May 26

First book review of Dangerous Spirits

As an author, it’s always exciting (and anxiety provoking) to get your first book review. Nelle Oosterom, the senior editor at Canada’s History, has just reviewed my book Dangerous Spirits: the Windigo in Myth and History. While I was delighted to read such a positive review, there was a deeper meaning for me in this coverage, because Canada’s History came into existence as the Beaver, an official publication of the Hudson’s Bay Company. This journal chronicled the lives of many of the traders whom I discuss in my book. I drew on old articles in the Beaver not only to cover some early windigo cases, but also to document how the idea of the windigo evolved through time. For this reason, I couldn’t be happier that the book’s first review was in this magazine. For me, to have moved from doing research in the Beaver, to reading the book review in Canada’s History, almost felt like coming full circle. Curious to read the book? In the United States you can find it here on Amazon, and in Canada here or at Chapters.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University.

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/05/first-book-review-of-dangerous-spirits/

May 25

Book review of Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa, 1926-1939

Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa: 1926-1939 is a graphic novel that intertwines two stories: 1) the chaotic history of Japan during the 1920s and 30s and 2) the author’s childhood during this same period. The author is remarkable in that he is now 91, but he has a vivid memory of his own childhood during this period. Tragically, he would ultimately lose his arm while fighting for the Japanese army, although this book (the first in a three volume series) does not cover that period in his life. This book is a staggering achievement, both artistically and intellectually, which everyone interested in Asia should read. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/05/book-review-of-shigeru-mizukis-showa-1926-1939/

May 21

Online summer class: “Introduction to International Studies

This summer (June 22 to July 19th) Kimberley Brown, who co-authored the textbook with me, will be teaching an online version of our “Introduction to International Studies” course. If you are interested in the course, and are not admitted to PSU, you can sign up to register for the course here. Kim Brown has won multiple teaching awards, and has been teaching this course for over twenty years. Questions? You can email Kim about the course at dbkb@pdx.edu Here is the flyer for the class here:

Summer 2015 Kim’s class Word doc

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/05/online-summer-class-introduction-to-international-studies/

May 12

Conspiracy theories and the 2009 influenza pandemic

The Journal of International and Global Studies is an open access journal, which has just published my article: Whom do you trust: Doubt and Conspiracy theories in the 2009 Influenza Pandemic. The article examines how people in widely separated world regions responded to the pandemic with motifs based around trust and betrayal. While the article focuses on influenza, it also discusses other diseases such as polio and Ebola. Currently the Ebola in West Africa has been waning, and Liberia has finally been declared to be free of the disease. Even now, however, public health workers have to struggle against a powerful narrative of denial, which depicts Ebola as a tool created by the West to sell expensive medications. As I discuss in the article, such narratives have deep roots.

Shawn Smallman

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/05/conspiracy-theories-and-the-2009-influenza-pandemic/

May 08

Bird Flu in the United States

As Americans and Canadians follow the threats posed by emerging infectious diseases they are accustomed to hearing news from distant countries such as Saudi Arabia or Liberia. While the threat posed by highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) may move its focus from Indonesia to Egypt, events seem far from our borders. Yet the U.S. is now in the midst of a grave outbreak of HPAI, which is devastating flocks in the Midwest. While this is primarily an avian disease, there is always the risk that it may jump to humans. Even if it remains confined to poultry, the long-term economic effects are serious. The virus is unlikely to disappear or be eradicated at any time in the near future. As always, Maryn McKenna is one of the best observers of issues related to infectious disease. I highly recommend her recent article on this topic here. It’s important to note that there is no evidence that the virus is transmitting from birds to humans at the current time, and that the CDC is preparing a vaccine, just in case. As others have noted, the larger issue is the sheer number of HPAI strains circulating globally, which is very different from even a decade ago.

Update: one of the students in my “Introduction to International Studies” class recommended this article in Time.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/05/bird-flu-in-the-united-states/

May 01

South Africa and Nuclear Security

Image of South Africa taken by NASA. Source: CIA World Factbook, South Africa

Image of South Africa taken by NASA. Source: CIA World Factbook, South Africa

Terrified of outside intervention, the South African military created six atomic weapons, which were dismantled after the collapse of apartheid. The nuclear material, however, was preserved, despite requests (by the United States and others) that the South African government convert this material into a less-dangerous form. This material is stored at a site called Pelindaba, which is the country’s main nuclear research center. In 2007 two separate teams attacked the facility, and were defeated by sheer luck. A recent account of this event makes for terrifying reading, less because of how close the attackers came to succeeding than for the lackadaisical response of the South African government. According to this account, recently posted on African Defense magazine, President Obama has twice written private letters to President Jacob Zuma, to ask that South Africa convert the uranium into a form less readily converted into nuclear weapons. The South Africans have failed to respond. This article merits careful reading.

