Hakai Magazine

In International and Global Studies departments we often organize our curriculum by geographic region. At Portland State University, students in International and Global Studies can complete tracks in the major with a focus on Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. In many programs there is now a move towards focusing on topics in the curriculum, rather than geographic regions. For example, in my own department we created a track in development studies three years ago, and it is now the most popular track in the major. How might we organize information if we decided not to begin with geography as defined by our traditional boundaries?

Perhaps one answer might be that we would look at what unites regions at a truly global level. Hakai Magazine, for example, provides content about the world’s coastal regions and our oceans, with an emphasis on the environment and coastal populations. There is a good mix of long and short form material, and a truly global perspective. For anyone with an interest in the world’s oceans, this is a great resource.

Shawn Smallman, 2016

Endless war in the Eastern Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, from the CIA World FactbookThe Council of Foreign Relations website has useful background reports on a number of major issues, such as cyber security, but by far the best is their report on the Eastern Congo. This conflict has taken more lives than any other conflict such World War Two, and at times threatened to destabilize much of Africa. Nonetheless, it seldom receives media coverage, especially compared with events in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though 5 million people have died of violence and starvation during the years of crisis in the region. The CFR’s new storyboard combines multiple media formats such as text, video, a slideshow, maps and a timeline. The video itself is about ten minutes in length, yet provides most of the key information needed to understand they key actors and issues in the crisis. Overall, the video is concise, well-organized and thoughtful. The slideshow also does an excellent job of integrating text, images and audio. I mainly teach online, and I find that students particularly like formats that ask them to interact with the media, such as the slideshow. Together, the different media address all the key issues: child soldiers, rape as a weapon of war, Belgium’s horrific colonial involvement in the region, the history of U.S. involvement during the Cold War, the long shadow cast by the Rwandan genocide, and the participation of a U.N. force. I will be teaching an “Introduction to International Studies” this spring quarter in an online format, and I’ll likely be using this page in the week on security. For any instructor who wants to include African content for this section of an introductory course in International Studies, this website provides a great resource. Recommended.

Shawn Smallman, 2016

The top ten posts on the blog

Once a year, I like to look at the most popular blog posts. The blog currently receives a little under 1,700 people a month, but 80% of the people who land on the site “bounce,” which means that they leave the blog almost as soon as they arrive. There are roughly 350 people a month who read posts. Most of these people are from the United States, although there are also readers in Canada, Brazil, Great Britain, India, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Germany and Mexico. The top ten blog posts have certain common themes: book reviews are popular, as are posts on theory, literature and sports. I’m really not sure why the latter is the case. People are also fascinated by international mysteries.

Some of you may have also noticed that there is no longer a comment feature on the blog. Sadly, the spam filter was no longer able to deal with the overwhelming number of bots posting to the site. Sometimes there would be an attack, and I’d receive waves of posts to the blog. These would generate mass e-mail notices, each of which would ask me to approve a particular post. UNC decided to disable the comments feature, which has ended this issue, even though I miss hearing peoples’ comments on individual posts.

Here are the top ten posts, based on the most recent data from Google Analytics:

A book review of Dipesh Chakrabarty’s Provincializing Europe

Realism and Human Security: a map of U.S. Security Interests

Introduction to International Studies syllabus

A book review of Dave Zirin, Brazil’s Dance with the Devil

A book review of Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach

What is International or Global Studies?

Witches Broom: the mystery of bioterrorism and chocolate in Brazil

Broken Arrow: lost nuclear weapons in Canada

International Studies Quiz

Map of Mexican Drug Cartels

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

INTL at Portland State is on Facebook

Quite a few of the people who follow this blog are either at Portland State University, or in the Portland area. So I wanted to let people know that the Department of International and Global Studies is now on Facebook. We have a lot going on, as you can see here. I also want to give my thanks to Katrina Grundman for her fantastic work building this.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University.

The blog’s top ten most popular posts

Top Ten image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
Top Ten image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Every few months I ask the University of North Carolina Press to send me the statistics for this blog. Amongst the many things that it lets me see is where the blog’s audience is (mainly the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and France), and the total size of the audience (1,347 visitors between February and April 2013). I can also see which posts visitors view the most. Here is a list of the most popular posts to date: …

The Graphic Vault at Canada’s National Post

Edward Tufte’s work, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, is a beautiful book, which enables the reader to interpret statistics in a new light. The chart displaying the size of Napoleon’s army as he first invaded then retreated from Russia is awe-inspiring. No chart of the same information could have conveyed as effectively the extent to which French forces evaporated away. I thought of this recently when I looked at a graphic series in the National Post, one of the two major Canadian newspapers. The vault contains a rich array of images, which could be powerful tools in the classroom. For example, Rubab Abid and Richard Johnson produced a striking series of maps (in a graphic work titled “Out of Africa’) that showed the level of investment by former colonial powers in Africa, as well as the natural resources that might have attracted them to these countries. This one chart could spark a powerful class discussion about the nature of neocolonialism in Africa. As with all items in the vault, it is possible to download a high-resolution copy from the site. …

More websites for teaching International and Global Studies

Since I last posted some suggested websites to the blog, I’ve learned about several others that are useful for an introductory class in International and Global Studies. I’ve tried to focus on sites that emphasize analysis or resources rather than news, with the exception of one suggestion from The New York Times:

Financial Crisis:

Some students are visual learners. For those trying to understand current economic news in Europe, the New York Times has a set of interactive graphics that convey relative GDP, and debt flows, to make sense of the crisis. …

Websites for teaching International and Global Studies

Because international affairs can change so quickly, websites are a key tool in an introductory class, both to keep up to date, and to find resources for students. In our Teacher’s Manual, we list some helpful sites but here is a longer list that you might want to explore:


My thanks go to my colleague, Dr. Stephen Frenkel, for sharing what I think is one of the most fascinating websites for International and Global Studies. Gapminder advertises itself as creating a “fact-based” view of the world. Don’t let the reference to statistics make you think that it might be inaccessible for beginning students though. Its resources range from detailed information on equality to videos on everything from population growth to democracy. Check out the resources under the “For Teachers” link. Explore it yourself:

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