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Global Currents has migrated!

The Global Currents blog has migrated to the Webtools platform. This update, which is part of a larger update to CGS’s online presence, makes to blog more seamlessly integrated with our main website. For now, older posts will remain at this domain ( for archival purposes, but all new posts will be published only on the new site.

We have been posting regularly on the updated blog platform, which has several exciting features that were not possible on the old blog platform. First, readers can post comments under posts, just like with many other online blogs. Please feel free to join the conversation and write comments of your own! Second, readers can now subscribe to the blog; if you subscribe, you will receive an email notification when a new post is published.

Thank you for your continued support of the Center for Global Studies, as well as the Global Studies department of the International and Area Studies Library. We appreciate everyone who has followed the blog for all these years. If you have any questions, please feel to email us at

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Global Voices from the Information World – April 20, 2020

A Note from Steve Witt, Director of the Center for Global Studies

In our global studies graduate seminars, we often discuss the pull of the global city: networks of financial transactions, mobility, culture, and higher education.  Looking at the scuttled trips for this spring and summer my participation in this phenomena was evident. Canceled were Dublin (two trips), New York and Tokyo for research, and Melbourne for both research and a global studies consortium meeting.  Our news of the pandemic also focuses on these major global cities and their valiant efforts to fight the sickness that has overcome so many.

In global studies, we also talk about the rural in terms of both the urban / rural divide regarding resources but also the continued if not amplified relevancy of rural life and rural identity in the midst of globalization.  Despite living in a rural setting and surrounded by small communities, my engagement with the “rural” is typically constrained to these academic discussions.  My “normal” routines tend to place these communities in my rear view mirror as I move from campus to home to airports to urban centers and back again.

During the “stay-at-home” order my family and I have been volunteering for a local organization called the Diaper Pantry, which supports needy families with donations of diapers, clothes, blankets, and increasingly food.  The pandemic has caused this and I presume other organizations to move into a distributed-network mode of delivery.  The centralized food-bank suddenly became an obstacle. It is run mostly by retirees, who need to stay home and can’t work with the public.  Many of the food-bank clients had similarly become immobile – homebound with kids, illness, fear of contagion.

Now, someone from the food bank delivers pre-packed bags of dry goods to my van.  My “handlers” then send me texts with an address, list of needs, and perhaps a short description: victim of domestic abuse, sick and elderly, gravel driveway, use back porch, call first etc….  Before we go, we grab masks, and some of the fresh perishables we have on hand: bread, milk, eggs, bananas, a ham – whatever is at home at that moment.  We head out to places on a rural network that is bound by inadequate access to resources and society’s failure to provide basic welfare and infrastructure to people in these increasingly isolated communities.  We travel to the drive-past villages we would normally have no reason to stop.

With each trip, I realize that I’m more of a stranger in these familiar towns in my county than the nodes of global cosmopolitanism in which I typically travel.  Why is it that I have no acquaintances in towns 10 miles from my house, yet can meet a friend or colleague for a meal in most any global city?  I’m greeted (at a distance and generally through a closed door) by proud people who are grateful for a bit of help, happy to see someone, and just as confused by this situation as everyone else. I leave with a new appreciation for my neighbors yet also with a sense of guilt for needing a crisis to bring me here.

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Global Voices from the Information World

We are reaching out to a number of our colleagues in the library and information field to see how they and their institutions are faring in the current environment.  We will attempt to continue this series as long a the pandemic is having global effects.

From Japan:

JapanDokkyo University decided to extend the beginning of a new academic year from April 1st to May 11th. Other universities in big cities also extended the beginning of a new academic year, and some of them like Kyoto University are preparing all classes to online basis.

I felt better staying at home for at least 14 days (not mandatory) after coming back from Wellington, New Zealand where I had spent  almost two months at Victoria University at Wellington, School of Information Management as a visiting scholar.  I arrived in NZ after spending several months at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a visiting scholar. Even before losing anyone to the corona virus, New Zealand declared a national lock-down.  I was able to get on the final flight from NZ to Japan.

