Feb 27

NPR’s “Life after Death.”

I know that people may be tired of hearing about Ebola, which is a painful topic. Still, I have to strongly recommend a new storyboard by NPR reporters called “Life after Death,” which describes one village’s experience with the outbreak. The storyboard combines audio interviews and stunning photographs to create an account that is moving, informative and beautiful. It illustrates the the human reaction to the outbreak, and the toll that the disease continues to take from the community after people stop dying. I think that this storyboard shows the potential of new media, which combine the content of text-based journalism, with the artistic expression of photo-journalism. One alert- if you are viewing this at work, you probably should put on your headphones before you click on the link above.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/02/nprs-life-after-death/

Feb 25

Thank you to the Oregon Consular Corps

Wonde Nevens, Shawn Smallman and Karen Carillo at the Oregon Consular Corps Awards Event, Arlington Club, February 10, 2015

Wonde Nevens, Shawn Smallman and Karen Carillo at the Oregon Consular Corps Awards Event, Arlington Club, February 10, 2015

This February I attended a scholarship awards event hosted by the Oregon Consular Corps at the Arlington Club in Portland. Two International Studies Majors at PSU, Wonde Nevens and Karen Carillo, were scholarship award winners. At the end of the event a past award winner talked about how funds from this scholarship had enabled them to do a study abroad course in Argentina, which had a deep impact on their plans for the future. It’s amazing how these funds can have an enduring effect on students’ lives. I want to thank the Oregon Consular Corps for their generosity, as well as the hard work that they put into reviewing applications from deserving candidates. I also want to thank the INTL faculty who reviewed the applicants’ files, Evguenia Davidova and Stephen Frenkel. Most of all, I want to give my congratulations to Wonde and Karen.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/02/thank-you-to-the-oregon-consular-corps/

Feb 20

Map of Influenza-like Illnesses in France

Map of Influenza like illness in France, "Réseau Sentinelles, INSERM, UPMC", Sentiweb "http://www.sentiweb.fr"

Map of Influenza like illness in France, “Réseau Sentinelles, INSERM, UPMC”, Sentiweb “http://www.sentiweb.fr”

This map of influenza-like illnesses in France (by Réseau Sentinelles) makes it clear what a severe year it has been for influenza. Influenza viruses mutate over time, which means that every year vaccine makers must guess which strain of the virus is most likely to cause illness in the coming season. Sadly, this year’s vaccine was poorly matched with the strain of H3N2 that has caused the most illness.  This has meant that more people in the United States went to the hospital with an influenza-like illness than in most years, particularly amongst the elderly. In the United States, at least, the influenza season is now waning. In my home state of Oregon, influenza cases peaked last month. This sadly does not seem to be the case in France as this map suggests. As in the United States, the majority of cases in France have been the H3N2 strain.

People tend not to treat influenza with sufficient respect. Years ago I had a phone call from someone who wanted to drive to Portland to meet me in my role as the Director of International Studies. The morning of the meeting I woke up and knew right away that I had the flu.  It felt as though somebody had turned up the gravity in my room. I had a high fever, exhaustion and pain in my chest. But I did not want to disappoint the person who was driving from a long distance to meet me that morning. So I dragged myself to the office, where I was frustrated to find that they did not appear. After waiting an hour I went home and collapsed in bed, and consoled myself that it was for the best, because they last thing that they needed was to be exposed to the flu. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/02/map-of-influenza-like-illnesses-in-france/

Feb 16

The Brazilian Drug Trade in Maps

Map by Addicted04 at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BRA_orthographic.svg

Map by Addicted04 at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BRA_orthographic.svg

I am currently working on a research project comparing the drug trade in Mexico with its counterpart in Brazil. I have an outstanding undergraduate student, Tony Zamoro, working on this project with me. It has been a great deal more difficult to find information on Brazil’s drug trade than Mexico’s, but he has managed to locate a wide range of maps -from Insight Crime, Newsweek and other sources- that display the drug trade and cartels visually. Here are some links to these maps.

Homicides in Brazil

Mexican Prisoners in Latin American Countries

Drug Routes in the Amazon

Favela Pacification in Rio de Janeiro

Areas of PCC Influence

Olympic Zones and favelas in Rio de Janeiro

What I find most interesting about the maps is that they often focus on favelas, rather than individual states. Of course, the PCC has influence throughout most of Brazil. The Mexican drug cartels also often overlap. For example, the situation in the state of Guerrero is complex, while even in Sinaloa -the home of the Sinaloan cartel- the drug cartels still compete. There are also areas in Mexico -such as Juarez- where competing cartels seem to have fought each other to a state of exhaustion, as the falling death rate in this city suggests. My point here is that there are similarities between the nature of drug cartels in the two countries. Still, the Brazilian drug trade is much more defined by the control of small urban environments, rather than broad swathes of territory, as is the case with Mexico. My question is: how has the differing character of the two countries’ borders shaped the geography of the drug trade and the character of the drug cartels?

