“Speak Into The Mic, Please” is an essay series published serially in e-flux journal. This text by Hanan Toukan is the fourth in the series, for which I have the honor of serving as guest editor.
The title of the series comes from Lina Majdalanie and Rabih Mroué’s performance Biokhraphia (2002), in which Majdalanie speaks to a recorded version of herself that is constantly reminding her to speak into the mic in order for the audience to hear her better.
Similarly to speaking to the self in front of an audience, the commissioned texts in this series attempt to look at the conditions of production surrounding the contemporary art scene in Beirut since the 1990s. The backdrop for these discussions includes a major reconstruction project in the city, international finance, and political oppression, whether under the Syrian regime or under hegemonic NGO discourses.
The texts examine interconnections between the economic bubbles and the political and cultural discourses that formed in Lebanon between the 1990s and 2015. During this period, a number of private art institutions, galleries, and museums popped up in the capital, while the city was buried under the refuse of years of intentional political mismanagement and oligarchic rule.
The Participation of Iraqi artists today in an exhibition organized by a foreign institution implies an acceptance of that institution’s logic in preparing the exhibition. Participating in a foreign exhibition should not be rejected in and of itself; what should be rejected is any objective of an exhibition hosted by such an institution that is not positive, that aims at anything other than encouraging the artists and showcasing their talents. Most Iraqi artists also participated, for example, in an international exhibition held in India last year, and the Indian government has plans to organize an exhibition of exclusively Iraqi painters. But what does it mean when a colonial institution like the British Cultural Council hosts an exhibition for Iraqi artists?
—Shakir Hassan Al Said, 1953
“Al tamwyl al ajnabi”
Since Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt at the end of the eighteenth century, Arab intellectuals have been embroiled in impassioned debates over the West’s superiority versus the Arab “lag.” From Amin Qasim’s call for the “liberation” of women to Taha Hussein’s situating of Egypt’s civilizational trajectory within that of the West, and Abed al Rahman al Kawkabi’s attack on despotism, the quest for modernity reverberated and found fertile ground in the debates around literature and poetry, and by extension the visual arts. As Timothy Mitchell has argued, “Modern discourse occurs only by performing the distinction between the modern and the non-modern, the West and the non-West.” Such distinctions, I also suggest, buttress the foundation upon which the discourse of society’s development from “backward and closed” to “open and free” has historically rested.
In 2007, the EU-funded, Mediterranean culture–focused online journal Babelmed published an article by Lebanese critic, poet, and journalist Youssef Bazzi. In the article, Bazzi recounts the story of Hiwar, a legendary literary Arabic journal from the 1960s, to launch an attack on contemporary local critics of global cultural funding for contemporary arts production. He derides them as adamantly and senselessly anti-Western—linking them to what he frames as the irrational and hypernationalist critics of the 1960s. In his words, the way the Arab public views its relationship to foreign funding for cultural production “is a relationship that can at best be described as ‘dubious’ and at worst as ‘betrayal,’ ‘conspiracy’ or working on behalf of the imperialist assault on the Arab nation or the ‘Zionist-colonialist project.’” He goes on to complain that “the list of charges runs through the full list of clichés that have comprised the Arab political dictionary for the last 60 years.” Bazzi essentially attacks what he believes to be an oppressive element in the cultural practices and discourses produced by Arab nationalism that linger years after the beginning of its decline in 1970. He ends his piece by emphasizing the impressive growth of the Lebanese arts sector—and of contemporary visual arts, specifically—under the auspices of US and European patrons since the end of the Lebanese civil war in a plea to locals to shed any lingering ill-feeling toward international funders, thereby drawing on the West versus non-West and modern versus nonmodern binaries that Mitchell underlines about the modern discourse.
“Al tamwyl al ajnabi” (foreign funding) is the most bandied-about term in the contemporary public discourse of cultural producers, funders, and activists in Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan. The term refers to a set of questions posed and discussed largely by actors working in civil society organizations in the 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s. The discussion centers on the advantages and disadvantages of accepting funds from foreign, but especially Western, organizations, whether governmental or nongovernmental.
