Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
Admittedly, I've got a thing for monuments in the cultural landscape. This is a very nice article for a historical geographer on how memory and heritage are enshrined in the landscape; this process politicizes history in ways that shape the national narrative, and that shapes how we think in past. Using historical geography to understand the debates in the news? No way!! Here James Loewen writes in the Washington Post on the topic for a general audience.
"Ever notice how the media treats black protesters & white rioters differently?"
The AME church in Charleston S.C. was targeted in a racist-motivated terrorist attack this week. Many racial issues have come to the fore in the wake of this attack. Two flags were lowered more than 100 miles away in Columbia, the state’s capital, the one's picture above flying on the dome of the state house. Whether South Carolina politicians want to or not, the issue of the Confederate Battle Flag has resurfaced because as a sanctioned part of the cultural landscape, it's symbolism is continually called into question.
"We have a myth today that the ghettos in metropolitan areas around the country are what the Supreme Court calls 'de-facto' — just the accident of the fact that people have not enough income to move into middle class neighborhoods or because real estate agents steered black and white families to different neighborhoods or because there was white flight. It was not the unintended effect of benign policies, it was an explicit, racially purposeful policy that was pursued at all levels of government, and that's the reason we have these ghettos today and we are reaping the fruits of those policies."
"As attacks against foreigners and their businesses rage on, killing at least six people this week, other nations in the continent are scrambling to evacuate their citizens from South Africa. But this is not the first time xenophobic violence has exploded in a country that tries to portray itself as a diverse 'rainbow' nation.
What triggered this week's attacks? They started after Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini said at a recent gathering that foreigners 'should pack their bags and go' because they are taking jobs from citizens, local media reported. Shortly after his comments, violence against immigrants erupted in the port city of Durban."
Amid the celebrations this St Patrick's Day, there are also more somber commemorations taking place. In Mexico and in a small town in Galway, Ireland, they are remembering the hundreds of Irishmen who died fighting for Mexico against the United States: the San Patricio Battalion.
On St. Patrick's Day and afterward, many people shared happy pictures of Ireland, and that's lovely but I wanted this story. This is not a well-known story in the United States because it reveals the cultural prejudice against the Irish that was prevalent in the United States in the 1840s. I first learned about them in Mexico City, walking by a monument, that memorialized St. Patrick's Battalion. They were a group of soldiers that deserted from the U.S. army and chose to fight with their Catholic brethren on the Mexican side.
Questions to Ponder: Why are these historical events not usually mentioned in the U.S. national narrative? Why is this seen as very significant for Mexican national identity? What were the 'axes of identity' that mattered most to the those in St. Patrick's Battalion?
One of the main reasons I wrote this article for National Geographic about how to teach cultural empathy is nicely conveyed in the cartoon above--in spite of our cultural differences, I want people to see themselves in others. This is reminiscent to this New Yorker cartoon on the why there should not be religious conflicts in the world.
Before its subversion in the Jim Crow era, the fruit symbolized black self-sufficiency.
The stereotype that African Americans are excessively fond of watermelon emerged for a specific historical reason and served a specific political purpose. The trope came into full force when slaves won their emancipation during the Civil War. Free black people grew, ate, and sold watermelons, and in doing so made the fruit a symbol of their freedom. Southern whites, threatened by blacks’ newfound freedom, responded by making the fruit a symbol of black people’s perceived uncleanliness, laziness, childishness, and unwanted public presence. This racist trope then exploded in American popular culture, becoming so pervasive that its historical origin became obscure."
How alarmist, racist coverage of Ebola makes things worse. A dressing down of the latest #NewsweekFail.
The recent Newsweek Cover showing a Chimpanzee for the article, Smuggled Bushmeat Is Ebola's Back Door to America, has received a lot of criticism for being factually inaccurate, but also for it's portrayal of Africa that taps into deep-rooted cultural anxieties about Africa in United States. Western writers have use many cultural conventions to talk about "the Dark Continent" stemming from a long colonial tradition. Africa had been developing rapidly in the last decade and how Ebola fares seems to be a referendum on the continent for many cultural commentators. This great Washington Post article is less about Ebola, but uses the outbreak to analyze how we think about Africa, and sometimes it isn't a pretty reflection. The Ebola outbreak is teaching us how we perceive Africa as much as it is about Africa itself.
