Page 1


Winter 2013 / Vol. 14, Issue 2

letter from the editor 03




The deepest recorded plant root was measured at 68 meters (223 feet) long in the

An Undergraduate Magazine of International Affairs

Kalahari Desert. Plants in the desert grow deep roots to reach water sources far below

Winter 2013 / Vol. 14, Issue 2

ground, but roots run deep in other areas as well. In this issue of The Globalist, our au-

The Yale Globalist is a member of Global21, a network of student-run international affairs magazines at premier universities around the world.

JOURNALISM ADVISORY BOARD Steven Brill, Yale Dept. of English Nayan Chanda, Director of Publications, MacMillan Center Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, Foreign Affairs Jef McAllister, Time Magazine Nathaniel Rich, The Paris Review Fred Strebeigh, Yale Dept. of English ACADEMIC ADVISORY BOARD Harvey Goldblatt, Professor of Medieval Slavic Literature, Master of Pierson College Donald Green, Director, Institution for Social and Policy Studies Charles Hill, Yale Diplomat-in-Residence Ian Shapiro, Director, MacMillan Center Ernesto Zedillo, Director, Yale Center for the Study of Globalization Send comments, questions, and letters to the editor to rachel.brown@yale,edu

thors have explored some such deeply rooted issues from the enduring conflict between India and Pakistan, to controversial questions over cultural identity and “roots� in modern Turkey. Roots extend to more than just nationality and ancestry, and our pages also include articles on everything from hair and its important role in mixed race societies, to plants such as sugar cane and quinoa and their effects on various societies in Latin America. We appreciate your readership of The Globalist and hope that you enjoy this issue. Finally, we would like to thank the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies for their continued support of The Globalist. Sincerely, Rachel Brown Editor-in-Chief, The Yale Globalist

Digging Deep on Roots As of 2008, immigrants and the children of immigrants consituted 23.4 percent of the American population. Roots outside the U.S. run deep. The origin of all modern potatoes was a spud grown in Peru over 7,000 years ago.

Interested in subscribing? Log on to tyglobalist. org and click the Subscribe link in the upper right corner. Pictures from CreativeCommons used under Attribution Noncommercial license. This magazine is published by students of Yale College. Yale University is not responsible for its contents.

The average person has between 100,000 and 150,000 strands of hair.

Approximately 2,000 Nicaraguan sugarcane workers have been diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease.Currently over 60,000 hectares of this land is being cultivated for sugar.

ON THE COVER: Design by Chareeni Kurukulasuryia for The Yale Globalist. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

The Population, Immigration and Border Authority of Israel states 59,858 asylum seekers entered Israel between January 2006 and March 2012. Of these 57 percent (33,912) were from Eritrea.

04 contents

Map of Contents

Production & Design Editors Chareeni Kurukulasuriya, Christine Mi Chief Online Editor Emma Goldberg Associates Editors for Online Grace Brody, Danielle Ellison

Editor-in-Chief Rachel Brown Managing Editor John D’Amico, Aaron Gertler, Nitika Khaitan, Tara Rajan Associate Editors Angelica Calabrese, Charlie Goodyear, Eleanor Marshall, Zoe Rubin, Elizabeth Villarreal

Executive Director Ashley Wu Publishers Jackson Busch, Aobo Guo Events Coordinator Adrianne Elliott, Jade Shao

Copy Editor Ariel Katz Editors-at-Large: Charley Locke, Deena Rahman, Kelly Schumann, Anisha Suterwala, Sera Tolgay, Jason Toups, Emily Ullmann, Margaret Zhang

winter 2013, issue 2

contents 05


winter 2013 volume 14 issue 2




roots 06| Transplanted Twice

10 | On the Southern Shore of Utopia

12 | The Other Side of the Border

16 | Traditional Chinese Medicine

Israel and human trafficking in Sinai. By Hannah Carrese.

The culture of Brighton Beach from the Black Sea to the New York Bay. By Skylar Inman.

The conflict between India and Pakistan as viewed by students from the respective nations. By Nitika Khaitan and Meiryum Ali.

17 | The Price of Sugar

Investigating the epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease in Rural Nicaragua. By Eleanor Marshall.

21 | The Culture of Curls

What hair really means in mixed race socities. By Isidora Stankovic.

features and glimpses 08 | Crime and Redemption in Cape Town How one organization has turned to curing South Africa’s epidemic of violence. By J.R. Reed. 36 Red Meets Green | When An encounter between a Mainland Chinese Communist and Taiwanese civil activist. By Xiaoying Zhou.

Finding a modern niche for ancient cures. By Anna Russo.

20 | The Quinoa Controversy

The implications of the growing popularity of a Bolivian grain. By Jade Adia Harvey.

24 | Hidden Roots

An examination of cultural identity in Turkey. By Fiona Lowenstein.

23 | The Fight Over Kung Fu

The rise of Chinese martial arts academies. By Kelsey Larson.

38 | Imported Intolerance

Distinguishing the indigenous roots of homosexuality in Uganda. By Zoe Rubin.

40 | Foster Care in China

42 | The Art of the Steppes By John D’Amico.

photo contest

28 | The winners of the 11th annual Globalist international photo show

A solution to child abuse and neglect? By Yujia Feng.

The money and politics behind Mongolia’s new aesthetic.

06 roots

Transplanted Twice

Israel and Human Trafficking in Sinai By Hannah Carrese


he disposable people are washing dishes. In the kitchen of the Ma’agan Shelter for Victims of Trafficking, they scrape remnants of teff, an Ethiopian grain, out of the bottom of pots and collect plates from the dining table. Muted sounds of a bustling Israeli street waft through the window. One woman, still clutching a handful of forks, pauses beneath the framed image of a man’s face partially obscured by the passport he presses against his left cheek. She seems to pause in homage: like him, she is an immigrant to Israel; like him, she is aware of the importance of nationality and name. She is one of over 2.5 million people who are trafficked throughout the world each year, sold into modern slavery through an industry worth tens of billions of dollars. She comes from Eritrea or Ethiopia or Sudan, but she has not walked on East African soil for years. Captured in the border region between these three countries, she was brought to a torture camp built on the shifting sands of the Egyptian Sinai Desert. In Sinai, she was chained, starved, perhaps raped. Bedouin smugglers melted wax on her back, shocked her with electrical wires, beat her with sticks and with pipes. When her family paid ransom, a sum of $30,000 to $40,000, her captors dumped her in Israel. She was found by Israeli border patrol officers and shuttled to an Israeli detention camp where she was officially deemed a victim of trafficking. This label gave her a place, a temporary home in the Ma’agan Shelter. Somewhere in the 1,500-mile journey between Africa and Israel, this woman became a thing, useful but disposable, part of a burgeoning group of victims of trafficking and torture discarded in Israel, rootless.

Suspended Between Earth and Sky Rootless people cling to names because words are easy to carry: this is true for both the first Jewish settlers in Israel and for East Africans rescued from their traffickers. Ma’agan means mooring in Hebrew; the shelter anchors thirty-five female victims of trafficking, each of whom can stay for up to a year. Across winter 2013, issue 2

the street, thirty-five male victims shoulder the burdens of their new world in the Atlas Shelter. The location of the buildings remains undisclosed simply so that traffickers don’t come to the shelter to take revenge against their former victims. The rootless people are hidden, too. Most victims of trafficking hail from Eritrea, a state torn by war since it declared independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Some, like A.W., an Eritrean woman, fled the country after deserting the army without completing their compulsory service. Other Eritrean women, like K.T., were kidnapped from Ethiopian refugee camps. Some, like A.B., another Eritrean woman, meant to come to Israel to “work and live with my husband...we have a child together.” Others didn’t mean to come to Israel at all: D.H., an Eritrean man, “arrived in Israel because the smugglers kidnapped me in the border between Eritrea and Sudan.” Victims, suspended between two worlds and wanted in neither, are prime targets for exploitation. Smugglers in Sinai have little regard for the wishes of their victims: in their eyes, these people are subhuman. K.T. spent five months in Sinai, blindfolded and chained. During the final two months of her captivity, she was “raped on a daily basis by the smugglers. The rape was performed in the following manner: a man would come to us, unchain one of the women, take her to the bathroom, rape her there, and then bring her back.” Some women were disallowed even the dignity of privacy. A “Bedouin guard named Haitam” raped A.B. “while I was chained to another woman.” Crime exploits difference, but spares no sufferer shame. H.G.A., an Eritrean man, was forced to watch the rapes of female victims. Men, too, were subject to assault: D.H.’s captors “would smoke marijuana and rape me afterwards.” Severe privation accompanied these acts: H.G.A. received food “only once every three dispose of bodily waste, we were given bottles.” For these victims, Israel’s historical title as the “promised land” takes on new meaning. It offers the primitive comforts of daylight and toilets, shelter without shackles hammered into the walls. Above all, it offers respite and

refuge, a chance to rebuild by planting roots in Israeli earth instead of drifting through Sinai.

Heartache of Two Homelands H.G.A. recalls his entry into Israel with a group of six people, explaining that there were “two men, three women, and one child, a two-year-old whose mother died in Sinai, so we took him to Israel. We came to a mountain near the border where there was no new fence [Israel began construction on a new frontier fence in 2005]; Israeli soldiers helped us climb the mountain and then transported us to a military base.” This account is typical. Victims are dropped near the border by smugglers, are identified by Israeli border patrols, and are then transported to the Saharonim Detention Center, a holding facility in southern Israel. Names acquire new significance in Saharonim. Even the Israeli office that coordinates the country’s anti-trafficking efforts has a rather complicated name: the Ministry of Justice’s Office of the Coordinator of the Fight Against Human Trafficking. The complex title hints at the importance of terminology in a world in which some uprooted people are labeled “refugees” and “victims,” while others are classified as “detainees” and “intruders.” Once people have been disposed of in Sinai, their fates come to depend on the categories into which they fit under international laws. Superficial distinctions point to deeper dilemmas inherent in rootlessness. The categorization of Sinai victims determines the quality of their treatment in Israel. In fact, some barriers between the rootless rise simply from the crime inflicted upon them in Sinai. All victims in Sinai are tortured, but some are also labeled as victims of trafficking, slavery, and forced labor. Torture is defined by the infliction of severe pain or suffering for some specific purpose. Under international law, trafficking requires the performance of labor that increases the value of an individual as a thing to be bought and sold. Israeli law narrows this definition to exclude slavery and forced labor: here, trafficking is simply “the sale or purchase of a person.” A wom-

