds), Brill, 2007.

Staff Changes

Bart van der Mark, who worked in Financial Affairs for

almost 40 years, and Jacqueline Dellaert who worked in the

library for 19 years, have both left with early retirement.

Niek de Jong has received a teaching position at the Erasmus

University in Rotterdam, and Marlene Buchy has moved to

England. There are two new academic staff arrivals; Sylvia

Bergh will be teaching Development Management and

Governance, and Karin Siegmann will be lecturing in Labour

and Gender Economics.


Global Terror Laws

and Engaged Social Research

Dr Helen Hintjens

and Associate Professor Eric Ross

This article considers on the basis of a few examples how anti-terror legislation can be used to try and curb academic freedom

in ostensibly liberal democratic countries. Since 9/11, state-directed actions against the alternative globalization movement in

various countries have been increasing. Examples of incidents from Germany, UK and the US are used to show that there is an

uncomfortable relationship between academic research on social change and ‘the war on terror’. Academic freedom needs to be

unambiguously protected in such situations.


On 31 June 2007, three men from

Berlin were arrested and accused of

an attempted arson attack on three

German military vehicles. At the same

time, an urban sociologist, Andrej Holm,

was arrested at gunpoint in his home.

His partner, Ann Roth, suggests that

his “writings on gentrification, together

with him being a political activist and

not always taking his mobile phone

along” were what led police to suspect

him and start a terrorism investigation

a year earlier. Andrej was accused of

conspiratorial meetings with the others

arrested and was suspected of being a

member of a “terrorist” (later “criminal”)

group. The construction of “terrorism”

and belonging to a “terrorist” group

falls under Article 129a of anti-terror

laws, dating from the 1970s. Other

scholars and journalists were accused

at the same time, their offices and

apartments raided and their computers

and address books confiscated. Among

the reasons given for their arrest and

the charges brought by the Federal

Persecutor, were that they were seen as

having access to libraries and as being

intellectually capable of authoring

“sophisticated texts” that might support

terrorist activities. Holm suffered

severe beatings by police and solitary

confinement. After issuing subpoenas

to try to find more evidence, the police

released him on bail, though he still

reports regularly to them. Federal

Prosecutors, however, have lodged an

appeal against his release. Meanwhile,

his partner was subjected to police and

secret service surveillance; their phones

were tapped, video cameras aimed

at the front door, she was followed by

plain-clothed police and her e-mail and

internet were tampered with. Her blog

kept a daily review of the intentionally

overt surveillance she herself, as well

as her colleagues, friends and family

came under. After release from prison,

Andrej’s charges were taken back

and turned into accusations of having

formed a ‘criminal organisation’.

Socially engaged German scholars were

shocked, though some have thought it

so wholly exceptional situation as not

to merit all the attention it received.

However, there should be voice for

concern as similar cases have happened

in the US and UK as well.


Academic freedom is the best

protection scholars can ask for, as it

protects their right to say what they

mean and research what they think

matters most, however unfashionable

or sensitive. Under UK law, researchers’

academic freedoms may not be as

well protected as one might expect. A

significant and steady erosion of civil

liberties in the UK over the past twenty

or thirty years, and especially since

9/11, is the main concern of the human

rights organisation, Liberty, which

reports that the UK now holds terror

suspects, legally, and without charge,

longer than most other countries,

including the US, Spain and Turkey. This

suspension of the rule of law means the

right to academic freedom becomes

more difficult to protect. Pressure of

public opinion can also silence even

normal scholarly research that should

be uncontroversial. One UK jurist,

Richard Edwards, Principal Lecturer in

Law at the University of the West of

England, Bristol, objects to Clause 2 of

the new UK Terrorism Bill – presented

to British Parliament after the London

bombings. He says it; “is so broadly

framed that a university academic is

likely to be caught by its application…

In essence the overbroad Clause 2

represents the worst sort of thought

control worthy of a police state”.

He provides a hypothetical example


wherein at the University of Penzance

– an invented institution – a lecturer

would lend a Muslim student Sayyid

Qutb’s ‘Signposts on the Road’; the

book provides the ideological bedrock

for Al-Qaeda, and as such is vital to

understanding the problem of militant

Islam. Although Qutb did not advocate

the use of violence directly in his tract

the implication is nevertheless clearly

there…under Clause 2 the Penzance

academic could be guilty of an offence.

