inkstone 2007 volume sixteen 21
Editors-in-Chief Tina Cheng Sara Yenke Art Editor Vananh Nguyen Art Editing Group Caren Mok Literary Editor Rahul Jindal Assistant Literary Editor Jennifer Shen Finance Manager Ann Fu Secretary Karen Hu
Publicity Mimi Liu Muxin Li Suong Nguyen Fundraising Jennie Kim Hyun Sung Production Manager JosĂŠ Zamora Production Team Joanne Mosuela Howard O Rebecca Oh Staff Serina Aswani Alyssa Guo Priscilla Khuanghlawn Leilani Uyehara Webmaster Karena Kuo Advisor Fei Yang
is a student-run publication dedicated to providing a medium through which people of all ethnic backgrounds can express their views concerning Asian American culture and identity. Inkstone is not affiliated with the University of Virginia, but is a student-run publication recognized as a Contracted Independent Organization. The views expressed in the magazine are not necessarily those of the University or Inkstone. We encourage creative work and correspondence from all walks of life. Send any written or artistic work to email@example.com or to the following address: Inkstone Literary Magazine Newcomb Hall - SAC University of Virginia PO Box 400715 Charlottesville, VA 22904-4701 For more information, visit: www.student.virginia.edu/~inkstone.
In several Asian cultures, the inkstone symbolizes the beginnings of creativity. The artist prepares the ink by grinding a tablet on stone. While grinding, the artist meditates on what to create. Once the ink is made, it is used in combination with paper and brush to bring forth literature, art and other works. All cultures have used some form of this method to express their views of the world. Along this line of thought, Inkstone is in its beginning and thinking stage as we try to grind out the meaning of Asian American identity and culture. The idea for an Asian American literary and art publication originated in the fall of 1991 with the founding of Paradigm by Vivian Hwang and Minna Minalo. The concept was to showcase Asian American creativity and to help dispel stereotypes. The publication has evolved from simply a showcase, which proved restricting, into a forum for the exploration of Asian American identity. In 1994 Michelle Bugay transformed Paradigm into Inkstone, incorporating the perspectives found in Slant, an issues based newsletter published by the Asian Student Union for the Asian American population. Going beyond its roots, Inkstone is evolving into a medium in which people of all ethnic backgrounds can express their views concerning Asian American culture and identity and share them with the University community.
Cover: Untitled Van-Ahn Nguyen, pen and ink 1
Concept and History: Garden of The Master of Nets Tina CHeng, photograph
Table of Contents: Modernization Tina Cheng, photograph
Curly-haired asian girl Jessalyn elliot, poem
0 Yuuki Ohta, poem VOgue Katherine Gordon, pen drawing
On the Corner with Ganesh Ian macdougall, poem Entrance to the Pelourinho I, photograph Stephanie Doupnik
When the Fisherman Leaves Shi-Shi Wang, poem The Golden State Tina Cheng, photograph
Field Notes, Bangkok 2006 Shi-Shi Wang, poem Stroll James B. Pressly, photograph
10 Menilmontant, 1935 Shi-Shi Wang, poem Chaos Tina Cheng, photograph
The Writer s Corner Mimi Liu and Leilani Uyehara, feature
Interpretations of Silence Yuuki Ohta, poem Californian CampfIre Charles Shorter, photograph
18 Dem Toi Van-Ahn Nguyen, oil on canvas 19
Untitled Weitao wang, pen and ink with watercolor
20 Two Halves Collide Anonymous Untitled (Beijing) James B. Pressly, photograph 22 Human TraffIcking Shi-Shi Wang, article 24 Untitled Ngoc Minh Tran, photograph 26 Shanghai Tina Cheng, photograph 28 Contributions: Untitled Weitao Wang, acrylic 30 Colophon: Unveiled Alyssa Bechtold, photograph
when I was seven Mama said your hair is so thick and straight as she braided it— a French braid then she hurt her hands encased them in white braces that limited her movement tied up with white laces and a metal strip inside (once I tried them on to pretend that I was her because she was my hero) But I could not know her pain when I was eleven Mama said your hair is too thick and I can’t braid it any more What hurts Mama? lifting dishes scrubbing sinks opening jelly jars writing notes on napkins and braiding hair when I was fourteen Mama said your hair is so curly How did it get so curly? (I don’t know) maybe it was compensating since your hands cry when they caress and it misses You. —Jessalyn Elliott
Curly-haired Asian Girl
A butterfly descends. Frail, lost, and oblivious, like an inadvertent utterance, it comes to a rest on a burnt and bruised trunk. Grasses lean, as a gentle breeze saunters on and through— that which is born no-where returning to no-when, always, and always. I long to speak, I long to listen, but this indeterminate lonesomeness refuses any indirect object. I long to speak, I long to listen— another breeze envelops the dead insect, carries it in the air, and, revering, returns it to its womb, where, deep in sleep, it had never opened its eyes. —Yuuki Ohta
On the Corner
For Lakshmanan, 1967-2006
Standing on a quiet corner by a quiet corner café under the bright light of life that shines on these darkly quiet streets, I’m waiting for Ganesh dead three months now when he appears—the Tamil Om—from the next building over and hosts a chant-happening right here mantra under the bright light of these darkly quiet streets: Ganesh your form is Om Ganesh your Tamil tongue won’t speak Ganesh your murti divine Ganesh your tusk broken Leg settling in repose he smiles at me secret-knowing in the wake of past happening we part ways forever: he shoulders the dark quiet and life’s bright light; the café slams shut its doors; and finally I’m left here standing nowhere.
