UCSD’S WINTER QUARTERLY CONVERSATIONS IN GLOBAL HEALTH

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By: Meredith Anderson
Staff Writer

On Wednesday, February 15th the UCSD Students for Global Health, the Global Health Program, and Global Forum held the Winter Quarterly Conversations in Global Health. The event focused on the topic, “Food Insecurity – Local and Global Perspectives.” Nancy Postero, a professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Director of the Human Rights program at UCSD, moderated the event.

This Quarterly Conversations in Global Health featured three speakers, who each gave a brief presentation regarding food insecurity, followed by a question and answers session. The first speaker was Dr. Hanna Garth, the Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UCSD. Garth presented on what she calls the “Global Industrial Food Complex” and how globalization has led to an increase in food insecurity. Garth provided the example of the 2008 global food crisis, a time when food prices rapidly increased while supply decreased, leading to riots worldwide. She explained how the modernization of agricultural practices caused such instability.

“These changes had the immediate effect of increasing food production across the developing world,” Dr. Garth explained. “However, the increase in green yields did not necessarily lead to a reduction in hunger or malnutrition.”

Dr. Garth continued on to suggest that the cause of malnutrition may not be insufficient food supply, but rather the inequality of distribution. Additionally, the foods commonly overproduced are grains, which can increase caloric intake but may not contain sufficient micronutrients to eradicate malnutrition. She provided an example of the United States foreign policy that promoted price supports and export subsidies on agricultural goods. This policy led to the overproduction of cheap goods, specifically corn and soybeans, which were then dumped into the global market. At the same time, many developing countries were accepting loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which came with strings attached. These conditions included adjustment programs, which require developing nations to partake in “free market” style practices. In relation to food security, these structural adjustment programs led to the privatization and deregulation of agricultural practices in developing countries. As a result, some firms were able to produce food cheaply. This, combined with the dumping of agricultural goods at low prices from developed nations, undermined the local farmers in developing countries. The long term effect is the modern dependence on industrialized nations for food products and weakened economies of developing nations.Dr. Garth concluded by stating that food insecurity and malnutrition will persist into the future, but she challenged the audience to use the lessons learned during the 2008 food crisis to prevent future food crises.

Kelcey Ellis, the Director of Programs for Feeding San Diego, spoke next. Feeding San Diego is a local nonprofit hunger-relief organization that distributes healthy food to San Diego residents. Ellis began her presentation by showing a video featuring the diverse array of San Diego residents who have relied on Feeding San Diego for assistance. Ellis continued on to promote Feeding San Diego’s various programs and encouraged the audience volunteer with the organization to support their efforts in building a hunger-free and healthy San Diego.

The final speaker at the Quarterly Conversations in Global Health was Dr. Pascale Joassart-Marcelli, a Professor of Geography at San Diego State University. Dr. Joassart-Marcelli focused her presentation on “food deserts.” The United States Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as, “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.” When mapping food deserts, organizations typically base the accessibility of healthy foods off of the number of grocery stores in an area. Dr. Joassart-Marcelli challenged this notion in her presentation by claiming that ethnic markets, while not considered when mapping food deserts, provide communities with an abundance of fresh, healthy foods.

Dr. Joassart-Marcelli provided information from the local “Food, Ethnicity, and Place Project” that she works on. Specifically, she explained how the community of City Heights in San Diego is considered a “food desert” because it only has one supermarket. However, City Heights is home to an abundance of ethnic markets that serve the local community, which includes a large number of refugees from various countries. The study found that these ethnic markets actually supply more fresh food than supermarkets. Additionally, these markets offer what Dr. Joassart-Marcelli called “culturally appropriate foods” and often at a better price than large grocery stores. Therefore, she concluded that City Heights should not be deemed a “food desert.” Dr. Joassart-Marcelli also stated that the labeling of areas as “food deserts” has become a form of “territorial stigmatization and racialization.” Moving forward, policies must be more accepting of food suppliers, such as ethnic markets, in order to get an accurate understanding of which regions truly are “food deserts.”

The event concluded with a brief question and answer session during which the speakers discussed topics such as the global impact of animal agriculture, access to “culturally appropriate” foods, and the importance of supporting local farmers and economies.

