Andrew at the University of Cologne

IMG_6298Hi all,

So I just returned from an academic trip to Cologne, Germany, and I thought I’d describe a bit of what I was up to over there.

So late last year I was contacted by a group of scholars associated with the Global South Studies Center at the University of Cologne. This group of scholars is concerned with both the history and current manifestations of coerced, bonded, indentured, and forced labor in our world. They asked me to join them at a small conference at the University of Cologne last week. As part of the conference Transformations in the Global South, I contributed to a panel called Bonds and Contracts. That panel, chaired by Ulrike Lindner, included the following papers:

This was truly a fantastic panel of scholars, researchers, and presenters. Although mine was the only paper that dealt with peoples and migrations in the contemporary world, the parallels between the Gulf migrants’ experiences I track and the historical labor relations described in the other

Andrew Newman (Wayne State), Innocent Mwaka, and me at the farewell dinner. Innocent, a graduate student at the GSSC, hopes to be Uganda's first anthropologist in Ugandan academia!

Andrew Newman (Wayne State), Innocent Mwaka (Cologne), and me at the farewell dinner. Innocent, a graduate student at the GSSC, hopes to be the first anthropologist in Ugandan academia. He has my vote. Do I get a vote?

papers was extraordinary. Indeed, I emerged from this panel less secure than ever about the purportedly unique characteristics of the modern labor migrants I study.

The conference as a whole included six other excellent panels. A portion of the conversation at the conference concerned how applicable and appropriate the concept of a “global south” remains. The fact that the conference included numerous scholars who count themselves of the “global south” only enhanced the conversation.


Women without Men: New Book by Jennifer Utrata

Hi all,

Utrata CoverAs families change rapidly throughout the industrialized world, more women are finding themselves raising children on their own, as single mothers (most single-parent households are single-mother households). Yet what it means to be a single mother varies widely. In the United States, single mothers are often stigmatized, with politicians and pundits blaming poverty, crime, “family breakdown,” and even gun violence on single mothers. In Russia, however, even though two-parent families are preferred, single motherhood is normalized.

A new book by Jennifer Utrata, Associate Professor of Sociology, Women without Men: Single Mothers and Family Change in the New Russia (Cornell University Press), uses original fieldwork data and intensive interviews to explain why single motherhood has become taken for granted in Russia. Telling stories of hardships and triumphs through the eyes of single mothers, married mothers, grandmothers, and nonresident fathers, the book offers an in-depth portrait of family life and draws comparisons with parallel experiences in the United States.

Here’s a synopsis of the book from Cornell University Press:

Women without Men illuminates Russia’s “quiet revolution” in family life through the lens of single motherhood. Drawing on extensive ethnographic and interview data, Jennifer Utrata focuses on the puzzle of how single motherhood—frequently seen as a social problem in other contexts—became taken for granted in the New Russia. While most Russians, including single mothers, believe that two-parent families are preferable, many also contend that single motherhood is an inevitable by-product of two intractable problems: “weak men” (reflected, they argue, in the country’s widespread, chronic male alcoholism) and a “weak state” (considered so because of Russia’s unequal economy and poor social services). Among the daily struggles to get by and get ahead, single motherhood, Utrata finds, is seldom considered a tragedy.

Utrata begins by tracing the history of the cultural category of “single mother,” from the state policies that created this category after World War II, through the demographic trends that contributed to rising rates of single motherhood, to the contemporary tension between the cultural ideal of the two-parent family and the de facto predominance of the matrifocal family. Providing a vivid narrative of the experiences not only of single mothers themselves but also of the grandmothers, other family members, and nonresident fathers who play roles in their lives, Women without Men maps the Russian family against the country’s profound postwar social disruptions and dislocations.

Congratulations, Jennifer!

