A New Course on the Horizon — CONN 397: Migrants and the Global City

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Nepalese migrants on the waterfront corniche, with the gleaming skyscraper of Doha’s West Bay in the background

Hi all,

Professor Robin Jacobson and I are planning a new course for the Spring of 2019. The tentative title for the course is Migrants and the Global City, and while much of the course will happen on campus, it also includes trips to both Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Doha, Qatar. We intend to hold an interest meeting for students in February, so please look for our forthcoming announcement. But in the meantime, Robin and I have just finished scouting the possibilities for students in Qatar. While this is all still fresh in my mind (I’m on the plane home now), let me provide a glimpse of some of the activities we have in mind.

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Deep in the bowels of Souq Waqif

Architecture, urban space, and urban planning are a fascinating topic of study in Qatar. We’ll visit the ultra modern West Bay with a diverse set of glowing high rises ringed by the water. In contrast, we’ll stay in Souq Waqif, a revitalized Middle Eastern bazaar in the historic center of the city. It’s an impressive and bustling public space, worthy of attention itself, but walk a few blocks and more contrasts await. Robin and I wandered from the glittering streets of the Souq, scrubbed by migrants on hands and knees every morning, to the broken, trash-filled sidewalks of the nearby neighborhood where such workers might live. As Qatari citizens suburbanized in decades past, the core of the old city was abandoned to the legions of low wage foreign workers who make up a majority of the current population. In Qatar, migrants make up almost 90% of the total population, and while

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A villa in the center city, abandoned to foreign migrants in years past as Qatari citizens moved to the suburbs

they work everywhere, many of them reside offstage from the impressive city. In the Industrial Area, on the fringes of the city, labor camps fill the horizons, and on their day off, migrants from around the Indian Ocean gather to shop, eat, and socialize. Robin and I met with some old friends of mine and they drove us to a labor camp and the market area that workers frequent on their single day off in their work week. We hope to arrange a lunch where each student gets to meet a transnational labor migrant and learn a little bit more about their lives and experiences, and to see some of the Industrial Area. Migrants are everywhere you look, and they make use of the city in their own ways. Students will be able to experience and explore the energy they bring to the urban landscape, and the diversity that makes up this small Gulf State.

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For midday prayer on Friday, hundreds of muslim foreign workers pray on the city streets

Students will also get to talk with others who live, work, and study in Qatar. We had the pleasure to meet with scholars and those working for the government in various capacities. Students will get to connect with their peers at one of the many universities in the city, officials at the Ministry of Urban Planning, and Museum curators. In museums, the state oftentimes presents and codifies its national narrative — the stories nations tell themselves about themselves. In the Msheireb Museums, we encountered the stories Qatar has to tell about slavery, abolished in 1952, and about the transition from an economy based on pearls to one based on oil. We want our students to engage and explore those narratives, and to assess how the nation thinks about the integration of migrants into the stories it tells about itself.

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In the heart of the Industrial Area, thousands of foreign workers gather on Friday to shop, socialize, and connect with friends from home

If you’ve never been to the Middle East, this trip is going to reshape the way you think about the region. You’ll be safer than you are in America, and you’ll have an opportunity to engage with a sort of diversity that makes America look provincial. And Doha’s only half of our plan, as we’re also going to be traveling to Amsterdam!

If this might be of interest to you, look for our forthcoming announcement for a February student interest meeting.

Andrew​

 

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A Qatari traditional band rollicking on the cobblestones of Souq Waqif. Note the bagpipes — an instrument that traces its roots deep in Middle Eastern history.

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Borderlands Summer Research Experience for SOAN Students

Hi all,

While there are good opportunities for research via the Puget Sound AHSS Summer Research Program, my friend Dr. Joe Heyman (UTEP) just sent along this amazing opportunity for you to consider. Please drop by and chat with me if you’re interested!

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The Immigration and Border Community:
Research Experience for Undergraduates

This is a unique opportunity to learn social science research methods while collaborating with local organizations to conduct in-depth research about the unique challenges faced by border communities in the Paso del Norte region of southern New Mexico, El Paso and Ciudad Juárez.

The U.S. Mexico border is currently at the center of political controversy, one that has threatened to further disrupt border cities that were once closely integrated. Immigration is an important part of the Paso del Norte region and the increase in border enforcement has significant impacts not only on those passing through the border, but those who live here as well. This is a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to learn social science research methods through hands-on collaboration with local organizations about border enforcement and its impacts on immigrants and border communities.

Work will be fully funded by the National Science Foundation and is an excellent opportunity for students interested in pursuing a graduate degree or a variety of career paths. By collaborating closely with organizations already involved in advocacy for civil and human rights, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Border Network for Human Rights, your work will have a greater impact. Sample topics include:

  • The impacts of repealing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
  • Alleged abuse and mistreatment of migrants and community members by law enforcement
  • Asylum seekers in the borderlands: Access to due process and basic human rights
  • “Know Your Rights” campaigns
  • The history of community organizing and leadership development in the borderlands

Successful applicants will spend 10 weeks in the El Paso/Las Cruces/Ciudad Juárez region during the summer (May 21-July 28, 2018). Positions are fully funded by the NSF. Students will receive a stipend of $5000 and meal expenses. In addition, students traveling from outside the region will receive accommodation and $500 towards their travel expenses. We will also have several excursions, including a one-week intensive field-trip through the Arizona/Sonora borderlands.

