Aug 20

Ebola and Culture

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"Wallpaper World" by Salvatore Vuono at freedigitalphotos.net

“Wallpaper World” by Salvatore Vuono at freedigitalphotos.net

A crowd of men recently overran an Ebola clinic in Liberia, after which 17 patients disappeared. One of the factors driving this event may have been a sense of denial that Ebola exists. Such concerns led to an improbable new pop culture hit in West Africa: a song titled “Ebola in Town.” In recent article on NPR (titled “`Shadow and `D-12′ Sing an infectious song about Ebola”) John Poole describes the emergence of this unlikely piece. At first, there would seem to be few things more inappropriate than a pop song about a fatal disease. But the song emerged from local concerns that people did not believe in Ebola, or understand how to fight the spread of the disease. For this reason, the song informs people about the appearance of Ebola, its spread through physical contact, the importance of social distancing and the dangers of bush meat. All with a catchy beat. Click here to read Poole’s article and hear the song. And bravo to NPR in general for their great coverage of the outbreak. Want to read more about the epidemic? One great source is Ian Mackay’s blog, Virology Down Under.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

 

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/08/ebola-and-culture/

Aug 17

Ebola and Denial in Liberia

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"Virus" by ddpavumba at freedigitalphotos.net

“Virus” by ddpavumba at freedigitalphotos.net

Today a clinic in Liberia that cares for Ebola patients was overrun. The looters even stole a bloodied mattress, while patients left the facility. Everyone receiving care at the center had tested positive for Ebola, and seventeen of them had disappeared after this tumult. According to Elise Zoker and Caroline Chen’s piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, one of the attackers said that they did not believe in “this Ebola outbreak.” To many readers, it may seem inconceivable that people would choose to take people infected with a deadly and communicable disease back to their families or neighborhoods. It’s perhaps equally unthinkable that people would walk unprotected through a facility drenched in a virus so deadly that it should be contained in a biohazard level four facility, and then take an item soaked in the blood of an Ebola patient. But such strange behavior is not new; denial has always been a part of major disease outbreaks. When I read this news, it reminded me of the early history of HIV. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/08/ebola-and-denial-in-liberia/

Aug 10

A book review of Dehner’s Global Flu and You

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The Spanish Influenza. Chart showing mortality from the 1918 influenza pandemic in the US and Europe. Wikipedia commons.

The Spanish Influenza. Chart showing mortality from the 1918 influenza pandemic in the US and Europe. Wikipedia commons.

In 2009 people globally learned of the appearance of a new strain of influenza named H1N1A or “swine flu” in Mexico. By June the World Health Organization had declared the outbreak to be a pandemic, the U.S. and European governments were spending billions of dollars on vaccines and medications, and the tourism industry in Mexico was devastated. For most Americans, vaccine became available only after influenza had already peaked in their communities. Predictably there was an outburst of anger when the mortality rate proved to be low, as people felt that they had been misled by authorities, and frightened unnecessarily. Conspiracy theories regarding the WHO, pharmaceutical companies, and national governments abounded on Youtube and Twitter. While the mechanisms for communication were new, the problem faced by governments was not. Indeed, the U.S. had faced a similar situation in the 1970s. A historical perspective on influenza can provide some much needed context for policymakers and health authorities. George Dehner’s recent book, Global Flu and You: A History of Influenza, is a concise, well written organized overview of influenza’s history, which can help us to better understand contemporary health issues. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/08/a-book-review-of-dehners-global-flu-and-you/

Jul 30

A syllabus for a hybrid Modern Brazilian history class

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This fall I will be teaching a modern Brazil class, which is cross-listed between International Studies and History. I’ve decided to offer the class as a hybrid, because there are so many great resources available on-line, and I believe that it makes for a more active class. I hope that this may give some ideas to those of you who may be considering teaching a similar course.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/07/a-syllabus-for-a-hybrid-modern-brazilian-history-class/

Jul 20

Dangerous Spirits: the Windigo in Myth and History

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Dangerous Spirits, forthcoming from Heritage House.

