That’s what I want to do when I grow up: the role of anthropology in communication

Recently, I found out this absolutely interesting article on the experience of an anthropologist working for the WHO.

Her experience shows how anthropologists, or just even the use of the anthropological method of the participant observer can make a dramatic difference in the effectiveness of our communication.

I think that to a great extend the approach of the participant observer can be used also in Europe. I believe there is a wide prejudice over anthropology, which is still considered a “colonial discipline”, something that can be applied only to underdeveloped populations and/or criminal organisations.

However, as this article demonstrates, anthropology is very closely related to international relations, to global issues, even to government relations.

That is why, in the humble way I can contribute to ameliorate communication, I will always try to apply the few anthropological principles I have been taught. I strongly believe that those are far more respectful of diversity than any religion, political ideology or economic theory.

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Il peso dell’onestà intellettuale – La mia lettera all’On. Turco (M5S)

Qui di seguito potete leggere una mail che ho inviato all’On. Turco, un deputato del Movimento 5 Stelle.

Chi di voi mi conosce personalmente sa quanto sia assolutamente lontano dal movimento, in tutti i sensi. Tuttavia, ieri sera ho visto un barlume di speranza nell’On. Turco, e per onestà intellettuale, ho sentito il dovere di farglielo sapere.

On. Turco,

Sono Francesco, un giovane cittadino italiano emigrato in Belgio per motivi di lavoro. Ho studiato relazioni internazionali e ho la fortuna di continuare a lavorare in un settore ove posso utilizzare le mie conoscenze.

 

Non sono un elettore del Movimento 5 Stelle, e per essere assolutamente trasparente con lei, non simpatizzo minimamente con i mezzi, le forme e la struttura del movimento.

 

Tuttavia, le scrivo per un questione di onestà intellettuale.

 

Credo che per molti italiani all’estero le maratone televisive del tipo al quale abbiamo assistito negli ultimi due giorni rappresentino un’occasione per conoscere meglio alcuni degli innumerevoli deputati e senatori che ci rappresentano, ma dei quali conosciamo ben poco, data la nostra limitata esposizione ai media italiani.
Per dirla in un’altra maniera, i dibattiti degli scorsi due giorni sono stati per me (e sono certo per molti altri espatriati) l’occasione di misurare il polso della politica italiana.

 

La mia personalissima valutazione generale di ciò che ho visto è molto povera.
La politica tradizionale non ha prodotto idee interessanti, ma si è rinchiusa nella propria bolla, senza veramente ingaggiare Renzi nel suo dibattito politico, ma trincerandosi dietro una cortina dialettica manieristica.
Il Movimento 5 Stelle, d’altra parte, non ha contribuito al dibattito, limitandosi a esprimere rabbia, in maniera volgare ed offensiva, non costruttiva, persino sciocca (se penso al passo falso di Di Maio). In un mio tweet, perso nell’assordante rumore di tanti altri users più interessati ad offendere o a fare del facile sarcasmo sulla rete (e stavolta non mi riferisco solo ai vostri elettori), ho riassunto il mio personale giudizio sugli interventi dei deputati/senatori M5S: “Quando sento i deputati del #M5S non vedo uomini e donne, ma automi,mostri della comunicazione”.

 

Nonostante queste premesse negative, ho voluto seguire parte della riunione congiunta del M5S successiva al voto discordante di quattro dei vostri deputati.

Sono rimasto molto colpito dal suo intervento, dalla maniera semplice, ma efficace, nella quale ha sostanzialmente espresso il SUO pensiero, che in quanto individuale e formato (non mi stupisce aver scoperto dopo che lei è un avvocato penalista) non poteva che essere in favore di un vero dialogo, di una vera, personale, coscenziosa presa di responsabilità di ogni deputato/senatore del M5S.

 

Ho una scarsa considerazione del M5S e della maniera in cui degli individui, alcuni dei quali con dimostrate capacità, vengano inghiottiti da una macchina mediatica assolutamente non democratica.

