Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Slavoj Zizek: Less than nothing

Just started to read Slavoj Zizeks' book Less Than Nothing (2012). A book about Hegel and dialectical materialism and consists of 1000 pages. Who is this Slavoj Zizek? The coverpage says that he "was born, writes books, and will die". That didn't help much. My first question as I read the title is if it is possible to be a Hegelian today? I see that Zizek has offered a whole chapter for this question. Zizek not only believes we should not only return to Hegel and read his works, but "repeat and exceed his triumphs, overcoming his limitations by being even more Hegelian than the master himself" (coverpage). I must say that I have a major emotional and ideological resistance when I open this hugh book. Maybe it will give me an intellectual struggle more than I can take? I open the book, put my nose between page 594 and 595 and smell the pages. The book smells good. That's a good start. I love the smell of new books. OK, now I can start reading. I'm ready Zizek. Ready for "less than nothing".
 Kaare T. Pettersen
Zizek, Slavoj (2012). Less Than Nothing. Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism. London: Verso.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Brazil and inequality

Brazil is renowned for  being the world champion in overall income inequality. This inequality is the root of nearly all of Brazil's major social problems, including its poverty, poor health and education systems, high rates of crime, and the lack of social and political integration of the majority of the population. The fact that black and brown men earn 40 to 50 percent of white men in Brazil, while black men earn 75 percent of white men in the USA, reflects the great income inequality.

The top 10 percent of Brazilians earn incomes worth 52 percent of total income of all Brazilians. South Africa has the second most unequal structure among large countries, in which the top 10 percent of South African earners control 47 percent of the country's total income. In the USA, the top 10 percent control 25 percent of the country's total income. This high rate of poverty, coupled with a sizable number of persons in the top rung, reflects the status of Brazil and South Africa as the two most unequal large countries in the world.

In Brazil, South Africa and the USA, whites tend to be concentrated near the top and blacks near the bottom, although the differences in racial distribution vary. Racial inequality in Brazil derives mostly from the near absence of nonwhites in the middle class and above, rather that the absence of whites among the poor.

In a study carried out by Lopes in 1989, he found out that 50 percent of all black and brown households in Brazil are poor in 1989, compared to only 22 percent of white households. Poverty is here understood as the minimum income needed to satisfy all of the basic need of an individual, including food, access to schools, health services, water, and sanitation.

By 1980, Brazil has become the seventh-largest economy in the capitalist world. Brazil's high income is largely the result of the top 5 or 10 percent earning much more than the rest. Since the 1950's, Brazil has experienced termendous economic growth, making it one of the worlds largest industrial economies in the world. Brazil has grown from a rural to an urban society.
Kaare T. Pettersen
Telles, Edward E. (2004) Race in Another America. The Significance of Skin Color in Brazil. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Foto taken by Kaare T. Pettersen during a visit to Rio de Janeiro in 2012

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Clínica da Família Cantagalo Pavão Pavãozinho - A fantastic health clinic in Rio de Janeiro

Gert Ferreira Wimmer
During my stay in Rio de Janeiro in November 2013, I was fortunate enough to visit a family health clinic called Clínica da Família Cantagalo Pavão Pavãozinho. The clinic gives health and social services to two neighboring poor living areas (favellas) called Cantagalo and Pavão Pavãozinho. I work myself as a Associate Professor at the Department for Health and Social Studies at Oestfold University College in Norway, and for me this was a great opportunity to learn more about health and social services in Brazil. My expectations were not disappointed. On the contrary! This was a highly qualified clinic under the professional leadership of Gert Ferreira Wimmer. He impressed me not only with his high academic level but most of all with his commitment to serve the people of Cantagalo and Pavão Pavãozinho. Rio de Janeiro show be proud of this commited leader and the Clínica da Família Cantagalo Pavão Pavãozinho.

One of the lectures I give to my students in Norway is about The Art of Helping where I quote the Danish Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard:
The clinic leader Gert Ferrira Wimmer at work

"If one is truly to succeed in leading a person to a specific place, one must first and foremost take care to find him where he is and begin there. 

This is the secret in the entire art of helping. Anyone who cannot do this is himself under a delusion if he thinks he is able to help someone else. In order truly to help someone else, I must understand more than he - but certainly first and foremost understand what he understands. If I do not do that, then my greatest understanding does not help him at all. If I nevertheless want to assert my greater understanding, then it is because I am vain or proud, then basically instead of benefiting him I really want to be admired by him. But all true helping begins with a humbling. The helper must first humble himself under the person he wants to help and thereby understand that to help is not to dominate but to serve, that to help is not to be the most dominating but the most patient, that to help is a willingness for the time being to put up with being in the wrong and not understand what the other understands." Soren Kierkegaard, [1855] 1962. Viewpoint of my Authorship. Copenhagen, Gyldendal, p.96-07.

