Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Clifford Geertz, RIP

Couldn't belive. Was reading all day about hermeneutics and symbolists' method. Then I was reading "Thick description" by Clifford Geertz and was writing a chapter to my essay and was totally tired after too many letters in my brain, too much coffee in my head and too much doubt in my mind... Needed some relax and looked at Savage Minds blog and read this sad news from Institute for Advanced Study. Clifford Geertz has passed away.

I'm not used to belive in coincidence... Strange to finish this chapter right now. Maybe I need a smoke. It's allways sad.

More about Geertz on Savage Minds.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Home exam. I'm disgruntled!

Bleee. Have got questions to written assignment. 6 days. 4500 to 5500 words. Have to answer one of these:

Take as your point of departure relevant parts of the reading list and discuss what is meant by the concept of a sign. Show how the concept can be applied to understand how societies are integrated.

2.Economic metaphors are used in anthropological analyses of social differentiation and stratification. Show by using examples from the reading list how such use of concepts may provide insight into social and cultural processes. Discuss the fruitfulness of such analytical approaches, and show how alternative approaches may yield other forms of insight.

3. Anthropologists often claim that a methodological approach can not be dissociated from a theoretical approach. Substantiate this claim by reference to at least three articles/books from the reading list.

(More about the course here; only Norwegian)

I'm disgruntled!!! :):) For the first time I don't feel like writing anything. I have been working with my volcano project the last weeks and suddenly I have to jump to something different. I know, it won't hurt, but I would really love to use this week to write even 10.000 words, but on something that is bound up with what my head is filled up with. It could be pure theory or something, but this is ... grrrr. I am absolutely disgruntled!!! What do you think about these questions? Frankly, there was no one who liked them today. Well, it doesn't really help.

Anyway, I think I'll try the third one. Not sure, but I don't think it makes sense to use energy on semiotic toughies when I know relatively little right now. Actually I am a little bit confused about signals, signs, symbols and so. I feel the difference, but I am not sure if I manage to write a whole essay without blanding those terms at some point. Could be risky if I don't juggle with them freely. Funny, that one of the most important terms in anthropology is so troublesome. Maybe precisely therefore...

Economic metaphors are important, but I am a little bit fed up with Bourdieu's capital, power and so (he's on the list, and we are supposed to use his works). Knowledge, for instance, as a symbolic, social and cultural capital is relevant for my project, but I am not too keen on Bourdieuin general (but he has some really good points and terms). We had quite much reading about globalization which could be used to answer this question as well, but I have so aversion to this subject (I don't know why actually) that I have to veto number 1 also. Then I think number 3 is the only option. I think I'll just choose the one that will take minimum time and effort:) I really want to go further with my thing. So the question about method/theory is very open and I just have to figure out how to plan the essay out. I'll take this up tomorrow or sunday.

It's raining hard. Autumn. Norway is getting cold. Winter. I'm disgruntled!!! :) Those who know where I am working on saturdays will understand the picture and why I am complaining about the weather. The rest has to guess:) Not difficult, isn't it? Goshhh, have to get up at 5 AM. Boring.

Take a few days off at FAFO. I have to admitt that I got used to those questionnaires and felt good about being there every day and conducting survey. Nice work. Hard also. And satisfying.

Also went to seminar/course at StatSoft to improve my zero-knowledge about making quantitative surveys, analysis and so. Funny, enlightening, sometimes boring, new, puzzling and horrifying:) Quite surprisingly that I was there, maybe - went there to get to know the practical side of making big surveys, on the web and paper - need to know something before I am starting to criticize how other work :):) hush! Anyway, I am proud of myself that I did understand almost all of what has been said! :)

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Abortion and childless tax. Governmentality in Poland and Nicaragua

(protesting feminists. by La Prensa)

Yesterday, the deputies of Nicaraguan Parliament approved the request of president Enrique Bolaños and the Catholic Church to punish all abortions, including therapeutic abortion which was allowed by law from 2001. From now abortion in Nicaragua is punishable from 4 to 8 years. This applies both women and doctors and midvives who practices or attend abortion.

