Sep 20

Bitcoin’s perils

One of the great mysteries of the 21st century is the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin. While his creation of the blockchain and a new cryptocurrency was an immense achievement, Bitcoin itself is only one of a diverse array of emerging currencies. Still, when I taught my Digital Globalization course last winter, I learned from my students that in my city (Portland, Oregon) there was an ATM at the local mall (Pioneer Place) where you could convert Bitcoins to cash, bars where you could buy your drinks in Bitcoin, and even apartments were you could use it to pay your rent. The reason for this rapid adoption has been the many promises that Bitcoin makes. Need to send money? There is no need for Western Union. Are you concerned about the security of banks? Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not a fiat currency (created by a sovereign government) and hence beyond the reach of the Federal Reserve or the banks. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2016/09/bitcoins-perils/

Sep 07

10 tips for job interviews in INTL

I have served on many search committees in International and Global Studies over two decades, and I want to give some tips for academics applying for faculty positions. Some of these points are obvious, but not everyone remembers these tips: Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2016/09/academic-jobs-in-international-studies/

Sep 01

The Syrian Conflict

Max Fisher has an outstanding article on the Syrian Conflict titled “Syria’s Paradox: Why the War Only Ever Seems to Get Worse.” Fisher places the Syrian conflict into the context of other civil wars, and argues that that what makes this conflict distinct is not only the diversity of combatants within Syria, but the extent to which this is a proxy war, which has drawn in a myriad of external actors. In sum, Fisher suggests that all the factors in place suggest that this will be a very long war. While not a cheerful read, the writing is clear, the arguments are succinct, and the implications are disturbing. As I write this, the piece has attracted over 330 comments, and it is well worth reading the “reader recommended” ones. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2016/09/the-syrian-conflict/

Aug 26

Neoliberalism’s decline

I’ve been teaching a “Foundations of Global Studies Theory” course for a few years. I begin the course with a section on classical and modern liberalism, before moving to neoliberalism, because liberalism is a foundational theory for most issues in Global Studies. What has struck me over the years is how little ideological attraction most students feel towards neoliberalism. Although I have taught the class multiple times, I have only ever had a single student who was an ardent proponent of neoliberalism. They also wrote one of the best papers that I’ve ever received, and are now working in an excellent job in the financial sector. Still, most of my students have an almost visceral distaste for neoliberalism, and this has strengthened over time. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2016/08/neoliberalisms-decline/

Aug 11

Teaching about the Arab World

After the first edition of our textbook was published in 2011, Kim Brown and I were surprised by how quickly world events required changes to some chapters. For example, when we wrote the first edition, the energy chapter had no mention of fracking. In the space of two years, fracking completely changed energy trends not only within the United States but also globally. In terms of regions, the area in which there has been the greatest change politically and socially over the last fifteen years has been the Arab World, particularly after the invasion of Iraq. The New York Times has a new article, “Fractured Lands: how the Arab World came Apart,” which represents long-form journalism at its best. The work puts the recent political turmoil in the region in a historical context, while using individuals’ stories to convey the experience of nations. It is the kind of writing that takes months of fieldwork to complete, and is all too rare in this age when print journalism is in decline. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2016/08/the-arab-world/

Aug 09

Strange Things Done

I love mystery novels, and northern mysteries in particular. My sister, Ellen Wild, has a new book Strange Things Done coming out this September. The lead character of the novel is Jo Silver; after a body is found in the Yukon river, she is drawn into a mystery that leads her to fear for her own life. You can hear about the local reaction to the body’s discovery in this brief video. I love the visual look of the website for the book, with the superimposed photos of an old Yukon building and a cemetery. This aesthetic carries through to the trailer for the book, which she filmed in the Yukon. The imagery -the woman’s hair in the river, the ice, Brandy Zdan’s music, the quirky northern bar, the barking dog- create an atmospheric glimpse of a town with secrets. Think a northern Twin Peaks. The book already has won an impressive set of awards:

2015 Unhanged Arthur Award for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel ― Winner
2014 Telegraph/Harvill Secker Crime Competition ― Shortlisted
2014 Southwest Writers Annual Novel Writing Contest ― Silver Winner
2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award ― Longlisted

You can find preorder the book (in the United States for October 18, 2016 or Canada for September 24, 2016) before “the freeze-up hits and the roads close.”