Long before the ugly cries of gulls, wings beating as they should, she opens one eye, the other weaker, not quite swollen anymore. She lies under the pressure of him, pleading for lost men at sea, thankless miles left to travel. Walking will not do, smelling the fish will not do. She is more than a hand that guts, fingers cutting fins and being cut, seasoning the underbelly raw, rubbing out scales with a small knife. Nets are unfastened, he has them now, already she is quivering, attached like an open line to the water draining into pools on the shore. â€”Shi-Shi Wang
She is more than a hand that guts, fingers cutting fins and being cut
FIELD NOTES Bangkok 2006 Only afterwards, I shook, split open the tape with a knife, decided to destroy the sound of my first journey into Myanmar, where
p notrighknow ifi idid had the t to know
but then i asked
I found you, stateless one, sipping a diet coke— the can formed a watery ring on your enclosed palm. Let’s begin, I said, and instead you parted my hair, dabbed white tanaka paint on both our faces to keep the mosquitoes away. I did not know if I had the right to know, but then I asked anyway— how much they paid, how many there were each night, who you sent the remittances to— Only afterwards did we photograph each other, avoided the lens, and looked beyond to measure the thickness of the fog rising from the foothills. —Shi-Shi Wang
James B. Pressly
onlydid afterw s weardphotograph
r e h t o h c a e
i n ĂŠ
Two children face their neighborhood wall— its dust and ancient deformities soon overwritten with Marie’s chalk sketches— what joy to find it useful again. Henri traces what is left— unfinished branches of a jungle tree, the shadow of his thumb perhaps, one pony with fat, uneven legs, crooked wings of a colorless butterfly, a failed earthly copy of the moon, their own names in small capital letters— until Marie’s cheek leans against its coolness, whispering secrets into Henri’s ear, pressed close.
to fi t joy wha
l a gain
The Writer’s Corner In their July 2006 debut, author Amy Lee-Tai and her book A Place Where Sunflowers Grow relate the struggles of a Japanese American family in an internment camp. She lives in Charlottesville with her husband and two daughters. Between work and family, Amy shares her own thoughts and reflections with Inkstone. –questions compiled by Mimi Liu and Leilani Uyehara Above and right photos by John Mitchell You are both a wife and mother. How difficult was it to balance a writing career with a family? Very challenging! Several other moms with young kids have asked me how I managed to write a children’s book. Raising young kids is a 24/7 job; though I think it’s the best job on earth, it’s extremely demanding on your time and energy. For those of you who might be interested in hearing the mundane details of my family life, here goes. My older daughter was two years old when I received the offer to write the manuscript. A couple weeks later, I became pregnant with my second daughter. I had my hands full, but I certainly was not going to pass up this golden opportunity—and the timing was “perfect” in that I wrote the manuscript during the pregnancy.
support of my husband, who does his share of evening chores and sometimes picks up more than his share. While the logistics are quite challenging and far from ideal, it is possible to get the job done with a strategy that works for you and your family. W hat was your initial r eaction on hearing the inter nment experiences of your family? I never met my grandfather who, sadly, died shortly after being released from the internment camp. I don’t recall hearing about internment experiences from my uncle who moved back to Japan in the 1970’s. I was in elementary school at the time. My mom has recounted her internment experiences to me quite a bit. My awareness of the internment stretches pretty far back in time, although I can’t recall the exact first time she talked to me about it when I was a child. I recall certain references to the internment,
Since I did not have the luxury of writing for hours on end, I wrote when I could—20 minutes here, an hour there—when my older daughter took a catnap, after she went to sleep at night, when she played with visiting grandparents, and so on. I submitted the final manuscript a month or two before my baby was born. In the first year of my baby’s life, the editor and I made small changes to the text, the book was sent off to be printed, the publicist and I started developing a promotion plan, the book was released, and the promotion began. I find myself in a similar situation now that I am promoting the book: I am seizing chunks of time to plan for book events and to work on book-related projects. Each event or interview or teacher’s guide takes several chunks (even weeks) to complete—for instance, during the process of responding to these questions for Inkstone, my older daughter came down with a virus, then my younger daughter came down with a virus, then my younger daughter came down with another virus—so the formula that has worked for me is to start early and to stay disciplined and organized (and unfortunately, somewhat sleep-deprived). This formula refers not only to the manuscript writing and event planning, but also to the other demands in my life. That is, if I want to have the hour after the kids go to bed to work, I need to try to have the other parts of my life in as much order as possible. This whole plan would not work without the help and 16 12
From left to right: Miya, Amy, Robert, Liana. Photo courtesy of Amy Lee-Tai. for instance a copy of Journey to Topaz by Yoshiko Uchida, which my mom gave to me when I was in elementary school. I recall being alone in my room reading the book with both interest and confusion. I do remember fairly clearly that, when I was a teenager in San Francisco, my mom talked about the internment, both sad times and happy moments. She was ages 5-8 during the internment, so she remembers quite a bit.
I have a vague recollection of my grandmother talking about her internment experiences to me when I was a teenager, but I don’t remember particular stories. What I do remember well was my grandmother working on her memoirs, which she wrote from the early 1950’s until the late 1980’s. She focused primarily on the internment years. She would come to our house with her typewritten manuscript and ask my brothers and me to proofread it.
Things have changed.” But not enough. So many individuals remain unaware that the internment even occurred! Ask your classmates, neighbors, friends, parents, grandparents. How many of them have heard of the Japanese American internment? While it is a tough job to expose others to a tragic chapter of American h i s t o r y —the internment shows some of the worst of human behavior and violates the ideals our country was founded upon—it is a critical lesson to teach and learn.
...the internment shows some of the worst of human behavior and violates the ideals our country was founded upon...
As a preteen and teenager, the internment left me feeling uneasy. On the one hand, I was being exposed to the United States Constitution and The Pledge of Allegiance in school; on the other hand, I was being exposed to the Japanese American internment at home. It was a confusing and harsh concept to grasp the internment of a whole group of loyal American citizens within the context of a supposed democracy “with liberty and justice for all,” especially since I don’t have any recollection of the internment ever having been mentioned or discussed in school.
It was not until I was in my 20’s and 30’s that I started to really look at the internment as a travesty—and feel the anger—not just for my mother and her family, but also for all the 120,000 Japanese Americans who had been unconstitutionally interned. The internment affected Japanese Americans not only during WWII, b u t a l s o a f t e r wa r d s — emotionally, financially, professionally, and so on. Having turned 40 this year, I am aware of a mix of feelings, but the major feeling is one of pride—that the Japanese Americans handled the internment with dignity and courage, and that they have gone on to flourish in America despite the fierce racism that they encountered before, during, and after the internment. Do you fully believe that the history behind Japanese American internment camps is not covered extensively? I am familiar with many of the works published on the internment—there are several dozen to date—but I certainly have not done a systematic survey of the literature. The body of work is growing, and more people are becoming aware of the internment’s place in history. Yet my opinion is that the internment experience has still not been researched, written about, and especially, not discussed enough. I went to elementary and middle school in New York City and high school in San Francisco, and I do not recall ever having heard one mention of the internment. You could say, “That was during the 70’s and 80’s.
