Activist-academic article co-authored by Sameena Dalwai and myself published today

February 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

The article can be accessed at

The article is published in volume 4 issue 1 of Tourism Consumption and Practice (, which is a peer-reviewed academic journal freely available online. The details of the article are as follows:

Dalwai, Sameena and Brendan Donegan (2012) “From travellers to activist global citizens? Practitioner reflections on an activist/volunteer tourist project”Journal of Tourism Consumption and Practice4 (1) 5-29




Where their parents sought an essentially passive observation of the exotic while „roughing it‟ on foot and in sleeper class, a new generation of young travellers from the global North seek authentic experience in the global South through opportunities to actively engage with the realities of poverty-stricken slums as volunteer tourists. Free of their conventional social ties and uninhibited in their attempts to carve out new global citizen roles for themselves, the youths experience a bonding „communitas‟ with each other, and when they return home their social status is raised in the eyes of employers and peers. This paper focuses on the Development and Human Rights Institute (DHRI), one of many youth travel organisations that have sprung up to meet this new market, an organisation both authors have been involved in establishing and running since 2006. One of the primary motivations for the small team that set up the organisation was to capitalise on the liminal moment experienced by travellers in order to provoke them into fresh, critical and politicised reflections on the relationships between North and South and the place of their volunteerism within those relationships. The paper discusses our observations of the preconceptions of our participants, their experiences in India, and the attempts of the team to encourage the participants to reflect critically. The paper aims at polyvocality, resisting the temptation to hide the dissensus between the two authors‟ positions vis-à-vis the success, failure and potential of the project. While Brendan‟s analysis leads him to a comparison of DHRI with Paulo Freire‟s ideas of critical pedagogy, Sameena provides an analysis of how structures of racism and global capitalism shape the practices of volunteer tourists from the global North working for development in the South.


Key words:


Liminality, communitas, structuralism, activism, critical pedagogy, postcolonialism, polyvocality, volunteering, youth travel, development.



Acoustic Affinity to the Sea gig, 18 Feb 2012

February 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

We’re downstairs in Ryan’s Bar in Stoke Newington, as usual, playing a much more quiet set than usual (without drummer or lead guitarist), mostly comprising Silver Jews, Jimi Hendrix, Pearl Jam, Cowboy Junkies, Noir Desir and Giant Sand covers. Rather than playing the gig by ourselves we’re doing a set from 8.30-9.30, after which there’s a band called “Gamble” playing.

Would be great to see y’all there.

Thoughts on the final stages of marking 70 essays

February 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

“It is not the aim of education to make the student feel good about himself or herself…a good education should lead to a permanent sense of dissatisfaction….The dirty secret of intellectual life is that first-rate work requires an enormous amount of effort, anxiety, and even desperation. The quests for knowledge and truth, as well as depth, insight and originality, are not effortless, and they are certainly not comfortable.” (John Searle)

This makes me feel better about the comments I’m writing on my students’ essays. Thanks to Marcelo for posting it on Facebook in my hour of need.

An example of why it is good to be an active member of an organisation

February 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

This image has been doing the rounds at my end of Facebook in the last couple of days (despite the fact that the story it relates to – the Financial Times’ refusal to run this image as an ad – is fairly old; see, for example for details) and I reposted it because it’s a story I know a little bit about.

When I did so I got a message from an old friend, explaining he was pleased I’d posted it. He explained that as a student he had been active in his university’s branch of Amnesty International, and that at one of Amnesty’s international conferences (in 2003) he had made the case that Amnesty should take up cases of human rights abuses by businesses and not just abuses by governments. This involved making a speech in front of 200 people, and then another speech in the main plenary in front of 1000 people. As a result, Amnesty changed their policy and started to take up issues with business – like this case with Shell.


February 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

Good initiative, and a reminder of a conversation with a new-good-close friend while walking round Trent Park in the sunshine recently…

Internet Democracy Project


Are you a blogger and interested in deepening your understanding of Internet censorship and freedom of expression as they play out in India? Would you like to know more about the ways in which such issues may affect you directly? As a blogger, do you see yourself has having an important stake in the freedom of expression debate?

Then this is your chance. The Internet Democracy Project is organising a training on freedom of expression and censorship for bloggers on 25 February 2012. In the course of this day-long program, a mix of short lectures and more interactive sessions will take you through:
–       the history of censorship in India and its current status;
–       the legal framework regarding online censorship and the ways in which it may affect you;
–       debates on difficult questions such as where and how to draw the line where…

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Open University ‘OEcumene: Citizenship After Orientalism’ project workshop

February 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today I took part in a workshop titled  ‘Religious organisations and their political articulation of citizenship’, led by Aya Ikegame of the Open University, as part of the first Symposium of the ‘OEcumene: Citizenship after Orientalism‘ project, and just wanted to publish a brief, enthu blogpost on this – great workshop theme, great bunch of people round the table, lots of synapses flashing as a result (to borrow a possibly felicitous but possibly biologically inaccurate? phrase from Pearl Jam). I hope to be in touch with some of you guys soon about various types of collaboration and sharing.

Here are details of my paper:

 Of bhagats, bhutalis and health rights activism: a study of a collaboration between a people’s movement and an NGO in tribal Maharashtra (India)


This paper tells the story of an unusual collaboration between the activists of a tribal movement in western Maharashtra in India and a small group of health activists concerned with the question of how health can become the issue of a social movement. Based on the author’s PhD fieldwork in 2008-9, the paper describes how the different actors in the narrative differently imagine and represent tribal culture and religion, and tribal attitudes towards health, tribal systems of medicine and non-tribal systems of medicine. To date, this particular collaboration, which began in the 1990s and continues today, has for the most part been passed over in the voluminous literature (published and grey) on community health programmes in India. 

The story of this collaboration speaks to the workshop topic by providing a fresh angle on the ways in which activists engage in what Vincanne Adams has described as ‘acts of selective recuperation’ in their engagement with tribal culture and religion. The paper discusses how the activists construct a relatively static model of ‘traditional’ tribal culture and religion and counterpose this to a relatively static model of ‘modern’ capitalist culture, and then seek to reintroduce certain elements of the former (which they deem to be in decline) in order to challenge the hegemony of the latter. In particular, the activists are keen to reintroduce elements of tribal culture and religion that most closely approximate a) modern, allopathic medicinal practices and b) forms of decentralised, nonhierarchical practices of democratic decision-making influenced by anarchist and Marxist streams of thought. At the same time, the activists are keen to challenge and disrupt ‘traditional’ tribal cultural and religious practices that go against these tendencies; in particular, they are keen to disrupt the practice of ‘bhutali’ or witch-hunting which is associated with the bhagat’s (traditional healer’s) identification and punishment of a woman deemed to be responsible for someone’s ill-health or misfortune. 

The paper discusses the history of these activists’ health work, focusing on the responses of the tribal community and the local state. In so doing, the paper draws upon a theoretical framework influenced by a reading of Bruno Latour’s angle on Actor-Network Theory, in order to challenge what has, in India, become a fashionable critique of movements that engage with funded nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), a critique that argues that such engagement leads to the depoliticisation of formerly radical movements, shifting the significance of their actions from ‘counter-hegemonic’ to ‘hegemonic’.

Bamboo Grove Strategy Playlist

February 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Yeah yeah cut your hair whatever

Pavement Strings of Nashville

Pavement Price Yeah!

Pavement Forklift

Pavement Heckler Spray

Where Am I?

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