How China views the Americas

How people in different nations view each other is shaped by history, film, propaganda and the media. Of course polling data and surveys are key tools to get at popular perceptions globally. Still, there is also a simpler tool that yields surprising results: web search queries. Warner Brown has an interesting article, “Mapped: Chinese Stereotypes of the Americas,” in Foreign Policy. It provides a look into which questions Chinese people think of when they think about the Americas. Who know that Argentina had sunk a Chinese fishing boat? Or that Suriname was on China’s radar?

Shawn Smallman, 2019

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2019/07/how-china-views-the-americas/

Pass the Olive Oil, Please

I want to thank Caitlyn Ark for this wonderful blog post, which she wrote based on her experience doing a study-abroad class this summer.

Pass the Olive Oil, Please
The Healthy Diet of a Social Mediterranean, Caitlyn Ark

As I was leaning off the side of our very large, but only slightly crowded, ferry, I watched the gentle crashing of the startlingly wine blue waters below me. Wine deep, wine rich, I thought to myself, which something that the Ancient Greeks, who sailed these same waters, originally coined, intertwining food with the natural landscapes from which they come from.[1] The day was warm, but the kind of warm that drifted down from the bright Mediterranean sun to eventually settle on my shoulders like a soft shawl. I found myself at the bow of our boat, searching for the small nip of the wind to kick up my hair and offer a slight reprieve from the warm air. The Mediterranean is an oligotrophic sea, meaning it is very low in nutrients, so I was surprised to note that I could see schools of small fish darting around socially near the top of the water, playing a marine version of follow-the-leader. Continue reading

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Meth and Indigenous communities

Last spring I taught a course on the Global Drug trade. For some reason, cocaine is the drug which draws the most media attention, whether it be in television series such as Narcos, or in novels. Certainly in the United States people think of Latin America when they think of the drug trade. But of course our current drug trade is heavily shaped by the opioid and heroin epidemic, which has its base in the golden triangle of Asia. Fentanyl receives a great deal of media coverage, and China may be the major supplier of this drug. While all of this may sound abstract, when my class covers the opioid epidemic each year the impact of opioids is all too clear, as my students relate histories of family loss and tragedy. The drugs that cause the most suffering -opioids and meth- seldom feature in television series. Continue reading

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2019/07/meth/

Iran, history and War

Last Thursday, June 13, 2019, two tankers traveling in the Gulf of Oman were struck by explosions. The crews of both ships were quickly evacuated, and there was no loss of life onboard. The United States’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo quickly announced that Iran was responsible for these strikes. The U.S. government released military footage that it said showed an Iranian ship removing a limpet mine from the side of one of the tankers. There had been an attack on four other tankers within the last month. The U.S. alleged that Iran was carrying out these assaults because of U.S. pressure regarding the nuclear deal. Continue reading

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China’s Population in Global Context

This map allows us to understand China’s growing power from not only a financial but also a demographic standpoint. It’s also just fun to see which country has an equivalent population to a Chinese province. As someone who grew up on Canada, it was interesting that Canada’s population is roughly equivalent to that of Shanxi. And Germany’s population is roughly equivalent to that of Sichuan. Of course, in the long term China faces a future defined by a declining population, so this map lacks some context.

Shawn Smallman, 2019

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2019/06/chinas-population-in-global-context/

Age of Fire

We live in an age of wildfire. Last year northern California was devastated. These fires are happening so frequently that it’s impacting tourism in southern Oregon, where people wonder if they should still spend summer trips to enjoy outdoor recreation if the air might be filled with choking smoke. In northern Alberta, Fort McMurray was nearly devoured by a wildfire in 2016. Everyone who experienced the previous two summers in British Columbia, Canada likely has a story about the smoke, or about someone they know who feared having to relocate. And it’s not just the North American west that has been heavily impacted. In 2017 four separate wildfires killed 66 people in Portugal, while Australia has struggled with multiple major fires in recent years. How do we understand the changes that are impacting forests globally? Continue reading

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2019/06/age-of-fire/

Shane Harris, @ War

An Opte Project visualization of routing paths through a portion of the Internet. (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5) via Wikimedia Commons.

