Jonathan Neale ~ Why Radical Academics Often Find It Hard To Write, And What To Do About It

Henriette Browne - A Girl Writing

Henriette Browne – A Girl Writing

This post will be of interest to only some of our readers. But we hope it will be very useful for them.

It is not easy to be both an academic and an activist. The values, the audiences and the constraints are different. Sitting down to write, you can feel yourself pulled in two different ways. The result is often muddled thinking and murky prose. There is too much ranting for an academic audience, and too much gobbledygook for the movement. In many cases, there is no prose at all, only silence, and pages crumpled in the wastebasket or erased on the screen.
The first half of this post offers some advice that can make writing easier, faster and more useful. The second half explains why universities make activists feel stupid, how they do it, and how you can cope.

Part One: Some advice for writing
The most useful thing I have learned in my own life is to split, writing one thing for the academy and another thing for the movement. Ordinarily, graduate students and young teachers try to write for both. In a sense, they are trying to write for people like themselves. This strategy puts them in a very tight and conflicted space. As they write each sentence, they notice it is too direct for the professors, or too convoluted for the activists – or, often, both at once. So they rewrite the sentence and then delete it. Or they write an academic paper, in academic language, while underneath there is a fury bubbling to be free. Suddenly they are ranting, and then, embarrassed, they return to silence.

The contradiction is real, and not their fault. One solution is to write for both audiences separately. That may seem like more work, but it is not. If you can write happily for both audiences, you can write twice as much in less time. Splitting your audience frees you to write for other activists, in language they can use, sharing assumptions and loyalties, directly to their concerns. The academy will not contaminate this writing.

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Oude beelden armoede Amsterdam ~ Old Images Poverty In Amsterdam (1930)

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Verah Okeyo ~ Low-Cost Housing Seen As Answer To Urban Housing Problems

K É A house in Mlolongo built using the Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) panels. Photo| Verah Okeyo

K É A house in Mlolongo built using the Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) panels. Photo| Verah Okeyo

In 2011, the UN-Habitat estimated that African cities will become home to over 40,000 people and the shortage of housing an unattainable dream for most households.

With an urban population growth at 4.2 per cent annually, Nairobi alone requires at least 120,000 new housing units annually to meet demand, yet only 35,000 homes are built, leaving the housing deficit growing by 85,000 units every year.
Coupled with the acute shortages, is the rising number of issues that any aspiring homeowner or institution seeking to set up facilities has to confront: HassConsult Real Estate’s 2015 report indicated a steep climb in land prices and ownership processes in Nairobi.

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To Be A Man Is Not Easy ~ Stories From Ghanaian Emigrants. Contents & Introduction

BosmanCoverTable of contents

Introduction – see below
1. The good samaritan who follows where the money is. Interview with Owusu Agyeman
2. Dollars in the wall. Interview with Mr. Babbs Haruna from Nkoranza
3. A scar reminds me of the day I wept. Interview with Kwame Baffo
4. My hotel! Interview with Michael Sarpong
5. The boys of the band. Interview with Akosua Asantewaah
6. Peace of mind or success? I want it both. Interview with Kojo Apiah Kubi. (Brian Osanhene Duako in Chicago)
7. It is love for one another that makes us continue. Interview with Kojo Sampson
8. I saw dead people covered in dust. passport on top. Interview with Mr. Darko from Nkoranza
9. No other treats than daily fresh insults. Interview with Yaw Charles from Nkoranza
10. I want to get a life but I can’t because I am waiting. Interview with Richard Kwasi Ntim
11. Mercy, the girl with the red leggings
12. Education, solidarity and being able to say no. Interview with Matthew Essieh
13. Caught between two worlds. Interview with Samuel Oteng
14. The conference participant. Interview with Osei Takyi

Why this book? It all started with Kwame Baffoe, the guy who only wept once. Kwame was the hospital driver at the time that I worked as a tropical doctor at Nkoranza Hospital. One day Baffoe disappeared. After two weeks his relatives came to ask for his end of service benefit. I was then the medical director as well as the administrator and I had to say No, he vacated his post so sorry, no. But where for God’s sake is Baffoe? They silently left. This was in the mid-eighties. Read more

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To Be A Man Is Not Easy ~ The Good Samaritan Who Follows Where The Money Is. Interview With Owusu Agyeman

BosmanCoverI am Owusu Agyeman and I come from from Akropong in the Nkoranza district. I live here in Nkoranza town where I have my well known Ash-foam business. I sell pillows and mattresses. As you may know, my father is a chief.