I can think of Photo illustration by Felicia Hoshino at least three reasons that the internment must be common knowledge. Any one of these reasons ought to be enough. First, it happened. Two, by not including the internment in our history books, the Japanese Americans are once again wronged. Three, like I said earlier, I do believe the old notion that if we know our history, we are more likely not to repeat it. Where did you get the inspiration for your book? There were multiple inspirations, as well as practical factors, that ultimately led to my book. The life story of my maternal grandmother Hisako Hibi was what inspired me to want to write a children’s book. I had long pondered the idea. I believe she was a pioneer in her own right: a first generation Japanese American woman artist who painted throughout her lifetime including during the Japanese American internment. She continued to follow her calling to be an artist, even when my grandfather died shortly after the internment and she was left alone and poor to raise two children. I’m quite frankly in awe that she had the vision and strength to see her dream through under such oppressive circumstances. She was a strong, compassionate person who believed in world peace, and a passionate artist who persevered and prevailed. I wanted more people to know about her courageous story. While my book ended up not being directly about my grandma, the way she lived her life was a driving force behind my writing. Besides her life story, I wanted more people to know about my grandmother’s beautiful artwork, which was a second inspiration for my book. I had grown up viewing my grandmother’s (and grandfather’s) paintings, including her 70 internment camp paintings. They were always around in some way, whether hanging up on our walls, stored away in our house, on exhibit, or in photos in our family albums. As a child, the images gave me a glimpse into life at Topaz Relocation Center and later helped me form the setting for my book. My grandma’s paintings gave me some understanding of the primitive, difficult conditions of the camps: the 17 13
the world by leaving behind scores of beautiful artwork that document the history of the internment. The Topaz Art School became yet another inspiration.
Amy and her mother Ibuki Hibi Lee in Brooklyn, December 1998. Photo by Robert H. Tai. barbed wire, watchtowers, armed guardsmen, long lines, lack of privacy, barracks, mess halls, latrines, harsh weather, and so on. In addition, my grandmother’s paintings—the scenes of nature as well as those of her family and other internees—gave me a sense of the perseverance and hope that she maintained while living in the desert behind barbed wire. Another strong inspiration was the 2004 release of a book edited by my mother Ibuki Hibi Lee. Published by Heydey Press, it is entitled Peaceful Painter Hisako Hibi: Memoirs of an Issei Woman Artist. The book contains my grandmother’s memoirs and some of her artwork, a project that my grandma had asked my mom to undertake before passing away in 1991. Seeing the book finally lit a fire under me, and I immediately started to research my idea for a children’s book about my grandmother. Just a couple of weeks after the release of Peaceful Painter, another publisher Children’s Book Press contacted my mom soliciting a manuscript for a children’s book set during the internment. Knowing that I was interested in writing a children’s book (and having just completed the long process of Peaceful Painter during which time she battled cancer twice), my mom passed the project on to me. I consider myself the recipient of a very talented mother and grandmother! Of course, I did not automatically receive a contract—I had to show that I could write decently—but I also did not have to pound the pavement and shop my manuscript around. I lucked out big time, certainly not a typical first book experience. The editor at Children’s Book Press told me that she wanted the manuscript to revolve around the camp art school. It is a little known fact that some of the internment camps had art schools, organized and staffed by professional artists. These art schools were vibrant communities that offered internees an invaluable outlet to express themselves in an overall restrictive environment. My grandfather Matsusaburo Hibi helped to organize Topaz Art School; he and my grandmother both taught there; and my mother and uncle were students there. The art schools are a great example of how a group of oppressed people rose above their external circumstances to create something of such value to individuals, the camp community, and ultimately 18 14
And the inspiration kept coming. As part of my research for the book, I had a talk with my mom about her internment experiences. While she had talked to me about the internment many times before, this was the first time that I remember initiating a talk. Two of her stories really struck me. One was of my mom and my grandma planting sunflower seeds outside their barrack. The other was of my mom and my grandfather walking to and from art school together. To me, the stories were about the sustaining power of love and the survival of hope alongside even the harshest of injustices. These two stories ultimately formed the backbone of my book. In the end, the characters and most of the events are fictional. It is not a book about my grandma—or about my mom and her family, for that matter. However, it is a work of historical fiction very much inspired by my mom and her family’s internment experiences and by my grandparents’ artwork, especially my grandmother’s. Yet perhaps my greatest inspiration came from my desire for children (and adults) to learn about the Japanese American internment, an important chapter of American history that is still often ignored in classrooms and in books. I think it is crucial for children studying WWII to learn that the internment—with its hardships and injustice— did in fact happen in our country. I do believe Amy at her grandmother Hisako the old notion that Hibi’s exhibit in San Francisco, May being aware of his- 1987. Photo by Ibuki Hibi Lee. tory is an important step in not repeating it. Without shutting readers down, I wanted to say, “Look what we are capable of perpetrating on our fellow American citizens out of fear and ignorance. Let’s never let something like this happen again.” I often think about the fragile political situations that other groups face in our country today. It is my sincerest hope that my book (and other books with similar themes) will plant a seed in children to treat each other better than previous generations have sometimes treated each other in our country. Your book is unique because it appeals to a very young audience (grades 2-3). Have you ever encountered criticism about this? To date, I am personally not aware of having received criticism of this sort from newspaper/journal reviews, from audience members at book events, or through other venues. As far as I know, either the issue has not been raised or it has been raised with comments from the other camp—that children would benefit from being exposed to the Japanese American internment experience.