Now at home I am making hand-made facemasks to pass the time. I am sewing several facemasks with a pocket in which I can put a piece of bleached, washed gauze cloth or nonwoven fabric. Basically these are not made to prevent the corona-virus, but for my brother’s pollen-allergy protection. Here in Japan no facemasks are sold at stores, no adequate cloth is available at handcraft shops, but I found some in Wellington and brought them back to Japan. I hope they work!

Japan does not have a lock-down at this point, but officials are “asking” the public not to go outside on weekends in big cities like Tokyo or Osaka even though the number of corona-virus patients is increasing day by day. All stores, restaurants, cafes, even pachinko-playing places are open. Kind of a scary situation, but still the Japanese government hesitates to do anything. I wonder if policy makers (make decisions) on economics and business mainly, not … the health of the public.*

Yasuyo Inoue is a Library Science professor at Dokkyo University in Saitama, Japan and had spent from Sep. 2019 to Jan. 2020 at the Center for Global Studies as a visiting scholar.

*A State of Emergency has now been declared in seven of the country’s 47 prefectures.

From Canada:

Our last day of work on site at our teaching university in British Columbia, Canada, was Wednesday, March 18th. Even though we had been watching the progress of the COVID-19 wave – first to the west, across the Pacific, and later with shock at the pandemic’s impacts in an unprepared Europe – it still seemed hard to comprehend. As a public institution, we worked in concert with our Ministry of Higher Education and other institutions to move courses and services online for the last few weeks of the semester. Through all of this, I have been immensely impressed by the resilience of our library’s 22 employees who have responded to this challenge by learning to work remotely with colleagues, supervisors and others, through new communication tools. As the UL, I feel it’s important to ensure we are connecting with all employees regularly, to acknowledge and try to reduce the feelings of anxiety and isolation that are sure to be affecting everyone to different degrees. We seem to be holding more meetings than ever, and chatting and sharing photos to maintain our sense of community. We continue to progress with various projects that ensure employees are involved in a range of activities, such as policy and procedures development. I am planning to hold our strategic planning session via MS Teams, and so it will be an interesting challenge to try to engage all employees through that platform. My practice is to create as much structure and routine as possible, for myself and my employees, to ensure that we continue to be a functional and supportive team, throughout this challenging time.


Debbie Schacter

Dr. Debbie Schachter is the University Librarian at Capilano University in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Debbie is a memberof IFLA’s Library Theory and Research Section, and is Chair of the OCLC Global Council and Chair of the OCLC America’s Regional Council. Debbie also teaches at the UBC Information School and the Langara College Library Technician Program.


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Earth Hour

Earth Hour is one of the world’s largest environmental grassroots movements that exist today. Established in 2007 to bring awareness to climate change, this day is observed on the last Saturday of March, and involves millions of people around the world switching off their lights for one hour to show support for environmental issues. Although this day asks nothing more of individuals than to simply flip a switch, this Earth Hour creates a much larger impact for awareness and participation in other environmental movements.

While still bringing awareness to the significance of climate change, Earth Hour has transitioned to placing emphasis on a number of environmental issues including the accelerated loss of biodiversity around the world. Earth Hour states that their mission now is to address the global loss of nature that has happened in the last 50 years, and seek to protect the nature that remains, while also encouraging the growth of biodiversity by fighting deforestation, pollution, and animal trapping.

This year, participants will switch off their lights for sixty minutes on Saturday, March 28, at 8:30pm local time. In the wake of Covid-19, Earth Hour will be celebrated more digitally this year, and there are a number of things you can do to join in.

Before Saturday, you can:

  • Educate your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues about Earth Hour and encourage everyone you know to take part
  • Join in the #DanceForThePlanet challenge or #FlipTheSwitch challenge on TikTok

On Saturday, you can:

  • Watch #EarthHourLive to see online events around the world
  • Share your photos, stories, and ideas on social media using @EarthHour on Facebook and Twitter, @EarthHourOfficial on Instagram, and/or #EarthHour on all platforms

After Saturday, you can:

  • Continue saving energy by turning off the lights when you exit a room or unplugging appliances not currently in use
  • Encourage others to be aware of climate change and know how they are contributing to the problem or the solution
  • Talk about the significance of biodiversity and take action to support eco-friendly companies and organizations

Earth Hour is sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and partners with other companies like Dropbox, Pocoyo, illains, Scouts, and Love Nature 4K.