Tradicionally, abortion debate comes together with coming presidential election. Edmundo Jarquín from Movimiento Renovador Sandinista (MRS) protested against the new law and said that personally he is against abortion but now it's all about women's health. Eduardo Montealegre from Alianza Liberal Nicaragüense (ALN). "Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, who was a supporter of abortion rights as a young revolutionary, has said he has become a devout Roman Catholic and now opposes abortion", writes The Associated Press (today's article). I suppose the case will have a great influence on the coming election results.

Today's article from El Nuevo Diario (spanish)

Today's article from La Prensa (spanish)

Some history on abortion case in Nicaragua

Polish politics life continues tradition and start discussing abortion right before election. While having one of the strongest protection of unborn children, Polish legislature hasn't dealt yet with a problem of rape, incest or child's disability. Yesterday a leading party proposed "to close the “rape exception” loophole for abortion and is seeking an insertion into the constitution that would guarantee “the legal right to life from the moment of conception", writes Lifesite in yesterday's article.

The League of Polish Families means that so we escape from misinterpretations of the constitutional regulation. Constitution experts are discussing possibilities of this amendment and one of them concludes that "moment of conception" can be interpreted differently as well. More here (only in Polish).

Another thing is the proposal of paying extra taxes by the childless families. Anna Sobecka from National Popular Movement said that "families which do not bring up the children should be charged with taxes, because they do not participate in society building", reports Gazeta Wyborcza (only Polish).

And speaking about Foucault and biopolitics...

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Nature is the best impressionist

French painters were really close....
I am bewitched.....

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

"The theory of evolution is a lie..."

(photo by Lene Berg. www.

Poland's education minister Roman Giertych has challenged European Comission as well as world science society and together with his father, professor of dendrology and representative in the European Parliament, Maciej Giertych and Miroslaw Orzechowski, deputy minister in the right-wing coalition government, has began a fight for "keeping Darwin's 'lies' out of Polish schools". Quarreling about human's origin is nothing new, but I am wondering about the timing for this creationist rebellion in Polish parliament. Has it something to do with the States? Hmmm.

Anyway, Roman G. says "we are not going to withdraw (Darwin's theory) from the school books, but we should start to DISCUSS it". Miroslaw O. makes a statement that "the theory of evolution is a lie, an error that we have legalised as a common truth" Maciej G. describes the theory as "not supported by proof" and called for it be removed from school books." All of them represents Catholic far-right political group - the League of Polish Families and mean that evolutionism was created for non-believers and as a substitute to the real faith.

Orzechowski doesn't hesitate to remove teachers who are not going to comply with ministry's instructions (if they come) about not teaching evolutionism. He doesn't hide his lack of tolerance (well, mild said) and said "Oh, the world has already managed without tolerance and will still manage". The whole interview here (only in Polish).

Quite surprisingly, archbishop Józef Życiński criticizes (only in Polish) those voices and says "Darwin had right, Sir minister!" and that "those who suggest that theory is incompatible with religious teaching do harm to the religion. Archbishop invokes Pope John Paul II to show that scientific theories cannot be seen as contradictory to relgion. In 1996 Pope John Paul II said "fresh knowledge leads to recognition of more than one hypothesis in the theory of evolution" but he didn't exclude this theory at all.

More about struggling between creationists and evolutionsists in Poland here.
Foreword by Maciej Giertych to "Creation Rediscovered" here.

Yesterday, representative in the European Parliament said that "dinosaurs lived in our time" and as an argument and proof he says "the Poles remember the Dragon of Wawel!". The LEGEND of The Dragon you can read here. Human development is also falsification according to Maciej Giertych. As a proof, he showed a picture of an american boxer and said that he looks totally like a Neanderthal man!!! Well, I am not an expert but Däniken had also his own evidences/legends and I am not sure if I believe in those. Maybe soon we'll meet a catchword "Welcome to the world of mysteries of professor Giertych" while heading to next European Parliament session.

And the most ironic thing of all is that Lene Berge - a norwegian artist, came last year to Warsaw and made an incredible funny installation in the centre of the city, on the buliding that reall has a special meaning for the polish society and politics...

6th october 2005. Warsaw's Palace of Culture and Science
Darwin is singing his soul... hihi. Check pictures, video, history here.

Do our parliamentary creationists have any comments? I think this debate need some smile as well.