roots 07 an forced to clean toilets for her captors is these borders, it serves as a memory of root- less members of society. This is certainly the a victim of trafficking. A woman who was edness, the same memory which leads Pales- opposite of indifference. Still, Israel seems only kept from using the toilet through tinians to hang wooden keys over the gates more an aliyah nation than an immigrant namultiple beatings is a victim of torture. to their refugee camps, a constant reminder tion. Aliyah, a word that means “coming up” This is a difficult qualification to make: of the homes from which they fled or were in Hebrew, specifically refers to Jewish immithere seems no “only” in a crime that leaves banished upon Israel’s founding in 1948. grants settling in Israel. These groups are welFrom the Biblical patriarch Abraham to the comed with language programs and substanvictims with cigarette burns and scar tissue twisted into the skin of their backs. But Isra- Zionist Theodor Herzl, this land is one of the tial state support. Meanwhile, non-Jewish el has little obligation to aid Sinai victims of world’s oldest staging grounds for human mi- migrants, including victims of trafficking who torture. These people are East African, their gration. In many ways, a history of transplan- attempt to settle in Israel after their ordeal, abusers are Egyptian Bedouins, and the acts tation renders Israel particularly sensitive to is- are labeled with a Hebrew word that transoccur in the Egyptian Sinai. In fact, until Israeli sues of displacement. Israel’s parliament, the lates roughly to “intruder.” This term was origlaw was amended a few weeks ago after lob- Knesset, dedicated part of its 2006 session to inally used to describe Jordanian terrorists. In fact, even Jews from Eastern Africa have bying from anti-trafficking groups, victims of the passage of landmark anti-trafficking legtorture could be held in detention camps for islation designed to address a decades-long struggled with integration. Many of these up to three years. In contrast, victims of traf- problem of trafficking in women from the first- and second-generation immigrants still ficking, a crime that recognizes no boundar- Soviet Union who became prostitutes in Is- live in “ethnic market” communities. Tel Aviv’s ies, are entitled to a year-long stay in one of a rael. Even members of the ultra-nationalist Levinski neighborhood is populated almost variety of Israeli shelters like Ma’agan and At- “Jewish Home” party, generally opposed to entirely by African migrants, and its central las. They meet with counselors and doctors, non-Jews entering Israel, are involved in the green space, Levinski Park, has become a hub and are granted temporary work permits. fight against trafficking. Knesset member for social justice protests. The double transIsraeli officials recognize the real human Schuli Malem-Refaeli takes Elie Wiesel’s state- plant of the Jewish people, from Israel to the suffering that lies beneath the cold legal stric- ment that “the opposite of love is not hatred, Diaspora and back to Israel 1,300 years later, has sparked conflict betures governing these tween those who pricases. Nevertheless, in oritize the existence of a demonstration of crua majority Jewish state el irony, rootless victims Perhaps only migrating birds know -– one with little room are also afforded differsuspended as they are between earth and sky -for a rapidly expanding ent benefits based on this heartache of two homelands. populations of Africans the nationality that was, With you I was transplanted twice, and, of course, Arabs – for all intents and purwith you, pine trees, I grew -and those whose first poses, taken away from my roots in two different lands. concern is empathy for them in Sinai. Unlike other uprooted people. Ethiopians, who must - Leah Goldberg, “Pine” (Tel Aviv, 1935) Israel and Amerireturn home, Eritrean citca, nations defined by izens are allowed to take their immigrant (aliyah up residence in Israel beand otherwise) popucause of the volatility of their point of origin. Thus, Ethiopians detained but indifference” as a constant call to action. lations, have an extra responsibility not to in Israel often identify themselves as Eritrean. Israel’s anti-trafficking actions reverberate be indifferent to rootlessness. We must not The Sinai seems to give its victims a perma- on a global stage. Israeli officials have been re-dispose of the disposable people, relegatnent heartache of two homelands: they sub- asked to take up positions in the anti-traffick- ing them to the margins of our social consume their national and, often, ethnic iden- ing unit of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. science. Israel’s migratory history, both new tities to necessity, eschewing African roots The Trafficking in Persons report published and old, reminds us that the labor of our life is for the promise of a new planting in Israel. annually by the U.S. State Department has a planting and replanting, a constant search awarded Israel its highest compliance rank- for place. Teff, the grain that is a staple in the ing for the past two years. The U.S. Ambassa- Ma’agan Shelter and in East Africa, means Transplanted Twice dor to Israel, Dan Shapiro, visited the Ma’agan “lost” in the Semitic languages of Eritrea and Identity, then, is central to the politics of and Atlas shelters in July, speaking to Eritre- Ethiopia. It is easy to lose and to be lost in rootlessness. This is a particularly pressing an and Ethiopian residents in Hebrew, a lan- the place between homelands that is the issue in Israel. Its desert acreage at a cross- guage they are beginning to learn through Sinai Desert. This is a loss we cannot allow roads of the Middle East, Europe, and Africa shelter programs. Israeli officials have made because it is a loss of something fundamenis populated by a reverse diaspora, a col- overtures to Egyptian officials – and, more tal to our humanity: our yearning for place, lection of people who have, over centuries, importantly, given Egypt’s lack of govern- our need to sink deep roots into fertile soil. been transplanted twice. Israel is defined mental stability, to Egyptian religious leadHannah Carrese ’16 is in Pierson College. by this coming and going. Within its bor- ers, offering support and soliciting advice. Israel has worked to meld domestic and in- She spent this summer in Israel working with ders, it offers a home for the scattered Jewish people, promising a blossoming desert ternational law to make a place for victims of issues surrounding victims of trafficking. in which they can plant new roots. Outside trafficking, for the most vulnerable and

08 glimpse

Crime and Redemption in Cape Town How one organization has turned to curing South Africa’s epidemic of By J.R. Reed violence, one offender at a time.


ne of the yellow walls of the First Community Resource Centre (FCRC) in Hanover Park, a township in Cape Town, is plastered with the front pages of major South African newspapers. Tabloid-esque headlines proclaim “In the Line of Fire” and “Cape Town’s Most Dangerous Streets” in oversized red, black, and white fonts. An enormous map of the neighborhood hangs below, laden with marks pinpointing where acts of violence have occurred. The headlines may be hyperbole, but Hanover Park’s high rates of violence are not exaggerated – the roots of which can be linked to the prevalence of gangs in this area just on the outskirts of Cape Town. Surrounded by crime, township youth often neglect their classrooms in these poverty-stricken urban areas – originally constructed exclusively for non-white citizens during the apartheid era. Just this past August, education officials closed 16 schools in townships surrounding Cape Town due to teacher’s concerns for their own safety. Faced with failing schools and limited employment opportunities, these youth often winter 2013, issue 2

turn to gangs instead – engaging in violence, dealing drugs, and contributing to the darker side of South Africa’s post-apartheid era. But inside the First Community Resource Centre, one effort is underway to help these youths turn their lives around and hopefully, one day change the content of the newspaper headlines. Three years ago, Pastor Craven Engel, a resident of Hanover Park, began spearheading the FCRC, offering counseling to children and helping to provide them with a safer, healthier environment in which to grow up. While Hanover Park does not reach the same violence levels as other townships such as Nyanga, the most dangerous area in South Africa according to 2012-2013 national crime statistics, it is widely considered to be one of the communities in Cape Town most affected by gang violence. During the first half of 2012, for example, 23 deaths occurred throughout the Cape Town region; seventeen of those fatalities were in Hanover Park and Lavender Hill, another township, alone. As a part of responsibilities for his church, Engel regularly reaches out to Hanover Park

residents to gauge the community’s most pressing needs. He realized it was crucial to mentor children in the community, who might otherwise fall into the easy trap of violent activity in the township’s streets. But Engel recognized the important difference between deterring these children from crime and helping them develop into positive influences on the community. “We have a dayto-day challenge of making them believe they can make this change,” Engel said. With guidance from the South African Consulate General, Engel founded CeaseFire, a program used to combat dangerous gang activity and support children growing up in these violent neighborhoods. CeaseFire limits gang violence by focusing on conflict mediation and street-level outreach. Engel’s program found its inspiration from other CeaseFire programs implemented in 21 lower-income neighborhoods throughout Chicago. In the Windy City, CeaseFire, according to its website, has reduced violence in “every [Chicago] neighborhood it operates in by up to 34 percent … [and] successfully cut retaliatory homicides by 100 percent.”

glimpse 09

In South Africa’s townships, underdeveloped urban areas located on the outskirts of major cities, many residents live in overcrowded, deteriorating brick homes, faced with poor sewage systems, low water pressure, and deficient electricity. Hoping to better their socio-economic status and escape these communities, township youth often resort to crime. (Reed/TYG.)

Ceasefire’s success hinges on the quality of its staff members, drawn entirely from residents of the township. Engel and his Program Manager Raymon Swartz rely on these citizens, trained in “violence interruption,” to promote alternatives to crime. The two have organized a team of ex-gang members, who are then trained to become violence interrupters. These individuals meet with Hanover Park youth gangsters in the aftermath of attacks to limit violence that could stem from such tragedies. These violence interrupters also organize separate sessions to encourage conflict mediation and prevent the community’s youth from relapsing into a cycle of violence. CeaseFire’s staff is drawn from young offenders on the street, and according to Swartz, “the skills that they have are skills that we simply cannot teach. We have employed them because of the strict knowledge they have already. They have the credibility to speak about violence, and what we have done is help train them in conflict mediation techniques to diffuse situations on the ground.” Ranging in age from 20 to 55, many

of these violence interrupters have spent several years incarcerated, some for 10 years or longer. Their credibility as ex-criminals and ex-gang members gives them significant influence when they enter conflict communities. Albert Matthews is a former gang member who became a CeaseFire activist after he witnessed the shootings of two of his friends, one of whom was struck with 14 bullets. “When I was introduced to the center, I was sent away with a team of ex-gangsters for three months,” Matthews said. “I came back, attended the support group, and then began a work-study. I completed the course and am currently working at the center helping youth get off the streets. Gang violence is simply not the way into our future.” As the FCRC’s CeaseFire program continues to expand, Engel personally organizes the recruiting efforts. At the Hanover Park location, Engel has recruited 26 members and six additional volunteers. One of the most effective ways to recruit is to mediate a conflict and then integrate those involved in the violence into the program. Violence interrupters will identify group members involved in a shooting and then gauge if they are suitable candidates for the position. “If someone says that this is a great candidate for the program, I will go to different gang members in the area and see if they would let this guy on the ground,” Engel said. “They will let me know if we (as an organization) can trust this guy. We also will talk with the community to see what they think of the guy – to see if he is credible and good for the job.” There are six criteria that CeaseFire uses to recruit, and candidates must fulfill at least four of the following categories: 1) be between the age of 14 and 26, 2) belong to a gang, 3) have been released from jail recently, 4) own a weapon, 5) have shot someone before, and 6) been shot at. Using this recruiting process, Engel and the FCRC bring in qualified members that can help derail youth violence and also integrate these individuals into the job sector while training them in the CeaseFire practices. Not only does FCRC provide economic opportunities, but Engel and the organization also provide in-house social support groups for volunteers to discuss issues with other former gang members. For example, former drug addicts can enroll in substance abuse programs, and ex-gangsters can re-enroll in school to pursue further education or training. Here, Engel and his team have seen major successes. 70 percent of those who enroll in the programs com-

plete them, and approximately 50 percent of those who enroll are physically placed in a job. In spite of these successes, Engel and his team realize the challenges they still face as an organization. The future for their efforts is complex and fraught with peril. The two most significant problems are funding and establishing an evaluation framework for the program. Without adequate funding, Engel and his team have admitted that they will not be able to sustain the organization. In spite of the tremendous challenge, Swartz remains optimistic that funding will increase once potential donors see tangible evidence of the program’s benefits. In terms of evaluating the program, the team intends to create a database documenting the levels of violence in areas in which violence interrupters have intervened. This database would provide the “necessary tangible documentation” to whether or not the program has worked. “We need to continue to focus on creating this database and improving the programs we currently have,” Swartz said. “That database will better allow us to expand and, once we roll out to other communities, we can hold this as a baseline to say this is what how the program can truly help communities.” Although the organization has started to extend its efforts into other communities including the townships of Lavender Hill, Kewtown, and Manenberg, Engel and his team have predominantly focused their CeaseFire efforts thus far in Hanover Park. Until they receive the necessary funding, they are hesitant to expand and use the program to impact these other communities. Engel is proud of what the center has accomplished using the CeaseFire model, but he realizes more can be done and knows the evaluation framework must be completed to ensure further success. In the face of their efforts, crime persists throughout the Cape townships, and CeaseFire’s mission is not yet complete. To stop the violence, Engel and his team know they must bring their program to more locations to ensure South Africa’s youth are sheltered from the many environments that still perpetuate these perilous cycles of violence. CeaseFire has the foundational tools in its arsenal to build a holistic cure to this city’s violence and perhaps the nation as a whole, now it just needs the funding.

