Category: globalization

November 30, 2009 / / film
November 19, 2009 / / adoption

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

Time Magazine reports on women migrant workers who have been raped, and the resulting pregnancies:

While globalization has turned much of the world into a wide-open labor market, it has also created complex human and societal dramas. Women account for up to 50% of the world’s 100 million–strong migrant-worker population — and there is no effective entity to protect their rights and dignity. In 2008, Indonesians working abroad, commonly as domestic staff in the Middle East and parts of Asia, contributed about $6.8 billion to their national economy via remittances, according to the World Bank. And while statistics are difficult to come by, there are increasing reports of many who are physically abused, raped and — in some cases — killed by their employers…

…female migrant workers are raped and then dumped on the streets by their employers, who refuse to give them their passports after discovering that the women are pregnant. The women are then arrested by police and placed in jail. Sometimes they are deported before the child is born.

Normawati says there are dozens of children who were abandoned by migrant workers in homes throughout Jakarta and surrounding areas.

I really appreciate the way this article draws attention to the intersection of gender and workers’ rights.  The article focuses on Indonesian women working in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, but their stories are an illustration of a wider problem — those hit hardest by callous economic policies are almost always poor women of colour.

But it must be said that I do not care for the way Time Magazine characterises the women migrant workers.  The article doesn’t interview any actual migrant workers;  as a result both the mothers and the children they leave are painted as voiceless victims, when there is definitely a lot more to their existence than that. (For example, the women are referred to as “raped migrant mothers” – not “women who were raped while doing migrant work.” Potentially a small difference, but the first phrase reduces the women to the word “raped.”)  As well the article repeatedly emphasises how these women have ABANDONED their children; leaving the reader with a rather crude and over-simplified picture of women in unimaginable situations, forced to make terrible choices.

Read the Post Time Magazine on Gender, Migrant Work & Rape

August 21, 2009 / / class

Bryant Terry is an eco chef, food justice activist, and author of Vegan Soul Kitchen (VSK): Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine (Da Capo/Perseus March 2009). For the past nine years he has worked to build a more just and sustainable food system and has used cooking as a tool to illuminate the intersections among poverty, structural racism, and food insecurity. His interest in cooking, farming, and community health can be traced back to his childhood in Memphis, Tennessee, where his grandparents inspired him to grow, prepare, and appreciate good food.

Read more about Bryant here. I interviewed Bryant earlier this year for a project that never got off the ground. However, this interview was too good not to share.

So we are here with Bryant Terry who has a new book out called Vegan Soul Kitchen, which is a collection of recipes that look at food and veganism and culture. Can you explain a little about who you are and what you do?

Wow. I do a lot of things. These days, I’ve been saying I’m a creative person who does a number of things that help people be more aware of their environment, particularly their food. I call myself “the eco-chef” and a lot of people ask “well, what’s eco-chef? How did you come up with that term?” And for me, it’s about helping people become more aware of the interconnectedness of all living beings, and how we’re just part of this complex whole with the environment, the animal kingdom, the mineral kingdom, the plant kingdom. I just want to help people to see that, so we can be more compassionate and present, and see how every action we take affects the whole.

Let’s talk about your new book. When you started Vegan Soul Kitchen, what was your motive behind writing this book, and what were you trying to accomplish with it?

I’ll start by saying that I have some issues with both of those terms – both “vegan” and “soul,” meaning “soul food” because I think they can be loaded, and it brings up a lot when you use those terms. I always say “vegan” is a great way to encapsulate what I wanted to do with this book and I’m certainly aware of and very sympathetic to all of the issues that are important to people who understand themselves as vegans. While my diet is devoid of meat, I don’t call myself a vegan; I don’t call myself anything. I talk about the way I’m kind of on a continuum of consumption – I’ve been everything from an omnivore to a vegetarian to vegan to a fruitarian, I think I tried a breath-atarianism for a day. Given the fluidity of my journey, I’ve come to understand that a diet is such a personal journey. I don’t think it’s my place to say what anyone’s diet should be, and I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to say what one’s diet should be, it’s really about checking in and being on that journey with one’s self.

I don’t know if you needed to hear all that, but I wanted to share it. (Laughs)

No, that’s great to actually parse out. I know you did that a little [in your previous book] Grub, where you talked about how you didn’t want people to be sneaking around outside of their food boundaries. Can you explain that concept a bit more?

I came to that conclusion because of my own process, having been a vegetarian and then kind of moving into strict veganism and having a moment where I wanted to have some cheese and I wanted to have eggs, and I just felt like I might be hypocritical if I do that, or others might judge me, or the judgment coming from myself. And I felt a similar anxiety from other people who defined their diets in the same way, who felt that they needed to or wanted to shift their dietary pattens. I had a friend who was a strict vegan and she got pregnant, and for whatever reason, she decided that she wanted to start eating fish. And she was so anxiety-ridden about sharing that with friends, with family members, with colleagues, because she felt like it would somehow be such a departure from all the values she had been expressing about who she was. I really want people to feel free to just shift and change and not feel like they’re going to be damned to hell if they do that.

