More Terrible Terms

Yesterday, Steve Saideman posted about the bits of academic jargon he hates most. The post proved to be pretty popular. My guess is that with term papers pending, advice about what terms are best avoided was pretty welcome. Therefore, in the spirit of holiday giving, here is a similar list provided by Prof David Carment:

  • Tipping point
  • The perfect storm
  • Going forward
  • All things considered
  • Glocal

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Canada: A Teflon State?

Canada does not have a pristine human rights record. Many First Nation, Metis, and Inuit communities are struggling through a housing crisis and are enduring limited access to food, potable water, health care, and education. Furthermore, the government has failed to atone for a long history of discriminatory policies against these groups.

Indigenous groups within Canada demand that these issues be remedied. Unfortunately, these demands, to date, have either been met with half measures or overlooked altogether.

An often-heard argument in the literature on human rights reform is that when domestic groups are unable to convince their government to better respect human rights they can appeal to more powerful transnational actors to help pressure the target state to change. Based on this argument, it would seem that the next step for Indigenous groups in Canada would be to reach out to key international actors in the field of human rights including international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), and other states.

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Winning scholarship proposals: Advice from those who know best

Last week, NPSIA’s PhDs were given the opportunity to sit down with a few faculty members (Steve Saideman, Jean Daudelin, and Dane Rowlands, thank you for making time in your busy schedules for this!!) and have their questions about applying for scholarships answered. Below are some of the best bits of advice that were given:

Literature reviews were flagged as a potential stumbling blog in writing up applications. They are too often treated as a formality and are too rarely put to their intended purpose: highlighting the importance of the proposed research and research question(s). Pointing out the hole on the bookshelf that you intend to fill is the goal of the literature review. Tailor what you discuss in the proposal to meet this goal. And, as much as possible, try to make it engaging. This is not the same as making it entertaining. Instead, it’s a strong suggestion to limit your reliance on the “…and then he/she argued that…” sort of narrative.

Related to the literature reviews and the need to tailor them to highlight research interests was a discussion of the types of citations that are possible. Steve Saideman identified three types:

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Questionable Leadership: The Case of Occupy Gezi

Last week, I wrote a post arguing that the Occupy Gezi movement was leaderless and lacked focus. On June 2nd, it seemed unclear whether the protestors in Istanbul, Izmir, and Ankara wanted a change in Turkey’s leadership, greater respect for human rights, more trees in urban spaces, less religion in those same spaces, more democracy, or less government. There seemed to be no one political agenda and no one in particular to advance it even if one existed. That said, imagine my shock today when I read that Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to meet with the leaders of the protest movement on Wednesday.

Maybe I was wrong about how well or poorly organized the movement is. Having just completed the third year of my PhD, I’ve come to accept that being proven wrong is part of every working day for me (and sometimes weekends too): constructive criticism in the ivory tower is rather, um, blunt and not all that constructive outside of helping you build character. Furthermore, it is hard for me to keep my finger on the pulse of Istanbul when I’m sitting at a desk in Ottawa.

I don’t think I am wrong, however. Let me explain why.

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The Limits of Turkey’s Occupy Movement

Since Friday, the twitterverse has been saturated with news about a now large, loud, and defiant protest in Gezi Park in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. Soon after, there was talk of the Occupy Taksim/Occupy Gezi movement. Sitting at my desk in Ottawa, it is unclear to me whether this handle originated somewhere on the web as a very catchy hashtag or whether it was originally promoted by the protestors themselves. Origins aside, Hurriyet is reporting on their English website that presently the protestors are now identifying with the Occupy movement. This pains me since this is not a protest model that will likely lead to a valuable outcome.

A bit of history: What began as Occupy Wall Street in New York in 2011, quickly transformed into an international protest movement with Occupy protests being set up in cities around the globe. There were few commonalities among these protests other than a general call for greater income equality, a commitment to non-violence, a strong aversion to hierarchical organization within the movement itself, and an uncanny ability to attract media attention. However, with a lack of leadership and a firm policy agenda to advance, the Occupy love-ins degenerated into shantytowns that marred often previously pristine public spaces and that unfortunately, as time wore on, attracted larger and larger proportions of hooligans and extremists. Today, the Occupy movement has largely faded from public consciousness. It has made little lasting impact other than introducing the catchphrase “We are the 99 percent.”

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The importance of a word: Taking the “culture” out of Canada’s “cultural genocide”

On April 26th, Paul Martin, Canada’s Prime Minister from 2003 to 2006, announced that he believed that Canada committed cultural genocide. He was referring to the systematic abuse perpetrated against Canada’s Indigenous populations by the residential school system that was meant to civilize these groups.

I strongly disagree with this assessment. Canada did not commit “cultural genocide.” Based on the definition of the crime provided by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Canada committed genocide, not “cultural genocide.” The Genocide Convention is a widely accepted and respected international treaty. Its legitimacy has been acknowledged by 142 states via either accession, succession, or ratification. Furthermore, its terms have been used in practice to prosecute those suspected of the crime thus cementing the Convention’s status as a respect-worthy piece of international law.

According to the Convention, which was ratified by Canada in 1952, “genocide means any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

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A Humanitarian Bailout?

The NPSIA blog post “Legal Liability and Humanitarianism” discussed the shocking but real possibility that humanitarian organizations may be held legally liable for the assistance they provide. Remarkably, an ever more shocking reality that humanitarians must deal with has been highlighted over the past couple of weeks. And, like legal liability, this issue has gone unaddressed in the academic literature. The issue being: humanitarian organizations with large aid footprints have run out of funds.

This is an issue that is largely separate from the much-discussed problem of humanitarian agencies having too little funding. The problems that result from a humanitarian organization having limited funding and the problems that arise from an organization running out of funds differ considerably. Limited funding leads to problems with project implementation. In contrast, running out of funds leads to the immediate suspension of aid as occurred with the UNRWA cash assistance program in the Gaza Strip earlier this month. Not only does it seem likely that such an action will further marginalize those on the margins but, as the Gaza case demonstrates, such an action may also lead to social instability, revolt, and the repeal of further assistance.

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