Dangerous Spirits, forthcoming from Heritage House.

I have a new book forthcoming this fall with Heritage House press, a great Canadian publisher. Here is my the back-cover blurb on the work:

In the traditional Algonquian world, the windigo is the spirit of selfishness and winter, which can transform a person into a murderous cannibal. Native peoples over a vast stretch of North America—from Virginia in the south to Labrador in the north, from Nova Scotia in the east to Minnesota in the west—believed in the windigo, not only as a myth told in the darkness of winter, but also as a real danger.

Drawing on oral narratives, fur traders’ journals, trial records, missionary accounts, and anthropologists’ field notes, this book is a revealing glimpse into indigenous beliefs, cross-cultural communication, and embryonic colonial relationships. It also ponders the recent resurgence of the windigo in popular culture and its changing meaning in a modern context.

In the traditional Algonquian world, the windigo is the spirit of selfishness, which can transform a person into a murderous cannibal. Native peoples over a vast stretch of North America—from Virginia in the south to Labrador in the north, from Nova Scotia in the east to Minnesota in the west—believed in the windigo, not only as a myth told in the darkness of winter, but also as a real danger.

Drawing on oral narratives, fur traders’ journals, trial records, missionary accounts, and anthropologists’ field notes, this book is a revealing glimpse into indigenous beliefs, cross-cultural communication, and embryonic colonial relationships. It also ponders the recent resurgence of the windigo in popular culture and its changing meaning in a modern context.

- See more at: http://www.heritagehouse.ca/book_details.php?isbn_upc=9781772030327#sthash.89GXI7Bt.dpuf

In the traditional Algonquian world, the windigo is the spirit of selfishness, which can transform a person into a murderous cannibal. Native peoples over a vast stretch of North America—from Virginia in the south to Labrador in the north, from Nova Scotia in the east to Minnesota in the west—believed in the windigo, not only as a myth told in the darkness of winter, but also as a real danger.

Drawing on oral narratives, fur traders’ journals, trial records, missionary accounts, and anthropologists’ field notes, this book is a revealing glimpse into indigenous beliefs, cross-cultural communication, and embryonic colonial relationships. It also ponders the recent resurgence of the windigo in popular culture and its changing meaning in a modern context.

- See more at: http://www.heritagehouse.ca/book_details.php?isbn_upc=9781772030327#sthash.89GXI7Bt.dpuf

The book is available for pre-order now on Amazon. You can also find it at Heritage House. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/07/dangerous-spirits-the-windigo-in-myth-and-history/

Jun 30

The 2013 French White Paper on Defence and National Security

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Cities of France by David Monniaux, Wikipedia Commons.

Cities of France by David Monniaux, Wikipedia Commons.

National white papers on military strategy are key tools to understand trends in security thought. Last year, the French government issued a White paper on National Defense and security, which has a few interesting points. First, although the document never once uses the term “human security,” this concept has influenced the document: “The term `risk’ refers to any danger that does not include any hostile intent but which might impact on the security of France: they therefore include political events as well as natural, industrial, health and technological risks.” Part of the reason for this shifting emphasis may come from the fact that “France no longer faces any direct, explicit conventional military threat against its territory.” Indeed, Europe’s current security situation, the document suggests, is nearly unique in its history: “… since the end of the Cold War, the European continent has ceased to be the epicenter for global strategic confrontation. This is without precedent in the history of our continent.” Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/06/the-2013-french-white-paper-on-defence-and-national-security/

Jun 16

Cod and Tuna: overfishing in Canada and the Mediterranean

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"Sashimi Meal With Tuna And Bass" by artur84 at freeditigalphotos.net