Any researcher trying to present a

range of perspectives to students and

in their writings, needs to be protected

from this kind of censorship and

control. This also applies to research

organisations, NGOs and think tanks.

Sensitive issues, such as refugee

rights, environmental politics, housing

or civil liberties for terror suspects

can also result in surveillance. In the

UK, protests of all kind, camps and

internet groups are monitored by the

Forward Investigation Teams (FIT) and

Evidence Gathering (EG) intelligence

officers. Researchers involved in proasylum

movements are being included

in data-bases built up by Intelligence

teams, and the FITWatch website






Pressure of public opinion

can also silence even normal

scholarly research that

should be uncontroversial










complains of an increasingly political

usage of public order policing.


In the US, meanwhile, an organisation

known as Campus Watch – a kind of

self-appointed watchdog and website

– has been busily monitoring thousands

of scholars, who like the hypothetical

‘University of Penzance’ scholar, are

simply doing their jobs, engaging in

research and teaching, mainly on the

the Middle East. The American Studies

Association and a host of other bodies

have condemned Campus Watch for

mointoring and reporting on scholars

in the US and beyond. Campus Watch

adopts aggressive tactics to hound

those it pinpoints as enemies of the

US or Israel; it expresses outrage for


From a campaign on human-rights awareness by Liberty /


7 7.5

instance, that some individuals are ‘still

employed’ in prestigious institutions,

even after having been pointed out as

unsuitable scholars by Campus Watch!

After 9/11, a number of Middle East

scholars, especially of Middle East

origin, were arrested on terror charges

and lost their jobs in US campuses.

Campus Watch has not objected to this,

and turns a blind eye to such blatant

contraventions of civil liberties. Indeed it

assists in the process, since security and

intelligence work is openly being carried

out across US campuses by this small

group of self-appointed experts on the

Middle East. Increasingly this kind of

initiative needs to be watched, since

it undermines the right to academic

freedom of anyone critical of US

policies, especially in the Middle East

and Palestine.

Scholars can find themselves accused

of anti-Semitism, of supporting

fundamentalism and of aiding and

abetting terrorism. If all else fails, they

can be accused of being ‘Jewish left

wing loonies’, one choice phrase used

by Campus Watch’s journal, Middle East

Quarterly. This is less a journal than a

collection of reminiscences and bits of

gossip. The winter 2008 issue ridicules

the late Edward Said, a well-known

Paletinian moderate. An article by a

‘muslim’ scholar lambasts three USbased

Imams for mixing spirituality with

politics, seeming to defend the arbitrary

arrest of the three at a US airport. The

moral self-righteousness that one finds

in Middle East Quarterly might be

amusing if its implications were not so

serious. Claiming to have respect for

the ‘facts’ of the Middle East, Campus

Watch disregards facts that undermine

the case for war on Iraq, the war on

terror and defending the interests of

America – as narrowly defined by its

current leaders. The historical roots of

current problems are not seen, conflicts

are reduced to simplistic struggles

between good and evil.


Dominant ‘regimes of truth’ are being

elaborated in this “Liquid Age,” as

Zygmunt Bauman calls it, dubbed the

age of terror. A common understanding

of such takes on reality is that the

citadels of civilization, whether in

continental Europe, UK or US, or in the

Middle East, are being beseiged by

hostile forces. In this worldview, since

‘they’ are determined to undermine


‘us’, we must first defeat them. This fairy

tale vision of the world is central to the

imagination of the war on terror, and it is

anathema to academic freedom or the

rule of law. Where there are only good

guys and bad guys, saints or sinners, we

are dealing with political propaganda.

And unfortunately, propaganda is

used because it works. A lot of people

believe that the threat of terror is the

main security risk being faced today,

even to the extent that many regard it

as reasonable that previously taken-forgranted

freedoms be given up in the

name of security.

Of course, the losses of academic

freedom in Germany, U.S, or UK, though

bad enough, do not compare with

the impact of the ‘war on terror’ on

academic freedom elsewhere. In Birzeit

University in Palestine, one cannot even

be sure that the University will be open,

that books will be in the library or “that

a class can meet.” Under occupation,

“(n)othing can be taken for granted”. In

such a situation, it can look as though

“there are no means through which

to exercise academic freedom.” Yet

the desire for knowledge is such that

students and staff of Birzeit maintain

a website (http://right2edu.birzeit.

edu) which provides the much-needed

spaces for staying in touch, being

informed, and where possible getting

to class.

