Nov 15

Exodus: Climate Migration

“Global temperature anomalies for 2015 compared to the 1951–1980 baseline. 2015 was the warmest year in the NASA/NOAA temperature record, which starts in 1880. It has since been superseded by 2016 (NASA/NOAA; 20 January 2016).” By NASA Scientific Visualization Studio – https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov / Goddard Space Flight Center – https://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Weather Channel has an online reporting series called Exodus: the Climate Migration Crisis, which examines how climate change is impacting diverse communities globally. This is an ongoing series, which will be updated throughout the year. Each article combines well-written text with beautiful photography, for topics as diverse as water shortages in Jordan, to the situation in Scituate, Massachusetts.

I now live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but still work at PSU, since I teach entirely online and do the advising for the online track. While Scituate is only a half-hour’s drive from Boston, this city itself will face it’s own challenges with sea level rise, as Orren Pilkey has discussed in his wonderful book Retreat from a Rising Sea. So Scituate’s story seems very close to home. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/11/exodus-rising-seas/

Nov 07

The 1918 Flu Pandemic

“Virus” by ddpavumba at freedigitalphotos.net

The 1918 influenza pandemic was the disease outbreak that took the greatest toll in the twentieth century. Globally, perhaps between fifty and a hundred million people died. There are a wealth of wonderful books on the topic. I particularly recommend both Alfred Crosby, America’s Forgotten Pandemic and John Barry, The Great Influenza. Eileen Pettigrew’s Silent Enemy is an excellent popular account of Canada’s experience of the pandemic.

Years ago I was visiting a graveyard in Portland, Oregon. There were three graves next to each other, a man, a woman, and a child, who had all died within a few days of each other in November, 1918, almost certainly from the flu. It’s hard to imagine now what that lived experience must have been like. So many families have stories of ancestors who fought in World War One and survived, only to die on their way home.

There is a fascinating new podcast series on this outbreak, which is well-researched and thoughtfully presented: Going Viral: the Mother of All Pandemics. The presenters have deep historical knowledge, and have invested an immense amount of time in preparing this engaging work. I enjoyed their trip to the former battlefields of France to try to track down the pandemic’s origin with Dr. John Oxford. One would think that there wasn’t much new left to say on this topic. Yet in their search for the true origins of the pandemic they look at provocative thinking and current debates, such as Mark Osborne Humphries’ idea that perhaps the pandemic actually began in China. They are also engaging speakers; one can imagine listening to them as a student, and being captured by their lecture style. You can find the podcast on iTunes and similar venues. Given the proliferation of H7N9, the diversification of influenza clades, and the fact that we still don’t have a universal influenza vaccine, this history remains sadly relevant. Highly Recommended. If you are interested to learn about more recent debates, you can also read my own work on influenza and pre-pandemic vaccines as well as conspiracy theories. Both of these articles are publicly available for free. You can also find more freely available articles on influenza here.

Shawn Smallman, 2018.

 

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/11/the-1918-flu/

Oct 29

Brazil and populism

Few topics have attracted as much writing in recent years as the rise of populism and nationalism. I was interviewed recently by a student reporter at PSU, who wanted to talk to me about Jair Bolsanaro’s rise in Brazil. How does a politician -who served as an officer during the dictatorship, and has made offensive comments about many groups-  win the Brazilian presidency? Of course, Brazilians are exhausted by the endless political scandals, which have left one previous president impeached, and another in prison. Anyone who once promised to shut down Congress will attract votes in this context. The Worker’s Party failed to denounce its leaders for corruption, which cost them legitimacy. I quoted Bolsanaro in my book on military terror in Brazil, in which he said that 30,000 corrupt officials needed to be lined up and shot. He made that statement about twenty years ago. Brazilians have been so frustrated by the massive scandal involving Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras, that these and similar comments probably helped more than hurt him. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Oct 25

Wylding Hall, a book review for Halloween

The Rotunda, Stowe Landscape Gardens. Photo by Philip Halling. Creative Commons license, Wikipedia

Every year I cover an appropriate international mystery for Halloween. For example, last year I talked about ghosts of Hong Kong and Macau. Earlier this month I talked about the ghost ship the Baltimore, which was found with only a single survivor, a woman, who soon vanished from Nova Scotia and was never seen again. This year I want to review a novel, Wylding Hall, by Elizabeth Hand. The novel is a ghost story set in a remote English country house in the 1960s. The characters are primarily members of an English folk band, who came of age in the era of Fairport Convention in the late 1960s, when the folk rock movement was a pop culture force in Great Britain. Even though the pop culture of this period will be familiar to most Western readers, the specifically British context will be alien to most Americans and Canadians. The story begins after a terrible tragedy, which leads the band manager to isolate the band in an old country-house, not only to heal the group’s members but also to create a new album.

The work is inspired by the genre of pop music band histories that focus on juxtaposing the differing voices of band members. Hand, an American, has an amazing ear for dialogue. I think that dialogue is always tricky for a writer, as the smallest error in tone or wording can be jarring. At the same time, it is perhaps the best tool for characterization, and this is how Hand employs it. Dialogue propels the novel, so that the reader is soon swept into the jealousies, loves, and secrets of a British band. All ghost stories are dominated by the past. In Hand’s novel, however, the past at times seems distant and undefined. In truth the book is dominated by the 1960s in one summer in the life of a band. It differs from the stories of M.R. James and many other English authors of ghost stories because the past doesn’t seem to overwhelm the present. Even though the past intrudes, this novel is truly the story of the band itself. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2018/10/book-review-of-wylding-hall/

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/

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