18 May 2016

26 May 2016 Speaking Engagement in New York City

I have been invited to speak in NYC on the evening of 26 May at Midoma Gallery for the closing party of artist Ariel Shallit's Iconic: re-imagined show. You can check out the details on my website news and read more about our collaboration work - my portrait photography of indigenous river communities before displacement and his overpainting technique to combine art and science for advocacy. I am quite keen on sharing the story of the people I have met around the world who are experiencing community instability and threats to their identity, health, and well-being due to the wave of water development on rivers. River communities of indigenous are losing their way of life and this is being categorized as an economic externality or a political blip on the RADAR.

I feel I have failed a bit to be able to get this point across in academia sometimes as responses from my audience sometimes ask why the Gumuz (and you can insert any indigenous group out of the national economic system here) matter? Other times I am asked whether I really thought that local people wouldn't prefer buying their fish at a grocery store to having to fish in the river. And yet more have voiced the need to modernize the traditional communities who are "primitive" or "backwards" and need help.

As one recent reviewer wrote on an academic paper that I unsuccessfully submitted for publication - "The Gumuz are being displaced, others are not, so this is obvious and does not need human security [analysis] or interviews in the field."

I hope I can improve my scholarship to clarify the point that development may have it wrong - and in fact may be an absolutely dangerous path with no return. I hope to communicate clearly that every sort of people matter, traditional lifestyles and knowledge are valuable, and people have the right to determine their own identity and livelihoods. Until then, I will start to really move on advocating through art and collaborations with artists to get the message out - maybe if people are unable to understand the dignity of people in my words, they can understand through the images I take.

The engagement information is below if you are in the NYC area next week and would like to attend. No cover.