Thursday, 29 October 2009

The 'Third World' in Theory(TWiT) Group

At least since Frantz Fanon’s ‘Wretched of the Earth’ and Edward Said’s ground breaking work ‘Orientalism’ the lenses through which we see, understand and interpret the “Third World”, its society and peoples, continue to challenge scholars. These “Third” worlds exist out there, somewhere, as exotic and pathetic worlds simultaneously, and produce much scholarly angst about ‘Eurocentrism’, ‘modernisation’, ‘Westernisation’ and ‘development’. ‘Can the subaltern speak’ Gayatri Spivak’s asked in her short and influential essay of the same name. Can we understand what the subaltern speaks, however? Are we able to interpret and understand what they are saying? We have seen many theories about and for the “Third World” come and go - ‘development theories, modernization theories, world systems theories, neo-colonialism, post-colonialism, eurocentrism and orientalism, and of course, Marxism including “Third World” Marxism. What next? Are we on the verge of another ground breaking “Third World” theory? What were the strengths and weaknesses of these theories and why did they succeed or fail? Large volumes of scholarly research are about the “Third World”. Paradoxically the more we study it the less we appear capable of understanding these “other” societies.
A group of scholars and activists in and around London interested in studying, discussing, debating and rethinking some of these issues have decided to meet regularly. The purpose of the study group is to bring together scholars interested in a better “Third World” to radicalize the way the Third World is viewed and understood by scholars.
The Study Group will read and discuss texts that have been influential in the way problems of the “Third World” have been envisioned. Participants are encouraged to suggest their own articles/texts for reading and to extend the critique to different branches of knowledge and disciplines.
To kick start the studies, the Study Group will consider the following readings at their first meeting:
1. A.K Ramanujan “Is there an Indian Way of Thinking: An Informal Essay” in Vinay Dharwadker (ed) The Collected Essays of Ramanujan: New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2004 [1999], p.34-51;
2. Fred Dallymayr “Western Thought and Indian Thought: Comments on Ramanujan” Philosophy East & West, Vol. 44, No 3, 1994, p. 527-542.
Suggested Readings for future sessions (at the first sessions members will be free to suggest other options)
1. Susan Buck-Morss “Hegel and Haiti” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 26, No. 4. (Summer, 2000), pp. 821-865 and/or Susan Buck-Morss “Hegel, Haiti and Universal History” University of Pittsburgh Press 2009.
2. Karl Polanyi “The Great Transformation” 1944.
3. Gayatri Spivak: “Can the Subaltern Speak” and/or “Towards a History of a Vanishing Present”
4. Jiwei Ci: :”Freedom and Realms of Living” Philosophy East and West Vol 41 No 3 1991, 303-326 & “Disenchantment, Desublimation, and Demoralization: Some Cultural Conjunctions of Capitalism” New Literary History 30.2 (1999) 295-324.
5. P.H Coetzee and APJ Roux “The African Philosophy Reader” 1998{2001].
6. Evgeny Pashukanis “The General Theory of Law and Marxism” (1924) and
7. Rajaram Dravid “The Problem of Universals in Indian Philosophy” 1972
8. Romila Thapar “Time as a metaphor for history”
Discussions will focus on key themes in dominant theories e.g. structure and agency, capitalism and colonialism, history/time and geography/place, and modern and traditional systems of knowledge. Guest speakers will be invited to speak on specific issues.
Meetings will be in University of Westminster every second Thursday of the month beginning Thursday 12 November from 6-9 pm Venue: LTS 2.05c
Moderation: The Group will be moderated by Dr Radha D' Souza, Reader in Law, University of Westminster, lawyer, writer, and social justice campaigner.
To Join: Please, contact: Wilfred Mamah on Email: Please, feel free to also join us on Face book Group:

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance - 35th Weekly Meeting

Dear all

For the 35th session of the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance, on Friday 30 October 2009, from 6 to 8pm, in room 5.16, 309 Regent Street (University of Westminster), prepare to philosophy full blown.

