Sunday, April 30, 2006

Something just landed on me...

Today's picture is of a colourful Amazonian grasshopper that decided to take a breather on our boat earlier this month.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Euro-monitoring in Greece

First seminar of the summer term brough Zivanna Mourmouri to the class to present her research on the Europeanisation of Greek public space. Instead of being on Monday the seminar has been shifted to Wednesday for this and next week. Consequently there was plenty of time lost as people wandered around, trying to find the right classroom, since we had relocated as well! Also, it was only one person this week, so a later start, at 11.

Zivanna aims to assess the extent to which Greece's media has become Europeanised through a content analysis of stories about the EU. A number of questions were raised, including what was meant by 'Europeanisation' (which was loosely defined but appeared to be a process of change by which European issues become discussed nationally - I think) and how a study of the media could identify changes in societal views and attitudes about Europe.

Added to this were methodological questions about the suitability of a one-country case study and an emphasis on periods where the EU was bound to be discussed (i.e. monetary union, etc). If Greece - which Zivanna claims has an instrumental view of the EU - was not going to be compared against a pro- or anti-EU state (e.g. France and the UK), then shouldn't 'controls' be placed in the analysis of media between periods where there was a lot of discussion about the EU against those which didn't?

Still, it has the makings of an interesting project and could provide an useful insight into how the EU is reported.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

On the steps

Today's image is of the Carmo steps in Salvador's Pelourinho. This was where the film O Pagador das Promessas (The Promise Keeper) was filmed in the early 1960s and is still one of my favourite Brazilian films - sharp comedy and social commentary rolled together.
On the ballot

Attended two seminar yesterday related to elections. The first was at the ODI where George Philip (LSE), Victor Bulmer-Thomas and Duncan Green (Oxfam) all spoke about the Latin American elections. Is it a turn to the left and if so is it substantial or only skin deep. I managed to arrive late and missed George's contribution. But the general impression given was that while macro-economic policy won't change, there's the possibility of reform in social policy by these governments as well as the now obvious comment that Venezuela's Chavez and Chile's Bachelet are different creatures.

Duncan Green drew on Francisco Panizza's typology of the contemporary Left, claiming that there are three models: the liberal-republican, social movement-based and populist. A government or party can occupy more than one model and fluctuate according to their experience. Consequently, Brazil's PT and Uruguay's Frente Amplio may have been labelled as social movement-based but are probably now liberal-republican (like Bachelet). Where then, does Morales in Bolivia sit? He comes from the social movement Left, but will he govern like that? Or will he end up like Lula and the PT? Furthermore, will Bolivia go the way of Ecuador, where social and indigenous movements ended up splitting with 'their' government?

The other contibition to note about the ODI seminar was Bulmer-Thomas's observation that economic paradigms in Latin America generally last about 50 years - which means we're currently halfway through the current model. So don't expect any major changes yet.

I left early to catch a bus to Oxford for the Brazil Centre's seminar on the Brazilian elections. The panel consisted of Leslie Bethell (who always has a few good anecdotes up his sleeve), Jairo Nicolau (a renowned political scientist in Brazil), Tim Power and Leany Barreiro Lemos (a visiting research associate and legislative advisor in the Senate in Brasilia).

The general consensus was that Lula looks like he'll win. Although he hasn't declared yet, his polls have recovered after the corruption scandals and Alckmin, the main challenger, hasn't made a dent in his numbers yet. Power (loosely) likened Lula to Reagan as a hands-off, teflon-like president. Interesting though, Jairo showed that Lula's support has fallen among the richer classes and that his base is now among the poorer sections of society. This means that if Garotinho gets the PMDB nomination he could create problems for Lula, since he's drawing the same sort of support. It also means that the suggested impeachment of Lula probably won't go through, since the poor will think it's the political class trying to get 'our man'.

Also notable is the feeling in Brazil that Lula does better without the PT - hence his distancing himself from the party. That made me ask a question about a post-Lula PT in 2010. If Lula wins now, what happens then? The interesting thing about all the scandal last year was how it swept away the group behind Lula, from whom one might have expected his successor to have been groomed. And former finance minister, Palocci, is just the latest case.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Yes, I'm pining a bit for Brazil - the beaches and a more relaxed existence (probably due to the fact that I know I have work and studies to be getting on with).

