Saturday, 23 May 2009

The VCD and War to Peace exams are over. Phew!

VCD was a bit ironic because I was writing down some quotations before the exam to kill some time including 'However repugnant violence may be, the one thing it is not is senseless' by Anton Blok. The question came up with that quote and the so convenient 'Discuss.' My answer to that question was all over the place. I started with a flamboyant, bombastic introduction - if I remember correctly, I was talking about Gilligan and violence the most dangerous epidemic of our time  or something - and proceeded with a jumpy-rehash of the introductions of all VCD readings - bemoaning amnesiatic Western notions of violence which are further colonised by the economists - and came to a very incoherent conclusion. Judge sahib, my lord, even though my essay may lack argument and coherence, what I am really trying to say is that violence has form and function. 

Yes, the above paragraph was probably what my answer looked like. Okay, I am cringing now.

The second question I tackled - explaining violence in middle-income democracies - was a better effort. I suppose I had collected my wits by then. Or not. The probable explanation for my first-question-disaster was the inevitability of it - i) my first essay was rational choice and it was a pathetic attempt ii) rational choice, economic explanations of war, rationality versus madness, Civil War is Not a Stupid Thing, everyone bemoaning economic forays into the social sciences, I swear they are moaning about it, every freaking reading, the whole damn thing - it's at the crux, the very core of the VCD course and of course, I would screw it up iii) we even attended the famous Cramer lecture beforehand and, it should have prepared me for it. 

Well anyway, the second question went reasonably well. I was glad that I could finally talk about democracy - having had that pleasure taken away in TPP - dammit. I tackled that question with respect to Brazil and South Africa. It was great! I had done the readings from the first three units of term 2 (gender, Brazil and democracy)and was able to tie it all together. It was such a pleasure reading these three units. Veena Das' text was great and it was so cool she was quoting Manto! The readings on Brazil were really painful and poignant. I am going to sound very cheesy but I feel that I relate to the readings much more so when they are interspersed with poetry and literature. So for that answer, I was able to make some points in my introduction and proceeded to elaborate them. So at least the answer was more readable than the first one. 

I will say one thing about the War to Peace class. I was not a fan. I could not believe the course conveners thought they could pass it off as a class. It looked like a class, it had a reading list and everything, it had a time and everything, there were other students, but no, you can't fool me. This was not a class, it was a self-taught-do-it-yourself-some-assembly-required thingamajig. 

It was worse than those lousy UN meetings or workshops. At least there was some entertainment, some pouffy-egoed official making a grandiose speech, at least you could give knowing looks to friendly colleagues or something. Or worse comes to worse, you could leave. These War to Peace classes were 9 to 11 on Wednesdays - killer timing. And they made it like a workshop - everyone sitting around in a - what'd they call it? - plenary style. And, the teachers would give a nano-second introduction and students would leap into their -yawn- extensively-researched presentations for the first hour and the second hour, there'd be a 'discussion.' The teachers would intervene now and then. Now, please tell me which part of this is sounds like a class? Where was the friggin' teaching? Excuse me, I paid good money to be taught - I don't profess to be a genius. I was not the least bit motivated for this class. 

The one time I felt like taking an interest in the class was when DDRR came up.  But the discussion was so up in the air. I tried to make it 'more real' by asking what everyone thought about the monetary issue - paying ex-combatants or rather, buying back weapons. I said it was a thorny issue in the beginning of the DDRR programme - one of the donors, the EC was not supportive of the idea - and even for us 'practitioners'  this was something troublesome. But nope, neither the teacher nor the students could pick up this issue. Moreover, none of the DDRR literature even addresses this - should we be buying weapons or can we come up with a more creative idea? I did have fun reading the literature and realised that there is quite a bit of subtle differences in the way DDRR was implemented in various countries. I was able to appreciate the bigger context in which these programmes are implemented. There was very little reading on SSR! 

Well anyway, the exam went okay. The exam preparation was erratic as usual but I had agreed with Helka and Anu to exchange some notes so that helped. Anu started to become a bit hyper stressed the night before and kept texting me through out the night while I tried to sleep. Apparently the war to peace men had declared war on her. Yeah, don't ask. If she gets a first, I am going to smack her. I will. And I bet she will. She slept for one hour only.

What questions did I answer? i) The something about mechanisms that secure and legitimise the post conflict environment ii) welfare in liberal peace building. I stuck in DDRR and SSR in the first question and covered a lot of ground. Ha, I said that because DDRR programmes are technical programmes, they have to be evaluated technically! I'm glad I stuck that in. And, besides talking about Congo, Afghanistan, Tajikistan DDRR and SSR case examples, I talking extensively about Liberia! yay! The second question was shorter due to my over-enthusiastic first answer. I spoke about responsibility to protect, NGOs and democracy. I used Heathershaw's 'unpacking' of liberal peacebuilding - that there are three strains: a) democracy b) statebuilding and c) civil society and all, have welfare underpinning them. 

So that's that. 

Now I am stuck in the library for the last exam - NGOs as Development Agencies. Today is really bright and sunny and it's a shame to be stuck inside. A lot of people are done with exams so it's a bit depressing. The library is emptier. The guards are as usual harassing everyone by making their rounds, poking their noses everywhere to make sure we are not drinking or eating, I swear I feel like tripping them.

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