P.S. And just to clarify matters - I am aware that theory is only theory.
(picture by Lene Berg.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Temporal thema and problem definition

In my thesis I want to focus on attitude to nature and scientific data in Nicaraguan villages round Maribio Volcano Range. Many studies point out the relation between health and nature and how the latter influences people’s wellbeing. Fugelli and Ingstad, for instance, write about Norwegians’ concept of nature as a source of health. With a staring point in environmental diseases I want to examine how people who are exposed to harmful impact of nature interpret their health situation. I want also to see how they accept the geological and medical expertises that began to throng to the villages not until the late eighties. According to SINAPRED (National System of Prevention, Mitigation and Attention to Disasters) CO2, SO2 and acid aerosols from eruptions and degassing events cause respiratory problems, conjunctivitis, pneumonia, coma, asphyxiation, skin, eye and throat irritation, blindness, tiredness and so. Volcanic emissions have also destroying impact on animals, plants and soil fertility. There are also observed damages to metallic constructions and infrastructure. According to SINAPRED’s reports local population is not aware of the risks and local beliefs are understood by authorities as a hindrance to perform successfully information campaigns and evacuation efforts.

My question is to which extent we can use perception of nature and beliefs as an approach to understand the conflict between local population and the experts. One of my assumptions is that there are precisely different cosmologies that are valid to those two groups, something that makes the mutual understanding difficult. This implies that I have to find what cultural meaning nature has to people at Los Maribios. The second assumption is that the attitude to science does mirror relation to persons who convey this. As development of health care and social service in
Nicaragua is connected with the national revival movement and campaigns after the Sandinista revolution in 1979, I suppose that these experts have to be seen in a wider historical context. Because there are they who try to convey scientific rationality, I have to examine what these experts stand for according to Los Maribios residents.

Some links, if anybody will be interested in more stuff, just say, but I really doubt:) :
  • SINAPRED (only spanish, lots of reports about each municipality and it's vulnerability and so)
  • INETER (Nicaraguan Geoscience Research Institute; last updates and a lot of stuff I've not read them all yet:)
Some articles:

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Quantitative methods...

I was really lucky to get the job at FAFO right now. Their project (in cooperation with CMR) is about migration (mainly labour) from Poland to Norway, after EU enlargement in 2004. I am working as an interviewer in the quantitative surveys. Pretty cool job, I think. And the first one that has something in common with my education!

I think it's really a good time to do this now when I am preparing to my fieldwork. Firstly, I can train myself in doing interviews, I've never done this. Well, a few as a homework, but any that really tells, that are a part of research and on which that research depends! Wow, it was really strange to sit and talk with respondents and realize that "this is what has to be done before all see the results!" hehe. I know I know, banal discovery, but anyway it's pretty amazing to experience the boundarylessness of the field! is it now? is it allready now? am I doing research? I think everybody has to go through this kind of questions before he or she discovers that no magic wand will transform me-student to me-researcher. I've experienced that in spite of that it's not my project at all, but I am trying to take advantage of this job.

Anyway, the other thing is that yes-no-don't know-doesn't apply-
surveys can be so frustrating! Especially when respondent wants to talk or starts his or her monologue, goes deeper into the subject, tells his or her lifestories and you are sitting there with your pencil, looking at the emotionless piece of paper with boxes, tables and number on and ask: "So you are happy while working in Norway? Right/wrong/don't know?" (it's only example, there is not taken from the questionnaire). I was just reading Leach's critique of quantitative surveys and I do understand what he means with incorrectly defined terms. Because what does it mean to be happy? How does the respondent interpret the question? Happy because or happy in spite of? How do we interpret this? It hadn't been a problem if it weren't for the fact that others interviewers could interpret the question differently... Well, there is no meaning to go deeply in those subject in this research so it doesn't hurt. The important thing is that we have to be really careful when using some others people's data, research materials, examples and so on, and especially while making conclusions based on them. Anyway, I am collecting practical arguments for not using quantitative methods in non-statistical phenomena. Obvious, obvious again, I know, but it feels so good to experience the need for some other method while doing for instance interview. It's so satisfying to be able to see lacks and to know what more could be done to improve the research... wow. thank you for your attention:)

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Telica Today

Isn't it gorgeous?! Look at the clouds and the light...
Today I've read about scorpions and other creepy creatures there. I have to admitt that it scares me to death... So I have to feed myself with all the magnificent things to obscure the others...


