Jason Hickel: Bridging the Divide: Ending Poverty on a Finite Planet

It is widely recognised that global inequality is a serious problem. For instance, according to a Credit Suisse report in 2015, half the world’s wealth is owned by the top 1% of the world’s population. More than 60% of humanity, or 4.3 billion people, live below the realistic minimum standard of a decent life. And yet it is also widely recognised that there are ecological limits to material prosperity. In 2017, Earth Overshoot Day – the date when human resource consumption for the year exceeds the Earth’s biocapacity for the same year – occurred on 2 August, compared with 19 December when the concept was first introduced 30 years ago. With Trump vowing to exit the Paris agreement on carbon emissions, it looks like the picture of our planet’s ecological health is also getting worse and not better. How to reconcile the objectives of development with the objectives of sound environmental policy is a complex and pressing matter. How did we get here? And what can we do about it?

On this episode of The Provocateur I talk to Jason Hickel, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at LSE, to discuss how we can bridge the gap between rich and poor on a finite planet. We first talk about Jason’s interest in the subject as an anthropologist before moving on to Jason’s case for his argument that global poverty is getting worse not better. We explore the history of development politics in the era of the Washington Consensus, the limitations of GDP as a measure of growth and new strategies for development in an age of both economic and ecological crisis.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Chang, H-J. (2007) Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism. London: Bloomsbury.

Easterly, W. (2006) The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Escobar, A. (1995) Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

George, S. (1976) How the Other Half Dies. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Harvey, D. (2005) A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hickel, J. (2017) ‘Aid in reverse: how poor countries develop rich countries’, The Guardian, 14 January.

Klein, N. (2007) The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Toronto: Knopf Canada.

_____ (2014) This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. Toronto: Knopf Canada.

Pearce, F. (2012) The Landgrabbers: The New Fight Over Who Owns the Earth. London: Eden Project Books.

Perkins, J. (2004) Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Pollin, R. (2005) Contours of Descent: US Economic Fractures and the Landscape of Global Austerity, updated edition. London: Verso.

Shaxson, N. (2012) Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World. London: Vintage.

Stiglitz, J. (2002) Globalization and its Discontents. New York: W. W. Norton.

Tandon, Y. (2015) Trade is War: The West’s War Against the World. New York and London: OR Books.

Joshua Black: Male Homosexuality in Contemporary Vietnamese Literature

Vietnam is probably best known to listeners from its complex and tangled relationship with foreign powers, especially France and the United States. As well as being a popular backpacking destination, it also now has a burgeoning LGBT subculture. The LGBT rights movement has exploded in the country in recent years, even as wider Vietnamese society struggles to move past colonial-era negative stereotypes of homosexuality.

On today’s episode of The Provocateur — a holdover from LGBT History Month — I talk to Joshua Black, who has just completed his PhD at SOAS (London) on representations of male homosexuality in contemporary Vietnamese literature. We discuss French colonial attitudes towards homosexuality, compare them to gay male identities in 21st century Vietnamese writing and explore the implications for our understanding of changing attitudes to homosexuality in Vietnamese culture.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Colonial era Vietnamese attitudes towards homosexuality:

Proschan, Frank (2002) ‘Eunuch Mandarins, Soldats Mamzelles, Effeminate Boys, and Graceless Women: French Colonial Constructions of Vietnamese Genders’, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 8(4), pp. 435-467.

Proschan, Frank (2002b) ‘Syphilis, Opiomania and Pederasty: Colonial Constructions of Vietnamese (and French) Social Diseases’, Journal of the History of Sexuality 11(4), pp. 610-636.

On HIV/AIDS:

Colby, D. J. (2003) ‘HIV Knowledge and Risk Factors Among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’, JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes 32, pp. 80-85

Blanc, Marie-Eve (2005) Social Construction of Male Homosexualities in Vietnam. Some Keys to Understanding Discrimination and Implications for HIV Prevention Strategy. UNESCO, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Modern social context:

Nguyễn Quốc Vinh (2015) ‘Cultural Ambiguity in Contemporary Vietnamese Representations of Homosexuality: A New Historicist Reading of Bùi Anh Tấn’s Fiction’, Journal of Vietnamese Studies 10(3), pp. 48-86.

Lại Nguyên Ân and Alec Holcombe (2010) ‘The Heart and Mind of the Poet Xuân Diệu: 1054-1958’, Journal of Vietnamese Studies 5(2), pp. 1-90.

Matthew Whittle: Literature and the Legacies of Empire in Post-Imperial Britain

Following on from last week’s discussion of the postcolonial context of modern-day Brazil, today’s episode of The Provocateur turns to what is arguably the most paradigmatic case of imperialism: the British Empire. We tend to think of European decolonisation as a singular moment in time, yet the end of the British Empire spanned the best part of half a century, from the 1940s to the late 1990s. Indeed in some ways, Britain is still coming to terms with the loss of its imperial power and the Brexit debate has only underscored the contemporary salience of British post-imperial nostalgia. So perhaps there is no better time to restate the case for metropolitan post-war writers such as Alan Sillitoe, Graham Greene and Anthony Burgess as explicitly working within a post-imperial context.