The 2015 Senior Thesis Poster Session

IMG_5991Hi all,

On Friday, ten SOAN seniors presented their work at the annual Senior Thesis Poster Session. The event was very well attended, and included two of our alumni from years past — Aliyah Simcoff and Sarah Plummer. The students’ theses are currently under final revision. Here’s a list of the ten seniors who pursued the optional thesis in our reconfigured curriculum:

  • Mason Constantino Empowerment Through Care: An Ethnographic Examination of a Youth Gardening and Experiential Learning Program in Tacoma, WA
  • Logan explaining his project

    Logan explaining his project

    Logan Day Complicating Common Misperceptions of Muslims: An Ethnographic Exploration of the Media-driven Public Perception of Muslims and Arabs 

  • Kara Flynn Public History, Archives, and the Role of the Institution: The Salmon Beach Community
  • Chelsea Harris “A church on every corner, a coffee shop on every corner”: A Study of Two Evangelical Christian Organizations Within the Tacoma Faith Market
  • Chelsea describing her project

    Chelsea describing her project

    Kasey Janousek The Fashionista’s Dilemma: Personal Identity vs. Conformity Through the Vehicle of Fashion Trends

  • Edward Jones Transformational Festivals as Intentional Communities: Redefining Festivals Through the Experiences of Volunteers
  • Reilly Rosbotham Imagining the Wild: Changing Definitions of Wilderness and their Impact on the Designation and Management of Wild Sky
  • Ali Smith Anti-Trafficking Organizations: A Washington State Perspective
  • Elise Zeidman Narco-Violence, Migration, Detention, and Asylum: An Ethnographic Exploration of Mexican Migrant Pathways
Students and faculty concluded the day with a social at E9

Students and faculty concluded the day with a social at E9

Later that evening, students and faculty retired to E9 for our traditional end-of-the-semester SOAN social.




Help Grassroots Efforts in Nepal!

Hi all,

As many of you know, I have quite a few friends in Nepal as a result of my research on transnational migration to Qatar and the other Gulf States. Some of my friends there have organized a small NGO that is providing help and assistance to the many, many in need. Your donations we welcome, and instead of those donations going to purchase Toyota Landcruisers for western-based experts to assess the situation on the ground in Nepal, your donations will go straight to a small group of Nepalis who are dedicated to assisting the many, many households impacted by this natural disaster.

Read more and, if possible, donate here! Be sure to look at the photos and updates about their activity.

safey first


Bringing Southeast Asian Studies to Puget Sound

Over the last few weeks, you may have heard about some new opportunities to study Southeast Asia-related topics at Puget Sound, including Thai language. But just what’s going on with this program, and what can you expect to see in the future? Well, I’m glad you asked…

My first Indonesia trip at Puget Sound, with Professor Ben Lewin and SOAN (then CSOC) students including Delaney Height, Malorie Spreen, and Kadie Burton.

My first Indonesia trip at Puget Sound, with Professor Ben Lewin and SOAN (then CSOC) students including Delaney Height, Kadie Burton, and Kira Wilpone-Jordan. June, 2009.

Since I began teaching at Puget Sound in 2008, I have been taking groups of students on summer course-trips to Indonesia, where my research is based. I’ve been lucky to have had the help of SOAN professor Ben Lewin on three of these trips, which quickly became integrated into the curriculum back in Tacoma through SOAN 312, where we studied Southeast Asian cultural, linguistic, and environmental topics before departing to continue our coursework in-country. We’d also collaborated with Nick Kontogeorgopoulos in IPE to do a joint Indonesia-Thailand course trip. So when I heard from Associate Dean and SOAN professor Sunil Kukreja about an opportunity to apply for a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation that supported environmental initiatives in Asia, I immediately thought of the work we’d been doing, and the student excitement we’d encountered around faculty-led study abroad in Indonesia and Thailand.

Hang on there… what’s the Henry Luce Foundation?

Gareth Barkin in front of the Luce Memorial Chapel, on the campus of Tunghai University, Taichung, Taiwan.

Gareth Barkin in front of the Luce Memorial Chapel, on the campus of Tunghai University, Taichung, Taiwan.

