Lori Peek and Alice Fothergill explore the healing contributions young people can make following major disasters. Based on over a…
Writing for the “Ways of Water” series, Oviya Govindan reflects on the conflicts that fishers face when their fishing waters become increasingly polluted. Ethnographically attempting to “follow the fish,” Govindan finds that narratives about fish are intrinsically narratives about water, toxicity, and the moral and political economies of both together. As industrial pollution affects fishing waters in Ennore, some fisher-activists try to raise public awareness, hoping to provoke a reduction in contaminating policies. While these forms of resistance are familiar in several industrial contexts, Govindan calls attention to quieter forms of politics. This piece tells the stories of fishers living with industrial waters who are reluctant to draw attention to the pollution and suggest that these are rumors, and that the consumption of their fish poses no risks. Thinking with these conflicts, Govindan calls for a politics of water that attends not only to familiar modes of resistance, but also to the uneven, reluctant forms of actions that stake out ethical living in an already polluted world.
Mirka Martel and Allan Goodman argue that, despite setbacks caused by Covid-19, the flow of college and university students across borders is resilient and will continue to be a vibrant feature of global higher education. Drawing on knowledge and experience of the Institute of International Education, the authors make the case for this optimism based on current data and prior histories of how universities and international student flows rebounded after previous global health crises.
The United States Has a Democracy Problem: What Democratic Erosion Scholarship Tells Us about January 6by Christina Kulich and Elizabeth Iams Wellman
On January 6, 2021, an organized mob stormed the US Capitol. In this essay, Christina Kulich and Elizabeth Iams Wellman suggest that democratic erosion literature, as studied and taught by the Democratic Erosion consortium, might provide insight into how to understand the events of January 6 as a case study in democratic backsliding. They point out that this insurrection is but one of many antidemocratic disruption events in recent history, finding that the event is a symptom of global, causal trends that include rising inequality, declining trust in institutions, increasing political polarization, and truth decay. Kulich and Wellman argue that liberal democracies are facing a reckoning that may require a redress of systems and institutions so that they are more inclusive, participatory, and accountable.
In the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, South Korea was often hailed for its success in taming the spread of the virus through the use of ICT technologies that facilitated rapid tracing and notification of those who had encountered individuals who had tested positive. In this essay for the “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series, Myungji Yang traces the development of disease prevention infrastructures in South Korea following lessons learned from experiences with earlier epidemics, showing how changes in both technology and law played important roles in its strategy. Yang also raises questions about the impact of the intrusive surveillance systems on individual privacy and freedom of movement.
As part of the annual “Democratic Erosion” undergraduate series, Andrea Gustafson examines what the Covid-19 pandemic reveals about federalism in the United States, in particular changes in the balance of power and responsibility between state-level governments and the federal government. Gustafson finds that, in response to the Covid-19 crisis, governors and state legislatures are taking a more active role, often in opposition to leaders at the federal-level. Noting a trend toward the “nationalization” of United States politics prior to the pandemic, Gustafson argues that “strengthening” federalism may reinvigorate democratic participation at the state level and prevent federal overreach, which may in turn combat democratic erosion.
Faced not just with the pandemic itself, but also with erroneous projections that Covid-19 would devastate their populations, African countries have gradually relaxed their public health restrictions. Through conversations with African professors, Duncan Omanga explores how universities in sub-Saharan Africa have responded with a blend of approaches that reveals the uneven higher education landscape both within and between African countries.
Southeast Asia’s Disinformation Crisis: Where the State is the Biggest Bad Actor and Regulation is a Bad Wordby Jonathan Corpus Ong
As Western democracies debate social media regulation, Jonathan Corpus Ong outlines the valuable lessons they can draw from Southeast Asian experiences. Governments in the region have weaponized regulation and hijacked moral panics about disinformation to consolidate control over the digital environment. The challenge facing the world, he argues, is to build a more precise language of responsibility to tackle this multidimensional issue.
As part of the annual “Democratic Erosion” undergraduate series, Jamie Horowitz examines the potential effects of disinformation in Colombia—in particular, disinformation campaigns related to the country’s 2016 peace deal referendum and the 2018 Colombian presidential election. Horowitz finds that well-known politicians are primarily responsible for disseminating disinformation in Colombia, which then circulates unbridled on WhatsApp. Disinformation campaigns, she argues, serve to polarize the population, which, in turn, leads to democratic erosion that manifests in low trust in electoral procedures and government.