In the ISS itself as in the wider world,

those engaged in social science need

to be free from surveillance and control

over ideas. If critical research is to

survive well into the twenty first century,

including on the Middle East, Islam and

security questions, such topics need

to be given room in the curriculum

and on publishers’ lists. This has been

a strong principle of the work of ISS

historically, where faculty and students

who work on social movements, legal

advocacy and campaigning, women’s

movements, peace movements, human

rights, war and violence, children and

youth issues and social justice all had

the freedom to explore these issues.

Questioning prevailing ‘regimes of

truth’ is a duty of any academic. But

the picture is not all gloom and doom;

engaged scholarship continues and is

even growing (see interview of Rosalba

Icaza with Peter Waterman). The neoliberal

orthodoxy is challenged from

all sides, and in Development Studies,

where researchers have to deal with

sensitive and controversial issues, the

wider academic community needs to

support them in doing so. When staff

or students come under attack for their

research, for whatever reason, they

need to be defended. Otherwise, as

happened to Sami al-Arian, they may

be further victimised. One day he was

a tenured professor at the University

of South Florida, the next he was

suspended because, having received

death threats, his university considered

his continuing presence as ‘unsettling to

campus life.’ Scholars and practitioners,

ideally working together, need to be

able to express their views, and explore

those of others, freely. We need to be

able to publish and not be damned!

Helen Hintjens and Eric Ross are lecturers at ISS and

can be contacted at and

Full reference details for this article can be found in

the online version at


Just Intellectuals?

Oppression, Resistance, and the

Public Role of Intellectuals

Omar Barghouti

Omar Barghouti, an independent Palestinian political and cultural analyst and commentator, is a long-time advocate of a unitary,

secular democratic state in historic Palestine. He is a co-founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott

of Israel (PACBI), established in 2004, which promotes an international institutional boycott of Israel, inspired by that imposed

on apartheid South Africa. Here he argues that, in situations of colonial oppression, in particular, intellectuals cannot be neutral,

“apolitical,” or apathetic towards the struggle for freedom, equality and self-determination.

“Your essay is great, but can you make

it less ‘intellectual,’ less analytical, and

more personal?” This was the reaction

I received from an editor in New York

after submitting an article on art and

oppression she had solicited from

me for publication in a collection of

similar essays. Remarks like this – this

was not the first time! – often betray

a deep-seated perceived dichotomy,

even among those committed to social

justice, between intellectuals in the

“global North” and their counterparts

in the “global South,” where the former

are better equipped to think, analyze,

reflect, create and theorize, while the

latter are “naturally” – excuse the

Aristotelian allusion – more predisposed

to merely exist, experiencing corporal

aspects of life and reacting to them.

The way most Israeli academics and

intellectuals, particularly those selfdefined

as ‘leftists,’ reacted to the

Palestinian call for an academic and

cultural boycott of Israeli institutions

lucidly embodied that dichotomy. Some

screamed that they felt ‘betrayed’ by

the ‘ungrateful’ Palestinians; others

openly lectured us that such a boycott

was ‘counterproductive’ for our own

interests; yet others resorted to lies,

innuendo and all sorts of deception

and intellectual dishonesty to refute

the strong case for boycott – inspired

mainly by the anti-apartheid struggle

in South Africa. Many were genuinely

shocked that Palestinians would be so

impertinent as to dare take the initiative

and decide how best we want the world

to help us resist Israel’s own apartheid

system. Having gotten used to their

“self-appointed role as sole licensers of

the form the anti-occupation struggle

should take,” these Israeli leftists,

predominantly soft Zionists who publicly

The right to live, and

freedom from subjugation

and colonial rule, must

be of more import than

academic freedom

oppose the occupation but otherwise

endorse the racist and apartheid

reality of Israel and stand firmly against

Palestinian refugee rights, have

“arrogated to themselves the exclusive

right to arbitrate every issue dealing

with the Palestinians.” It is as if they’ve

created in their minds this unconsciously

racist, static image of us, the native

intellectuals, as servile followers, or even

relative humans, who lack the faculty of

reason or, at best, possess it but lack the

ability to put it to use for our own good.

