Blog Flux LinkLog: Outgoing Link Logging and Click Tracking for Em duas línguas

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Leadership or liderança

A comment about leadership and ways that people from different national cultures express anger in the Online Facilitation discussion group has got me thinking. The comment was stimulated by Nancy White's blog reference to another blog about leadership by Dan Oestreich.

The poster's comment in the discussion was that the author of the blog about leadership was writing from an American perspective where people avoid showing their anger towards leaders. She suggested that in the Mediterranean basin you get angry if you feel you can't talk openly to someone - and you would use that to your advantage if you felt that you could touch the insecurities of a leader.

I don't recognise that openness with anger in Portugal - a Latin Atlantic country - but, like her, I was struck by the assumptions in Oestreich's reflection on leadership. Frank and open conversations are good because they make me feel better. And I too paused over his paragraph:
"If I am that manager and I see that I cannot talk openly with the leader about that person's style then I may well end up feeling compromised in my ability to talk about many things, certainly including my own needs, feelings, perspectives, and creative (smart, risky) ideas. If I begin to believe that my voice might touch into the insecurities of the leader, no matter how founded or unfounded those insecurities are, I learn to keep quiet. The threat of tweaking the blind spot of someone with more power colors how I choose to behave -- which is most often to become a smaller me."

These words made me think about two unspoken assumptions. One is the taken-for-granted weight given to "I", the individual rather than the group. The thinking begins from the needs and perspectives of one individual and to the solving of that individual's problems in order to solve his problems as manager, rather than starting from the problems of the group which may (or may not) be resolved by the manager being frank (or not) with the leader. Starting from the individual is a very culture-specific way of framing a problem.

Maybe another assumption is that talking openly is a good thing. It reminded me of an articulate Portuguese Professora who stood up from the audience at a conference and said: "Frankly I'm tired of being told to be frank. I was brought up to believe that it was bad manners to be direct and open with people. Now, like in almost everything else, we follow the lead from America and say it's better to speak openly. For myself, I will continue to assume that it is not good to speak openly unless there are particular circumstances that call for it."

Be sure that my reflections aren't specifically about Dan Oestreich's words (in his sensitive and thoughtful blog). It's just that this conversation on leadership led me again to think of the many invisible taken-for-granted assumptions there are behind the words we use. The best that can happen is that I listen to what you say and transform its significance to my own context. The worst is that the writing alienates me. Most of the flow of information goes from centre to periphery countries - and in English. Some of that information is transformed into other cultural contexts, while some of it has an alienating effect on people in many parts of the world. And I think we ignore this at our peril.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Damn Smart Woman's Day

This is only tangetially related to my blog ... but there's a beautiful full moon outside and a friend sent me this motto which I love. She told me to send it on to anyone fitting the description of "International Very Good Looking, Damn Smart Woman" - but I found myself imagining sending it to another type of woman!!

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Nos hibridos...

I'm struggling again through Homi K. Bhabha's book "The Location of Culture". I really relate to his notion of the "the third space" and "the liminal negotiation of cultural difference" and "hybridity". It's a relief to hear that you (or I) don't have to speak from either one cultural, class or gender identity or another, but that there is a negotiated third space (in theory at least). And that in this hybrid space we produce rather than reflect cultural meaning.

I've been thinking of how this will affect my day-to-day life. What will I reply the next time someone asks me, as they often do: what do you do in your culture? Or, even worse, O que vocês fazem lá? Normally I ponder three seconds to understand if the person is referring to "lá" or "your culture" as Kenya, England or Portugal before I reply. But from now on I'm going to reply: "Well, we in the third space .... " or "We hybrids in the liminal space ...."

Pois, nós tipos no terceiro espaço. Ou seja, nos híbridos no espaço liminar... :-)

Portugal's contemporary political history online

I was happy to find the cphrc page today. It's got some great resources on Portugal in English and Portuguese. It was started by Steward Lloyd-Jones working at ISCTE in Lisbon and supported by Mike Harland at the University of Glasgow (who has some great Internet resources in Portuguese and for learning Portuguese) and António Costa Pinto who is now part of the Universidade de Lisboa. Sadly it looks like some of the stuff on the site stopped in 2003 because of lack of funding.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Chico das Saias

On my bike in the hills yesterday I met Chico-das-Saias for the first time. Chico (short for Francisco) is a legend in the hills of Arrabida. He lives in an isolated house which is a landmark - take the path until you get to the house of Chico das Saias and go west through the woods until you get to São Caetano if you want to find your way through the hills. Chico-of-the-skirts (around 65 years old) lives in this isolated spot, employed by the Parks to keep watch over some of the remote areas. He lives his life simply, but comfortably, wearing women's clothes (including a bra that supports a large bosom).

I was reminded of Nadia Almada, a 27 year old transexual from Portugal who won the fifth showing in UK of TV reality show, "Big Brother". And also José Castelo Branco who has just won Quinta das Celebridades (Celebrity Farm) who has mastered the art of elegant gender-switching, as his wife stands by.

Having lived in England for some years, where everyone discusses issues to death - I'm fascinated at how little public discussion there is about many issues, espcially related to sex and gender ... just a sort of general acceptance or a not-talking-about-it. The positive side of not talking about it is that there is no big deal. And the negative side about it is that it looks like there is no big deal!

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Paula Rego

I came across a great site about the weird and wonderful work of Paula Rego, a Portuguese artist who lives and works in London. This particular picture resonates with how I'm feeling trying to write up my doctorate!