All’inizio della vostra avventura, ho provato dell’interesse per la maniera innovativa nella quale affrontavate la politica. Col tempo, tuttavia, non ho potuto non constatare la progressiva assolutizzazione e standardizzazione del movimento in canali non più alternativi, ma tristemente ben conosciuti alla dottrina politica.

 

Non mi sento nella posizione di darle dei suggerimenti. Mi limito a ringraziarla per avere un’opinione discordante, per avere un suo punto di vista e per averlo difeso all’interno dell’assemblea di un partito che rappresenta una grande porzione dei miei concittadini. Spero vivamente di vedere un numero crescente di suoi colleghi prendere le distanze dall’autarchia che ancora rappresenta il M5S, e prendersi finalmente sulle spalle la responsabilità delle persone che rappresentate, come ha fatto lei ieri.

 

Un solo consiglio, questa volta da “esperto”: l’Europa vi guarda, lo percepisco chiaramente qui a Bruxelles. Vi guarda con timore: il timore derivante dalla storia del nostro paese. Prima di decidere chi candidare al Parlamento Europeo, considerate quali sono le altre forze politiche alle quali verrete associati, quali saranno i partiti e i leader politici con i quali troverete accordi. Il suo intervento di ieri sera mi lascia sperare che ci sia una minima speranza prendiate una decisione responsabile.

 

Cordiali saluti
Francesco

Qualora Turco dovesse rispondere, posterò il suo messaggio.

Sarajevo Canton amends its constitution

On the 5th of September I have attacked the EU Delegation to BiH’s position towards the lack of commitment by BiH politicians in implementing ECRH rule over the famous Finci-Sejdic case.

Apparently, I have committed a mistake, though.
Unfortunately this does not involves the EU Delegation, which harsh position towards BiH politicians is still very hard, and will not lead to any amelioration in the political life in the country.

I wrongly believed that no BiH government would have been able to independently modify its constitution, aligning the document to the ECHR ruling previously mentioned. Apparently, the Sarajevo Canton managed to accomplish such unmistakably historic deed.

I will try to acquire a translation of the document and than provide you, my dear readers, a socio-political commentary on it. It is however undoubtably remarkable that BiH politics shows some signs of life. 

I sincerely hope that this event won’t remain an isolated case.

BiH census change: from theory to practice

Yesterday, SETimes reported the victory of NGO’s lobbying against the government regarding the thorny issue of 2013 census. As you can read in the article, the questionnaire model has been amended in order to guarantee a much wider span of possible answers and therefore granting BiH citizens the chance to define themselves in a more complete and coherent way.

I personally agree with the concerns expressed by Adnan Huskic, a member of Initiative for a Free Declaration and lecturer at the Sarajevo School of Science and Technology. My disquietude is not just linked to the bad timing of the scheduled, or to the chronic lack of awareness of most BiH population on the matter (which will in any case, partially nullify the aforementioned great NGO’s achievement).

My personal concerns regard the well known ease shown by other Balkan societies in pairing the census to the political elections. Montenegro for example, passed from having a 98% Serbian majority to a 34% Serbian minority in less than a decade. No major migration took place in that short timespan. The leverage of power, however, definitely migrated from Belgrade to Podgorica, and this made the miracle happen.

I personally welcome the NGO’s work: it is a further demonstration that BiH civil society is filling the gap left by the non-existing federal government in a continuously increasing efficient way. However, I still believe that 2013 census figures will not show us any major change from the 1991 ones.
There has been a very marginal shifting of political power since than.

The future of Europe: dismantle populism

This evening I attended the most interesting event host by Open Society at the Hub Brussels, aimed at launching Counterpoint‘s report on the spread of populism throughout Europe.

I am still eager to go through the whole study, but screening it with studious frenzy and after having listened to the discussion in the Hub, I can say that the work is worth to be analysed in detail. Briefly, the report aims at underlining some of the causes of the rise of populist, xenophobic nationalists parties in Europe, focusing of the French, Dutch and Finnish cases. Apart from a detailed statistical analysis, it also provides some valuable policy suggestions, claiming that a majority of populist voters are in fact “reluctant radicals” attracted by populist parties for very different reasons, which derives from common identifiable causes: lack of education in primis.

