Spotlight

MALS Spotlight:
Accepted AGLSP 2015 Abstracts

Fall 2015

The Journal editors would like to extend our most sincere congratulations to the MALS students who had their proposed abstracts selected by the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs (AGLSP) 2015 Annual Conference. The AGLSP conference—entitled "Place Matters!"—took place in San Jose, California, hosted by Stanford University in October. These proposals consider how "place matters" by examining the phenomenon of place in literature, the arts, environmental science, history, politics, and technology.


Geographic Drama Through the Globe to Globe Hamlet
Amani Liggett

In 2014 I began following what I consider an amazing feat by Shakespeare's Globe called the Globe to Globe Hamlet. The goal of this two year touring Hamlet troupe is to play Hamlet in every country in the world. Through social media, anyone can sign up for the tour's updates; one can see their sets pop up in grand theaters or in lonely fields, hear interviews from audience members translated from French, and see photo sets of local schoolchildren arriving to the show with tickets in hand.

I would like to propose a paper for the AGLSP 2015 conference that incorporates the Globe to Globe Hamlet in a broader discussion of place with the multi-faceted text of Hamlet. Being a play that has had an impact on audiences since its creation in 1601, I will analyze new topics drawn from the Globe's interviews, press, and online reactions to Hamlet as a worldwide figure. My critical question will ask how has geography influenced ways in which people imagined, viewed, and discussed the play? In this paper I will also consider the context of cultural geography in a concrete sense; different cultures will interpret Hamlet in different ways, but what makes the play so attractive for a world tour is the universal themes that transcend ethnical or international boundaries.

My paper will also offer archival research from past Hamlet performances from diverse geographic locations, and compare their effect to the current Globe's touring performance.


"Make Prayers to the Raven:" Richard Nelson's Case from Ecological Patterns Established by the Koyukon that Result in Conservation
Kuo-Pin (George) Lin

In his book, Make Prayers to the Raven, Richard Nelson (1986) builds a case from ecological patterns established by the Koyukon (The Koyukon are an Alaska Native Athabaskan people of the Athabaskan-speaking ethnolinguistic group) that result in conservation. An important element of Koyukon interactions with place is the conservation of ethics and the way practices of their relation to nature center around ethical values rooted in their lifestyle. He says that the Koyukon have "developed an ethic of conservation, manifested in concepts of territory and range, attitudes toward competitors for subsistence resources, methods of avoiding waste, and implementation of sustained yield practices." Nelson builds this case from his perceptions of Koyukon interactions with particular environments in which humans are bound by a special place of morality.

Understanding Nelson's case for conservation is drawn by most of the plants and animals that survive on Koyukon territory and are distributed unevenly over terrain that is subtle enough to escape the casual observer's notice. Each species tends to be concentrated in localized areas that are limited in size. Helpful patterns and logical cultivation are limited in size and are scattered in complex patterns. As a result, the Koyukon— in their complex involvement with the environment—evoke specialized resources. These places are not predictable and cannot be planned simply by knowing the historical distribution of plant growth and terrain. Plant life settles where it will by causes that are subtle in weather and other vegetation that surrounds the area. The Koyukon recognize that every place on the land presents a unique arrangement of resource potentials. They look upon a hillside, a valley, river, lake, creek, mountain slope, or stretch of flatland as potential possibilities, not as a hindrance. Nelson reflects, "Aside from the localization of individual species, there is a tendency for certain areas to be very rich in a variety of animal species, while others are comparatively poor. Some of these are areas of diversified terrain-hills, valleys, lakes, rivers or they may be uniform, such as a flat land covered with lakes and muskegs. The Koyukon have an explanation for these regional variations" (204). Living in an unstable and unpredictable environment, the Koyukon people and their way of life have attempted to alter the natural balance in their favor. This awareness and practice is certainly foreign to the industrial and personal way of life that too many people have simply begun to practice as everyday events. To the existence of a conservation ethic among Native North American, an attention has been given to their spiritual reverence for nature. Their sophisticated understanding of the natural processes and their efforts to maintain and build on their conservation of nature simply because of their natural conservation is an element of their life.

Another belief of the Koyukon people is that they can account for some declines in resource species by recalling past offenses against their protecting spirits. In these cases, animals shun entire areas as retaliation against a grave affront, punishing everyone instead of just the person(s) who mistreated them. Nelson continues to state, "Shellfish have declined considerably in the Koyukuk River near Hughes. Many villagers believe fishery biologists who took live shellfish from the area and transplanted them somewhere else caused this. Manipulating live animals this way is a serious insult to their protecting spirits" (210). The Koyukon people account for natural dynamics as spiritual events. They have looked instead to ecological processes for explanations. Koyukon tradition contains an enormous wealth and empirical knowledge covering the entire spectrum of natural history. This includes a sophisticated understanding of relations among environmental phenomena.

