This month I am sharing some of my syllabi, assignments, rubrics, and class lectures for my “Introduction to Global Studies Theory” class, which in my department was called “Foundations of Global Studies.” In my face to face and hybrid class alike I liked to use small group work during class. Of all these assignments, none was more popular with my students than this competition. I would frame the competition with a brief lecture (5-10 minutes) on action research. Then I would break the class into small groups, and have each group present their groups’ proposal for an action research project.
I want to briefly discuss action research
A field that dates back to the 1930s, and has roots in education, as well as anthropology, health and women’s studies
Action based research blurs the lines between scholar and subject, because the people studied become part of the research process
One of the goals is to empower them
The approach hopes that people in the community studied will better understand their problems at the end of the process
In that sense, an emancipatory theory, that aims to free people to think critically about their world
Sounds abstract: let me give you a concrete example
Work mapping in Arctic communities: includes members of the communities
Map rolled out on the floor: elder note sacred sites, burial grounds, trap lines, the movement of animals
Creates a product for their use
The goal is not to be a dispassionate observer
It is to produce something of use to the community
The focus is on practical outcomes related to the actual lives of the people studied
The theorizing tends to be small scale and often has the goal of creating positive social change
One of the goals is to democratize knowledge production and use
Very different perspective than the behavioralist ideal of the dispassionate observer off to the side
Instead, the action researcher is a facilitator, who brings the community together
This is a collaborative approach to research
Designed to be accessible and understood by the very people that it studies, so as to empower them
At the core is the idea of action
Knowledge is not created solely for its own value
Instead, it is designed to be used
This school draws heavily in theoretical writing in education, in particular the work of Paulo Freire
The hope is that not only will the research prove useful, but also that people will develop the skills to study their own problems and be empowered.
For this reason, action research is designed to take into account the communities’ culture, emotional lives, and other influences
The researcher is a participant in the process of learning with the community
The research is then shared with the community
This is very important in action research
Research that is not shared has no value
There is a clear social or political value to research in this perspective
It hopes to create research to help solve a particular problem
Very attractive in fields such as public health that work with communities
Challenges older constructs of the social sciences
Small Group Work, Action Research:
Break into groups of four or five people. Appoint one person to be the action researcher. It is this person’s job to interview the group to learn what the key concerns facing university students are at our institution. Then with the group, this person is to come up with an action research plan that could be used to further study these problems. Remember: you have to include the community in your plan for research process. We’re going to report out on the findings from each of the groups, and the class is going to judge if these sound like good plans for action research.
Yesterday I shared a syllabus for a hybrid global studies class. Today I wanted to share a rubric that I adapted for a case study project in this theory class. The assignment itself is quite easy to summarize: “Case Study: The student will write an eight to ten page paper, which will briefly apply two (or more) theories to the same global issue, and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each. The paper will be uploaded into Assignments by 5pm on Monday of exam week: 25% of final grade.”
The goal of this project was to have students reflect on how to apply more than one theory to a particular situation. In this way, I hoped that they might begin to realize that theories can be like tools in a tool box. It’s useful to try more than one approach to understand a situation, and to evaluate their respective strengths and weaknesses.
One challenge with this assignment is that students might be tempted to use a paper that they have written for another class, perhaps not understanding that it is possible to self-plagiarize. This happened. In order to avoid this, I would carefully explain that this is not permitted, but more importantly scaffold the work throughout the quarter; that is, in week four they would share an outline in the discussion board, in week 6 share their first three pages. In this way, not only would students be able to give feedback on each other’s papers, but also you could see they were truly creating the work.
Please note that I didn’t use this assignment in all my theory classes, including the hybrid class for which I shared the syllabus yesterday, in which I instead used a slideshow project. Although the content is mine, I don’t know who created the original rubric framework (especially the grading key) that I adapted. It had passed through too many hands by the time it reached me. If anyone knows, please contact me and I will give them credit.
Excellent The writer demonstrates a mastery of both the theory and the specific case. The student clearly explains the strengths and the weakness of the theories. Their work is based on excellent research with well-chosen articles. The writer supports their arguments with specific detail.