Saturday, October 14, 2006


Well, we'll see how this beta version works and what it's going to change :)


Friday, October 13, 2006

Well, who am I?

What Monty Python Holy Grail Quest Character are You?

You are King Arthur of the Britons!You like to hear yourself talk a lot, namely about some damn grail. Those closest to you are just there to serve you and bang your coconuts together. For some reason Mystical beings come to you and set you out on quests. If only more people understood you, perhaps you'd get that grail afterall.

Take this quiz!

Do I talk to much about some damn "grail"?! :)


Tickets bought!

We've bought (all) the tickets!!! The plan is:
18. december - Poland, Christmas etc
January - Frankfurt, visiting Agata :)
7. January - San Juan (Costa Rica) ---- have got excellent tip how to get to Nicaragua. Post it at the bottom.
5. July - back - I am not sure yet if I am going to stop by Poland firts or I will take some vacations later...we'll see.

Oh, and took some vaccinations today.

What more has to be done:
  • travel insurance
  • yellow feber vaccine
  • buy some mosquito netts, repellents, telts or so
  • apply for scholarships
  • try to sublet our apartment for 3 months:/
  • repair and update laptop
  • buy tape recorder?
  • buy memory card to camera
  • make all appointments in Nica before I leave Europe
  • find out what to do with all our stuff here in Oslo, storage costs
  • find out all the stuff with money transfer
  • finish writting my project:):)
  • more?
OMG, time is running...

And the tips from the forum. Thanks Jaime! Really funny:

"One option that was left out, is taking the Pullman directo from San Jose to their private station in Liberia, then walking across the street to the regular bus station and catching a bus to the Frontera (border), walk across the border, and catch bus for the north (and prob. getting on another bus in San Juan de Sur). Its actually pretty easy and CHEAP provided that you speak and understand a little Spanish, have time on your hands, and enjoy the cultural experience of being on un-air conditioned, eventually full or crowded buses. I myself think its a great way to meet Nicas, even though I can afford to take the grey dog (TicaBus).

When in Rome do as the Romans."

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Furious or somebody has stepped on my toes?:)

And actually I think it is quite funny. Me, who are sitting, searching and reading all possible info about the country and the subject, have got some special "private message"! There is a forum on the web about Nicaragua and I have posted a question about malaria. I've read WHO and others' documents about the risk but I am the one who is quite nervous about this stuff so I wanted to get some info from people who are living there and what precautions they take - some personal experiences and so on. And among some encouraging words I've got this:

"Subject: You are doing research? HUH ????
I have written before about this...What are you doing ? You need to know what you are dong before your come to a country...using funds etc....You are looking for a phd...BUt YOU CANNOT GET THE INFO NEEDED TO PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST DISEASE ?i AM SO SORRY...BUT I AM "considered" ELDERLY AND BEEN WORKING MY ENTIRE LIFE IN HEALTH SERVICES. I think you should be alot more prepared. Seroiusly do you epect to do research when you have no clue about living in a country ? want pay or do your own research Maybe you should thnk about that. you are striving for a degree...that takes more than asking for instant answers. You can cal me a real $%^&*..I don't care. I am ut tired of kids going abut thinking hey can get ihstat answes and get their degrees . OK...Now you answer me. Why have you not done enouh research to know about need to know about the area you are becoming a epert in ???? Sorry...I pisked on you...but I see this over and ove and I am so done. Acadenia is really going downhill."

I am just posting this to have some memories after some years from this time. I think I am going to hear a lot of such words during my work. It can actually be a big CHALLENGE not to take things personally! :):):)

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Vamos Compañeros!

Yes, there was so much work that I didn't even think about posting something. I wonder how nice it could be to be an "anthropologist" without a project! :) It could be so easy, just hanging around without going deeply into any subject... Nice, but boring after a while, I think. Anyway, after one month of doing whatever you can call it - thinking, trying, reading, asking, talking, dreaming, "sleeplessing", crying, smiling, searching, writing, thinking again, reading more and more and still too little, stressing, reading too much and so on - I think I've achieved some victories and I know: what, who, where, when and even why!!! Some conclusions about these w's and other things:

1. I am totally satifisfied with my supervisor! We've met only once but she mobilizes me and is so encouraging and give me energy to go go go go go.

