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Dealing with Haves and Have-nots

Posted on February 28, 2006

Oscar A. Barbarin (bio) describes potential imbalances in international collaborations.

 

I think you have to deal with the issue of the haves and the have-nots, that there's an asymmetry in the relationship. Often American students have access to grants, have access to travel funds, are wealthier than the typical [South African] scholars. Many of them are beleaguered. They have very high teaching demands. Many of the developing countries, they do have computers, but they don't have easy access to the Internet. They don't have all the resources that we often take for granted.

So sometimes that can create sort of an unrecognized tension in the relationship. Either because the American collaborator assumes that their collaborator in the third world has access to these things, and assume that they can do x, y, or z, when in fact they can't because they don't have the resources. That can create some tension. Or the fact that [in] this relationship you come in the wealthy cousin. It's sort of like what many people experience like the American tourist when the dollar was high and [they were] buying up everything and taking for granted their wealth.

It seems to me that recognizing it, being generous, and at the same time not assuming that other people have easy access to funds and to resources is quite critical in developing this relationship. I think connecting on a personal level, things like bringing pictures of your family, your pets, talking about what your life is like, becoming a person to them is really very important. So it's all of those levels, recognizing your status, being a person, and being flexible I think.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher in April 2005.

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