J.R. Reed ’16 is in Silliman College. He can be reached at

10 roots

On the Southern Shore of Utopia The Culture of Brighton Beach from the Black Sea to the New York Bay


ut on the boardwalk of southern Brooklyn, just to the east of Coney Island, a handful of competing cafés stand side by side. Other than by name and by the clashing colors of their adjacent awnings, there is very little that distinguishes one from the next: they are openair; attract a stout, aging, Russian-speaking clientele; and serve roughly the same menu of traditional, nostalgic Russian cuisine. Underneath the bright blue canopy of one café, called Tatiana Grill, waiters bustle between tables. With a few exceptions, Tatiana’s clients are middle-aged and sit in gender-segregated groups. Behind me is a table of women, none of them younger than sixty and all sporting poufs of unnaturally colored hair. Over the currents of their neighborhood gossip are the rough jokes of four rotund, well-tanned men who look as though, a couple of decades ago, they might have run the kind of business that made a bit too much money to be entirely legal. Just a table away from the vodka-toasting men, however, sits the one table other than my own that breaks the pattern. A young, American-looking man in his thirties sits with his two young daughters and his parents. The man chats with his parents in fluent Russian, punctuated from time to time with a comment in English to his daughters. Seeing three generations together is a rare thing in Brighton Beach. As is the case with many immigrant communities, most people who moved here when they first arrived have stayed, but their children—younger immigrants themselves or first-generation Americans—have since largely moved on from Brighton.

winter 2013, issue 2

By Skyler Inman Brighton Beach’s distinct culture was formed by the vibrant, defining waves of immigration reaching its shores throughout the 20th century. Tatiana’s customers, like most of Brighton’s current immigrant population, arrived from the 1970s through final decades of the Soviet Union. These immigrants built upon the foundations laid by a smaller group of Eastern European Jews who had fled persecution and anti-Semitism during the First and Second World Wars and who established synagogues and a sense of community that had a lasting effect on the area. Yelena Aranovna Feldman, who lives on the outskirts of Brighton Beach, arrived in 1991 at the tail end of the more recent wave of immigration. Born and raised in Kiev, Yelena left the Soviet Union following the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, bringing with her a twenty-sixyear-old son, her husband, and her motherin-law. The choice to settle in Brighton was an easy one. “Everyone here speaks Russian. You go into a shop and ask for things in Russian, we have Russian food. Life is easier because you know everyone’s culture and you can use your mother tongue. And on top of that, we’re not far from the ocean.” At this, she smiles, interjecting in accented English, “Enjoy life!” Yelena isn’t the only immigrant to embrace the beaches that give the neighborhood its name. At the height of summer, people from all over New York flock to Brighton Beach’s coastline, but even in early fall weather, the beach remains a hub of local activity. Soviet-looking men recline shirtless in the sand, short babushkas push strollers along the boardwalk, and old couples perch on benches facing the water. If not for occasional signage in English, it would

look exactly like a Soviet postcard of Russian vacationers on the banks of the Black Sea. When I ask her if there was anything other than the nuclear meltdown that motivated her to leave, she shrugs. “Everyone always says they did it for their kids, and of course that’s true. It was for them… But it was for us, too. All of us.” Because they arrived as refugees, Yelena and her husband were legally able to work right away, but neither was able to find work consistent with their former careers, and both eventually got jobs brokering visas between the US and the USSR. Yelena’s son likewise struggled to find work. “He got a job in an auto shop for a while, but it wasn’t what he had been schooled in.”Without language proficiency, she said, there was little chance he would be able to find meaningful work. After several years learning English, Yelena’s son, like many others of his generation, eventually moved away from Brighton in search of a less insular community for his two American-born daughters. “My eldest granddaughter is studying at McGill now,” Yelena says, smiling with pride. “She even got to take a class on Russian literature, but I think that was hard for her. She speaks well, but she never learned how to write like a Russian.” As is the case with many Brighton residents now, Yelena’s grandchildren have never lived in Brighton for more than a holiday weekend.


ri Barkan, like Yelena’s granddaughters, is a first-generation American, born from the marriage of two immigrant families. “Believe it or not, Russian was my first language. I had to be taught English,” he says with some pride. Ari is young—a recent graduate of Brooklyn College—and got some of his

roots 11

From Left to Right: (1) The Brighton Beach boardwalk: a hub of neighborhood tourism and local social activity. (2) An elderly Brighton resident monitoring boardwalk activity. (3) A few of Brighton’s Russian cafés on the boardwalk--prime real estate, and prime people watching. (Inman/TYG) first exposure as an actor through a YouTube video he produced and acted in with a couple of fellow Brighton Beach residents: Sh*t Russian Grandmothers Say. The video’s reception bridged age groups as well as geographical boundaries. “We weren’t expecting more than a thousand views total,” he says, “but it just kept growing. Some guy in his forties stopped me in Brighton today and asked for a photo because he recognized me from the video.” Ari calls himself a product of New York, particularly of Brighton Beach. Nevertheless, like many young first-generation individuals from the neighborhood, Ari is considering relocating. He grins as he recounts scoring his recent contract with a talent manager based in Los Angeles. “I’m getting lots of calls, and I hope to be bicoastal in a couple of years.” Despite the fact that Yelena hails from the same city as Ari’s maternal grandparents, if the two were sitting across from one another at Café Tatiana, their differences would be more striking than their similarities. Where Ari is dynamic and searching for his place in the world, Yelena has settled into her place within Brighton and its environs. Like most members of their respective generations, Ari seems to be on his way out, and Yelena shows no desire to leave the community that welcomed her decades ago.


t’s almost poetic that so many immigrants leaving the Soviet Union decided to settle here along the beaches of Southern Brooklyn. When searching for a new life, they chose to populate a region more temperate than their climatically ruthless home country, migrating southward. On a deep level, Brighton

Beach—and all of its boardwalks and beachfront cafés—hits a chord within the psyche of the aging Russian émigré: it is a final prize, a place for those who have struggled at home in the USSR and again as immigrants in a new place, to live in their version of a utopia. Ironically, this oasis of immigrant culture, established by those fleeing the economic and social problems of the USSR, now suffers its own difficulties. For most of Brighton’s younger adults, the neighborhood can’t support the future they envision: local jobs are few and mainly technical. Neighborhood schools are of poor quality, and housing still suffers from problems caused by Hurricane Sandy. Today, the neighborhood’s migration pattern is negative: the new generations are leaving, seeking, as their predecessors did, better opportunities for themselves and their children, while the aging generation of immigrants is digging its heels into the sand. Brighton Beach is a community of stubborn nostalgia. The retired Russian-speaking customers sitting in the shade of Tatiana’s canopy are unconcerned with the neighborhood’s changing facade. To them, this short stretch of boardwalk is their reward for toughing out the immigrant life to give their families a better chance. Brighton may be staged for a cultural change, but dining in its cafés, browsing through its Russian-language bookstores, or buying from its Russian grocery stores, such change isn’t obvious at all. So long as the aging generation remains, sitting in the wicker chairs of beachfront cafés, pushing their grandchildren along the boardwalk in strollers, and buying imported Russian chocolates, Brighton will subsist as it is. What happens after that is anyone’s guess, but watch-

Brighton Beach’s distinct culture was formed by the vibrant, defining waves of immigration reaching its shores throughout the 20th century. Tatiana’s customers, like most of Brighton’s current immigrant population, arrived from the 1970s through final decades of the Soviet Union.

ing the old men toasting one another and the babushkas stubbornly coaxing Russian out of their American grandchildren, it almost seems that the peculiar, in-between Brighton culture could live on even after they are gone. It wouldn’t be the strangest thing to happen in Brighton. Skyler Inman’17 is in Jonathan Edwards College. She can be reached at skyler.inman@

12 roots

The Indian View By Nitika Khaitan


here’s no way you’re going to Pakistan.” I shifted uncomfortably in my seat at the dinner table, slowly registering my dad’s words. He said them dismissively, as if I should’ve known better than to ask for something so impossible. I hadn’t thought it was impossible when I planned the trip with Meiryum, one of my closest friends, who is Pakistani. We joined the same South Asian a cappella group as freshmen, and spent the year singing Bollywood songs we both grew up hearing and talking for hours in our native tongues of Hindi and Urdu, about everything from our shared love of chai to how Celsius makes so much more sense than Fahrenheit. On a trip to Boston, in a long car ride filled with more Bollywood music and more discoveries of all the things we have in common, it struck us that despite all our similarities, neither of us had ever crossed the border. We immediately drew up a plan for visiting each other over the summer—Meiryum had always wanted to see the Taj Mahal and her grandmother’s home town as well, and I couldn’t wait to taste Karachi street food... “But Papa,” I ventured, “I’m going to the house of one of my closest friends. I’ll be completely safe; she also goes to Yale and her house is just like ours…” “Uff, I know!” my dad cut me short irritably.

winter 2013, issue 2

“She can come stay with us whenever she wants, we have nothing against her family. But don’t you know how unstable their government is? You see riots happening there on TV every day!” I did see reports of deadly Pakistani riots and bomb threats all the time; Indian news channels offer little other coverage of Pakistan. Bollywood movies rely on a similar image, their favorite villain in spy movies being the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s spy agency. Even my middle-school Hindi textbook couldn’t resist a dig at our neighbor. While explaining idioms that mean “to vanquish someone,” the sample sentences it used were “The Indian Army/cricket team defeated the Pakistani Army/cricket team.” But there are political riots in India too, I argued further. Remote areas of Pakistan might be unsafe, but demonstrations in Karachi are as non-violent as popular protests in Delhi. “But you have an Indian passport, Nitika,” my dad sighed, “If something happens, there will be nothing we can do to get you out safely.” I was about to protest, but he continueed, “And in that country, anything could happen.” I fell silent, realizing nothing I said would sway my parents, who like most in their generation, probably grew up with even greater levels of anti-Pakistan bias. I hadn’t grown up immune to the stereotyping either. The first time I met a Pakistani was as a sixteen-year old student in a summer

The Other Sid

program in New York. I spent most of the first day meeting other students from all over the world and fielding multiple “How is your English so good?!” On meeting him, I realized the most culturally aware questions I could think of were whether his female friends had to wear burqas because of radical imams and whether his school had ever been evacuated because of a bomb threat. I apologized, justifying my questions with the excuse that I’d grown up in India, where living room conversations and news channels built up a highly stereotypical image of Pakistan. He laughed, patiently explaining how all the girls in his school just wore jeans and t-shirts, how he had never heard of a bomb threat in school and even, how Pakistan actually has a strong free press. But many in my generation, coming from increasingly cosmopolitan and urbanized backgrounds, are growing up more aware and more critical of these stereotypes. Coke Studio Pakistan, a music television series, is hugely popular amongst all my friends. Wearing the same clothes we’d see on the streets of Delhi and making music that could easily be playing on Indian radio, the artists and studio audiences on Coke Studio seem indistinguishable on a first glance from those in our spin-off Indian version. Compared to our parents, more people from my generation have the chance to attend college in the UK and US, and thus, the chance to meet and befriend Pakistanis – a phenom-

roots 13

de of the Border


t the age of 19, in 1962, my grandmother boarded a train. Fifteen years after the partition of the British Indian Empire into the sovereign states of India and Pakistan, she and her little sister were moving permanently from Lucknow, India, to Karachi, Pakistan. In India, my grandmother left behind her ancestral home and her parents’ graves—in Pakistan she earned a college degree, met her husband, set up a new home, and raised her Pakistan-born son, now my father. My grandmother would later say it was on the train that she decided that she would never come back, because India meant nothing to her anymore. For the 51 years she has spent living in Pakistan, she has kept that promise. She, like the millions of Muslim Indians who uprooted their lives during the Partition chose to only look forward. Pakistan represented the new dream – a land where Muslims could thrive economically and socially away from fears of marginalization and intolerance towards Muslims in India. Their language, Urdu, became the official language of Pakistan; their dress and food became a part of Pakistani culture. My grandmother was not born a Pakistani, but she became one. At the age of 19, in 2013, I tried to book a flight to India. If, at my age, my grandmother had thought only of the future, I wanted to understand the past, and present. I would stay at the home of a Yale friend, Nitika Khai-

