Oct 20

Northern Supernatural

Skogtroll/Forest Troll. Theodor Kittelsen [Public domain], 1906, via Wikimedia Commons

Every Halloween I do a post on global folklore or an international mystery, from a haunted building in Hong Kong, to the mystery of the ghost ship Baltimore. This year I’m doing some additional posts on this theme, because I want to share a wonderful BBC podcast, the Supernatural North. Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough travels to Norway to look at how the weird in the North has haunted the European imagination. Along the way, she explores everything from a Sami shamanic drum made by a Californian (with an image of a surfer) to the witch trials of 18th century Finmark. What is impressive about the story she tells is how stories from this area with a relatively low population have shaped modern fantasy literature from the trolls in the Lord of the Rings to the White Walkers in the Game of Thrones. But these stories live on not only in literature but also popular memory. One Norwegian community is haunted by the history of the tragic 17th century witch trials in Finmark. Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough described an unsettling visit to a public art work built to commemorate those who were burned at the stake. You have to admire the work of someone who has been knighted with a walrus penis bone, and who is on the trail of a Norse Arctic explorer.(1)

After listening to the podcast, you might wish to watch the 2010 movie Troll Hunter, which the podcast suggests built carefully upon actual traditions. It’s also very funny, and doesn’t have too much gore, despite some twists. There’s nothing worse (spoiler alert) than a rabid troll. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/10/scandinavian-supernatural/

Oct 19

The Venezuelan migration crisis

Christine Armario has an outstanding article “I’ll walk in my broken shoes: Mom, daughter flee Venezuela,” which was just published by the Associated Press. In general, I try to avoid just sharing a link on this blog, because this isn’t a news aggregation site. Still, this article conveys the reality of what many Venezuelans are experiencing, as they escape a nation defined by starvation and hardship. Despite the fact that an immense amount has been written about this crisis, there is nothing like the human experience to grasp a process so immense it is difficult to fathom. As refugees flood into Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and other states, Venezuela’s social collapse is having a political and social impact upon the entire region. In Brazil, I believe that it has pushed voters towards the political right, and is one factor that helps to explain the rise of Jair Bosonaro, who will likely be Brazil’s next president. The failure of the Worker’s Party to explicitly condemn Venezuela’s leadership has handed their opponents a powerful tool to damage their credibility. But all these political factors fade into the background when faced with the story of one desperate mother’s effort to bring her daughter to safety.

Shawn Smallman, 2018

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/10/the-venezuelan-migration-crisis/

Oct 10

Phyllis Smallman

My mother passed away last week, and even though it was not a surprise, it was a shock. My sister, Elle Wild, wrote a wonderful tribute, which I wanted to share:

SMALLMAN, Phyllis

Phyllis Smallman
1945-2018

The family of author Phyllis Smallman wishes to announce the passing of their family matriarch, storyteller, beloved wife, and mother.

Phyllis grew up in the countryside of southern Ontario, where she spent her childhood accepting ill-considered dares from her four siblings, such as pig riding in a white frock. She met her life’s partner, Lee Smallman, during high school and quickly recognized a fellow adventurer and dreamer. At the tender ages of 17 and 21, Phyllis and Lee were married, and spent the next 56 years laughing, creating, building, sometimes bickering, but always loving. Phyllis was occasionally overheard saying to Lee, “When I want your opinion, I’ll jerk your chain.”

At an age where others retire, Phyllis and Lee moved across the country to Salt Spring Island, where they joined a lively community of artists and innovators. Phyllis went on to write the award-winning Sherri Travis mystery series, and more recently the Singer Brown series, Long Gone Man and Beach Kill. Those who spent time with Phyllis knew her as a caring person who loved fiercely, laughed loudly, and was always a friend to anyone in need. In keeping with her dark sense of humour, her last book was ironically titled Last Call, the final Sherri Travis mystery. The night Phyllis died, Last Call won a “Reader’s Favourite” Book Award. Our Phyllis knew how to make a grand exit.

At her request, there will be no final service. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/10/phyllis-smallman/

Oct 09

The Mystery Woman of the Baltimore

Captain’s quarters of an 18th century sailing vessel, such as that in which the mystery woman was found. Photo by Audrey Smallman, 2018.

 

Every Halloween I discuss an international mystery, or an aspect of folklore such as the ghost stories of southeastern China. This year will be different, because I am going to do three posts dealing with mysteries or the supernatural. With this post, I want to discuss the strange ship the Baltimore, a mystery with threads that reach from Ireland to Canada, and from the United States to Barbados. In his book, Maritime Mysteries: Haunting Tales of Atlantic Canada, Roland H. Sherwood tells the story (pp. 24-29) of how the ship mysteriously appeared in Chebogue, Nova Scotia. The local people wondered where the brigantine had come from, and why no people were seen on deck, even though someone had apparently anchored the vessel. They called out to those aboard, but no answer came. When local men boarded the ship on December 5, 1735 they found signs of a struggle, including blood smeared all over the deck. But of the crew there was not a trace. Seemingly, every single crew member had vanished. And everything valuable had been stripped from the ship. Then they heard the moaning within the cabin. The door had been barricaded shut. What they imagined at this point can only be guessed. When they burst through the door they found a woman on the floor, who said that her name was Susannah Buckler. That was almost certainly a lie, although what the truth is remains uncertain even today.  Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/10/the-mystery-of-the-baltimore/

Oct 07

The future of Global Warming

I’ve talked before on this blog about the danger of teaching a Global Studies course as an introduction to global problems. Why would anyone want to study a field that consists of a long-list of overwhelming challenges? For this reason, I’m always careful to provide examples of people making a difference, alternative pathways, and positive information, even when discussing difficult topics. This approach, however, is increasingly infeasible for me when it comes to the question of climate change.

