Syllabus for “Introduction to Latin American Studies.”

Every year I teach an “Introduction to Latin American Studies” course at PSU, which is designed to meet the needs of both International Studies majors and General Education students. Because of the learning objectives for our general education program, I include assignments that focus on group work and oral communication. But the general structure of the syllabus may be helpful for others about to teach the class. If you are interested in Brazil, you might also want to see my own book on military terror in that country. Shawn Smallman, Portland State University: …

Book Review of Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach

Image of Winter Forest courtesy of Evgeni Dinev at
Image of Winter Forest courtesy of Evgeni Dinev at

As I discussed in an earlier post, I am currently working on a project about Algonquian peoples and religion in the Canadian north. In Australia, Canada and the United States the media generally depicts First Nations with reference to a distant past, while little attention is given to questions of colonialism and postcolonialism. As a result, indigenous peoples are often made invisible in Global and International Studies. People typically think of peoples such as the Kurds when they refer to stateless nations, but less attention is given to indigenous nations. With the “Idle No More” protests sweeping Canada, and the deplorable conditions in Attawapiskat gaining national attention, these issues have now gained global media coverage. …

What do you notice about this ad?

Advertisement from an airport in Ahmedabad, India

Some people say that with globalization, all the world is becoming the same. But take a careful look at this photo that my wife took of a lawnmower ad in the Ahmedabad airport in India. What do you notice about the text? The world really isn’t flat.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

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. …

Mystery Kidney Ailment in Central America: EKD

"Panama Cathedral" by David Castillo Dominici at
“Panama Cathedral” by David Castillo Dominici at

Regular readers of this blog have probably noticed the attention with which I am following the emergence of a new disease in Central America, called CKD or Chronic Kidney Disease. The disease has caused devastation in some rural communities, particularly in both Nicaragua and El Salvador. What is distinct is that it particularly hits men, not women, especially those employed in the sugar cane industry. But the evidence for this is somewhat contradictory, as men employed in other physically demanding jobs also seem to be falling ill with the condition. …

Global Warming and Australia

"Cracked Soil" by prozac1 at
“Cracked Soil” by prozac1 at

Like many of you, i’ve been following the story of the terrible fires and heat in Australia. The picture of the Holmes family, who escaped a firestorm by fleeing into the water, is striking. The photos with the grandmother clutching the children, not all of whom could swim, in the eerie light from the flames, brings home the human impact of this disaster. Fortunately, the Holmes family’s quick thinking and courage meant that everyone survived. To me, however, these images are less frightening than the news that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has to add new colors to weather maps. It used to be that the top temperature on the map was 50 degrees Celsius. They’ve added purple and pink now so that they can go up to 54 degrees. This is only the most striking aspect of how global warming is already affecting Australia

New “Theoretical Foundations of Global Studies” syllabus.

Last summer I posted a syllabus for a new course that I was teaching in fall 2012, “Foundations of Global Studies Theory.” I really enjoyed the class overall, but having taught it once I’ve made some revisions. Here are some of the main changes that I’ve made, with the reasons why, and the syllabus for the new quarter: …

Video Resources on Security theory.

This week I’ve been exploring security in my “Theoretical Foundations of Global Studies” class. In my lecture I compared and contrasted Realism and Human Security, then tried to apply these theories to the Mexican Drug War, to see the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches. I then divided my students into groups of three to five at random, and assigned them to speak briefly on behalf of one or the other paradigm in this context. I can say that the students assigned to the Realism group were not happy about that choice, although they did a good job. …

Careers for International and Global Studies Majors

When Kim Brown and I were working on the book, we were particularly committed to writing the final chapter on careers. We had both spent many years advising students, and we know the questions that they had about employment, and that students couldn’t find the answers in existing textbooks. We tried to map out the career paths that students could take, and the choices that these paths entailed. But something strange happened. As the book went through different iterations, some external reviewers of the text had a strong reaction to that chapter, which they viewed as too “vocational.” Yet Kim and I held fast, because we believed that this chapter was critical for students. Having taught with this text now, I can attest that this is the chapter that students most value, as students have even come up to me to thank me for including that section in the text. …

Pigeons and Nuclear Weapons

Image “Wood Pigeon” courtesy of James Barker at

After the last serious post on lost nuclear weapons, you might wish to see a less serious take on warfare and espionage.  Check out Lucas Martell’s brief video, “Pigeon Impossible,” to see how one determined bird helps prevent catastrophe. You’ve got to love the scene with the Washington Monument.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

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