Gert Wimmer and the family clinic lives up to this quoation perfectly. What he showed me during my stay at this fabious family clinic is how they really strive to find the other where the other is and start helping there. A typical Norwegian bureaucratic solution would be an office where people in need of help strive to find a helper. This clinic shows in practical work how it is possible to do what Kierkegaard says is the secret to the entire art of helping. The helper must find the one in need of help, not the other way around. His use of unbureacratic methods, by empowering people living in Cantagalo Pavão Pavãozinho which this clinic meets every day, and the use of untraditional methods really impressed me.

The clinic medical doctor José Luiz Roizenbruch and Kaare
 I told Gert that we in Norway, one of the riches countries in the world, have much to learn from this clinic and the way it is driven. We went so far in our meeting as to shake hands and committ ourselves to try to find a way in which we can cooperate in education of our health and social work students in Norway and having researchers from our University College cooperate with the highly qualified staff at the clinic in research projects. Two projects we discussed was sexual abuse and domestic violence. These are two topics we have advanced classes in at our University College and it would be wounderful to be able to cooperate in the production of new knowledge together with Gert and his staff. So we have started a cooperation and time will show if we are able to find a way to work and walk together. 

Gert, Kaare, Trond, Anne-Martha, Fabio, Jean and Åsne outside the clinic

Cantagalo Pavão Pavãozinho

Paintings on the wall in a Brazilian favella

I visited Rio de Janeiro in November 2013 and had a day where I had the pleasure of being guided around in several poor living areas. Such areas are called Favellas and there over 900 of them in Rio de Janeiro. I visited Cantagalo and Pavão-Pavãozinho. These two places were considered "war sones" for just a year ago. Drug gangs were at war with each other here and the situation was considered unstable. People were not adviced to visit these places without a guide who was well known. Now these favellas are much more safe. Drug gangs are driven out and the police have "pacified" the favellas.

Kaare together with Fabio Luiz Ferreira da Silva
One of the persons who showed me around was the public health worker Fabio Luiz Ferreira da Silva. He is born and raised in this area and now works here at a health clinic, helping the inhabitants making it through the day. Fabio told of friends and family members who were killed during the war between drug gangs and with the police. His story became very real when we stopped and Fabio said that right here were we stand now, so and so was shot dead. Living in this area must have been very unsafe before. I had the impression that Fabio knew every corner in the favella. We had to stop often so he could handshake with all the people he knew. I felt very safe walking around here with Fabio. All those I meet were friendly, had a smile to give and a warm handshake.They seemed proud and treated both myself and others with dignity. I wish to meet the people of Cantagalo and Pavão-Pavãozinho again soon. Thank you to Fabio for showing me around and thank you to Jean Carlos Håndlykke Luz and Åsne Håndlykke Luz for both introducing me to the health clinic here and to those who work here. They also helped in guiding us around in the favellas were they were well-known.

Cantagalo and Pavão-Pavãozinho in Rio de Janeiro
I took many pictures during my journey through the area. Something that was dangerous to do for just a year ago. Now, Fabio encouraged me to take pictures. I saw many pantings on the brick walls here. Painting made by those living in the favellas and they all have a story to tell. Here are some of the pictures I took of "Paintings on the wall in a Brazilian favella".

Kaare T. Pettersen

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Neither Sun nor Death: Peter Sloterdijk

Peter Sloterdijk
There is no doubt in my mind that Peter Sloterdijk must be one of the most productive, provocative, controversial, iconocratstic and illuminating philosophers living today. I've just finished reading the book Neither Sun Nor Death (2011). The original tittel is Die Sonne und der Tod. Dialogische Untersuchungen (2001). Brillantly translated by Steve Corcoran. The book is composed of six dialogues between the German Philosopher Peter Sloterdijk and the German Anthropologist Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs. I am not only stunned by the often confusing and "floating" thoughts from Sloterdijk, but I am overwelmed by the intensity, richness and depth in the questions given by Heinrichs.

Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs

Who is this Heinrichs? He is born in 1945, worked in his youth as a steel worker and loved to travel. In his twenties he studied Philosophy, German Language, Literature, Dramatics, Linguistics, Psychology and African Studies. After years of "floating" between all these topics, he became fascinated by anthropology and especially Michel Leiris, Victor Segalen and Claude Lévi-Strauss. He is also the founder of the »Qumran« publishing house. I take my hat of for both parties in these dialogues.

The six dialogues are:
1. Towards a Philosophy of Overreaction
2. Neither Sun nor Death: The Human-Park Speech and Its Aftermath
3. On the General Poetics of Space. On Spheres I
4. I Prophesize Another Past for Philosophy: On Spheres II
5. The Work of Resistance
6. Amphibical Antropology and Informal Thinking

The book is in many ways an experiment, a "self-experiment" as Sloterdijk explains on page 7. He states that "Philosophy would be a vapir affair without an existential impulse. At the same time, it seems to me that by placing it in such an elevated context, you overshoot the goal I had set for myself with the term `self experiment´". Sloterdijk does not say in so many words that he is an existensialist, but in my view, if Sloterdijk must be placed in a "Bubble", his bubble must be an existensialist. He seems to love Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Sartre, and especially Heidegger, and , but is also critical to them. Sloterdijk is showing us a new side to existensialism.

One of the wonders in the book is the richness in academic literature that is underlying both questions and answers. The dialog is demanding to read because it assumes that the reader is acquainted with names like: Unica Zürn, Hans Bellmer, Samuel Hahnermann, Bhagwam Shree Rajneesh (Osho), Yogananda, Meher Baba, Ramana, Aurobindo, Krishnamurti, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, along with more known names as Roland Bartes, Albert Camus, Plato, Michel Foucault, Jurgen Habermas, Johan Galtung, and many many more.

This book is in many ways so confusing that I needed to find a way to read it. It's not just possible to sit in a chair and read books like this. I really needed to work with this book. The book itself gives me a clue in how this reading should be done. Sloterdijk states that meaning is not something you find, meaning is something you have to create for youself. Meaning is not given to you, but it comes from within yourself. After a while, with this in mind, I found myself floating in the bathtub with lots of foam. I found myself without complete contact with the ground. I saw all of these names as bubbles floating on the water. I could play with them, blow them away, create new bubbles. I believe this is a good way, for me, to come closer til the Philosophy of Peter Sloterdijk. I need to read him the same way I have to read Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Sartre and Heidegger. He speaks of existence in an existential manner. Reading such authors demands that you let go and are willing to float. This is clear when Heinrichs states in one of his questions to Sloterdijk (page 336) that: 

"I recall the four fundamental postures of Buddhism; standing, walking, sitting and laying. We know the cliché: a thinker that, weighed down by heavy thoughts, rests his head on his hands or supports his forehead. This is the picture that we have have of thinking people, a bowed man who sits and likely will never do anything else than sit. Never do we think of a thinker floating. Walkers are also rare, even when they make what is called discourse. Nietzsche, however, had anticipated that we ought to be wary of all types of thought that were not hatched while walking in the open air. He thought that great ideas came on the feet of doves - which makes one think of a hovering flight."

We live in the world as Heidegger expressed as "Being-in-the-world". This is understood as Dasein. Being-there. Being, I mean really BEING, is not an easy task. Being-in-the-world, is even more complicated. This demads of us that we are willing to find the world, see the world as it is, and work with filling it with meaning. Sloterdijk calls this complexity for choas. He states that Being-in-the-world simply means Being-in-chaos. Simplicity means implication. This is how the book ends. Sloterdijk dares us to look at the world as it is, not only as complicated but also as chaos. A good reminder for all of us who try to find easy answers to complicated questions in a chaotic world. The book shows that asking good questions and finding good answers demands seriousness. Do we dare take life seriously?
Kaare T. Pettersen

Sloterdijk, Peter & Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs (2011). Neither Sun Nor Death. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e)

FavelArt-Foto (FAF) in Rio de Janeiro

Felipe Paiva er fra bydelen Vidigal i Rio de Janeiro. Jeg møtte han i november 2012 sammen med noen kolleger. Han guidet oss rundt i denne fattig bydelen, som kalles en favella i flere timer. Det gjorde et sterkt inntrykk. Han fortalte at han leder en foto klubb i Rio som heter FotoClube - FavelArt&Foto (FAF). Slumstrøkene i Rio blir ofte fremstilt negativt og FAF forsøker å presentere det spesielle og de mange rikdommer som slumstrøkene har hver for seg og hva de har felles. Amatører og profesjonelle fotografer utveksler her erfaringer og inspirere hverandre.
Målsetningen for FAF er å:
-Fotografere slumområdene og tilliggende områder
-Gjennomføre Fotografi Workshops.
-Lage fotoutstillinger slumstrøkene og offentlige miljøer.
-Ha samtaler med profesjonelle fotografer.
-Besøk til Gallerier / muséer / kulturelle områder.
-Fremme fotografi konkurranser. Er du inne på Facebook kan du lese mer om dem.
Her er et bilde av Filipe sammen med noen av mine venner og kolleger
Filipe, Anne-Martha, Jean, Åsne og Trond