In this podcast, I talk to Matthew Whittle, who is Teaching Fellow in Contemporary and Postcolonial Literature at the University of Leeds, about the themes of his new book Post-War British Literature and the “End of Empire”. We discuss the historical context of post-war British writing in the era of decolonisation, in particular Anthony Burgess and Graham Greene, the relationship between British imperialism and other forms of imperialism (particularly the American case) and the continuing relevance of metropolitan understandings of imperialism for postcolonial studies.

You can listen to part one of the podcast here: 

Part two is here: 

Bryan Pitts: Sexual Liberation with Political Liberation? Race, Sexuality, Nationality and Democracy in Contemporary Brazil

In the final episode of our month-long miniseries for LGBT History Month, The Provocateur travels to Brazil, arguably one of the most important emerging markets at the moment as well as being a vibrant and dynamic country in its own right. While it may have hit the headlines most recently for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff – and the subsequent return to power of the main conservative faction in Congress, led by Michel Temer – Brazil also has a long and complicated history of colonialism, decolonisation and dictatorship. This has inevitably impacted on the ways in which LGBT people express their sexuality and how they are perceived by mainstream Brazilian society.

Today I talk to Bryan Pitts, a lecturer in history at the University of Georgia, for a fascinating look at the interplay of race, sexuality, nationality and democracy in contemporary Brazil. We discuss the historical context of the dictatorship years of 1964-1985 and the transition to democracy, the legacies of Portuguese rule, the thesis that sexual liberalisation has gone along with political liberalisation and the particular challenges facing transgendered people. We also talk about Bryan’s research on Brazilian gay magazines and gay sex tourism.

You can listen to part one of the podcast here: 

Part two is here: 

Benjamin Studebaker: Indigenous Peoples, the State and Citizenship

Amid all the fallout from Donald Trump’s highly controversial restrictions on immigrants from several majority Muslim countries, another significant announcement from the White House has largely escaped media attention: the decision to restart construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline. This proposal triggered a wave of protests in the latter half of 2016, particularly around the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Campaigners argued that the pipeline represented a threat to the sovereignty of the indigenous peoples living on the reservation, particularly in terms of the environmental hazards that such a pipeline could unleash. However, what is often missing from the popular conversation on Aboriginal sovereignty movements is an understanding of the way in which the state has constructed a certain conception of citizenship that enables indigenous peoples to value their sovereignty over arguably more meaningful goods, such as socioeconomic opportunities.

In today’s episode of The Provocateur, I talk to Benjamin Studebaker, a doctoral candidate in politics at the University of Cambridge, about the relationship between indigenous peoples, the state and citizenship. We develop some of the themes from his blog post discussing the issue of Native American sovereignty and link them to broader issues to do with the ways in which states legitimate themselves by allowing different citizens to want different values and the resultant implications for indigenous policy when these values conflict. Ben has also kindly provided some outline notes, which I reproduce below.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Outline Notes:

I. Many different views of citizenship—of what it is that citizens share in common that makes them citizens (liberalism, republicanism, civic nationalism, ethnic nationalism, identitarianism, pluralism vs. Pluralism). All of these views tend to presume that people have things that they want to get out of citizenship and they build states for these purposes—people use the state to get power and use that power to construct a kind of citizenship which reflects their values and beliefs.

II. But people are not free in this way—their identity and beliefs are not individualistically chosen, they are instead acquired through interaction with material and social conditions. Who is ultimately responsible for those conditions? The sovereign entity—the state.

III. States need to legitimate themselves to secure stability. They will be recognized as legitimate when citizens want the things that states provide. So successful states will tend to create citizens whose desires and expectations match the state’s capabilities.

IV. In cases of inequality, states must be pluralist to some degree—they must create different kinds of citizens whose desires and expectations can be met in different and unequal ways. Pluralism also has other adaptive advantages—if all citizens want the same thing, it is easier to satisfy them, but to fail one citizen is to fail all of them, which means that when states do fail the failure is total and often fatal. In a pluralist society, states can satisfy enough people enough of the time by constantly cobbling together different coalitions of satisfied groups. However, this pluralism allows some groups to be persistently neglected by the state—especially anti-pluralists.

V. With respect to indigenous people, the state attempts to pacify them by socializing them to want what they get. So if Native Americans are going to live on separate reservations with some level of autonomy (but under grossly unequal socioeconomic conditions), they must be made to value the kinds of goods they can have—cultural purity and autonomy, not material prosperity. But this autonomy and culture are mirages—the state created them to see these constructs as valuable and then supplied them with conditions under which they can be realized. In the meantime, it creates other citizens with entirely different values which it enables them to actualize under entirely different conditions.

Further Reading:

Beiner, R. (ed.) (1994) Theorizing Citizenship. New York: SUNY Press.

Lukes, S. (1974) Power: A Radical View. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Parfit, D. (2011) On What Matters, 2 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rawls, J. (1993) Political Liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press.

Strawson, G. (2011) Freedom and Belief. Oxford: Oxford University Press.