Colonial patronization aside, these

Israeli thought leaders, intentionally or

otherwise, became arguably the most

effective instrument used by Israel and

its Zionist backers abroad in fighting the

spreading boycott, especially in Europe

and the United States, through an

immoral, protracted campaign of sheer

intimidation, defamation, smearing and

straight-out bullying.

The claim most parroted by those selfstyled

progressives in numerous wellpublicized

columns in the mainstream

western media was that academic

and cultural boycotts stifle the open

exchange of ideas, hamper cultural

dialogue, and infringe on academic

freedom. Other than the hypocrisy

of anyone who supported blanket

boycotts against apartheid South

Africa in the past and now moralizes

about the ‘intrinsic’ danger of boycott

against Israel, there is a disturbing bias

in this claim, because it only regards

Israeli academic freedom as worthy

of any consideration or concern. “The

fact that Palestinians are denied basic

rights as well as academic freedom due


Pedestrian gates for entrance to the city of Bethlehem, West Bank, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Sept ’07 / Stan van Houcke.

to Israel’s military occupation is lost”

on those posing it. In addition, “its

privileging of academic freedom as a

super-value above all other freedoms

is in principle antithetical to the very

foundation of human rights. The right

to live, and freedom from subjugation

and colonial rule, to name a few, must

be of more import than academic

freedom. If the latter contributes in any

way to suppression of the former, more

fundamental rights, it must give way.

By the same token, if the struggle to

attain the former necessitates a level of

restraint on the latter, then so be it. It

will be well worth it.”

But, some have questioned, shouldn’t

Palestinian Intellectuals just focus on

what they can do best, producing

unadulterated, apolitical thought and

art that can in their own right contribute

much more substantially to the

Palestinian cause? Isn’t activism best left

to activists? Admittedly some of our own

workers in the cultural and academic

fields uphold similar ideas. One glaring

problem in this line of argumentation is

that it creates another, no less artificial,

dichotomy between thinkers and

doers, intellectualism and activism,

thereby drawing a static hierarchy that

treats intellectuals as the patriarch and

activists as the hapless masses who are

in desperate need of direction. While

each group may have its own domain of

action and creation, there are no solid,

impermeable boundaries that separate

the two. And there is a truly dialectical

relationship between the two that ought

not be dismissed or ignored.

Israeli thought leaders

became arguably the most

effective instrument used

by Israel and its Zionist

backers abroad in fighting

the spreading boycott

Another serious flaw in the above

argument is that it assumes that

intellectuals in the context of colonial

oppression can indeed be just

intellectuals, in the pure sense, if

such a sense ever exists, who can and

should distance themselves from the

pressing and often depressing reality

of oppression to be able to generate

creative, quality works that have any

potential of countering the oppressor’s

occupation of the mind – a far more

dangerous and tenacious affliction

than occupation of the landand

rekindling hope in the oppressed

community, nourishing in the process

self-development, particularly in the

key cultural field. From my personal

experience as an analyst and dance

choreographer working in the midst of

conflict, I do not think that, in a situation

of oppression, intellectuals have a

choice of whether or not to reflect the

impact of conflict on them and on their

society. Oppression, in a way, forces

itself upon their work, their creative

process. Their basic choice seems to

be, then, whether to passively reflect it,

or to actively transcend it. Oppression,

it seems, has its own way of touching

everyone within its reach, irrespective of

one’s actual involvement in it or will to

get involved in it.

Anti-boycott writers would argue, in

this case, why boycott and not engage

‘positively’? There are many more

‘constructive’ ways of engaging in

resisting oppression, the most potent of

which is winning substantial sectors of

the oppressor community to your side,

through dialogue and joint projects in

every field, the argument goes. With


Mothers and children wait in line

at the pedestrian gates.