The Pakistani View By Meiryum Ali

The Wagah border crossing between Pakistan and India as viewed from the Pakistani side. Wagah is the only overland border crossing between the two nations and elaborate ceremonies are held on both sides. (Courtesy of Creative Commons - Guilhem Vellut) tan, in Delhi for one week, and she would stay at my house in Karachi. “Simple,” I thought. The physical line my grandmother crossed in 1962 also demarcated a new way of thinking about what it meant to be Indian or Pakistani post-1947. This was something I needed to see for myself, as a Pakistani in India. But it was not so simple – if the exhaustive Indian and Pakistani government visa restrictions did not get to us, our parents would. “No.” My parents’ response over dinner finally put an end to the “But I need to go to Delhi” mantra I had been reciting for the last month. That Nitika’s father had flat out refused to send her to Pakistan should have been my first warning that my parents would be no different. “Girls in India are raped,” my mother first said, referring to the 2012 Delhi rape case that had caused international outrage. “But girls in Pakistan are raped too. Girls in the US are raped—Mama, girls in New Haven are raped,” I said exasperatedly. My parents ignored this. Of course, college in America, a whole ocean away, was somehow more palatable than a visit to India, our next-door neighbor. My father tried a different tact: “1947. 1965. 1971. 1999.” Counting down on his fingers, he turned to my mother. “Am I missing one of the wars?” “Siachen Glacier, proxy war in Kashmir, 2008 Mumbai attacks.” My mother calmly noted. “You realize you want to travel

to a country that has nuclear arms, right?” I did know that the states of Pakistan and India had outright waged war against one another while steadily stocking up nuclear weapons. Each side blames the other for its aggression. It’s what every newspaper from one end of the subcontinent to the other sensationally reports on. Cross-border travel between India and Pakistan hardly exists. The 1800-mile long border has only one road crossing at Wagah, where each sundown Indian and Pakistani troops face off in a highly chauvinistic flag-lowering ceremony, marked by goose-stepping soldiers, jingoistic cheers, and extreme levels of ceremonial pomp. Indian and Pakistani fishermen who accidently drift to the wrong side of the Arabian Sea are routinely arrested by border police and indefinitely detained. Forget people — while researching cross-border trade for my summer job at a Pakistani national newspaper, I discovered that when goods leave India for Pakistan and vice versa, instead of taking the obvious land route, they are shipped through Dubai. Neither Nitika’s nor my parents were exactly enthusiastic about the fact that both of us had to register at respective police stations immediately after leaving the airport. For my parents, India was dangerous, for the simple reason of my passport. Given these restrictions it is not surprising that the first time most Pakistanis meet

14 roots enon that wouldn’t occur in India for reasons ranging from absurd visa restrictions to the anti-Pakistan biases ingrained in our minds. I first met Meiryum during Orientation for International Students, where we put up a skit together for the talent show, poking fun at the same quintessentially South Asian things – arranged marriages, parents not approving of any grade below 99 percent, melodramatic soap operas. As the semester went on, we realized how many more things we shared. Neither of us were comfortable with shaving our legs. Both Indian and Pakistani girls waxed instead. We both craved the same parathas (bread) and sabzees (vegetable entrees), had the same mannerisms of head-bobbing and exclaiming Arre! and Uff! And there wasn’t a single Bollywood reference Meiryum didn’t get; she even explained that some famous Bollywood songs came from Pakistan. Indians often emphasize their cultural similarities with Pakistanis. My best friend’s mother spent years in Geneva as the wife of a UN diplomat and told me how she’d automatically gravitate towards the Pakistanis in a room full of internationals, because they shared everything down to a similar sense of humor. This emphasis on sameness might seem like a heartwarmingly broadminded view, but often it leads to statements that might offend Pakistanis more than any narrow-minded claims of who won which war, or more cricket matches. A theme I’ve heard again and again from uncles at family dinners and many of my friends is that any Pakistani identity defined as separate from an Indian or subcontinental one is artificial, precisely because their nation was not founded on the basis of any substantive difference between the two peoples anyway. Their version of history is that Partition was more the result of a few well-timed power plays, and that Pakistan was formed because of the personal ambitions of a few separatist leaders of the Muslim League, egged on by British administrators eager to divide and weaken the leadership of the Indian independence movement. “Artificial” is an interesting word choice for any Indian describing someone else’s national identity. We perceive our own as far more natural, based on a shared history of centuries of living together. But India throughout the ages was always divided into smaller kingdoms, and no political state remotely close to today’s existed except under the British Raj, which arguably was also the result of an arbitrary process of a few well-timed power plays. Immense cultural unity between India’s different kingdoms did always exist, but our characterizawinter 2013, issue 2

tion of Pakistan’s identity as “artificial” and ours as “natural” is an obvious oversimplification. Those of us who stick to the version of history that highlights our cultural sameness with Pakistan, perhaps do so because we fear emphasizing difference, in the background of a past where our difference has been used to justify hatred of the other and has led to the massacres of millions. Partition-related violence alone claimed the lives of more than a million, and the three major wars since then added hundreds of thousands to the death count. But the opposite attitude of stressing sameness at the cost of trivializing genuine difference won’t get us far either. I have to catch myself from forgetting that Meiryum is from a different country sometimes, as I ramble on about Hindi/Urdu songs and Indian weddings. I trail off, awkwardly reminding myself midway she is Pakistani, and does not know what an Indian wedding looks like. Once, Meiryum sang the lyrics to a famous Bollywood number from her notepad and I thought of borrowing it, expecting the lyrics to be written either in English or Hindi, till I looked at the Urdu script scrawled on the page, completely different from that of Hindi. And in these conversations with her, I’ve come to realize that some of the stereotypes I’ve grown up with turn out to be more ingrained in me than I’d imagined. My history textbooks, had obviously been biased in their accounts of India-Pakistan wars, describing each war as being started by Pakistan. But no textbook, I’d thought, could lie about the basic fact of India winning every war. I brought up the latter issue with Meiryum once, curious to see how their textbooks described their losses in each war. -- Each war?! The 1965 one was a draw! I laughed, stopping only when I realized from the deadpan look on her face that she wasn’t joking. Towards the end of the year, Meiryum, along with another Pakistani sophomore, planned a trip for this December to Lahore for a few Yale undergraduates. It had to be cancelled, because Yale insurance couldn’t cover travel to a country with a MEDEX security threat rating of 5. “But it’s Lahore, and not some tribal area!” she complained, “You know it’s just like Delhi, it’s not unsafe!” I nodded, thinking that I did know exactly how unfounded the concerns of both my parents and Yale insurance about Pakistani cities were. I knew that Lahoris described their city almost exactly like how I’d describe mine, with the same winding lanes full of vendors selling the same street food and new highrise malls full of designer brands. I couldn’t,

This map shows the key destinations in these stories as well as the border between India and Pakistan. though, help but slightly empathize with their concerns. I don’t know for myself how much Lahore resembles Delhi, with both my plans for visiting Pakistan considered impossible by my parents and my university. The only images I have of Lahore still come from the news reports of bomb threats and daily riots. Nitika Khaitan ’16 is a Humanites and South Asian Studies major in Silliman College. She

roots 15

ans is in a foreign country. When my parents lived in foreign countries as expats, some of their best friends were Indian couples. I am forever hearing about “so and so auntie and uncle” who now live in Bombay or Calcutta and have called to congratulate me on my college acceptance, or to say how grown up I look in pictures my parents post on Facebook. My parent’s objections with India lay in its government’s policies, not with its people. I first met Indians at Yale’s International Students Orientation (ISO). I was not alone. Many of my high school friends from Karachi who went to college in the US returned with close Indian friends. They were like us, but with slight differences. We spoke a mash of Urdu and Hindi. We fought over the correct way to

cook Maggi noodles, a type of immensely popular spicy instant noodles similar to ramen. We dressed the same (with subtle differences) and could hum the same Bollywood songs. Considering our states’ hostility, our similarities initially shocked me. Yet as time went on, I learned a more surprising fact—even homesick international students can unite only up to a point. Consciously or not, Pakistanis prefer to focus on what makes us different, while Indians like to point out what is same. After all, is that not the argument made by both countries? Former high school classmates and I together complain all the time about this one sentence: “Oh my god your accent is so exotic! Are you from India?” No, we are not from India, and we make a point of it. Pakistani flags

are often draped around our dorm rooms, as if we could not be more obvious. Sure Bollywood remains popular, but Pakistan’s own mix of politics, TV shows, and pop culture references accumulated since the Partition feel that much more sharply different when abroad. The Yale South Asian Society represents all South Asians, yet some students still felt the need to form Yalies for Pakistan (YPAK). At UC Berkeley, the Pakistani Student Association fought for Urdu to be placed under a separate department from Hindi. Early in my freshman year, a classmate asked if I was Pakistani. When I asked how he knew, he explained that his time spent living in an international boarding school had made him particularly sensitive to South Asians. “You Pakistanis have different faces, your accent is lighter and you tend to be louder and more aggressive,” he said, without the slightest hint of political correctness. It was exactly the kind of generalizing statement that would likely offend an Indian and with which a Pakistani would probably agree. For me, India is defined by the Indians I meet at Yale. In some way, every Yale student learns something new from his or her interactions with the university’s sizeable international population. But it India is not just any foreign country: here is the country that I studied in history textbooks, that I heard about in the news. For Pakistanis at Yale, the abstract concept of India suddenly has a face—someone in your class or residential college that you may like or dislike or not know well, just like any other Yale student. In the U.S. I feel much more Pakistani, but I also see an Indian as just another one of the crowd. And yet back home, for now at least, I cannot afford the same luxury of indifference. Just before I left Karachi this summer for New Haven, a Pakistani soldier was killed on the border. Pakistan blamed India, while apparently firing upon Indian-controlled Kashmir, and India blamed Pakistan. Tensions rose, fingers were pointed, governments were badmouthed etc. etc. My parents put on their best “I told you so” face. The India firing upon us was the same India that I had wanted to visit at this very time. That the other side of the border would remain this elusive is something neither I, in my Yale bubble, nor my grandmother, when she crossed the border in 1962, could have anticipated. Meiryum Ali ’16 is an Economics major in Pierson College. She can be reached at

16 roots Herbs at a traditional Chinese medicine hospital (Russo/TYG)

Traditional Chinese Medicine Finding a modern niche for ancient cures


was staring into a cup that looked as if it had been filled directly from the murky waters of the Yellow River. Tiny grey grains floated in the yellow steaming liquid as a sickly sweet smell wafted up to my nose. “He ba!” my host mother commanded in her clear Xi’an accent. Her expectant gaze suggested that I had no choice but to follow her instructions and drink up, so I sipped the liquid between coughing fits and sneezes. My Chinese vocabulary did not contain the words to ask anyone about the contents of the strangely sweet concoction I had just consumed, so I merely smiled and pocketed the empty brown package, keeping it as a memento of yet another Chinese mystery I hoped to someday solve. To a Westerner, the more effective alternative would have been rushing to the nearest hospital for a chest scan. But my cough disappeared, the harmonious recipe of herbs in my tea being no less researched than the biotechnology that makes up a chest scan. The systematic documentation and formation of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) began over two thousand years ago. In volumes such as Huangdi Neijing, published as early as 400 BCE, Chinese scholars stressed the need for balance, among the body’s major organs (the lungs, kidney, liver, heart, and spleen), between the opposing forces of yin and yang and in the distribution of the life force, qi. Any sort of imbalance—too much or too little qi in any one organ, an excess of any single emotion, or an abundance of yang energy—would lead to sickness. This complex philosophy provides a simple explanation for a tradition of successful natural treatments, based on thousands of years of observation. This centuries-long tradition did not vanish when China “opened up” to the Western world more than three decades ago. Instead, TCM has evolved from rural family medicine winter 2013, issue 2

to a results-based system of diagnoses and treatments standardized in modern hospitals. Today, Traditional Chinese doctors face equally rigorous standards of certification as Western doctors. According to Sun Jianqun, a middle class resident of Southeastern Fujian province, the careers of Traditional and Western doctors are equally popular among China’s young professionals. Although the systems of medicine are markedly different, Chinese hospitals contain a surprising amount of fluidity and every Western educated doctor has taken courses in TCM. Any patient seeking Western treatment has the option to walk down a hallway and enter the Traditional Wing, ubiquitous in every Western hospital in China. Particularly in China’s most prosperous cities, wealthy Chinese turn primarily to Traditional doctors to treat minor stress-related ailments, like high blood pressure and hyperglycemia, while relying on Western medicine when the diagnosis becomes serious. As Sun Jianqun describes the relationship, “In China, we trust Chinese medicine, and also we don’t reject Western medicine. It just depends on the situation.” Western and Traditional treatments build off of one another to form a fusion unique to 21st century China. In addition to its historic role in the Chinese healthcare system, TCM may prove to hold a cutting edge place in global pharmaceutical research. Consider the traditional Chinese concoction of four herbs, called Huang Qin Tang, which has been used to treat gastrointestinal discomfort since 220AD. In 2003, Dr. Yung-Chi Cheng, the Henry Bronson Professor of Pharmacology at the Yale School of Medicine, used the ancient cure to create a remedy that enhances the cancer-fighting effects of chemotherapy and alleviates its side effects. Having already passed FDA Stage 1 trials, the herbal combination may become the