It is interesting to note how long it has taken, and is taking, for Western scientific knowledge and perspective of ecology to "discover" land conservation and respect by controlled and logical ethical terms that the value of such respect in cohabitation with the plant and animal worlds is an essential part of life. It is remarkable how the Koyukon know how to have a relationship with the land. There is still a perspective on these issues that have room for learning and appreciation. I would like to give my understanding of Nelson's case for conservation with special attention to Koyukon interaction with an animal or plant in your 2015 AGLSP conference.


Paradise Being Stressed: Military Wants and Islander Concerns in the Mariana Islands Chain Located in the Western Pacific
Jesse Perez

This presentation will present the argument that the American military's interest in transforming the Marianas Islands into a regional training complex is needed for readiness purposes in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. A contrasting argument will also be put forth that demonstrates that the military's desire to transform the Marianas Islands into a regional hub for training will irreparably damage and destroy terrestrial and coastal area resources that will in turn result in damage and destruction of the Chamorro culture as it is currently practiced. Examples referencing Guam, Tinian and Pagan Islands will be provided.


Literature as Activism: Wide Sargasso Sea's Subversion of Colonial Imprinting
Maria Semmens

Postcolonial theoretical scholarship continues to play a vital role in modern discourses surrounding the destabilization of minority groups and transnationalism in literature. By focusing on specific authors, one can begin to critically examine the importance of literature as a tool for deconstructing concealed forms of repression. Often times, literary texts provide the author with an access path to the public sphere and a podium to make their voice heard. Writers such as Jean Rhys have used identity indicators like race, place, history, and class as a way of recontextualizing the dominant social milieu of the global north and applying a multicultural worldview to her writing.

In the novel Wide Sargasso Sea, Rhys employs the use of dual narratives to create a dialogue between those who have been historically colonized and their colonizer. Through her writing, she is able to produce a vehicle for postcolonial social commentary by reconstructing the British literary classic Jane Eyre from alternative perspectives of place, social class, and identity. These inverted perspectives shape the atmosphere of a post-abolition Caribbean, a place that becomes mirrored in the arranged marriage of the native-born protagonist and an unnamed English (every) man. The author's work creates a place for voices otherwise muted through marginalization and helps in confronting global issues of colonization and western essentialism. Through literary analysis, I will critically engage with these issues as they apply to my chosen text(s) and more broadly, the current cultural landscape and critical response by/in diasporic literature.


Transnational Otaku: The World's Data-Could Animals
Ethan Woodard

The subculture known as the "otaku," once unique to Japan, has transcended traditional cultural boundaries and become transnational by binding internet communities to fan conventions through high-speed broadband connections. They have been bound to such a degree that the abstract space of the internet and physical conventions have become, in many ways, indistinguishable. I argue that the otaku are emblematic of a new kind of subculture, one which primarily exists online, but that extends into the physical world in very specific spaces and ways.

By utilizing social science based statistical models, I am able to show that even on a global, cross-cultural scale, there is a direct and significant causal relationship between the growth of high speed internet and attendance at anime conventions. I argue that the subculture now exists in a new kind of space: a transnational cultural data-cloud. This data-cloud, driven by broadband internet technology, has created a new frame for conceptualizing how a hybrid sense of place factors into the growth and survival of subcultures in a global society and that the very concept of place, in many ways, can no longer be easily delineated between the physical world and the digital.


Bhutan: The Paradox of Identity and Development
Brian Young

The question of place has become increasingly complex in our globalized world. In my work, I explore this complicated issue of place—and how it is understood and internalized by people—by looking at the case of Bhutan. Bhutan is a fascinating case study because it is currently undergoing modernization—including a change of government from a monarchy to a democracy—as well as development through what is known as Gross National Happiness (GNH). Specifically, GNH aims to preserve tradition while promoting sustainable economic development.

My fieldwork in Bhutan has led me to challenge the framework created by GNH. Though GNH purports to protect tradition, I argue that the very act of protecting "tradition" leads to the death of numerous other varieties of local rituals, practices, and languages. While previously Bhutan consisted of numerous places—each with its separate identity and local tradition—the government is now promoting, through GNH, a single place: Bhutan. The government attempts to create this single place of Bhutan by creating a single identity: the national Bhutanese identity as understood through the dominant ethnic group. Furthermore, the government then promotes this place as a sacred geography, inviting Western Orientalism through tourism. Bhutan thus offers an incredible example of the complexities of place in the modern era: through development, national place supersedes local place, and, in turn, national identity supersedes local identity. At the same time, people are resisting these clear dichotomies created by GNH, leading to what Anna Tsing calls "friction."