In fact, as a signifier in Arabic, the term al tamwyl al ajnabi is itself steeped in a deep imperial and neoliberal history, while the English translation of the term is neutral. As Nicola Pratt puts it, “The foreign funding debate is not about NGO financial matters, but rather about the identity of those who provide the funds (that is, organizations located in the ‘West’).” Central to this debate is what is termed in Arabic discourse ajindat gharbiyah or ajnabiyah (Western or foreign agendas); that is, it is not how much money a funder gives a local recipient but what is understood to be done with the money, and specifically how much this power relationship affects production. These conditions prioritize the funder’s interests over the recipient’s. In that sense, the foreign—or Western (the terms are often used interchangeably in public discussion)—cultural funding debate is not an empirical one based on objective facts about the impact of international funding on local NGOs. Instead it reflects the historical relationship between the Arab world and the West. This relationship with the West is defined by a discourse that operates in the realm of ideas that have to do with representations and identities that are essentially the byproduct of two hundred years of colonial encounters between the Arab world and the West. In the field of the arts, how this unequal relationship of power between funder and recipient materializes is hotly contested. What I mean is how recipients of funds, whether artists or local arts-supporting initiatives acting as “middlemen” with politically vested interests in the region, play a role in shaping the aesthetical and formal practices of cultural production. By extension, how do such initiatives end up influencing the way we understand the role of the artist as a critical voice for change in society?
Every Arab country inherited various forms of knowledge and technology from colonialism. When it was officially over, colonialism left behind a complex cultural and intellectual legacy that the Arab world is still trying to process. The region’s persistent and historical grappling with multiple identities, memories, worldviews, and associated narratives—whether religious, secular, nationalist, socialist, liberal, globalist, or cosmopolitan—means that cultural production and representation, whether for a local or global audience, inevitably become domains of contestation. In turn, this contentious politics of cultural production links to the loftier encounter with any cultural practices understood to originate in the West, as was the case with modernist poetics. Hence, Arab players alone do not attend to cultural production’s contentious discourse. Reflecting larger regional and global geopolitical trends, international players make themselves felt via their funding, visions, and discourses, and like local players, they assert themselves, directly and indirectly, through an intricate confluence of sect, class, and geopolitics. The debate around the contextual nature of contemporary arts production, couched as it is in a longer historical debate concerned with the problem of modernist avant-garde poetics being perceived as too “Western” by some local actors, becomes the medium through which varying ideologies express themselves and challenge each other in response to experimental aesthetics. Foregrounded in these debates are two master narratives that were almost always pitted against each other during the interviews I conducted: the myth of “modern” abstract art (and, by extension, “postmodern” conceptual and overly theorized contemporary art) versus “authentic” and “domestic” social-realist art committed to painting and sculpture as both form and content. These narratives are predicated on a discursive framework that demarcates roughly two categories. The first is comprised of an older group of artists, writers, and intellectuals who came of age in the era of the 1967 Arab defeat against Israel or the Naksa, embodied in the term al-muthaqaf (the intellectual). This category of cultural producers considers itself just as rooted in localized aesthetical practices informed by historicized understandings of art’s role in attaining justice and freedom, as they are globally attuned to questions of aesthetics. The second group is, generally speaking, younger interdisciplinary artists born roughly between the 1960s and 1980s who tend to be more conceptually informed by the theories and practices afloat in more globally connected and professionally networked sites of art making. The latter category disparages in particular what it sees as rigid concepts in art, such as liberation and justice that have historically served the power politics of postcolonial nationalist regimes and their political rhetoric. In this framework, the binaries of authentic/modern, global/local, cosmopolitan/communal, and progressive/regressive inflame local discourses, sensibilities, and frames of thinking about the topic of international, but often especially Western, support for cultural production. This bifurcation, which was often underscored in my field interviews, conceals two sources of tension. First, how much “the modern must always have its other,” and second, how much the construction of this other is inflected with capital, class, and power, whether we are talking about the so-called authentic-local or the cosmopolitan-global. This inflection in turn is elided by the tendency I found for cultural actors—and this includes artists, curators, and representatives of cultural organizations—to focus on the identity rather than the politics of the funder when thinking about cultural production’s relationship to its source of funding. This focus was often accentuated in conversations when the issue of the Arab Gulf art scene was raised. One well-known artist, writer, and cultural organizer succinctly summed up this prevalent perception: “Art and patronage is a dirty business, but at least the Gulf is Arab, unlike most of the other funders we have to work with.”