Excellent The essay is well-organized, flows logically, and has an introductory and concluding paragraph. The paper is free from grammar and spelling mistakes.
Excellent The essay is original and demonstrates insight. The student has a number of new ideas or arguments. The essay’s creativity leads the reader take a fresh perspective on issues.
Good The writer has demonstrated sufficient understanding of the theory and the specific case. There is adequate research. The writer uses specific examples and detail to support their argument.
Good The essay is well organized and flows logically, but lacks a clear beginning or conclusion. The organization could have been tighter, although their argument is clear. There are few grammar and spelling mistakes.
Good The essay shows insight or creativity.
Sufficient The writer generally shows their understanding of the theory and specific case, although at times they could have used more detail and demonstrated a great mastery of the material. They could have more clearly described the strengths and weaknesses of the theories.
Sufficient The essay has some organization, but sometimes jumps from one topic to the next. There is no clear beginning or conclusion. There are frequent grammar or spelling mistakes.
Sufficient While the essay has some originality and insight, it is not highly creative and has only occasional insights.
Needs Improvement The essay has does not convincingly demonstrate the student’s mastery of the theory and specific case. Key detail is sometimes omitted, or there are errors in their discussion of theory.
Needs Improvement The essay sometimes rambles. The transition from one section to the next is not always clear, or the argument does not flow well. The essay lacks an introduction or conclusion. There are significant grammar and spelling mistakes.
Needs Improvement The essay has few examples of original arguments or insight. The essay does not demonstrate thoughtful reflection.
Weak The essay fails to demonstrate the students understanding of either the theory involved, or the specific case. The paper lacks critical supporting detail, or the research was insufficient.
Weak The essay lacks organization, and jumps from one topic to the next without any coherence. The essay is either too brief to adequately cover the topic, or too disorganized. The grammar and spelling mistakes are so significant that they detract from the argument.
Weak The paper lacks original thought or new ideas. There is little or no evidence of reflection or fresh insight.
Grading: A = All excellent A- = Mostly excellent B/B+ = Mostly Good C+/B- = Good with some sufficient C or below = Mostly Sufficient to Needs Improvement D or below= Mostly Weak or Needs Improvement
Remember: students may not use material from another paper that they have written.
I’ve shared a syllabus before for my face-to-face theory class, but that was from 2012. Although I haven’t taught the course for while now, I wanted to share this more recent syllabus for a hybrid class, in case anyone else is interested in using it. Please feel free to take, adapt, and use this syllabus in any way that you might want. Please click on page “2” below to view. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll also share more assignments, rubrics and lectures for the course.
I’ve just posted a new podcast episode on Dispatch 7, global trends on all seven continents. In this episode I talked with my former Honor’s student, Cassidy Pfau, about her field research on food and identity in Taiwan. In particular, Cassidy talked about night markets, Indigenous cuisine, and the history of Taiwan’s food culture. Cassidy’s Honor’s thesis on this topic has been downloaded from the PSU library nearly 3,000 times now, so I think that this is a topic that attracts a lot of interest. You can listen to this episode here.
This is a lecture on development for an “Introduction to International Studies” course. It was last updated about 2012, so it would need to be adapted with more current materials for today’s classroom. I also haven’t provided citations. But some of this material actually draws on notes from my own undergraduate classes, so one old friend may recognize some of these points. I should also caution that I am not a development scholar, so this lecture only touches on key issues and theories. It was also first taught in an “Introduction to Latin American Studies” class, so there are more references to that region in it. But I hope that some faculty may find some inspiration here, and be able to adapt this for their own classes.
one of the first things everyone learns about Latin America or Africa is that they not as economically developed as other countries
these regions are very wealthy in some respects
major industry, rich natural resources, critical number of engineers and technical experts in many countries
yet large numbers of people live in extreme poverty
why have these regions not succeeded in developing their economy as other areas have?
why are so many people there so poor?
