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Not for breakfast…

…and you may want to skip this post if you’re squeamish, or are about to eat…

I’ve brought you my Weaver Ants before. I think they are responsible for keeping my kumquat tree free of caterpillars, and the other day I saw more evidence of their carnivorous tastes.

Our smelly dustbin had maggots in it, and when I went out to pick up the newspaper I noticed the ants had done a raid and were carting off squirming maggots. As usual, I found the ability of ants to coordinate and cooperate fascinating, so I decided to take a few photos

here's a close up…

and here’s a film – enjoy ;-)

A gentleman's honour

Well the news here in Malaysia is quite exciting - Penang has gone to the opposition, Samy Velu is out...

Anyway, on a completely unrelated note, there's a short piece on BBC about a sailor who was on a ship that was sunk by the Germans in 1940. He was pulled out of the water and
They were taken to Narvik and transferred to a German ship where they signed an agreement promising that when they returned to Britain they would not fight the Germans.

"We had to sign a declaration saying we wouldn't take up arms against them.

"That really upset me because of course I wanted to go back."

Imagine! "Ve haff blown a hole in your Englander pig-dog ship and vish ve killed you. But since you made it out, pliss sign this and promiss you von't try to shoot us again. Heil Hitler!"

Then, they let him go! And when he managed to get back to England from Norway
Unable to return to the navy - because of his declaration not to fight the Germans - he joined Ford where he worked as an engineer checking aeroplane engines.

Two things amaze me here:
1. He actually stuck to his word. I wouldn't fell bound by it.
2. He was allowed to stand by it at a time when there was a universal draft.

Was that the true 'British spirit'? Or perhaps he was not judged suitable for other reasons...

Election Rituals

It’s election time in Malaysia and voters will make their choice on the 8th March. One of the features of elections in Malaysia is an inordinate amount of bunting and flags, everywhere – for example at an overpass near my house…


The flags and bunting are for the Barisan Nasional and Keadilan .

Barisan Nasional (‘National Front’) is an umbrella group of three main parties that represent the main ethnic groups in Malaysia (Malay, Chinese, Indian) as well as some smaller parties – some of which purport to be multiracial, but they tend to get support from one ethnic group or the other (the situation in East Malaysia is a bit more complicated, but follows the same pattern). Keadilan (‘Justice’) was founded by the Wan Azizah Ismail, the wife of ex-Deputy PM, Anwar Ibrahim , who was removed in 1998 following a power struggle with the PM, Mahathir bin Mohamad in 1998. It’s a long story, but after mass protests Anwar ended up in jail on charges of sodomy (later overturned) and corruption. Due to his prison time, he is barred from engaging in politics until April this year.

Just up the road there is an UMNO division building. UMNO is the dominant party in the Barisan Nasional (BN), and has been so for the last 50 years (technically, it was the Alliance before 1973).
Continue reading "Election Rituals"

Internet as actant

“The internet” doesn’t have any information. The internet (‘INTernational NETwork’) is the collection of hard and software that enables the storing and transmission of data. Basically, a massive version of the network in your office. You access the information, which is created and stored by individuals.

In practice, apart from people actively involved in its governance (The Internet Society), and network engineers of various types, ‘the internet’ – as an empirical material reality – has no practical prosaic reality for people (unless of course it stopped working…). However, simultaneously, millions of people around the world (as in the comic strip above) interact with ‘the internet’ – objectively, that is what they say is giving them information; so empirically we cannot ignore this. Just as if a person was to say aliens made her assassinate the president – we can’t locate those aliens, but ‘they’ did make her shoot the gun.

I think this is what Latour means by an ‘actant’: it is assigned agency by actors, and is ‘enrolled’ – brought to bear as part of their active engagement with others. Miller & Slater also use that approach in their classic - The Internet - An Ethnographic Approach.