The Luce Foundation was created by publisher Henry R. Luce to promote Asian studies, particularly in smaller, liberal arts institutions like ours. In prior years, the Luce Foundation provided grants to Puget Sound that created my position at the University, as well as that of Professor Kontogeorgopoulos, who conducts research in Thailand. So we knew they were supportive of Southeast Asian Studies on our campus, and that they valued the work we’ve done. When we learned of this new opportunity, Associate Dean Kukreja, Professor Kontogeorgopoulos and I collaborated with faculty from Environmental Policy and Decision Making to craft a proposal that focused on the expansion of our existing field-course model. This model involves a full semester of study on campus, including some language training, combined with an integrated abroad trip over the summer.

So they just gave you guys a big grant to continue doing that?

Students on the 2014 course-trip prepare to release some baby turtles who were part of a turtle 'head start' program. Tangkoko, June 2014.

Students on the 2014 course-trip prepare to release some baby turtles who were part of a turtle ‘head start’ program. Tangkoko, June 2014.

No, they did not. First, we applied for an exploration grant and undertook a pilot program to successfully demonstrate our concept, integrating a greater focus on environmental studies and collaboration with EPDM faculty. In addition to the pilot class, 2014’s SOAN 312, we started to explore some of the additional elements we wanted to bring to our program, and which we hoped the Luce Foundation would support. These included hiring a native speaker to teach the class Indonesian language, holding a workshop for faculty on experiential learning abroad, and bringing out guest speakers to engage the campus community in a discussion of Southeast Asian environmental topics. During the last week of the field course, Professor Peter Wimberger from the Biology Department and EPDM joined us in North Sulawesi, to help expand and strengthen our discussion of environmental and conservation issues.

This blog is already pretty long.. maybe just cut to the chase?

But there’s so much more to this story! Ok, fine, well the pilot project went really well, and we were even able to do a small-scale symposium, which will become a big part of our full implementation grant, which we were also awarded! Over the next four years, our new Southeast Asia Program will include a lot of great opportunities for SOAN majors, including:

  • Southeast Asian field schools—intensive student learning abroad, conducted with Asian partners and involving a full semester of on-campus study, plus three weeks of summer overseas research. Planned courses will fall in the SOAN, IPE, and EPDM departments.
  • Phased introduction of new Southeast Asian language courses, including Thai, Indonesian, and Malay, which currently are rarely taught as full-credit courses in Washington state, much less at liberal arts universities.
  • Grants for faculty members to explore and develop future Southeast Asian field schools or enhancements to the curriculum (which may influence your courses in the coming years)
  • An annual Southeast Asia Symposium that will draw international speakers and scholars from around the state, and that will be a resource center for Pacific Northwest partner colleges

What’s a symposium?

Southeast Asia Symposium

Students from the 2014 trip present their research at the first annual Southeast Asia Symposium. Participants included SOAN students Lenny Henderson, Chelsea Steiner, and Kasey Janousek.

Seriously? Okay, well this symposium is a forum that draws together the field schools, language classes, and faculty initiatives while placing a focus on reaching the campus community and infusing the knowledge gained from these programs throughout the university. In addition, symposia will bring together Southeast Asia scholars from around the Northwest along with speakers and artists from Southeast Asia in one three-day period that involves workshops, research panels, performances, and informational sessions. Organized around a central theme, the annual symposium compels students from our Southeast Asia field schools to reflect on and share their experiences and their research, to engage potential students with the next field school, and raise faculty interest in Southeast Asia.

Well, I’m sold! How can I take advantage of this tremendous opportunity?

SOAN major Elana Maslow shows off her freshly dried batik painting at BatikJolawe, Yogyakarta in February. Will there be batik at the 2015 Symposium? Come and find out!

SOAN major Elana Maslow shows off her freshly dried batik painting at BatikJolawe, Yogyakarta in February. Will there be batik at the 2015 Symposium? Come and find out!

That’s more like it. If you’re interested in Thailand, that will be next year’s focus, as Nick Kontogeorgopoulos leads a course-trip there in the spring/summer of 2016, and Thai language will be offered both fall and spring. There are still some spaces open in Thai 101 at the time of this writing, so consider enrolling!