wide range of theories to address this question
today: lecture about different theories of development
effort to explain the difference between developed countries and less developed countries
lets look at the characteristics of the two levels of development
As someone who loves folklore and mystery, every Halloween season I try to find some global mysteries to discuss. Earlier on the blog I did a book review of Donnie Eichar’s Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident. In 1959 a large group of hikers disappeared in a remote and mountainous part of the Soviet Union. It was only when the first bodies began to appear, however, that the mystery began to acquire broader attention. Something appeared to have made them flee out of their tent in the dead of night while only partly dressed, something that was suicide in the depths of the Russian winter. Everyone in that tent was an experienced hiker and camper. What could have scared them so badly? Or was there a killer on the mountain that night, from whom they fled in terror? Given that this event took place in the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War, there were a plethora of conspiracy theories about secret Soviet experiments, strange radiation injuries, and military guards. But what can we learn about this event in hindsight?
I know that this Halloween most families in both Canada and the United States won’t be trick-or-treating, given the pandemic. Whatever you and your family do to celebrate Halloween, stay well and have fun.
While it has now been years since I last returned to Oaxaca, this piece brought back memories of Monte Alban and Mitla. While Monte Alban is much better known, Mitla is an evocative (albeit much smaller) site. Although it can be easily viewed in an hour or less, for me the locale had an evocative, eerie feeling. What I like about Leathem’s account is how it connects these Zapotec ruins to contemporary folklore. As Leathem describes the ruins haunt the local imagination: “Yet what is quite possibly most unique about Mitla are the stories where the landscape—or, rather, the ruins themselves – do the bewitching. There are multiple accounts of Mitla’s ruins haunting locals through disturbing and vivid dreams. . . . .In every instance where the ruins have possessed people through dreams, the individual descends into an atypical form of madness. They are struck with “ruin envy” and cannot rid their minds of the ruins.”
Wall in Oaxaca City, Mexico. Circa 2011. Photo by Margaret Everett
Mexico’s Indigenous heritage is so vast, deep and influential that haunts all aspects of Mexico’s rich folklore. My family and I was once driven through Oaxaca City by a taxi driver, who told me that underneath the city there were networks of tunnels that ran from one colonial Church to many other locations. At the time I thought that the idea was absurd. Now I wonder if this particular legend is not another aspect of this Indigenous legacy. If you want to learn more not only about Mexico’s mysteries and folklore, but also its Indigenous peoples and history, I highly recommend the podcast Mexico Unexplained by Robert Bitto. In the episode, “The Mysterious Tunnels of Teotihuacan” Bitto described how over a century of explorers and archaeologists have searched for an underground network of tunnels and grottos beneath this sprawling Meso-American city. The episode is worth listening to for the sense of wonder that may be evoked by some recent finds. But more particularly, this episode made me question if the folklore if I heard from that taxi driver perhaps had its origins in the stories about the tunnels under Teotihuacan. But then, caves and the underground world have always been important in Oaxaca’s Indigenous traditions (Steele, 1997).
Since the Spanish often built their colonial churches on the temples of the Indigenous peoples, perhaps it was not impossible that there were in fact tunnels under these sacred sites in Oaxaca city. I wonder what might turn up after a flood causes a sinkhole in Oaxaca someday. After all, wasn’t the Templo Mayor in Mexico City uncovered by electrical workers entirely by accident in 1978? There is so much missing and hidden in Mexico. And it is not only ruins that haunt the country’s imagination, but also tales of lost cities and islands.
Mexican bar sign, Oaxaca City, Mexico. Photo by Margaret Everett around 2013.
If you want to hear about another mystery, please read this post on the Vela Incident. Or if you are interested in hearing more about global topics, please listen to my podcast, Dispatch 7. You can find it on Spotify here, or by searching whichever podcast platform you prefer.
Steele, J. F. (1997). Cave Rituals in Oaxaca, Mexico. Conference paper, presented at the Society for American Archaeology conference in Nashville, TN.
