The 1918 Influenza pandemic likely killed between fifty and one hundred million people globally. While the case fatality rate varies with circumstances, the current outbreak of COVID-19 may be as deadly unless vaccines are developed in time. Since the start of this year global cities like New York have faced immense strains. As always during a pandemic, one of the concerns that leaders face is how to prevent panic and discrimination, which can be spread by social media and other digital platforms. At the same time, the internet provides a host of tools that can help during a pandemic, with everything from telemedicine to mass collaboration. While cyber tools -such as digital tracking apps for individuals under quarantine- are powerful, they also come with human rights questions. In adapting these cyber tools for telemedicine, digital health communication, outbreak modeling and other uses (Liu and the HIMSS Greater China Health Team, 2020), city leaders and health authorities must address issues of transparency, privacy and public trust, which will require them to have a strategy for digital issues. …
Several years ago I wrote a lecture for my “Introduction to International Studies” course that looked at the emergence of new languages. While people are aware of language loss, fewer people know that new languages are also forming. So I used this lecture as a means to talk about cultural globalization. I’ve talked about Sheng before on the blog, but I thought that another faculty member might want to use this lecture.
It’s important for me to say that I based this lecture on an several peer-reviewed articles, as well as articles in the popular press, but I did not note them. So this material is not original, but I can’t cite the original authors. My apologies to these scholars.
Cultural Globalization and Language: The Example of Sheng
Argot: a secret vocabulary and language for a particular group
(silent t in “argot”)
pidgin: an artificial language created for use between speakers of different languages
Patois (pronounced pat’wa): a dialect separate from the standard language
New Languages in the Americas
Language Creation in Africa
Sheng: Structure and Perceptions
Urban Languages in Africa
Resources on Youtube:
- Dr Seuss in Jamaican Patois
- Language is a Virus (really good, must use): /www.youtube.com/watch?v=quPGg08C2pE
- “Jorm and Rabbit in Nairobi”: music video in Sheng
- Search Scottish Gaelic Discovery Channel(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwVCrgvvHeE)
- Discovery Channel video on Saami on Youtube
One of the realizations that has come with COVID-19 is that the old binary between developed and developing countries is deeply flawed. Some nations that are less wealthy (Vietnam, Thailand) have succeeded very well in limiting the virus’s spread (at least in June 2020), while some wealthier countries (the United States and Great Britain saw their governments fail to control the outbreak, despite not only their relative wealth, but also sophisticated health care systems.
In the United States the CDC and FDA decided not to adopt a test for COVID-19 that was recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). But their effort to create their own test was badly flawed. When that test proved not to work, it set the US testing back perhaps a month or more behind other nations at the most critical moment in the virus’s spread within the United States. In contrast, countries that adopted the WHO’s recommended test were able to test their populations at scale.
In Boston, there was a testing debacle after a number of people were infected at a Biogen conference. Even after people reported symptoms and repeatedly sought testing they were unable to be tested, because they did not meet the overly strict criteria that included travel to China, or contact with someone from China. The result was a disaster, which saw the outbreak flare so that Boston had one of the worst outbreaks in the world. Meanwhile, Vietnam carried out a very thorough testing program that has allowed to control the outbreak to this date.
One of the most interesting points for me has been the relative difference in innovation between some developing countries and the United States, which is the home of Silicon Valley. In the U.S. there is still no national contact tracing app. Instead individual states (such as North and South Dakota) have had develop their own. But at a national level, the rate of innovation has been painfully slow. In contrast, some developing countries have moved with amazing speed. One of the success stories has been Ethiopia. As Simon Marks described in an article on the Voice of America website, Ethiopian developers quickly created seven different apps to help with everything from contact tracing to supporting health care workers. What is clear is that the size of nation’s economy does not necessarily correspond to its ability to innovate and adapt. American exceptionalism aside, wealthy nations must overcome the hubris and sense of exceptionalism, which have hampered their response to the pandemic. When developed nations take an interest in the the innovations in places from Ethiopia to Thailand, their own response will improve.
A few years ago, I was in Hong Kong, Macau and Shenzhen. When I asked at a coffee shop in Hong Kong if I could pay with a credit card, the clerk said that they could do that. Would I mind waiting while they took the machine out from the cupboard? It would take just a minute to find the keys to the cupboard. At this point, I was embarrassed and ask them not to. But they wanted to help me, and insisted on hooking up the credit card machine for the foreigner. But credit cards felt antiquated in a world in people used WeChat to pay for their subway cards, get their groceries, and order deliveries. People never had touch a device to put in a PIN. When I came back, I realized how antiquated our entire payment architecture is. I think about this during the pandemic every time I go to a gas station or department store and have to first swipe a card, and then put in my PIN on a grungy pad. Of course this is the tip of the iceberg. Why do I still need to pay bills with a check in an age of Venmo and Paypal? In Australia checks have nearly disappeared as a payment form, and it has been more than a decade since most people used one. Five years ago I was talking with an Australian. She said that she was stunned when she moved to the U.S. and people still wanted checks. And why do forms in the US still ask for my department’s fax number?