"Violence has a geography and for this reason, geography lies at the center of discussions of violence. Within the United States a myriad of taken for granted assumptions about identity, place, power, and memory undergird the nation’s psyche. These normative interpretations intersect with a particular kind of geographic formulation that places persons of color in general, but black men most specifically, at the center of the violent structures of the nation."
This isn't merely commentary about social upheaval or some musing about the social inequities (I think we've all read a ton of those articles). This is a geographic analysis that discusses the interactions, interconnections and implications of a social and spatial conflict between citizens and the institutions of the state. Ferguson, MO is undoubtedly a lightning rod today and some might prefer to avoid discussing it in a classroom setting; I find that as long as we put analysis before ideology, issues such as these show students the relevance and importance of geographic principles to their lives.
Thousands of Muslims in the Central African Republic have fled as UN chief warns of 'ethno-religious cleansing'.
Leave or die. It's come down to this for the Muslims of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. Muslims here once lived freely among the Christian majority, running businesses and praying in mosques. Now, many of the city's Muslims have fled, and on Sunday about 1,300 Muslims from Bangui's PK12 neighbourhood were evacuated to safety by peacekeeping forces.
Already one of the world's poorest countries, CAR has seen a wave of upheaval and violence in the past 15 months. The 10-month reign of the Muslim-dominated Seleka rebel group inflamed intercommunal tensions in the country, and spurred the rise of Christian militias called the anti-Balaka. Once the Seleka was forced out of power in January, the anti-Balaka rampaged, targeting Muslims across the country for their perceived support of the Seleka and its bloody excesses.
Also this interactive feature is worth your time...it won't make you feel all sunshine and rainbows, but the hard truth rarely does.
"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once stated,"A man who won't die for something is not fit to live." Arrested over twenty times, stabbed in the chest, his house firebombed and, ultimately shot and killed, King embodied the idea that equality and the African American Civil Rights Movement were worth dying for.He was a husband and father to four children as persecution and death threats filled his days, yet his example was one of nonviolent, civil disobedience.Had he not been assassinated, King would have celebrated his 85th birthday on January 15th."
Dr. Martin Luther King fought racial segregation (which, if you think about it, is a geographic system of oppression that uses space and place to control populations). Dr. King has been described as a critical geographer for some of his insights. In 1967, MLK stated, "The expansion of suburbia and migration from the South has worsened big-city segregation. The suburbs are a white noose around the black necks of cities… suburbs expand with little regard for what happens to the rest of America.” If you are a Maps 101 subscriber, please read the rest of this article that I co-authored with Julie Dixon. You can also sign up for a free trial subscription or listen to the article as a free podcast on Stitcher Radio.
Facing religious discrimination in the Hindu-dominated job market, many are forced to assume fake identities.
This is not that uncommon in India unfortunately. As the articles states, a government commission was appointed in 2005 to investigate the degree to which Muslims were disadvantaged in social, economic and educational terms. The commission concluded the socio-economic condition of most Muslims was as bad as that of the Dalits, who are at the bottom rung of the Hindu-caste hierarchy, also referred to as the "untouchables."
Where you live is important. It can dictate quality of schools and hospitals, as well as things like cancer rates, unemployment, or whether the city repairs roads in your neighborhood. On this week's show, stories about destiny by address.
This hour-long podcast addresses some has key issues in urban geography by exploring the history of redlining, the Fair Housing Act and other fair housing initiatives. The urban cultural mosaic of the United States and the neighborhoods of our cities have been greatly shaped by these issues. Currently gentrification is reshaping many U.S. cities and fits into the wider scope of the issues raised in the podcast.
"Portland is a city that some residents praise as a kind of eden: full of bike paths, independently-owned small businesses, great public transportation and abundant microbreweries and coffeeshops. And then there’s a whole other city. It’s the city where whole stretches of busy road are missing sidewalks, and you can see folks in wheelchairs rolling themselves down the street right next to traffic. It’s the city where some longtime African-American residents feel as if decades of institutional racism still have not been fully addressed."
