How I reduced my waste to (almost) zero

By Joanna Chojnicka

I’m really happy to be able to live in Germany, where waste segregation and recycling are a big deal. I’ve been trying constantly to improve my habits and reduce the amount of waste I produce in my everyday life; however, I have to admit that I didn’t give it too much thought – up to a point. The point when I realised that the only waste going into my general waste basket were banana peels and used coffee. I then went and bought biodegradable organic waste bags that are supposed to go to the brown Biomüll containers. Since then – and it was a couple of weeks ago – the only thing that I have put into the general waste container was a vacuum cleaner bag.

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Binary oppositions

By Joanna Chojnicka

Over the last few months, I have been thinking a lot about… binary thinking. Seeing and understanding the world in black-and-white. How the whole intricacy and complicatedness of a problem gets reduced to two apparently contradictory options that may have actually little to do with the original issue. We saw it with Brexit, where the social, cultural, and environmental change, the influence of neoliberal capitalism and globalisation, emancipatory movements, various shades and aspects of migration, racism, and lots of other issues suddenly became the simple choice between Leave or Exit.

Binary thinking is not new, of course. The anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss claimed that some basic binary pairs, such as ‘life’ vs. ‘death’, ‘maternal’ vs. ‘paternal’, ‘good’ vs. ‘evil’, or ‘raw’ vs. ‘cooked’, constituted the building blocks of myths, out of which we, humans, developed the ability to think conceptually.

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Women and language

By Joanna Chojnicka

Here’s a short overview of the approaches to women’s language in the history of linguistics. It is rather theoretical, but I can relate the ways I have been treated by some men (and women) over the years to some of these theoretical reflections. Maybe I can write another, more personal post about it, if I find the courage. Or maybe some readers would want to share their experiences in a guest post?

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Ich, die Einwanderin

[This is the German version of my earlier post “I, the Immigrant”, which was published in the newspaper Weser Kurier on August 26, 2016.]

Im Jahr 2014 habe ich in Oldenburg eine Konferenz besucht, auf der eine Künstlerin ihr Projekt Artivism (Art+Activism) präsentiert hat. Sie schenkte allen Teilnehmenden kleine, selbstgefertigte blau-braune Schleifen, die die Unterstützung von Immigranten symbolisieren. Stolz habe ich die Schleife an meine Jacke geheftet: natürlich unterstütze ich Immigranten! Dann habe ich die Schleife vergessen.

Viele Monate später fiel mir die Schleife, die immer noch an ihrem Platz war, wieder auf. Plötzlich dämmerte mir etwas, über das ich vorher nie nachgedacht hatte: ich bin eine Immigrantin! Die Schleife ist für mich! Ich bin eine derjenigen, die unterstützt werden können, ein Fall, für den man eine Schleife trägt!

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Trump eröffnet unfreiwillig eine echte Chance

Normans neuer Kommentar für Weser-Kurier

Europa wird erwachsen. Allerdings nicht, weil es das so wollen würde, sondern weil es dazu gezwungen wird. Der amerikanische Schutzschirm, hinter dem sich die Europäische Union so lange versteckt hat, wird unter einem Präsidenten Trump nicht mehr in der gewohnten Form existieren.

Zwar haben abgehörte Telefonate europäischer Politiker, unterschiedliche Auffassungen zum Irak-Krieg und zu ökonomischen Themen schon seit vielen Jahren die europäisch-amerikanische Achse immer mal wieder getrübt. Allerdings fand man immer auch wieder zueinander.

Auch die gemeinsame (Werte-)Partnerschaft war nicht nur rhetorisch immer Bestandteil der politischen Agenda auf beiden Seiten des Atlantiks. Und wenn in Europa nichts mehr ging, dann waren noch die USA da.

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By Joanna Chojnicka

A friend of mine has recently shared a very personal story on Facebook about her experience volunteering at an orphanage in South Africa, inspired by the article “Volunteering in orphanages deeply misguided, harms children in the process, advocates charge”. According to the article, many children living in orphanages in Africa have at least one living parent; they are often given up due to extreme poverty, in the hope that the orphan homes would take better care of them. This means that the financial incentives and attention flowing in with international volunteering programs may actually be increasing the number of children staying in orphanages. Help should focus instead on the communities, empowering them to take care of children at their homes, so that they do not need to be brought up by strangers, in institutions.