The concept of human security is currently gaining traction in International Relations theory. This paradigm defines security as those issues that threaten not only the state but also the population. This approach has many merits, particularly given the rise of non-state actors as threats, and the impact that climate change may have on entire populations. Advocates of a security paradigm known as realism, however, critique human security as being a “slippery slope.” If you adopt this approach to security, what problems are not security issues? While I believe that human security has many advantages over realism as a means to address global challenges, this particular critique by realists does give me pause. Events such as the attack on Pelindaba are particularly dangerous, in way that seems to merit a clearly defined theoretical approach. One can only hope that behind the scenes South Africa is taking more steps to ensure security at this site than seems to be the case based on this report.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/05/south-africa-and-nuclear-security/

Apr 23

Book talk: Dangerous Spirits

Invite to Book Talk

Invite to Book Talk

If you live in Oregon, I will be giving a free book talk at Powell’s bookstore on Hawthorne in Portland this May 7th. Please note that it’s the Southeast store, not the main branch of Powell’s downtown. In this talk, I’m going to talk about my most recent book on an evil spirit in Northern Algonquian belief. I plan to discuss why I became interested in such an unusual topic, and then trace the history of the windigo through time. I will begin discussing the windigo in the early records of the Jesuits, through 19th century murder trials, before finishing with a discussion of the windigo in contemporary popular culture. Throughout, I will focus on how different generations used and adapted the idea of the windigo in response to colonialism, which has become a common theme in recent indigenous literature. I’m looking forward to this event, and want to welcome anyone in Portland who would like to attend.

Are you curious about the book, but aren’t able to attend? The book is available in print from Amazon in the United States now. You can also find the book in Kindle in the United States and Canada, as well as other formats such as Google Play BooksNookKobo and iBooks.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/04/book-talk-dangerous-spirits/

Apr 18

The AIDS Pandemic in Latin America

This week I had a chance to have a discussion via Skype with a class in Ithaca, New York, which had read my book on the AIDS Pandemic in Latin America. The class asked what had changed with the epidemic since I wrote my book, as well as what would I change if I were to write it now? The good news is that there has been a great deal of progress in the fight against HIV in the region. More people are receiving appropriate therapy, fewer babies are being born with HIV, and the rate of condom use is up in many nations. At the same time, the number of people living with HIV is slowly increasing, in part because people are now living longer with the infection, thanks to better therapy. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/04/the-aids-pandemic-in-latin-america/

Apr 15

What happened in Coahuila?

Metropolitan cathedral in Mexico City, from the CIA World Factbook, which states that it is in the public domain

Metropolitan cathedral in Mexico City, from the CIA World Factbook, which states that it is in the public domain

In September 2014 there was a tragic event in Mexico when 43 students in the state of Guerrero, Mexico disappeared. Despite some conspiracy theories, it is now clear that all were murdered by a drug cartel, which worked in collaboration with both the local police and the mayor, as well as the mayor’s wife. Mexicans were shocked by this event, which caused a political crisis for President Enrique Pena Nieto.  The world media gave extensive coverage to events, as people were stunned at the brazenness of the crime. The Iguala murders became a symbol of the horror of the Mexican drug war, and the extent to which it has corrupted not only the police, but also political elites. But what happened in Coahuila, in northeastern Mexico, and why have events there not received similar coverage? Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/04/what-happened-in-coahuila/

Apr 09

Mexican Ambush

Since 2006, when the Mexican drug war began, perhaps 150,000 people have either been killed or disappeared. Very few of these murders have ever been prosecuted. Even the number of dead is controversial, and it is possible that the true figure is much higher. The Mexican government has had significant successes recently, such as the capture on February 25, 2015 of La Tuta, the head of the Knights Templar in the Mexican state of Michoacan. Still, as quickly as one cartel is destroyed, a new one emerges to take its place. In this particular case, the New Generation cartel is quickly filling the space vacated by the Knights Templar. If anything, the level of violence against the state seems to be increasing. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2015/04/mexican-ambush/

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