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Od kláštera Osek na Selesiovu výšinu, k Lomu, Libkovicům, Hrdlovce a zpět/From The Osek Cloister to Lom and back
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Thomas Hylland Eriksen: What’s wrong with the Global North and the Global South?
As a young schoolboy in the 1970s, I learned that there were two kinds of countries in the world: The industrialized countries and the developing countries. In Norwegian, they were abbreviated as i-land and u-land (“i-countries and d-countries”). As a slightly older schoolboy, I would discover that there were progressive people who had read up on the latest literature, and who distinguished between the First, the Second and the Third Worlds; the industrialized, Western countries; the Communist bloc; and the poor, underdeveloped or developing countries (make your choice). Some made it more complicated and added the Fourth World, that of stateless indigenous peoples. I had one teacher – this was in Nairobi in the mid-seventies – who even differentiated between the Third, the Fourth and the Fifth Worlds within the general subcategory of the Third: The Third World countries were those that were well on their way to becoming rich and “developed” (I think he mentioned Malaysia and possibly Algeria); the Fourth were those that struggled but had potential (Kenya was, generously, included); and the Fifth World was chanceless and mired in perennial poverty.
The idea that there were three “worlds” originates, in the Anglophone world, with the anthropologist and sociologist Peter Worsley (The Third World, 1964; and The Three Worlds, 1984). However, the notion of the Third World is older, coined by the demographer Alfred Sauvy in 1952, and his reference to le tiers monde did not presuppose the existence of a First or Second World. Rather, when speaking of the poor countries and colonies, he explicitly drew a parallel with the third estate, le tiers état, at the time of the French revolution; that is, everyone who did not belong to the clergy or the nobility. He spoke of those that had potential – those who would eventually rise and claim their share.
Latterly, these terms have become increasingly unfashionable. This definitely has something to do with the collapse of the Communist Bloc almost 25 years ago. But the concepts were at the outset too crude to make sense to a serious social scientist, Sauvy’s loose and metaphorical usage less so than Worsley’s attempt to operationalize them. For what was Argentina? Or Turkey? Immanuel Wallerstein’s concepts (from The Modern World System, 1974–78) of center, periphery and semi-periphery seemed to do the job somewhat better, and his model had the additional advantage of indicating dynamic con nectedness within the global system.
It makes little sense to speak of three worlds when there is only one game in town. Instead, during the last decade or so, scholars and enlightened commentators increasingly have begun to speak of the Global South and the Global North. I’ve even used these terms myself sometimes, almost inadvertently, when lecturing about big and general issues, but I have invariably asked myself afterwards, slightly embarrassed, what’s so global about them. Why can’t we just say the south and the north; or just materially rich and materially poor countries? Or – again – center, semiperiphery and periphery?
Any conceptual investigation of these classifications must inevitably lead to ambivalence. Global diversity is simply such that it cannot meaningfully be subsumed under a few, let alone two, concepts. It is true that at a very general level, the Global North is associated with stable state organization, an economy largely under (state) control and – accordingly – a dominant formal sector. The recipients of foreign aid, needless to say, belong to the Global South. China and – again – Argentina are hard to fit in.
One attempt to produce an objective classification uses the UNDP’s Human Development Index to differentiate. In brief, the Global North consists of those 64 countries which have a high HDI (most of which are located north of the 30th northern parallel), while the remaining 133 countries belong to the Global South.
The terms have become fashionable very recently. In a bibliographic study by a group of German scholars, the first recorded use was in 1996. In 2004, the term The Global South appeared in just 19 publications in the humanities and social sciences, but by 2013, the number had grown to 248. The scholars who use it associate it largely with some of the ills of globalization. While the countries of the Global North not only have stable states but also a strong public sector, the Global South is, to a far greater extent, subject to the forces of global neoliberalism, rather than enacting the very same forces.
Seen from this perspective, the neologisms make sense. The post-Cold War world is not mainly divided into societies that follow different political ideologies such as socialism or liberalism, but by degrees of benefits in a globalized neoliberal capitalist economy. This is why the prefix “Global” may be appropriate, as it signals the integration of the entire planet (well, nearly) into a single economic system – that which Tom Friedman (in-)famously described as “a flat world” (in The World is Flat, 2005). So far, so good. The Global South and the Global North represent an updated perspective on the post-1991 world, which distinguishes not between political systems or degrees of poverty, but between the victims and the benefactors of global capitalism.