To learn more about Earth Hour, visit their website.

To learn more about things you can do, visit the Earth Hour “Take Part” page.

To learn more about WWF, visit their website.

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International Women’s Day 2020

International Women’s Day, as we know it today, was commemorated by the United Nations in 1975, and two years later the annual holiday was formalized. But when considering this is technically the 45th anniversary of International Women’s Day, it is significant to keep in mind that the fight for gender equality dates back much further.


Glimpses of History:

October 24, 1945: The United Nations Charter “Fundamental Freedoms for All” was created. The founding charter of the UN, the document proposes that fundamental freedoms for all should be promoted and encouraged, regardless of race, gender, language, or religion.

June 21, 1946: The Commission on the Status of Women was established to promote gender equality and female empowerment.

December 10, 1948: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations and introduced to the world. This document argued that every person has the right to fundamental freedoms and inalienable rights.

March 8, 1975: The United Nations chose 1975 (International Women’s Year) to contain the first International Women’s Day.

December 18, 1979: The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted by the United Nations. This document defined what it means to discriminate against women.

December 20, 1993: The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women was adopted by the UN. This defined various forms of violence and enabled the people around the world to recognize violence, and take action against it.

September 6, 2000: The Millennium Development Goals were adopted by the UN, and countries from all over the world pledged support to fight for an end to poverty and hunger; educational inequality; gender inequality; child mortality; maternal health issues; and HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; and to support environmental sustainability, and work for global development.

July 2, 2010: The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women was created at the UN General Assembly in an attempt to accelerate the progress being made to meet the needs of women and girls worldwide.

July 12, 2013: On the day of her sixteenth birthday, Malala Yousafzai delivered her historic speech and reminded us that, so long as half of the population of the world is held back, we cannot succeed.

September 20, 2014: Famous British actress Emma Watson launched her campaign “HeForShe”, calling for men and boys to join the fight for gender equality.

January 21, 2017: Nearly half a million people gathered in Washington D.C. and marched with their pussyhats to remind American governmental officials that women’s rights are human rights. This march sparked over 600 sister marches around the United States, and the pussyhat became famous. ______________________________________________

Held annually on March 8th, International Women’s Day celebrates the success and accomplishments of women worldwide in an attempt to fight for, and end, gender inequality. This year marks a special International Women’s Day, as it commemorates a number of anniversaries including the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action; the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security; and the 10th anniversary of UN Women’s establishment.

The theme for 2020 is #GenerationEquality, and seeks to suggest the possibility of demolishing gender inequality in this generation. Although great progress has been made, there are still barriers to universal gender equality. But we can all do something! On this Sunday March 8th, think of all the special women in your life, and consider how you can contribute to the fight against gender violence and inequality. Stand alongside your sisters, and/or pledge your allegiance to the HeForShe campaign. Do your part! And hopefully we will all see an end to gender inequality soon.


For more information about the history of International Women’s Day, go here.

For more information about this year’s theme, go here.

For more information on events happening around the world, go here.

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International Mother Language Day

International Mother Language Day is observed on the 21st of February every year. This year’s theme is “Languages Without Borders”, and the United Nations seeks to spread the idea that “local, cross-border languages can promote peaceful dialogue and help to preserve indigenous heritage” (

International Mother Language Day was proclaimed at the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1999, and emphasizes the importance and diversity of spoken languages all around the world in hopes to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and encourage multilingualism. Nearly 43% of the world’s 6,000 languages are considered endangered today. This means 2,580 mother languages are at risk of being forgotten. Language Endangerment can happen for a variety of reasons, but the result is the same—when a language is lost, so is a group of people’s cultural and intellectual identity.

Language preservation is vital, as it preserves the historical and cultural heritage of a group of people, and in a world where globalization is influencing the languages people speak, lesser known languages are suffering. Non-western educational systems often chose to operate in western languages, leaving students to abandon the language they speak at home with their families and friends, and businesses that interact internationally largely utilize western languages too. By encouraging multilingualism, organizations like the United Nations are trying to create a mindset where it is socially acceptable to use a number of languages, including your western language of choice and your mother language, inspiring individuals to choose to learn new languages while maintaining the ones they already speak. Join in celebrating International Mother Language Day today and everyday by recognizing the many languages other people speak, encouraging multilingualism, and maybe even learning a new language!