By Anna Russo first TCM treatment to receive FDA approval. Cheng is not alone in envisioning “Western and Chinese medicines as cornerstones, together with other [traditional remedies,] for the development of future medicines.” He founded the Consortium on the Globalization of Chinese Medicine, which today comprises more than 100 institutions. Nearly half of its members are located in the US and Europe, and include Columbia University, McLean Hospital of Harvard Medical School, and Shanghai based Johnson & Johnson China. Among the Consortium members is Dr. Yibing Feng at University of Hong Kong School of Chinese Medicine, who is investigating TCM’s role in treating liver disease. Many others have followed suit. Outside the Consortium, companies such as Chi-Med, a China based pharmaceutical, have achieved clinical success, with Chi-Med using a traditional herb to treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease. “If it’s still in use after a thousand years there must be something right,” Cheng said, in a Wall Street Journal article on his research. He described Chinese medicine as a constantly “evolving” force, pulling from its ancient roots to integrate seamlessly and powerfully into today’s search for new cures and treatments. By combining TCM’s holistic and results-focused approach with Western medicine’s target-based methodology, Dr. Cheng and others hope to address the challenges that each system faces. Their hope, and prediction, is TCM’s full integration in hospitals and drugs around the world. Perhaps in a future flu season, the herbs contained in my cup of steaming yellow tea could be prescribed in hospitals across the U.S. Anna Russo ’17 is in Berkeley College. She can be reached at

roots 17

The Price of Sugar

Investigating the epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease By Eleanor Marshall in rural Nicaragua

Sugar cane being burned in Nicaraguan fields. (Courtesy of Jean Silk)


ou can’t find a good restaurant in Chichigalpa, Nicaragua, but you can take your pick of coffins. New casket shops have cropped up, and the cemetery has expanded. The business of burials is one of the only industries booming in this rural community where the annual death toll from Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) has doubled in the last two years, from 445 in 2010 to 1,092 in 2012. A study from La Isla Foundation, a non-profit that works in Chichigalpa, reports that 75 percent of deaths in men ages 35-55 and 46 percent of all male deaths are directly attributable to CKD. The community’s full name is not simply “La Isla” but “La Isla de las Viudas,” or “Island of the Widows,” and it is encircled by an expanding sea of sugar cane. In those waving rows of cane lies the epicenter of the CKD epidemic plaguing the rural populations of Nicaragua. Official records show that 20,000 men have died prematurely from CKD, thought to be caused by factors including dehydration and heat exposure. Although Ilana Weiss, director of policy and public health for La Isla Foundation, predicted the true toll is much higher. She explained that many cases go unreported as workers lack access to medical care, or can’t afford it. In agricultural areas of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, kidney failure occurs at five times the national rate. In El Salvador, it was the second highest cause of death in 2009. Not contained to Central America, CKD has been observed in equatorial regions of Sri Lanka, India, and the Philippines among

various agriculture-based communities. Weiss remembered meeting one 20-yearold worker last year who had just finished his first season in the sugar cane, and was about to start his second. She was with him for his first blood test mandated by the San Antonio Sugar Mill, the largest employer in La Isla. Exams showing high levels of creatinine, a chemical metabolized by working kidneys, result in immediate dismissal of workers to avoid company liability for the illness. As the health of workers deteriorates, they are almost always denied pensions or compensation by the company and social security benefits by the government. “We’re on the way to the testing center and I ask him if he’s nervous,” she remembered. “He looks at me with this huge smile on his face and is like,‘No. We were born to die in the cane fields.’”

The Spread of Sugar Though the unforgiving labor of sugar cane cultivation around the equator is centuries old, the kidney failure epidemic has only become rampant in the last few decades, and serious work on producing a body of reliable research began in the late 2000s. According to Jean Silk, program manager of the Yale Council for Latin and Iberian Studies, CKD appears to have spread with major expansions of large-scale sugar cane operations in the last ten years. The rising global demand for sugar, expected to increase 25 percent by 2020 to feed expanding appetites for processed

foods and the burgeoning ethanol industry, has brought in international loans for major corporations to expand cane production. On October 25, 2006, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank group, approved a $55 million loan to Nicaragua Sugar Estates Limited, the umbrella corporation that owns San Antonio Sugar Mills and oversees production of 24,000 hectares of cane cultivation in the region encompassing La Isla. The loan was intended to increase production across an additional 2,482 hectares of land, increase mechanization, and fund the construction and operation of a new ethanol plant. According to Olivia Kaplan FES ’08, San Antonio had expanded to the rural village of Goyena, New Haven’s sister city, by 2003, a few years before she arrived. When she began work there in 2005, farmers had already initiated complaints through the local courts that pesticide run-off from neighboring cane fields was contaminating the water and that aerial sprays were causing crop failure and sickness. She returned in 2006 to conduct interviews in Chichigalpa, and found households emptied of their patriarchs. According to Kaplan, the community of 10,000 lost 2,500 people to CKD within a five-year period as diagnosed by San Antonio’s own exams. In fact, the corporation had planted palm trees to line the promenade at its entrance, and would frequently carry lines of coffins to the gates in what resembled traditional funeral processions. “I came back and walked around shellshocked because of what I had seen in Ni

18 roots caragua. It was lots of deteriorating bodies,” she said. “Unconsciously, out of my mouth, I promised the sugar cane workers in Chichigalpa that I would try to do something that would get them justice.”

“We’re on the way to the testing center and I ask him if he’s nervous,” she remembered. “He looks at me with this huge smile on his face and is like, ‘No. We were born to die in the cane fields.’” Behind the Collapse While the effects of CKD are ubiquitous in the coffin stores and fatherless households of Chichigalpa, pinning down the cause of the disease still proves the largest barrier to solving it. Currently, the strongest hypothesis is that such high incidence of the disease comes from repeated exposure to intense heat – often hovering near 100°F and increasing with the effects of climate change – combined with dehydration resulting from strenuous labor without adequate breaks or access to water. Weiss explained that sugar cane workers lose over five pounds of water per day – the average amount runners lose during a marathon, except over and over again without recovery time. Rehydration would require drinking an estimated 19 liters of water per day – more than the body can absorb, she explained. The effects of dehydration make it difficult for the kidney to process environmental toxins or digest large quantities of sugar. Unfortunately, sugar cane laborers are exposed to both. Daily, workers apply pesticides or are exposed to aerial sprays without protection. And Maddy Sharp ’13 explains that, ironically, the harms of sugar follow workers out of the field, as sugary beverages are pervasive in Nicaraguan culture while fresh fruits and vegetables, or even potable wawinter 2013, issue 2

ter, are often unavailable or unaffordable. After writing her senior thesis on CKD, Sharp arrived in Leon, Nicaragua, on September 24, 2013, to conduct a yearlong project focused on preventative measures – targeting young children and their parents and teachers to provide access to healthy food and education on better nutrition and hydration – habits that can slow the progression of CKD in its early stages. “When I heard about this illness, I assumed that it was predominantly men in the sugar cane industry, but we’re finding more and more that it has also spread to women and children. Yesterday, I was talking to the town leader of Goyena and she was saying that her son has CKD. There are children in Goyena that have CKD,” Sharp said. “It’s becoming like the common cold, it’s not shocking anymore.”

Born to Die in the Fields Juan Salgado started work in the sugar cane fields in 1975, before CKD became a household presence. He hails from Candelaria, a village neighboring La Isla where San Antonio began involuntarily resettling workers living on its property in 1998. He regularly worked from 6 a.m. to 6, or even 8 p.m. “You can’t rest. The only time you rest is if you can’t work and have to go to the hospital,” he said, explaining that workers do not even take breaks to hydrate. “Drinking water wastes time.” After cutting sugar cane for 36 years, Salgado fell ill with CKD in 2001. Suffering from vomiting, fevers, and intense fatigue, he was forced to retire. The father of five, Salgado’s sons now support the family, but he said many of his neighbors have no one left who is healthy enough to work. It is consensus among researchers, according to Silk, that workers start to fall ill after just two or three seasons swinging a machete in the sugar cane. Progressing rapidly through the five stages of kidney failure, they die shortly thereafter. Although Salgado remembered watching fellow workers lose kidney function as early as the late 1980s, and sensed growing alarm in Candelaria over the disease by the early 2000s, just ten years ago, CKD was unheard of outside the isolated communities it impacts. Because the vast majority of the population across the Nicaraguan countryside is made up of an unskilled, unemployed workforce, Weiss explained that companies like San Antonio have historically treated laborers as easily replaceable. She believes

that NSEL is just now being confronted with international pressure to address its labor standards, but is worried about the liability that comes with taking responsibility for occupational illness in its workers. Y-Vonne Hutchinson, director of law and human rights at La Isla, said that while CKD has become an eventuality for sugar cane workers, they continue to go to work in the fields because companies like San Antonio offer one of the only forms of steady employment to isolated rural communities. Desperate to provide for their families, Hutchinson explains that men suffering from CKD often use false identification to continue working in the fields as sub-contracted labor. Sugar cane workers are paid on commission, about $0.90 USD for every ton of cane they cut. According to a report by La Isla, workers make, on average, $7 USD per day, working as hard as they can through the six month season that lasts from November through May, hoping this income will make ends meet until the next year. While prices have soared in Nicaragua over the past decades, wages have stagnated.

An Occupational Hazard Searching for scientific evidence of the harms of cane cultivation, Kaplan began a study into Goyena’s water quality conducted through the Yale School of Forestry in 2007. When it came back without traceable levels, she began searching for other mechanisms to stop the disease’s spread. She was doing research late one night when she happened upon the IFC’s Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman, through which the populations impacted by the IFC’s projects – like the $55 million loan to sugar companies including San Antonio – can file grievances, outlining the impacts on their communities. “I literally fell of my chair and was like ‘those sons of bitches.’ Then I knew that something major was going to happen because [the community impacts] listed under the loan were untrue,” she said, leaving ample grounds for grievances. Kaplan returned to Nicaragua several times over the next few years, meeting with affected populations and partnering with ASOCHIVIDA, an association of former cane workers, to help them build a case. They successfully submitted a formal grievance to the IFC on March 31, 2008. The report asked Nicaragua Sugar Estates Limited (NSEL), most basically, to comply with IFC and domestic labor laws through practices

roots 19 such as providing breaks and job rotation for its workers and ensuring potable water in all surrounding communities. San Antonio was required to provide food aid to sick workers for two and a half years after their dismissal and fund construction of a kidney dialysis clinic in Chichigalpa. But the biggest benefits, Kaplan argued, were in the dialogue itself. “In 2006, the attitude was, ‘We’re dying and the world doesn’t care. Can you please go and tell our story?’” she said. In 2008, IFC investigations brought San Antonio to the negotiating table for the first time, and resulted in a mandated two-year study into the cause of CKD. Published in December 2011, the investigation led by Dan Brooks of Boston University was inconclusive, but corroborates the current theories of dehydration and has paved the way for further international attention.