the lucrative funding available from

European countries – bent on repenting

for their Holocaust by sacrificing

Palestinian rights under international

law – and the prestige and personal

gains that come with it, even some

conscientious Palestinian intellectuals

may acquiesce to shifting the focus of

their work from resisting oppression to

communicating with ‘the other’ to bring

about change through persuasion, even

if their own record shows a dismal failure

in this endeavor. A joint Palestinian-

Israeli dance work, for example, may

be highly sought after as the ultimate

model for promoting coexistence and

mutual-recognition between the ‘two

sides.’ Such an agenda – for these

projects more often than not stem

from underhanded political agendas

– essentially advocates a change in the

“consciousness of the oppressed, not

the situation which oppresses them,” to

borrow Simone de Beauvoir’s perceptive

remark. Or worse, it aims at changing

the world’s perception of the conflict,

by giving the impression of normal,

even amiable, relations between

artists on either side of the divide. The

inescapable implication is that all what

is needed is to accumulate enough

of such collaborations to eventually

overcome the ‘hatred’ imbedded in

this ‘conflict.’ With time, however,

impression and image replace ending

oppression as the ultimate objective

sought in this peace business.

Those who think they can wish away

a conflict by suggesting only some

intellectual channels of rapprochement,

détente, or ‘dialogue’ are crucially

seeking only an illusion of peace, and

one that is devoid of justice, at that.

Striving for peace divorced of justice is

as good as institutionalizing injustice,

or making the oppressed submit to the

overwhelming force of the oppressor,

accepting inequality as fate. Boycott,

therefore, remains the most morally

sound, non-violent form of struggle that

can rid the oppressor of his oppression,

thereby allowing true coexistence,

equality, justice and sustainable peace

to prevail. South Africa attests to the

potency and potential of this type of

civil resistance.

Even if we forget the main political

issues involved in the above arguments,

is it possible to have equitable, mutually

nourishing intellectual communication

with the other? Of course, but not

under all circumstances. One other

crucial problematic of interculturalism

in a context of persistent oppression is

asymmetry. Beyond all the complexities

of cultural differences per se, asymmetry

adds a whole new dimension, more

vertical than horizontal. And because

it has to do with stratification, it can

be detrimental to an inter-cultural

communication if not addressed

properly or sufficiently.

There is also the concern that the

‘weaker’ side in such an asymmetric

communication process may be

exploited by the ‘stronger’ party as

an object, a tool, in an ostensibly

progressive, considerate and quite open

atmosphere, with great intentions, but a

tool nonetheless. This would negate any

possibility of having a two-way bridge

between the communicating sides; only

a ladder can work!

At the core of this concern lies the

relative worth attached by the stronger

side, or even both, to the perceptions,

wishes and needs of the weaker side. If

those are relegated to a comparatively

lower status, the communication

becomes another instrument of

oppression, whereby the needs and

objectives of the stronger party are the

main driving force behind the process.

Under these circumstances, dialogue is

simply not possible. Any communication

at this stage is within the realm of

negotiation. Only after both sides

have challenged preset attitudes and

stereotypes and agreed a priori on the

basic principles of justice that ought

to govern their communication and

common struggle can the relationship

become more equitable, more

balanced. Any relationship between

intellectuals across the oppression

divide must then be aimed, one way

or another, at ending oppression, not

ignoring it or escaping from it. Only

then can true dialogue evolve, and thus

the possibility for sincere collaboration

through dialogue.

In conclusion, in contexts of colonial

oppression, intellectuals that advocate

and work for justice cannot be just

intellectuals, in the abstract sense;

they cannot but be immersed in some

form or another of activism, to learn

from fellow activists through real-life

experiences, to widen the horizons

of their sources of inspiration, and

to organically engage in effective,

collective emancipatory processes,

without the self-indulgence,

complacency, or ivory-towerness that

may blur their moral vision. In short, to

be just intellectuals.

Omar Barghouti is an independent researcher and

cultural analyst, living and working in Palestine. He

can be reached at Full

reference details for this article can be found in the

online version at


Linking to Bangladesh:

Institutional Collaboration and

Suppor ting the Marginalized

Dr Meghna Guhathakurta

Meghna Guhathakurta is the executive director of Research Initiatives Bangladesh (RIB) and post-doctoral fellow of a collaborative

capacity-building project between the University of Dhaka and ISS. She discusses the underlying reason and value for the

collaboration as well the results RIB’s work has had in supporting marginalized voices through academic research.


The University of Dhaka has been

at the core of important political

developments; the struggle for

democracy, the battle for instating

Bengali as a state language, the struggle

for independent nationhood, and the

fight against fundamentalism. That

scholars and students of the University

of Dhaka had been some of the first

hit in the genocide committed by the

Pakistan Army on 25 March, 1971 on the

Bengali population reveal the extent

of such engagement. It is little wonder

therefore that Bangladesh is one of

those rare nations which commemorate

an Intellectual Martyrs Day each year to

remind us of the roles intellectuals can

play in their own societies.