*Quote taken from: UNESCO. “International Mother Language Day.”, Accessed 20 Feb 2020.

For more information about International Mother Language Day, visit the United Nations’ “Safeguarding Linguistic Diversity” page found here, or the “International Mother Language Day” event page found here.

To see a complete list of scheduled events, look here.

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Conflict, Migration, and Return: Negotiating Registration and Displacement in Ukraine, 2014-present

On Tuesday, January 28, Professor Cynthia Buckley gave a presentation titled “Conflict, Migration, and Return: Negotiating Registration and Displacement in Ukraine, 2014-present.”

Buckley, Professor of Sociology, began with a slide that stated “We know, we care, and we love Mary Louise Kelly.” Before beginning, she wanted to make the point that, despite negative public opinions, people do in fact know where Ukraine is, and they know and care about what is happening there. Buckley reiterated that the conflict in Ukraine is worthy of discussion now more than ever, and suggested that an analysis of the conflict in Ukraine can apply to a larger discussion of how global displacement is growing.

Buckley briefly discussed her participation within the Central Eurasian State Capacity Initiative (CESCI). Professor Buckley has also been a part of the Minerva Research Initiative since 2019 with Erik Herron, WVU, and Ralph Clem, FIU. Together this group has worked toward establishing state capacity, and its coercive, extractive, and bureaucratic nature, as a conceptual framework. Buckley explained individual and regional experiences of bureaucratic capacity differ within states, and suggested this uneven state capacity provides a unique lens with which to analyze marginalization.

The heart of Buckley’s presentation came from her analysis of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS). There are currently 1.5 million IDPS living in Ukraine alone. This displacement instigates a number of challenges, and IDPS are being referred to around the world as “The New Global Threat”. In Ukraine specifically, IDPS challenge internal sovereignty, and issues relating to property rights, voting rights, and service access are becoming more prevalent.

Professor Buckley has two undergraduate students from UIUC working with her on this project, Grace Ruxlow and Jarod Fox. Jarod, a senior in Global Studies and a Geography major, further contextualized the conflict in Ukraine by presenting a number of maps made by bringing data points together to show attacks on healthcare institutions and schools. With his finished product, Fox was able to illustrate that there has been a serious compromise of healthcare in the eastern regions of Ukraine, and education in the west. 

Over 15,000 people have been displaced from the eastern regions near the conflict line, and Fox identified three groups of people who are moving out of the eastern regions: working age people, people with children, and pensioners. Working age people are migrating to other parts of the country rather evenly, as they move to the areas that have job opportunities. People with children want to move their families as far away from the conflict as possible, but this means that children are moving to the western regions where the education system is inferior. Pensioners, in opposition, want to remain close to their homes, so they migrate as little as possible, and those that do are displaced to other eastern regions. But the problem with this lies in the fact that the eastern regions have inadequate healthcare services because their hospitals and clinics are being shelled.

Buckley concluded by suggesting that an analysis of how and why people are internally migrating in Ukraine can apply to other areas with significant migration like Syria and parts of Africa, and urged the audience to keep in mind that the number of IDPS around the world is growing, even more quickly than the number of global refugees.


For more information and resources relating to this talk and the conflict happening in Ukraine, visit the accompanying libguide found here.

For more information relating to the Minerva Research Initiative, visit their main website found here.

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“Illegal Rose”, Immigration, and the Importance of Art

On Friday, December 6th, the iSchool Students of Color hosted their first public event with the showing of a short film titled Illegal Rose and an accompanying panel discussion. Panelists included Deborah Riley Draper, the Director of the film; Aldo Vasquez, from the Chicago Public Library; and Lauren Aronson, Associate Professor and Founder of the Immigration Law Clinic at UIUC.

