New Course: Asian Medical Systems (CSOC 225)

In case you haven’t seen the posters around McIntyre, Dr. Denise Glover is offering a new course next semester. Asian Medical Systems (CSOC 225) is a basic introduction to three traditional medical systems of Asia: Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and Tibetan medicine. We will examine theoretical underpinnings, training of practitioners, materials and techniques utilized in treatment, and important historical developments in each system. Additionally, we will explore issues of the interface between biomedicine and these systems, and larger issues of globalization in the practice and consumption of traditional medicines. Taking an anthropological approach, we will aim to understand each system from within itself while also paying close attention to the social and cultural conditions under which each system has thrived and has also faced challenges. We will examine how systems of healing are both biologically as well as culturally based. Furthermore, we will consider how these medical systems relate to issues of national identity and global politics.

Students with questions can contact Professor Glover at


Barcelona and a Meeting about Circular Migration

The lovely campus of the University of Barcelona

Hi all,

If you’re a student of mine, you know that I spent the fall break in Qatar and Spain. Although most of my mid-semester time away was spent working with my collaborators on the two Qatar-focused projects I’m leading, I was invited to deliver a paper at workshop sponsored by the United Nations University (UNU) in Barcelona (in cooperation with the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona). That paper will eventually become part of a book to be published by the UNU. The workshop provided all of the contributors with an opportunity to present a draft of their work and, in a larger sense, to bring their chapters into cadence with one another. I thought I would tell you a little more about it.

My contribution to the volume is being prepared in collaboration with Zahra Babar (Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University in Qatar). Over the past few years, she’s developed an expertise in the policy frameworks by which the Gulf States manage and govern the vast flows of foreign labor to the region. I know a little bit about this as well, but my strengths are ethnographic in nature, and largely concentrated around the experiences and perspectives of the migrants who arrive in the Gulf in search of opportunity. In Europe and North America, the idea of “circular migration” has a particular currency at the moment: policymakers and states are interested in finding ways to support the eventual return of migrants to their home countries. In our paper, Zahra and I are considering how the circular migration framework might or might not describe the sorts of migration patterns we see in the Gulf States. While our argument is evolving based on our conversation with the other scholars at the workshop, we remain somewhat concerned that this framework helps justify some of the more problematic aspects of the Gulf migrant’s experience on the Arabian Peninsula, and inevitably seems to guide our attention away from the failure of development in many of the countries from which these Gulf migrants come.

We’ll return to Barcelona for a second meeting in February — I’ll post another update then.

Best wishes,


Reminder – TONIGHT: Indonesia/Thailand Course Interest Meeting


Just a reminder that the interest meeting for Southeast Asia in Cultural, Political & Economic Context will be tonight at 5pm in McIntyre 309.

It’s the CSOC/IPE course that includes a trip to Southeast Asia at the end of spring semester.

We will be discussing the details of the course and trip, showing some photos, and distributing applications. Should be over by 5:30 or so. See you there!

Catching up with Amanda Hart, class of ’10

Hi all,

Amanda Hart (left) and her colleagues, evidently practicing AmeriCorps maritime evacuation procedures.

We asked Amanda Hart, class of 2010, to pen a piece for the blog about her AmeriCorps experience. What we got back was this lovely essay, entitled “My Year of AmeriCorps: So Nice I Did It Twice!”

Don’t get me wrong here, I know plenty of people (many of them fellow CSOC-ers or with similar backgrounds) who have shared with me their AmeriCorps horror stories, of being overworked and underpaid, overwhelmed by a sense of responsibility for things with which they had no previous experience, and shockingly underappreciated for the efforts they made to take on these responsibilities.  However, after a junior year study abroad experience that left me disillusioned about the Peace Corps program and what I considered to be its entitled vision of “knowing what’s best” for other countries and cultures (thank you, Anthropology, for making me overanalyze everything), I figured AmeriCorps would be a good way to give back to a community that I already pretty much understood.  I mean, I’m an American, right?  Wouldn’t I kind of already know what to do here?  These were the two main conceptions I had of AmeriCorps—that is, that I’d likely be pretty miserable but also have an intrinsic knowledge of what to do—when I accepted my position as a Community Involvement Specialist for an afterschool program run by a local non-profit at a Portland area elementary school.  Of course, I was wrong.

One of my first realizations about AmeriCorps was that you should never use the official AmeriCorps website to look for a position.  There is something very wrong about that website, and I am convinced it will only confuse you and make you feel bad.  Many amazing non-profits now apply for grants to fund AmeriCorps positions in their already-established programs, and these are good to look for.  Do your homework!  Make sure you research these organizations first to make sure they are effectively run and value their employees, and that should mean they’ll treat you and your position well, too. 

Another realization: Don’t believe the hype!  Or at least not all of it.  The truth of the matter is that most AmeriCorps positions will be overwhelming at some point, because there is a lot expected of you.  But once I realized that I was feeling this way because I was, say, trying to plan a ground-breaking ceremony for our school’s community garden, or organizing a comprehensive system of ordering the rush of families at our weekly food pantry distribution, I understood that this is the good kind of overwhelming.  Truly, AmeriCorps is uniquely awesome in that it allows you to gain hands-on professional experience to an extent that is hard to come by in other jobs you might qualify for right out of college.  As someone who struggles with feeling like I’m “doing enough” with my post-graduate life, AmeriCorps has been an invaluable way to throw myself into community-building projects that really mean something to me and the community I’m supporting.  Which, yes, sometimes results in pulling 12-hour workdays, but I figure now is a pretty great time to give it all I’ve got. 