The Cost of Living CKD is treatable through kidney transplants or dialysis, a process that simulates kidney function by removing waste from the bloodstream. However, treatment options are costly and there is no cure. Peritonial dialysis, the cheapest choice, can be administered in a patient’s home, but requires a sterile environment and ample medical supplies, and is extremely painful. Further, one round of peritoneal dialysis costs $100, and treatment

requires three rounds per week. It would take almost two months of wages for a sugar cane worker to afford a full week of treatment. Salgado, like many who suffer from CKD, has refused treatment even when it was available. He explained that in his community, it is the prevailing belief that attempting dialysis will only cause a patient to die more quickly. And, according to Weiss, they are often right. As recently as a few months ago, the majority of dialysis patients were dying from infection during treatment. Even encouraging people to drink more water can be complicated, explains Connor Bell MPH ’15, who worked on a team with Dan Brooks to conduct research on dehydration in Nicaragua last summer. Many rural communities lack potable water, and believe their wells to be contaminated. In fact, according to Bell, there is an inexplicably high prevalence of kidney disease among the general population – not just those exposed to the sugar cane – and that there isn’t enough evidence to call CKD an occupational illness. Citing this lack of a direct connection between the sugar industry and CKD, in 2013, the IFC approved a $15 million loan to Nicaraguan sugar cane producer Montelimar Mill to more than double production. This was the first international loan to a sugar cane company since the IFC’s investigation into CKD began. But even without a causal link, Bell said,

corporations like San Antonio and Montelimar are notorious for mistreating their workers, even suppressing dissent and political demonstrations with violence, and denying researchers and advocates access to information on working conditions. For Hutchinson, the plight of sugar cane workers is rare in the realm of human rights crises in one important way: it’s solvable. “We’re not talking about changing an entire government. We’re not talking about eliminating some deeply seated ethnic conflict. We’re not talking about changing cultural perceptions of women. We’re talking about getting a few companies to obey laws on the books and getting a state to protect its workforce. It’s actually quite simple,” she said. “There is a finish line.” But the prevalence throughout the general population is perhaps more deeply rooted – in lack of access to clean water and nutritious food, and the cultural prevalence of sugary beverages and alcohol. Even getting occupational grievances recognized by companies like San Antonio has required years of constant pressure for slow and small improvement. “If there was a clear path, I would have gone down it,” Kaplan said. Eleanor Marshall ’16 is in Saybrook College. She can be reached at eleanor.

A Nicaraguan worker harvests sugar cane. Chrionic Kidney Disease is a major cause of death amng Nicaraguan men. ( Courtesy of Jean Silk)

20 roots Quinoa cultivation in Copacabana, Bolivia (Courtesy of Pablo Laguna).

The Quinoa Controversy The implications of the growing popularity of a Bolivian grain By Jade Adia Harvey


squire labeled it “The Miracle Grain of the Andes”. The New York Times dubbed it “The Lost Crop of the Inca.” Global development experts call it one of our most important weapons in the fight to end world hunger. After 7000 years of cultivation in southern Bolivia and decades of mispronunciation by confused American consumers (keen-wa, not qui-no-ah), quinoa has hit the big time. The humble grain, once considered “indigenous people food” and ignored by the Bolivian upper classes, now features in fine cuisine the world over. But quinoa’s Good Housekeeping recipes and Iron Chef stardom don’t come free: the complex carb has been battered by a storm of controversy over the ethics of expanding its production in Bolivia. Quinoa’s new “superfood” title is no surprise. Referred to by the Inca as Chisaya Mama, meaning “Mother of All Grains,” the seed boasts over five times more protein than white rice. Since Western health food providers caught wind of its health benefits, quinoa has achieved international prominence. Bolivian production has expanded from 240 square miles of farmland in 2009 to 400 square miles in 2012; in 2010, Bolivia exported around 15,000 metric tons of quinoa to the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Europe, surpassing Peru and Ecuador as the world’s principal supplier. But not all Western consumers are adding quinoa to their salads. Online petitioners have launched boycotts of Andean quinoa, and the blogosphere has been overtaken by articles attacking the increase in the domestic price of Bolivian quinoa, land disputes, and the rise in winter 2013, issue 2

consumption of unhealthy, overly-processed foods like soda and white bread among locals. Pablo Laguna, an anthropologist who studies quinoa’s influence on Bolivian communities, responds to these claims with frustration, calling them “totally unsupported.” Yes, he says, quinoa prices have almost doubled from $120 per 100lb to $200 from July to August of this year. However, Laguna assures me, the Bolivians who have always eaten quinoa—lower-class urbanites with kinship ties to rural families—still have access to their staple crop. Citing his long history of work with farmers, he calls rural Bolivians “quite enthusiastic” about the sudden popularity of a crop that has long been underappreciated. And with their new profits, farming families can add variety to their diets, consuming more vegetables and meat than ever before. Laguna claims that this change in diet has contributed to the nearly six-year increase in Bolivian life expectancy since 1995. Some argue that, as the urban poor and llama farmers fight quinoa farmers for space to grow the mother of all cash crops, tension has risen in a formerly peaceful area. Laguna replies that land disputes long predate quinoa’s newfound popularity. It is naive to romanticize Bolivia--land policy in the countryside was far from perfect, even before quinoa. When asked about the growing prevalence of processed food in many Bolivians’ diets, Laguna points out that developing nations tend to turn to a Western diet not because they have to, but because when wealth increases, American food products become status symbols. And the Bolivian government

still integrates quinoa into school lunches and meals for the armed forces and pregnant women, ensuring that Bolivian citizens can reap the nutritional benefits of their own crop. According to the World Bank, poverty affects fifty percent of the population in large Bolivian cities, sixty-seven percent in other urban areas, and eighty percent in rural areas. Whatever the social arguments against quinoa, the crop’s cultivation is beginning to lift the farming communities of Bolivia, the poorest nation in South America, out of extreme poverty. The consequences of quinoa’s rise are complicated, but then again, so is our entire global food system. In a world of mostly-free trade, an increase in demand for some commodity will inevitably increase the price of that commodity. What used to be an overlooked South American staple crop is now celebrated by diplomats, students and farmers alike and has the potential to change not only the lives of rural Bolivians, but of starving families around the world. The United Nations even designated 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa in an effort to raise awareness of its unique potential to combat hunger and malnutrition; soon, quinoa may be more than just a Western food fad. And the grain is gluten-free, vegan and—for now—almost always grown organically. Until more evidence arises that quinoa is in fact an overall detriment to Bolivian society, I’ll keep it on my plate. Jade Adia Harvey ’17 is in Ezra Stiles College. She can be reached at


e h T

s l r u C f o e r u lt u C (Courtesy of Creative Commons)

What Hair Really Means in Mixed Race Societies By Isidora Stankovic


ook through any fashion magazine and you might notice something puzzling. Almost without exception, models of every race have the same sleek, straightened hair. The message from these media sources seems clear: these painstakingly smooth hairstyles are simply better. Women around the world have taken this message to heart and adopted straightened hair as a beauty ideal, but for some women, hair texture means something more. In societies with large mixed race populations, hair extends beyond beauty and becomes a factor that reveals ethnic heritage and even socioeconomic background. According to Professor Roberto González Echevarría, Sterling Professor of Hispanic and Comparative Literatures at Yale University, “hair is a fashion statement as well as a statement of ethnicity.” Curls and kinky hair are loaded with stigma in many countries, in part because they represent the effects of historical interactions between different ethnic groups. The legacy of European colonialism echoes strongly in Cuba, and has been influential in shaping race relations, social structure, and the identities of mixed-race individuals. Professor González Echevarría explains that Spaniards brought a relatively small number of African slaves to Cuba in the 16th century to replace the annihilated labor force. In the 19th century, the number of African slaves on the island grew as the country invested in the sugar industry. Interactions with white Europeans and black slaves created a significant mixedrace population, and the growth of this group has made it increasingly difficult to identify people as either black or white and produced a change in categorization of individuals. Thus,

hair has become an important tool for labeling and social stratification. According to González Echevarría, “There are many gradations of mulatto in Cuba, and some are gauged by how kinky their hair is.” He adds that Cubans can be prejudiced against kinky hair, noting that to have kinky hair is to “tener pelo malo,” or “to have bad hair.” They may call the hair of black individuals “pasa,” and women of European origin even refer to their hair as “pasa” when they are having a bad hair day, often saying “tengo la pasa alborotada” (“I have messy/wild hair”). Similarly in Brazil, sugarcane formed the backbone of the country’s economy for centuries and European settlers brought African slaves to work the plantations. According to Jéssica Leão ’16, a student from Salvador, Brazil, the interaction of these ethnic groups has created a fluidity of race due to an intensely mixed society; however, she says Brazilian society ultimately values European heritage most highly. Leão explained that Brazilians sometimes refer to nappy hair as “cabelo ruim”—a strongly negative label that directly translates to mean “bad hair.” Beyond prejudices against kinky hair, curls historically were used as an actual tool, much like skin color, in determining an individual’s racial identity of an individual. Official racial segregation under apartheid, the system of legally enshrined racial segregation of the native black majority and the European white minority, began in 1948 and ended in 1994, though its effects are long-standing. Soekoe explained that under apartheid, there existed three main classifications of race in South Africa —black, white, and colored. The 1950 Population Registration Act required that all

individuals be classified into a racial group, with physical characteristics used as a primary tool. According to South African Nicola Soekoe ’16, the usage of the “pencil test” during apartheid, exemplifies the degrading use of hair to label people. The so-called pencil test was used in ambiguous cases to determine whether an individual was colored or white by putting a pencil in the person’s hair. If the pencil fell out, the person was white. If it stuck, he was colored. “In the case of Apartheid South Africa one’s hair often determined one’s racial classification and, subsequently, one’s freedom,” said Soekoe. She later revealed the difference in hair type within her own family; while Soekoe has curly blonde ringlets, her father has tight black curls. Sokoe recalled her father saying, “‘the difference between our hair is that I would have failed the pencil test.’” “It didn’t mean much to me at that age,” she stated, “and I jokingly proceeded to test both our hair with a pencil, but thinking about it now his hair’s texture could have resulted in my family being torn apart.” The association between hair and socioeconomic status in these three countries has resulted in high demand for straightening treatments and large businesses that sell such treatments globally. In Cuba, Echevarría remembered the “elaborate process in which [black cooks and maids in his house] tried to straighten their hair,” all in an attempt to achieve a more European look. Today in Brazil, Leão noted that the immense pressure to have European hair has resulted in an epidemic in which individuals of all different races are bleaching their hair blonde. Perfectly styled hair indicates higher social

22 roots class, and at the nightclub Pink Elephant in São Paulo, bouncers tend to let in girls with blowouts over girls with unstraightened hair. The process of straightening or relaxing one’s hair can jeopardize one’s health, however. Poorer women who cannot afford expensive treatments turn to dangerous alternatives that end up damaging their hair and searing their scalps. But salon-quality treatments can also be harmful both to clients and hairdressers. In Brazil, many women use progressive straightening treatments, commonly known in the United States as the “Brazilian Blowout.” Companies have cleverly marketed the product to meet the incredible global demand for straightened hair, claiming the treatment promotes healthy hair in addition to smoothing strands. The Brazilian Blowout involves applying a chemical mixture to freshly washed hair, then blow-drying and ironing the hair straight. The process promises to eliminate frizz and gently straighten hair for about three months, and the more treatments one undergoes the

longer the results will last. However, the Brazilian Blowout typically contains formaldehyde as a key ingredient—a toxic compound famously found in embalming fluid that is harmful to inhale and ultimately damages hair. The treatment may burn hair and even cause hair loss, creating a devastating problem for women seeking more “manageable” hair. Despite the popularity of harmful straightening and relaxing treatments, in recent years movements have arisen that aim to empower women by encouraging them to accept their curls. Brazil, the same country obsessed with straight hair and the birthplace of the Brazilian blowout, stands as one of the leaders of this movement. In particular, Leila Velez’ salon chain Beleza Natural, or “Natural Beauty” in English, represents one of the major advances in teaching women to love and care for their kinky hair. According to Forbes magazine, Beleza Natural specifically caters to women typically of black or mixed background and offers cuts and products carefully developed

for kinky hair. The salon and the beauty lifestyle it promotes have steadily been gaining converts from the Brazilian Blowout who have realized the dangers of traditional straightening methods. Beleza Natural is not only a salon, but also an institution with a program for women of all classes to learn how to not only care for their hair, but to celebrate the unique cultural heritage their curls represent. Our hair represents an extension of our personality, but in societies with large mixed race populations it has come to define individuals and their backgrounds. Whether used as an indicator of socioeconomic class or as a tool for racial classification, hair is an especially important element of identity. Its inherent changeability makes hair susceptible to straightening treatments among mixed race individuals hoping to achieve a more “European” look, but current movements to increase appreciation of natural hair textures suggests a major social shift.

glimpse 23

The Fight over Kung Fu

Isidora Stankovic ’16 is a History major in Timothy Dwight College. She can be reached at

The Rise of Martial Arts Academies in China By Kelsey Larson

Clothed in orange monk’s robes, professional martial artists prepare a kung fu show for tourists visiting the Shaolin Temple. (Larson/TYG).


