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    In the words of a friend editing a rough draft of a project of mine, explaining the strength of his critique: “You’re playing with fire. It’s necessary, but it’s a very serious responsibility. You’re responsible to [the project] but you’re also responsible to the anarchist ideal in the name of which you work.” In that [...]

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  • 10/25/10--20:24: recommended reading: Africa
  • The other kind of traveler kid. I’ve lived/traveled in several countries across Saharan and Sahelian Africa, as a student/researcher, an NGO worker, and just being a kid. My stories from those travels and others, as well as criticisms and thoughts about NGO work and “international development” will come out on this blog in time, when [...]

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    Summaries of books on post-traumatic stress and suicide intervention. Aftershock: Confronting Trauma in a Violent World: A Guide for Activists and Their Allies by Pattrice Jones At a recent Street Medic training, a trainer called post traumatic stress the hidden scourge of the street medic movement. I’d expand that to include social justice movements in [...]

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  • 11/15/10--12:23: battles at home and abroad
  • So I’m reading the seminal work on post-traumatic stress, and the thing that is first jumping out at me here is that, in terms of brains processing traumatic events and having crazy longlasting craziness afterwards, rape is the rough equivalent of combat. Long-term sexual or domestic abuse is the rough equivalent of long or repeated [...]

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  • 12/26/10--22:58: The Mad Map
  • A regularly updated version of this post will be available here: Soliciting comments with more tools and resources, and especially your own mad maps. It would be fantastic to collect several. Comment and I’ll get back to you via e-mail if you want to write your own entry. === A Mad Map is a [...]

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    A couple of us are forming an online Anarchist and Radical Reading Group with the idea of reading a diverse range of anarchist/radical books at a slow enough pace that a bunch of busy people can participate, and have little message board discussions about them. There’s also a section to find or recommend readings on [...]

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    The Anarchist and Radical Book Club is getting quite active! Check it out and maybe join in? Current discussion: God and the State by Bakunin (full text) Upcoming discussion: The Revolution of Everyday Life by Vaneigem (full text) Still time to add to the last discussion: Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology by Graeber (full text) [...]

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    Green Is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege by Will Potter My rating: 4 of 5 stars First off, hoorah for this book and Will Potter’s reporting. This is a critical living history, a first attempt to pull the last decade of eco and animal rights action and repression [...]

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    See also my review of The Financial Peace Planner, a finance how-to guide for low-income folks. Yeah yeah yeah, “we vow to live in poverty just to spite what they’re selling” and all that. Regardless, as long as we live under capitalism, understanding how to handle money so we can meet all of our material [...]

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  • 02/16/11--12:27: [diario roma] i migranti
  • Standing in line outside the immigration office on the outskirts of Rome (two buses and an hour later), under an awning but blown by the rain and the wind, appointment at noon and the hour approaching 3, waiting to be fingerprinted, to have documents triple checked and registered, legal resident status to be confirmed (“come back in 40 days and pick up your papers”), cold and a little miserable, thinking about migration. An ocean away from my monolingual extended family all clustered together in the same state in the USA, descendants–close descendants, in some cases one, in some two generations– from immigration themselves, their parents speaking three maybe four languages maneuvering across the same number of countries, now this family again rooted in a narrow geographic space, state boundaries, almost More

    The post [diario roma] i migranti appeared first on

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  • 12/07/11--18:02: so you’re going to Mali
  • [copy of the e-mail I sent to a friend headed to Mali, West Africa, for a month] Music Bamako is famous internationally for it’s traditional music, but it also has a really fun hip hop/dance scene. Here’s a few videos I’ve kept links to that were popular about 5 years ago, from Mali and Senegal. A very different kind of music: Deski la Bombe – Bamako DJ Zidane – Guantamamo Aladji – Coupé Décalé Books Segu by Maryse Conde A saga in the style of One Hundred Years of Solitude– spanning generations and geography of one family, telling the history of Mali from Malian empire to the simultaneous invasions of Islamic traders from the North and French colonists from the West, and how these interacted to bring down the empire More

    The post so you’re going to Mali appeared first on

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    I’ve been studying up on humanitarian aid work in my spare time, so I wanted to pass along some free resources I’ve come across for people who are interested in international humanitarian aid and for those street medics and first responders who want to be prepared for disasters emergencies at home.  I’ll update this page as I work through more resources. Please post additional ideas in the comments so I can add to the list! Online certificate courses: Different Needs, Equal Opportunities –  Certificate course (free, online, 3-4 hours) and accompanying handbook (PDF) on gender in humanitarian emergencies, focusing on how to best understand, approach, and center the differing needs of women, men, girls, and boys within the population impacted by a disaster. ELRHA – List of online courses on humanitarian More