But you then start to wonder how useful such huge blanket terms are at the end of the day. I certainly do as an anthropologist, but also as someone who travels and observes everyday life as I go along. In Albania some years ago, I saw dark blue BMWs and horsecarts side by side. In India, I’ve seen lush oases of luxury alongside struggling lower-middle class life and plain hopelessness. In Russia, the contrast between glittering St Petersburg (where I’m writing these sentences) and the surrounding countryside is dramatic. In the US, there are inner city areas where life expectancy matches that of some of the poorer African countries. And what to make of a country like Brazil? It is sometimes said that before Lula, half of the population had an obesity problem, while the other half were undernourished. The proportions have shifted somewhat after years of bolsa familial and other progressive policies, but in terms of inequality, Brazil still fares just barely better than South Africa, where the GDP is excellent by African standards, but so unevenly distributed that you literally move from one “world” to another within minutes if you enter the taxi, say, at the University of Cape Town and get out in the Cape Flats. Same thing in Nairobi. And I haven’t even mentioned the Gulf States. Even in my hometown of Oslo, inequality within the city is striking. Notwithstanding Norway’s reputation for being equitable and egalitarian, life expectancy between two adjacent boroughs in the city can differ by more than ten years – equal to the gap between Sweden and Morocco!
One main shortcoming of these huge, global classifications is their methodological nationalism. Entire countries, whether they are called Nauru or China – China has 150,000 times as many inhabitants as Nauru – are considered the relevant entities and are thus presumably comparable. But GDP, or HDI for that matter, for a country as a whole reveals precious little about how the poorest 20%, or the poorest 80%, or the richest 1%, live. So, obviously, what is needed are more fine-grained instruments to gauge the quality of life and the economic circumstances of a community, since most of the world’s population live mainly in communities and not in states. The result of this kind of endeavor might surprise some, and it would certainly make for a more mottled and colorful map of the world than the drab monochrome surfaces produced by a planet divided into the Global North and Global South.
Originally published by the Global South Study Centre in Cologne, along with a handful of other reflections on the concept of the Global South.
Thomas Hylland Eriksen has for many years studied, and written about, identity politics, ethnicity, nationalism and globalisation from a comparative perspective, frequently with an ethnographic focus on Mauritius and Trinidad. He has also published popular books, polemical books and essays on cultural complexity in Norway.
In the last decade, he has, among others, published two books about globalisation (Globalisation – Studies in Anthropology and Globalization: The Key Concepts), a book about anthropology and the public sphere (Engaging Anthropology) and (as co-editor) A World of Insecurity, about human security as an anthropological concept. His textbooks in social and cultural anthropology, especially What is Anthropology?, Small Places, Large Issues and Ethnicity and Nationalism, are still being translated into new languages, and are being read by students across the world.
In addition, Eriksen has, in the period 2001–2011, written a series of books about unintended consequences of modernity. Tyranny of the Moment was published simultaneously in Norwegian and English; the others, dealing with identity, happiness and waste, have not been publised in English.
Field Work and Ecology
This expedition through Iceland will lead participants to various locations in the South, East and North of Iceland where the untapped sources of renewable energy – water, steam, and wind – as well as the impacts of hydro- and geothermal power plants on the landscape and on local micro-economies, can be observed. We will visit the largest rockfill dam in Europe, Kárahnjúkar dam, as well as the aluminium factory for which it was built, and the affected river systems. The construction of Kárahnjúkar dam (2003-07), and the political process leading up to it, have been the subject of extreme controversy in Iceland. Under the current government, plans for more hydroelectric mega-dams are under way. They promote an intensified “harvesting” of the country’s large number of free-running rivers and promise cheap "green" energy – with the aim of attracting investors, multinational corporations, and energy-hungry heavy industry to Iceland. Participating artists will meet with experts from other disciplines and will be introduced to the ecological, political and socioeconomic aspects of the sites visited. The program intends to feed into a critical and informed debate about case-specific ecological and socioeconomic co-dependencies, and about the means and ends of renewable energy production and energy consumption. Program 10. Aug: Arrival of artists in Reykjavík/Keflavík Airport Travel by car to Akureyri 11. Aug: Travel along the north coast to Lake Myvatn, geothermal landscapes of Krafla, through the northeast to Dettifoss nad waterfalls Egilsstadir 12 Aug: Afternoon meeting at Skaftfell Center for Visual Art, talk by Markús Þór Andrésson 13 Aug: Visit to Skálanes Nature and Heritage Centre, Seyðisfjörður 14 Aug: Site visit to Reydarfjördur, tour to Alcoa Aluminium Smelter 15 Aug: Site visit to Kárahnjúkar hydroelectric dam in Eastern Highlands 16 Aug: Site visit to Lake Lagarfljót and Heradsflói Estuary 17 Aug: Return to Seyðisfjörður, evening meeting at Skaftfell Project Space, sharing of visual material, observations, thoughts, open to the public 18 Aug: Travel along south coast to Reykjavík, (Jökulsárlón Ice Lagoon, glacial estuaries, geothermal greenhouses Hveragerði Accommodation at SÍM (Association of Icelandic Artists) 19 Aug: talk by Andri Snær Magnason, and evening screening of "Dreamland" movie, based on his book Dreamland, discussion on the planned projects and impressions of the participants 20 Aug Departure day from Reykjavik Participants: Pavel Mrkus, Diana Winklerová, Greg Pope, Ivar Smedstad, Karlotta Blöndal, Finnur Arnar Arnason Organisation: Julia Martin, Tinna Guðmundsdóttir Documentation: Lisa Paland …