I shall not disturb Joe’s eloquent – if not intuitive – formulation:

"Who's read the Timeus? How did the universe begin (cosmogony)? What is our best scientific explanation? Plato tried to give us his best shot but today we would say he failed. But did he? Unlike the standard physics of today which is at least 122 magnitudes off the mark, when it comes to conceited assurance, Plato had none. Plato would say no one knows ultimately why and only God knows. Much of the mystery we now feel before the details of scientific discoveries, no doubt Plato would welcome. He posited the ontology of absolute unknowability as the undifferentiated, the primordial or the sacredly unsayable, and provided us with the perfect forms of geometry which must, in his view, imbue the entire universe--for these perfect geometric forms were invariant to any place and time in the universe. And these perfect forms come about only because we think them. Where do they exist? How do they exist? And besides geometry, is it possible for there to be a perfect morality? Does truth exist only because we think it, or does truth require us to use the tools of perfect thought to move inside her realms? For legal theorists who have yet to read the Timeus, they are in for a big surprise because it is argued that the urge of all theories comes from the Demiurge. We need to explain away the darkness by seeing the stars as holes in the floor of heaven. And when Plato knows he cannot explain why, he seeds his ignorance with lapses of rhapsodic (highest of the high) mystic poetry. What more can you possibly want? Scientific explanation caught in the act of mad creation. We shall read the Timeus and take in its scientific and mystic charms."

We will be at Vapiano (19-21 Great Portland Street, W1W 8QB) at 8.00pm.

See you on Friday!

Joe and Laura

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance - 34th Weekly Meeting

Dear all

At the 34th session of the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance, on Friday 23 October 2009, from 6 to 8pm, in room 5.16, 309 Regent Street (University of Westminster), we will go back to Plato.

We will do readings out of the Phaedrus and examine the three great arguments against writing. For students and teachers who believe in the value of "reading and writing", these arguments show why reading and writing are weaknesses. This may be a good antidote to the pretensions of scholars and the critical limits of scholarship.

We will consequently turn from the graphics of reading and writing to the image of symmetry. Joe will talk about Joe Rosen's definition of symmetry from his book entitled Symmetry Rules (2008). Symmetry is two-step dance through the Universe: (1) a relation with the possibility of change and (2) the immunity of some aspect of that relation from change. Apparently, determinism is elegant and free will is awkward in symmetry terms.

The last stage shall always be Vapiano (19-21 Great Portland Street, W1W 8QB).

See you on Friday!

Joe and Laura


Saturday, 17 October 2009

In(/out) sights – empirical research on the human right to essential medicines in Tanzania and Kenya.

For a change I’m not meant to post on the Advanced Legal Studies @ Westminster blog about philosophy. In fact I have been urged to reflect upon and disclose the empirical work I undertook during July and August 2009 in Tanzania and Kenya, as part of my PhD research on “The 'Human Right to Essential Medicines' in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Critique”.

First and foremost: it did happen. When I landed after a series of connection flights and met Emmanuel, my would-be ‘institutional host’, at the airport, I could not but shout out: “Emmanuel, is this really Dar es Salaam??” The fact is, I had been planning the trip for more than two years but I was caught in the bureaucratic limbo of getting a research permit from the competent Tanzania authority (COSTECH).

It did happen: I managed to conduct more than 50 relevant interviews about access to medicines, healthcare, human rights, with officials from the Tanzanian government (central and local), international organisations, non-governmental organisations, foreign aid etc. – the people with whom I exchanged emails now shaking my hand, laughing and openly talking with me.

It did happen, I managed to travel up-country, visiting the “rural areas where access to medicines is particularly deficient”, a formula I had used with exhaustion in the chapters of the thesis I had already written – and that now would manifest itself in sometimes Kafkaesque realities.

It did happen, I explored the Accredited Drugs Dispensing Outlets (ADDOs)/ Duka la Dawa Muhimu, the new Tanzanian project for access to quality medicines in underserved areas – the case study I had selected.

How did it happen? Background reading spanning books, journals, newspapers, any report written on health care and access to medicines in Tanzania; tracking down the people mentioned in those reports; participating at the meeting of the Tanzania society in London; working on contacts thence information thence contacts thence information. To be acknowledged, most important had been one contact, Emmanuel Alphonce. I met him as he was taking an MSc in Public Health in Leeds in 2007. He was TFDA ADDOs coordinator then and I interviewed him several times in Leeds and London. Now a manager at TFDA, he has become my institutional facilitator in the Authority, which provided me with essential organisational support. Quite exemplary, I came across Emmanuel in the first place through the combination of research and networks. He is friend to another friendly Tanzanian I met at Tanzanian President Kikwete’s visit to the Tanzanian diaspora in London. I had found out about the visit from the Tanzania High Commission website. Why had I visited the website? Why not?

