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.

One interesting way to see trends in security thinking is to look at national documents on military strategy. 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/

May 26

Eight mistakes teaching International and Global Studies

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Geo Globe by Christian Fischer. Taken from Wikicommons.

Geo Globe by Christian Fischer. Taken from Wikicommons.

Every year I teach the “Introduction to International Studies” course at Portland State, and refine it based on what I’ve learned from previous classes. After nearly 20 years I’ve come to believe that there are a number of possible traps to be avoided in this course:

  1. Global Problems: It is tempting to teach the course by organizing it around major global “issues.” The challenge with this is that this approach emphasizes problems, which can lead to a depressing class for students. It’s hard to inspire students to study abroad, or to learn about global affairs, if they view the world as a dangerous and problematic place. Unless you want to have a bowl of antidepressants up at the front of the class, it’s important to focus as much on solutions as on problems. If you talk about language loss, also talk about language genesis, such as the creation of Sheng, or other urban languages in Africa. If you talk about global warming and sea level rise, also talk about the falling cost of solar energy. Of course, this approach can be ridiculous if taken too far. But without some balance, the class can become too bleak. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/05/eight-mistakes-teaching-international-and-global-studies/

May 25

Video Review: the Knot: a deliberate human act

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"Part Of A Globe With Map Of South America" by digidreamgrafix at freedigitalphotos.net

“Part Of A Globe With Map Of South America” by digidreamgrafix at freedigitalphotos.net

In an earlier post, I talked about what appeared to be a case of bioterrorism in Brazil, in which someone deliberately introduced a fungus, called “Witches’ Broom” into the cacao growing region of northeastern Brazil. Dilson Araujo posted a comment, in which he talked about the documentary he had made on the topic, which had kindly posted to Youtube. I’ve watched the video, which seeks to describe the immense impact that this event had, and to explore why there the Brazilian state failed to appropriately investigate the crime. More than just a documentary, this video represents an important historical document, which contains eyewitness evidence about events during that terrible period from 1989 through the early 1990s. The film is sub-titled in English, and makes for gripping viewing, in particular in the final twenty minutes.

One of the common beliefs about Witches’ Broom was that if it had been introduced deliberately, the reason likely was a political one, to undermine the power of the great landowners. This idea seems to concern the film-maker, because the documentary began with a fairy-tale history of witches’ broom, in which a female narrator described how this event freed rural workers from the oppression of the northeastern countryside; at the end of this story, the narrator was revealed to be a witch. Paired with the following scene, in which President Dilma Rousseff announced a Truth Commission in Brazil, I at first feared that the documentary might be a polemic. Instead, the director wanted to make the point that in Brazil there are many truths. Sadly, because of the inequality and rural oppression that did exist in Brazil at the time of the crime, those who were victimized seemed at times almost defensive. One of the points that an interviewee made was that the majority of cacao producers were not people of great wealth, as over 90% had fewer than a 100 hectares. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/05/video-review-the-knot-a-deliberate-human-act/

May 23

Book Review: Sylvia Wrigley, The Mystery of Malaysia Flight 370

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Indian Ocean, CIA map from Wikipedia Commons

Indian Ocean, CIA map from Wikipedia Commons

The tragic loss of a Malaysian Flight 370, which was traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014 with over 200 passengers, has obsessed people around the world. Sylvia Wrigley, who is a professional pilot, has written a careful study of the disappearance, based on what is now known. In her forward, she says that she “purposely wanted this book to be accessible to my mother and the cleaning lady at the office, to people who were extremely interested in understanding the situation but lacked the aviation background and experience to be able to make sense of all the contradictory reports, especially with the media rush to present half-truths as fact.”  What is remarkable is that a book as factual and reasoned as this work could be written in such a short period of time. This book provides a much-needed balance to some of the wilder material available in the press and other venues. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/05/book-review-sylvia-wrigley-the-mystery-of-malaysia-flight-370/

May 21

The Mystery of the Hessdalen Lights

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"Aurora Borealis" by Victor Habbick at Freedigitalphotos.net

“Aurora Borealis” by Victor Habbick at Freedigitalphotos.net

Some of the most interesting comments that readers place on this blog discuss global mysteries, such as the posts on Witches Broom and Bioterrorism in Brazil or the Vela Incident. One particular case is attracting new attention to central Norway, where residents of Hessdalen have described seeing lights in the sky since at least the 1940s. People began to document this phenomenon consistently beginning in the 1980s. Unlike the Phoenix lights or Shag Harbour, cases beloved by those interested in UFOs, these lights drew sustained scientific research, because they recurred and were consistently documented by different technological means, such as spectral measurements of the lights.

In 2009 a documentary, “The Portal: the Hessdalen lights phenomenon” drew media attention to this topic. This well-made and thoughtfully written documentary described scientists’ efforts to record and understand the phenomenon. The work of the initial scientists seemed so promising that the project soon became an international collaboration between Norwegian scientists and the Italian National Research Council. Although the lights have been seen less frequently since the 1980s, people continue to monitor the skies over central Norway. Indeed, there are live cam images from the valley that you can access at this website. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2014/05/the-mystery-of-the-hessdalen-lights/

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