However, I would be naive to think that there aren’t individuals who believe that the topic is inappropriate for second and third graders. I am sure there are those people out there, given that it is such a loaded topic. There are a few other published children’s picture books about the internment. The ones I am aware of include The Bracelet by Yoshiko Uchida, Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki, and Flowers from Mariko by Rick Noguchi and Deneen Jenks. I am excited to see a body of work for children starting to develop. I was told by my editor at Children’s Book Press to write a manuscript at about a third grade level. Because of the book’s content, it is usable with upper elementary students, and even with middle school students and high school students. I know that the book is being used in some university classrooms, including more predictable courses such as social studies education and less expected courses such as philosophy of education. I digress.
about with children. I think that deleting it from the history lesson—for instance, teaching about WWII but not including the internment—is a form of miseducation. For ideas on how to use the book with students, you can check out the Teachers’ Guide at: www.childrensbookpress.org. Are you currently working on any new projects? Do you plan on having other books published sometime soon? The only writing project I am currently working on is my second daughter’s baby book! She is one-and-ahalf years old and I haven’t gotten very far yet. Any spare time that I have this year is going toward promoting A Place Where Sunflowers Grow, which has been a blast. I have learned that promoting a book can take much more time and energy than the actual writing of the book. I feel a strong pull to write more children’s picture books and have several ideas, including both historical non-fiction and fiction. While I will continue to promote my book in 20072008, I hope to begin work on at least one manuscript during that time frame.
The Japanese American internment was the result of racism, wartime paranoia, and Why do you make the reference poor governmental leadership. to sunflowers in your book? These causes, along with the reality of the internment camps, My mom and grandma really did may be hard to understand and plant sunflower seeds outside emotionally overwhelming for their barrack. I just love that children. Below a certain age, Photo illustration by Felicia Hoshino they did that. To me, there was I believe that the book—and something so beautiful about the topic of the inter nplanting seeds in the middle of ment—is simply not appropriate, because very the desert behind barbed wire. It was an act of hope. young children do not have the life experience, background knowledge, and the necessary tools to make My mom tended to the seeds faithfully and they grew to any sense of it. For instance, I have not read the book the top of the barrack wall. Passersby would often stop in its entirety to my 4-and-a-half year old daughter. I to admire the flowers, a rare sight in the barren desert. have read only the parts of it and discussed it at a level The flowers were used by art students as models and that I believe she can understand: a girl moves, misses by flower arrangement students in their displays. her old home, plants seeds, wants them to grow, takes an art class, struggles to draw, finally draws, makes a Besides serving as a metaphor for hope, the sunflowers new friend, and finds that her seeds have grown. I represent the internees who managed to survive—with have not discussed the internment with her, because I dignity and grace—the harsh circumstances of the believe she is too young to even begin to grasp it, but internment. On a much lighter note, I just love sunflowers. also because I believe that children should be allowed I think they are so cheerful and fun, down-to-earth yet to be children at that tender young age. grand. Above a certain age, the book can be used as a tool to introduce the internment. Some logical places to address the internment include units on WWII or racial prejudice. It is up to the discretion of the teacher/parent/adult to decide on the level of detail to expose the children to, given the ages, background knowledge, and so on of the children. In the end, I believe that children possess a keen sense of justice and injustice; maybe the youngest of them won’t get that the internment was illegal, irrational, and racist, but I do believe that they will get that it was unfair and wrong. Critics may say that the internment is too harsh to talk
To view the complete version of Amy Lee-Tai’s interview questions and answers, please visit the Inkstone website.
(a poem in ten fragments)
Silence is water, and water my sorrows— my sorrows sigh softly among sifting, moonlit leaves, and in that slight sway of the night like the unheard heat of blood running through a capillary. *** Unless silence is also—and still— time, we do not know it. And if time is a river, where is the sea?
*** In your silence I remember the summer, its glorious gait, its long and strong steps, and the sudden gust of wind that accompanied, swift and thick. In your silence I see the bold footsteps it has left behind— ***
The silence that follows, and is followed by, nothing— this is true dread: a falling star that never falls. *** You have a name and I can utter it. I call you, and then “you,” like a stain of dark ink, leave a mark on my —memory. But this, only if silence is the eternal home to which our words return. All names dissolve, disclosing each nothing they have once embraced. *** Silence, or —our silence? Silence is at once the womb and the tomb of words, and our silence is death itself. *** Even in silence, I hear a song. Even in silence, I see your eyes. Only in silence, I imagine your voice.
Silence is water, and water my sorrows. Silence is all seasons; or it is the season of all seasons. I immerse my hand beneath its surface, touching something dark and cold, and unchanging. I scoop up a handful of silence —and as it falls back, returns to the current through my fingers, benumbed and smarting, I feel my blood running within. Then— *** Again in your silence, I kneel down and place my hand on the damp soil on which the titanic season has left its vestige behind. I press my hand down, as if to infuse the heat that is inside of me, or as if to search for a distant heartbeat. *** Words rest in silence, as we rest in death. Let me then sing a song of love, and make my death my— final note.
—Yuuki Ohta 21 17
Ðêm Toi ˆ´
by: Weitao Wang (above)
by: Van-Anh Nguyen (left)
Two Halves Collide No matter where I turn No matter what I do I will always be a slave to their systems Crushed between two ethnocentric cultures Trapped between two competitive worlds The aggressor and the aggressor The burly bullies in the schoolyard Shoved around, tossed aside Teased, taunted, tormented… Who will dominate? Who will succeed? Too loud and abrasive for the Asian ears Too meek and tender for the American eyes until, finally, I possess no speech of my own My voice disabled, rendered mute, diminished to nothingness. Weak spirit that I am. To choose one is to lose favor with the other To choose both is to lose favor with all To choose neither is to be considered inhuman and unrecognizable. You need an identity, they say. You need a label. They try to put a label on me but it doesn’t stick, it doesn’t stay (Much to their dismay). Why? So you can research my passions and dislikes? So you can group me Categorize me Compartmentalize me any way you want— socially, racially, demographically, politically… figure out the kind and type of person I am before I have a chance to even figure it out for myself ?
I perceive in the success of others my own failure and inability to cope with reality.
