The Resource and Reallocation Crisis

One way to understand the scope of the planetary crisis is how authors of speculative/science fiction deal with the problem of avoiding self-inflicted human extinction.  Alastair Reynolds composed a page of (fictional) historical reflection in Blue Remembered Earth (2012).



Geoffrey (the primary protagonist) is returning to his home in Africa from a space flight to the Moon. Unbeknownst to him until she speaks, he’s accompanied by a “construct” of his grandmother, Eunice (a main protagonist).

cover_BlueRememberedEarth_Reynolds_2014-06-26 at 7.43.43 PM“Look at that planet. It’s still beautiful. It’s still ours, still our home. The oceans rose, the atmosphere warmed up, the weather went ape-shit, we had stupid, needless wars. And yet we still found a way to ride it out, to stay alive. To do more than just survive. To come out of all that and still feel like we have a home.” (Eunice,  p. 167)

Geoffrey and Eunice are in “the recuperation and observation deck . . . Africa lay spread out . . . in all its astonishing variegated vastness. The Libreville anchorpoint was actually a hundred kilometers south of its namesake city and as far west again, built out into the Atlantic. Looking straight down, he could see the grey scratch of the sea-battered artificial peninsula daggering from the Gabon coastline, with the anchorpoint a circular widening at its westerly end.

To the north, beginning to be pulled out of sight by the curvature of the Earth, lay the great, barely inhabited emptiness of Saharan Africa, from Mauritania to the Sudan. Tens of millions of people had lived there, until not much more than a century ago—enough to cram the densest megacity anywhere on the planet. Clustered  around the tiny life-giving motes of oases and rivers, those millions had left the emptiness practically untouched. Daunting persistence had been required to make a living in those desert spaces, where appalling hardship was only ever a famine or drought away. But people had done so, successfully, for thousands of years. It was only the coming of the Anthropocene, the human-instigated climate shift of recent centuries, that had finally brought the Saharan depopulation. In mere lifetimes, the entire region had been subject to massive planned migration. Mali, Chad, Niger . . . these were political entities that still existed, but only in the most abstract and technical of senses., their borders still recorded, their GDPs still tracked. Almost no one actually lived in them, save a skeleton staff of AU caretakers and industrialists.

The rising sea levels of the twenty-first century had scarcely dented Africa’s coastline, and much of what would have been lost to the oceans had been conserved by thousands of kilometres of walled defenses thrown up in haste and later buttressed and secured against further inundation. But there was no sense that Africa had been spared. The shifting of the monsoon had stolen the rains from one part and redistributed them elsewhere—parching the Congo, anointing the formerly arid sub-Saharan Sahel region from Guinea to Nigeria.

Change on that kind of scale, a literal redrawing of the map, could never be painless. There had been testing times, the Resource and Reallocation years: almost the worst that people could bear. Yet these were Africans, used to that kind of thing. They had come through the grim tunnel of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and made it out the other side. And at least climate change didn’t ride into town with tanks and guns and machetes.

For the most part. It was pointless to pretend that there hadn’t been outbreaks of local stupidity, micro-atrocities. Ethnic tensions, simmering for decades, had flared up at the least provocation. But that was the case the world over; it wasn’t a uniquely African problem.

A million glints of sunlight spangled back at Geoffrey from the central Saharan energy belt. When people moved away, machines had arrived. In their wake they had left regimented arrays of solar collectors, ranks of photovoltaic cells and long, stately chains of solar towers, fed by sun-tracking mirrors as large as radio telescopes. The energy belt stretched for thousands of kilometres, from the Middle East out into the Atlantic, across the ocean to the Southern United States, and it wrapped humming, superconducting tentacles around the rest of the planet, giving power to dense new conurbations in Scandinavia, Greenland, Patagonia, and Western Antarctica. Where there had been ice a hundred and fifty years ago, much was now green or the warm bruised grey of dense urban infrastructure. Half of the world’s entire energy needs were supplied by Saharan sunlight, or had been until the fusion reactors began to shoulder the burden. By some measure, the energy belt was evidence of global calamity, the visible symptom of a debilitating planetary crisis. It was also, inarguably, something rather wonderful to behold.” (pp.165-166. Ace: New York)



Homolingualism and the Interaction Taboo: Simultaneous Interpreting in the European Public Sphere

Kent, Stephanie Jo. (2012). Homolingualism and the Interaction Taboo: Simultaneous Interpreting in the European Public Sphere. In The European Public Sphere –  From critical thinking to responsible action. Luciano Morganti and Léonce Bekemans (Eds.)  in the “Multiple Europes” series from P.I.E Peter Lang S.A. Editions scientifiques internationales, Brussels.