(Please note, because this is federally funded, there are citizenship/immigration limitations—very sorry.)

For more information please contact Neil Harvey, (575) 646-3220, nharvey@nmsu.edu or Jeremy Slack, (915) 747-6530 jmslack@utep.edu

 

 

Denise Glover on Karma in Tibetan Medicine

board_Board_DeniseThe SOAN department’s own Denise Glover recently delivered a lecture hosted by the Bioethics club here on campus, and the school’s newspaper provided this synopsis of the
event. Great work, Denise!

Compassion and Karma in Tibetan Medicine

By Angela Cookston

Denise Glover in the Sociology and Anthropology department gave a lecture hosted by the Bioethics Club on the concepts of compassion and karma in Tibetan medicine on Oct. 25.

Glover has done research in China’s Shangri-La province on the Tibetan medical industry and local knowledge of environment.

“Tibetan medicine, in particular, pulls a lot from Tibetan Buddhism,” Glover said. “So there are a lot of ideas that come from the religious tradition that are appropriated into the medical tradition. In fact, for a long time they weren’t really separate traditions at all.”

The medicinal tradition is based on indigenous knowledge of environment and written texts.

One of the most central texts is “The Four Tantras,” which was written mostly between the 11th and 12th centuries. “Doctors still use this,” Glover said. “It’s hard to find that kind of parallel in western medicine, for example. Who studies a text that old? They’re considered out of date. But in the Tibetan medical tradition, they’re seen as very central.”

Tibetan medicine uses Mahayana Buddhist figures as ideal images of what doctors should be. The Bodhisattva of Compassion, who are beings that could potentially reach enlightenment but choose to not to in order to help others, and the Medicine Buddha, who has all the knowledge of healing, are used in this way.

“In the medical tradition in Tibet, doctors are supposed to basically emulate this kind of being,” Glover said. “Not only do the doctors imagine themselves as the Medicine Buddha … but the patient will have to do a similar thing, which is to imagine the doctor as intricately connected to the medicine Buddha.”

Next, Tibetan medicine’s doctors see the body as a collection of three “humors.” “These things are considered as a combination of a substance and an energy,” Glover said.

The three humors are wind, bile and phlegm. “Each one of these is responsible for a different function in the body. So, for example, movement: wind is responsible for movement in the body. Bile is responsible for digestion. And phlegm is responsible for lubrication.”

When the three humors are balanced, a person is considered to be healthy. But an imbalance can cause problems.

In addition to causing physical problems, the humors can cause emotional or mental problems. “The humor of wind is linked to desire. Bile is linked to hatred. And phlegm is linked to closed-mindedness,” Glover said.

All of the humors have negative emotional effects on people. “In fact, you could argue from the Tibetan medical perspective that if you have a body, then you are likely to end up with some kind of imbalance,” Glover said. One could have too much desire, hatred and closed-mindedness.

“It’s almost like a very natural thing for people to get sick in this medical system,” Glover said. “It’s kind of different than other medical systems that state, you know, the natural state is a healthy state. Yeah, health is natural but so is illness in Tibetan medicine.”

The three humors can become imbalanced due to physical or emotional changes. Additionally, past negative actions, or bad karma, can cause illness.

“How can you tell if you’re sick because of humoral imbalance or because of karma?” Glover asked the room. “[Karma] is used to explain when things are not getting better. Like, the doctor is trying to figure out, trying to treat the patient and the treatments are not working.”

In Western medicine, this is similar to the concept of an idiopathic disease.

Tibetan medicine uses a slow-acting treatment process which can take months to heal the patient. If, after three different treatment plans, the patient is still ill, the doctor will diagnose their problem as karmic. Tibetan medicine doctors can’t treat karmic problems.

If a person is ill due to a karmic problem, they must go to a religious monk, who will help them attain spiritual balance once more. However, when the illness is due to karma from a past life, it is much more difficult and sometimes impossible to treat, since one can’t go back into their past life and fix the problem.

“To me what’s significant about these two ideas in Tibetan medicine is how both of these concepts really stress the agency of the patient. The patient actually has some responsibility in their own illness,” Glover said. “And then it also stresses, of course, the responsibility that the practitioner has to have good motivation. To really be wanting to help the person and not, for example, to be making a profit.”

Spotlight on the SOAN Department at UPS

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Hi all,

I was recently asked to pen a description of the SOAN department, our curriculum, and how we go about training students in anthropology, for the newsletter of the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA). As you may know, students from Puget Sound have regularly attended the annual conference of the SfAA, where they’ve received numerous accolades and prizes for their work.

In this brief article, I provide an overview of our program, and also feature our current crop of seniors and the impressive constellation of independent research projects they’ve now commenced.

Please check it out!

