Print culture

Except perhaps in Nairobi, it seems to be very difficult to buy any books in Kenyan 'bookshops' other than

  1. Christian literature

  2. school textbooks

  3. crappy 'How to Succeed in Business' self-help books

Very occasionally there's the odd second-hand Robert Ludlum thriller, and there are some street vendors who have small, eclectic selections of very old, dirty torn novels which I think were probably donated to some 'charity collection' somewhere in Europe or the US (so far I've found Tuck Everlasting and a 1968 edition of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich). But there's clearly no real demand for fiction or serious non-fiction, and no adequate distribution.

This is a major contrast to other Majority World countries like India, which seems to have an incredibly diverse and demotic print culture. On every street corner in Delhi you can buy anything from Mein Kampf to old copies of Subaltern Studies (actually, Mein Kampf seems to be particularly prevalent – maybe India gets sent all the copies confiscated from schoolkids and neo-Nazis in Germany).

The few attempts I've seen to compensate for this here - like this community library in Sipili, funded by Bakewell Rotary Club - are basically rubbish. (I'm sorry if any outraged Derbyshire Rotarians are reading this, but you should know).

Sipili's community library consists of a few shelves with a rag-bag of old charity-shop-style 'collected' books from Europe, basically consisting of dog-eared John Connolly thrillers and 1960s geography GCSE textbooks, rather than any systematic selection of decent books. I assume that the cost of shipping books is also very high. In India the majority of commercially available books are printed by India's massive publishing industry. In Kenya there seems to be fairly little major commercial printing or publishing industry anywhere. Maybe there's a larger publishing industry in other East African countries which distribute books across the region – I'm not sure.

On the demand side, though, I don't think the difference is to do with differential literacy rates: adult literacy is currently running at about 74% in Kenya (compared to around 61% in India), and both the 'How to Bring God into your Life and Grow Your Business' books and the two main newspapers seem to go down a storm everywhere. I genuinely think Kenya has an impoverished literary culture which isn't simply to do with economic poverty – India's the counter-factual. Maybe it's something to do with a hollowed-out middle class? Or a lack of an established pre-colonial print culture (unlike India)?

Any thoughts that are a bit less implicitly racist than these?

Men and women

At the 'Masaai Market' in front of the building where I'm staying, there are a row of massively competitive stall-holders (male), all trying to sell the same carvings, postcards and (sometimes) dog-eared copies of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich to the khaki safari 'trucks' that periodically arrive from safari parks in the southern Rift to disgorge pink tourists for half an hour with the locals. (Don't get me wrong, I'm as pink a tourist as anyone; but I try not to wear paramilitary rancher hats and hiking boots to go to the bank, and you'll be pleased to know I'm yet to use the 'Bear Grylls-endorsed' craghopper trousers I bought in a shameful moment of paranoid weakness in Debenhams last month).

Since everyone's selling the same thing, and I have to pass by them every day, I don't want to buy from any of the stalls (especially as one of them is run by my landlady's boyfriend, so choosing another one could be social death).

Several women also sell bags of mangoes and oranges in the market. When I finally plucked up the courage to speak to them, I learned that although they stand in different places, Josephine, Naomi, Lilian and Dorothy all work together, sharing profits. As a result, I often buy mangoes (more mangoes, in fact, than I, my landlady or her niece can possibly eat. It's becoming a bit awkward).*

Lesson: in a market where everyone knows each other, so favouritism carries a real social cost, collaboration may be a better strategy than competition. Or at least, the marginal cost of profit-sharing over competing may be smaller than the marginal social capital cost of competing over profit-sharing.**

*Obviously the comparison isn't 100% accurate – I am always going to buy mangoes more often than postcards – but I also go a long way outside the market to buy books.

**Would anyone like to correct this cod-economic-speak?

Kenyan business plan I

I couldn't post on this blog last weekend because there was a power-cut all day in Nakuru. A chronic lack of capacity in Kenya's power system means that this is a pretty regular (that's to say, frequent but totally irregular) occurrence.* Lists of pre-planned blackouts are published in the ad sections of the Daily Nation, one of Kenya's two main daily newspapers, but often only a day or so in advance, and by the time you buy the paper it may already have started.

Given the ubiquity of mobile phones, I reckon you could make a packet of money by getting these lists early from the power board (as the papers presumably do), and getting people to sign up to receive cheap text messages when there's going to be a power cut in the area in which their phone is currently receiving signals.

