Eastern partners or chaotic neighbors? The contested geopolitics and geoeconomics of integrating Ukraine and Moldova

This brilliant analytic piece co-authored by UW student Austin Crane about the situation in Ukraine today, can be accessed at the Antipodefoundation.org website.

The authors write, ‘Hackneyed notions of Ukraine’s geographic position between worlds east and west continue to anchor media coverage, allowing for the present debacle to be repeatedly framed as a “civilizational choice” for Ukraine. Putin’s geostrategic vision entails transforming former-Soviet space from a “periphery of Europe and Asia” into an “independent centre of global development”. His recent State of the Nation address imagines a world made of “large geopolitical units” in which Ukraine and Russia share a common civilization. Like the EU’s civilizational spatial imaginary, Putin envisions a “project for the preservation of the identity of peoples, of historical Eurasian space in the new century and a new world”. Much like Brussels’ plans for the ENP, Moscow’s “absolute priority” is the “technical integration of the neighbours”.

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From the streets of Brazil; 25 telling photos of urban protest

{FAVEL issues}

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I returned to Rio de Janeiro on May 20th to begin ethnographic fieldwork for my PhD in Urban Geography. Within weeks, tens of thousands of Brazilians had taken to the streets in São Paulo, initially led by the small band of urban activists known as Movimento Passe Livre (The Free Fare Movement). By June 21st one million were marching on the streets of Rio de Janeiro and hundreds of thousands more demonstrating in 100 cities throughout the country.

I attended the first marches in Rio and dozens since. I began to observe, participate, photograph, take notes, and record interactions between protestors, bystanders, union activists, and police officers. I’ve closely followed public debates in mainstream, alternative and intellectual media, tracked various activist-leaders through social media, and discussed the protests at every possible social opportunity.

Over the coming months I’ll share some of my experiences and observations about the urban unrest from…

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(Un)knowing Poverty

In this post of the Relational Poverty Network blog, Nick talks about how the first step to (un)knowing poverty is to become aware of poverty around you. But, at the same time not to make assumptions about what it means. I will post more about this soon, but Nick’s post is worth a read. The task of (un)knowing poverty is a difficult one, for conversations about poverty are everyone and therefore, we all assume what it means.

Participation and the “han ji syndrome”- What antidotes to genuinely strengthen the voice of the urban poor

“……we argued that opening participatory arenas is not sufficient to empower the most marginalized citizens. The urban poor often reveal to be uncomfortable, helpless if not apathetic when invited to participate in the public sphere. To put it very bluntly, organizing meetings and joyfully cheering citizens to “Speak up! Speak up!” does not appear as the most relevant strategy to make them “speak”.”

This quarter in my TA class as well as in the courses I’ve been taking, participatory planning and indeed the power of participation has been the topic of hot debate. This two part blog post should be read by anyone interested in participatory planning or research because it really brings to the fore and questions assumptions that we are want to make as planners and researchers. To me it also clarifies the fact that depending on the context, one has to be really cognisant of where the community it in terms of active participation. In the Global North and in a many places in the Global South, groups are very aware of their latent power, and actively participate  to further their ‘interests’, but there are still those that do not recognise or dismiss it. The strategies of how we address and work with these two types of groups are very different. Both require us to let go of some very intrinsic understandings of our roles as researchers.

Participatory Planning/Research and the ‘haan ji’ syndrome

To me this post hits the nail on the head! I see this ‘haan ji’ syndrome as the greatest potential issue with participatory/communicative planning and research in disadvantaged communities, particularly in the ‘developing’ post-colonial world. Power relations cannot just be wished away, there is need for innovative new strategies that address this issue.

Terra Urban टेरा अर्बन

The author of this article, Hugo Ribadeau Dumas, is a master student in urban governance (from Sciences Po, Paris). He is currently interning with PRIA in Patna, Bihar.

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Photo: Slum dwellers during an “orientation meeting” organized by PRIA in Chhapra (Bihar), in February 2013

 “Han ji”(Yes sir). These two words could sum up very well the spirit of slum dwellers when interrogated about participatory processes they are involved in. Did you find today’s discussion fruitful? “Han ji”. Did you understand everything from yesterday’s training session? “Han ji”. Do you agree with the next steps we are suggesting you for the slum improvement committee? “Han ji”.

Whatever dry or disorganized meetings might be, the reaction of the inhabitants will almost invariably fit this “han ji framework”.  Social workers familiar with the field will probably agree with this point: the tendency to acquiesce without questioning too often characterizes…

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