    The post Humanitarian Aid – Free Resources, Readings, Courses, and Certificates appeared first on

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    Some members of the Goodreads Great African Reads group are trying to populate the Listopia feature with books on African countries. This is the ‘groundwork’– many of these lists are nearly empty, but they create some space for more people to add books. The goal is that when someone searches Listopia for any specific country, they get a link to both a list of books on the country, and a list of books about the region. If you’re on GR, please add to the lists! Africa as a whole Regional lists: * West Africa * Central Africa * Southern Africa * East Africa * North Africa Countries: * Algeria * Angola * Benin * Botswana * Burkina Faso * Burundi * Cameroon * Cape Verde * Central African Republic * More

    The post Categorizing recommended reading on African countries appeared first on

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    Sometimes living that punker lifestyle means you get scabies. Or bedbugs. Or hives. Or pack rash. Or abscesses. Or ringworm*. Why did no one share this brilliant chart for identifying innumerable itchy rashes from the most wondrous book of legit people’s healthcare, Where There Is No Doctor (available in full, for free, online, along with a dozen other Where There is No [Relevant Medical Expert] titles) with me before I came across it during my epic Where There Is No Doctor cover-to-cover read through? This would have been so useful to me in that precious stage of life in which these biting, weeping, contagious and painful epidermal infections were so common in my life. I speak like I’m through with that stage of life, while I battle prickly heat, biting More

    The post Attn: Punks – Where There Is No Doctor, Ch. 15: Skin Problems appeared first on

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  • 11/23/13--03:12: From The Shadow of the Sun
  • From The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinski:

    On the one hand, experience has taught me that situations of crisis appear more dire and dangerous from a distance than they do up close.  Our imaginations hungrily and greedily absorb every tiny bit of sensational news, the slightest portent of period, the faintest whig of gunpowder, and instantly inflate these sign to monstrous, paralyzing proportions.  On the other hand, however, I also knew something about those moments when calm, deep waters begin to churn and bubble into general chaos, confusion, frantic anarchy.  During social explosions, it is easy to perish by accident, because someone didn’t hear something fully or didn’t notice something in time.  On such days, the accidental is king; it becomes history’s true determinant and master.
    p.78 (see also)

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  • 01/14/14--02:51: 2,013 books. I wish…
  • Every year I gather together the best books I read that year to recommend and remember those that impacted my life or my paradigm somehow. Here are this year's, with links to the review I wrote of each. Best: * Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer * Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire * Where There is No Doctor (yes, cover to cover) Honorable Mentions: * Are Prisons Obsolete by Angela Davis * The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker * Silent Terror: A Journey into Contemporary African Slavery by Samuel Cotton * A Grain of Wheat by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o * Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese * The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver * The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuściński * The Grand Canyon of the Colorado and Stickeen by John Muir * The Pure Heart of Yoga: Ten Essential Steps for Personal Transformation by Robert J. Butera * Paradise in Ashes: A Guatemalan Journey of Courage, Terror, and Hope by Beatriz Manz * Lonely Planet West Africa (helll yes) Yours? Read more...

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    In 2014, I'm leading a year-long, online reading project called "African Authors on African Issues," where we'll be discussing nonfiction theory, thoughts, and critique from African authors. Our first book is a work of post-colonial theory, Decolonizing the Mind by Ngugi wa Thiongo. I invite you to join us in the discussion!

    The post Jan-Mar: Decolonising the Mind by Ngugi wa Thiongo appeared first on

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    All About Love: New Visions (bell hooks Love Trilogy)All About Love: New Visions by Bell Hooks
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    I read this book as part of my commitment to Michelle Alexander's call to action in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Alexander's meticulous indictment of racial injustice in the United States legal and prison systems concluded with a claim that it will take profound and radical love across race to dismantle these structures of oppression. The call to transformative love is based on her examination of the failure of abolitionist, reconstruction, and Civil Rights legal and cultural gains to fully transform the racial hierarchies in US society (change, yes. transform, no). A deeper foundation for change is needed, one rooted in love.

    When I first read that, I was struck by my attachment to the idea that structural change was more important than interpersonal dynamics. Moreover, in terms of interpersonal dynamics, structural guiding ideas like consent, human rights (access to freedom from violence, healthcare, nutritious food), and conscious action against hierarchies of privilege and oppression were more important than something as wishy washy as love. We do not need to love each other, I deeply believed, we need only treat each other right. Obviously these ideas of justice and respect have a basis in love for humanity, for ecosystems, for life-- when asked my religion I have for years answered Anarchism, Permaculture, or at times veganism. There is an empathy and care built into these philosophies that enables and demands a certain amount of love.