Photo by: Neha Viswanathan

REMEMBERING THE VIETNAM WAR WITH ARTIST TRINH MAI

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By Meredith Anderson
Staff Writer

On January 25th, local artist Trinh Mai, a second generation Vietnamese American, discussed her artwork pertaining to her family history at the University of California, San Diego. Mai began by explaining that she was always curious about her family’s history of escaping Vietnam in 1975.

“Curiosity is our spirit showing us that we need to learn more,” Mai said.

In an attempt to learn more about the Vietnam War and its effect on her family, Mai began creating art to tell their story. In 2013, Mai created her “Begins with Tea” series. This collection features portraits of 52 of Mai’s family members encapsulated by used tea bags and embellished with traditional Vietnamese ingredients. Mai explained that stumbling across old family photos in her Grandma’s house “invoked this need to know more [about the people depicted]” and inspired her to honor each person by creating their own tea bag.

While working on this series, Mai had her grandmother, Bà Ngoại, save her used tea bags from the afternoons that they spent sharing family memories. Additionally, she used Vietnamese ingredients, such as saffron and dried noodles, taken from her grandmother’s pantry to symbolize the traditional Vietnamese recipes passed down through her family for generations. When Mai finished the portraits, she shared them with her family. She said that her art “opened up this channel for conversation” within her family, thereby allowing her to learn more about her family.

Then, in 2014, Mai’s beloved grandmother passed away. Mai recounted her experience and explained that after her grandmother’s death, she came across an identification card with her fingerprints. This inspired Mai to use fingerprints in her art. Mai described how in less than an hour, she created Bà Ngoại (Grandmother), a fingerprint portrait of her grandmother.

“When inspiration calls, it moves so swiftly,” Mai said.

She explained that art is a spiritual practice that she has been able to use to heal. In addition to using art for self-healing, she employed this technique on a larger scale to benefit entire communities. Mai’s installation Quiet is an example of this. Quiet was inspired by the letters Mai found at the University of California, Irvine library from Vietnamese families pleading for their lost loved ones to be found. These letters contained photos of individuals, mostly children, who likely never saw their families again.While reading these letters, Mai reflected on the fact that they had been filed away in boxes and virtually forgotten. Mai was so dismayed by this thought that she decided to undertake a project in honor of these lost individuals.

The Vietnamese believe that “if [someone] is not given a proper funeral, their soul can’t rest,” she explained, which is why Mai worked to emulate a traditional funeral. Mai began painting their portraits on large sheets of white cotton fabric, symbolizing the mourning bands worn during Vietnamese funerals.

Although this installation was mainly intended for the Vietnamese community, others experienced healing as well. Mai recounted a conversation that she had with the wife of a Vietnam War veteran, who explained that many American military families resent the war because it took husbands and fathers away.  The woman continued to explain that after hearing stories of  Vietnamese refugees and the losses they are still suffering that “[she] will no longer recount her memories [of the war], but instead will recount [theirs].” Viewing Mai’s work opened this woman’s eyes to the trauma Vietnamese refugees endured and caused her to see her husband’s involvement in the war as a “worthy cause.” This interaction clearly demonstrates the profound influence art can have on shaping the perspective of individuals.

Throughout the course of her presentation, Mai used her family’s story to explain the impact that art and creativity have had on herself and others. Art in of itself is a form of storytelling that uses mixed media rather than words to convey a message. As Mai’s work proves, art can be therapeutic and spark conversations that would not otherwise be had. Specifically, Mai’s story illuminates the impact of the Vietnam War on those who carry on its legacy today.

Photo by Trinh Mai

THE GLOBAL FORUM: THE NEXT FOUR YEARS

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By Thomas Finn
Contributing Writer

With various groups reporting fear, concern, or anger in the wake of 2016’s presidential election, UCSD literature grad student Soraya Abuelhiga hosted a Global Forum last week to address this very topic. A five-person panel built for diversity of academic perspectives on the next four years convened to discuss their predictions on what the immediate future holds. Abuelhiga first broached the subject of foreign policy, given recent events like Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Dr. Thad Kousser from our Department of Political Science admits that since the president has more unilateral influence in the realm of foreign policy, and many of Trump’s appointees have experience in business rather than the state department, his effect abroad remains harder to predict than past administrations. Dr. Zoltan Hajnal, from the same department at UCSD, contends that neither the best nor worst projections will come to pass, but foreign policy will remain status quo. However, he also notes that Trump’s Supreme Court appointment could have important implications, and that international views of America have changed dramatically, seeing this country as a more nationalistic nation turning inward and away from direct intervention abroad.