In the absence of any prospect - at least until the summer (fingers crossed), I attach a photo of one of the more beautiful places I've been to: an image of Jericoacoara at sunset (thanks Pati).
Anglified Braziliana

To Guanabara club/bar in the evening for my brother's birthday party. Yet having been in Rio just a few days ago, the vibe was definitely less Brazilian than one might expect.

Sure, Guanabara has gained a reputation as arguably the most vibrantly Brazilian venue in London. And perhaps if you haven't been to Brazil - or it's been awhile since you were last there - it may catch the vibe. But there's plenty there to remind you that you're definitely in London. It's not just the number of white people, but the sense of busy-ness around you. Added to that the music before the big samba school came on was definitively not Brazilian and the presence of a toilet attendent, which really winds me up something chronic, all points out that we're in the UK.

And is it just me or are there a growing number of Ben Sherman shirts that I saw in there last night? I'm coming to the conclusion that toilet attendents and Ben Sherman fashionwear is something that is quite closely correlated.
Election round-up

Yesterday was one of the two (possibly three) ventures into the Spitalfields and Banglatown ward election. Along with my two colleagues we visited several estates and houses near Hanbury Street to plug ourselves. We had a leaflet with details about ourselves and the party (although one of the leaflets had a statement about me that was slightly out of date). No matter though. We managed to introduce ourselves to a number of people and even if it wasn't really canvassing, the general impression was good. Only a few people refused to take our leaflet or said they wouldn't vote Lib Dem.

It's less than two weeks until polling day and there was quite a lot of acitivity inthe area. As we doorknocked one estate the local Tory candidate was seen driving around the block and back again (so much for his party's claims of green-ness!), while several Labour candidates and activists stopped to talk to us. Meanwhile on the other side of the street there were three Respect activists whi were clearly not from the area, trying to work out which estate was which from one of the maps.
A-begging for money

It looks like being ridiculously expensive to get a flight for Brazil this summer. A quick check of online travel agencies suggests around £800-£1000. Quite steep. The last time I sought a flight to Brazil in the summer (August time) it was around £550 - and that was considered expensive three years ago. Presumably it's something to do with the fuel tax?

Which makes it all the more imperative that I apply for funding for the flight. I managed to get some money last year from London University which covered my flight out. Today I'm going to be making an effort to apply again - and hopefully be successful once more.

Although judging by my last few funding applications (almost a job in themselves for PhD students), I may well be unsuccessful. This month alone has seen rejections from the Government Department to support my ESRC application and from the Wingate scholarship foundation.

Once the travel application is done there's also internal LSE funds to apply for before the end of June, including the Miliband scholarship (worth £5000 and only available once every two years) and the research grant (that cuts my tuition fees in half as it did this year).

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Time to be off?

Only one other thing to say after my absence. Despite carrying around my digital camera for three weeks in Brazil, it's was only on the last flight home that the LCD screen cracked. Added to that the hot water in the kitchen is not working while the shower is barely a trickle. Meanwhile the bank has charged for going over my limit and refuses to allow me an increase.

With a welcome back like that is it any wonder I'm counting the days until I next go back to Brazil for fieldwork (ideally this summer)?
Back to business as usual

I'm back after a three-week absence. I was away in Brazil, ostensibly for a friend's wedding in Rio before then heading out to the Amazon with friends for some serious slumming. Then back to Rio via a detour in the African-feeling city of Salvador. Plenty that could be written about - and which might appear gratuitous and boring to some. I reckon the best way to address this might be to post the occasional photo rather than wax lyrical. Also, because I simply don't have the time! It's back to work, both PhD-related and work-related, for me.

But I will leave this thought: the jungle is much noisier than I anticipated. Sitting silently one can hear dozens of things, from howler monkeys to buzzing mosquitos and grasshoppers, through to strange sounding birds - particularly those that make a 'thwip-thweeough' side, like a builder to a passing woman!