“In Beirut,” noted Daniel Drennan ElAwar, “the sponsors list of any given cultural event proudly lists the banks, foreign NGOs and other corporations that make such an importation and implantation of outside culture possible. No one seems to mind.” This statement exemplifies the way in which art from the Global South is systematically located within the framework of a postcolonial nationalism, on the one hand, and as the effect of a Westernized liberalism, on the other. Accordingly, notions of “importation” and “implantation” abound in debates on cultural production and al-asala (authenticity) in the modern Arab world. Yet such approaches are inherited from the dominant tradition/modernity debate mentioned above that too easily dismisses alternative interpretations of these tensions. Arguably modernity is not always a rude imposition or an “inauthentic appropriation,” and cultural actors in contemporary Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan are not passive postcolonial subjects.
After 1990, the constructed binaries—historically drawn on to explicate the encounter with the darker side of Western modernity—arguably began to be expressed in a different tone, one less prone to the rigid categorizations of the pre-1990 years that the Hiwar experience highlights. Yet still somewhat dependent on cultural actors’ transnational ties and how closely they relied on Western curatorial frameworks, the general public and many actors from within the cultural domain remained generally suspicious of the role of funding for social and cultural projects from Western sources. Yet this time, and especially after 9/11, the backdrop was what Barbara Harlow describes in Resistance Literature (2012) as the “drastic changes wrought—wreaked—in a catastrophically contested world order as the twentieth century turned into the twenty-first, relating a macro-narrative, perhaps, from colonialism, through decolonization, the polarized Cold War, a post-bi-polar world order, post-colonialism, globalization.” The new tone reflected a more violent reality of a post-9/11 world but, at the same time, a more contingent postmodern world.
Hence, despite both funders’ and recipients’ insistence on implementing normative frames of understanding to distinguish cultural diplomacy from cultural relations, the former cannot be viewed narrowly as a tool of foreign policy under the remit of public diplomacy alone, even though it is commonly defined as “the exchange of ideas, information, art and other aspects of culture among nations and their peoples to foster mutual understanding” (Cummings 2009). Instead, cultural diplomacy entails a multifaceted process of international cultural politics, realized through tools and practices of cultural policy as they manifest in various contexts. Within this framework, cultural diplomacy happens under a number of names. Its vast lexicon includes cultural relations, cultural cooperation, public diplomacy, public relations, cross-cultural exchange, and cultural development—all terms that encompass dimensions of culture as understood by Raymond Williams’s 1961 articulation of its wide meaning, processes, and significations. Depending on the lexicon in vogue since the 1990s, it has also articulated itself as developmentally attuned, civil society and people-centered, and/or democratization in practice. Although a neat genealogy could be constructed for each of these terms appropriated in the language of funders, and by extension the local fund recipients, I submit that in everyday life and on a practical level they form something of an ideological miscellany. Regardless of the particularities of its individual parts, cultural diplomacy has pushed an understanding of the arts as a motor of change in a society that badly needs to reform its culture and democratize its society. By extension, the blurring of the terms “cultural diplomacy” and “cultural relations” in scholarly literature and in policy practice is one of the most insidious ways that power works in cultural production: its invasiveness renders funders and fund recipients oblivious, unwittingly or not, to the fact that the funding of cultural production is always an instrument of power, even if it is intercepted by local actors—or, to borrow from Zeina Maasri, even when those participants are not mere “passive dupes.”
Diplomacy or Relations?
In spring 2013, I met with the director of a leading and long-established European cultural funding institution in Amman. I noted to myself that the director’s home, office, and favorite café were all located where we were sitting in Jabal al Weibdeh, one of Amman’s oldest and, in recent years, most gentrified neighborhoods. In the midst of explaining that my research reflected an interest in the local manifestations of cultural diplomacy and how they intersect with and shape artistic practices and discourses, we were interrupted by an activist, artist, and mutual friend who wanted to say hello. We all chatted briefly about her latest work with a well-known local arts collective located in quickly gentrifying downtown Amman. Before walking off to rejoin her friends, she thanked the director profusely for all his financial support and proximity to the project during the time of its making. That interaction—the whole meeting, in fact—made clear that the director was on good terms with everyone in his vicinity, from the artists he informally greeted to the barista who served him his coffee, and even the local vegetable vendor and his children, whom he greeted informally on our way out. So, it was as though he read my mind when he said to me almost immediately after our mutual artist friend left that the term “cultural diplomacy” makes him uneasy. He went on to clarify his point, stating that he regards what he and his organization do in Amman and the region more broadly as cultural relations or, more precisely, mutual cultural exchange, rather than top-down diplomacy. He was interested in knowing why I chose the term “diplomacy” to describe his foundation’s work. For him the word implied a distance from the people with whom his foundation worked, while “relations” alluded to a collective sense of ownership over a project. This was not the first time I had heard this in the field. In fact, it was one among a handful of times that a European or US funder adamantly insisted that he or she was invested in a two-way process of the exchange of culture rather than the top-down and rather archaic process of cultural diplomacy.