Populism: a matter of education

The discussion over the findings of the report, however, spread far beyond the geographical and thematic boundaries of the reports itself, touching the very essence of the crisis of democracy we are all experiencing nowadays in Europe. I have to say that I found myself pretty in live with the point made by Prof. René Cuperos . e basically affirmed that the “stigmatisation” of far right/populist/xenophobic parties is useless and dangerous, given that the rise of those parties is linked – not to say caused – by the failing mainstream political parties, which suicided politics in the last two decades. Descending to a more practical level of discussion, European political elites belonging to the so called “mass parties” did not managed to retain contact with the voters; instead they detached themselves more and more, failing in manage the (inevitable) changing process Europe and the concept of European democracy in a globalised world. In the very end, European political elites are failing in managing transition, change: populists parties are therefore legitimate claims of part of the populace, the one more affected by globalisation, by a knowledge-driven economy, by immigration.

While listening to those valuable contributions, I could not refrain from thinking at the Balkans and at their European path. In the last chapter of my manuscript (which will hopefully published soon), I have “unleashed” my critical vision of the European Union, affirming that the halt of the enlargement process shows all the limits of a cracked European identity: our leaders did not nurtured the European ideals enough to make them root within our democratic system. The greediness of local and personalistic interest harmed the Union more than anything else, including the economic crisis. In more than 50 years of “life together”, EU Member States are still not enjoying all the EU instruments at their best. This lack of committment, the general lack of knowledge of the EU is due to the narrow-mindness of most European politicians, which de facto halted the development of an European identity. That is why, I believe, we are still talking about populist movement in Europe. That is also why EU Member States national policies are driving the Balkans towards suicide foreign policy trajectories, like the one Nikolic is taking towards Russia.

The big question, however, remains: how to manage change? How to manage fear derived from change? I cannot provide an answer at this moment, mostly because, regarding this particular topic, I am the objective of my own research.

Curiously, though, I find myself more comfortablein discussing the future of Europe from the Balkan perspective than from the Italian one.

Nurse, pass me the scalpel! Gotta amend my constitution!

Today, on the most relevant Balkanologists websites, you will find news regarding the last attempt of Bosnian government to sabotage itself. Most probably, today you’ll also read the word “Dayton” many, many times. We are of course talking about BiH incapability to amend its constitution so to comply with ECHR sentence on the Finci-Sejdic case.

I have always criticised the Dayton Agreement, I actually despise it so much I have once organised a conference in my university trying to make people understand how stupid, colonialist and inconvenient the treaty is. I have took BiH side in many discussions, claiming that the wounds opened by 91-95 war cannot be closed by a protectorate.

Well, I am taking Bosnian side again, today. SETimes reports that Andy McGuffie, spokesperson of the EU Delegation to BiH and EU Special Representative, lately declared: “All political leaders and representatives of BiH agreed on June 27th in Brussels on these tasks and corresponding timelines. […] It is entirely the responsibility of BiH leaders to make progress on the commitments undertaken.” Consequently, The Bridge Blog reports Mr. Florindi raising its eyebrows to an unprecedented inclination, shouting in the emptiness of his office: “I beg your pardon?!”.

It is clear that the EU Delegation to BiH does not hire historians. But honestly I find very disturbing that an EU official deployed “on the ground” manages to grasps the unmistakable incompetence of BiH leaders, but fails to understand the objective responsibilities of the international community on this matter.

Asking rotten BiH politicians to amend BiH constitution is like asking a wasted drunk patient to practice a self-surgery with a crowbar, in order to remove a previously transplanted, malfunctioning, rejected organ made of garbage.

In this rare photo, we can recognise Milorad Dodik practicing a complicated self-surgery to remove the Dayton Agreement from his entrails. Will the experiment work?