    The post Book Review: On Love by bell hooks appeared first on

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    With this post I want to share some of the stuff I've been learning about Central African Republic (CAR), but I also want to use the space to present my strategies for learning about a new country or situation, and also to explore a bit the nature of what we know and think we know about a place. 1) I like to start any examination of a place with: "What the fuck is going on?" For CAR, the indisputable best source of WTF-is-up news is Twitter. On Twitter, you can follow analysts who are reading in multiple languages from many more sources than you'd ever have time to skim and so get presented with a limited but still diverse set of articles about a topic. You can also follow actors who are tweeting their real-time opinions, decisions, and movements; from this pool of standpoints you can begin to form your own analysis. I'd include journalists and human rights reporters engaged in information finding as "actors," and I'd lend similar weight + critical skepticism to witnesses as to the narratives of those we think of as biased 'participants,' the protesters, politicians, activists, organizations, and survivors. Journalists and observers have angles, bias, and blinders as much as ideological actors, especially in the heat of the reactive, unreflective moments as one can find on Twitter. Check the #CARcrisis and #Centrafrique hashtags. Recommended Twitter feeds on CAR (view a longer list on Twitter):

    • @bouckap - Human Rights Watch observer tweeting live reports from Bangui and rural areas
    • @louisalombard - Anthropologist using her knowledge of CAR to write & tweet with nuance and depth
    • @drovera - Amnesty International human rights observer
    • @marcusbleasdale - Photographer who often works alongside human rights observers
    • @theprojectcar - Lots of aggregated news and articles on CAR news and the humanitarian situation
    • @jgmariner - Amnesty International, often updating on CAR
    • @astroehlein - Human Rights Watch director posting articles & updates frequently on CAR
    Another kind of care to take when reading Twitter is of your heart. Twitter feeds anxiety: constant, endless, context-free updates stream in while the only action available is to follow the rabbit holes of hashtags and clicking through to new feeds. In my studying of trauma, one thing that stands out is the healing power of narrative and action. Twitter is bereft of both these things. It gives you instant and constant interjections of "what is" with no room to connect this moment's photo to the larger picture of "what was" and "why." You can gain some of that by following a subject over time, but you can also gain a false sense of narrative, as users speaking to each other create useful shorthands that further erase context-- the use of "Christians" vs "Muslims" in the CAR crisis is a good example of this (more on that below). And Twitter can leave readers plugged in to the moment but utterly helpless to partake in it, on edge but isolated and incapacitated. Use Twitter but be conscientious about how you do so; get deeper reads and get offline; connect, contextualize, act. Here, I would also like to link to some CAR-specific local news sites, but I haven't found those yet. I've gotten the best news articles from clicking links on Twitter. 2) Why??? After some gruesome human rights Twitter time, my head starts spinning with a plaintive, whyyyyyyy??? This is when I put Twitter away and start reading reports. Read more...

    The post Prepping for CAR 2: Studying up appeared first on

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    Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for OthersTrauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others by Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    I brought this book with me to the Central African Republic, and read it by headlamp in a dark room after they shut the generator off for the night each night over about a week. I started the book about 3 weeks after I arrived in this northwestern town comprised of burned and knocked down houses, empty quartiers, and, at the time, two crowded tent cities, one surrounding the main church and its many outbuildings, the Christian camp, at one point some 40,000 strong when the vast majority of the town cowered under Seleka control, and the other the square block of muddied grass surrounding a primary school in the center of town, where the Muslims were confined behind armed guards after a pogrom five months ago following the Seleka departure drove them out of their homes and storefronts. Within this context of tired, displaced people my work took me outside the city limits on rural roads that hadn't been traversed by cars since the last Seleka pickup gunned it down the dirt paths, stopping to loot and burn and rape and burn, last fall. It's spring now, and I work with people who are offering meager help in the face of incomprehensible terror and hard times-- besides the violence there is the lack (of food, of seed, of tilled land, of tools, of clothes, of bedding, of anything one could have in a house that could go up in flames) to contend with, and it is just as hard.

    The book is now in the hands of a 20-something Central African coworker who daily leads teams to rural villages, taking responsibility for their wellbeing in the face of constant roadblocks and hassling from armed men, who I think will be the friend I take away from this place in my heart in some many months from now when it's time for me to leave the people who were born here and will stay.

    I'm writing this from a peaceful place in Bangui, the capital city where gunshots ring out across the night but there's fuel and food and places to go at night before curfew, to see other people and speak English, which is delicious. There are flowers and birds and a view of the Oubangui river and the Congo rainforest in the distance in front of me as I type.


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