With a growing vibrant civil society,

academics in Bangladesh have had

multiple entry points in engaging with

society, whether through the different

NGO/CBOs that have mushroomed

in the post-independent period, or

through the various social movements

that have been part of a people

attempting to transform themselves into

a secular and democratic polity. Among

these is the women’s movement and the

movement for the rights of indigenous


Thus when the Department of Women

and Gender Studies at the University

of Dhaka came into being it was in

the backdrop of an active women’s

movement which was raising issues

of gender that needed the attention

of the state and development

Institutional Collaboration Promoting Gender Studies

The Department of Women and Gender Studies (DWGS) was set up in 2000

as a fully fledged department of the University of Dhaka. Its establishment

signalled a unique development in the history of tertiary education in

Bangladesh, indeed in South Asia, offering full courses on women and gender

studies at undergraduate and graduate levels. In 2004 a five year, multicomponent

project entitled ‘Institutionalizing the Department of Women’s

Studies’, was initiated in collaboration with ISS, and funded by the Royal

Netherlands Embassy. The objectives of this project include building academic

expertise and a pool of qualified researchers and consultants in the area

of women / gender studies in Bangladesh to help raise public awareness

on gender issues, help remove existing forms of gender bias, and enhance

women’s empowerment towards a society based on gender justice.

The ISS supports the DWGS for the development of a sustainable Department

of Women and Gender Studies at the University of Dhaka through staff training

at PhD and MA level; post doctoral fellowships; academic support for curricula

development at BA and MA levels; research projects on the themes of gender

and militarization and gender, poverty, livelihoods and entitlements; and for

building linkages with Kartini – an Asian-European network of women and

gender studies. The project coordinator from DWGS is Prof. Najma Chowdhury,

recipient of the Ekushey Padak award 2008 (one of the highest civilian awards

in Bangladesh) for her contribution to research. The project coordinator at ISS

is Dr. A. Chhachhi (, with input from Prof. S. Wieringa (UVA) as

Senior Consultant and D. Wubs (

practitioners; issues that also needed

to be understood and contextualized

by a small but active group of feminist

scholar-activists. It was little wonder

therefore that most of the founding

scholars of this department came

from a background of research and

activism that had a heavy social

content. It was also not surprising that

in the subsequent development of its

curricula it entered into alliances with

such centres of learning which also had

rich histories of linking the academia

with social engagement, such as the

current relationship with ISS. The project

within which I am involved is called

“Institutionalizing the Department of

Women’s Studies of the University of

Dhaka” (for details see box).

As part of the collaboration effort,

two research projects have been

undertaken mostly by faculty members


of the Department at Dhaka University.

One of them centres on Gender and

Militarization, and the other focuses

on Gender, Poverty, Livelihoods and

Entitlements. As co-coordinator of the

latter project, my research looks at this

issue from the perspective of global

development policy and seeks to locate

programmes of European NGOs with

respect to extreme poverty groups

within the changing architecture of

global development assistance.



I taught at the University of Dhaka for 22

years in the Department of International

Relations, specializing in development

policy, gender and South Asian politics.

In the course of my work I became

deeply involved in the issue of gender

and development, which naturally took

me into an intimate relationship with

Bangladeshi women’s organizations

and the broader arena of the women’s

movement of which I later became

a member. As an academic I had a

vantage point, being both an observer

and activist, such that I could shift

from one role to another, but without

dissonance. One foot stood on the

academic side, and the other the activist

side, and although I was shifting weight

from one to the other it never affected

the position I was standing. As a scholar

I sometimes had to distance myself,

but as an activist the wisdom I gained

from the distance informed my action.

Likewise, in my critical assessment

as a scholar I never lost sight of the

fact that I also had to take a position.

This multidisciplinary orientation in

development and gender gave me

a vantage point to look at different

terrains; gender, ethnicity, class, caste.

