Thursday, November 2, 2017

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Opinion piece out -Erasmus Magazine

From October 2017, I will be writing a monthly opinion piece for the Erasmus magazine. This is quite a refreshing change from my academic writing. I wonder how many academics like myself miss just writing to a lay audience on issues that are of general interest. anyway, looking forward to this new writing journey.

Of course, as luck would have it, I had to start with a bang on the controversial debate on "diversity" taking place on campuses in the Netherlands and as I see, worldwide. While the discussion has got heated, I must say this opens up opportunities to organize public forums for debates on this topic which I hope will happen. Here goes

Open letters, closed conversations?
If we want true action on diversity at our university, we need a sustainable equity that outlives identity politics, says Payal Arora. It's her reaction to an open letter to the EUR community on diversity, written by some university members.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Nomination for University Teaching Prize -Erasmus University

Am honored to be nominated for the annual University Teaching prize by Erasmus University Rotterdam! The event will take place this September the 4th with Mayor Aboutaleb of Rotterdam as the guest speaker. Having heard so much about him, am looking forward to hearing his thoughts in person. 

It marks 8 years of teaching at this university for me. Been quite a journey so far. Since I joined the at that time new international program in Media and Communication in 2009, I had the opportunity to design several new courses in alignment with my interests and expertise which really helped me engage the students. Exciting to have a classroom which is so international and diverse. What I love particularly is building relationships with the students, given the small classroom format. Got some interesting questions from the university press - read the full interview here.
Looking forward to many more years of teaching.

Keynote speaker at University of Amsterdam MA Graduation Ceremony

Each year the University of Amsterdam MA program in New Media and Digital Culture invites a keynote speaker to address and motivate students and families at their graduation ceremony. I will be giving a keynote for this year’s graduation ceremony, reflecting on the future of new media research. The graduation ceremony takes place on Wednesday August the 30th, 2017, in Amsterdam.

My talk is titled, “In Search of the Exotic in Digital Culture.” This comes at a time where tensions run high between groups; identity politics is pervasive. Boundaries are formed online and circulated strategically as truisms, fueling divisive cultural spaces online and offline. I will talk about the notion of the exotic and its colonial underpinnings as an efficient mechanism to frame entire publics. Exoticism was a critical tool to justify what I call the 3 Cs -to Control, to Convert and/or to Conserve and how this continues to play out in today’s digital era.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Keynote talk for the Oromo Studies Association, Oslo

Been an amazing few days in Oslo. I was there to deliver my keynote speech at the Oromo Studies Association mid-year conference. When I was invited for this event, I have to admit that my knowledge of the Oromo movement was rather basic. Since then, I immersed myself in the decades of research and news that has emerged regarding the Oromo people. Of course, I didn't pretend to be an expert but rather, gave the talk from an outsider point of view, putting into perspective the role of social media in social movements, comparing the Oromo movement to other struggles across the world and how they use the internet to further their cause.

It shocks me that human rights violations of about 40 million people in Ethiopia are relatively invisible in the mainstream media. Generations of Oromo people have struggled to claim their identity, their culture and their right to self-proclamation and yet, have been unable to gain that right in spite of their ongoing protest and lobby work among the Oromo diaspora around the world.

I was impressed by the fact that the audience came from diverse professional fields, few linked to the social sciences and yet they were able to engage deeply and passionately. I met surgeons, biochemists, travel agents, chefs and others who came from across Europe and even the US to be part of this event. Clearly, you can see this is not just a theoretical exercise but a forum to reconnect and further their pledge to the cause.

What was more impressive was the online presence of the Oromo people, as they viewed and commented on the talks including mine on the Oromia Media Network. In just the weekend, there were about 30,000 views, 400 comments and about 1200 shares of the keynote talk. This is a humbling reminder that sometimes we academics are not just pontificating but shaping real narratives that can affect the lives of people around the world.

Click here for the full video of the talk