For these funders, cultural diplomacy harkened back to a place and time in the history of Cold War ideology that represented secrecy and espionage. They feel this comparison is a gross misrepresentation of what they do today. Perhaps I had gotten so used to meeting funders in their air-conditioned and finely decorated offices as opposed to local cafés where the interactions between the community and the funder are clearer. What the director said to me triggered my thinking about the difference between the two concepts: cultural exchange/relations (which in a way I observed him “doing” that day), and cultural diplomacy, and the way each interact with local cultural NGOs, activists, artists, and bloggers. Yet I also came to wonder whether the precise term used to define international funding for cultural production mattered so much if essentially what each of these terms describe is a relationship defined by local arts and culture NGOs, whether they be governmental, semi-governmental or nongovernmental, and the artists they support. As I mention in the above section, when the source of Hiwar’s funding was uncovered by the New York Times on the eve of the 1967 war, it triggered a genuine outcry that became instilled in the collective cultural memory. An understanding developed that the cultural encounter that brought the journal’s editors and writers into the sphere of US government interests was directed and facilitated by the state for ideological purposes rather than organically produced in the direct interactions between writers and artists from different parts of the world. What did the designation of al tamwyl al ajnabi (foreign funding) convey about society’s shifting perceptions of the relationship between funder and recipient within the context of the continuously growing number of foreign funded and transnationally networked arts projects? Precisely, whose interests are behind the obfuscation of the terms “cultural relations” and “cultural diplomacy,” and why and for whom does it matter that the terms are obfuscated?
At the simplest level, cultural relations may be understood as interactions that “grow naturally and organically, without government intervention—the transactions of trade and tourism, student flows, communications, book circulation, migration, media access, intermarriage—millions of daily across-culture encounters,” and cultural diplomacy as that which “take[s] place when formal diplomats, serving national governments, try to shape and channel this natural flow to advance national interests.” Yet in the post-9/11 era, definitions of public diplomacy, under which cultural diplomacy falls, have expressed a strong foreign policy orientation toward mutual understanding, which is reflected in terms such as “engagement,” “relationship building,” or “two-way communications.” More, culture in the study of international relations has been defined as the “sharing and transmitting of consciousness within and across national boundaries.” These terms emphasize horizontal, informal, and neutral exchange, insinuating good intention, rather than top-down formal diplomacy implemented solely to influencing politics. Viewed within this purview, cultural diplomacy has become a cornerstone of public diplomacy with an increased need to reconfigure soft power as a positive globalizing force. Hence, the new post-9/11 public diplomacy is being shaped in a context where nonstate actors such as NGOs have gained increasing access to domestic and international politics. The optimistic view of these new multidirectional flows of ideas, finances, and projects is that they are leading to a situation whereby states are compelled to create dialogues with foreign publics where the boundaries between foreign and domestic are less and less defined.
Structurally reinforced by a global network that is understood to foster open spaces of dialogue across divides, these perceived changes in diplomacy’s outlook and function unproblematically construe the global as a singular space through which continuous and unfettered links of people, ideas, capital, state and nonstate actors, institutions, and cities entwine in a series of projects, events, social interactions, and cultural exchanges. Yet this nongovernmental diplomacy that is understood to embody cultural relations as opposed to top-down cultural diplomacy, leaves unpacked the power dynamics that are being obfuscated in these normative approaches to international politics prevalent in academic and policy circles. And while the literature on cultural diplomacy indicates that the term’s meaning varies according to context, a prevalent perception, especially among public diplomacy scholars, is that cultural diplomacy may be understood only within the larger rubric of public diplomacy and as a prime example of soft power—in other words, as a positive phenomenon.