The article is based on interviews with the gravediggers at perhaps the world’s largest cemetery, called Wadi-us-Salaam or Valley of Peace, in Iraq. The cemetery is home to at least five million people, and graves there are highly prized. The gravediggers, however, report encounters with ghosts and the dead that leave them traumatized. One man even said that he was slapped by a corpse. I particularly liked the atmospheric pictures that accompanied the article.
If you enjoy podcasts, you might like listening to Spooked. Season Two, episode three was titled the Iron Gate, for reasons that become clear during the tale. This story was told by a U.S. military veteran, who had an unsettling encounter in a strange, abandoned home in Iraq. Whatever it was in that house scared him as much as any sniper. There is something nightmarish about being in a house with many people, but at the same time being so truly alone. The first person narratives in the Spooked series are intimate. They may make you feel if you are listening to an old friend tell you a story across your kitchen table.
During World War II, an Englishman named T.E. Lawrence fought in the Arab uprising against the Ottoman Empire. While travelling, “Lawrence of Arabia” learned of a majestic city that he dubbed “The Atlantis of the Sands”, a kingdom that been buried under the dunes of the Empty Quarter. But this lost city was well known to the Arab world; it had appeared in the 1,001 Nights and was even mentioned by name in The Quran. Is Ubar, or Iram of the Pillars, waiting to be unearthed?
The episode combines folklore, archaeology and history. By the end, I wanted to start pouring over some satellite images of the Arabian peninsula in search of a lost city. But it’s not a story from the Arabian peninsula that has most impacted ideas about death in the United States.
One point that strikes me is the persistence of images associated with ancient Egypt in cemeteries and mausoleums with gates, buildings, or doors that were built in the United States during the early twentieth century. As you can see below, even in the gate to the North Dorchester Burying Ground in Massachusetts, which holds good Puritans from colonial New England (including at least one of my own ancestors), has an Egyptian motif on its gate. You can see a similar motif at the Mount Auburn cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which was perhaps the most prestigious burial site in the state. For some reason, the well-to-do merchants, politicians and bankers in the state liked having an Egyptian image over this entry. In North America our idea of death has been shaped by artistic traditions from the Middle East for a long time. In the same way, frightening images of the undead -particularly the mummy- from the Middle East have shaped horror fiction, radio programs, podcasts and movies for generations. References to locations in the Middle East show up in fiction of the uncanny in the most unexpected ways. For example, one popular supernatural podcast, Tanis, is named after an ancient city in Egypt (doubtless inspired by the film Raiders of the Lost Ark).
For anyone interested in a deeper dive into how Middle Eastern traditions regarding jinn have influenced film and popular culture, please see Peterson’s work (2007) in the references below. While the book focuses on jinn (alternative spelling djinn) in movies, it also does a good job to place jinn in the context of traditional belief. While we might associate jinns with the genies in Disney films, the folkloric roots for this being are far more frightening than Aladdin or “I Dream of Genie” might suggest. And who knew that jinn became associated with consumer culture and consumption in the modern era?
If you want some frightening first hand accounts from Dubai residents please read Rohit Nair’s interviews in his piece, “Dubai residents recount their scariest moments.” Of course, since Dubai is a cosmopolitan place the stories people tale take place from Sri Lanka to the ghost village of Jazeera Al Hamra in Ras Al Khaimah, in the United Arab Emirates.
Finally, if there is one region that haunts the imagination of the British, Russian and United States armed forces, it’s probably Afghanistan, although it’s a Central Asian country. There have been some recent articles -and a SciFy channel documentary- about one American (formerly British) military base, apparently haunted by Russian soldiers. The title of the New York Times articles conveys the stories’ mood: An Ancient Hill and Forgotten Dead: Afghanistan’s Haunted Outpost. These stories speak to how the US soldiers -who could see the burned out armored personnel carriers that the Russians left behind- were haunted by the legacy of the soldiers and empires that fought there before them. I would personally like to edit a volume on the ghost stories of imperialism (which would include British, Chinese, Roman, Russian and US tales) as a retirement project someday. But these accounts from Observation Point Rock are not literary tales, but rather the stories of people hearing Russian whispered in their ear in their fox holes.
