writing across society, culture, environment, politics, economy

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Losing nature and culture: losses in biodiveristy and languages

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In a previous post I wrote about the parallels between the loss of languages and the loss of biodiversity. I was interested in the external forces that drove both biodiversity and languages to the margins, often resulting in extinction. A recent article discusses the findings of a new report which establishes a direct link between the loss of biodiversity and loss of languages. The authors of the report claim that “the steep declines in both languages and nature mirror each other”, and “linguistic diversity is declining as fast as biodiversity – about 30% since 1970.”

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Colours

In my last post Seeing a rich grey world, I reviewed The Island of the Colour-Blind and Cycad Island by Dr Oliver Sacks. I was interested in how much we take for granted the presence of colour in lives, and what this means for people who are born without the ability to see any colour, living in societies where colour is so embedded in daily life.

A recent article about colour, How colour paints your world, explains just how important colour is to humans and how we build so much meaning around colour. It impacts on our perceptions, understanding of the world, moods and emotions, and even our well-being. This is despite the fact that what we see as ‘colour’ is actually a trick of light and how our brains and eyes interpret this information. Interestingly, the article also suggests that the emphasis we place on colour and how much it can impact us is also related to our own personal feelings of vulnerability and the degree to which we feel we have control over our lives.

A very interesting read.

Seeing a rich grey world

19049915I recently read The Island of the Colour-Blind and Cycad Island by neurologist and writer Dr Oliver Sacks. It is an account of the neurologist’s travels to Pacific Islands to understand medical conditions that have become endemic in these islands and why and how they came to be so. The book is also an exploration of how a multitude of events (often unrelated) and the resulting circumstances affect isolated populations, and the continued impacts on several generations of these communities.

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Understanding economic refugees

International migration regimes classify and categorise migrants into types, depending on the reason for migration. The reality, however, is much less neat and distinct than the labels and classifications these regimes recognise and apply. What interests me most is the assumption that all forms of migration can be neatly divided into separate and distinct categories. The separation between ‘political’ and ‘economic’ reasons for migration is problematic as it assumes that the two spheres are mutually exclusive. This attempt to neatly categorise people into separate and distinct boxes has serious consequences for millions of people desperate to find a better life, but forced to survive in brutal realities with few rights or resources.

Here I explore the concept of economic refugees (based on a research paper I wrote a few years ago).

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We think in black and white

In Australia there is a strong and vitriolic reaction by the media, politicians and public to asylum seekers arriving by boat. These asylum seekers are often described as ‘economic migrants’ and not believed to be ‘genuine refugees’ because they have not come through the official channels. This is despite the fact that official channels for seeking asylum are often inaccessible to people caught in conflict or in fear of persecution, or even non-existent in many of these places.

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Awe.some.ful

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Human made structures such as the Great Wall, Machu Picchu, the Colosseum, the Great Pyramid, and many others around the world that have lasted through the ages, inspire awe because of their scale, purpose, design, and history. These feats of human imagination and ambition also elicit another kind of awe – of the human cost in building them.

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Prejudice made invisible

A recent blog post about the killing of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin, Trayvon Martin Was A Floozie provides an insightful analysis of the parallels between the way racism and sexism are perpetuated and cease to be understood as prejudices within society and institutions. The post focuses on some of the arguments surrounding the controversial case in the US and specifically looks at how violence is justified, comparing common defences used in the murder of African-Americans and the rape of women. There are other articles and commentaries such as What should Trayvon Martin have done? that also point out similarities in the treatment of African-American and women victims of violence.

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Race b(l)ending: the strange case of the film ‘Cloud Atlas’

This week I watched the film Cloud Atlas, which is based on the David Mitchell novel of the same name. I recently read the novel and really liked it, so, I wasn’t keen to watch the movie. After all, film versions of much-loved novels rarely live up to expectations.

I was somewhat reluctant to watch it for another reason: I had read that in scenes set in a futuristic dystopian Korea, characters who are supposed to be Korean are played by Caucasian actors made up to look Korean. Why in this day and age would you use Caucasian actors for non-Caucasian characters? In a time when communication and travel between countries and continents is the easiest it has ever been, why couldn’t the film-makers hire actors with the right heritage or ‘look’ for the role?

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Displacement and resettlement in the Pacific

Caught between homelands looks at the recent history of migration and resettlement of two separate Pacific Island communities. The essay provides some interesting insights about ties to culture, land, and identity. The two case studies also provide lessons on how to approach resettlement of displaced communities.

 

Hope is not black and white

Arundhati Roy writes about the vital importance of retaining sustainable knowledge and practices of the indigenous communities in India in her article Re-imagining a world beyond capitalism and communism. She argues that the way forward exists in a space outside of the dominant ideologies of capitalism and communism.

 

Climate change displacement

We need a treaty to help people displaced by climate change looks at possibilities for developing an international treaty for the displacement of people as a result of climate change. Not an easy task by any means, but an important issue that requires significant attention and consideration.

 

The colonising of culture and nature: losses in languages and biodiversity

What are the parallels between the loss of languages and the loss of biodiversity?

In We Haven’t Spoken For All Languages, Claire Bowern discusses the loss of languages around the world and the efforts to catalogue and ‘save’ these dying languages. The loss of languages is a concern as languages are the repository of so much more than just words, grammar and speech. As Bowern eloquently explains:

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Some history, possible futures, and an anxious present…

A world of our own making is an interesting essay exploring the past, present and future, connected through a single image of the earth taken from one of the missions to the moon in the 1960s. This image was later called ‘Earthrise’. The essay asks if we are about to embark on a brave new age, the Antropocene – an age of humans.

'Earthrise' - Photo: NASA

‘Earthrise’ – Photo: NASA

 

This skin

Always.

Always invisible, between worlds, on the borders, in the cracks. Never wholly anywhere or anything.

Always reaching out for the sun, its warmth, its light, its love, its food, its life. Its easy gift of dignity.

Always searching for imagined and unknown places, spaces, faces, that offer a promise of fond embrace.

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Welcome

Welcome to the micro-world of Writing Skin – exploring the beliefs and experiences of the world that ‘write’ onto our skins, and understanding the connections between the social, cultural, political and economic.

Stay tuned for more…