This case study presents conference-style simultaneous interpretation in the European Parliament as a dynamic microcosm for communicating Europe. In the enlarged EP, the regime of controlled multilingualism has been challenged by an emergent pluralingualism in which Members use multiple and mixed languages in addition to the services of simultaneous interpreters. This marks a temporal and paradigmatic shift in the larger game of languages in the European public sphere. First, ritual effects of jockeying for voice through the use of pluralingual communication skills establishes co-identification among the Members while also revealing the power of simultaneous interpretation (SI) to alleviate status inequality by leveling linguistic difference. Second, discourses of and about SI, language policy, and communication policy participate in an interaction taboo by overemphasizing information and technology. This reduces communication to one dimension—the transmission of information in space—by minimizing the relationship and identity effects of communication in the unfolding of time. This artificial separation of information from the social interaction of human beings is also evident in strategic planning about communicating Europe. The findings suggest that institutional inertia in communicating Europe can be altered by making SI a common resource for the pluralingual development of everyone who lives in the European Union.

 See the poster from the conference presentation: Beyond Homolingualism [pdf] and the original abstract.

May Day

Weird synchronies. Today was the last lecture in a course I interpreted this semester on American Romanticism. (Oh, are they talking about me?) Earlier this semester I got excited by Walt Whitman. I don’t think I ever read Leaves of Grass. Now it’s Moby Dick. I did try to read it, once. On my own – not for a class. I don’t remember anything that I read because it was assigned. (Careful, tangent alert!)

Sometimes, there really just isn’t anybody to call.

Only life to live.

Most of my consciousness is directed toward my friend, a teacher, a guide who never led me wrong. Feeling grateful, mostly, for her life and all the gifts she gave, is giving, will continue to give.

Weird synchronies.  Today was the last lecture in a course I interpreted this semester on American Romanticism.  (Oh, are they talking about me?)  Earlier this semester I got excited by Walt Whitman.  I don’t think I ever read Leaves of Grass.  Now it’s Moby Dick.  I did try to read it, once.  On my own – not for a class.  I don’t remember anything that I read because it was assigned.  (Careful, tangent alert!)

The teacher emphasized the relationship between Ahab and Starbuck – a lot of action happened between “The Quarterdeck” and “Symphony,” and there’s two key chapters in between: “The Musket” and “Cabin.”  Then we got to “The Chase.”  There’s also an intense analysis of Ishmael, the trope of embodiment, and the author’s philosophy. (Today the Occupy Wall Street movement is unleashing a wave of protest intended to ignite the 99%. I only know one person in the 1% who likes me.  I might have met some others but they didn’t like me too much.)

Mei Mei wants attention too.

Social Justice in Education Initiative: Let’s dream of an approach to social justice that enables students and teachers to bring their multiple selves to learning

with Evangelina Holvino and James Cumming of Chaos Management, LTD

Expanding Conversations about Social Justice in Education: Exploring Possibilities and Tensions
2nd Forum of the Social Justice in Education Initiative
University of Massachusetts Amherst
April 20, 2012

Our poster presents a summary of our thinking applying the concept of simultaneity to help students and teachers bring their multiple selves to enhance the learning task. Holvino’s theory of simultaneity (2010) views identities as multiple, interacting and continuously shaped by the simultaneous organizational and societal processes of race, gender, class, sexuality, ethnicity and nation, among other social differences.

Having multiple selves means learning how to accept the resulting ambiguities and contradictions in learning together. It means that interactions are frequently marked by something we call “problematic moments.” These are rich sites for understanding how people are impeded or enabled to enact simultaneity. They are also moments when an intervention has the most potential for engaging justly with differences, changing the conversation and its outcomes. We will explore how to enhance such outcomes.

CIBER Business Language Conference

CIBER Business Language Conference: Building Bridges from Business Languages to Business Communities

UNC Center for International Business Education & Research and UNC-Chapel Hill
March 21-23, 2012

“ESL and Innovation” (Business Language Research and Teaching 2011 Award Presentation)

Feedback from the conference evaluations:

Dear Ms. Kent,

As you may know, the post-conference evaluation survey for the Business Language Conference includes a section where we ask people to tell us if there were any specific sessions they particularly liked. I hope you’ll be pleased to know that your presentation was one of the most often mentioned.

(via email, April 2, 2012)

Description: Executives and employees negotiate misunderstandings arising from thinking in different languages as well as having different levels of English fluency. Moments of repair and explanation after so-called ‘communication breakdowns’ or ‘odd’ or ‘funny-sounding’ instances of English usage can serve many functional uses within workgroups, providing the basis for valuing intercultural differences as an intra-organizational social norm and cultivating innovative thinking.

