Friday, February 10, 2006

Seminar roundups

Yes, I’m afraid I’ve been slack lately. Something about getting on with my own research (I’m handing my supervisor a paper on the Latin American Right today for discussion on Monday). Consequently I haven’t been too good at mentioning what we’ve been up to in the first year seminar.

To run through them briefly: last week it was Omar El-Mougy’s turn to present his ideas on the stalled democratisation project in Egypt. The discussion quickly got bogged down in a debate over whether Islam and democracy are compatible, which is a moot point given the different interpretations that exist about each. Jacqui tried to offer a way forward which meant avoiding having that particular discussion. I found the paper rather helpful as a contrast to my own work, especially on the conceptions of authoritarianism and democracy that Omar brought out. And it also explains why he hasn’t been attending our Thursday night meet-up sessions over the last few weeks (although well done for coming last night)).

Yaz Santissi then gave us an outline that he’s working on. Unfortunately there was no paper to go with what looked like an interesting topic on internet governance. He’s curious to understand why the process of e-regulation was decided upon prior to the mass expansion and consumption of new e-technology. This stands in contrast to previous technologies, including radio and videotape where pirating prompted a reaction. Why is it that the big corporations moved so early to sew things up? Yaz seemed to allude that the reason could be due to there being a qualitative difference in current technologies compared to previous ones. But I asked whether that really was the case? Surely the same concerns are made about technologies through time – it’s just that the environment in which they come into existence changes. And in the case of today we’re living through a more globalised world than in the past.

This week Elize Sakamoto and Camilia Kong shared their work. Elize is interested in corporate social responsibility in the arms industry. What is it and why has it dragged its heels compared to, say, the pharmaceutical industry? I took her up on that point since I found it interesting to hear her say that the medical firms had managed to do this but that only now was an NGO coalition being put together to challenge the arms industry. Furthermore she also suggested the arms industry wanted to be more regulated. I found both ideas extraordinary. What could account for that? She responded by saying that it could have something to do with post-September 11. I’m afraid I find that a frustrating answer, since it’s used to explain all manner of things – yet terrorism, small arms proliferation, extremist ideologies were all present before then.

Finally Camilia presented on some work she’s doing on Hume. I wish I could offer more on her ideas but I’m afraid I’m no theorist. There was some discussion on instrumentalism and the discussion seemed to revolve around rationality and making choices. But by this point I was feeling just a tad bit exhausted. It was my 30th last weekend and it was a long one. And definitely not for this page…

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