The Brazilian drug trade is also driven by the diverse mix of drugs used within Brazilian urban areas, unlike in Mexico where rates of drug use have been lower than in the United States. In 2005 I interviewed drug traffickers and users in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The drug market there was stratified by age. Older users were more likely to inject drugs, including cocaine, whereas younger users more commonly used crack. It was also the case that people often varied the drugs that they used, even within a single day. The Mexican drug cartels also have diversified, but the Mexican drug market internally is perhaps not as large or as complex as Brazil’s.

On another note, please see this synopsis on Youtube of our “Introduction to International and Global Studies” textbook, which I just came upon entirely by chance.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/02/the-brazilian-drug-trade-in-maps/

Feb 03

Map of Mexican Drug Cartels

I’m currently working on a project that compares the drug trade in Mexico and Brazil. My goal is to try to understand the factors that have made the Mexican trade so bloody in comparison with Brazil’s trade. I believe that part of the reason is the nature of border. Most of the cocaine trafficked into Brazil passes through highly porous borders in Amazonia, which would be impossible to close to the same degree as the U.S.-Mexican border. The Brazilian drug trade is also geographically fractured, despite the existence of major drug organizations such as the First Capital Command (PCC), Red Command, Pure Third Command, and “Amigos dos Amigos.” The Mexican drug trade also overlays a major movement of migrants from southern Mexico and Central America to the United States; this both creates a population vulnerable to crime, but also develops networks that move people from south to north outside the control of the state. There is no parallel migration in Brazil. One issue I face with this project is the large number of variables that make the drug trade different in these nations. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/02/map-of-mexican-drug-cartels/

Jan 30

Is the Nation-State Relevant in a Globalizing World?

Guest Post by Professor Evguenia Davidova, Portland State University

Every textbook on nationalism or international studies starts with the assertion that the
international order constituted by sovereign states was established with the Westphalian
Peace in 1648. From the nineteenth century onward, the nation-state phenomenon spread
rapidly without anyone claiming a copyright on the concept, according to Benedict
Anderson. Until recently, the nation-state system, which assumes congruence between
the political and national unit (according to Ernest Gellner), was the norm in the world
system, and many wars were initiated in attempts at various territorial rectifications (for
example, the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913). And yet with the advancement of socio-
economic, political, and cultural globalization from the 1970s onward, many in positions
of influence began to question the relevance of the nation-state. Challenges came from
multiple power blocs: commercial, financial, political, military cultural, all of which
transcend national borders, from the TNCs, IGOs, and INGOs to the “global war on
terrorism” to the rise of supranational organizations, such as the EU.
The 2015 national elections in Greece is a poignant example of massive rejection of the
devastating role that the “troika” (the European Union, the International Monetary Fund,
and the European Central Bank) played in Greek internal politics. Many Greeks
perceived the imposed austerity measures as a violation of national sovereignty and a
significant core has considered opting out of the Eurozone and restoring their national
currency. It was a major victory for the forces on the left.
At the same time, EU/IMF interventions and the recent global financial crisis contributed
also to the rise of far right nationalist movements and parties claiming to be defenders of
national sovereignty. Their advancement into the mainstream of European politics has
been a rather a common phenomenon within the EU. It can be argued, therefore, that the
nation-state has maintained its vibrancy despite all the attacks and challenges. At least to this point.



Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/01/is-the-nation-state-relevant-in-a-globalizing-world/

Jan 24

Sticky: an animated video about a rediscovered species

Lord Howe Island, Image courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Lord Howe Island, Image courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Spring quarter I will teach a fully online version of an “Introduction to International and Global Studies.” As I was looking for documentary content for the class I came across this animated video that tells the story of the rediscovery of the Lord Howe Island stick insect. This species was believed to be extinct, after its habitat was over-run by rats introduced by Europeans. In 2001, however, a single surviving population was discovered on a lone shrub on Ball’s pyramid in the midst of the Pacific Ocean.

