May 9, 2017

Chances are growing that your research might be weaponized

A few months ago I published the article Beware, your research may be weaponized in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers (AAG), as part of a forum on militarism in geography that came out of and is part of the long standing struggle in the discipline to address the growing use of geography by the US military in particular. (If you are a geographer and have not yes signed this petition, please do! The AAG finally agreed to set up a study group, but we need to keep the pressure on for good recommendations.)

I was honoured to have the web site The Conversation approach me and suggest that I do a popular shorter version of this article. This was my first time trying to do a popular version of an article. It was a bit of a shock at first to see how heavily my draft was edited. Here I thought that my writing was generally fairly easy to read, but this site actually uses software that rates readability. It was a good experience and I'm now motivated to always do a popular version of my academic articles.

As well as being shorter this version is much more practical, and proposes hacks for avoiding weaponization. The other challenge they gave me was to make it timely and start with a hook that connected it to breaking news. So I started like this:

Surveillance has become so ubiquitous that it appears likely that Russia was caught in the act conspiring to fix the 2016 United States presidential election, and at least one of his staffers was basically overheard conspiring with them.

Politicians aren’t the only ones being watched. Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations detailing the US National Security Agency’s widespread surveillance have made clear that, these days, everyone should be thinking about privacy and security.

Read on here ... 

Apr 21, 2017

denim day

April 26th 2017 is this year's #denimday, where you are asked to wear jeans as a way to speak out against sexual violence. As I have blogged before, one of my various critiques of this campaign is that so many people regularly wear jeans that it would be hard for your jeans to stand out on this day.

But I've learned that all cadets and staff at the US military academy West Point have been officially encouraged to wear jeans that day - and in fact the email they got about it explained the history of this solidarity action better than the official site does:

"all of West Point is encouraged to wear jeans to work as a visible means of protest against the misconceptions that surround sexual assault. Denim Day was originally triggered by a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim. Since then, wearing jeans on Denim Day has become a symbol of protest against erroneous and destructive attitudes about sexual assault."

Well since the military rarely wears jeans, and has a serious sexual assault epidemic, I would be happy to see them all wear jeans on this day. It would be particularly striking if they wore uniforms on top and jeans below!

Jan 23, 2017

solidarity braids

I have blogged here before about various symbolic acts of solidarity, from wearing certain colors, to wearing heels, to going barefoot, to being silent for a day. None have moved me like this beautiful act of art and protest.

As Trump was being inaugurated, 50 women organized through the group Boundless across Borders came together on the US-Mexico border pedestrian bridge between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez and braided their hair together.

I love the way this protest literally and symbolically weaves together the bodily intimate as a way of shaping the global. Global politics are always shaping our daily lives, our bodies, our hair. So too what we do with our bodies day to day is constantly shaping global politics, from what food to how we manage childcare. This is a basic argument of feminist political geography (if you want to read more about it, check out the book the Global and the Intimate).

Xochitl Nicholson, one of the organizers, talked about why they used hair this way, “We wanted something that referenced women directly, but that also sends a message about our common heritage and common backgrounds in a broader context,” Nicholson said. “It’s a symbol of collective strength.”

Of course this protest isn't accessible to women who wear head scarves, or women with kinky hair, or short hair, or no hair - but I still love the symbolism and intimacy of it.