Critical Hydra Theory

Posted on: July 17, 2021 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

Critical Hydra Theory Deepening our understanding of ‘toxic othering’ Teaching an introduction to sociology class to Rohingya and Bangladeshi learners is an amazing experience. This class has tested my abilities as an educator, and for that I am thankful. Explaining topics like ethnocentrism and othering most definitely have stretched the limits of my pedagogical skills. In a recent post I described how our class has gone thus far, and ended with a discussion of ‘critical Hydra theory’. I argued, “Critical Hydra theory involves looking at how toxic and marginalizing othering is represented by all the heads of the Hydra and is evidenced in long standing norms, policies, and laws which have normalized and justified various forms of discrimination, exclusion, marginalization, and even genocide; toxic othering.” In our WhatsApp chat one of my students asked, “How to move or overcome from toxic othering to non-toxic othering?” Student questions have always driven…

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Evolution of the Hydra in images

Posted on: July 14, 2021 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

Evolution of the Hydra in images The Hydra metaphor almost demands a visual representation, and as soon as I was invited to be part of the ALNAP session I asked artist Dr. Ahmed Fadaam, my friend and colleague, to create an image for me. Over the nearly two years that I haver been working on the Hydra model Ahmed has added words and features dutifully. He is now working on a 3-d model that can morph showing the Hydra being tamed and ‘toxic’ othering changing into ‘normal’ othering. The ‘othering’ process is something I have used for years in my sociology classes, and just as the Hydra changed over the last two years so has the graphic I have used to present the idea of othering. Throughout this blog (book) you have seen the development of both images; here they are in chronological order. See below how these ideas has morphed and…

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Teaching an online course in Bangladesh

Posted on: July 11, 2021 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

Teaching an online sociology course in Bangladesh Introducing ‘critical Hydra theory’   Midterm update from Elon/Cox’s Bazar/Bangladesh My teaching assistants and I are over just halfway through our experimental 10 week short course ‘introduction to sociology.’ Our class is comprised of 20 learners, 14 of them are from Myanmar, Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazaar, and the other six are Bangladeshi nationals. The class also has a mix of males and females, though not unpredictably so males dominate in terms of numbers. Our class meets synchronously via GoogleMeets or Zoom for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours each week. There are the usual technical difficulties on both ends, but in the refugee camp especially Wi-Fi connectivity is iffy in the best times, and during hard rains, etc. the connections are sometimes poor or lost all together. As if on cue, the call to prayers comes through someone’s microphone at least once each…

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Bringing the Hydra to class

Posted on: July 5, 2021 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

“Part of the reason we have not seen the Hydra defeated is that we attack the heads one at a time instead of learning from history that they are all connected.”   -Grant Mitchell SOC 131 student Bringing the Hydra to class Student reactions to the Hydra I have been using my Hydra posts as a teaching tooling since the Fall of 2019.  Every semester I’ll explain the idea in class and then have my students read about the Hydra, using it in some manner to help deepen their understanding of core course concepts like colonialism, racism, classism, and sexism. To the present I have used this model in over a dozen classes, and each time my students push me to expand my thinking and to reconsider and deepen aspects of the Hydra’s impact. I owe a massive debt to all my students these last several semesters. This summer I taught…

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Coming soon: Understanding and Taming the Hydra

Posted on: June 30, 2021 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

Coming soon I am putting into book form all of the Hydra posts from the last couple years. Watch this space for more details.                          Understanding and Taming the Hydra Tom ArcaroTom Arcaro is a professor of sociology at Elon University. He has been researching and studying the humanitarian aid and development ecosystem for nearly two decades and in 2016 published ‘Aid Worker Voices’. He is currently working on second and third books tentatively titled “Understanding and taming the Hydra” and “Dispatches from the Margins of the Humanitarian Sector”.More Posts – Website Follow Me:

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To know the world as a humanitarian