Illegal Rose follows the story of a young girl named Sylvie who runs away from the ICE Detention Center and is accidentally kidnapped by a retired nurse on the Fourth of July. Set in the backdrop of the present-day politically-charged United States, the creation of the film was inspired by Langston Hughes’ short story “Thank you, ma’am” and looks at how love, respect, and kindness can transcend age, race, and legal status.

The first half of the discussion was productive and dynamic, as each of the three speakers provided varying viewpoints.

Draper began by talking about why she felt the story needed to be told; she talked about wanting to share the idea of being human and being kind, even when you don’t know the other person or their story. She talked about the choice to use the word “Illegal” in the film title, especially as it is tied to Rose, the character who is an American citizen.

Draper and Vasquez then continued together discussing the importance of art, as Draper suggested the role of artists is to use art as a tool to communicate and create safe spaces where anyone can get involved, and Vasquez talked about how public libraries can create a safe space and help the community create dialogue about sensitive and controversial topics.

Aronson provided a more statistics-based commentary, as she shared some of her experiences working with immigrants and refugees. She told the audience 73,000 unaccompanied minors came to the US in 2019, and nearly 50% of immigrants overstaying their visas are Caucasian. Aronson cautioned the audience to be aware and make educated decisions in both their actions and words; in response to one student’s comments, she insisted detention camps be compared to internment camps rather than concentration camps, as they are spaces where populations are controlled, not exterminated. She reminded the audience to be cautious of their statements, and be aware of the consequences hyperbolic language may incite.

While Draper and Vasquez talked about the importance of art as a starting block to build action, Aronson spoke about how art can develop empathy, and how this empathy can be used to understand why immigrants and refugees are coming, what they’re feeling, and what they’re going through. The whole event was an interesting experience, as it housed a great number of opinions and viewpoints, but the overall take away from the event was the idea that art has a place within discourse and can be used as a tool to bring awareness, to educate, and fight injustice.


More information about the film can be found through IMDB here.

To follow current events pertaining to immigration in the U.S., follow the proceedings and publications of organizations such as the National Immigrant Justice Center.

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Refugees, Migrants, Citizens: Political Socialization across Borders

On Friday December 6th, the “Refugees, Migrants, Citizens: Political Socialization across Borders” Symposium was sponsored by the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (CSAMES), European Union Center (EUC), Center for East Asian & Pacific Studies (CEAPS), Center for Global Studies (CGS), Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, Women & Gender in Global Perspectives Program, and Departments of Political Science, Sociology, Spanish, and Portuguese.

The Symposium consisted of four panel presentations, each with 3-4 presenters and a different subtopic relating to immigrants, migrants, and refugees.

The first panel titled “Paradigms Lost? Political Socialization Research in a World of Mobilities” focused on varying aspects of political socialization and reconceptualizing citizenship. The second panel titled “Migration, Citizenship, Activism” continued with the trend of political socialization but transitioned into discussions of the diaspora and biosociality. The third panel titled “Human Rights and Border Regimes” illustrated viewpoints specific to ideas and policy relating to border control and citizenship. The fourth panel titled “Space, Time, Memory” provided analyses of migrants over time, as seen through the case studies of Cuba and Estonia.

You can find the complete schedule with the full list of panelists here. 

The presentations varied geographically, with some panelists focusing on the United States and others looking at other regions around the world. Professor Lauren Aronson’s presentation (situated within the third panel) evolved from her work as an immigration law attorney within the United States and was exemplary of the issues dealt with at the event. An Associate Professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Aronson founded the Immigration Law Clinic this year where students learn about the law by diving right in and working with the law, and she notes her teaching style relates more to working with facts and reality in court (and often passion and anger) rather than theory in classrooms.

Aronson discussed how she self-identifies as an advocate for immigrants and refugees through the act of storytelling, and she chose to fill her presentation time by telling two stories of refugees, the first of which is detailed below.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions decided that private and societal violence, like that which comes from domestic and gang violence, are no longer grounds for asylum in the United States. In an attempt to oppose this opinion, Aronson’s first story focused on an individual who migrated to the US at the age of fourteen after experiencing physical and emotional child abuse and sexual assault, and being forced to work for a local gang where he had to view various acts of violence against others, including shootings and rape. But despite the great number of injustices he faced, according to this new rule by Sessions, his suffering, and the violence he has endured, are not justifiable reasons for seeking asylum within the United States.

