Tag Archives: Tostan

Notes from Senegal: My American Jewish World Service Study Tour Experience

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Originally posted on the blog of Absolute Travel.

On a recent one week study tour sponsored by American Jewish World Service (AJWS), with the assistance of Absolute Travel, I became fully immersed in the magical world of Senegal—its people, its culture and its struggles to forge peace and overcome poverty. Read More »

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Wrestling with Global Poverty

Originally posted on Pursue: Action for a Just World.

“Establish early on that your liberalism is impeccable, and mention near the beginning how much you love Africa, how you fell in love with the place and can’t live without her. Africa is the only continent you can love… Be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed.”
“How to Write about Africa” by Binyavanga Wainaina

I have always been deeply troubled by the uneven power dynamics that seem inherent in international development. While disturbing, the destructive interventions into the affairs of the Global South through colonialism, transnational corporations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank are to be expected, given powerful economic forces that encourage the “haves” to take advantage of the “have nots.” I have personally become more wary of the people who see themselves as caring about the developing world while unwittingly taking on the role that Binyavanga Wainaina describes above in his biting criticism of white people who write about Africa. As I developed my identity as an activist, I felt overwhelmed by the scope of global poverty and the lack of models for positive engagement on an individual level. I felt that I had two options: to participate in exoticization of the developing world or disengage completely. Seeking to avoid participating in “the commodification of Otherness,” as bell hooks describes in her essay “Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance,” I steadfastly clung to the latter, choosing to focus all of my activism on the local level.

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