If each text came with a Crazy Frog ringtone alert, we'd probably be millionaires. Anyone fancy becoming East Africa's next mobile service entrepreneurs?

*One interesting solution to this is being constructed in the southern Rift near Naivasha, to the south of here – an Israeli-built geothermal plant, Olkaria III, intended to extend Kenya’s existing geothermal power generation there to around 25% of all Kenya’s power needs. It seems like a good project. Although as a World Bank guaranteed project, part-financed by the German government, it seems a shame that the donor funding and the guarantee is being paid to a Cayman-Islands registered holding shell for the Israeli/US company, presumably tax-free.

In an ironic 'guns and butter' twist, heavy equipment for this plant was shipped into Mombasa last year on the same ship carrying an expensive load of weapons from Eastern Europe.


On Saturday I had to leave Sipili early to get back to Nakuru, so couldn't get a lift with my colleagues. Instead, I got my first ever matatus. Like lots of other countries without adequately functioning public transport systems, Kenyan towns are connected by lots of private minibuses that pick up passengers along the way. The matatu, with their sound systems blaring hip-hop and their painted pictures of Jesus and Lil' [sic] Wayne, are a bit of a staple of westerners' blogging about East Africa. So I won't bore you with the description of my journey, except to say that matatus seem a lot calmer and more comfortable than the hysterical descriptions by guidebook writers and travel journalists would suggest. Maybe I just got on some really boring ones. These were my two travelling companions on the front seat for the second leg of the journey. The little girl was called Esmerelda. I'm not sure what the chicken's called.

The matatus, almost all imported second-hand Japanese minibuses, bump along untarmacked roads that were often better in the fifties than they are today; they operate pretty efficiently, but they're necessarily slow. They also replace a decrepit state postal system – for a small fee you can send a letter or package on a matatu, and then call the recipient with the matatu's numberplate, so that they can go and pick up the package at the other end.

Amid this neglected state infrastructure, though, in even the tiniest village there seems to be a stall selling cellphone top-up cards. Apparently sidestepping sclerotic government and donors, mobile phone companies (the biggest being South African – Safaricom, Telkom/Zain – Orange has only recently arrived) have established a dense, well-functioning mobile phone network used by about 35% of the population (a high penetration for a country with Kenya's GDP). From where I'm sitting I can count 26 mobile phone masts. Mobile phone networks are filling gaps in other ways too: terrestrial dial-up internet, and even nominal broadband, crawls at a snail's pace; but mobile broadband internet is available almost all over the country now – 'dongle' modems for your laptop cost about £50, and unlimited broadband internet is then about £15 a month. Out of the reach of most Kenyans, of course, but pretty cheap for middle classes, businesses and organisations. Much more important for most Kenyans is the M-Pesa and similar systems: mobile phone credit systems where, for a small fee, you can send up to 35,000 shillings (about £300) to any other mobile phone, which can be cashed at any of the M-Pesa booths dotted around every tiny town and village. Vastly cheaper and more widespread than, say, Western Union, the state post office is just starting to catch up, developing its own mobile phone credit system for larger sums. In Laikipia I met an immaculately be-suited Safaricom salesman travelling around setting up new M-Pesa distribution points in the countryside. He said he said he thinks that all Kenyan banking itself, except for the super-rich, will soon be done entirely through the mobile phone networks. It's salesman bravado, but I think he may be right.

I know people write endlessly about the miracle of mobile-phone telephony in Africa – Somalia, for instance, hasn't had a functioning government since 1991 but has two relatively widespread mobile phone networks. It is amazing, though, that although I can't get drinkable water (or often any water) out of a tap, in the middle of nowhere in Kenya I can get better, cheaper mobile internet, and send money faster, than I can anywhere in the UK.

Three tales from the Kenyan media

(I) 6th February

There's no internet access in Sipili, no paved roads, no public transport, the electricity goes on and off, and water comes from a wind-powered borehole. But in a tiny bar I can watch Man United vs. Everton on satellite TV beamed from South Africa.

Almost no-one shows any interest in Kenyan football, whose major teams, like Harambee, everyone insists are irrevocably corrupt. Instead, almost all the Kenyans I've met so far are fanatical British football fans (mainly Arsenal and Chelsea, a smattering of Man U supporters, and, bizarrely, an enormous national following for Leeds United). The Premiership seems to be followed in forensic detail in all the daily newspapers, and dissected in every bar and pub. Everyone in Sipili has an opinion about Scolari's replacement at Chelsea. Except me.

