For more than 20 years, I have been researching, teaching, advising--living--issues surrounding what is now known as 'international development', but which were, back then, known, at best, as 'development studies'. Why? There are several reasons.
I was always interested in international issues. Although my age means that my 'experience' of the Vietnam War--or what the Vietnamese call 'the American War'--was what I learned from the television news, it was always there, and I always knew it was wrong. I will never forget Richard Nixon claiming that the US had no plans to invade Cambodia--and then invading it, the final act in a tragedy that would produce, as a direct result of US intervention, the killing fields. I always read newsmagazines, and was a regular reader, at a young age, of The Globe and Mail, whose Latin America correspondent, Oakland Ross, now with the Toronto Star, opened me up to a broader view of the world. In my late teens and early twenties I knew several people that had taken part in Canada World Youth, and this, for all of them, changed their global outlook, making them realise that they occupied a small corner of a diverse, complicated and contradictory world. The music I listened to was very aware of what was going on, at 'home' (in this case, the UK) and 'abroad'. It was a revolutionary time--not just Vietnam, but Angola, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, and my music was plugged in to those times--the Jam, the Clash, the Gang of Four. The Clash's 'Sandinista', a hugely ambitious, flawed, but ultimately triumphant double album that was unfortunately released as a triple (!) took me around the world, to places that I already knew, was aware of, and wanted to make others aware of as well.
Later, I did a lot of global travelling, financed on the back of silver service waiting, the most lucrative job I have ever had, and all along the way, in North Africa, in South Asia, in East Asia, in Southeast Asia, I wanted to know more, to better understand the world I was seeing back then, and knew, all along, that I would continue to see. As part of those travels, I spent a lot of time with my father's family, in urban and rural Pakistan, and this threw up, for me, a host of specific issues, relating to economics, culture and society.
By the time I finally went to university, I did not know I would end up as I did, but, in retrospect, it does not come as a surprise--rather, it is a logical outcome of my history. By the time I actually started my studies, I had learned a lot, and had a lot of very specific experiences and questions for which I wanted guidance. I still do.
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