Andrew

An Academic Workshop in Singapore

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In early 2017 I received an invitation from Dr Delphine Pagès-El Karoui (INALCO/Sorbonne) to join a small group of scholars in a collaborative workshop concerned with migrants and their experience(s) in the global city. I’ve just returned from the workshop, which was hosted by the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, and I thought I’d briefly describe the fascinating papers and conversations threaded through this two-day meeting.

IMG_0865The workshop itself was organized around researchers’ and scholars’ effort to grasp how migrants experience global cities and similar conurbations, with a regional focus on cities in Europe, in the Middle East, and in Asia. My own paper, entitled Transnational Labor Migrants in the Urban Landscapes of Contemporary Arabia, considered how the largely western foundations of urban planning have shaped the stunningly modern cities of Arabia, and thereby play a significant role in the experiences of the many foreign workers who build, service, and dwell in those very same cities.

Others’ papers were fascinating. Amongst the most memorable: architect and professor Yasser Elsheshtawy’s exploration of how Bangladeshi labor migrants utilize forgotten and marginal spaces in Abu Dhabi; Laure Assaf (EHESS/Universite Paris-Nanterre) analyzed how Abu Dhabi’s image and its interstitial spaces were a recurring trope in the Arab migrant youth’s hip-hop and rap videos on social media; Masaki Matsuo (Utsunomiya University) reconsidered how Furnivall’s idea of a plural society — a segregated form of ethnic diversity — provides a frame for understanding social relations in many global cities and societies in this era of mobility; Brenda Yeoh (National University of Singapore) and Michelle Foong (Hwa Chong International School) considered how the proliferation of college campuses in East Asia provide a new sort of cosmopolitan contact zone for students. Numerous other papers were equally fascinating, and many were concerned with Singapore itself. And additionally, the series of NUS graduate student presentations and contributions to the workshop were extraordinarily impressive.

IMG_0879On the last day of the workshop, after Singaporean professors K. C. Ho (National University of Singapore) and Brenda Yeoh (National University of Singapore) led us on a tour of historic colonial era portion of the city, we had a memorably fantastic Malay dinner at Mamanda restaurant. Malay cuisine is one facet of the tripartite ethnic and cultural diversity that the Singaporean state seeks to integrate in the city: the city and state actively push to integrate residents of Chinese, Malay, and South Asian heritage. These efforts even shape neighbors and building design in public sector housing, where a majority of Singaporeans live.

I had a fantastic (albeit brief) stay, and I’m looking forward to another visit.

Andrew

Catching up with Sam Carp, class of 2017

We knew Sam was headed out to Vashon Island after graduation, but upon hearing that he intended to remain on the island with another job, we asked for an update. Here’s what Sam had to say.

_DSC2550It’s been a little more than a half of a year now since I, along with 670-odd other students, graduated from Puget Sound in May.  Since then we’ve all gone our separate directions, attempting to tackle whatever we think is supposed to be the next step in our lives.  However while I have close friends living in places as near as Tacoma and as far as India and Australia, we’re connected by the fact that we are all in search of the same things: success, fulfillment, financial stability, love.  Mostly though I think that we’re all just seeking out happiness, which of course comes to us in different ways and through different means.  Not surprisingly, purposefully searching for these things never works out in the ways we might think they will, and oftentimes we seem to stumble upon them accidentally.

IMG_1989My post-grad life began in July on Vashon Island, where I interned for a few months on a small, organic, biodiverse farm called GreenMan Farm.  I guess that I instinctively thought being happy meant becoming a little bit more hipster and a lot more granola…  although I’ll never admit that I’m much of either.  However much I changed though, my time spent on GreenMan was something I’ll never forget, and I’m certainly still in the process of reflecting on all of the experiences I had over the last few months.

IMG_1968In school I had taken an interest in our food system and the ways that it is presently changing, which led me to take a class, The IPE of Food and Hunger, that first introduced to GreenMan Farm when we took a short trip there one Sunday.  I thought interning on GreenMan might be a great way to introduce myself to the sustainable food industry.  Luckily this turned out to be true, and I now have a much clearer idea of the ways in which I can integrate working with food waste, culture, and sovereignty into a possible career.

What’s funny is that, to my surprise, once my job on GreenMan Farm ended, I found that I was not in fact going to be leaving Vashon like I had expected, but would actually be taking a job there that would make me a full time resident on the island for the next year.  I’m home on break right now, but for the next twelve months or so I’ll be working for the Vashon-Maury Food Bank and the Vashon Island Growers Association in helping to build lasting programs that seek to decrease food waste and increase food sovereignty for residents of the 20526123_10211637266864385_6307743579979352283_nisland.  There are about 9,500 people that live on Vashon full time and many are in need of community support to access a consistently available and healthy source of food.  Fortunately this position fit well with what I became interested in while at school, and it just about fell in my lap right around the time that I was starting to look for what I wanted to do following the summer.  In all honesty, it was simply pure luck and chance that I would be working on Vashon right around the time this position would open up, but like I said before, sometimes we can’t see in advance what our next step is going to be.  I stumbled upon this position, but if this is where stumbling gets me, I’ll be happy to keep on doing it for a long time coming still.