(II) 10th February

In the bar next door to where I'm staying, they like to show Africa Magic TV channel, which seems to broadcast mainly Ghanaian TV programmes. The evening feature film yesterday was a kind of African kung-fu genre, with Jackie Chan and Shaolin monks replaced by absurdly orientalist African 'warriors' dressed in feathers and Tupac wife-beaters. It's like the RUF meets Benny Hill. Almost every other feature of the original kung-fu genre is replicated: there's impenetrably sub-titled dialogue, the characters run at all times rather than walking, and all the fighting is accompanied by ridiculous 'kazaam' punch sound-effects. It's the US hip-hop vests that all the 'warriors' wear, though, that brings the whole thing queasily close to glorifying some of the more brutal militias of recent West African bloodbaths. Still, I suppose Rambo did that for Vietnam.

When they're not showing African kung-fu, the next best thing seems to be 1980s wildlife documentaries about African mega-fauna. These go down an absolute storm (people especially like it when the wildebeest get away). I find this a little bizarre when we're sat in the middle of Laikipia District, with one of the biggest concentrations of actual elephants, giraffes and other mega-fauna anywhere in East Africa.

(III) 11th February

There's a stall on Sipili's main street that sells mobile phones and old TVs. They've set up some massive speakers which were playing evangelical gospel music all day on Sunday, at full volume. This afternoon,though, it was playing Kenyan parliamentary questions, live on the radio, at full volume. Not even Prime Minister's questions – this seemed to be Ministry of Transport questions. Lots of people were sitting listening intently to it.

Habermas eat your heart out.

On the other hand, in some respects Kenya (like Northern Ireland?) seems to be a place where politics matters a little too much. And if I lived somewhere with no sealed roads and no public transport, I think I'd have an opinion about Ministry of Transport parliamentary questions too.

Law and Order

Yet another delayed post, I'm afraid.

So the Saturday before last I travelled up the Rift to Laikipia, the transitional region between Kenya's lush Central Highlands, home before independence to white ranchers and timber barons, and the semi-desert grazing lands of northern Kenya. My organisation has an office in Sipili, a small market town just north of the equator, serving as a the jumping-off point for travelling north to Samburu, Pokot and Turkana. The organisation's (shamefully under-resourced) Samburu and Pokot staff live and work up north, using Sipili as an occasional southern base. Sipili is much better equipped than many places further north, with electricity, packed dirt roads and even hot showers.

This is Sipili's main street. Also an excellent piece of signage for a Board & Lodging place, the Arrivals Lodge, where I didn't stay.

It was cattle market day when I arrived, with the street full of Samburu and Pokot pastoralists, carrying their ceremonial clubs, bringing their goats and cattle to sell. That picturesque bit of pre-packaged timelessness is nicely debunked when I'm introduced to S, a major herder in the area, sitting in his Pokot 'skirt' in a bar working his way through six or seven Tusker beers. Like any economic system, there's higher-ups and lower-downs. S is a round, cheery guy with a slightly hard look in his eye who tells me, not unkindly, that he's a much wealthier man than me, the mzungu. I can well believe this: the end-of-dry-season price of a cow in this area might be the equivalent of two to three hundred pounds, and major herders may have 400 or 500 cows.* Then I'm taken up the hill to a tiny nyama choma joint to eat with the local police chief - this kind of administration contact is really important for the kind of community conflict monitoring system we're hoping to set up. The police chief tells me that last night there was a cattle raid near the neighbouring town in which Mr N was killed and at least 150 cattle stolen (don't worry, Mum, I'm staying in town, they don't raid any cattle there!); and that S is the local 'warlord' (his word) who was probably responsible. I've no idea whether this is true, but certainly this kind of cattle rustling isn't simply a piece of picturesque tribal martialism – it's a well-organised (and comparatively well-armed) communal business, feeding cattle over the border to Sudan and Uganda, and to businessmen who buy the stolen cattle. I want to ask more about it, but the police officers around the table seem rather more concerned about my sexual well-being, and how I'm going to last for several months without my wife “or castration”, which forms the general topic of conversation amongst the assembled company for the next hour.