In Shenzhen I saw the sophisticated drones, electronic devices, and pristine infrastructure. Afterwards when I traveled to New York and saw the state of the airport, it felt like traveling twenty years back in time. In the United States, there is a sense of exceptionalism, which equates modernity and power with being American. But from Asia to Africa there are innovations, technologies and approaches that Western nations -particularly the United States and Britain- would benefit from adopting, particularly during this pandemic. It’s not that the developed/developing binary doesn’t isn’t useful in some circumstances. But in some respects it can conceal more than it reveals.
Recently my colleague, Dr. Priya Kapoor, shared a blog with me “Media Rise: Quarantined across borders.” Every day, two or three new blog posts are added. What I like about this site is that it focused on the personal experiences of people who have impacted by COVID-19, from a Pakistani study-abroad student in China, to an American facing anti-Asian discrimination. Each piece is quite brief, perhaps just a couple of pages, but they still provide an interesting point of view on our diverse experiences during the pandemic. I particularly recommend Dr. Kapoor’s piece, which speaks to how adults connect with distant parents during a pandemic, and the ties that bind a family.
Like many people, I’ve been struck by the parallels between the current COVID-19 pandemic and the 1918 pandemic. In 1918 many media outlets in Europe and the United States did not initially give the outbreak adequate coverage, because they were censored during the war, or did not want to reveal their nation’s weaknesses. In the United States and Brazil now, populist leaders are dismissive of the news and data on COVID-19, because it reveals their failures. For this reason, their followers tend to view all COVID-19 information through the lens of partisan politics. Indeed, President Bolsonaro of Brazil has called his followers to storm hospitals to take photos and videos to show whether COVID-19 patients are truly filling hospital beds, as the hospitals and state leaders claim. Such denial has caused painful climbs in COVID-19 deaths in both Brazil and the United States. …
Kim and I have been working on the third of edition of our textbook, An Introduction to International and Global Studies. I think that this is the best of version the book yet. We radically rewrote chapters, gave extensive attention to the rise of populism and nationalism, adopted new case case studies, and created different assignments. It’s been a lot of fun working on the book. Believe it or not, we actually wrote this edition in Google Docs, which was the best tool for us to share work, and to track changes. I originally wanted to use an image of a globe light that I took at the Arts building at McGill University. But it looked too historical when placed on the cover. I’m really happy with this image that the press selected in the end. I’ve used the image of the globe light for my new podcast instead. You can find it here: Dispatch 7: global trends from all seven continents.
We’ll be working on the teacher’s manual throughout the summer, and we’re looking forward to sharing these resources soon. I’m happy to see that our textbook is now up on the UNC website, and available for pre-order. Copies will be available for immediate delivery in August 2020.
Thank you Kim for working with me on our project for all these years. I can’t imagine having done it with anyone else.
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.
Next Tuesday my department will be having a presentation on Zoom about COVID-19 in Latin America. During this discussion I’ll be talking about Bolsonaro’s leadership in Brazil, and the current pandemic trends in that country. Dr. Rodriguez will be talking about Argentina’s response, while Dr. Young will be discussing the experience of both Cuba and Mexico. Since I know little about the COVID-19 situation outside of Brazil in Latin America, I am particularly interested to hear what my co-presenters will say. The talk will be 2pm West Coast (US) time. Please RSVP if you are interested in participating.
This week I’ve posted a new episode of my podcast, Dispatch 7, global trends on all seven continents, in which I interviewed Kim Brown about tea. You can hear the episode here. I hope to have Kim back at some point to do an encore episode on chocolate (perhaps this fall) so stay tuned. Upcoming episodes will look at anemia in Peru, labor migrants in India, and the murder of musicians in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
I have a new podcast!: “Dispatch 7: global trends on all seven continents.” The first episode is out: “Applying to Graduate School.” I interviewed Rosa “Rosie” David, who did her undergraduate and graduate studies at Portland State University. Since then Rosie has worked in both Mexico and Colombia. I’ve known Rosie for a long time, and was delighted when she was accepted into multiple graduate programs. The graduate school application process is sometimes a mysterious one, so I thought that people might want to hear about the experience of someone who had just successfully navigated it. It was really fun being able to have Rosie as my first guest, especially as I was anxious about doing the recording remotely. I’m working to establish a regular schedule, which will likely be every two weeks. Some upcoming topics? Tea, labor migration in India, and COVID-19.
I particularly want to thank Kirsten Fox, my former student, who came up with the podcast title. I shared a google form with a list of possible titles with my students last quarter, and her suggestion was by far the most popular. Thanks Kirsten!
I also want to thank my daughter Paige Smallman, who was the producer and sound editor. Without her, this podcast wouldn’t have happened.
Are you interested in applying to graduate school, and want to know some tested tips and tricks? Listen to Rosie’s advice.
You can find the podcast at the following links:
Google Podcasts: https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8xYjM5ODczOC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw==
Radio Public: https://radiopublic.com/dispatch-7-global-trends-on-all-s-8X3Vl5
Pocket casts: https://pca.st/8ijvae4e