All your shaking heads and pitying glances: She’s lost her culture her background, her history, her complete sense of self-being What is “culture” to you anyway? The fact that I can speak and write the languages of my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great grandparents? The fact that I know what each Asian delicacy on the menu 20
looks like and tastes like? The fact that I can recount to you the general statistics of every East Asian, Southeast Asian, South Asian, and Pacific nation in the world like an encyclopedia article? Huh, funny how there’s no West Asian… Oxymoronic, don’t you think? The fact that at a moment’s notice I will be able to clarify, justify, demystify for your sole benefit and pleasure the overarching concept of communism skimmed down to a textbook definition… and for their burning ears in the East, describe capitalism to them without trying to make those people look like greedy, selfish pigs who can barely pay for their health insurance, much less pay off all their credit card debts? Or the fact that by adapting to any one of your fucking cultures I still manage to grasp onto whatever remnants of a cultural past, a present identity, a future meaning of existence that I have or might have had… Still believing I can balance both worlds, both responsibilities, both identities, but can I? Can I really? The ideological conflict The international clash The war I fight myself, inside and out, against both sides that are determined to break me, destroy me unless I finally choose an identity until I finally decide to stick on the label. This is not your battle to fight. This is no one’s battle to fight but my own. Individual. Collective. Majority. Minority. Duty Desire Us Them We They Me I am everything with the hyphen I am nothing with the hyphen
james b. pressly
Human Trafficking: More Heat than Light! by Shi-Shi Wang
uman Trafficking. You’ve probably heard it on the news or read the flashy “investigative reports” in Marie Claire—trade in persons, or “modern-day slavery” is increasing worldwide. But what are we really talking about when we are discussing the term “Human Trafficking?” The UN will give you a long definition, but for practical purposes we can define it as “forced labor” or as the “worst forms of migration.” At its core, trafficking is about (1) movement, either internally or cross-border, in which (2) use of deception, threat, or violence force, is used to (3) exploit a person’s labor in forced or slave-like conditions. Unfortunately, trafficking for sex purposes (or sex trafficking) is usually the first and only definition that comes to mind—this narrow conception of trafficking completely ignores 90% of human trafficking cases that don’t have anything to do with “forced prostitution” and are actually located in the agricultural, manufacturing, and domestic sector of forced labor trafficking. Clearly there are problems and limitations with defining “trafficking” and its “root causes” that indicate a need to re-evaluate the progress that has already been made and to ask three crucial questions: (1) how do we define trafficking and what a trafficking victim “looks like”; (2) how do we know if trafficking is getting better or getting worse; and (3) what make today’s trafficking victims especially vulnerable? In the words of Phil Marshall, former UNIAP director and one of forty contacts I interviewed during a 9-week research trip to Thailand in the summer of 2006: “Despite improvements made among particular populations or geographic regions, the economics of this phenomenon have largely remained the same.” One example of the current struggle over trafficking prevention strategies and the politics of US 26 humanitarian funding is found in the State Department’s
publication of its annual Trafficking In Persons Report (TIP). The report ranks more than 73 countries depending on the degree of their compliance based on American standards in trafficking prevention. The report, however, is heavily biased in favor of strong law enforcement responses—those countries that have enacted tough “anti-smuggling” laws and taken aggressive attitudes towards “immigration enforcement” are ranked highest. For example, Thailand is rewarded as a Tier 2 country because the country takes National Security and border control “seriously.” Meanwhile, more and more resources are being invested in trafficking “prevention” among “at-risk” populations. These prevention projects reflect the State Department’s attitude towards trafficking victims— stay home, and don’t look for trouble. These projects are aimed at raising village awareness about the risks of migration (“home-stay projects”) and the various tricks and techniques of “traffickers.” Support for such initiatives continues despite limited monitoring of their immediate impact in terms of increased awareness and even less information as to whether this increased awareness is leading to behavior change. The assumption is that if “fully informed” about the dangers of trafficking, children, adults and families will be able to “act” differently. This is not always the case. In fact, the case of Thailand’s 500,000 stateless population—primarily the hill tribe peoples living in the Northern mountainous provinces—illustrates a need to reassess human trafficking cases within its political-economic and social-historic framework. For example, controlling illegal movements across borders alone will not solve the problem for hill tribes and will only increase the dangers and vulnerabilities that at-risk populations would face. After all, based on international
trends in general and Southeast Asia in particular, human trafficking is a lucrative business that can quickly adjust to changing environments and changing market flows. As long as prevention programs fail to make a significant impact on the “demand” and “supply” side of trafficking, community-level education on the dangers of migration and national border control policies will only go so far.
range of abuses, myths about trafficking need to be deconstructed to avoid reified notions of culture and gender that Western scholars (or anyone else for that matter) apply to the Other (presumably inferior) countries that have high trafficking numbers (talk of number is yet another “gray area” since so little research has been done to come up with reliable statistics on the phenomenon). This is a task that involves removing countless layers of ideological, cultural, and political misconceptions—each morally satisfying but none that will solve the trafficking problem in the long term.