These kind of weird non-sequiturs have characterised my experience of law and order in Kenya so far – jolting from the social and familial, to cheerfully discussed or delivered force. This is, I suppose, a feature of any country where security forces aren't as rigidly separated from society as they are in the UK, and don't have the kind of reserve from their communities typical of British police forces. A, a female sergeant (and champion G3 rifle marksman) joins us while we're eating, and as she's going on patrol she offers to show me around the local police post. First she introduces me to her daughter, a gorgeous six year old. She carries her daughter into the police post, sits her on the front desk, and then, still chatting sprightly to the kid and me, rams the door open into the cells, slamming it without very much concern against the head of someone sitting on the floor in a dark, piss-smelling corridor beyond. There's no furniture at all, even in the (empty) 'women' and 'children' cells, just fetid, dark concrete rooms. The door from the corridor into into the 'dangerous persons' cell is wedged open, and the cell is stuffed full to standing room with wide-eyed men, some of whom have dirty bandages on their hands and legs. When I ask what these people have been arrested for, A says that they're mainly “thieves and robbers”, and that they can be in the police post cells for weeks “until the investigation is finished” (quite what that kind of investigation consists of isn't really clear). I have no idea what I'm supposed to say.

That evening, at the bar, another local police officer cheerfully discusses their shoot-to-kill policy with me. Propping up the other end of the bar is a Divisional Officer from an administrative division further north, the main government representative in his area. He's only in his mid-twenties, flanked by two Masaai security men, and almost crying into his cups as he tells me how 'primitive' his division is, having come from Nairobi. But there's a more serious context – he's clearly extremely worried about a joint army-police 'operation' currently on-going in his division to disarm pastoralists, many of whom keep ageing AK-47s for security against rustlers, or for rustling. He tells me quite frankly, with the police officer sitting next to him, that the 'operation' will only bring hardship and rape to the communities in his division. Similar forcible disarmament operations near the Tanzanian border have brought similar allegations.

Sipili itself, though, is awesome. Although I spent time that week travelling further north (about which I'll bore you another time – don't worry Mum, not too far north!), killing time in a dusty farming town with the nearest internet point an hour's drive down the road was exactly what I needed after Manchester and Omega. Sipili life is remarkably like The Archers - not a programme I'd previous thought of as having a resonating universality. But Sipili has a stock of characters you'd find any evening on Radio 4: there's Mr M, the stout, bookish former adult education officer who runs the school textbook and stationery shop with his wife (in the Radio 4 version he'd have a Yorkshire accent and be a cricket umpire); T, the school teacher who goes home to his farm each night and writes poetry inspired by Heraclites; S, the 'Matt Crawford' herder king and alleged cattle-rustler. This was my view from the Olivia Motel, where I was staying. I think I need more views like this in my life.

* The famous reluctance of Samburu, Pokot and Turkana pastoralists to sell cattle even in times of real economic hardship, when prices are very high, is often explained as 'irrational' cultural prestige overcoming economic need: considerable wealth may only ever be realised in social rather than economic terms, and 'wealthy' herders may starve rather than sell. Some recent work, though, suggests that this 'irrational' herd maximisation is 'rational' in the very long term, given the difficulties of building up herds for inheritance in such an aleatory, semi-arid environment.


Sorry for the delay

So I've totally failed to update this since I arrived in Kenya. I have some excuse, which is that all of last week I was travelling to places where there was largely no internet access. I've also been really lazy. All of which means I've now prepared a tediously massive irruption of blogging for you to pick your way through, if you've the stamina.

I arrived in Nairobi on Tuesday 3rd, and went straight into town to catch the Mololine bus for Nakuru. My blurry impression of Nairobi was of an awesomely segregated geography and infrastructure, only slightly less extreme than Pretoria in South Africa. Although thousands of non-Africans live in and around Nairobi, I only really saw any in the northern neighbourhoods on my way out of Nairobi, and in the Central Business District. The white Kenyan businessman I got sat next to on the plane from London lived in Karen, a plush suburb just a few kilometres to the south of the city. In a cut-glass Home Counties accent he told me he hadn't been into Nairobi for five years, and expressed serious surprise that I was planning to get on a bus, which actually got me a little worried.

I asked how (white) people usually travelled out of Nairobi.

In a Land Cruiser, apparently.

And if I didn't have a Land Cruiser?

Well what on earth would I be doing in Kenya, as a white person, without being whisked out of Kenyatta International Airport and straight to either a safari lodge or an NGO's air-conditioned offices?

This is bollocks, of course – there are plenty of independent foreign travellers in Kenya. And I know Nairobi has a very bad reputation for crime, particularly at night, but when I got to the bus area at about 11 o'clock in the morning I had no hassle at all, in what seemed a very plush bit of town indeed. Mr White Mischief was right, though – I was the only white person on the street, and the bus. I was also by far the least well dressed person amongst the immaculately suited and booted passengers on their way to business meetings in Nakuru and Naivasha.

