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Engineering responsibility

Environmental mitigation and the limits of commensuration in a Chilean mining project

Fabiana Li

Focusing on a controversial gold mining project in Chile, this article examines how engineers and other mining professionals perceive and help shape Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. Compensation agreements, environmental management, and community relations programs rest on what I call a logic of equivalence that makes the environmental consequences of mining activity commensurate with the mining companies’ mitigation plans. For example, legal codes enable engineers to measure, compare, and reconcile the costs and benefits of a project. However, the law is neither fixed nor uncontestable, and companies must respond to increased public scrutiny and the growing demands of communities, governments, and international actors. In Chile, campaigns against mining focused on the presence of glaciers at the mine site and the project’s possible effects on water availability. By introducing new moral dimensions to debates over corporate responsibility, these campaigns challenged established strategies of commensuration and existing ethical guideposts.

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Steffen Dalsgaard

The adoption of the Kyoto Protocol was a major breakthrough in committing industrialized countries to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, even if the effect is disputed. The protocol works through mechanisms that ascribe value to the environment in terms of those emissions—a numerical value based on carbon, which is then translated into a monetary value. This article reviews the different understandings of value implicated in debates about the environment seen through carbon. It does this by contrasting the values embedded in some of the various initiatives that have resulted from the Kyoto Protocol, and how they relate to the market, government control, and individual consumer morality, among other things. Controversy over carbon trading is entangled in the capacity of carbon to commensurate a wide range of human and non-human actions via their cost in emissions, which nevertheless is countered by moral differentiation.

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Matthew Dimmock

Starting with the observation that there is a failure in an English language of “difference” associated with travel and trade in the late sixteenth century, this article explores the nature and consequences of that failure. Particular emphasis is placed on conversion—the evaluation and acceptance of an “alien” body into the Anglican community—and an analysis of John Foxe's A sermon preached at the christening of a certaine Iew (1578) and Meredith Hanmer's The Baptizing of a Turke (1586). Diplomatic and travel texts are considered to demonstrate the use of an earlier lexicon of heresy alongside contemporary ideas concerning the equivalence of Roman Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam. In the last decade or so many scholars have identified problems with the critical language in which these issues are discussed, in particular the notion of early modern England and its “others”. In evaluating the failure of a language of “difference,” this article suggests an alternative critical vocabulary.

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Obligations to the Dead

Historical Justice and Cultural Memory

Victor Jeleniewski Seidler

Exploring some of the tensions in the recent international conference on 'Jews and Non-Jews in Lithuania: Coexistence, Cooperation, Violence', held at UCL in December 2012, I show how they relate to ways in which the Holocaust is to be understood and historical justice done not only to those who were murdered and suffered but also to the sufferings of Lithuanians under Soviet Occupation. Questioning the notion of a 'double holocaust' that would seek some equivalence I also interrogate assumptions informing the programme of the Prague Declaration. I explore ethical issues of what it means to do justice to the dead and how this calls for an ethical historiography that goes beyond its positivist frameworks.

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Partial Discontinuity

The Mark of Ritual

André Iteanu

Over time, anthropology has lost the notion of ritual within the framework of exchange and of the ‘total social fact.’ Sahlins as well as Mauss interpreted the Maoris’ hau as a paradigm of exchange in which any event comprising a circulation of objects is but an exchange. The notion of ritual thus vanished, leaving in its place a long chain of logically equivalent transitive exchanges. Drawing on Orokaiva (Papua New Guinea) material relative to the competitive attempt of several religious factions to establish a comparative view of customary and Christian ritual, the Maori hau is revisited. This reading shows a clear contrast between what we must call ritual, comprising a hierarchic and mediated form of exchange wherein gifts are equated by virtue of the ‘spirit of the gift,’ and exchange per se, constituted by a face-to-face transaction of goods wherein equivalence is posited between prestations.

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Governing ethnic diversity in rainbow nations

The politics of citizenship and multi-culturalism in Peninsular Malaysia—the case of Penang

Christian Giordano

The present article analyzes how, after its independence in 1957, Malaysia has been able to manage the difficult coexistence among its three numerically most relevant ethnic groups (Malay, Chinese and Indian). This complex situation, a legacy of the British colonial-like plural society, has been governed via a specific model of multi-racial citizenship, which is significantly unlike the Western European ones in which, as a rule, the equivalence between nationality and citizenship predominates. Starting from the specific example of Penang in Peninsular Malaysia, the article intends to highlight two points. Firstly, that citizenship must be perceived as an agonistic process with competition, tensions and conflicts as well as permanent negotiations. Secondly, that the Occidental agenda, based on liberal principles, can no longer be regarded as the only valid one. Therefore, believing that the Western type of citizenship could be a universalistic institution exportable anywhere is misleading. Consequently, citizenship ought to be analyzed instead as a 'concrete abstraction' that is set up in strict correlation with the specific historical contexts and with particular circumstances of a sociological nature, relative to the characteristics of each society.

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Claire Gregor

'Informacy', the learning of information technology skills, is now a key element of all Social Work curricula in the U.K. following the General Social Care Council's accreditation requirements. These stipulate that all undergraduates acquire computer literacy skills to the level of the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) or its equivalence and require that all accredited Social Work courses assess students to ensure that this is achieved. However, many universities do not have the support of information technology departments in order to ensure that their students are taught how to use a computer. Nor do they have access to interactive web-based packages that assist the students in teaching themselves IT skills to the high levels required by the European Computer Driving Licence. The research suggests that an integrated e-learning teaching and assessment strategy can help to promote computer literacy among Social Work students. This paper explores some of the challenges that arise from integrating e-learning into the teaching and assessment of a Social Work degree, based on the experience of the Social Work Department at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College (now Bucks New University).