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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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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More Rohingya being moved to Bhashan Char is a win for national sovereignty

Posted on: December 30, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry, Hydra "privileging forces"

“Homo homini lupus [man is wolf to man]. Who in the face of all his experience of life and of history, will have the courage to dispute this assertion?“ –Sigmund Freud Civilization and Its Discontents (1930) More Rohingya being moved to Bhashan Char is a win for national sovereignty More Rohingya being relocated Less than a month ago I wrote about the move of over 1600 Rohingya refugees being ‘voluntarily’ relocated from Cox’s Bazar to the small island of Bhashan Char. As I write this a second wave of 1,804 Rohingya have been transported to the island by the Bangladeshi navy. I put ‘voluntarily’ in quotations because there is reason to question how these families were chosen for the move.  The UNHCR has not been given access to key details about the move but has urged the Bangladeshi government to not relocate any refugees against their will. Despite statements and pleas…

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More on the origin of the Hydra concept

Posted on: September 25, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

  On the origin of the Hydra concept I have been teaching sections of Introduction of Sociology every semester for the last four decades. Over the years every course text I’ve used has had useful chapters on ‘Race and Ethnic relations’, Social stratification’, and ‘Sex and gender.’  Through trial and error, I have adapted various definitions of the many ‘isms’, but about a 20 years ago I began using this definition of racism: Racism is an ideology of domination and subordination based on the assumption of the inherent biological and/or cultural inferiority of other groups and the use of this assumption to legitimize or rationalize the inferior or unequal treatment of this group. About ten years ago I started testing my students ability to ‘connect the dots’ by giving them the definition of racism and then immediately asking for a good definition of sexism, and then classism. Most picked up…

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A Code of Ethics for Privileged Anti-Othering Persons: the humanitarian imperative and Hydra revisited

Posted on: June 29, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry, Hydra "privileging forces"

A Code of Ethics for Privileged Anti-Othering Persons: the humanitarian imperative and Hydra revisited   “Humanitarianism started off as a powerful discourse; now it is a discourse of power, both at the international and at the community level.” (p. 190) –Antonio Donini “Humanitarianism, Perceptions, and Power” In the Eyes of Others (Abu Sada, editor; 2012)   Overview Below I expand on previous posts related to the humanitarian imperative, the ‘privileging forces’ Hydra, and the  quest for global social justice. Studying and engaging with humanitarians all over the world has provided me with a broad base of insights, and I especially thank those from the majority world (aka Global South) who have so patiently offered me their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. The recent reemergence of a surprisingly inclusive #BlackLivesMatter movement both here in the US and around the world has many talking frankly about systemic racism and toxic white nationalism, and…

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