Crawford Kilian is a Canadian author who writes frequently for the left-wing online newspaper, The Tyee, which is located in British Columbia, Canada. Most of his posts address science or policy questions. On August 15, 2018 he had an article, “If we can’t stop hothouse Earth, we’d better learn to live on it.” In the piece, Kilian examined two recent science articles, which both depict a catastrophic future for the planet, in which vast areas of heavily populated land become uninhabitable, while the coasts face astounding degrees of sea level rise. Of course, two articles do not on their own provide a definitive view of the future. But I do think that Kilian’s piece bears reading. the question is, if this information is accurate, how should this change our teaching in the field? How do have students think critically about these issues in our classes, without shutting down emotionally, or retreating into denial? Given the primacy of this issue in our children’s futures, how should this reshape our courses?

Shawn Smallman, 2018

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/10/doom-the-future-of-global-warming/

Oct 05

The failure of postmodernism

Yascha Mounk has an outstanding article in the Atlantic titled What an Audacious Hoax reveals about Academia. In the essay, Mounk describes how three academics submitted mock articles to peer-reviewed journals. The essays were ridiculous on the face of it, but they were couched in postmodern jargon. Despite advocating acts such as chaining white students to their chairs in class, several of the articles were published. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/10/the-failure-of-postmodernism/

Oct 01

Cyberwar

Mack DeGeurin has an interesting article in NY Magazine on cyberwar titled “U.S. Silently Enters a New Age of Cyberwarfare.” As DeGuerin notes, the first kinetic use of cyberwarfare (kinetic being a term used to describe the physical destruction or harm of an item or person) was the United States and Israel’s use of Stuxnet, a sophisticated piece of malware intended to damage the centrifuges that Iran was using to enrich uranium. Since that time, cyberwar has expanded. Still, the fundamental problems remains the same, amongst which is the possibility of blowback, sometimes with the same tools that the attacker originally developed. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/10/cyberwar/

Sep 20

The Skripal Poisoning

Ever since the Skripal poisoning, Russia has denied that its agents were involved in any way with the killing. Of course, this was not the first such poisoning of former Russian citizens in Great Britain. The Litvinenko case was so carefully researched that there could be little doubt regarding who used a radioactive agent to kill a former Russian citizen, who was cooperating with Spanish authorities. Still, Russia has engaged in an extensive and full-throated defense against these accusations. This week this defense became much more difficult. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/09/the-skripal-poisoning/

Sep 15

Brazil’s National Museum

Every Brazilian and Brazilianist that I know is lamenting the loss of Brazil’s National Museum in a terrible fire. The loss is incalculable -fossils of dinosaurs and pterosaurs, the records of extinct languages, a skull from perhaps the oldest person found in the Americas, a library of a half million books, and hundreds of thousands of specimens of every form of animal life from insect to birds. Henry Grabar has a thoughtful article in Slate, which describes the scale of the loss, and how it was almost inevitable: the Brazilian state had so starved the museum of funding that it had to launch a GoFundMe account after termites damaged a room containing an exceptional dinosaur skeleton. Academics mourn for all the lost information. Graduate students must replan their theses after they lost access to the specimens. But most of all, ordinary Brazilians lost a pearl of a museum in Rio de Janeiro, which was housed in the former Presidential palace. Rio de Janeiro has already lost vast amounts of colonial architecture, but none had as much historical significance as this. So many people I know are genuinely distraught, and can’t stop thinking about what this means. Within Brazil, it has come be seen as emblematic of the failures of the nation’s political leadership. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/09/brazils-national-museum/

Sep 01

Fighting Conspiracy Theories

“Witness Howard Brennan sitting in the identical spot across from the Texas School Book Depository four months after the assassination. Circle “A” indicates where he saw Oswald fire a rifle at the motorcade.” By Howard Leslie Brennan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Caption text from Wikimedia Commons also.

Apart from Murray in Stranger Things, and the Lone Gunmen in the X-files, most conspiracy theorists don’t have secret knowledge that the majority of humanity is unable to accept. Instead, people turn to conspiracy theories when they feel disempowered and desperate. Conspiracy theories thrive during times of crisis, such as a pandemic, or a profound political crisis. They also emerge at times when trust in government is low. I’ve done work (with my wonderful colleague Leopoldo Rodriguez) on a conspiracy theory in Argentina that focused on the death of government prosecutor Alberto Nisman. In the Argentine case, these conspiracy theories absorbed the news and attention of an entire nation. But during the 2009 influenza pandemic, conspiracy theories became truly global, as people told these narratives from Mexico to Europe. I studied this phenomenon in an article that is open access:

Shawn Smallman, “Whom Do You Trust? Doubt and Conspiracy Theories in the 2009 Influenza Pandemic” Journal of International and Global Studies, Vol. 6, No. 2: pp. 1-24. While its helpful to document instances of conspiracy theories, it’s more important to understand how to combat them when they can cause damage, particularly in the field of global health. How do health authorities fight conspiracy theories about vaccination, which are not only making it more difficult to eradicate polio, but also costing health workers their lives?

Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/09/fighting-conspiracy-theories/

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