It also took me to different terrains; the

movement against fundamentalism,

the movement for rights of indigenous

people, and movement of people

discriminated on the basis of work and

descent. Yet the underpinning of all

these terrains was my basic training in

development policy through which I was

able to link the local, national and the


Research Initiatives Bangladesh

emerged out of a 1992 research and

development programme focused on

demand-driven research, such that the

agenda which would be determined and

driven by the South. Now in its second

phase, RIB has focused on participatory

action research and its variants in order

to reach out to those marginalized

groups of people who have fallen

through the safety nets set up by both

Government and NGOs.

RIB believes that research on the

marginalized is best conducted when

the development goals and priorities

are articulated by the marginalized

themselves. As part of its research

programme over the past five years,

RIB has enabled the creation of

Gonogobeshoks (or people researchers)

where marginalized people research

and reflect on the causes of their

poverty so as to seek ways out of it and

enable them to act collectively. This

has worked quite successfully in famine

prone regions, where Gonogobeshoks,

through the help of animators, have

adopted new but low cost technologies

of cultivations to help tide them over

the crisis period. Similarly they also

help Harijons, who are considered

untouchable and hence discriminated

against, but who have since collectively

begun to challenge their exclusion

in public places like restaurants and

schools where their children have not

been enrolled.

An increasingly successful result has

been the link between the research,

which makes use of the indigenous

knowledge, with the broader more

abstract knowledge of the scientific

community, so that it gets translated

into policy and academic levels.

The Women and Gender Studies

of the University of Dhaka is open

to this prospect and hence in their

collaborative venture with ISS have

not hesitated to link hands with RIB

in coordinating a project on Gender,

Poverty, Livelihoods and Entitlements

from an alternative perspective. This

project helps epitomize academia’s

fruitful engagement with society as well

as people-based knowledge.

Meghna Guhathakurta is currently doing her postdoctoral

research at ISS. She can be reached at

Village musicians, or ‘shabdakars’, who are supported by RIB in researching how to diversify their livelihood. Sylhet District, Bangladesh.


Development and Change

The journal Development and Change is published six times a year by Blackwell Publishers (Oxford, UK) on behalf of the

Institute of Social Studies. For more information, see the ISS website or email us at d& Available online at Special rate available to ISS alumni.

Volume 39 / Number 1 / January 2008

Michael E. Blowfield

and Catherine S. Dolan

Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh

Steven Robins and

Kees van der Waal

Blair Rutherford

Hulya Dagdeviren

Pál Nyiri and

Joana Breidenbach

Alex M. Mutebi

Stewards of Virtue? The Ethical Dilemma of CSR in

African Agriculture

Negotiating Cultural Heritage? Aboriginal–Mining Company Agreements in Australia

‘Model Tribes’ and Iconic Conservationists? The

Makuleke Restitution Case in Kruger National Park

Conditional Belonging: Farm Workers and the Cultural Politics of Recognition

in Zimbabwe

Waiting for Miracles: The Commercialization of Urban Water Services in Zambia

The Altai Road: Visions of Development across the

the Russian–Chinese Border

Explaining the Failure of Thailand’s Anticorruption Regime


Volume 39 / Number 2 / March 2008

Amiya Kumar Bagchi

Anirudh Krishna and

Jan Nederveen Pieterse

Jens Lerche

Praveena Kodoth

Admos Chimhowu and

Philip Woodhouse

Carolyn K. Lesorogol

Immigrants, Morality and Neoliberalism

Hierarchical Integration: The Dollar Economy and

the Rupee Economy

Transnational Advocacy Networks and Affirmative Action for Dalits in India

Gender, Caste and Matchmaking in Kerala: A Rationale for Dowry

Communal Tenure and Rural Poverty: Land

Transactions in Svosve Communal Area, Zimbabwe

Land Privatization and Pastoralist Well-being in Kenya


ISS Working Papers

457 Lost in translation : interpreting the Brazilian electric power privatisation failure / Sunil Tankha

456 Denis Goulet and the project of development ethics : choices in methodology, focus and organization / Des Gasper

455 An investigation of the competitiveness hypothesis of the resource curse / Leandro Antonio Serino

454 Fleeing to Europe : Europeanization and the right to seek refugee status / Wies Maria Maas

453 The role of municipal councils in social expenditure : how does politics determine social expenditure /

Gilmar Teddy Zambrana Cruz

452 Quest for economic development in agrarian localities: lessons from West Nile, Uganda / Enzama Wilson

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