This animation is not designed for children, although they could view it too. The art work is gorgeous, and the use of colors creates a visually spectacular world. One reviewer used the word “haunting” to describe it’s impact. The first section of the video is silent, before the second half begins a narration by the discoverer of this population, Nicholas Carlile. He proves to be an engaging storyteller, who captures the wonder of this unique moment. The combination of visual design and compelling narrative have made this an award winner in the film festival circuit.

From Hawaii to the Georgia Islands, rats have overrun indigenous species and caused immense destruction. This beautiful video places the issue of invasive species into a particular context with an uplifting story. Strongly recommended.

Curious? You can view the video here.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/01/sticky-an-animated-video-about-a-rediscovered-species/

Jan 12

Video Reviews: Amazon Games

"Amazonian Macaw - Ara Ararauna In Front Of A Blue Sky" by xura at freedigitalphotos.net

“Amazonian Macaw – Ara Ararauna In Front Of A Blue Sky” by xura at freedigitalphotos.net

This fall quarter I taught a hybrid class on Modern Brazil, which had both a History and International Studies section. We spent three weeks during the course covering modern Amazonia, during which we discussed Indigenous issues in depth. One of the videos that we watched was Amazon Games, which was available through the streaming video service at the Portland State University library. The documentary described a modern sporting event in the Amazon River basin that brings together different nations throughout the region for an annual contest. The video (released in 2005) began by showing two different Indigenous nations (Enawanes and Matis) preparing to travel for the games, then followed them to the competition itself.

The selection process for the games was a fraught one, as was the decision to take part in the competition. Some Aboriginal peoples in one nation were concerned what would happen to their people if the plane taking the competitors to the games crashed with all of their best hunters. Obviously, another risk would be that the Indigenous participants might bring back disease. But the Aboriginal people themselves were excited to participate, and clearly discussed the risks of travel. My students thought that overall the games were positive for the athletes, who wanted to engage in the competition and meet other Indigenous peoples. They also hoped to make money by selling handicrafts. There was a great deal of good natured banter about who would go, and the scene in which the Indigenous peoples were seeking to make latex balls -a difficult process- was a funny one. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/01/video-reviews-amazon-games/

Jan 02

Canada’s Project Habbakuk: the Strangest Military Technology ever

"Ice Wall" by CNaene at freedigitalphotos.net

“Ice Wall” by CNaene at freedigitalphotos.net

Military history is filled with strange ideas, which are often created out of extreme necessity. Sometimes they work, such as Hannibal’s ruse of tying torches to the horns of cattle, in order to mislead the Roman army regarding the direction his forces were moving. More often they fail. Still, of all the strange, mad ideas in military history, none was ever so odd as Project Habbakuk. During World War Two, the survival of Britain depended upon victory in the Battle of the Atlantic. An island nation, Britain could not obtain the raw materials and food that it needed to survive if it could not defeat German submarines. As the sea battle moved to a moment of crisis, a strange man of questionable genius named Geoffrey Pyke conceived the idea of building warships out of ice. As bizarre as the idea sounded, a memo on the idea was brought to Churchill in December 1942. He loved the concept and and ordered that research on the project move forward.

It soon became clear that ice was an unsuitable building material. Fortunately, scientists soon learned that by mixing wood pulp with ice an incredibly strong material could be created, which would also resist melting. The plan was to create an immense aircraft carrier, many times larger than any other in existence, out of this new material. According to L.D. Cross (Code Name Habbakuk, p. 52) it would have reached two million tons, and have stretched more than the length of two football fields. Its sheer mass would have helped –at least in theory– to make the ship unsinkable. The work of of designing and building the ship was given to Canada, although Canadian Prime Minister McKenzie King thought, as revealed in his famous diaries, that this was “another of those mad, wild schemes (that started) with a couple of crazy men in England” (L.D. Cross, Code Name Habbakuk, 63). Nonetheless, the government decided to build a small prototype on Patricia Lake in Alberta, Canada. Of course, in practice the idea was impossibly complex, and by 1943 Britain had nearly won the Battle of the Atlantic. The project was finally abandoned in December 1943. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/01/project-habbakuk-the-strangest-military-technology-ever/

Dec 22

Biopiracy and Vaccines

"Bromo Mountain In East Java, Indonesia" by suwatpo at freedigitalphotos.net

“Bromo Mountain In East Java, Indonesia” by suwatpo at freedigitalphotos.net

Mariah Tso, an undergraduate student, just posted a great summary of my article, “Biopiracy and Vaccines: Indonesia and the WHO Pandemic Influenza Plan” on the blog “Climate Vulture.” This blog is also a great resource for information on climate change. You can view the original article here.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/12/biopiracy-and-vaccines/

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