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Health Risks in the Aftermath of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Strategies for Coping with Health Risks in the Aftermath of Childhood Sexual Abuse within the Context of a Norwegian Incest Center


Working with those who have experienced sexual abuse is a complicated matter because such abuse not only involves the violation of the victim’s body; it also often generates shame in those involved. Due to feelings of shame, those who have suffered this type of abuse often find it difficult, if not impossible to enter into therapeutic programs within today’s professionalized expert systems. Research shows that shame stemming from sexual abuse can affect the mental and physical health of victims. This article is based on empirical data from 26 hours of videotaped focus group interviews with 19 men and women at a Norwegian incest center (Pettersen, 2009). The interviewees speak openly of the shame they have experienced in relation to sexual abuse as children, as parents of sexually abused children, and as employees at the incest center. The interviews were transcribed and transferred to the computer program QSR NVivo (Gibbs, 2002) in order to isolate topics discussed in the focus groups. These topics were thereafter organized in seven “node trees” illustrating “categories of shame”. The categories reveal that these victims need to focus therapeutically on seven major topics: respect, inclusion, positive self-evaluation, recognition, disclosure of emotions, treating oneself and others as subjects, and new experiences to increase trust in others. The findings of this study indicate that the coping strategies focused on in incest centers can help to prevent or alleviate the health risks that threaten victims of childhood sexual abuse.

This is from my chapter in a new book:
Karen Patrick Knutsen, Sigmund Kvam, Peter Langemeyer, Anastasia Parianou, Kåre Solfjeld (Eds.)
Narratives of Risk/Narrative des Risikos
Interdisciplinary Studies/Interdisziplinäre Beiträge
2012, 520 pages, pb., 49,90 €
ISBN 978-3-8309-2803-4

I have contributed with a chapter in this new book. My chapter has the title:
"Strategies for Coping with Health Risks in the Aftermath of Childhood Sexual Abuse within the Context of a Norwegian Incest Center".
The book is available in bookstores or can be ordered here from the publishers.

Narratives of Risk: Interdisciplinary Studies is the result of an international project involving authors from institutions of higher education in Denmark, Greece, Malta and Norway. Twenty-one contributions, partly in German and partly in English, discuss stories of risk circulating within different fields of research: linguistics, translation studies, comparative literature, rhetoric, education, theology, psychology, sociology and political science. The concept of risk is multi-faceted. As these articles illustrate, stories can be about risk, but they can also be risky in themselves. For example, a technical manual can help people avoid dangerous situations; however, a faulty translation can lead to injury or even death. Likewise, a novel for young adults can persuade them to avoid risky behavior, while another may actually encourage them to take chances.

Narrative des Risikos. Interdisziplinäre Beiträge ist das Ergebnis einer Kooperation von Wissenschaftlern aus Dänemark, Griechenland, Malta und Norwegen. Der Band thematisiert Erzählungen über Risiken, aber auch Erzählungen, die ein Risiko in sich bergen. Beispielsweise können Gebrauchsanleitungen und ihre Übersetzung eine Hilfe für die Benutzer von technischen Geräten, aber auch eine Bedrohung für Leben und Gesundheit sein. Ebenso können Jugendromane vor riskantem Verhalten warnen, aber auch dazu verleiten. Die in diesem Band versammelten Beiträge, teils in englischer, teils in deutscher Sprache, entstammen verschiedenen Fachgebieten wie Literaturwissenschaft, Linguistik, Rhetorik, Erziehungswissenschaft, Theologie, Psychologie, Soziologie und Politikwissenschaft.

New Release
Bestellung mit diesem Formular oder per Fax/Order with this form or per fax:
+49 (0)2 51 / 2 65 04-26, Tel./Phone: +49 (0)251 / 2 65 04-0, E-mail: order@waxmann.com, www.waxmann.com
 Kaare T. Pettersen