That’s fascinating, especially when you look at the conversations we’re having around food in the public sphere, especially as people are starting to realize that the issue we have around food and consumption and the issues we have concerning the environment are in some way linked. There is a lot of discussion of guilt around people’s food choices, or a lot of moralizing that it’s better to be vegetarian or it’s better to eat more vegetables. You got into that a bit in Grub – [the idea that] there are things that are better for your body, there are things that are worse for your body, but it’s more of a whole conscious eating.

Yeah, before I forget, I wanted to go back to your question about my new book and what motivated me to write it. The impetus to write this book came from me feeling so upset, almost livid, at the way in which African-American cuisine was being – and continues to be, in many ways – vilified, through the media, through public health officials, as kind of the bane of African American health. “African Americans are suffering from the highest rates of obesity and the highest rates of illnesses and it’s because of this soul food!” The big monstrous soul food. After I realized that, it pushed me to investigate the history of African American cuisine more and it hit me one day when I was reading this book, The Welcome Table, by this African American food writer/cookbook author/historian Jessica B. Harris, and she said that “African American cuisine or soul food was simply something black people ate for dinner.” Read the Post An Interview with Bryant Terry on Race, Class, Food, and Culture – Part 1

June 10, 2009 / / action alert

By Guest Contributor Ben Powless, originally posted at rabble

(Above: Police arrive with heavy reinforcements to forcefully remove demonstrators PHOTO: Thomas Quirynen)

The rhetoric was sharp enough to cut down Amazonian hardwoods. Yesterday, Sunday June 7th, after a number of ministers had been paraded out Saturday and the day before, Peru’s el Señor Presidente, Alan Garcia decided to make it personal. After a joint police-military operation aimed at stopping an Indigenous protest had gone awry, leaving many dead on both sides, Garcia declared the Indigenous elements to be standing in the way of progress, in the path of national development, wrenches in the gears of modernity, and part of an international conspiracy to keep Peru down. In a troubling statement on the resemblance of the Indigenous protesters to the infamous Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) armed insurrection, Garcia seemed to imply the Natives were a band of terrorists as he stood in front of hundreds of military officers in a nationally televised speech. He continued to decry the Indian barbarity and savagery, and called for all police and military to stand against savagery.

Clearly, the battle lines were being drawn. Garcia demonstrated he is not about to allow anything to get in the way of “our development” of the oil and mineral resources the Amazon has to offer. Especially by a bunch of confused savages (his words) who are pawns to the international market and to Indian elites and therefore have no real reason to be resisting. At this point, it was obvious he thought nothing of the Indigenous cause, and what they actually stood for. There is too much money to be extracted from oil, from minerals, from logging, and from possible agriculture in the Amazon region, the 2nd largest stretch outside of Brazil. All on land with less than 200,000 Indigenous people. All now supposed to be open for business, as a result of a series of laws passed under the auspices of Free Trade Agreements signed with both Canada and the United States.

(Above: Indigenous protestors confront the police on the highway outside Bagua PHOTO: Thomas Quirynen)

All those who lost their lives – certainly more than the 30 or so officially cited – have in the end given their lives for these free trade agreements and their domestic implementation. After wresting a concession from Congress – a la Bush – Garcia was able to push through 99 changes to the law of Peru. A number of these were ruled unconstitutional later, one dealing with property law standing out. Indigenous groups disputed from the beginning that these laws threatened the integrity of the Amazon, its cultural and biological diversity. Since the beginning, they were ignored. Living up to their Amazonian warrior mythology, they decided to take action.

Protests have lasted now over 50 days, only recently erupting into bloodshed when Garcia suspended civil liberties, declared a state of emergency, and decided to send in the military to end the dispute. This was all done in the name of Garcia’s idea of ‘democracy,’ which should be farcical to anyone who has the least idea what democracy means. Indigenous groups have maintained they want to be included in this so-called democracy, meaning they have a say over what happens in their lands, and that their rights be respected. This is clearly within international law now, after the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was approved two years ago.

indigenous terrorist
(Above: Police take away so called Indigenous ‘terrorist’ PHOTO: Thomas Quirynen)

Read the Post Peru: Battle Lines Drawn over the Amazon

February 23, 2009 / / The Brazil Files

by Special Correspondent Wendi Muse

Before I utter any statements of depth in this piece, I have to present a bias. Though not meant to offend those who believe in proselytizing, I find myself firmly standing on the side of those against it. If you feel that religion and/or a faith tradition of some sort is your source of hope, guidance for life, and possibly even your ticket to eternal salvation, so be it. I respect that, and I fully honor the right we each have to practice some form of the aforementioned. However, the second you start telling me or someone else which form is best (read: which version will prevent me from burning in hell for the rest of eternity), we’ve got beef.

