Distraction Free Reading

Platypus Celebrates AAPI Heritage Month

In celebration and recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, take a look back at some of our favorite past posts from and about the region.

Translating South Asian Classical Medicine for Global Markets

Top down photograph of a bowl containing spices.

Spice box with turmeric

One of the earliest successful patent challenges relates to the reexamination and revocation of a claim for the wound healing properties of the turmeric plant. This patent revocation is widely cited as the first successful action to reverse bio-pirating activities and has had significant impacts on cultural heritage law and policy.


Men gathered at a meeting in a large hall. Seminar organized by Pakistan Bar Council on the law of Sedition titled National Dialogue: Unconstitutional curbs on the Freedom of Speech

Suspension, Risk, Suspicion: Field dispatches from Pakistan under COVID-19

Even if momentarily, the pandemic has rendered our assessments of Risk and Safety, nurtured carefully in the worlds of both statistics and racialized narratives of the War on Terror, rather ineffectual.


Hearing the Unknown: Case Studies in Cuba and Taiwan

The image depicts taiwanese traffic, with a motorist in the foreground and cars in the background. Also in the background are buildings full of billboards, streetlights. The image conveys a general sense of both bustling street noise and crowded living/business quarters.

The role of audio recordings in Cuba and Taiwan takes place on different scales; one has altered foreign diplomacy between two countries with already fraught relations, while the other exists in quotidian form between citizens and the state. In both cases, however, audio recordings have been used as a communicative tool to shift the discourse from questions about meaning to questions about ontology.


A black and white photograph of a flooded field with trees standing out from the water.

Is Uncertainty a Useful Concept? Tracking Environmental Damage in the Lao Hydropower Industry

A dam doesn’t have to collapse for it to be a disaster: even when dams work well they produce a tremendous degree of uncertainty for the people they affect about what might happen and what comes next.


#Hashtag: “I AM one of the 1.4 Billion”

To understand how the population is lived/felt is not to say that it is innocent […] Instead, it recognizes how decisions, choices, and feelings are made possible by and deeply intertwined with structural forces, and in my case, demographic transformation. Understanding how population prevails in everyday life, in a way, responds to anthropologist/sociologist/demographer Jennifer Johnson-Hanks’ call to be cautious about a “methodological individualism” (2008) by resisting the comfort we find in dichotomizing numbers and humanity. The case of population in China might just provide a valuable lesson about how population and life are mutually constituted.

Blockchain Reactions: The peril and promise of techno-governance for stateless Rohingya

refugees walking on a dirt road with truck in the background

The radical possibility lies in the way the biometric-blockchain assemblage seeks to simultaneously provide Rohingyas with evidence of their existence—by iteratively constituting their identity with each additional transaction recorded—even as that new identity becomes that which constitutes the platform for accessing new opportunities (bank accounts, loans, etc.), transforming the trajectories of that existence.

Cambodia in the time of COVID-19: Conceptions, perceptions, and approaches to the novel coronavirus

Colorful jars of Khmer Traditional Medicine wineWhile there was an overwhelming preference for using biomedicine for treatment in the event they caught the virus, especially among younger couples with children, several people mentioned that TKM could be used to alleviate many COVID-19 symptoms. As one interviewee explained, “Coronavirus is just a mixture of issues we already know how to cure with TKM.”


A yellow poster that says "Eye for Hong Kong. Upload a selfie to Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Reddit with your right eye covered." There is a cartoon pig head covering its right eye with its hoof.

Optics and Fluidity: Evading Surveillance in Hong Kong

It is within this broader context that Hong Kongers question surveillance systems across scales of sovereignty and political space to fundamentally challenge whose “security” and what kinds of bodily and territorial integrities these systems supposedly serve.


A white man and woman in blue t-shirts are seated at a table with laptops. A crowd of African people are standing in front of them. On the right, an African man is seated filling out paperwork.

The Migrant’s Right to a Digital Identity

Does the creation of a digital identity database really fulfill the “right” to a legal identity for migrants?



What do Japanese Internet Trolls think of Trump?

A picture of Shinzo Abe and Donald Trump in golf attire. Trump is giving a thumbs up to the camera.

Elizabeth Rodwell braves the depths of 5chan to find out why Japanese internet trolls are obsessed with Trump.



Workers’ fictive kinship relations in Mumbai app-based food delivery

A banner outside a Domino's pizza franchise in India seeking delivery personel reads: VACANCY: (Only for boyys)
Working in the gig-economy has been associated with economic vulnerabilities, however there are also moral and affective vulnerabilities as workers find their worth measured everyday by their performance of—and at—work and in every interaction and movement.


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