However, these broad and commonly used normative definitions that depict cultural relations as distinct from and more effective as a soft power practice than cultural diplomacy are misleading. In practice, it is the norm to conflate “culture for the purpose of flourishing cultural assets, values and identities” and “culture as a means of foreign policy and diplomatic activities.” These essentialist definitions dilute the analytical and categorical, yet constantly evolving and interwoven, dynamics at play in Raymond Williams’s three conceptions of culture and society, devised in 1961, and which I build upon throughout the following chapters: (i) culture as an “ideal”—a state or process of human perfection, in terms of certain absolute or universal values; (ii) culture as “documentary” that pertains to the body of intellectual and imaginative work, in which, in a detailed way, human thought and experience are variously recorded; and (iii) culture in the “social” sense that describes a particular way of life, which expresses certain meanings and values not only in art and learning but also in institutions and ordinary behavior.
The former director of the Goethe Institute in Beirut explained the political role of cultural funding vis-à-vis Germany’s and the EU’s interests in democratizing the region in the following way:
You cannot separate culture from democratization. In the 1960s and 1970s there was no social agenda in foreign cultural policy, it was more about entertaining people. But this is definitely finished today. Now we have strategic goals. We want to see open and democratic societies. Our focus is on the innovative and beyond the mainstream, not dabkeh [folkloric dance] for instance, and this creates irritation, especially amongst the more traditional in society. So culture contributes to pluralistic societies, something we are all working to achieve here. Yet, [this] is also quite a challenge.
He then went on to speak of the way in which interaction with the local cultural elite was historically limited to a one-way exchange, whereby culture was transmitted from Europe to Lebanon and other countries in the region by way of exhibitions, shows, and events that brought European artists under a “purely cultural” mandate. According to the Goethe Institute in Beirut’s former director, the Institute was “bringing culture in a more fluidly defined framework rather than supporting local culture through direct funding of institutions and organizations as is done today and which is perceived by the local population as carrying more of a political overtone.”
The director’s comments line up with logic long established among Western civil society funders. This logic views the promotion of contemporary arts as part of a larger democratization framework among younger generations in Arab societies as having the potential to revise much of the old way of thinking. Reports like The Challenges of Artistic Exchange in the Mediterranean: Made in the Mediterranean, which read contemporary art as an “anti-fundamentalist vaccine,” are not uncommon. Before the Arab revolutionary process kicked off in late December 2010, interest in the arts as a mobilizer of revolutionary change from scholars, curators, and activists peaked. Young Arab artists were up against a growing Islamist conservatism because for many years, religious fundamentalism and autocratic Arab nationalist regimes had weakened the status of independent art in the public arena. Funders in this context aimed to correct this reality by bolstering “alternative” arts and encouraging Arab cultural NGOs. Their longer-term aim consisted of strengthening “the role of civil society in the promotion of human rights, political pluralism and democratic participation and representation.”
As mentioned, only in the past twenty years has “culture” become an ever-more significant dimension of international relations because of globalization and advancements in communication technologies that reconfigure the power dynamics between different social actors. This shift is most obvious to the extent that culture as both practice and product has seeped into the language, rationale, and rhetoric of local and international civil society organizations concerned with democratization programing in the region. The perception of the potential role of civil society as agent of democratization in the MENA region, which filtered into most development assistance agencies in the 1990s and the first decade of the millennium, is often understood to lie within the purview of international development policies, rather than public (or cultural) diplomacy. Yet at the same, the genealogical underpinning of the phenomenon of international funding for societal development through local NGOs emphasizes the same “universal” political and cultural values, needs, and aspirations that unproblematically drive the mission of cultural diplomacy.
During the late nineteenth century, the institutionalized use of culture in foreign relations emerged in Europe. Grandiose world expositions and fairs during the decades of post-1848 European nationalism were some of the earliest instances of the creation of a global public space where states could strategically instrumentalize culture and cultural representation for political ends; these large events were packaged as part of a panoramic “spectacle of modernity” that dominated representations of landscapes, industries, and especially the wealth of natural resources of societies colonized by Europe. Although international relations theorists tend to articulate culture’s role in politics through descriptive frameworks that emphasize the functional and positive role of culture, Timothy Mitchell has unraveled how culture factored into colonial practices by highlighting modern Europe’s fondness for transforming the world into a representation through cultural exchange: the “exhibitionary complex” of cultural display (1989). Through his discussion of nineteenth-century Parisian expositions, Mitchell shows how the preoccupation with organizing “the view” (of non-Western culture), as he puts it, is more than merely the content of a policy or a strategy of rule in cultural imperialism. By examining how the expositions objectified the cities and people they represented through miniature Cairene streets and buildings for their “Egyptian Exhibition”—in addition to his descriptions of the astonishing reactions to these models by Egyptian and other non-European visitors who encountered them when traveling—Mitchell shows that the preoccupation is in fact an intrinsic component of the cognitive methods of order and truth that constitute the very idea of Europe itself.