I decided to go to Libya because there is no work in Ghana. Let me correct myself and say it this way: there is work in Ghana but it doesn’t fetch any money. Take farming for example. I may use two million Cedis to prepare and sow the land and when I harvest my corn I may get 1,5 million in return. What does it mean? It means I lost. I have lost money because the market prices are bad. That is why I went abroad, to get enough money to start a business in Ghana.

At the time when I left Ghana I was no longer a young boy, I was thirty eight years old and had a wife and three children. My wife agreed that I should go in order to provide for the family. So then we had to prepare for such a journey which is both costly and dangerous. Danger is everywhere along the way but the walking, which we call footing, through the desert, that is the greatest risk! I will tell you the story of my journey. I started here in Nkoranza in Ghana and traveled in an ordinary lorry to the border at Bawku.
I then took a car across the border to Burkino Faso and then on to Mali. Finally I went deep into Niger where you reach the desert and then another chapter starts! Those days when I traveled there, there was no such thing as group transport with Ghanaians all the way to Libya. Not at that time. Now that has changed.

Africans need no visa on the West-African continent so I had all I needed which was my passport, my vaccination card and enough money. The last one is the hardest! At border crossings I of course never tell my real plans of going to Libya for they would send me right back. So at the Ghana border I say I go to Burkina Faso to work and from Burkina Faso I say I go to work at Mali. I have a profession. I am a mechanic. So that’s what I say: I am going to work there as a mechanic. Once in Mali they ask me where I am going and I say to Niamey in Niger. I went to Niamey and then to the second biggest city which is called Agadez. I did all this with ordinary local passenger cars. It is at Agadez that the story changes!

Here you have reached the desert. Here we sit and rest along the roadside and we wait. We wait for other people who are on their way to Libya. Once there are enough people to fill a car then you go across the desert. The cars are land-cruisers, pick-ups.

Niger is a poorer country than Ghana, no jobs. There are men there in Agadez who make a living out of assembling people and organizing a car for them. There are other men who make it their job to cross the desert with us and bring us to Libya. Two of these men sit in the cabin in front and all of us travelers are packed in the back of the pickup. In my case they took us, 90 to 100 persons, into two cars. At that time, 1997, they let us pay 20,000 CFA, which is about 50 dollar per person. We were packed like maize bags, sometimes they even got more than 50 people in one land-cruiser. Read more

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Willem Halffman & Hans Radder ~ The Academic Manifesto: From An Occupied To A Public University

may68Abstract: Universities are occupied by management, a regime obsessed with ‘accountability’ through measurement, increased competition, efficiency, ‘excellence’, and misconceived economic salvation. Given the occupation’s absurd side-effects, we ask ourselves how management has succeeded in taking over our precious universities. An alternative vision for the academic future consists of a public university, more akin to a socially engaged knowledge commons than to a corporation. We suggest some provocative measures to bring about such a university. However, as management seems impervious to cogent arguments, such changes can only happen if academics take action. Hence, we explore several strategies for a renewed university politics.

The Occupied University
The university has been occupied – not by students demanding a say (as in the 1960s), but this time by the many-headed Wolf of management.1 The Wolf has colonised academia with a mercenary army of professional administrators, armed with spreadsheets, output indicators and audit procedures, loudly accompanied by the Efficiency and Excellence March. Management has proclaimed academics the enemy within: academics cannot be trusted, and so have to be tested and monitored, under the permanent threat of reorganisation, termination and dismissal. The academics allow themselves to be meekly played off against one another, like frightened, obedient sheep, hoping to make it by staying just ahead of their colleagues. The Wolf uses the most absurd means to remain in control, such as money-wasting semi- and full mergers, increasingly detailed, and thus costly, accountability systems and extremely expensive prestige projects.
This conquest seems to work and the export of knowledge from the newly conquered colony can be ever increased, but inland the troubles fester. Thus, while all the glossed-up indicators constantly point to the stars, the mood on the academic shop floor steadily drops. The Wolf pops champagne after each new score in the Shanghai Competition, while the university sheep desperately work until they drop2 and the quality of the knowledge plantations is starting to falter, as is demonstrated by a large number of comprehensive and thorough analyses.3 Meanwhile, the sheep endeavour to bring the absurd anomalies of the occupation to the Wolf’s attention by means of an endless stream of opinion articles, lamentations, pressing letters and appeals. In turn, the Wolf reduces these to mere incidents, brushes them aside as inevitable side effects of progress, or simply ignores them.

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