Living Through the Landscape
The Norwegian part of the project will encompass a 10-day expedition/workshop with artists from all three participating countries in the county of Finnmark in northern Norway from 20 to 30 September, 2015. The focus of the expedition will be on mining activity in the region and its effect on the local landscape. Both the current and previous Norwegian governments have funded initiatives aimed at surveying mineral deposits and their suitability for mining ventures, resulting in heated debates regarding a renewed interest in the exploitation of minerals, especially in the north. Recently, plans to allow the waste from a proposed mining operation to be deposited in the Førde fjord in the west of Norway have made headlines in both the Norwegian and international press. Elsewhere, such as in Biedjovággi in Finnmark, the ecological damage from open-pit mining is still being felt 40 years after the closure of mining operations. Plans to once again start mining in Biedjovággi as consequence of soaring gold prices highlight the complexity of issues relating to the exploitation of minerals and a globalized economy, covering intersecting social, economic and ecological concerns. Similar debates have arisen in regard to the Reppar fjord, also in Finnmark. Waste from nearby underground mining was dumped into the fjord in the early 1970s, causing damage to fish stocks, thereby affecting the livelihoods of local fishermen. Renewed interest in mining copper in the area has started new debates on the environmental impact of depositing waste in the fjord. On one hand, mining companies need to keep costs down to stay competitive, and rural communities are often in dire need of jobs and investment to bolster the local economy. On the other hand, such initiatives have frequently caused extensive environmental damage and infringements of the rights of indigenous populations. By visiting the region and meeting with locals as well as experts, the Norwegian portion of Frontiers of Solitude aims to contribute to a public awareness of environmental and cultural issues that are both local and globalized. Frontiers of Solitude is an extension of Atelier Nord’s previous engagement with issues related to the north of Norway in the video program Beyond Horizons. Program 20 September Oslo departure - arrival in Alta/Alta Airport (ALF) 21 September Kautokeino Biedjovággi mine 22 September Biedjovággi mine 23 September Biedjovággi mine 24 September from Kautokeino to Karasjok Visit to Sami Center for Contemporary Art 25 September Karasjok 26 September Kvalsund - Repparfjord depot 27 September Repparfjord 28 September from Kvalsund to Hammerfest Visit to Windmill development site Evening program in Hammerfest Art Association/artist talks 29 September Visit to Snøhvit petroleum field 30 September from Hammerfest to Alta program: Ivar Smedstad Gunhild Enger, Iselin Linstad Hauge, Vladimír Merta, Alena Kotzmannová, Elvar Már Kjartansson, Monika Fryčová External resources Strategy for the mineral industry – Second Stoltenberg government, 2013 (Norwegian only). gruve.info – Website about the environmental impact of mining in Norway, maintained by Svein Lund (Norwegian only). Artic Gold – Mining company campaigning for renewed activity in Biedjovággi. Nordic Mining – Mining company looking to deposit waste in the Fjørde fjord. Nussir ASA – Mining company campaigning for copper extraction in Kvalsund/Reppar Fjord. Article in the British newspaper The Guardian on the proposed dumping of waste in the Fjørde Fjord. Norges Naturvernforbund (Friends of the Earth Norway) …
Into the Abyss of the Lignite Clouds
The focus of the expedition and workshops in the landscape around the Most Basin is on current changes in the heavily industrialized landscape, especially with regard to the loss of historical continuity, the transfers of geological layers and social structures, and current discussions about the abolition of territorial limits, as well as the potential for further degradation and exploitation of the landscape by extensive open cast mining. This expedition is based on the idea that it is necessary, both for art and ecology, to consider the interconnections between people and the landscape, with regard to energy resources, animals, plants, history, and the like. The domains that artists and ecologists share are not simply the realms of the beautiful, the aesthetic, or of pleasure. This thinking spurs a departure from (and rethinking of) the romantic and utilitarian models to which both art and nature have traditionally been subject. Similar attempts to rethink this subject are also occurring in sociology, biology, and philosophy, as well as in the arts. These issues are relevant everywhere, but they are especially pertinent in the Most Basin, which is a unique area with its uncanny combination of its remaining natural niches, a long history of heavy industrial pollution and open cast mining, and recent efforts for environmental recultivation. Participants: Gunnhild Enger, Þórunn Eymundardóttir, Tommy Høvik, Kristín Rúnarsdóttir, Vladimír Turner, Robert Vlasák, Martin Zet. Organisation: Dagmar Šubrtová, Miloš Vojtěchovský, Michal Kindernay. …