Category Archives: Empire

There’s a Long History of Racism and Exploitation Behind Kaua’i’s GMO Controversy

A Guest Post by Sheena Iwamoto

In the summer of 2013, I returned home to Kaua’i after finishing my second year at Scripps College. I was born and raised on the island, the oldest in the Hawaiian chain. That summer, my dad had finally, reluctantly, agreed to teach me how to drive.

Because he grew up on Kaua’i, he is familiar with many of the older, hidden roads that go through the rural mountain areas. He decided to have me drive on the back roads of Kapa’a town, which are less travelled than others. As I drove along curved roads overshadowed by trees, I noticed that something had been spray-painted across the gravel: “NO GMO.”

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To the Little Girl Who Wished for Blonde Hair and Blue Eyes

A Guest Post by Kimberley Africa

This is for all those who once wished, or still wish, to be someone they are not.

Huwag ka magpapa-araw. Iitim ka. “Don’t go into the sun; you’ll get dark.” For years, I heard this phrase again and again, urging me to protect my skin. It was white, like the inside of a coconut, they told me.

By the time I was five, I knew exactly why. I held my daddy’s hand as we waited in line for a ride at an amusement park. Two men standing next us turned to the couple on our other side and commented that their little girl was beautiful. It was then that I realized that I, too, had to have light skin—in addition to blonde hair and blue eyes—so that strangers wouldn’t skip us in the line, and would tell my dad that I also was beautiful. I didn’t know how I was going to get the blonde hair and blue eyes, but I knew that I was definitely not going to go into the sun. I could at least have one of the three attributes.

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Whimsical Branding Obscures Apple’s Troubled Supply Chain

Ipod-NanoSuicide at Foxconn. Poisoned workers. Colluding to inflate the price of e-books. Tax evasion (albeit, legal). Shady suppliers who can’t toe the line of labor or environmental laws in China. Apple’s reputation has taken a hit in recent years, but it sales have continued to climb. How does Apple maintain its economic dominance in light of such powerful scandals? With an exceptionally strong brand that taps into our hopes and cultivates positive emotions. Read the full article at Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing.

Unpacking the Balikbayan Box: Transnational Pilipino Families in Global Perspective

A guest post by Kimberley Africa

Standing next to the balikbayan box my parents just sent in June 2013.
Standing next to the balikbayan box my parents just sent in June 2013.

Ever since I can remember, I have watched my mom and dad fill a huge box with clothes, towels, Spam, shoes, nonperishable foods, and a countless number of other things until they could fit no more. I remember looking into the box and wishing that the huge container of Nesquik were in my hands instead of being cradled by Tang and powdered iced tea. My parents explained that they sent the box to my cousins in the Philippines because they didn’t have all that we had. I always frowned at this, because we definitely did not have chocolate milk mix in the cupboards.

Space is precious. Once my parents made sure that there was no empty crevice left in the box, they would start the closing process. This is a ritual that I have watched so many times: my mom’s and dad’s hands work simultaneously to close the box. Sometimes they ask one of us kids to help. Their experience in packing boxes is clear in their quickness and accuracy. But, taping the top of the box is just the beginning. My dad then grabs a black permanent marker and writes his brother’s address on each side of the box, save the bottom. Then, he wraps the entire surface of the box in clear packing tape to ensure its security on its transoceanic voyage.

“Do they make you tape the entire box?” I once asked. “No, but this is how I can make sure your cousins get everything,” my dad replied.

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Colonialism in Your Cup: Remembrances of the Dutch Empire in Amsterdam

The sinking Cafe de Sluyswacht in Amsterdam, where I enjoyed both beer and coffee. The building dates to 1695. Photo by author.

As I walked the streets of Amsterdam in late September of 2011, I sensed the oldness of the place all around me. As an American, I often find myself awestruck by the visible age of European cities. In terms of the built environment, the United States is a young place. I grew up in New Hampshire, one of the original thirteen British colonies, and have seen my fair share of old New England. I have eaten at “America’s Oldest Restaurant,” The Union Oyster House (established in Boston, Massachusetts in 1826), and have taken care of business in one of the nation’s oldest plumbed indoor toilets, at Harvard University. But, there is something different about Amsterdam, a city that was founded around 1300. Its oldness, and all that represents, is on the surface, looking back at you, as you look at it. Maybe it’s the distinctive and uniform architecture of the original brick buildings that line the city, or they way they tip toward and away from its streets, and slant sideways, due to their slow sinking. Maybe it’s the canals, which remind me of the role of waterways and seafaring in the building of the Dutch empire.

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