Dr. Dennis Childs, from a background in literature and ethnic studies, advises that we balance the valid feeling of impending precarity with a knowledge that the next four years actually seem far less exceptional in the grand scheme of the last 500. We necessarily build this country’s present on a long history of imperialist practices, including encroachment on Native lands, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and genocidal tactics in Vietnam.

According to Childs, policies like the North American Free Trade Agreement have led to a $4.8 billion transfer from Latin America to the US, unprecedented in history, with migrants following this flow of capital. Even if Trump renegotiates it, as intended, Mexico has already developed one of the widest wealth gaps in the world, one that has grown in parallel to the military-industrial complex burgeoning on the US-Mexico border for sixty years, as well as the ongoing War on Drugs (or War on People of Color as Childs calls it) that continues to tear families apart and destabilize Mexico. US annual defense-related spending has recently reached about $1 trillion and functions to enforce neocolonial economic hegemony in the world.

In this sense, maintenance of the status quo would really manifest as an escalation of aggression, because contrary to popular belief, Obama’s status-quo foreign policy meant killing civilians on a regular basis. His status quo involved funding what Dr. Childs and Desmond Tutu, both having visited Palestine, liken to Israeli apartheid in Gaza, and which Childs as an expert in prison studies likens to an open-air prison. Obama’s status quo included deporting 2.5 million undocumented people, adding up to the deportations of all presidents of the 20th century combined. Like Obama, Trump’s “status quo” could also very well entail the continuation and expansion of problematic trends like these.

Ashley Rodriguez, development coordinator from the Center on Policy Initiatives, notes that Trump will likely cut foreign aid, and attitudes abroad may make some countries, like those in Southeast Asia, less receptive to US-based non-profits and NGOs. On a more local scale, we have numerous municipalities responding to anti-migrant sentiments by becoming safe zones, and by fighting increased voter suppression of racial minorities. Rodriguez calls for more support to organizations like Planned Parenthood and the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium, which can help ensure that growing prosperity as a nation advances everyone at the same time, instead of leaving minorities behind and worsening inequality.

Dr. Nancy Kwak from the Department of History offers a brief explanation of how home ownership has led to current racial inequalities that Trump’s administration may exacerbate. Since homes serve as the biggest investment most people make, encompassing so much of their economic life, starting in 1933 the federal government started supporting home ownership. This began with explicitly racial policies, mapping every city to decide who should live where and to control risk-ratings that determine credit.

The government established high-risk areas, especially African American or Asian-majority areas, where people had lower credit. We now call this redlining, and even though the 1968 Fair Housing Act sought to fix it, areas like La Jolla still have a racial character due to white roots left over from decades of redlining. Longtime residents interviewed by the LA Times and La Jolla Light have attested to “white only” covenants for property ownership in La Jolla Shores before the 1960s, for example. According to Kwak, we still don’t have protected classes to ensure fair housing, and thus housing remains unfair and de facto racially segregated.

Trump’s nominee for US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson, finds it undesirable to attempt urban desegregation, referring to anti-redlining policies as “social engineering.” As such, he opposes addressing these so-called “inner-city problems,” which Kwak instead calls fair-housing problems. On top of this, young people now buy fewer homes, creating uncertainty regarding the implications of this on the legacy of redlining still present in San Diego and cities across America.

Dr. Kwak also suggests that policies against immigrants rely on narratives that accredit certain groups with building this country, like the founding fathers via their own genius, while marginalizing others, for example by inadequately teaching the effects of racist policies like the 3/5 Compromise on the early political structure of this nation. Narrative differences have become divisive, and seem especially evident in recent popular culture, like the play Hamilton. This can have real-world consequences, for example affecting whether Americans support ideas like the DREAM Act, or ideas like English-only public schools.