In the same way that policymakers and scholars are preoccupied with the terms used to describe the cultural relationship between the West and its former colonies, Europe is obsessed with organizing the view for the sake of categorization and display of power—which concerns Europe’s self-imaging vis-à-vis itself rather than the Arab region’s interests. As I have already mentioned, al tamwyl al ajnabi is essentially a blanket term used in public discourse to describe a relationship of power that shapes cultural representation, cultural exchange, and cultural diplomacy between two unequal sides. The discussion of what cultural diplomacy constitutes and how it plays a role in global cultural relations is essentially a discussion centered in the North American and European hallways of power. From the British Institute, to the Goethe Foundation, the European Cultural Foundation, the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, the Academy for Cultural Diplomacy, and even the American Advisory Committee on Public Diplomacy formed in the aftermath of 9/11, and to the growing body of scholarly literature dedicated to understanding its function and potential, the term is a construct that describes the Western liberal ethic and its historical relationship of cultural exchange with the rest of the world. That same phenomenon is labeled and framed as tamwyl ajnabi, where ajnabi (foreign) evidences “Western,” rather than the more neutral and functionalist-sounding “cultural exchange” or “cultural diplomacy” taken up by Euro-American pundits, funders, and scholars.
In the first decade of the global war on terror, despite the foundation of Cold War cultural diplomacy policy on which policymakers could draw to formulate an integrated strategy in the post-9/11 world, the Bush administration chose force as its primary tool of negotiation for shaping public perceptions. Cultural diplomacy waned as the administration consolidated what was already developing in the years between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 9/11 attacks. However, it did not drop out of the culture game altogether. In the years succeeding 1999, the State Department withdrew its support for some of its most popular programs like the Jazz Ambassadors Fund, American Houses, and the Embassy Libraries that allowed for the flow of ideas and artist exchanges between the US and other countries. Instead, funding went toward large-scale broadcasting projects like the Radio Sawa station and the Al Hurra television satellite programs that could more directly, and with greater impact, influence the negative public opinions of the US in Arab and Muslim countries.
Meet the recipients of the new Women in Politics scholarship – The Signal
Dalhousie award created to encourage more women to enter male dominated field
Having more women at the decision-making table is important for Claire Belliveau.
“If we have male dominated rooms, we’re going to have male dominated issues, as easy as that,” said Belliveau.
Belliveau, along with Charlotte Bourke, are the first recipients of the new Women in Politics scholarship at Dalhousie.
Belliveau is in her fourth year at Dalhousie, studying political science and law, justice and society. She has been involved in politics since she was 18, working for Environment Minister Tim Halman. Belliveau is the community outreach co-ordinator at Halman’s constituency office.
Being a young woman in politics has not always been easy for Belliveau. She recalls instances where people questioned her abilities due to her age and times when male peers would take credit for her ideas.
Despite these challenges, Belliveau has found support among other women in the field. One thing she found interesting was how women in politics support each other despite party alliance.
“It’s so nice to see how much these women want to see other women succeed, in a male dominated field,” she said.
Belliveau would like to pursue a career in government as an analyst, contributing to policy development in education and the environment.
Bourke is also a fourth-year political science student with an interest in environmental politics. Her main research interests are social and environmental policies and she is studying ways to create fairer climate adaptation plans.
Bourke is unsure about her plans after graduation, but she knows it will involve politics, social issues and the environment.
The scholarship serves to encourage, support and inspire young women in their political aspirations. It was established by Grace Evans and Sarah Dobson, co-authors of On Their Shoulders: The Women who Paved the Way in Nova Scotia Politics.