It all reminds me of Rudyard Kipling’s 1892 tale “The Lost Legion,” in which British soldiers have an eerie encounter with the ghost of an Indian regiment that had rebelled in 1857. As an aside, I wonder now if that story subconsciously influenced Tolkien in The Return of King. Much as in Kipling’s tale, the dead -who had violated their oath- could not rest, until they came to help an imperial force and by so doing fulfill their promise. I always thought that this section of the Return of the King was disappointing; shouldn’t the heroes have solved the challenge through their own abilities? And why did Gandalf give the ring to Frodo to carry, if he knew that Frodo couldn’t even place the ring in a fire? Why send Frodo to Mount Doom, since he’d already failed the test? But I digress. The point is, the Western memories of imperial misadventures from the Middle East to Central Asia can show up in the most unlikely of places.
I haven’t researched this possible link between Kipling’s tale and Tolkien. There’s probably a PhD. thesis on this topic in a British library -and a hundred blog posts on this topic- that I should have researched and referenced before posting this idea.
If you are curious to read more about folklore outside the Middle East you might be interested in my own book, Dangerous Spirits: the Windigo in Myth or History, which covers a belief in New England and the upper Midwest in the United States, and most of eastern Canada. You can see a brief video about the windigo here, and a review of my book here. The windigo was an Algonquian belief. The Algonquians were the most wide-spread cultural group in North America. The windigo was the spirit of winter and selfishness, which could transform a person into a cannibal monster. Much like the jinn, the idea of the windigo evolved with time, and became associated with capitalist culture. As with the jinn, the wendigo or windigo (there are many different spellings) has become appropriated by the dominant society, which has used it in TV shows (Supernatural), children’s programs, video games, and novels. If you do read my book, whether you love or hate it, please do leave a review on Goodreads.
This year I expect that most families in North American won’t have a typical Halloween, given the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope that you and your families there can stay home and enjoy watching “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” or some other spooky film.
If you are interested in hearing more about global topics, please listen to my podcast, Dispatch 7. You can find it on Spotify here, or by searching whichever podcast platform you prefer.
I’ve blogged before about the emerging fire crisis, which has only become even more worrying over the last years. Recent fires swept through the entire West Coast, where many of my students, colleagues and family were affected. Given the multiple crises in the United States at the moment, I’m not sure how timely it is to address this topic now. But the fires aren’t going away in coming years.
To understand these fires better, there are two amazing podcasts that are worth listening too, even during the pandemic. The first is called Good Fire by Amy Cardinal Christianson and Matthew Kristoff. It looks at how Indigenous peoples have used their knowledge around the world to create better and safer environments. While much of that knowledge was lost or suppressed, it’s not all gone, and can still be revived. For me, this podcast emphasized that there is not only one science, and that Indigenous sciences and knowledge are critical to our efforts to address global crises. Grace Dillon recently talked about Indigenous knowledge in her podcast interview with me on Indigenous Futurism, in case anyone wants to dive more deeply into this topic. Good Fire provides a truly global introduction to Indigenous fire knowledge, that reaches from Brazil and Venezuela to Australia.
The second podcast that I want to recommend is CBC’s World on Fire, which itself references Good Fire. The hosts carefully discuss the history, science and global trends that define fire. It’s an engrossing podcast, filled with interviews and first person accounts. I know that during the pandemic people are doom-scrolling on Twitter, but many others are seeking to retreat from the world. But these two podcasts are worth investing some attention when you’re ready. Both podcasts are available on Apple podcasts, Spotify and all other major podcast platforms.
If anyone wishes to read further, I also recommend Edward Struzik’s Firestorm: how wildfire will shape our future. Although book was written from a Canadian perspective -it begins with detailed coverage of the immense 2016 wild fire in Fort McMurray, Alberta- he spends a great deal of time examining why wildfires have become so much more deadly in North America’s recent past. Struzik also covers how Indigenous peoples managed the land, and lessened the risks of wildfires. The book provides a good complement to these two podcasts.