Research Articles (Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies (STIAS))

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    Aid donors, democracy and the developmental state in Ethiopia
    (Taylor & Francis, 2019-09-26) Brown, Stephen, 1967-; Fisher, Jonathan, 1985-
    The “developmental state” has become a prominent alternative development model defended by contemporary Western aid donors, particularly in Africa. Purported “developmental states,” such as Ethiopia and Rwanda, are argued to possess strong-willed, visionary leaderships whose commitment to delivering on ambitious development plans renders them attractive donor partners. These leaderships are also, however, often authoritarian and unapologetic when criticized for democratic backsliding or human rights abuses. For many Western donors this represents a tolerable trade-off. The purpose of this article is to interrogate, critique and explain the assumptions and ideas underlying this trade-off. Using the case study of Ethiopia, we argue that donor officials’ understandings of “developmental state” are varied, vague and superficial, the main commonality being a “strong” regime with “political will” and a non-negotiable approach to domestic governance. We suggest that donors have too readily and uncritically accepted, internalized and deployed these notions, using the “developmental state” concept to justify their withdrawal from serious engagement on democratic reform. This derives from a systemic donor preference for depoliticized development models, as well as from Ethiopian officials’ own savvy political manoeuvrings. It has also, however, weakened donors’ position of influence at a time when the Ethiopian regime is debating major political reform.
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    The cultural semiotics of African encounters : eighteenth-century images of the Other
    (De Gruyter, 2020-01-11) Duner, David
    This a contribution to the cultural semiotics of African cultural encounters seen through the eyes of Swedish naturalists at the end of the eighteenth century. European travellers faced severe problems in understanding the alien African cultures they encountered; they even had difficulty understanding the other culture as a culture. They were not just other cultures that they could relate to, but often something completely different, belonging to the natural history of the human species. The Khoikhoi and other groups were believed by Europeans to be, from their perspective, the most distant culture. The Linnaean disciple Anders Sparrman and others, however, tried to transcend this cultural gap, and used their cognitive resources, such as empathy and intersubjectivity, in order to understand the alien culture they encountered. The aim of this paper is to unearth the cultural semiosis of African encounters and the intersubjective challenges that human interactions provoke. These encounters not only changed the view the travellers had of the Other, but also changed themselves and their self-perception. The encounter between the Ego and the Other is, however, not static, something predestined by the differences in their cultures, but dynamic, changing according to individual encounters and the actual intersubjective interplay that transform and change the perception of the Other. There are in particular four meaning-making processes and challenges within cultural encounters that are in focus: recognizing cultural complexity; invoking intersubjectivity; determining similarities and dissimilarities; and identifying the Other as a mirror of oneself. The triad of cultures – Ego, Alter, and Alius – can be understood as gradual and changing aspects depending on the actual situation of the encounter and the personal perspectives, interpretations, and behaviour of the thinking subjects involved. Using concrete examples from Southern and Western Africa in the 1770s and 1780s, this study aims to explore this dynamic semiosis. One of the conclusions is that the relation between the Ego and the Alter/Alius is not something only predetermined by the cultures involved and their ideologies, but also depends on the individual thinking subjects and how they use their specific cognitive and semiotic resources, not least their intersubjective abilities, within specific temporal and spatial contexts.
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    Insecurity and the invisible : the challenge of spiritual (in)security
    (Sage Publishing, 2020) Fisher, Jonathan; Leonardi, Cherry
    The search for security has become an almost permanent feature of the contemporary lived experience and what Brian Massumi has called an ‘operative logic’ for states across the globe. The modern study – and practice – of security has, nonetheless, been largely concerned with the protection, preservation and sustaining of the material, the tangible and the visible. For many people around the world, however, feelings of security also derive from understandings of an individual or community’s relationships with invisible and spiritual forces. Religious devotion and divine protection represent a central plank of security for many, just as fears of divine retribution, demonic possession or witchcraft feature as a central dimension of insecurity for many others. This remains, however, a significant blindspot in much of security studies – and, indeed, often eludes and challenges state authority as much as it intersects with and enhances it. Drawing on fieldwork undertaken in northwestern Uganda, this study reflects critically on the provenance and implications of this blindspot and argues for an expanded understanding of what ‘counts’ as (in)security. In doing so, the article emphasizes the global character of spiritual (in)security and the challenges an understanding of (in)security that encompasses this pose to longstanding scholarly and practitioner associations of (in)security with state authority.
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    Technology led to more abstract causal reasoning
    (Springer, 2020-07) Gardenfors, Peter; Lombard, Marlize
    Many animal species use tools, but human technical engagement is more complex. We argue that there is coevolution between technical engagement (the manufacturing and use of tools) and advanced forms of causal cognition in the human (Homo) lineage. As an analytic tool, we present a classification of different forms of causal thinking. Human causal thinking has become detached from space and time, so that instead of just reacting to perceptual input, our minds can simulate actions and forces and their causal consequences. Our main thesis is that, unlike the situation for other primate species, an increasing emphasis on technical engagement made some hominins capable of reasoning about the forces involved in causal processes. This thesis is supported in three ways: (1) We compare the casual thinking about forces of hominins with that of other primates. (2) We analyze the causal thinking required for Stone Age hunting technologies such as throwing spears, bow hunting and the use of poisoned arrows, arguing that they may serve as examples of the expansion of casual cognition about forces. (3) We present neurophysiological results that indicate the facilitation of advanced causal thinking.
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    Ethics of responsibility in a theological perspective
    (Pieter de Waal Neethling Trust, 2020) Huber, Wolfgang
    ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In the article the author explicates his own view of a theological ethics of responsibility in dialogue with other proponents of such an ethics. A distinction is first made between an “ethic or responsibility” and an “ethics of responsibility”. Attention is then given to the emergence of the key term of “responsibility” in Western culture and its theological origin pointed out. It is argued that responsibility as an ethical concept implies the accountability of human persons for their deeds before an ultimate instance of accountability and thus with inner necessity depends on an affirmative understanding of autonomy and self-determination. What is, however, also implied is dependence on human interaction and communication. From this follows the conclusion that the ethics of responsibility is based on a relational rather than an essentialist anthropology. This conclusion is confirmed in an extensive discussion of the views of the two most important representatives of a theological approach to the ethics of responsibility, namely Dietrich Bonhoeffer and H. Richard Niebuhr. In the last part of the article it is argued that what distinguishes theological ethics of responsibility is that contrary to a purely future-oriented ethics – as is the case with, for example, the ethics of responsibility of Max Weber and Hans Jonas – it is an ethics that intertwines the three modi of time: past, present and future.