Posted on: May 20, 2021 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry

“We must make public health decisions based on science, on fact.” -humanitarian worker with a major INGO To know the world as a humanitarian Some general thoughts on epistemology “How do you know that?” is one of the most common questions we ask each other. Stated in its simplest terms epistemology is the study of how we know what we know and how we know we know what we know. Recently I was fortunate enough to get my second Covid-19 vaccine shot; I am now fully vaccinated. When someone asks me how I know that the vaccine works they are asking essentially an epistemological question. My answer is that I know based on the science behind the vaccine and the testing that was done in numerous and ongoing studies to amplify, clarify, and extend the information we have on the efficacy of the vaccine. That is to say, I am…

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Hydra Theory 101

Posted on: April 3, 2021 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry, Hydra "privileging forces"

Significantly updated 4-26-21   “My intent has been, is, and will continue to be, that those who read my works shall think and meditate upon fundamental problems, and has never been to hand them completed thoughts. I have always sought to agitate and, even better, to stimulate, rather than to instruct. Neither do I sell bread, nor is it bread, but yeast or ferment.” —Miguel de Unamuno More thoughts on the Hydra: Hydra Theory 101 Preface Humanitarians in all contexts need to be mindful of how privileging forces come in to play in virtually every interaction, person to person or organization to organization; within one’s organization or between the home organization and the affected populations. Awareness of cultural context is paramount, and understanding the Hydra is a useful tool. Standard training for any humanitarian includes defining and identifying examples of ethnocentrism. ‘Ethno’ means group and thus ethnocentrism is seeing everything…

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The Hydra just [yet] grew another head

Posted on: April 1, 2021 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

The Hydra just grew [yet] another head Working on the Hydra concept has been a journey. I have been constantly challenged to expand and explore this image from the very beginning. What I present below is the fourth version of the Hydra, and this post continues the discussion started here in a blog post titled “A Code of Ethics for Privileged Anti-Othering Persons: the humanitarian imperative and Hydra revisited.” As a final note I wrote, “My students have suggested that the Hydra needs another head describing our species’ anthropocentric perspective and the consequent destructive ‘ecocidal’ relationship we have with the environment. We ‘other’ the very natural world that sustains us and this has led us to the brink of a massive climate disaster, which has already exasperated humanitarian crises across the globe, mostly in the majority world.  This impact is an example of environmental racism in action, and as such…

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Humanitarian response to the March 22nd fire in Cox’s Bazar refugee camp

Posted on: March 23, 2021 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry, Refugee humanitarians

This post updated 9:00AM Wednesday EST. Humanitarian refugees gut punched by fire In the last couple years I have been honored to work with many Rohingya refugees. Countless interviews, text chats, and discussions have led to writing a series of blog posts, having one (Pan Thar) as a guest in my sociology class, and even co-authoring a poem with another (Ro Anamal Hasan). We have spent the last year trading stories and fears about the Covid-19 pandemic. These (mostly) young women and men have inspired me and challenged my understanding of what it means to witness. I heard about the fire by reading their many feverish updates on Facebook and Twitter; my heart sank. As a 12 year old I was awoken by my father in the middle of the night, our apartment aflame. We made it out, but the trauma of that night lives with me. Even with that…

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A discussion with Ziaur Rahman, Rohingya activist and humanitarian

Posted on: March 6, 2021 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry, Refugee humanitarians

A discussion with Ziaur Rahman, Rohingya activist and humanitarian                 Humanitarian action As defined by Maxwell and Gelsdorf1 humanitarian action, broadly speaking, is the protection of life and dignity. Inherently multifaceted, humanitarian action includes eight overlapping realms including security, stabilization, development, sustainability, governance, and rights. Where humanitarian action overlaps with both governance and rights lies humanitarian advocacy. They argue, “Humanitarian action is is always situated in a context of global agendas, and it is often unclear where humanitarian action ends and some other kind of action begins–whether this action is more explicitly political, developmental, economic, or human rights oriented. This question also tugs at the very meaning of ‘humanitarian’- and is by no means resolved.”  (p.7) I cannot agree more, and am constantly challenged by my own shifting views on the meaning of humanitarianism. I’ll readily admit to erring on the side of conflating…

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