Shawn Smallman, 2016

Strange Things Done, quote by Ian Hamilton

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2016/08/strange-things-done/

Aug 05

The lost Nazi Gold train

By M. Swierczynski [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Warsaw, January 1945. By M. Swierczynski [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I love international folklore, and have written about everything from a mystery island in Mexico, to conspiracy theories and the 2009 influenza pandemic. Few instances of folklore, however, have received as much attention over the last year as the “Polish Gold Train.” According to local legends in southwestern Poland, during the waning days of the Nazi regime in Germany, the Nazi party hid a train filled with gold in a tunnel system in what is now Silesia, Poland. Two Polish treasure hunters approached the government in 2015, with an offer to reveal the location of the train in return for a percentage of the value of the gold. When word leaked to the press, the result was a media frenzy. Jake Halpern has a great podcast episode “The Hunt for Nazi Gold,” which describes his own investigation of the mystery, and his travels into the very real tunnels that the Germans created underneath mountains during the war. I loved his interviews with Polish treasure hunters, who introduced him to dowsing, UFOs, and aging witnesses. As with the best folklore research, Halpern also placed the narratives into a regional and historical context, which was defined by the Polish settlement of an area from which the German population had been expelled. This experience, Halpern suggests, had a deep psychological impact on the region that has endured until today. If you’re in the mood for a quirky mystery, you might enjoy the podcast from the New Yorker Radio Hour. You can also read my own book on Canadian Indigenous folklore.

Shawn Smallman, 2016

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2016/08/polish-folklore/

Aug 04

Zika and the U.S. Congress

Aedes aegypti mosquito in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 2009. Photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim, Wikipedia Commons

Aedes aegypti mosquito in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 2009. Photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim, Wikipedia Commons

In July 2016 the CDC issued an advisory notice that warned pregnant women -or women planning to become pregnant- against traveling to 45 different countries. With the virus’s arrival in Florida, however, the public in that state is now wrestling with what this means for mothers and their partners. The issue is now becoming a topic in the election contest in Florida, as Mark Sumner described in a (not impartial) recent article in Daily Kos. In the piece he quotes Trump’s vice-chairman for Miami-Dade as saying that Zika was an “insignificant issue,” which was less important than building a wall “to keep the illegals out.” Yesterday Donald Trump himself declined to say that Congress should reconvene to vote on funding Zika research and prevention. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2016/08/zika-and-congress/

Aug 02

Zika in the continental U.S.

Digital photo taken by Marc Averette. The downtown Miami skyline as seen from I-195 5/16/2008. Wikipedia Commons

Digital photo taken by Marc Averette. The downtown Miami skyline as seen from I-195 5/16/2008. Wikipedia Commons

Zika has already become a significant health issue in Puerto Rico, where there have been more than 5,500 infections. More than 600 of these infections have been in pregnant women. The outbreak has also set off massive public debates on the island regarding everything from insecticides to the structure of local government. It was inevitable that Zika would eventually appear in the mainland United States. Still, it couldn’t help but be surprising to see a CDC warning about travel by pregnant women to two counties (Miami-Dade and Broward) in Florida. It’s important to keep this news in perspective. So far only 14 people have been reported to have locally acquired Zika, in a very restricted geographic area in Miami. Mosquito control activities have gone into high gear in this area. One can hear an audio copy of the briefing about this news here on the CDC website. The CDC also has a dedicated webpage on Zika, which is a helpful site for information regarding the epidemic. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2016/08/zika-in-the-continental-u-s/

Aug 01

Global Warming in the Arctic

Topographic map of the Arctic by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, at http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/image/IBCAO_betamap.jpg

Topographic map of the Arctic by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, at http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/image/IBCAO_betamap.jpg

Many people are aware that the Arctic is disproportionately impacted by Global Warming. I recently came across a web article titled “These infographics show how doomed the Arctic really is.” The graphs do convey in a powerful manner the rapidity with which climate change is transforming the region, particularly by melting the sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean. The particular danger is that there are positive feedback loops associated with climate change in the Arctic. When ice is replaced open water, it changes the albedo of the ocean surface, so that much more heat is absorbed. Significantly, when permafrost melts it releases significant amounts of methane. Accordingly, the Arctic not only witnesses temperatures that are rising much more quickly than at southerly latitudes, but also the region itself may particularly contribute to the planet’s temperature rise. For more articles on global warming and climate change on the blog, click here.

Shawn Smallman, 2016

Permanent link to this article: http://introtoglobalstudies.com/2016/08/global-warming-in-the-arctic/

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