In addition to a careful definition of terms, the current framework for trafficking research needs to move away from the too-narrow “Organized Crime” (adopted by the UN) paradigm and the too-broad So, to be quite blunt: human trafficking as a “Development” paradigm (adopted by most NGOs), topic is difficult to define precisely because it is and instead move towards a migration-based approach. inescapably linked to sexual exploitation. Sexual The “development paradigm” such as poverty, lack of exploitation is inevitably linked to prostitution. The education, conflict and lack of jobs makes it difficult to debate between forced as opposed to voluntary sex prioritize interventions or zoom in on a single cause. work evokes images of the “innocent” passive victim The “Organized Crime” paradigm is based on as opposed to the deserving “guilty” migrant, thus extreme definition of trafficking—only those who blurring the line between victimhood and agency. The are directly sold or kidnapped into sexual debate also reinforces the assumption that slavery are identified as “real victims,” all sex workers must be women and they and the recruiters, smugglers and must be trafficked, kidnapped, or sold the abusive employers are all into “sexual slavery.” The fact that Human trafficking lumped together in this presumed more people (of both genders) are is a lucrative business network of “traffickers” who all, trafficked into domestic, fishing, supposedly, know each other by agricultural, and manufacturing that can quickly adjust reputation and share profits made. sectors rather than into the sex to changing environThus, if we move away from the industry is not widely recognized. ments and changing organized crime paradigm and One must therefore be wary of market flows. recognize that the majority of moral interventions based on claims trafficking is a fall-out form irregular of the women’s “best interest” when the migration, new alternatives arise women themselves are not consulted in in the response. This would involve the first place. Same can be said for children several components: regularization of labor who traditionally don’t have any “say” in the matter. migration, providing alternatives to migration, As the anthropologist Heather Montgomery writes in protecting the rights of migrants, strengthening her ethnography on child sex workers in Baan Nua: return and repatriation, and monitoring the impact. “Too often victims are treated as a homogenous For the hill tribe population of Thailand, citizenship category facing identical problems and needing similar addresses all of these components, and therefore, is help… they are talked about so much, but rarely are the vital first step in addressing systemic vulnerabilities they talked to.” (the so-called root causes) of trafficking today. Secondly, while trafficking is recognized as a form The ultimate question arrives at how hill tribe of Violence Against Women by the United Nations communities (or ANY at-risk group) are able to Economic and Social Commission (ESCAP-Gender migrate more safely—the point is to decriminalize and Development Section), men and boys are also their movement (movements that are perfectly natural trafficked (although data is virtually non-existent due and follow logical preference for better jobs and better to under-reporting and the belief that men cannot be opportunities) and reduce their reliance on dangerous trafficked). Not surprisingly, the most UN reports agents and employers. and other scholarship on human trafficking have almost exclusively focused on women and girls involved I find it extremely useful to begin by discussing some in the sex trade. The existing gap in data collection and of the prevailing definitions and myths surrounding research for trafficking cases involving men and boys the term trafficking. Since the term covers a broad needs to be addressed.
NGOC MINH TRAN Another point of clarification should be made between the terms “human trafficking” and “human smuggling.” The two terms are commonly mistaken to mean the same thing. This misconception was especially apparent during this summer’s World Cup in Berlin. According to the Associated Press, over 40,000 women were “trafficked” into Germany for the event. Later reports seeking to confirm where the origin of the shocking number of soccer “sex slaves” proved futile. What happened in Germany illustrates a wider inclination for the news media to call almost anything involving the sex trade a case of trafficking! Because trafficking denotes movement, it is relatively easy to confuse cases of smuggling with cases of trafficking. To do so would be to disregard the difference between a crime against the state and a crime against the individual. The intention of the smuggler is to make money after a single transaction. The intention of the trafficker is to make money off of human labor through deceit, threat, or use of violence. The relationship between the smuggler and the migrant ends at the point of destination, whereas in a trafficking situation, the exploitation begins afterwards. Furthermore, men, women, and children will move 24
illegally if their present situation is dire enough or if a better life (either imagined or guaranteed) exists somewhere else. Still, there are many other reasons for moving, and not all of them have to do with poverty. In recent years, thousands of Burmese migrants have crossed the border into Thailand as displaced refugees escaping the military insurgents fighting the Shan State. Economic migration can also be seasonal rather than permanent. Movement can also occur inside a country rather than across borders. Finally, sometimes trafficking cases will not occur as a result of voluntary movement, but in the context of kidnapping, debt-bondage, and outright selling of human beings to another. However, the majority of cases are neither as shocking nor as straight-forward. Below are descriptions of real events that challenge conventional definitions of trafficking gathered from my interviews with the director of the Thai-NGO Hill Area Development Foundation in July 2006: A young hill tribe woman left her village looking for employment opportunities and found a job as a domestic worker for a Thai family in Chiang Mai. Two weeks later, the family accused her of stealing a cell phone, set fire to her, and then proceeded to lock her up for three days without food, water, or medical treatment.
Three young men belonging to the Akha tribe moved illegally from Chiang Rai to Bangkok. They found jobs working in a plastic factory in the city. A month later, two of them left to work on a fishing boat, where they were forced to take drugs to enable them to work very long hours. One year later, the captain of the boat murdered both men when they became too sick to work. Up until now, the main discussion among government officials in various workshops and regular conferences in Bangkok has revolved heavily around border control as a solution to the trafficking problem. As usual, the focus on programs and policies confined to “security” and “police responses” has the tendency to emphasize the Evils of Movement much more than the evils of Exploitation. Border control is also a matter of preserving national identity and national “security” in the face of an influx of transnational migration, both legal and illegal. Much talk about stopping movement as a way of “stopping trafficking” or “protecting women and children” is especially interesting in comparison to the silence on why migration takes place in the first place and why there is a demand for cheap and easily exploitable labor! Thus, the burden of “trafficking prevention” falls primarily on marginalized populations who must learn to “help themselves.” The problem with this argument is, again, based on how trafficking is defined and what actually constitutes a direct “trafficking prevention” program. How many steps are there between a prevention program aimed at reducing trafficking and one that is aimed at reducing migration? There is a growing number of policies and projects aimed at “reducing trafficking” by way of increasing health care, increasing access to education, and alleviating aggregate poverty in the community. The discourse on trafficking prevention has thus far concentrated overwhelmingly on addressing perceived root causes of trafficking— poverty, lack of education, and even “bad culture.” All of these factors relate exclusively to the supply side of the trafficking cycle. But, in the end, human trafficking involves gross abuses of human rights, including physical and mental abuse, rape, forced drug use, deprivation of liberties and sometimes even murder. To suggest that all of these grotesque acts are caused by factors such as poverty, lack of employment opportunities, or even lack of awareness—is simply not correct. Next, let’s further examine the idea of
