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.

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/

Dec 18

People not to Forget

Syrian Civil War map from Wikipedia Commons at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Syrian_civil_war.png

Syrian Civil War map from Wikipedia Commons at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Syrian_civil_war.png

World events frequently cause flows of people that are unanticipated. Both between nations and within nations, people are displaced for political, religious, and environmental reasons. Refugee Status Determination (RSD) has been the purview of both the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and governments around the world. University of Law professor Michael Kagan has suggested that the UNHCR now lacks the capacity to adequately identify potential refugees. Further, he suggests that individual governments also lack this capacity. He directs an on-line forum presenting position papers and shorter discussions of refugee issues at the University of Michigan. In a recent posting, he called for the UNHCR to seriously address its capacity to engage in RSD asking: Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/12/people-not-to-forget/

Dec 14

Map of other countries overlaid upon the United States

World map from CIA factbook, 2004

World map from CIA factbook, 2004

I love maps and use them in my “Introduction to International Studies” class frequently. I also use the maps from the textbook in a series of classroom exercises, to encourage students to think critically about how maps portray data, such as different visions of security. So I was delighted to come across this webpage, which is intended to put the United States into perspective. The webpage provides nineteen maps of states or nations overlaying the United States. My favorite map is actually the first one. It’s hard to understand the size of Alaska until you see a map of the state superimposed over the mainland, with the Aleutian islands reaching into northern California, while southeastern Alaska touches northern Florida. The map of Brazil -which reaches from central Saskatchewan to southern Mexico- also conveys the immensity of that nation. I won’t describe the other maps, except to say that Chile’s size would allow it to reach from New York to Bogota, while Africa’s immensity becomes clear. In the spring I’m teaching a fully online “Introduction to International Studies” course, and I think that I’ll need to create a class activity around this site.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/12/map-of-other-countries-overlaid-upon-the-united-states/

Dec 08

The Cultured Chef: an International Cookbook for Kids

"Close Up Asian Cuisine" by rakratchada torsap at freedigitalphotos.net

“Close Up Asian Cuisine” by rakratchada torsap at freedigitalphotos.net

Nicholas Beatty and Coleen McIntyre have created a beautiful, well-researched and fun cookbook, which uses food to introduce children to other cultures. While it may see strange to review a cookbook for kids on an International and Global Studies blog for adults, most cookbooks don’t begin with the heading “How to become a global citizen,” or a list of “5 ways to become more globally aware.” Every section is organized around a world region, with recipes and information from a few countries. For example, the section on Hawaii describes how to make Musubi riceballs (which entails a discussion of Hawaii’s multicultural history), contains a kids’ activity to make a Lei, and tells about a Polynesian myth.The section on Mexico describes Day of the Dead bread, and discusses the artwork of Frida Kahlo and Jose Guadelupe Posada. Because one of the key goals of the book is to introduce children to global cultures, the work has unexpected sections such as “Musical Instruments of the World.” I liked that indigenous peoples also were included in the work, from the Yup’ik Inuit to the Maori. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/12/the-cultured-chef-an-international-cookbook-for-kids/

Dec 05

Syllabus for an online “Introduction to Latin American Studies” course

This winter I am teaching an “Introduction to Latin American Studies” course in a fully online format. In order to create a sense of community, I have scaffolded a number of assignments around a slideshow presentation that students will upload in the final week, which will entail students sharing their work throughout the course. I have no text assigned for the course. Instead, I have assigned articles accessed through permanent links to the library database, while the videos are accessed through the streaming video feature of my university library. Please note that for this reason almost all links in this syllabus will not work for people outside the Portland State University system. I hope that this syllabus gives some of you ideas as you work on your own syllabi. I also want to thank Christine Boyle, whose own outstanding syllabi and course inspired my own class.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

Global Perspectives: Latin America

University Studies, UNST 233/INTL 240

A fully online class


Professor Smallman                                            Graduate mentor: TBA

Rm. 345, East Hall

Phone: 503-725-99XX

E-mail: smallmans@pdx.edu


Office Hours: Monday 1-3pm using Google Chat.




With Latinos/as now the largest minority group in the United States, and Brazil’s economy larger than Britain’s, Latin America is attracting considerable attention in the United States. While its people struggle to preserve the region’s artistic, literary and cultural heritage, Latin America also is experiencing rapid political and economic change. This class explores the rich diversity of peoples, histories and cultures that together define Latin America, from the Caribbean to the Southern Cone. This class will also give you a foundation from which to choose classes in the Global Studies cluster, if you decide to pursue it. Bienvenidos! Sejam Bemvindo! Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/12/syllabus-for-an-online-introduction-to-latin-american-studies-course/

Nov 22

Dangerous Spirits now available

Dangerous Spirits, forthcoming from Heritage House.

Dangerous Spirits, forthcoming from Heritage House.

I’m happy to announce that Dangerous Spirits is now available for sale in print in Canada. You can find it on Amazon.ca here. The American launch is set for April 2015, so if you are in the States (or Britain) you will have to wait a little longer for a print version. But the book is already available in Kindle in the United States and Canada, as well as other formats such as Google Play BooksNookKobo and iBooks. I spent eight years working on this book, which studies narratives told in Algonquian culture about an evil spirit, the windigo. The book traces these narratives through time, from the rich traditions of Algonquian peoples to its modern incarnation in novels, films, and boardgames. How is it that a being from northern Algonquian tradition can be found in movies set in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, and board games created in Britain? I also look at how different outside groups understood the windigo through time, based on the records of Jesuits, explorers, fur traders, missionaries, and murder trials.

I want to thank Sara Loreno, who worked to create the maps for me (and thanks to David Banis who worked with her), Anne Lindsay who tracked down countless archival materials, Robert Brightman, who answered endless linguistic and cultural questions, and Heritage House, which did an outstanding job editing this book. Grace Dillon, a Professor of Indigenous Nations Studies at Portland State (and great colleague) wrote a preface that is both insightful and funny.  Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/11/dangerous-spirits-on-sale-in-canada/

Nov 19

Ancient Migrations: the evidence of Oceania

Moai at Rano Raraku by Aurbina at Wikipedia Commons

Moai at Rano Raraku by Aurbina at Wikipedia Commons

In earlier post I talked about the fact that some places that appear remote -such as the Arctic- have long experienced globalization. Norse traders left their signs in the Canadian High Arctic centuries before Columbus, while an Inuit artist carved a small wooden statue  of a European visitor with a cross on its chest, and European style clothing. But a Chinese coin in the Yukon, and a Viking outpost in Newfoundland, Canada, are not the only relic of these ancient cross-oceanic movements of people and goods.

Perhaps no location on earth is as remote as Easter Island, an island located over 2000 miles to the west of South America in the Pacific. But there has long been evidence that before European discovery in 1722, the islanders had already made contact with the Americas, given that they cultivated sweet potatoes, a crop from the Americas. But now we have more direct evidence, in the genetics of the Rapa Nui, the indigenous peoples of Easter Island. A recent study has found that genes from the native peoples of the Americas entered the Rapa Nui population between 19 and 23 generations ago. In a sense this is unsurprising, because the Polynesians were such incredible travelers that they had settled remote islands throughout vast areas of the Pacific. If they could reach New Zealand -and the sub-Antarctic islands to its south, including the Antipodes- why not South America? If you are curious about learning more about these people -and their amazing navigation skills- please see Tom Koppel’s work, Mystery Islands: Discovering the Ancient Pacific. While people know about the strange statues of Easter Island, they may not be familiar with Nan Madol and other wonders. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/11/ancient-migration-and-the-pacific/

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