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Showing posts from December, 2011

Communes. Communities. Cults

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A few colleagues and I went out for dinner some time back and bonded over the usual small talk of renting and work and relationships. One of my colleagues made the conversation rather spicy by telling us that he lived in a commune in Amsterdam where there were about 10 people and that they often had dinner together in the evenings. He admitted that it was partly due to the cheap rent that drew him to this commune as much as the ideals. This got me thinking of a commune I encountered in my fieldwork two years ago when writing my book. I had gone to the Central Himalayas for research where I encountered the Mirtola ashram, a place where people voluntarily left their 'material' life behind in the cities and dedicated to living a simple and 'honest' life through the tilling of the land, growing their own produce, living with and within nature and praying to the Gods through a ritualistic practice every evening. Within a matter of months, much infighting began. Some did les…

Another review on my book "Dot Com Mantra: Social Computing in the Central Himalayas"

The Australian Journal of Anthropology (ISI/SSCI Indexed journal) Dot Com Mantra: Social Computing in the Central Himalayas P. Arora. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2010. xv + 172 pp. Illustrmap, bibliog., index. ISBN 978-1409401070. £50.00 (Hc.) Arora’s book offers an ethnographic answer to a common question in development studies: can new technologies transform other cultures effectively and for the better? Not surprisingly for an ethnographer, her answer is a critique of the technological determinism inherent in this question. She focuses on the introduction of computers in Almora, a town in rural northern India where a long-standing web of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) has steadily tried to influence people’s behaviour. Computers are but one of the technologies that NGOs hope will transform these farmers’ and villagers’ lives. A pastiche of types of organisations are introducing computers in the central Himalayas—some strikingly hands-off educational NGOs, some government-spo…

The Re-Branding of Middle East Youth: Identities, Possibilities, Connectivities

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It’s a good sign when you don’t use much of your carefully planned PowerPoint slides when interacting with the youth. Had a wonderful discussion with an engaged and critical group of Language students at the University of Jordan on new technologies, business communication and culture as well as with a significant number of youth who attended the Leaders of Tomorrow event at the King Hussain Cultural Centre organized around this topic. Granted, many seemed to come from a privileged background with impeccable English and an international exposure. This by no means discounts their perspective. In fact, given my experience in India and the fact that I’m a product of such privilege, I’m acutely aware of that thin line between belongingness and responsibility that the fortunate feel towards their immediate surrounding versus the feeling of affinity towards that of afar. It is much too easy to become civically disengaged from our context and I’d even argue that much of the youth, be it in…

Does culture matter? Business practices across the Netherlands and Middle East

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A few months ago I was contacted by the Netherlands Institute of Beirut to see if I would be interested in talking about culture and business in the Middle East. This is part of their upcoming initiative to create bridges between the Middle East and the Netherlands, starting within an academic setting. Part of this commendable drive it seems to me is a response against this growing Islamophobia within Europe which is of course deeply troubling. What better way than to engage the youth across these borders in areas of common interest. I like the idea that instead of going there to be preachy about intercultural harmony and respect, that we choose a topic that the youth are genuinely engaged with and from there see how culture actually matters. So of course it’s of little surprise that the topic that youth in the Middle East seem to be interested in is that of business, social media and globalization. And for good reason. Like other young people across the globe, I believe they are mo…