Aronson closed by reminding us that immigrants and refugees do not come to this country to take our jobs, or take advantage of our economy. Rather, all they seek to take advantage of is the safety that American citizens maintain in their everyday lives; they seek a government that protects them, not one that turns against them, and overall, the first thing they seek is survival.

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Global Attitudes of Rural Technical Inferiority as a Cause for Migration to Cities in the Non-Industrialized World

On Wednesday December 4th, Professor Ann-Perry Witmer gave an enlightening talk titled “Global Attitudes of Rural Technical Inferiority as a Cause for Migration to Cities in the Non-Industrialized World.”

Professor Witmer began first by emphasizing several differences between the global and the rural. She brought forward several global attitudes that affect this topic.

Global Attitudes towards the Global

  • The idea of the “Globalization Project”, meaning, the integration among people, industry, and government.
    • This idea is problematic because it assumes that there are only two types of people — those that produce and those that consume. This relates to goods and capital, but also includes services, data, and technology.
  • The notion of a “Global City” as a node for the flow of knowledge, money, and “stuff”.
    • The Global City as it is discussed focuses on the prominence of population centers and the rapid growth we are seeing in globalized centers in places like Dakar, Senegal and Sacaba, Bolivia.
  • The definition of “poverty” (as it is discussed in the 21st century)
    • Within the Global North, poverty is considered to be a state where an individual does not have the material possessions or income they need. But the problem with this understanding stems from the idea that wealth only comes from monetary value. This continues to be problematic when westerners assume money is the great equalizer, and that the depositing of money into impoverished areas will solve all of its foundational problems.

The role of engineers in alleviating poverty is an interesting one as young engineers are moving away from pursuing engineering for the chance to gain six figure salaries, and moving towards a desire to combine engineering with humanitarianism. With this shift in thinking, young engineers are becoming more cognizant of three things in their work environment: their professional and ethical responsibilities, their understanding of the consequences that can arise from technology, and their understanding of how people use machines.

Global Attitudes towards the Rural

Place-based Knowledge & Eco-Diversity

Witmer made the claim that the development of knowledge and technology is based on place and identity, and referenced Knowing Your Place:  Rural Identity and Cultural Hierarchy by Creed and Ching — suggesting that academics often ignore the importance of place when thinking about how human identity is shaped and how this shaping leads to the perpetuation of urban cultural hegemony.

Technology & Technological Inferiority

Witmer discussed at length the idea that westerners often discard local information because they assume it is inferior to other more “modern” practices. In the Global North, we often think about technology for innovation, and we neglect to understand how people living in rural settings may think about technology as it relates to functionality or the systematization of social activities. Rural populations around the world take part in “innovative self-sufficiency” — an occurrence that involves the process of problem-solving rather than innovative thinking.

As the divide between technology for innovation and technology for self-sufficiency grows, there continues to be a growth in the migration from rural to urban spaces. Young people around the world are choosing to migrate from their rural hometowns to urban cities because they want to be close to modernity and have more of an infrastructure that includes power, transportation, and water, and development organizations are responding to this. A great number of development programs are focusing on cities because they think they can have more of an impact there, and rural areas are being left further and further behind as young people forgo indigenous knowledge and strive instead for efficiency.

In response to urban migration, and the focusing of development projects on these area, professional educators and engineers like Ann-Perry Witmer have been trying to educate young engineers about working in rural spaces. Witmer concluded by stating developers should strive to move past awareness and attestation towards assimilation. With awareness, you are made aware with superficial knowledge. With attestation, you are reacting in response to base-line personal experiences and often get too comfortable with your own knowledge. But with assimilation, you are able to lift away your own value-system and understand needs, expectations, and things outside your own mindset. Whereas awareness enables you to identify a problem and attestation provides you with further context and experience, assimilation cultivates an environment where barriers and preconceived notions can be lifted so that new perspectives can be understood.


Reference: Ching, Barbara, and Gerald W. Creed. Knowing Your Place: Rural Identity and Cultural Hierarchy. New York, Routledge, 2013.

For more information relating to this talk, visit the libguide created for this event. It can be found here.

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