Want to learn more? Come to the symposium this October 23-25, 2015! In addition to an exciting keynote talk and student presentations from Professor Wimberger’s course-trip to Malaysia that is currently underway, we’ll have panels with PacRim returnees who did Southeast Asia research, faculty participants from around the Northwest, and an information session for those interested in applying for the Thailand course. There will even be a tasty banquet and possibly some arts and/or crafts.

What if I’m really interested in these programs, but for some reason have no interest in Thailand?

Lucky for you, we plan to shift field-course destinations and topics as well as languages each year. In the next few years, we hope to return to Indonesia with SOAN 312 again, and to Malaysia, while offering Indonesian and Malay language courses on campus. For more information, be sure to check out the Southeast Asia Symposium & Programs website, and feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions.

See you at the Symposium!


SOAN Senior Thesis Poster Session

SOAN Senior Thesis WordleHi all,

The ten SOAN seniors who pursued independent thesis projects over the last academic year will be presenting their work at the annual SOAN Senior Thesis Poster Session. Come explore their diverse and interesting projects! Food and drink will be provided, and the details are as follows:

SOAN Senior Thesis Poster Session
Friday, May 1, 2015
11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Location: Trimble Forum

We hope to see you there!


Dr. Devparna Roy publishes a new article

Hi all,

A woman picking cotton in southern India. Photograph from The Hindu.

Manjula S. Maralappanavar, an Indian researcher who has struggled with a research agenda focused on public sector genetic modification of seeds.

In her newly published article in the excellent Journal of World-Systems Research, SOAN’s Dr. Devparna Roy explores the social, political, and ideological battle over genetically-modified seeds in contemporary India. The American conversation about GMOs has broached some unforeseen frontiers, but the battle in India is heated. In Devparna’s analysis, she charts how opposition to genetically modified seeds has brought together a constellation of traditionally-opposed political actors. Those actors are unified not by their opposition to capitalism, but rather by their opposition to corporate dominance of the genetically modified seed market — corporations based in what world systems theory refers to as core states (e.g. the United States, Western Europe, etc.). Her article is entitled Contesting Corporate Transgenic Crops in a Semi Peripheral Context: The Case of the Anti-GM movement in India, and is part of a special issue (edited by Mangala Subramaniam) containing articles that explore social movements in the world system. Here’s her abstract:

Market penetration by the hegemonic core state’s agricultural biotechnology firms has been preceded and accompanied by a vigorous anti-genetically modified seeds (anti-GM) movement in semi-peripheral India. To understand the extent of anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism exhibited by the Indian state, it is useful to investigate the character of democratizing forces— such as the anti-GM movement—which interact with and shape the state. I use primary and secondary data sources to analyze the anti-GM movement in India and argue that the movement is anti-corporate without being anti-capitalist. Further, it is counter-hegemonic but not anti- systemic. These four traits reflect the strengths and weaknesses of exemplary coalition-building between right-wing nationalists, centrists, and left activists. The Indian anti-GM movement suffered an early failure when the Indian state commercialized Bt cotton seeds in 2002, following the entry of unauthorized Bt cotton seeds and lobbying by farmers’ groups for legalization of Bt cotton seeds. However, an effective coalition between the right-wing, centrist, and left elements was built by about 2006. This was followed by a most significant victory for the anti-GM movement in February 2010, when the Indian state placed an indefinite moratorium on the commercialization of Bt brinjal seeds. A second, more qualified, victory was achieved by the anti-GM movement when the Indian state placed a hold on field trials of GM crops in July 2014. The anti-GM coalition has been successful in pressing ideologically different political parties to take steps against the multinational seed firms based in core states. Further, it has enabled the Indian state to move from a sub-imperialist to an anti-imperialist role regarding GM seeds. But until the anti-GM coalition in India resolves its inner contradictions and becomes resolutely anti-capitalist and anti-systemic, it will not be able to effectively challenge the anti-imperialist Indian state’s pro-capitalist stance regarding GM seeds and industrial agriculture.

Large transnational corporations also control access to many academic publications, but the Journal of World Systems Research is in the rebellious vanguard: all published articles are open access. Have a look at Dr. Roy’s paper here!

Best wishes,