“Trafficking Victim.” How do police officers know if someone is truly a victim or has landed in a place of employment “by choice”? Victim identification is not as simple as going to a bar and picking out the seventeen-year-old girl who is “exploited,” while leaving the eighteen-year-old alone. It is not as simple as associating cases of prostitution with cases of trafficking. David Feingold, director of UNESCO-Bangkok Culture and Trafficking Unit, defines trafficking as a process. Most people are not trafficked, but can become trafficked through a series of events that can quickly spin out of control. When he interviewed Burmese migrants, the term trafficking was never used. Instead the outcome of one’s migration experience was a matter of being lucky or unlucky in one’s travels. If one is lucky, one comes back with money saved up and can put brother and sisters through another year of school. If one is unlucky, then one either does not come back at all, or one’s earnings are confiscated by the border police. For those migrants who were interviewed, there was no specific indicator that distinguished a trafficking victim from someone who had a “very bad migration experience.” And, when asked if they would try to find work in Bangkok again, most of the migrants interviewed said yes—because they had learned their lessons the first time and would be less naïve the next time. In addition, there is very little incentive for victims to report the crime or cooperate with state authorities if illegal movement between provinces is considered a crime, because most would fear deportation or further sanctions. Thailand’s Ministry of Human Development and Social Welfare and its Ministry of Interior have taken steps to strengthen the multidisciplinary coordination between immigration officials, police officers, non-governmental organizations, and social workers in order to ensure the safety and health of the victim. A better way to comprehend the landscape of possible coercive and exploitative situations is to focus on trafficking in different sectors, such as the fishing industry, agriculture, domestic work, and sex work. The industries can be further divided into gender-specific work. For example, an unpublished ILO research paper discovered that only men worked on fishing boats and that only women were employed as domestic workers. Finally, how “exploitative” does a situation need to be to be called trafficking? Except in the extreme cases of trafficking, which clearly resemble slavery, determination of who is actually a victim of trafficking quickly becomes subjective. Given the subjectivity 25
involved, there is a very strong need for clear policies and laws, and specialist/experts who can be involved in helping with the screening process. Yet these are precisely what is missing in Thailand (and a lot of other countries) now. For instance, the government has yet to produce a check-list of characteristics of trafficking victims which could be used in screening for trafficking victims. Some examples of questions are as follows: 1. Is the person free to leave the work site? 2. Is the person physically, sexually or psychologically abused? 3. Has the person or a family member of this person been threatened? 4. Does the person fear that something bad will happen to him or her, or to a family member, if he/she leaves the job? 5. Does the person have a passport or valid I.D. card and is he/she in possession of such documents? 6. What is the pay and conditions of employment? 7. Does the person live at home or at/near the work site? 8. How did the individual arrive to this destination?
Having a better understanding of the politics of victim identification is important in better understanding the trafficking cycle—the entire chain of events leading up to, including, and extending beyond exploitation. This trafficking cycle is found within the
Thai border populations of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. As described earlier, the chances that migration will go wrong are increased when the person moving does so illegally. In the case of Northern Thailand’s hill tribe communities who remain “stateless” and “invisible” to the state, their existence is deemed illegal (just like illegal workers crossing the border between Mexico and the US). The hill tribe population—made up of at least seven ethnic minority groups (Meo, Kachin, Karen, Akha, Lahu, Lisu, and Hmong) that originally migrated from China, Myanmar, and Vietnam hundreds of years ago—face new and debilitating difficulties in a rapidly changing environment that has systematically ignored indigenous existence and rights since the First National Census in 1956 failed to include highlanders in its records. They have been over-looked mainly because of their remote location and a general lack of will on the part of the government. In 1999, highlanders were issued a blue color card. But the cards were not proof of Thai residency or citizenship; instead, they categorized all hill tribe people as non-nationals and provided only temporary permission to stay in Thailand pending an official decision by the Cabinet. Furthermore, the 1992 amendments to the 1965 Nationality Act award citizenship only to Thai-born children of citizens or permanent residents. This ensures that children of non-permanent parents will inherit their statelessness. Hence, the number of children born without a nationality is on the rise. As in all countries, nationality is not just a legal
issue; it is a political one as well. Granting from generating income in work sectors besides that ethnic minorities full Thai citizenship is not only are not dangerous, dirty, and demeaning. a debate about who has a right to occupy Thailand, Ultimately, the link between lack of citizenship and but even more basically, it is a debate about who is the increased risk of being trafficked is an alternative Thai. As a result of complex political and historical way to address “root causes” of unsafe migration. circumstances that have yet to be resolved, many hill For the indigenous highlanders, gaining citizenship tribe people are without citizenship and cannot rights will be the crucial and underlying first legally work or travel within Thailand. This step towards trafficking prevention number increases every time a child because it will decrease the risk of is born without a birth certificate unsafe migration. Thai citizenship Thai citizenship alone and is not registered in the Thai alone will not remove the need to Civic Bureau. Hill tribe people migrate without the progress that will not remove the are denied access to health care, sustainable development and rural need to migrate without land, political rights, and higher income generation will provide. the progress that suseducation as a result of their lack of Still, without citizen status, a tainable development legal status. However, it should be safe and stable future remains and rural income generacarefully noted that while stateless highly contentious for hill tribe tion will provide. hill tribe populations are not able migrants. Citizenship rights, besides to access the country’s 30 baht social endowing their possessors with the security scheme, when it comes to the right to free movement within the public health system, the outright denial of country without explicit permission from the sick—regardless of legal status—happens very the state, also translate into rights to land and the rarely. Nevertheless, the absence of a National Plan political right to vote and form assemblies. These two of Action to resolve the stateless population once and factors make it possible to imagine greater highland for all will effectively and systematically perpetuate the mobilization around local and national politics. growth of a multi-ethnic underclass and lead to the Gaining citizenship is a prerequisite for improving over-representation of ethnic populations in human village life to the extent that migration no longer trafficking cases and other exploitative situations. No becomes an outright necessity for survival. doubt the