he bright orange-robed martial artist smashed the metal rod against his forehead. The pole shattered into pieces, and he strode away as a half-dozen other figures took the floor, their spears spinning hypnotically, blurring as they reversed directions in their wielders’ expert hands. But this wasn’t a scene from a kung-fu movie. After the last sword stopped spinning and the applause eventually ended, these mysterious warriors transformed back into a band of prepubescent boys, joking and laughing. Once they reemerged from the changing room wearing the red workout clothes of the Tagou Martial Arts School based in Dengfeng, China, they were indistinguishable from any other band of young athletes. Any connection to the Buddhist origin of kung fu had been folded up and tucked away alongside their orange robes. These students haven’t always been around in Dengfeng. Until the 1970s, Dengfeng’s martial arts population consisted of just a handful of Buddhist monks at the Shaolin Temple who learned kung fu as part of their religious practice. Though the monks occasionally involved themselves in the world beyond Dengfeng in order to keep their culture alive in changing times, fighting pirates for the emperor or allying with warlords, they remained little known among most Chinese. Tucked away in relative obscurity, the monks honed their skills in kung fu as a form of meditation and concentration. After the 1978 blockbuster martial arts movie Shaolin Temple was filmed in the temple, kung fu surged in popularity, and both tourists and young martial artists swarmed to Dengfeng. The martial arts schools that sprang up across Dengfeng now host over 50,000 young martial artists between the ages of five and eighteen, turning the ancient birthplace of kung fu into a modern

capital of Chinese martial arts. Most of these students adhere to a schedule of intense kung fu during the morning and evening, with afternoons devoted to academic classes. The students I watched had worked hard to reach that level of effortless skill, practicing kung fu six hours a day for six days a week with only one annual break to return home for the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). Parents and students alike have leapt into kung fu academies as a practical alternative to the conventional Chinese education system. Not only does a typical education cost immense amounts of money once school fees and tutors are included, but if a student doesn’t excel at the intense memorization required to do well on the high school exit exam, they may graduate unable to find a good job. Kung fu schools, on the other hand, are both cheaper than many conventional schools and offer a more secure path to a job for students who prefer moving over memorizing. The best of Tagou’s students can dream of a job acting in the highly popular genre of martial arts films, and the rest easily find jobs as bodyguards or in the military, where the discipline they learned in school serves them well. The majority of students also enjoy their life at the kung fu school, though their training regimen is as strict as any city student’s study plan. As one 22-year-old math teacher explained, “They’re hardworking and bright, but they hate sitting still. They just want to be out practicing kung fu.” For these students, kung fu academies are their key to an enjoyable education and a viable career. There is one career, however, that Tagou students are definitely not considering: the life of a monk. The students who had performed wearing religious robes collapsed into giggles when I asked them if any of them were interest-

ed in becoming monks. “We just wear the robes for show,” one boy explained. “It’s what people want to see when they watch our shows, but none of us really believe in Buddhism.” Kung fu is their sport and career, not their religion. For some, this marks a tragic split from kung fu’s roots. One senior Shaolin monk explained in an interview that “Shaolin kung fu started as not only a way of protecting ourselves, but as a way of strengthening our minds and our bodies to become better Buddhists. When kung fu turned into a competitive sport, it may have gained more practitioners, but it lost its focus on self-improvement and turned into a competition for material things.” Walking through the temple complex, watching tourists eagerly snap photos of the indents in the flagstones that had been worn down by generations of monks, I found it hard to disagree with the monk. Like the boys who traded their bright orange robes for jeans, the temple seemed a place where the material remnants of the past still lingered, but its spiritual traditions had long faded into the flagstones. Following previous adjustments to history’s demands, kung fu is adapting itself yet again, this time becoming a much-needed alternative to the typical Chinese education system. The armies of students on Tagou’s campus will grow into martial artists who will pass kung fu’s characteristic kicks and strikes on to the next generation. However, as the Shaolin Temple fills with ever more tourists and ever fewer monks, Shaolin’s spiritual history may be lost in the change.

Kelsey Larson ’16 is an Economics major in Silliman College. She can be reached at kelsey.

24 roots

Hidden Roots: An Examination of Cultural Identity in Turkey By Fiona Lowenstein

Photos courtesy of Attila Durak

roots 25


ix months ago, Turkey began seriously questioning its self-identity. On May 28, 2013 protestors stormed Istanbul’s Gezi Park, demanding change from Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The demonstrators called for a variety of issues to be addressed, including freedom of the press, better environmental protections, and expanded rights for ethnic minorities. As the protests wore on, they gathered momentum and people from a diverse range of ethnic, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds joined in the marches. By August, the protests had become a celebration of diversity that caused many in Turkey to question the oft-accepted image of the country as ethnically and religiously homogenous. The Gezi Park Protests posed important questions about Turkish identity, but many of these questions have yet to be answered. The protests shed light on a history of confusion about ethnic identity that is often forgotten, or not talked about. Since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923, most Turkish citizens have been educated in a curriculum that emphasizes Turkish identity above all else. Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code outlaws “public denigration” of Turkey, Turkish ethnicity, or Turkish government institutions, which makes open dialogue about ethnicity very difficult. Because public debate about ethnicity in Turkey is limited and punishable by law, many Turks are brought up to believe that they live in a nation that is linguistically and ethnically homogenous. Yet, the CIA World Factbook estimates that ethnic Turks constitute only 70 to 75 percent of the Turkish population, with Kurds, Greeks, Armenians, Jews, and other, smaller ethnic groups making up the sizeable remainder. Issues such as the Armenian Genocide, tension between Turks and Greeks, and the history of the Kurdish minority are among the many ethnic questions that remain unanswered and actively ignored by the Turkish government and much of the population today. Turkish students’ consequent lack of familiarity about ethnic diversity surprised Lisa DiCarlo, a professor of sociology at Brown University who specializes in Turkish anthropology. Several years ago, DiCarlo offered a class on the anthropology of Turkey, and found that many visiting Turkish students signed up for it. DiCarlo speculated that this was probably because they thought it would be an “easy A.” On the first day, DiCarlo began by asking the class how many languages are spoken in Turkey. DiCarlo recounted: “This Turkish student raised

his hand and said ‘Three: Turkish, French, and English.’” DiCarlo explained that there are thirty-six languages spoken in Turkey. “[Ethnicity] it’s something that nobody talks about in public,” DiCarlo explained. She first visited in Turkey in 1989. “No one pointed out that Turkey was an ethnically diverse country,” DiCarlo recounted. “It’s there in the reading if you want to read Ottoman or Turkish History in the U.S., but students in Turkey don’t have access to the same books. So, a lot of people in Turkey aren’t even aware of how ethnically diverse Turkey is.” However, Turkish citizens are increasingly challenging their nation’s constructed homogenous ethnic identity. One such individual is photographer Atila Durak, whose photography exhibit, Ebru: Reflections of Cultural Diversity in Turkey, seeks to celebrate the nation’s diversity. The word “ebru” is usually used to describe a form of painting common in Turkey that is similar to marbling. In the art process known as “ebru,” colors are mixed on a piece of paper and then allowed to slide off, forming a mixture of their own. “Ebru is the search for a new language to make cultural diversity in Turkey visible and intelligible,” wrote Ayşe Gül Altınay, Professor of Anthropology at Sabanci University in Istanbul and editor of the book version of Ebru in the book’s forward. Durak spent years taking the photographs found in Ebru, which depict Turkish nationals from all areas of the country. Durak said he selected “300 photographs from approximately 15,000 that I had taken during the five years of fieldwork.” Instead of listing the names of his subjects below their photos, Durak labeled each photo with an ethnicity, such as “Kurd,” “Sephardic Jew,” or “Christian Armenian.” “[Durak] used ethnomyths,” DiCarlo said. “Instead of saying these people are this, he asked people how they identify.” With Ebru, Durak created an exhibit that combines his photographs with various scholars’ writing, music, and discussion panels. In his artist’s statement, he describes growing up in Gümüşhane, a city that dates back to the Ottoman Empire. By the time Gümüşhane was Durak’s home, it had become kind of ghost town; only ruined churches and abandoned shop fronts remained of its past Greek and Armenian inhabitants. “Aided by the boundless imaginations of childhood,” Durak remembered, “we played on the deserted streets, reveling in the ‘ghostly’ haunts left to us by a once vibrant community.” Ebru first opened in New York in 2007 and has since travelled around Turkey and Europe, before culminating in a final show in the Netherlands in April of 2013.

By suggesting that Turkey openly celebrate its diversity, Ebru takes a stance against the silence blanketing ethnic issues there. Throughout Turkey, the bold nature and controversial content of the exhibit has evoked a wide variety of reactions. When Durak’s exhibit came to Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city, nationalists spread rumors that Durak was a spy, a Western puppet, and the recipient of funding from the Soros Foundation. Perched on Turkey’s Aegean coast, Izmir has long been afflicted by ethnic tensions between Greeks and Turks. During the Turkish War of Independence, the city shifted control between Turkey and Greece. In 1922, the Turkish army set the city ablaze to recapture it from Greek control, and over ten thousand Greeks and Armenians died. Despite the fact that much of the Greek population was forced to relocate, the city is still plagued with ethnic tensions. When the exhibit stopped in Istanbul, a critic approached DiCarlo, who had been travelling with Durak, and belligerently asked her where the photos of “real Turks” were. DiCarlo asked him if he meant ethnic Turks and he responded that he meant “ethnic, modern Turks.” DiCarlo pointed out photographs of Turkish nationals of varying identities, but the critic was reportedly remained preoccupied with the lack of ethnic Turks. “[Ebru] is a real celebration, but depending on who you are you may take it as that, or you may take it as a threat.” Since Durak’s photographs portray people who are often hidden from the public realm, and whose roots are rarely celebrated, to some, Ebru presents a shocking and upsetting image of Turkey. In her review of Ebru, Professor Altınay asks, “Is it possible to engage histories of violence without reinforcing blindness to the dynamics of interaction, dialogue, and exchange?” DiCarlo said some who saw the exhibit worried that Durak’s discussion of ethnicity would further divide people in Turkey. Leyla Levi ’16, who travelled with DiCarlo this summer and hails from Istanbul herself, does not think that keeping discussions of ethnicity out of the public eye is the answer. “It’s left a lot of people marginalized and voiceless,” Levi explained. She says that she was not explicitly aware of many of the issues surrounding ethnicity in Turkey until recently, but is now quite intrigued by the issue. Nevertheless, ethnicity played somewhat of a role in Leyla’s childhood. “I had this idea as a kid that I couldn’t be the president, because I was Jewish…like I thought that was

26 roots the law.” Levi laughed. Because the cultural, religious, and ethnic minorities of Turkey are rarely discussed, it can sometimes seem that these groups are second-class citizens with fewer rights. Because Jewishness was never discussed in the public realm, Leyla assumed it was at odds with her status as a Turk, and thus would make her unable to run for office. Ebru has literally given words to voiceless groups in Turkey by publicizing ethnic terms that have fallen out of public usage, as many in Turkey choose not to speak about their non-Turkish heritages. “You saw people standing up and crying as they explained that this was the first time they heard the word that described what their family was since they were kids,” DiCarlo remembered. “I wanted to tell a different story than the ones that had already been told,” Durak wrote in his artist’s statement. “This story would be about the current colors of Turkey—together with the lost hues, and those that are being added.” Durak’s statement begs the question of when these hues first began to disappear. Turkey was famously the heart of one of history’s most diverse and tolerant empires for over six hundred years. How did the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire give way to the narrower image of Turkish national identity that exists today? After World War I, the Ottoman Empire had collapsed, and various leaders were vying for power in the region that is modern-day Turkey. In 1923, Mustafa Kemal, more commonly known to the West as Atatürk, emerged from this group and founded the Turkish Republic, thus guiding Turkey’s transformation from a large, diverse empire into a smaller, highly nationalistic state. It was at this time that the word “Turk” became integral to national rhetoric in Turkey. In Turkey, students recite a pledge of allegiance that ends with a line first spoken by Atatürk in 1933. The sentence translates to, “How happy is the one who says ‘I am a Turk.’” Atatürk’s Turk was modernized, Westernized, and secular, and an attempt to bridge the cultural gaps between the people living in the new nation-state through conflating all identities in one. While this historical ideal continues to be glorified today, religion has recently become a more important part of Turkey’s identity, and thus the archetypical Turk has recently taken on a Muslim persona. Levi explained that the Turkish ideal her parents knew is quite different from the Turkish ideal she has observed. While Leyla’s parents grew up with images of Atatürk’s secular Turk, Leyla’s image of a Turk is influenced by recent religious influences. Despite these changes, Atatürk himself remains winter 2013, issue 2

an emblem of what it means to be a Turk. His image, often painted, can be seen in almost every establishment in Turkey – his piercing blue eyes a reminder of Turkey’s ties to the West. The idea of a nationalist Turkish identity was born alongside with the state of Turkey in 1923, and like the Republic, was a creation of Atatürk and his followers. According to DiCarlo, “during the Ottoman Empire ‘Turk’ was pretty much coterminous with ‘farmer’ or ‘peasant.’” After the founding of the Turkish Republic, the

