Film and Discussion with Professor Utrata this Weekend

loveless_discussionHi all,

Our wonderful independent local cinema, The Grand, will be screening the Oscar-nominated foreign film Loveless this weekend, with a discussion to be led by Professor Utrata. Be sure to drop by and check it out if you can fit it in your schedule!

 

 

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Informational Meeting for New Course

dscf5312.jpgHi all,

Just in case you missed the posters up around campus, Professor Robin Jacobson and I have organized an informational meeting tomorrow about the new course we’ll offer in the Spring of 2019 — CONN 397: Migration and the Global City. Here’s the key information:

Migrants and the Global City: Informational MeetingIMG_3056
Wednesday March 28, 2018
2:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Wyatt 226

At this meeting, we’ll review our basic plan and outline some of the additional costs associated with this course. In this course, we’ll be exploring migrants’ experiences in diverse global cities, the policies that shape those experiences, and how other nations grapple with the migrations and mobilities that characterize our contemporary world. Over Spring break, we’ll travel to Doha, Qatar — a truly fascinating city on the frontier of global modernity. At the conclusion of the semester, we’ll travel to Amsterdam to explore how that city continues to accommodate newcomers after several centuries of doing so.

We hope to see you there!

Andrew

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A Park Project in Tacoma

linnik 3This wonderful article from the latest issue of Arches magazine details the Zinna Linnik Project, Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood, professor Monica DeHart’s contributions to that effort, SOAN alumnus Maggie Tweedy (2010) and her thesis project, student Mushawn Knowles (class of 2020), and quite a bit more! The first few paragraphs are here — then just follow the link to Arches for more.

A park project in Tacoma empowered underserved kids and gave them a safe place to play. When one of those kids turned up at Puget Sound a decade later, he showed that human connection is stronger than the lines that divide us. It was Mushawn’s idea to build the garden. He was proud of that. His fifth-grade class had been invited to help design the empty park next to their school, and while the other kids were dreaming up slides and swing sets, spray grounds to run through on hot summer days, monkey bars and mosaic tiles, Mushawn Knowles ’20 told the landscape architecture students who were creating the park model that he wanted to fee the homeless and hungry.

 

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Mushawn Knowles (2020) and Maggie Tweedy (2010)

This was not an abstraction for a kid growing up in the Hilltop, Tacoma’s most underserved neighborhood—Mushawn had neighbors and friends in mind. So when he saw the garden sketched into the design plans for McCarver Park, it was a turning point for him. “I saw that I had a purpose, something that was bigger than me,” he says now, nine years later. “When I saw my idea manifest—that was empowering.”

[more]

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.

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.”

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