Archive for October, 2008

Heavy Metal in Baghdad: war, migration, culture

Posted in Cultural Geography, Geography and Globalization, Population Geography, Urban Geography on October 30, 2008 by geography101
Feature length film released in 2007

Feature length film released in 2007

Nate Millington alerted us to this film released last year which centres on one of the few (only?) heavy metal bands inBaghdad. Through the story of the band, the film Nate writes, “deals with a lot of issues related to cultural communities and migration, in particular. It ties in really directly to [migration and refugees] and gives a really strange, but ultimately compelling, look at Iraqi migration and the war.” See trailers and read reviews of the film, which premiered at the Toronto and Berlin International Film Fests last year, here.

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The Financial Crisis: A World System’s Theory Perspective

Posted in Economic Geography on October 28, 2008 by geography101

Immanuel Wallerstein, the leading proponent of World Systems Theory recently wrote that the current financial crisis signals the start of a worldwide depression and the end of US hegemony. He writes that our current system of capitalism

cannot survive. What we cannot predict is which new order will be chosen to replace it, because it will be the result of an infinity of individual pressures. But sooner or later, a new system will be installed. This will not be a capitalist system but it may be far worse (even more polarizing and hierarchical) or much better (relatively democratic and relatively egalitarian) than such a system. The choice of a new system is the major worldwide political struggle of our times.

Read the rest of his brief commentary here. Wallerstein’s piece, is part of a series on the state of the economy from the Brecht Forum with essays from Peter Marcuse and others.

Immigrants in the Core: Overlooked Economic Contributions

Posted in Geography and Globalization, Population Geography on October 28, 2008 by geography101

Here’s an article I wrote about African immigrants in France; its based on personal experience and highlights many of the economic and moral issues surrounding immigration that we’re discussing in 101 right now..

-Leif Brottem

Foreign Policy in Focus:

Immigration\’s Role Often Overlooked in Global Economy

Immigrant protest in Paris

Immigrant rights march in Paris

More on the US Census and the politics of prisons in Wisconsin

Posted in Population Geography on October 26, 2008 by geography101

Peter Wagner of the Prison Policy Institute responded to the posting “Effects of the US Census…” on our blog, noting that the “impact of the prison miscount of federal and state funding in Dodge County [discussed in previous post] is actually quite small”.

He suggests we have a look at the following articles to get a better sense of the political stakes in Wisconsin with regard to prisons, census data and the population geographies of electoral politics:

Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Wisconsin
A report from the PPI that “finds rural county and city government districts [in Wisconsin] that are as much as 79% prisoners. “This allows the real residents of a district with a prison to unfairly dominate their local government.”

Fuzzy Math: Is the Census Bureau creating unfair politics in Wisconsin?
Milwaukee Magazine article noting the effects on electoral politics in Wisconsin, a state where “the number of state prisoners grew from 4,000 in 1980 to over 20,000 in 2000. The growing number of miscounted citizens, the Prison Policy Institute says, causes “serious damage … to state and local democracy.”

New prisons mean new challenge for democracy in rural county 
An article about Chippewa County’s coming crisis from the prison miscount. Wagner writes: “One of the new prisons in Chippewa County is large enough to create a bigger vote dilution problem than in any other county we’ve studied in Wisconsin. If the districts were redrawn today, the district that included the Stanley Correctional Institution would be 72% prisoners. Every group of 28 residents near the prison would be given as much as say over the future of the county as 100 residents in every other district. Giving a small group of people 3 times as much political power as other residents because they happen to have a prison nearby isn’t just unfair; it violates state and federal law.”

Effects of the US Census: Prison-based electoral politics grows as number of inmates around the nation balloons

Posted in Population Geography, Urban Geography on October 25, 2008 by geography101
Ward two in Anamosa has all the benifits of a city council seat, but only 58 constituents. The rest are in prison.

Ward two in Anamosa has all the benefits of a city council seat, but only 58 constituents. The rest are in prison.