2. I am going to write my thesis in Norwegian. I know it would be great to make it in English, but... ok, I am not going to complain on it any more!:P Anyway, I was discussing the subject with the supervisor and I've decide that I am not ready to torture myself and will try to concentrate on the content more than on form. I will probably translate it later to Spanish so you'll be able to check the stuff out!:)

3. I've chosen the place - Nicaragua, León municipality, Telica district among volcanoes Cerro Negro, Telica and San Critóbal (webcam). The placement of volcanoes in Nicaragua see the map.

I am not sure in which village I am going to stay, but I'll figure it out when I'm already there. But I would love to stay in San Jacinto (english) - due to its hot springs (spanish) and theirs ambivalent influence on people's health and use of the place as a tourist attraction (sic!) - kids are guides and EXPERTS on the subject! It is also estimated (SINAPRED's raport in pdf, spanish) that San Jacinto is the most vulnerable place (sitio crítico) in district when talking about natural risks.

I've been in contact with geologists and medical stuff from Central America and I have to say that I am really lucky with those people! I've got so much interesting and needed informations, documents and advices that I will always be gratefull for this. I think those first contacts with the field mean really much for the course of our projects - they've responded to me so enthusiastically that I felt blessed by this. Thank you all Nica people allready now, when I have 3 months yet to join your lives!

I've been invited also to participate in a conference for prevention and mitigation of natural disasters! Thanks for that CIGEO !!! It will be in January, so it's great start for my fieldwork. In spite of the fact that I am not going to focus in my "investigation" :) on risk management and survival strategies, it is important for me to see the way SCIENTISTS works, talks about stuffs and about people they are going to TEACH REALITY.

4. The main focus will be on:
  • production of scientific knowledge (geological and medical)
  • local knowledge
  • conflict between different epistemologies
  • understanding of scientific data and different use of them
  • understanding of illness (illness vs. disease) and attitude to modern, standard medicine
  • nature as an object or subject?
  • landscape, dwelling, history, narratives, place identity
  • the problem of risk concept will surely come out, but I won't make this to be the sentral one in my project. And, if I will take the subject up, it won't be surely social construction of risk, but social construction as RISK PERCEPTION.
Question is: kan we use beliefs and perception of nature as an approach to understand conflict between local people and the experts?

5. We, my boyfriend and me, are going to Costa Rica at the beginning of January and take a bus to Nica (have to apply for american visa to take a plane some cheap plane to Nicaragua - and actually it will be fun to do this - it is not so far away). I'll try to be in the capital - Managua - for a few days to meet those people with whom I am corresponding now, visit some libraries, archives and so on. But actually I am going to be in Léon the first month - taking spanish courses, meeting people, getting to know country, people (haven't been in South America before!) and myself in the field. Léon (spanish, english) is still "the intellectual center of the nation" with three universities, international colleges and so on. That is why I do not feel the pressure to be in tha capital too long. I think and I hope the libraries in Léon will be enough. And the place is beautiful, just google some pictures, oh God, all those colonial churches... I love all form for sincretism! I just want to be there NOW. It's funny - I've never been interested in Latin America... :)

We are going to stay at the Red Cross shelter in Léon so I am pretty proud of myself that I've managed to arrange this already! Once we are there, we hope to practice the snowball method!:) I've also get info that they are some shelter in San Jacinto so it is totally perfect. Our aim is to stay at some family's house in the village... as everybody's :)

Bartosz will be with me until March and I am going to continue my fieldwork until July. So I will end up with six months fieldwork and I hope to use every minute of this time! I just can't wait!

I'll not bore you with theories I am going to use. At least not now.

Other things:

1. I am totally on cloud nine for being polish right now (I do not have any problems with it!). Translation of Malinowski's diaries? Gosh, you guys have to learn polish to get to know what is written there! Word by word, verse by verse, evolution of the mind and body... The language he is using is untranslatable! Especially those reminding more of scratch notes than "diary in the strict sense of the term". I was estonished by experiencing the similarity between his and my writing stile (in mother tongue).

2. I felt in love with
literature database!!! Totally! I think actually I am going to be obsessed by them soon :)

3. Working on Films From The South Festival - you who are in Oslo now - don't miss this!!! Great fun!

4. Go me! Go me! :P

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