FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lazy Reporting, New Insight on Somalia, and Ethiopia's Nationhood Reconsidered

What I'm Reading Today:

The west's lazy reporting of Africa by Afua Hirsch 

EXCERPT: There is a laziness applied to media coverage of Africa that is seldom seen elsewhere. Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina brilliantly captured this in his Granta essay "How to Write About Africa". "You must always include The Starving African, who wanders the refugee camp nearly naked, and waits for the benevolence of the west," he wrote. "Her children have flies on their eyelids and pot bellies, and her breasts are flat and empty. She must look utterly helpless. She can have no past, no history; such diversions ruin the dramatic moment. Moans are good."

There are still too many journalists unwittingly following his advice.

Found: A Somalia we do not know -
EXCERPT: "Getting Somalia Wrong" is not just an opposing view to the usual horror stories we hear about Somalia -- Harper covers the good, the bad and the ugly. What makes this book different and important is that the author does not see her subject as one-dimensional. It is a book that attempts, successfully, in my view, to explain a country by getting to know the people who live in it.

The next time you hear about Somali shops being burnt in Khaye­litsha or on the East Rand and you wonder why they bother staying, Harper’s book will help you to ­understand where those nameless and faceless people come from and why they left their homeland in the first place.

Ethiopia’s nationhood reconsidered
EXCERPT: Just as the historic realities of long-established nations like Ethiopia pose a challenge to conventional ideas about modern nationhood, so the contemporary Ethiopian experience reinforces pressures to rethink conventional notions of national boundaries. The nation whose conquest and dispersal across the world two millennia ago gave rise to the term diaspora seemed anomalous up to the past century, when a home territory with well-defined and secure boundaries seemed the only way to construe nationhood. The Jewish case now seems normative for many countries, whose boundaries, like that of ancient Israel, have expanded to involve a level of co-determination that previously could not have been imagined. The globalizing tendencies favored by electronic media and easy transportation will continue not only to promote subnational and supranational communities, but will also play a major role in strengthening the age-old nation of Ethiopia, reconfigured now in three parts: bet-agar (Homeland); wutch-agar (Diaspora); and sayberagar (Cyberspace).


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