The US incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. About 1 in every 37 adults in the US is in prison. Rates are even higher if you are a person of colour, particularly a male. The prison population is counted in the US census. Counting prisoners in the US census but not on the ballot box can have severe effects. While this may not have posed as big of a problem in years past, when incarceration rates were much, much lower, its having huge ramifications today, in everything from how state funding is allocated, to how electoral boundaries are drawn.  The New York Times ran a story this week about an election in Anamosa, Iowa where Danny Young was elected as a representative to city council on a total of 2 votes. The reporter explains: “That is because his ward includes 1,300 inmates housed in Iowa’s largest penitentiary — none of whom can vote. Only 58 of the people who live in Ward 2 are nonprisoners”. Similar occurances are happening in Wisconsin, Tennessee, and New York. Read the full story

Electoral politics are not the only thing affected from the booming prison population. In addition to a high incarceration rate, the US incarcerates a disproportionate number of people of color. In Wisconsin, incarceration rates for blacks are nearly twelve times higher than for whites. The Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) reports that this has affected the distribution of funds, often from urban communities of colour to rural an prison communities. Read an except from their 2004 report below:

Pecentage of Black Population Incarcerated in Wisonsin by county

Pecentage of Black Population Incarcerated in Wisconsin by county

“According to the census, Dodge County has a black population of 2,142 people. Without doing any research beyond the statistics delivered to us from the latest census, one might conclude that there has been a rise in communities of color within this predominantly rural county. However, after looking closer, we realize that 89 percent (1,196 persons) of the black population within Dodge County is incarcerated. The county is the site of two major state prisons, the Fox Lake Correctional Institution and Waupun Correctional Institution.

According to Peter Wagner, director of the PPI, this type of redistribution of the population “impacts how redistricting and political power is exercised in the state.” As a “demographic distortion”, it affects both urban and rural communities. He notes: “These demographic distortions affect both urban and rural communities due to this confluence of increasing prison population and growing rural unemployment, as population-scaled federal and state funds are tipped towards rural prison communities and away from urban communities of color.” Follow this link to the full report.

Octavia E. Butler

Posted in Cultural Geography on October 25, 2008 by geography101

Mark Crosby from our class wanted to share the work of science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler with us. He writes: “I’ve read Parable of the Sower, last year for an english class and the sequel, Parable of the Talents, during the summer.  Through class thus far I have noticed that everything we talk about plays a major role in the book.  The book covers many different types of othering: gender, age, race, class, etc.”

You can visit her website and read about her vast collection of literature and the impact its had here. Below is an excerpt from a speech she delivered at a UN conference on racism where she talks about experiences of othering and place.

“…remembering childhood, remembering the schoolyard, remembering being a perennial out-kid. At school I was always taller than the rest of my class, and because I was an only child I was comfortable with adults, but shy and awkward with other kids. I was quiet, bookish, and in spite of my size, hopeless at sports. In short, I was different. And even in the earliest grades, I got pounded for it. I learned that five- and-six-year-old kids have already figured out how to be intolerant.

“Granted, I speak from my own experience, but it’s a familiar experience to anyone who remembers the schoolyard. Of course, not everyone has been a bully or the victim of bullies, but everyone has seen bullying, and seeing it, has responded to it by joining in or objecting, by laughing or keeping silent, by feeling disgusted or feeling interested….

“Simple peck-order bullying is only the beginning of the kind of hierarchical behavior that can lead to racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, classism, and all the other “isms” that cause so much suffering in the world.

“Several years ago I wrote a novel called Dawn in which extra-solar aliens arrive, look us over, and inform us that we have a pair of characteristics that together constitute a fatal flaw. We are, they admit, intelligent, and that’s fine. But we are also hierarchical, and our hierarchical tendencies are older and all too often, they drive our intelligence-that is, they drive us to use our intelligence to try to dominate one another. More fiction? Maybe….”

Read the full excerpt here

Urban Earth

Posted in Urban Geography on October 25, 2008 by geography101


Daniel Rosinsky-Larsson from our class sent in this really interesting project–Urban Earth– that he featured recently on WPR. The project is run by a geography professor from England, who, in colaboration with local residents, walks through various cities–from London, to Guadalajara, to Mexico and Mumbai–from end to end, choosing a path which takes them through diverse socio-economic areas. To document their walk, they take a photograph every 8 steps. Sounds facinating! You can listen to a podcast that Daniel produced on the Urban Earth right here