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Ausstieg ohne Abstieg

Vom Ende des Lebens als Fan

Von Norman Laws

Die Erinnerung an den Tag, der so vieles verändern sollte, ist nicht ansatzweise verblasst. Es war der 01. Juni 1991. Es war Stadtderby. Hamburger SV gegen den FC St. Pauli. Und die Frage war, ob ich mitkommen wolle. Mein Vater und Kollegen aus seiner Fußballmannschaft hatten Eintrittskarten für das Spiel. Nun ja, Fußball spielte in meinem Leben schon immer eine gewisse Rolle. Als kleines Kind wurde ich ganz selbstverständlich auf den Fußballplatz mitgenommen, wenn mein Vater gegen Ball oder Gegner trat. Wenn er damit fertig und beim Duschen war, freute ich mich immer besonders, wusste ich doch, dass der Platzwart von Holstein Quickborn mich mit Nussschokolade in ausreichendem Maße versorgen würde. Das war aber eigentlich bis dahin mein wirklicher Fußball-Höhepunkt gewesen. Ansonsten schenkte ich als Kind Spielen von Bundesligavereinen oder der Nationalmannschaft keine Aufmerksamkeit. Insofern erschien mir die Möglichkeit, das Spiel HSV vs. St. Pauli zu besuchen zwar als interessant, aber auch nicht als besonders spektakulär. Trotzdem ging ich mit.

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Nationalising women’s bodies (3)

Analysis of party programs

By Joanna Chojnicka

There are some Polish parties that have the liberalization of the abortion law in their programs, including SLD (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej, Democratic Left Alliance), SDPL (Socjaldemokracja Polska, Social Democracy of Poland), the Greens (Zieloni), Twój Ruch (Your Move) or the most recently established party Razem (Together). These parties had, respectively, 35, 0, 1, 11 and 0 representatives in the lower house of the Parliament (together 47 MPs; the lower house (Pol. Sejm) has in total 460 members) before last year’s election. Currently, they all have… 0 representatives.

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Nationalising women’s bodies (2)

The role of language in the abortion debate

By Joanna Chojnicka

In critical approaches to social sciences it is common ground that language plays a vital role in sustaining and reproducing the social status quo, including societal power relations. Critical theory also emphasizes that the goal of social studies should be to facilitate social change, to make social life more equal, just and fair, instead of merely “objectively” describing social reality. Still, as a researcher and an activist I am afraid that the connection between theory and practice – or academia and “real life” – remains weak. Academics tend to produce complex theories that are too abstract to be applied to concrete real-life situations. These theories are circulated within the academia, which means in isolation from where they are actually needed. And when they do find their way out into the “real world”, they are often perceived as too difficult to understand or impossible to relate personal experiences to (10).
I would like to work for bringing academia and “real life” closer together – it is one of the goals of this blog as well. I will try to post more ideas for, and examples of, a more socially engaged academic practice in the future. In the meantime, I would like to show how the current abortion debate in Poland illustrates in a very practical, pragmatic, down-to-earth way the significance of language use in social life. In this context, it really ceases to be a purely theoretical idea.

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Nationalising women’s bodies (1)

Discussing the total abortion ban in Poland

By Joanna Chojnicka

A little bit over one year ago, in June 2015, I gave a presentation at the University of Bielefeld about the abortion controversy in Poland. The conservative president Andrzej Duda had been elected just couple of weeks before, so the talk seemed well timed. I said that while women had been expecting a change in the abortion law for a long time, with the new president the law was more likely to be further restricted than liberalized – contrary to those expectations.
But Duda’s election did not cause much concern in Poland. People were saying that a president does not have much power anyway, and that the new parliament to be elected in October 2015 would balance the conservative president. Well, it did not. The victory went to Duda’s party Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS), and with it came many changes that made it clear the party does not care much for democratic values. Including a proposal of a total ban on abortion.

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