A final realization: I don’t actually know the American culture and community as a whole!  A-doy!  When I learned to stop beating myself up for having to work to understand the community I was now a part of, and the people within it, I could truly appreciate the relationships I have been slowly cultivating at my school.  Building trust and understanding takes time (almost a year in my case) and now that I’ve figured that out, I realized that another year of AmeriCorps, at the same site, is the right way to go.  Sure, having a disposable income would be nice, and I still cringe anytime someone refers to me as a “member” and not an “employee” with my organization (have I not earned the title?!), but there’s also a sense of freedom and a kind of self-righteous importance with AmeriCorps positions that is hard to beat.  So look into it!  I feel weird saying exactly where I work since there are a million guidelines and policies with this federally-funded program (all of which I’ve forgotten), but if you email me I’ll tell you everything I know.  Which isn’t much, but I definitely have some good stories.  Good luck and hack hack chop chop!

Thanks, Amanda. We hope you have a great fall semester at your school.

Interest meeting for new Southeast Asia field course: Thursday, 10/20 @ 5pm

Southeast Asia in Cultural, Political, and Economic Context is a new seminar course that incorporates an immersive cultural experience in Indonesia and Thailand for two weeks at the end of the semester.  It replaces CSOC 312 for this year, will be taught by Gareth Barkin and Nick Kontogeorgopoulos, and counts as an upper-division elective for CSOC and IPE. Applications are required, and the informational meeting should be attended by all interested students.  The study-abroad portion of the course is integrated into the curriculum, and will require fees, including airfare. 

Course Description

This course provides an overview of diversity and change in Southeast Asia, with a focus on, and field component in, Indonesia and Thailand. Students will examine the origins and development of complex state societies from an in-depth, ethnographic perspective. Students will explore issues of religious syncretism, gender, agriculture, the cultural impact of European colonialism, and the post-colonial period of nation building in Southeast Asia. Students will also delve into geographically focused case studies, which look at the cultural component of many important issues facing the region, including environmental decline and deforestation, the impact of globalization, the problems of ethnic and religious minorities, and other socio-cultural issues. The second half of the course will examine economic and political processes shaping the region. Specific topics include the economic legacies of colonialism, contemporary patterns of economic growth, patterns of change in rural communities, the process of urbanization and challenges faced by residents of Southeast Asian cities, the role of the state in managing development, democratization and human rights in Southeast Asia, and demographic patterns. The international portion of the course lasts approximately two weeks, and features an immersive stay at local universities in Indonesia and Thailand. The field component is required, and includes guest lectures by local scholars, trips to cultural and historic sites, ethnographic projects, and potential trips to neighboring areas. Students will be responsible for their own airfare, as well as other potential program fees. Prerequisites are CSOC 200 or IPE 201. Application and instructor permission are required.

INTEREST MEETING: Thursday, October 20th, 5pm in McIntyre 309


New Book from Andrew Gardner

The third of four books published by faculty over the last year: Andrew Gardner, Associate Professor of Anthropology, published his new book, City of Strangers: Gulf Migration and the Indian Community in Bahrain with Cornell University Press. The book explores the experiences of transnational Indian migrants in the wealthy Arabian Gulf States. The book is broadly concerned with the kafala (or sponsorship system) that governs migrants in the region, with the strategies by which Indian foreigners navigate the constraints of that governance, and with the impact of such a large foreign presence on the Bahraini state and society. His research received attention in the New York Times, the Gulf Times, and more).

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

In City of Strangers, Andrew M. Gardner explores the everyday experiences of workers from India who have migrated to the Kingdom of Bahrain. Like all the petroleum-rich states of the Persian Gulf, Bahrain hosts an extraordinarily large population of transmigrant laborers. Guest workers, who make up nearly half of the country’s population, have long labored under a sponsorship system, the kafala, that organizes the flow of migrants from South Asia to the Gulf states and contractually links each laborer to a specific citizen or institution.

In order to remain in Bahrain, the worker is almost entirely dependent on his sponsor’s goodwill. The nature of this relationship, Gardner contends, often leads to exploitation and sometimes violence. Through extensive observation and interviews Gardner focuses on three groups in Bahrain: the unskilled Indian laborers who make up the most substantial portion of the foreign workforce on the island; the country’s entrepreneurial and professional Indian middle class; and Bahraini state and citizenry. He contends that the social segregation and structural violence produced by Bahrain’s kafala system result from a strategic arrangement by which the state insulates citizens from the global and neoliberal flows that, paradoxically, are central to the nation’s intended path to the future.

City of Strangers contributes significantly to our understanding of politics and society among the states of the Arabian Peninsula and of the migrant labor phenomenon that is an increasingly important aspect of globalization.

Invited Speaker: Professor Miriam Kahn, Thurs Oct 13

Hi all,

The CSOC Club, in conjunction with the CSOC and IPE departments, is happy to announce the second presentation of the semester. Dr. Miriam Kahn (University of Washington) will be delivering a presentation entitled Illusion and Reality in Tahiti’s Tourist Cocoons. Here’s the key information:

Thursday, October 15, 5:00 PM
SUB 101

Refreshments will be provided. Here’s a more detailed description of the topic:

Professor Miriam Kahn, professor in the department of anthropology at the University of Washington, will speak about the idea of tourist “cocoons” — carefully managed spaces of illusion — prevalent in the resort hotels of Tahiti/French Polynesia. These cocoon-like environments, which are settings of total control, are highly effective strategies for coping with the disjuncture between the larger reality of Tahiti (with its pesky mosquitoes, ordinary buildings, and everyday Tahitians) and the Tahiti of tourists’ imaginations.

We hope to see you there!