Category: General

2021 at Platypus

The first weeks of 2021 brought no relief, even though so many hoped otherwise. Instead, the first twelve days clearly demonstrated that exclusion, inequity, violence, and multiply intersecting systems of oppression didn’t magically disappear into the thin air as the clock struck midnight on January 1. Neither in the US nor in other parts of the world. (read more...)

Connection, Inc.: Fast Times for Online Dating in the Age of Quarantine

Have you noticed an uptick in move-ins or engagements in your social circles lately? How about divorces? While everyone seemingly dreads the loneliness of quarantine, statistical and anecdotal evidence suggest both move-ins and divorces are on the rise as we collectively strain under the burden of separation, immobility, and social and political upheaval. Unable to go to work, take a trip, or hug an acquaintance, we’re all unwitting participants in a global experiment in the psychological effects of social deprivation. (read more...)

Mobilizing Cemeteries, Representing Ancestors: The Infrastructure of Protest and the Anti-Petroleum Complex Movement in Pengerang, Malaysia

In 2011, the prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, and the CEO of the national oil company Petronas, Shamsul Azhar Abbas, announced the “Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex” (PIPC) project: a billion-dollar, state-led, mega refinery and petrochemical complex. The PIPC project promised to transform Pengerang, a small fishing village, into a world-class oil and gas hub that would fuel Malaysia’s economic growth for decades to come. It is the biggest of its kind in Southeast Asia and has negotiated a joint venture agreement with Saudi Arabia’s national oil giant Saudi Aramco as of 2017, guaranteeing a supply of crude oil to the PIPC for 20 years to produce petroleum and petrochemical products for growing Asian markets. Beneath the official “success story,” promoted by the Najib government and Petronas of how this “Rotterdam Port of the East”[1] would help Malaysia overtake Singapore as the leading oil and gas trading center of the Asia-Pacific region[2], the PIPC project has spawned a myriad of controversies and local resistances. (read more...)

The Silence before the Silent Spring: Narratives of Modernity and the Silences around the Toxicity of Pesticide Use

Pesticide-use and the control of pest populations with synthetic chemicals are a subset of the history of the “modernization” of agricultural practices. This narrative positions pesticides as an antidote to the food supply problem of the growing world population, but it remains eerily silent on the assault on the entire ecosystem that the continuous use of chemicals entails. These moments of silence in history act as heuristic devices that crystallize aspects of historical production that best expose when and where power gets into the story (Trouillot and Carby, 2015, p.15). The dominant narratives and silences around the question of pesticide exposure point towards the locus of power in the story of the development of modern agriculture. (read more...)

International Day of Persons with Disabilities: What Happens the Day After?

Twenty-eight years ago, in 1992, the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3 proclaimed December 3 as International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Immediately following the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery and followed by the International Day of Banks (yes), the International Day of Persons with Disabilities was and still is charged with the impulse “to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.” Each year, a specific theme is chosen to direct public attention toward a specific issue. In 2018, it was “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” In 2019, “Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda.” In 2020, “Not all disabilities are visible.” A product of a policy-oriented reformist environment, International Day of Persons with Disabilities helps to direct attention, mobilize action, and bring about material changes in the lives of people with disabilities. But what happens to these impulses on December 4th (besides the International Day of Banks)? (read more...)

When You Can’t Look Away: Seeing and Difference in American Medicine

When I interviewed her, Juliet was a third-year medical student and a dedicated member of her medical school’s interest groups on social justice. I interviewed her because her name came up in conversations with other medical students at her university, participating in anti-racist work in medicine. She had helped tally the results for her school’s racial justice report card the year I visited, and she cared deeply about issues of racial justice in medicine. She demonstrated in-depth knowledge and interest in our interviews as she discussed just how people of color were disadvantaged in medicine. (read more...)

The ICT Poverty Trap: How Technology Disparities Exacerbate the Spread of Disease and Division in Jamaica

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, social life has gone digital in new ways. People the world over are being urged to work remotely from home. Virtual get-togethers have replaced in-person gatherings as global mental health takes a tailspin. All the while, governments are being forced to switch to online platforms to deliver its services, such as welfare and various social programs. Perhaps more than at any time in human history, the ability to effectively participate economically, socially and even politically hinges on being able to harness Information Communication Technology (ICT) and its offerings. (read more...)

The Work it Takes to Stop Working: Productivity in Labs and Sugarcane

In spring of 2020, thousands of scientific labs across several continents shut down. What was deemed “non-essential” research was ramped down and/or paused in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and in some cases direct resources to Covid-19 research instead. Speaking with scientist friends and interlocutors in both Brazil, where I was carrying out research, and the US, where I’m from and have worked in labs myself, there was much discussion about what work to do in the meantime to continue progressing theses, dissertations, and research projects—in other words, to maintain productivity. On Twitter, numerous threads under the hashtag #phdlife offered advice and encouragement to “scientists without a lab,” as one graphic put it: (read more...)