So why did it happen? In fact, my thesis is mainly a theoretical enquiry. I examine international human rights law and utilise Luhmann’s theory of social systems ultimately to critically analyse the ethical implications of the “human right to healthcare and medicines” in Africa. The empirical side is nonetheless fundamental. And with the trip I was not merely investigating the context of health care in Tanzania and Kenya. Ethics is affections, languages, values, philosophies, the daily life. People. My empirical enquiry, in effect, lingered on another level. I was a traveller thence I could easily approach people. [Just as easily I could distance them. Excitement and compunction, travelling accelerates life.] During the interviews, I was methodically and voraciously asking precise, technical questions on various aspects of access to medicines. Yet, at the same time, I was undertaking a meta-research on what I could dub the anthropology of ‘access to medicines’, of medical care, of health policies – and more intimately an ‘anthropology’ of my encounters.

Thus the empirical work has operated in dialectic with the theoretical study. Apparently, I chose Luhmann’s social systems theory because of a certain perception of reality which was developed through academic research as well as life. The theory pre-existed this visit to Africa and helped me as a critical-analytical tool in appreciating the empirical findings. The trip, in turns, contributes to build on the theory. In sum, the dialectic is aimed at deconstructing the social systems and subsystems (e.g. the legal, political and moral subsystems), revealing the realities and subjectivities which are often demoted by the standardised communications of ‘access to medicines in Africa’. In the thesis I critically analyse and elaborate such in(/out)sights, problematising and paradoxifying the international ‘human right to essential medicines’.

In the pictures:
1) Travelling to Sumbawanga (Rukwa region, Tanzania), from Dar es Salaam to the westernmost border with Zambia.
2) Exploring village public dispensaries in the Sumbawanga municipality.
3) A Duka la Dawa Muhimu with its TFDA licensed shop-keeper in Kilombero district (Morogoro region, Tanzania).

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance - 33rd Weekly Meeting

Dear all

For Friday 16 October 2009 the 33rd session of the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance will travel to the Latimer Conference Centre in Chalfont Latimer, Bucks, England.

From 6 to 7pm Joe will talk about “The 57 Principled Proposals of Global Financial Regulatory Reform”. The talk will be followed by drinks and dinner.

Please RSVP to Joe at


Joe and Laura

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance - 32nd Weekly Meeting

Dear all

The 32nd research seminar on the Philosophical Foundations of Law & Finance warmly welcomes you this Friday, 9 October, at 6:00-8:00pm, in room 516, 309 Regent Street (University of Westminster).

Joe is particularly inspired about the agenda:

We shall review the basics of Aristotelian categoric logic -- potentiality and actuality, and the four causes--and then go directly to the apex of Aristotelian philosophy which is Book 12, part 9 of the Metaphysics ( ). We will do a close reading of "being" as the "unmoved mover". From this peak, much of the rest of philosophy is a slide downwards. So if you want to see what the greatest philosopher after Plato thought about the highest peak of consciousness and God, then this is the session to come to.

I take the occasion to advertise a forthcoming special event: the “Philosophic Foundations of Law and Finance Weekend Re-Treat.” The re-treat will take place in St Mawes, Cornwall, during the 13-15 November weekend. The programme includes walks (hikes or beach strolls), exquisite food, philosophy. Nice and interesting people sharing time together.

Transport costs by train are about £60 but it may be possible to get a group discount. With regard to the accommodation, Omar is arranging to rent a cottage from his boss:

The cottage has three bedrooms which sleep 7 people. However, we can arrange for extra beds. The cost for the cottage is contained. If more people want to join than the places available, other accommodation will be arranged. We apply a first come first served policy, so please email Omar for booking a place and for any further information ( Please decide by this Friday, 9 October.

I look forward to seeing you all at the seminar!

Best wishes