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Feel it in your bones

Feel it in your bones

Required Reading

Who: Wiebe Nauta, sociologist and anthropologist

Book: The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga

Target group: FASOS and UCM students

“My dream is to design a study programme in which students only learn from novels, for example about poverty in Africa or India,” says Wiebe Nauta, who focuses on development studies, inequality and poverty within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. “Students often learn a lot more about a country and human relationships by reading a novel. I often give them tips in lectures or tutorial groups.”
He says to his students before they leave for a traineeship in South Africa: “Don’t go before you’ve read Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda. He is a South African writer. I feel it is important that the author of the book is indigenous; maybe that is a kind of political correctness on my part.”
The Indian author Aravind Adiga won the Man Booker Prize with The White Tiger in 2008, the book that Nauta recommends to all of his students. “You feel deep down in your bones how it is to live in another country, in this case India. You learn to understand how complicated reality is, how close wealth and poverty are to each other, how it is to be a ‘slave’, dependent on a ‘master’.”
A summary of the contents: a boy, born in the Indian countryside, goes to school and appears to be a ‘rarity’, a ‘white tiger’, because he is highly intelligent. But his family takes him from school because money has to be earned. He works as a taxi driver and then becomes a private driver for a rich Indian family, seeing at close hand how the rich part of India functions; the corruption and the alcohol addiction of his ‘master’. Nauta: “At a certain moment, he seizes his opportunity. He kills his boss and takes off with a huge sum of money that was meant to bribe a political party. The boy subsequently becomes a successful entrepreneur.”
According to Nauta the western world still talks in terms of “what can we, the rich, do for the poor in the south. That is part of our culture, but the fact is that there is poverty and wealth everywhere. Even in the Netherlands poverty is increasing at an alarming rate. There is a growing middleclass in India, but at the same time 800 million people live on less than 2 dollars each day. They are sick, undernourished and unemployed. You may wonder how on earth they have not revolted and violently demanded their share. You can see the tension in Greece, Spain and Portugal, but also among the poor black population in South Africa, where more than 70 per cent are unemployed. The poor have to get by on less and less. The bomb will eventually explode.”

In this column lecturers recommend a novel that throws a different light on their field than textbooks do

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