My first few days were spent in Nakuru, a lakeside town about 2 ½ hours from Nairobi in the southern Rift, where the organisation with which I'm spending some time has its head offices. It's a dusty, jumping, bustly, hustly place, much more chilled out than Nairobi, lined with the gnarled colonial remnants of jacaranda trees, looking out over a pink flamingo-tinged lake. This picture, of the main commercial area and the mosque, er, doesn't really show any of that.

I like it a lot. I find it completely impossible to imagine that Nakuru was the site of some of the most serious violence following the disputed 2007/8 election. You can almost miss the IDP camps in the dusty valleys just outside the town, and the ragged tents still pitched - in protest at a perceived lack of government assistance - outside the District Commissioner's offices in Nakuru itself.*

I'm staying in a fantastic flat on top of the Bank of Kenya building in the centre of town (it's a bank, Mum and Dad, so it's super-safe with 24 hour guards!). On Sunday I was sitting on the building's flat roof along with another of the building's tenants. She described to me how she stood there last January and watched as fires burned in an 180 degree arc around her, and dread-locked Mungiki shock troops bussed in by politicians from Nairobi fought Kalenjin mobs while army helicopters swooped overhead. She said she was relieved when the Mungiki “boys” arrived to “protect” the Kikuyu (like her) – a sentiment she didn't at all seem to find at odds with her description of how when they couldn't find any Kalenjin to fight they started attacking male Luo residents of Nakuru instead and circumcising them with broken bottles in the street. While she says it was terrible, she does so (like other people who personally escaped attack and have described the violence to me) in an entirely dispassionate tone of voice.

The peacebuilding organisation with which I'm working is interesting, and their work is impressively grass-roots. The staff have been tremendously welcoming, and seem to be happy for me to hang around – mainly, I think, because I seem to be keeping them perpetually amused with my broken attempts at speaking Kiswahili (my landlady's niece is teaching me). Before I head down to Nairobi I'm going to be spending some time here, mainly trying to set up a grass-roots conflict early warning/monitoring system in three Rift Valley districts, using the community groups within which the organisation works. The idea is to pilot a regular, simple reporting mechanism into which community leaders, Peace Committees and local administration officials can feed a range of conflict indicators and incidents. The results are supposed to be usable by these community groups, NGOs and possibly local administration to respond to emerging small-scale conflicts. A kind of small-scale, 'sous-veillance' community counterpart to the top-down, regional early-warning/monitoring systems currently operated by IGAD and others. We'll see.

On the 6th we went up to Kuresoi, near Molo – a lush farming region quite unlike most of the Rift Valley, but which has witnessed serious violence every election year since 1997. Unless you're looking you'd miss the burnt-out buildings and IDP camps concealed amongst cool green hillsides. We wind up at Baringo B, a small place where the organisation is organising a district Amani football tournament next month - teams will each be composed of a mix of Kalenjin and non-Kalenjin youths who were literally killing each other last year. (They've said I have to play in goal on one of the teams. I hope, for all sorts of reasons, that they're joking). This is a UNICEF 'tented school' on the hilltop in Baringo B.

I realise that throughout this entire post I've used ethnic descriptors totally uncritically. I came to Kenya unconvinced about the causal strength of tribalism in Kenya's internal conflicts. They must, I thought, really be about land, inequality, power, class. And they are, I think. But I'm beginning to be convinced that tribal identities really are the most important internal categories of many of these conflicts, at least in the southern Rift. Almost everyone I've met in Kenya in the last few weeks, including those actually involved in the 2008 violence, uses tribe first and foremost to describe themselves, and their differences with others. I don't doubt that tribal labels conceal power relations, economic inequality, class divisions – nor that they've been largely constructed by colonial administrators, post-colonial politicians and demagogues. But in my (extremely limited) experience over the past few weeks, tribal differences are by far the most significant way that these conflict's participants themselves describe and explain the conflicts around them. In Baringo B we met with L, who farms there and is building a cultural centre on land donated by his father. He's helping us to organise the tournament, and is the most impressive community activist I've ever met. We stand on what L says is the invisible boundary between Kikuyu and Kalenjin zones, and he shows us where Kikuyu farmers are just beginning to return to their burnt farms in the past few weeks. Around us Irish potatoes and pyrethrum are growing in prodigious quantities in a rich, red earth, and there's a cool breeze blowing. L says, quite credibly, that this very local conflict has much to do with resources, and nothing to do with resource scarcity. This is rich cash-cropping land, with spread-out settlements, on which different groups have competing historical claims. The people who burnt the houses and stole the farms, though, weren't from outside this rich farming belt – they were next-door neighbours themselves, often existing landowners, who either wanted more, or felt they were historically entitled for more, or wanted their neighbours out for other reasons.

