Book Review of Nicholas Arons’ Waiting for Rain

Dry earth in the Sonoran desert, taken by Tomas Casteleza. Obtained from Wikipedia Commons at
Dry earth in the Sonoran desert, taken by Tomas Casteleza. Obtained from Wikipedia Commons at

Last fall I taught a hybrid course on Modern Brazil, in which I sought cover all of Brazil’s major regions. I assigned Nicholas Arons’ Waiting for Rain: the Politics and Poetry of Drought in Northeast Brazil, because of it examines many facets of life in this vast region. While the focus of the book is drought, Arons uses this theme to talk about all aspects of northeastern society, because he believes that drought is not only a natural phenomenon. If societies can be made either vulnerable or resilient to natural catastrophes, then a study of drought entails a rich description of society. The inequality of landholding, self-serving elites, and indifferent government, have all exacerbated the impact of drought in the region. The review that follows is shaped by not only my reading, but also the thoughts of my students.

Many students liked the fact that Arons described his own experiences during fieldwork, which were sometimes reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson’s prose. During the class discussion their was some concern about how these passages should be read. Could these events really have happened as he described them, or was this a stylized, gonzo journalism rendering of his experience? Most students agreed, however, that the levity of these stories lightened the tone of what would otherwise have been a bleak work. The absurdity of his personal stories also mirrored the ludicrousness of government efforts to fight the drought, which led to such outrages as water containment facilities for wealthy ranchers, and rain seeding experiments in northeastern skies. His stories also evoked a sense of compassion for the ordinary people living in the region. …

Sumner and Tribe’s International Development Studies

"View Of Kaeng Krachan Dam,petchaburi Province,thailand" by cbenjasuwan at
“View Of Kaeng Krachan Dam, Petchaburi Province, Thailand” by cbenjasuwan at

Andy Sumner and Michael Tribe’s International Development Studies: Theories and Methods in Research and Practice is a brief overview of the field in a textbook format. The author’s intent is to introduce the reader to key ideas and debates in development studies. The study begins by asking what is the meaning of development, and then discusses the history of the term. Subsequent chapters are concerned with large questions, such as “What can we `Know’ in Development Studies?” Because the book has a focus on research and methods, the book includes a chapter on how we should define rigor, and how research should shape practice. The chapters follow a standard format, which includes numbered sub-headings and brief summaries at the end of every chapter. …

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