Dr. Childs adds that the racist graffiti we have seen on campus likewise reflects this division, and shows that some groups of students have the privilege of feeling further from the border than others, or disconnected from the reality of our proximity to it. Trump’s narratives could not work if there were not a preexisting structure of white supremacy in our culture to build on. Though many politicians continue to rely on coded language and dog-whistle rhetoric to propagate discriminatory narratives, like attacking welfare by associating it with poor blacks, many voters admired Trump for voicing these narratives outright.

22 years ago, a similar kind of explicit support for reactionary policies ended up passing Proposition 187 to establish screening systems in California that prevent undocumented immigrants from accessing healthcare, education, and other services. Trump’s status as a “law and order” candidate also suggests he will stick to the status quo of militarizing US police culture, likely worsening the brutality inherent in our current criminal justice system. Childs goes on to discuss how East San Diego has always had a climate of unease due to police presence, with “to protect and serve” on every police car becoming an ironic joke to many black residents.

Majority-black schools face increasing militarization, and Dr. Childs claims that Ku Klux Klan violence has dropped at an inverse proportional rate to state execution of black people, effectively replacing extrajudicial violence with judicial violence. 2.4 million people currently live in cages, costing 70 billion dollars per year, not executed but condemned to “living death.” Pelican Bay State Prison on the California-Oregon border has the most solitary confinement on the planet for gang affiliation.

30,000 inmates went on a hunger strike in 2013 against indefinite solitary confinement. To highlight the lack of oversight, Childs points out that the California watchlist for gang affiliation includes dozens of children under the age of one who supposedly admitted their crime to law enforcement. 33 black San Diego locals were arrested under Penal Code 182.5 for gang affiliation, two of whom, Aaron Harvey and Brandon Duncan, personally came to UC San Diego in February 2016 to describe the ridiculously loose and often racist criteria for gang affiliation. One man was put in jail for months, despite never having joined a gang, solely based on a Facebook photo in which he appeared alongside another convicted gang affiliate.

These individuals lose employment opportunities, perpetuating structural poverty cycles and hurting the economy. Prisons appear in county, state, and federal budgets, meaning our taxes support the prison-industrial complex at every level, and Dr. Childs expects expansion under Trump. He posits that although black Americans may have fought for abolition in the Civil War, the 13th Amendment has allowed the state to take the place of plantation master, since all black Americans live under the threat of reenslavement, and this does not change, regardless of the party in power.

Democrats may have increased the black middle class, but black poverty has expanded under either party. Obama also directly played a part in arming local police forces, like San Diego’s force with a literal tank. Only after Trayvon Martin’s death did Obama even feel the national discourse forced him to address police violence as a mainstream issue, and until then had blamed black men for their own situations and called on them to act as better fathers, a tactic shared by Republicans.

Re-entry programs remain minimal and ineffective for former prisoners, so with over 5 million people permanently disenfranchised from a felony conviction, their subsequent inability to find jobs often pressures them to turn back to crime. 148 women were also forcibly sterilized in two California institutions as recently as the last decade. Childs argues that injustices like these, alongside incredible recidivism, prove a failure of the justice system, but a success of capitalism.

The prison-industrial complex profits off construction, telecommunications, and other industries that prisoners must interact with, utilize, or consume at inelastic prices while in prison. Childs concludes that the promised philanthropy of “black capitalism” ignores the horrors caused by capitalism in the first place, and indeed, perpetuates them. He personally calls on students to structurally analyze not only macro-scale historical trends, but also what role UCSD trains us for as individuals in this dangerous status quo.

He remarks that whether a Republican or Democrat wins the presidency, this would remain true, and we all have a responsibility for analysis. With stark barriers to changing America’s foreign policy, immigration law, racial inequalities, or prison-industrial complex at the federal level, students should still pursue change on other levels, like state, county, or city, in addition to forming coalitions to achieve goals beyond the often-futile endeavor of electoral politics. With Trump’s administration poised to continue an unsustainable status quo, it remains up to us to take matters into our own hands.

Photo by Gage Skidmore