On a different note about insiders and outsiders, L also made me realise that key entry points into communities for organisations like ours are not people who've lived here for generations and are wholly 'inside' communities, but 'outsider' community members who have gained some respect and trust within communities. Sometimes this trust actually seems to derive from this half-insider, half-outsider status. Most of the residents of Kuresoi would describe themselves as Kalenjin or Kikuyu. L is a local farmer, but is half-Luo, half-Congolese. This status makes it possible for him to intermediate between us and the local community in which he's nonetheless intimately embedded, and also to intermediate between different parts of that community (Kalenjin and Kikuyu) as a neutral party.**

On our way back to Nakuru we passed near the town of Molo, where a few days previously about 130 people died when a fuel tanker overturned on the road and exploded while local people were crowding round it trying to siphon off the fuel. Unsurprisingly, the explosion site is still presenting new economic opportunities which were being thoroughly milked when we passed by. With a kind of horrible tour-guide impulse, our driver insisted on us getting out and looking around the site, which was still chaos. It was days after the accident, but some body parts still hadn't been moved. A man standing nearby physically dragged us over the road and insisted on showing us a blackened, severed hand whose wedding ring is still on it, perfectly intact. He then asked for a small guide fee. And where the fire had burnt a hole in the fence around the private forest by the road, dozens of men were taking advantage of the general chaos to cut down branches and trees and carry them off to sell, picking their way between the blackened metal and shrivelled messes on the road.

All of which seemed to reinforce the sense of the fuel siphoners' deaths being a grim indictment of serious local scarcity, of a kind that seems very remote from the rich Kuresoi hills just a few dozen kilometres away. But I'm quickly learning that this kind of European bleeding heart-ism just won't cut it. Most Kenyan media, and those Kenyans I've spoken to about it, seem to explain the Molo accident simply as country bumpkin stupidity.

And of course it's true that the desperation which made me feel sick on the Molo road is entirely relative: the southern Rift is, comparatively, a pretty affluent part of East Africa, with nothing like the current, grindingly persistent scarcities of northern Kenya – still less southern Sudan, Somalia or even northern Uganda.

I'm afraid this post has ended up being full of doom, gloom and badly constructed undergraduate essay-age. In fact I'm actually having a great time! More tomorrow on my first trip north, Ghanaian kung-fu, magnanimous police chiefs and Leeds United.


* At least two of these camps, near the Nairobi road, have actually clubbed together to buy the land on which they're located. One of the organisation's programme officers told me that they're now starving, because they no longer qualify for IDP assistance (they're not displaced any more, they're home!), but in the desolate dry valleys in which they've bought the land they can't possibly subsist agriculturally, and are not well placed to engage in commerce or small-scale industry. This taught me some probably obvious lessons about the inadequacy of a particularly arithmetical variety of Kenyan land politics – which is a politically incendiary Kenyan obsession, for otherwise good reasons; and more importantly about the inadequacy of equating residency rights with dignity and self-sufficiency. By writing this into legal and political definitions of displacement, in some cases (as in this one) you're actually worse off when you settle. I guess you probably learn all this in the first week of your International Development master's course, right? I'm afraid I'm groping around all this a bit.

Conversely, the IDP camps in this whole area came under intense criticism from local communities last year because IDPs were receiving food and other material aid from UNHCR, USAID, the Red Cross, Action Aid and others, while the most vulnerable local residents were starving amidst the relief effort, the violence having massively disrupted that year's harvest.

** Actually, Paul Rabinow makes this point much better than I've done in Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco. Again, I suppose this is social anthropology Class 101? But I didn't do that either, so I'm afraid what you get here is my crashingly obvious sixth-form meanderings about constructed ethnicity.


Air travel is mad

(Left) Monday morning, 11am

(Right) Tuesday morning, 11am.

More soon!



"Tree Hugging Hoolah" is, of course, the description of climate change apocryphally attributed to my intellectual hero and moral compass, Geoff 'Buff' Hoon.

I'm rubbish at online confessional, but will be trying here to post tidbits and photos of my travels, aspiring to as much relaxed, off-the-record candour as the Hoonster himself.