Portland, Oregon is often discussed as a magnet for a young demographic that wants to be part of a sustainable city that supports local businesses and agriculture. This podcast looks behind that image (which has a measure of truth to it) to see another story. Relining, gentrification, poverty, governance and urban planning are all prominent topics in this 50 minute podcast that provides as fascinating glimpse into the poorer neighborhoods of this intriguing West Coast city. When in cities, we often use the term sustainability to refer to the urban ecology, but here we see a strong concern for the social sustainability of their historic neighborhoods as well.
"Drawing on data from the 2010 U.S. Census, the map shows one dot per person, color-coded by race. That's 308,745,538 dots in all."
This is an incredibly gorgeous interactive map of population density in the United States. It is very reminiscent of this North American Map with two major differences. On the down side, Mexican and Canadian data are not displayed but on the bright side, the added color component is used to show ethnic categories as defined by the 2010 U.S. census. Please explore this map at a variety of scales and in distinct locales.
Questions to Ponder: Is this a map of ethnic diversity patterns or is it a map of racial segregation? How come? Is there additional information that you would need to decide? This review of the map on Wired and Atlantic Cities described this map as a map depicting segregation: why would they say that?
Is there racism and discrimination in Japan? I was surprised to find out that almost all of my high school students (about 1000 students) were not aware of t...
This YouTube video has caused a tremendous amount of controversy in Japan, where most see discrimination as a problem in other societies. For some more context on the controversy, read this great Washington Post article on the subject.
Aboriginal leaders threaten to ban tourists from a top Australian landmark in protest at "racist" government policies.
This is an old article, but a fascinating topic that cuts across many geographic issues. Uluru, the landform that that European explorers named Ayers Rock, was the key place that is at the center of a struggle between indigenous people and the government. Many feel that the government's course of action in the mid 2000's was paternalistic and racist. They banned alcohol and pornography in over 70 indigenous communities in an attempt to lower the rates of child sex abuse. Sex Abuse is high (and often hidden) in aboriginal communities where a child is 7 times more likely to be abused than in the rest of the Australian population.
Questions to Ponder: Would the government impose such measures on other populations within Australia? When crimes have a racial component, does a government have the right to limit a particular groups' actions? Why or why not?
For many albinos — born with a partial or total lack of pigment in their skin, hair and eyes — life is difficult, and that is particularly true in Tanzania, where they are attacked for their flesh, the result of superstitious beliefs.
This is not a typical look at the cultural roots of prejudice and discrimination. It isn't racism per se (since albinism isn't a racial category strictly speaking), but it does show prejudice that is linked to physical appearance and skin color. There are deeply rooted folk traditions that endanger the lives of African albinos as explained in this podcast. This photo gallery shows some of Tanzania's albinos letting their light shine.
The University of Wisconsin-Superior is in one of the least ethnically diverse regions of the United States and the university is partnering with other local organizations across that region aimed at highlighting structural advantages within society for Caucasians. This campaign to make 'white privilege' visible has not surprisingly generated controversy and has made race and its impact of society an issue quite visible, to the discomfort of many. The author of the book, "Colorblind," speaks about this issue on PBS as he argues that the United States is not in a post-racial society.
Questions to Ponder: In what tangible ways can you see 'white privilege' in our society? Is this ad campaign a good idea? What does the term normativity mean and how does it relate to this topic?
This chilling documentary outlines the historical genocide of Tutsi people predominantly by Hutu's in Rwanda during 1994. So often, students who have always lived within a society with effective political institutions are unable to see how such atrocities could even happen. This video lays the groundwork for understanding the disintegration of political institution within Rwanda, reasons the international community underestimated the threat, why the UN in 1994 (after Somalia) was not prepared to use forceful action and why westerners fled. In this state of lawlessness, the cultural tensions and colonial legacy lead to horrific killings. This genocide has no one reason, but a complex set of geographic contexts. This would be a powerful video to show students. WARNING: considering the content, there are necessarily depictions of death. To learn more about the documentary, see: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/ghosts/
Twenty years ago this week, the Bosnian war began with the siege of Sarajevo, the longest in the history of modern warfare. The siege ended more than three years later, leaving 100,000 dead — the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II.
Ethnic and political conflict led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. This NPR podcast is a good recap that shows the devolutionary forces of ethnic, religious, cultural and political differences that led to tragic violence and ethnic cleansing.