She says wild things like: "To be a dog woman is not necessarily to be downtrodden; that has very little to do with it. In these pictures every woman's a dog woman, not downtrodden, but powerful. To be bestial is good. It's physical. Eating, snarling, all activities to do with sensation are positive. To picture a woman as a dog is utterly believable."

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Ponto media

Great links about the media in Portuguese on António Granado's blog, Ponto Media. Also a doctoral student at the University of Leeds, Granado is a science journalist with the Publico. Thanks to São for the link who tells me he won a journalism prize for this blog (possibly from Germany).

Monday, January 10, 2005

Salaam-Alaikum, peace.

People in Sudan celebrate a peace deal today. So do I.
So much suffering for so long and so invisible to most of the world.

Around 16 years ago I travelled in Sudan with my daughter. We weren't allowed to travel to the south (I wouldn't have gone anyway) but I met people working for Aid Agencies who did. They talked, not only of the dangers, but also of the "normality" of passing dead bodies lying on the side of the road on their journeys to and from the south.

And talking of normality I remember drinking tea in the compound of a hospitable family in Khartoum who generously opened their house to my daughter and I. Night fell and they laughed as I jumped when a young man scuttled past us to their outhouse. They told me he was their "slave" from the south. He was only able to do his errands for the family when it was dark because, they told me, he was afraid of the daylight. He was also terrified of my daughter (who was five) and he hadn't, they told me, ever seen a white person. He was probably about 13 years old and lived in a dark space on the floor. They saw their relationship with him as a symbiotic one. Having "found" him in Khartoum, lost, without a family and not able to speak - they gave him food and shelter in return for doing some of their chores.

Such degradation and misery in the biggest country in Africa. And also such openness, warmth, hospitality and wisdom from so many people I met on my travels. And such normality. Oh yes, I celebrate the signing of this peace deal today.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Sex and management styles

This post was stimulated by some heated conversations between my students about men and women management styles in Portugal. Over the six years of teaching in the same Institution (Escola Superior de Ciências Empresariais in Setúbal) I've seen the conversations on this topic change from indifference to fury. I take that as a good sign.

One turma pointed out to me that their class of 35 students had begun with substantially higher numbers and a ratio of men to women that was roughly 50%. The ratio is now down to five men and thirty five women - just one of the signs of a black hole we have in Higher Education where people, especially young men, are disappearing. (Disappearing to organise parties and drink beer if some of their female ex-colleagues are right!)

Notwithstanding this potential shortage of educated prospective mating partners, women's prospects look optimistic. The percentage of women in Higher Education in Portugal surpasses most, often all, other European countries including in the hard and natural sciences. In Portugal the pattern of women researchers is different to the rest of Europe, where their presence is higher, and in government institutions Portugal is the only country that has more women researchers than men (Eurostats, Science and Technology, Nov. 2001)

In contrast to other countries in Europe, women have not had to fight hard for their rights in Portugal (see Virginia Ferreira). Most of the decisions taken about women's rights were top-down decisions made by the (predominantly male) political elite as they manoeuvred or danced Portugal into the European Union and the twenty-first century. Outdated laws, like men having the right to read their wives' mail, a woman needing her husband's permission to travel out of the country and obligatory housework were thrown out (in the late 1970's) without opposition and to this day Portugal has what is considered to be one of the most advanced legal constitutional frameworks based on the equality of women and men.

However, this lack of involvement of women in the changes to their legal status has probably undermined their everyday practices. And as women are so busy working (with one of the highest rates of female employment and very little part-time work) long hours (Portugal has the longest working day in the EU) while organising child-care and coping with ageing family members (Portugal spends the lowest percentage of GDP on social protection) at poor rates of pay (Portugal has the lowest salaries in EU) they don't have much time to catch up on social practices where they can enjoy the benefits of being so equal!

I thought I would leave my thoughts with a translation from the beginning of a book by Ana de Castro Osório ("Ás Mulheres Portuguesas") written in 1905. Ana de Castro, born in 1872 and who lived in Setúbal, was a feminist and the founder of the Liga Republicana das Mulheres Portuguesas (Women's Republican League). She was a great believer in the autonomy of women, not only at the judicial or political level but also in terms of social practices. She said

Feminism: it is a word which men in Portugal still laugh at or resent, according to their temperament, and that makes even women blush, the poor things, as if it were a serious error that some of her colleagues had committed, but which was not their responsibility, good grief!...

And yet, there is nothing more just, there is nothing more reasonable than this steady, though slow, walk of the female spirit into its autonomy
(Osório, 1905:11).

And so it is, one hundred years after Ana de Castro wrote those words, that I drink a toast to the walk of my female students into their autonomy!

Osório, Ana de Castro (1905), Às Mulheres Portuguesas, Lisboa, Livraria Editora Viúva Tavares Cardoso.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Wikipedia and the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake

The Wikipedia, an encyclopedia created by which one of us co-writes it, is one of the most fascinating developments I've seen in the last few years. It's already one of the most thorough sources of information about the earthquake and multiple tsunamis.

As I write this I am digesting how it feels to read these events as historic or geographic facts (in an encyclopedia) at the same time as these human stories and events are unfolding (on my television).

The Wikipedia is also in Portuguese, not as a translation but as a parallel (?) complementary (?) contextualised (?) version of the same encylopedia.