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Naming Species in Colombia’s Biodiverse Landscapes

Black and white microscopic images of textured fibers and spiky balls are distinguished in four panels and labeled with significant morphological features.

There is a unique pair of rules on Sattins Island, in Ursula K. Le Guin’s world of Earthsea. This pair is called The Rules of Names and though these rules circulate among the villagers, they are taught to children by the schoolteacher. Names are allocated on Sattins Island based on a person’s physical characteristics or any other visible aspect of their way of life. The local wizard, for instance, is simply called “Mr. Underhill.” An old wizard known for his ineffective spells but still respected by the villagers, he lives in a cave under a hill and doesn’t enjoy visits. Mr. Underhill was in fact listening to the schoolteacher, Palani, when she was teaching the children about the Rules. Noting his presence, Palani found it instructive to call Mr. Underhill and use his case as evidence for the omnipresence of the Rules. (read more...)

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The colors and shape of the cut glass boat shaped indigo bowl are projected onto a large and expansive white tarp that lies on the floor.

Ways of Looking: Alternative Encounters with Art and Artifacts

“When we encounter something beautiful, we usually experience two kinds of reactions. One may be moved by learning the background of the work or the artist, while the other one is an emotional excitement we feel for no apparent reason.”— Suntory Museum of Art. One would guess that this quote is based on theories of lateralization, stating that the right hemisphere of the brain controls emotion, while the left hemisphere is dominant in language expression. While there is evidence that discounts the left/right brain concept, many people still believe in this distinction and that their preference for reason or emotion may be genetic. Held at the Suntory Museum of Art in Tokyo, Japan, from April 27 to June 2, 2019, “Information or Inspiration? Japanese aesthetics to enjoy with the left side and right side of the brain” plays with this debate in brain science and invites visitors to experience art via two routes: the information route and the inspiration route. (read more...)

President Obama, congressman John Lewis, former President George W. Bush, and Civil Rights Movement veterans and other commemoration attendees marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in March, 2015

Heritage, Memory, and Infrastructure

There are places and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided. Many are sites of war – Concord and Lexington, Appomattox, Gettysburg. Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America’s character – Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral. Selma is such a place. In one afternoon 50 years ago, so much of our turbulent history – the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham; and the dream of a Baptist preacher – all that history met on this bridge. (President Barack Obama, March 2015) Standing on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on the fiftieth anniversary of the 1965 March to Montgomery, President Obama delivered these words to honor the traumatic history of Bloody Sunday. With “history me[eting] on this bridge,” the bridge stood as a sinister totem to a period of violence that Obama, as the first Black president, had seemingly redeemed, representing the promise of a new American nation that elected what it had once lynched. (read more...)

A young person with short hair that almost covers their eyes sits in a dark room looking at their phone, while holding their head

Neoliberal Morality: Shame and Self-Improvement as Control over Young People’s Digital Productivity

“Put your phone away!” “Why are you always on your phone?” “Being on your phone this much isn’t healthy!” These are words we all have probably heard before or said (in a well-meaning way) to friends, family members, or partners. While people of all ages spend increasing amounts of time with digital media, notably due to the COVID-19 pandemic, young people are especially scrutinized for doing so. (read more...)

A man uses a machine to collect samples from a mudpit.

Making the Invisible Seen: The Infrastructure of Modern Groundwater Governmentality in Taiwan

In 2009, the Taiwan High Speed Railway Company (THSR) claimed that severe land subsidence in Changhua and Yunlin counties was compromising and damaging the structural integrity of the railway. The THSR urged the government to regulate the over-pumping of groundwater in the region, which was seen as culpable for the land subsidence, in order to guarantee the safety of the rail users. Since the agricultural wells constitute a significant proportion of the total wells in these two counties, the safety issue became an issue of “water-justice” – local farmers have accused the Sixth Naphtha Cracking Plant owned by the Formosa Plastic Corporation of exploiting Yunlin’s surface water thereby forcing them to pump groundwater. To tamper farmers’ sentiments, the central government announced that according to a relevant survey, land subsidence was caused by deep wells, rather than farmers’ shallow wells. Therefore, the government would not forbid the pumping of groundwater by farmers in Changhua and Yunlin county. (read more...)

Dr. Dielentheis poses confidently pregnant with her son as representation of confidence in her health and her growing child's as she would have been vaccinated for the COVID-19 Pandemic if it had occurred six years ago.

“I’m Not an Anti-Vaxxer, I Just Don’t Want This Vaccine”: Understanding Vaccine Hesitancy among Pregnant Women

“The world isn’t made up of good people and death eaters.” -JK Rowling The world isn’t made up of people who choose to vaccinate and those who are vehemently opposed. With the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, understanding has changed rapidly. With the development of three effective vaccinations, there has emerged a group of people that exhibit what has been dubbed “vaccine hesitancy.” This is a relatively new phenomenon in terms of new vaccination–the uptake, for example, of the polio vaccination in the early 1950s, was more immediate and widespread. The Zika epidemic also provides an interesting contrast to the current situation as well. I use these examples simply as a foil to the current pandemic and draw a number of interesting similarities and differences. (read more...)

person holding smart phone taking picture

Regulating Misinformation from the Global South

India is among the top three internet markets internationally with nearly seven hundred million users. What can debates in India about protecting user privacy under right-wing authoritarian political regimes highlight about social media platforms and the spread of misinformation? In February 2021, the Indian Information Technology, Law and Justice Minister announced wide-ranging regulations over social media firms, streaming services, and digital news outlets that require firms to enable traceability of end-to-end encrypted messages, acknowledge takedown requests of unlawful, misleading, and violent content within twenty-four hours, and deliver a complete redressal within fifteen days. Less sensitive cases, such as those engaging explicit sexual content, are required to be removed within twenty-four hours, and companies are required to establish local offices staffed with senior officials to deal with law enforcement and user grievances. These new regulations pose new challenges for technology giants which count India, Asia’s third-largest economy, as a key overseas market. These gains increasingly struggle with Prime Minister Modi’s government as his promise of muscular economic progress increasingly reveals itself to be ambivalent economic nativism. (read more...)

Old coal mine equipment in a park with graffitis on them

Coal, Care, and Climate change: When Things Remember What People Forget

As the US moves toward greener energy futures, how we remember coal – or do not – has significant implications for how we create more just energy transitions. The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) eventually came out in support of President Biden’s massive infrastructure plan, likely because it extended a lifeline to mines that produced high quality metallurgical or “coking” coal used in steel manufacture even though it concretized the administration’s commitment to decreasing coal production for energy. As a case in point, the New Elk Mine in southern Colorado fired up again in June 2021, with plans to ship nearly three million tons of coal per year to overseas steel-making plants. The mine’s reopening was noteworthy, given the region’s attempts to create a more sustainable economy in the wake of a major coal bust half a century ago. (read more...)