The book addresses the gender gap by showcasing the first and only 50 women at the time, to have served as MLAs in the province. The book highlights the importance of female representation in municipal politics and all proceeds go towards funding the new scholarship.
In 2021, women and gender-diverse people make up only 36 per cent of the legislative assembly in Nova Scotia.
Of 55 MLAs, 19 are women, one is gender-diverse and 35 are men.
“People often don’t want to enter a realm where they can’t see themselves reflected. I think it’s hard for young women to become interested in politics if they don’t see their peers there,” Evans said.
The scholarship will run for as long as there is funding. Every year, two students will be awarded $1,000 each.
“There’s not a lot of scholarships, to my knowledge, geared specifically towards poli sci students, let alone women in poli sci,” Bourke said.
Evans said they are looking to expand the scholarship beyond funding to create a network of people. She and Dobson have been working in politics for a few years and have made many connections they would like to share with the recipients.
Receiving the scholarship was rewarding for Bourke, who felt like all her hard work was being acknowledged.
“It’s kind of just like a relief and a push forward to be like, oh wow I am being recognized, this is really cool, people actually think that I’m good enough, or they actually want me here. It feels sort of welcoming,” she said.
Belliveau was honoured to receive a scholarship designed to encourage women, like herself, who want a career in politics.
“It was just really motivating, especially from Sarah and Grace, knowing how much they care about young women in politics, knowing how much they care about the history and seeing more young women join the field,” she said.
“They’re acknowledging how important it is to have those voices at the table.”
For both women, winning the scholarship has given them a boost of confidence.
Belliveau said it has pushed her to apply for other opportunities, something she hopes other young women in politics will be encouraged to do as well.
“Apply for every scholarship, apply for fellowships, apply for the jobs you don’t think you qualify for because … men are doing it and they get them all the time, so why shouldn’t you?” she said.
“So, take advantage of everything you can and just enjoy the ride, stand your ground and don’t be afraid to speak up.”
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Playing Politics With Democracy? – Forbes
On December 9 and 10, President Biden will host the first of two Summits for Democracy to “set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today.” How do Americans see the threat to democracy in the US now? And do partisans see the health of our democracy differently?
In October, Grinnell College asked them this directly. Fifty-two percent said American democracy was under a very serious threat and 29% under a minor threat. Only 14% perceived no threat. Other polls with differently worded questions produce similar impressions of a democracy in need of serious rehabilitation. In a November poll, Monmouth University pollsters found that 8% thought the US system of government was basically sound and needed no improvement, 35% basically sound but needing some improvement, 26% not too sound and needing many improvements, and 30% not too sound and in need of significant changes. And a late October–early November poll of 18–29 year olds from Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP) finds that 7% of them describe US democracy as healthy, 27% somewhat functioning, 39% as in trouble, and 13% as failed.
In 2018, 2019, and again in 2021, Public Agenda, as part of the Daniel Yankelovich Democracy Initiative, asked people identical questions about democracy’s health. In the May 2021 poll, 14% said American democracy was doing well, 50% facing serious challenges but not in crisis, and 36% in crisis. The results were similar to their 2018 and 2019 polls.
In all of these new polls, Democrats were more positive about democracy’s health than were Republicans. In the 2021 Public Agenda survey, Democrats were less likely to see a crisis than Republicans, 25% to 48%. However, in their 2018 and 2019 polls taken during the Trump years, far more Democrats than Republicans said the system was in crisis. In the October 2021 Grinnell poll, 71% of Republicans compared to 35% of Democrats saw the threat as major. In the Monmouth poll, partisans in both parties thought improvements were necessary, but twice as many Republicans as Democrats (38% to 15%) said the system was not sound at all and needed significant changes. In the Harvard IOP poll, 18–29 year old Democrats were more optimistic about democracy, too. There is a clear disconnect between Democratic elites in the media and academia who regularly opine about a US democracy’s decline and the views of rank-and-file Democrats.
This pattern is reversed when we look at questions about the events of January 6 and subsequent investigations as the new edition of the AEI Polling Report shows. Democrats profess much more concern than Republicans about what happened that day and are more eager to see the work of the January 6 congressional committee continue. In a mid-October online Morning Consult/Politico poll, 81% of Democrats compared to 18% of Republicans approved of the special congressional committee to investigate the events that occurred at the US Capitol on January 6. And in a mid-October Quinnipiac University poll, 40% wanted to hear more, but 56% said enough was already known about what led to the storming of the Capitol. Fifty-nine percent of Democrats wanted to hear more compared to 22% of Republicans and 38% of independents. Still, it is significant that nearly four in 10 (38%) Democrats said enough is known already, indicating some fatigue with the investigation.
