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An Ethiopian woman's musings on Africa, the world and everything in between

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        Global Voices Online - The world is talking. Are you listening?
        Wednesday, May 24, 2006
        Live Webcast discussion with Dr. Amartya Sen
        Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, a professor at Harvard, held a discussion session at Eugene Black Auditorium in Washington DC on his recent book "Identity and Violence: The illusion of Destiny". Dr. Sen challenges "the reductionist view that people of the world can be partitioned into civilizational categories that reinforce our differences, [and] draws on history, economics science, literature and offers a vision of a world that can be made to move toward peace as firmly as it has spiraled in recent years toward violence and war."

        The World Bank with B-SPAN organized a webcast for members of Development Gateway. I managed to login 30 minutes into Dr. Sen's presentation, but I at least followed the Q&A session.

        Here are some of the comments that I find interesting.

        Open dialogue and freedom of speech are crucial in helping narrow cultural gaps. This I find particularly significant at a time where blog sites are being blocked and bloggers are detained. It is frustrating to have ones hopes high for a country only to witness it regress rapidly by denying its citizens one of the basic rights - freedom of speech.

        While addressing the issue of mono/multi culturalism, Dr. Sen used the comparison between Great Britain and the US. In GB, people from common wealth countries can vote while in the use non-Americans with permanent residence permit cannot. He also mentioned that the GB social security system is less discriminatory (documents are available in major non-English languages for example.)

        There was a question by a guy from the World Bank about people who have not been exposed to globalization of identities. He was going on about people in the auditorium having been exposed to global identity because they travel blah blah blah. I was sitting behind my computer screen (with my hungry kids begging for snack) thinking the Bank is so out of it so detached from it all and operating in a bubble. He went on saying that perhaps not being exposed to global identity is the salvation to such people - more blah blah blah.

        Dr. Sen's answer was very satisfying. He said that such an elitist way of thinking that the majority of people in the world will not understand the magnitude of globalization is misleading. He gave examples of ordinary people in ancient history understanding exactly what globalization was then. He also mentioned that anti-globalization campaigners - the largest global movement today - is mostly kept alive by ordinary people.

        A Canadian professor who lives in the US raised the issue of "self-segregation" in the US. She wondered how far society has come after the civil rights movement of the 70s considering that neighborhoods, schools and collages are still segregated. Unfortunately, Dr. Sen wanted to talk to the Professor afterwards over coffee leaving me hanging there. The World Bank should have explained to him that the whole thing is being broadcast live online, and he has to give some sort of answer to satisfy those who are not physically with him. I told you the World Bank is out of it. Dr. Sen said something along the lines of the US has its weaknesses and strengths like any other country. Ok, Doc I didn't starve my children to hear this as an answer because that much I figured out on my own.

        This was my first live online thing to 'participate' in and I felt more privileged than those who were sitting in the auditorium (until the children started begging for food and Dr. Sen kept on saying he would like to discuss something further over wine and coffee). I don't have to turn around and see the person who's speaking for example because I have a bird's eye view on my screen. I can pick my nose and nobody could see - ok I'm being silly now.

        Dr. Sen’s other books include "On Ethics and Economics", "Development as Freedom" and "The Argumentative Indian"

        I was excited to see what the pros say about civilization after my blasting of the notions of being developed and civilized, and how we are not that different from each other. I also tried to argue (I was just making fun then, but now that a Nobel Laureate is saying it, I’m trying to sound serious) that we can challenge culturally based perceived norms with the help of science.

        It was a shame that I missed 30 minutes of Dr. Sen's presentation and I felt the Q&A session was a bit dry and blah. But at least I experienced a live online broadcast.
        posted by Fikirte @ 7:18 AM   Digg!
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        Kamilat - victim of acid burning The face of VAW - violence against women. It should and can be stopped with enough commitment. Helping one woman at a time is a start.
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