question of why the hill tribe people have become “invisible” to their governments will involve a If being stateless, along with being poor and critical look at past policies as well as present economic uneducated, are not the “root causes” of trafficking, and social trends that have increased both the supply of and if the concept of trafficking is placed within its and demand for cheap labor from vulnerable stateless socio-economic context, then what progress have to populations. Stateless populations become vulnerable be concluded from all this? What are the answers to not only because they lack citizenship, but also because all the questions that have been raised and put up for of language barriers and the lack of resources and further debate? The easy answer is that there is no social connections, which make migration and life after easy answer. But for a change, it might be helpful relocation dangerous. to begin looking at the situation from the trafficker’s perspective rather than put all the burden of change With all this in mind, recent research by Ophidian and innovation on the victim’s shoulders. Why is the Research Institute and UNESCO-Bangkok has trade in humans so appealing? What are the conditions concluded that lack of citizenship remains the that make the perceived benefits of migration and greatest single risk-factor for a highland women potentially being trafficked high and the costs low? and girls vulnerable to trafficking or exploitation. Also, it is important to acknowledge that trafficking Without citizenship, safe and legitimate employment does not occur in a vacuum but against a background becomes a luxury while certificates for compulsory of social intolerance grounded in the discrimination education and scholarships toward further education against such groups as women, children, migrants, and are systematically denied. As David Feingold explained ethnic minorities. The trafficking problem remains a to me last summer, being stateless leads to the inability deeply universal one—although I have talked about the to document a marriage as well as restrictions on free anti-trafficking movement in Thailand and revealed a movements from province to province without explicit specific case study, my hope is that by raising awareness government permission. For many hill tribe migrants, of the myths and heated debates surrounding the topic, seeking alternative employment through legal channels more research and more questions can be derived from remains futile if their lack of legal status prevents them this paper. 27
Jessalyn Elliott is a third year English major in the Curry school for Secondary English Education. She thoroughly enjoys balsamic vinegar, feeding the geese in the Dell, the caramel vanilla lattes at Alderman Cafe, and secretly being a hardcore a capella groupie. She wishes to thank all those who have both inspired and criticized her writing. Alyssa Guo is a third year Commerce Student who harbors a not-so-secret obsession with football and basketball. She loves random trips for ice cream with friends and the little treasures in life. Inkstone has been rewarding part of her time here at UVA and she is honored to be the opening speaker at the 2007 Inkstone Opening Reception. Mimi Liu is a fourth year English major and itty bitty History minor who sincerely hopes that the future fashion designers of America will finally come out with THE ideal shirt size between a medium and a large. She also thinks Connie Chung is one fine, sexy mama on television. Bobby Lee’s parodies on MadTV do no justice to her (although they are rather amusing!) Ian MacDougall is a fourth-year English and biology major who agrees that everything has been figured out, except how to live.
Serina Aswani is a first year French-and-something major who loves to randomly break in to song. While not breaking her friends’ eardrums with horrendous singing, she is either asleep or learning how to put her eye contacts into their case! Serina loved working on Inkstone and meeting some incredible people!
Joanne Mosuela just threw rocks at Bryan Hall’s bedroom window. She hopes he lets her in. She thanks the following for her first-year fixes: 3.7 Magazine, The Cavalier Daily, and Inkstone Magazine for giving her white space to color, pages to print; fictionist Erin Brown and the BRN 312 kids for giving her plot lines to draw, characters to shape; and poet Jason Labbe and the Dawson’s Row kids for giving her stanzas to break, music to make.
Tina Cheng is a Fourth Year Architecture Major who is trying to run across the United States! (fine print: in total mileage anyways) Sadly, she’s actually been running around all winter on an indoor track so her net displacement is technically zero. But as much of a physics dork as she is, she is truly sad to leave the Inkstone staff, new and old, who all feels like family now! Tina would also like to thank everyone for a great year. Always keep the Inkstone passion alive!
Van-Anh, a.k.a “Van-On”, Nguyen is a second year noidea major who is desperately hoping for a revelation and to find her calling in life...and all preferably by month’s end before the Dean can come assaulting her with a major application form. Until then, Van-Anh likes to spend her time procrastinating, enjoying the “diversity” of the weather, and making dumb, random comments about...trees.
Stephanie Doupnik is a fourth-year Comparative Literature major whose pet fish has twice survived what her amazing and delightful roommates call “the bloat.” She enjoys dancing, sunshine, clean laundry (especially when someone else does it for her), cooking but not baking, and travel.
Yuuki Ohta is a third-year philosophy major, who has two u’s in his name. He doesn’t have much to say about anything, and when he does say something, most of it is stricto sensu nonsensical. Thus he prefers poetry to philosophy, music to poetry, and silence to music-although, in the end, he probably doesn’t believe in any of them.
As you read this, Jennifer Shen is probably waging a battle against yet another malfunctioning excuse for technology. She is a second-year who has got waking up and switching to yet another major before breakfast down to an art. To whoever made those ridiculously good brownies and those who believe in the redemptive power of the emdash: thank you. Leilani Uyehara is a second-year Japanese major who is obsessed with science fiction in general and Farscape in specific. She is also computer illiterate and is glad to have learned so much from her Inkstone experience. Shi-Shi Wang: thanks Inkstone for sacrificing good ink and paper on her scribbles for the last three years. Graduating, Foreign Affairs major, & will begin 1st Grown Up Job in Our Nation’s Capital working at a major global law firm...as that girl, what’s-her-name, the-one-that-makes-the-coffee? Currently looking for fab roommate to share fab Georgetown mansion-reply by email if have appeared on the cover of People’s Sexiest Man Alive (1999-2007). Plus, must have good credit history. Oscar is a bonus.
José Zamora is proud to have worked hard for the 2007 Inkstone issue and appreciates the staff for letting him fool around with the art and lit they accepted for the magazine. He hopes they’ll like it. He is grateful for his hardworking ‘Stoners! Thanks for the late-night help Mimi! Also, his second year at Grape has been quite the ride! A very exhausting one, indeed. QuAA brought out the activist, and Inkstone (with Edward Appleby and Kimmy Gibler) the artist in him. Although only a second year, declared Anthropology and French, he knows not what he does...BUT he hopes the good books, good friends and good music keep him from such worries. He acknowledges his pompousness yet he still wishes to “thank you for coming!”
The body text for Inkstone is set in Garamond, 10 pt. Headlines are set in [ank]*, Bellerose, Garamond, Jane Austen, Jey and Mank Sans. Page numbers are set in Garamond. Endmark and page number folios were created by JosĂŠ Zamora. Inkstone is printed with 80# text stock and 100# cover stock. Inkstone took for m on the Apple Macintosh operating system using Adobe InDesign, Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. Final publication was submitted by disk to Colonial Printing in Richmond, Virginia. Inkstone is published annually by the Contracted Independent Organization of the University of Virginia that shares the same name. It has a print of 1800 copies, which are distributed without charge on Grounds.