Dialogue in DUO: Future Change Through Language and Interaction

Dialogue Under Occupation VI
Beirut, Lebanon
May 2012

Blogentries (Dynamic Diagnosis):

  1. stumbling into spirit
  2. Presupposing Salmon: Ready DUO Players?
  3. Fantasia
  4. A Temporal Turn?

Proposal (Prelude):

Dialogue at the Dialogue Under Occupation conferences is contested territory. Participants in this workshop will analyze the language use and social interaction among a roundtable of participants from a previous DUO conference discussing the academic boycott of Israeli universities. Specifically, two “problematic moments” will be presented for collective analysis. Dr James Cumming theorizes, “Problematic moments are unlike other moments because they mark a brief point in time when the conditions of possibility for the group to have new, more productive and deeper conversations can be realized.”

For the purposes of this workshop, to dialogue is theorized as collectively changing the meanings of the past in order to collaboratively invoke new meanings for the future. The goal of re-visiting problematic moments is to proactively engage the question of re-calibration in the Bakhtinian sense of orienting to a chronotope. Can we learn how to generate alternative timespaces with revised identifications and altered relationships? Workshop participants will explore and evaluate the language use and interaction among roundtable participants from DUO IV, with an eye upon ourselves as human subjects contributing to the persistence or alteration of existing social realities.

Mini-Bakhtinian conference in education

Promises and Challenges of Dialogic Pedagogy

with James Cumming of Chaos Management LTD

School of Education, University of Delaware
March 26-April 2, 2011

Blog entries about the experience and our learnings:

  1. Is Dialogue Possible? posted 2 April 02012


We dream of a dialogic pedagogy practice that helps learners access and apply the total fabric of their multiple selves to the current situation and context when appropriate. In order to study how to do this, we would like to try actually doing dialogic pedagogy during the conference. Our focus is on learning about the impact of identity in heteroglossic interactions. Our project has three components:

1. Collecting and providing data on notable incidents of language use meaningful to our study by taking on the role of action researchers during the conference. The observations and data collection will focus on identifying challenging moments where identities surface as relevant in particular interactions.

2. Conducting a workshop (preferably in the middle of the conference) where the data we have gathered is analyzed by us and other conference participants in order to explore the transactional processes by which the social is collectively generated. Our workshop will be a setting for discovery and diagnosis of a potential shared chronotope of the conference membership. We will share two frameworks – Holvino’s simultaneity theory (2010) and Cumming & Holvino’s problematic moment approach (2003). We will take the lead in our role as action researchers and workshop attendees are invited to collaborate with us in a “fishbowl” type setting.

3. Contribute to a twitter stream (hashtag #bakhtin) and write a few blogposts in order to create a strand of meta-commentary about what conference participants are learning from and with each other while we are in the process of experiencing the conference together.

By bringing a backchannel into active use we immediately display the fact of heteroglossia and we can explore together, dialogically, what meanings, learnings and promises may be in the data. We will use Freire’s notion of dialogic pedagogy which involves developing the skills of recognizing and working with language as both a symbol of and a container for social realities (1970). In order to access the communicative resources embedded in their/our multiple social identities, learners need to:

  • Understand the impulse and resist the pressure to conform to one-dimensionality in our own and towards others’ identities. Amartya Sen calls this process “miniaturization” (2006). It refers to the ways in which we make our own and others’ complex and multiple identities singular and one-dimensional.
  • Become skillful at acknowledging and communicating our own matrix of identities as well as exploring and accepting others’ complex social identities.

Informed consent for participating in human subjects research will be provided to all conference participants.

The European Public Sphere: From critical thinking to responsible action

The European Public Sphere: From critical thinking to responsible action

Committee of the Regions
Brussels. February 2012.

Beyond Homolingualism: A Participatory Model of Simultaneous Interpretation.

The strategy to communicate Europe is guided by an emphasis on information and technology that neglects social interaction. Discourse among the EU institutions in official documents about Plan-D, the White Paper, and multilingualism perpetuate an interaction taboo in which “the tricky question” of an exclusionary language policy is avoided, minimized, or preemptively defended. This is particularly evident in regard to simultaneous interpretation. In the European Parliament, the regime of “controlled multilingualism” has resulted in a communication system that is perceived as most successful when it provides Members with an illusion of communicating in the same language. As in the policy discourse, the measures of evaluation are based in a separation of meaning (in language) from use (by people). The desire to control meaning plays out in contested relationships as Members manipulate the human bias for homolingualism as a tool for individual voice, dis-preferring the cooperative mediation of power implied by participating in simultaneous interpretation. An alternative construction of simultaneous interpretation in community interpreting for the Deaf illustrates another regime in which generating equal voice is the task of the interpreter and language difference (heteroglossia) is preserved and embraced as the goal of the social interaction. Ritualizing community-based simultaneous interpretation as an intracultural social activity is proposed as a means to communicate a new European imagined community.