“Sashimi Meal With Tuna And Bass” by artur84 at freeditigalphotos.net

This week I had my students watch a documentary, The Cost of Sushi, which describes how overfishing is endangering the tuna stocks in the Mediterranean. The reasons why are familiar from past disasters: the real needs of local communities and fisherman, the development of new fishing technologies and factory ships, the demand from foreign markets, the vast sums of money involved, and the uncertainty about how much fishing the stocks can actually take. In the case of the Mediterranean, what is clear by the end of the documentary is that much of the problem lies not only with the level of the quotas themselves, but also with the vast amount of illegal fishing that takes place. While the documentary clearly shows that huge amounts of tuna is being taken illegally -which environmental activists document both by tracing ships, and by genetically sampling tuna in markets- at no point are any corporations or individuals shown being held accountable. Given that a single tuna has sold for $1,76 million dollars (the current record), and the size of the waters involved, its easy to understand the difficulties that fisheries inspectors and activists face. Globally, the Atlantic blue fin tuna and Southern blue fin tuna are, respectively, endangered and critically endangered. Sadly, it seems that the local fishing communities, which have relied on this resource for many generations, will be the ones to suffer. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/06/cod-and-tuna-overfishing-in-the-mediterranean-and-canada/

Jun 09

A book review of Dave Zirin, Brazil’s Dance with the Devil

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1st Royal Engineers, who reached the first FA cup final in 1872, from Wikipedia Commons

1st Royal Engineers, who reached the first FA cup final in 1872, from Wikipedia Commons

With the World Cup starting in Brazil this week, it’s worth reviewing a book on Brazil, soccer and international sporting organizations. Dave Zirin is a well-known sports writer who has covered other major events, such as the summer Olympics in Athens. HIs book seeks to explain why preparations for the World Cup, as well as the 2016 Summer Olympics, have created a wave of protest within the country. The book is written in a popular style, by a non-expert in Brazil. The strength of the book is his deep understanding of both FIFA (the International Soccer Association) and the Olympics. Overall, his book is a good introduction to the issues in a readable format. By the end the reader will have no difficulty understanding the current wave of outrage in Brazil caused by the preparations for these events. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/06/a-book-review-of-dave-zirin-brazils-dance-with-the-devil/

Jun 06

Brazil, soccer, and tragedy

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Christoph Niemann has an incredibly beautiful animated story book about Brazilian soccer in the New York Times. The piece integrates photography, video, music and animation to tell the story of the Maracanaço, when Brazil lost to Uruguay in 1950. Brazilians remember this event as a collective trauma to the national psyche. Even if you are not a soccer fan, you will want to see this. This storybook is a work of art that should be mandatory viewing before the World Cup begins in Brazil next week. Want to see more posts about Brazil? Click here.

Shawn Smallman

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/06/brazil-soccer-and-tragedy/

May 28

Machado de Assis: A new translation by John Chasteen

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Machado de Assis at the age of 57, Wikipedia.

Machado de Assis at the age of 57, Wikipedia Commons.

One of my favorite ways to engage students in thinking about another part of the world is through literature. For this reason, I’ve been reading the short stories of Machado de Assis in John Charles Chasteen’s new translation, which is named after perhaps the author’s most famous short story, the Alienist. It’s often said that Brazil is the sepulchre of great literature. There is still no English translation of Taunay’s, A Retirada da Laguna, an epic first hand account of a disastrous retreat during the Paraguayan War, which is widely hailed as a literary masterpiece. And even people who know the work of Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel Garcia Marquez are likely to be unfamiliar with Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839-1908), likely the greatest Brazilian writer of all time.

Machado de Assis was born into the Brazilian empire, which largely escaped the widespread conflict that Spanish America experienced after independence, despite a host of regional rebellions. His father was the son of freed slaves, and his mother was Portuguese. He had an irregular education, but managed to learn four languages, and become a great novelist, poet, and writer of short stories. He was the first president of the Brazilian Academy of Letters. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/05/machado-de-assis-a-new-translation-by-john-chasteen/

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