With that said, I want to go ahead and put it out there that I take issue with the bulk of missionary work (past and present), especially that which takes place in developing nations. It is a reminder of the power of nations who sit firmly and comfortably in their G8 seats, spectators in a game of international tennis. Only in the case of missionary work, the victory comes at a higher price, one that can mean not only renouncing one’s culture, but also one’s religion (or at least denouncing it in public) as a means of attaining vital resources. This is not to say that missionaries have not done good work. There are countless records of missionaries who have helped others in excellent ways, minus all the religious rhetoric. However, even if the message of faith lies in no more than an utterance or the simple presence of the mission’s name, missionary work nevertheless boils down to a political campaign in the name of God.

In light of my objection to this line of work, I find myself dealing with a mental conflict almost every day of my present job. My campaign has nothing to do with God, but in terms of international influence, the English language and American culture come pretty darn close. Though I have been teaching English in Brazil since July of 2008, there are still a few things about my current profession that rub me the wrong way. The source of my discomfort in teaching my mother tongue lies in implications more so than tangible, empirical evidence, thus making my inner turmoil all-the-more “inner.” Much like a mosquito bite on the sole of your foot, my conflict has been an itch I can’t quite scratch.

Before enrolling in the program in which I am involved, I already knew I wanted to live in Brazil for a few months to a year to have more exposure to Brazilian culture, particularly an aspect of it that involved more of the quotidian variety. I was looking to go beyond the favela-riddled, bikini-clad, beach bathing, rainforested Brazil with which we are presented on our television screens and in our Netflix queues. I wanted to be forced to speak Portuguese on a regular basis and pushed a bit beyond my comfort zone. I was not looking for a spoiled, privileged, escapist ex-pat experience of the Eat Pray Love genre.

The easiest way to achieve my goal was to teach English here, but I knew in the back of my mind, I would be presented with interesting challenges that I may not have faced if I had chosen another route to secure a job in Brazil. For one, I would have to be a de facto representative of American Culture TM. My language and my country would be placed center stage during class, but what Americans do, eat, buy, and think would be the main topic of conversation at all other times as well. I would be reduced to a living, breathing souvenir. Yet in actuality, I find myself to be a bit of a disappointment to my students and the Brazilian English teachers, not for lack of teaching skills, but for lack of conforming to their ideas of Americans and American life. Read the Post The Brazil Files: Conflict of Interest

February 3, 2009 / / culture
December 17, 2008 / / activism

by Guest Contributor Tagland, originally published at Tanglad

I am an immigrant woman of the Two-Thirds World, who is living with the One-Third World.

I first came across Esteva and Prakash’s concept of the One Third/Two Thirds World via Chandra Mohanty’s Feminism Without Borders. The concepts recognize the transnational nature of capital, and how policies instituted by people in the One-Third World (middle and upper classes in the North and elites in the South) destabilize the lives of those in the Two-Thirds World, comprised by majority of the world’s population.

And most of the time, those of us in the One-Third World remain unaware of how our actions, well-meaning or otherwise, generate and perpetuate poverty and hardship.

For example, many of us in the One-Third World rarely reflect on our patterns of consumption, on how overconsumption contributes to substandard working conditions in Export Processing Zones around the world. If you’ve ever bought clothes from Nike, the Gap, or purchased products from Walmart and Target, for example, please take a minute to consider why your purchases seem so “affordable.” Ditto with that $2 bottle of wine from Trader Joe’s.

If you want to help those in poverty, take some more time to consider the consequences of top-down assistance programs that are instituted without any input or consultation from the communities themselves. This includes turning a critical eye on programs that present capacity-building and microcredit as solutions to poverty, rather than stopgap measures to systemic problems that are exacerbated by globalization. This means actually listening to the people in communities when they say that they need healthcare and education programs instead of yet another start-up handicraft business. Read the Post Poverty and the One-Third World

December 16, 2008 / / academia

by Guest Contributor Tanglad, originally published at Tanglad

It’s easy to understand the appeal of microcredit. Poor women from the Global South use loans as small as $20 to start businesses and lift themselves from poverty. The creditors make a profit when the loans are repaid. Win-win.

What do they say about things that look too good to be true?

A whopping 90 to 99 percent of these loans are paid back with interest, another shining indicator of microcredit’s success. But there is an ugly side to ensuring repayment, where poor women are made to police one another and punish defaulters with collective acts of aggression.

In her study of Grameen Bank microcredit programs in rural Bangladesh,* Leila Karim finds that the focus on the 98 percent loan recovery rate hides how beneficiaries are co-opted into “a political economy of shame.” Read the Post Microcredit: “A political economy of shame”