There are some obvious reasons Democrats would feel better about our democracy than Republicans. They control both chambers of Congress, there’s a Democrat in the White House, and expressing confidence in American democracy is a way of showing support for the party and the president as the polls above suggest. And Democrats will continue to hammer away at anything to do with Donald Trump.
The polls suggest that concerns about democracy have not diminished people’s willingness to participate in the system — at least in terms of voting. Eighty percent in the Grinnell poll said they would definitely vote in the 2024 election for president and other offices and only 7% said they probably would not. What’s more, 91% of Democrats and 88% of Republicans in the survey said that it was very important for the United States to remain a democracy. Five percent nationally said it was fairly important, 4% just somewhat, and 3% not important. When you care deeply about something as Americans do about democracy, you worry at its erosion. But today, this concern has a deep partisan overlay.
U.S. Senate passes bill to avert government shutdown, sends to Biden for signature
The Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate on Thursday passed a bill to fund the government through mid-February, averting the risk of a shutdown after overcoming a bid by some Republicans to delay the vote in a protest against vaccine mandates.
The 69-28 vote leaves government funding at current levels through Feb. 18, and gives Democratic President Joe Biden plenty of time to sign the measure before funding was set to run out at midnight on Friday.
The Senate acted just hours after the House of Representatives approved the measure, by a vote of 221-212, with the support of only one Republican.
Congress faces another urgent deadline right on the heels of this one. The federal government is approaching its $28.9 trillion borrowing limit, which the Treasury Department has estimated it could reach by Dec. 15. Failure to extend or lift the limit in time could trigger an economically catastrophic default.
“I am glad that in the end, cooler heads prevailed. The government will stay open and I thank the members of this chamber for walking us back from the brink from an avoidable, needless and costly shutdown,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on nailing down a deal with Republicans to clear the way for passing the bill.
The vote ended weeks of suspense over whether Washington might be plunged into a government shutdown at a time when officials worry that the potentially dangerous Omicron variant of COVID-19 could take hold in the United States after being discovered in South Africa.
Such a shutdown could have forced layoffs of some U.S. government medical and research personnel.
Senate Democrats defeated an attempt by a handful of conservative Republicans to attach an amendment that would have prevented enforcement of Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for many U.S. workers.
Republican Senators Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Roger Marshall had earlier raised the possibility that the government could partially shut down over the weekend while the Senate moves slowly toward eventual passage.
“It’s not government’s job, it’s not within government’s authority to tell people that they must be vaccinated and if they don’t get vaccinated, they get fired. It’s wrong. It’s immoral,” Lee said before the defeat of the amendment.
Over the past few days, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted there would be no government shutdown from congressional inaction. But he had to work through the day on Thursday to get his Republican lawmakers in line on a deal allowing quick passage of the funding bill.
The emergency legislation is needed because Congress has not yet passed the 12 annual appropriations bills funding government activities for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1.
A partial government shutdown https://www.reuters.com/world/us/what-happens-when-us-federal-government-shuts-down-2021-09-27 would have created a political embarrassment for both parties, but especially for Biden’s Democrats, who narrowly control both chambers of Congress.
The fact the temporary spending bill extends funding into February suggested a victory for Republicans in closed-door negotiations. Democrats had pushed for a measure that would run into late January, while Republicans demanded a longer timeline leaving spending at levels agreed to when Republican Donald Trump was president.
“While I wish it were earlier, this agreement allows the appropriations process to move forward toward a final funding agreement which addresses the needs of the American people,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro said in a statement announcing the agreement.
But she said Democrats prevailed in including a $7 billion provision for Afghanistan evacuees.
Once enacted, the stopgap funding measure would give Democrats and Republicans nearly 12 weeks to resolve their differences over the annual appropriations bills totaling around $1.5 trillion that fund “discretionary” federal programs for this fiscal year. Those bills do not include mandatory funding for programs such as the Social Security retirement plan that are renewed automatically.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by Moira Warburton, Doina Chiacu, David Morgan and Susan Heavey; Editing by Scott Malone, Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)
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