With the constant media attention to the alleged Russian involvement in the last American election, there is perhaps more media attention to the issue of cyber-warfare than ever before. In this context, Shane Harris’ book, @ War: the Rise of the Military-Internet Complex is provides a sweeping overview of how the U.S. government and its corporate allies have sought to respond and use cyber tools for espionage and war.

Harris has a background as a journalist, and he has extensively interviewed people in both the U.S. federal government and industry. His work provides a deep understanding of how these actors view cyber-conflict. The book is particularly good at showing how corporations are intricately connected the armed forces in cyber-warfare: “Without the cooperation of the companies, the United States couldn’t fight cyber wars. In that respect, the new military-Internet complex is the same as the industrial one before it” (Harris, p. xxiii).

At the same time, this book views this issue through an American lens, and at times has an unreflective view of technology’s role in war. Ever since the Vietnam War, the United States has relied on technology to win wars, while not similarly prioritizing cultural, strategic and historical awareness. One can see this issue in the opening section of the book, which examines U.S. efforts to use cyber-espionage to target ISIS in Iraq, in what he describes as a triumph: “Indeed, cyber warfare -the combination of spying and attack- was instrumental to the American victory in Iraq in 2007, in ways that have never been fully explained or appreciated” (Harris, p. xxii). Even though his description of U.S. operations in Iraq is fascinating, this part of the work has not aged well, and confronts the reader with technology’s limitations more than its capabilities. Continue reading

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2019/05/shane-harris-war-a-book-review/

College research award

I am honored to say that I was named the College of Urban and Public Affairs Researcher of the Year. As part of this award, Portland State University made a brief video about my work with public policy and infectious disease. As with all of the researchers from other colleges, I was given a list of 5 or 6 questions in advance of the video, the first of which was “Tell us a story about how you became involved in research.” We were also told that the final video would be two minutes or less. I was somewhat uncertain about how this would turn out given these time constraints, but at the awards ceremony I was impressed by how inspiring the videos were. I don’t know the name of the student who edited all these videos but they did an amazing job. Congratulations to all the awardees.

Shawn Smallman, 2019

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2019/05/research-award/

The US Empire

There is a strange paradox, which is that the United States is one of the greatest imperial powers ever known, but at the same time almost no American would ever describe their nation as having an empire, either now or in the past. Daniel Immerwahr addresses this contradiction in his recent article, “How the US has hidden its empire,” in the Guardian. This text would be useful both in an “Introduction to International Studies” class, or a “U.S. and the World,” course.

Shawn Smallman, 2019.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2019/05/the-us-empire/

Lines of Light: a book review

Dan Nott’s brilliant graphic novel

Lines of Light is a graphic novel by Dan Nott, which examines the “history and geography of the internet.” I was fortunate enough to meet the author at the Massachusetts Independent Comic Expo, which was held at Lesley University. This quarter I am teaching two courses on related topics (Digital Globalization as well as CyberWar and Espionage), so I was curious to view this work. This graphic novel is exceptional not only because it is visually engaging, but also because it takes a completely unexpected view of something that we all assume we understand. With his clear, concise prose to describe a physical world that we all rely upon, this book is filled with unexpected facts and insights.

One of the approaches that Nott takes is too look at how we use metaphors to talk about the internet, which can sometimes be misleading. The book starts with Senator Ted Stephens at the net neutrality hearing of 2006, where he tried too use a failed metaphor to describe the internet. From this moment, the work moves to consider more broadly how we all talk about the internet, and how accurate that language may be. While it might be easy to mock Senator Stephens, most of us also wrestle to describe something so abstract. Nott’s brilliance is being able to take these metaphors and place them into both a historical and a physical context, which is grounded by the detailed maps and imagery of the infrastructure that supports the internet. Continue reading

Permanent link to this article: https://www.introtoglobalstudies.com/2019/04/lines-of-light-a-book-review/