“You saw people standing up and crying as they explained that this was the first time they heard the word that described what their family was since they were kids,” DiCarlo remembered.

word “Turk” was used both to refer to citizens of this new state, and also as an ethnic marker that spurred a kind of nationalism, similar to the many European nationalist movements that emerged at the end of the war. Levi described how “[The word “Turk”] was sort of meant to be the glue that would hold people in the newly founded republic together, even though the [founders of ] the republic knew that these people were really different. I think it was…a strategic move.” The word Turk has since taken on an ethnic connotation. “There is no distinction between ‘Turkish’ as a citizen marker and ‘Turkish’ as an ethnic marker,” Levi explained. “When you say ‘[Turk],’ do you mean a person who lives in Turkey or do you mean a Sunni [person of ] Central Asian [origin]?” In recent years, some non-ethnic Turks have taken to using the term “Turkiyeli.” “The only way I can translate it is to say ‘Turkey-ish,’” DiCarlo said. According to Levi, “Tur-

kiyeli is like a more politically correct way of saying ‘I’m from Turkey.’” DiCarlo and Levi emphasized that this term both clarifies ethnic distinctions and allows for admissions of ethnic differences amongst the population. Yet the ambiguous term “Turk” remains integral to displays of national identity in Turkey, leaving little space for those who may not identify with the word or the image it connotes. In high school, Levi stopped singing the national anthem in the weekly school ceremonies, because she felt that the words didn’t represent her. She thinks of herself as Turkiyeli, rather than a Turk. “Refusing to sing the anthem was my way of showing myself, and no one else, that I didn’t have to personally perpetuate the systems that contributed to what I saw as being the problem” Levi explained. “I simply don’t want to actively contribute to nationalistic propaganda.” While Levi’s family is of Jewish origin, she says she is wary of taking on this cultural marker. A lot has changed since DiCarlo first visited Turkey, however. Durak’s Ebru has given a voice to people and words that had not been spoken about for years. In late September, Prime Minister Erdoğan announced that students would no longer be required to recite the pledge Levi refused to recite in high school. While this may be indicative of Erdoğan’s desire to eradicate Turkey’s secular past, it also means that for the time being, students like Levi will no longer have to recite words they feel don’t represent them. Levi said that “No 10-year-old, regardless of his or her ethnic marker, should have to say ‘I bestow my existence to the Turkish existence.’” “You can’t go backwards on starting to have open discussions on identity,” DiCarlo said about Turkey. “Turkey’s on that path now. So I really think it’s just a matter of time.” Turkey is in a transitional period, unlikely to remain as it is now or was several years ago. What lies in Turkey’s future is unclear, sometimes worrisome and sometimes exciting. In 1933, while addressing a crowd about post-war alliances, Atatürk said, “We must delve into our roots and reconstruct what history has divided.” Perhaps soon, Turks and Turkiyeli’s will follow this advice and embrace the diverse ethnic landscape that makes up their nation, thus uncovering, for good, Turkey’s hidden roots. Fiona Lowenstein ’16 is a History major in Saybrook College. She can be reached at Ebru will be visiting Yale next fall.

roots 27

A collection of photos taken by Attila Durak as part of the exhbit “Ebru: Reflections of Cultural Diversity in Turkey.� The exhibit began touring in Turkey in June 2007 and has often been met with controversy. The exhibit includes photographs of 44 ethnic groups living in Turkey, as well as text, discussions, and music. (Courtesy of Attila Durak).


28 photo show

The Yale

11th ANNUAL Photo


category: modernity FIRST PLACE

McCafe Cynthia Chan (SM ‘15) winter 2013, issue 2

photo show 29


The Naked City Jin Ai Yap (MC ‘16) A street of Manhattan’s Financial District, laid bare. The contrast between the apparently seamless churning of the city’s processes -skyscrapers in the background, shiny modern institutions of the finance world - and the two hundred years of layered history and detritus atop which the city is precariously perched.



Carl Sandberg (SM ‘14) Demonstrators in central Nairobi, Kenya protest over increased commodity prices. A drought in the Horn of Africa had caused hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes. I rushed down from my office in central Nairobi when I heard the demonstrations on the street. A couple of minutes after this picture was taken the police started to shoot tear gas canisters at the demonstrators - I was caught in the midst of the pandemonium.

30 photo show

category: places


A Morning Jordan Plotner (TD ‘17) winter 2013, issue 2

photo show 31


Drifting Icebergs Stephanie Heung (CC ‘15)

Taken at Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon in southeastern Iceland.


Cherry blossoms over grass Andi Wang (ES ‘17)

32 photo show

category: people


Geneva Decker (ES ‘17) This man is homeless, friendly, and gracious. I spoke with him one day about his life and he told me, “If I’m homeless, then you’re sitting in my living room right now. Welcome!”

winter 2013, issue 2

photo show 33

SECOND PLACE Woman by wall Kaity Hsieh (TC ‘15)


Ken Yanagisawa (MC ‘16) Photograph of a friend taken at the International Institute for Conductors in Bacau, Romania, Summer 2013.

34 photo show

category: editor’s choice

Hot air balloons

Cody Pomeranz (BR ‘15) Hot air balloons float over Capadocia, Turkey.

winter 2013, issue 2

photo show 31 essay 35

Star Trails

Casey Wizner (JE ‘17) A long exposure of the starry night in the Outback with no light pollution.

La Contrada

Lian Fumerton-liu (MC ‘15)

36 feature

When Red Meets Green Seventy years after the split, an encounter between a Mainland Chinese Communist Party member and Taiwanese civil activist


t was the very first day of Cross-Strait Exploration Project (CEP), a weeklong camp in Hong Kong aimed at promoting mutual understanding among youth across the Taiwan Strait. CEP was first started by a group of overseas Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese college students in 2009. The program aimed for participants to bond through a series group activities such as research projects, and then gradually approach thorny issues in a more trusting space. But even before any jokes had been cracked at the festive welcome dinner, the bomb had already detonated. “So what’s your view on Taiwan becoming independent? Do you think you’ve considered how Taiwanese themselves feel when you insist on reunification?” Shun-yu Jhou, a Taiwanese theatre student, asked Lin Yang, a devoted Chinese Communist Party member, while the rest of the table fell silent. Lin’s name had been circulating well before the welcome dinner began. Everyone had read in the program handbook that he was a graduate student at the Party School of Liaoning Province in northeastern China, a school generally considered to be “red,” since it is designed to train future party officials. Like Lin, Shun-yu has her own strong political opinions. She is an especially staunch defender of Taiwan’s independence and identifies herself as “green,” as the vernacular goes in Taiwanese politics. She claimed she was poking Lin just to see how a Chinese Communist Party member winter 2013, issue 2

would respond to this kind of question. It wasn’t to be confrontational, she insisted. “I just wanted to provoke his thought,” Shun-yu explained, “I know what it’s like to come from a background like his, because I’ve seen worse… you know, people brainwashed by the Communist government and whatnot.” Shun-yu was referring to a Mainland Chinese girl she had met in Thailand a year ago, at a camp for theatre-lovers from all over the world. To celebrate their diversity, organizers asked participants to draw up maps of their own countries and present them in front of everyone else. All was well until the Mainland Chinese girl went to Shun-yu, “demanding” that they join efforts to make a map together, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. She did it so naturally, Shun-yu says, and with so much confidence that Shun-yu simply couldn’t believe it. “Why in the world would I want to work on the same map with you?” Shun-yu resisted indignantly. Not understanding such a response, the girl was stunned and burst out crying after Shun-yu’s vehement protest. Taiwan had “always been a part of China,” or so she had always been told in classrooms. “The ignorance…” Shun-yu shook her head as she continued. “I have since calmed down quite a bit, definitely not as radical as before. I know that some Mainland Chinese seriously have no idea how Taiwanese feel about this issue, and how intensely we can feel about it. Now I try to explain why I disagree with

By Xiaoying Zhou

them before asking questions or saying no.” Such divergent views stem from differing perspectives on the region’s history, and roughly seventy years have passed since people from either side had a chance for genuine communication. On August 15, 1945, Japan’s surrender officially ended the Second World War. In China, the departure of a common enemy led to the collapse of the coalition between the Communist and Nationalist parties. A civil war between the two parties ensued. Under Mao Zedong’s leadership, the Communist red army captured Nanjing, capital of the Nationalist Republic of China (ROC), and established the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing. Meanwhile, the Nationalist army retreated offshore to Taiwan. It was supposed to be a temporary stay, and Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of the Nationalists believed they would be able to retake the Mainland from the Communists soon after. Chiang couldn’t have been more wrong. Today, the rhetoric of “re-conquering the Mainland” has long lost its enchantment among even the most steadfast supporters of the former Nationalists. To many Taiwanese, the influx of millions of Nationalist soldiers in 1949 was itself no more than an invasion, and Chiang’s ambition but the dream of an intruder. For many Taiwanese, all they want is independence, though even that is too extravagant a demand in the eyes of a “red”Mainland Chinese. But Lin is no ordinary “red” Chinese. Unlike the Chinese girl Shun-yu met at theatre camp, Lin was quite unfazed by his neighbor’s

feature 37

bluntness, and didn’t break down in tears. He had never been abroad, but he was an avid enough Internet surfer to know the general Taiwanese take on Taiwan’s independence. “I avoided answering the question directly because I knew we would disagree, and there was no use arguing about it on the very first day of camp,” Lin told me after the camp, “I knew we chose the same field research topic and needed to work together during the next few days. I didn’t want to make things awkward.” In 2007, while still a freshman at Yunnan University, in China’s southwest, Lin passed a rigorous training and observation period to become an official member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Lin was always actively involved in school activities, the same way his dad joined in China’s national adoration for Mao Zedong forty years ago. In 1974, Mr. Lin (Lin Yang’s father) joined the Communist Party while still a seventeen-year-old. Mr. Lin still continues to hold the Little Red Book as an object of worship today. But even Lin admits that things have changed since then. “I mean I’m not really shocked that most people are joining the Party now because that can get them better work placements at state-owned enterprises after they graduate.” Lin took a deep breath as he went on, “Most people have lost their faith in communism.” Shun-yu may not agree with the beliefs of the party that Lin and his father so respect, but claimed that she completely understood such perspectives and how they arose. “We just have different backgrounds, and we each have our limitation when we look at things. I have since talked to a few other Mainland Chinese friends who believe that the CCP can help promote China’s democra-

cy through its internal democratic reform. I doubt it’s going to work, but I admire them for their faith in what the Party tells them.” I asked her what she thought her limitation was, coming from her own Taiwanese perspective. “Oh, I don’t know, most Taiwanese are so used to associating Mainland China with bad

“So what’s your view on Taiwan becoming independent? Do you think you’ve considered how Taiwanese themselves feel when you insist on reunification?” - Shun-Yu Jhou human right records and whatever else is negative. So often we just take the politicians for their words.” The influx of misbehaved Mainland tourists doesn’t help, either. For Shun-yu, getting out of that kind of binary thinking and habitual antagonism started with the realization that her own government is far from perfect.

An architecture major in college, Shunyu switched to experimental theatre as a graduate student. “People have such a limited understanding of theatre… but even for the audience it’s not at all a passive activity,” Shun-yu explained, “You see, it’s the same for politics. You’d think of politics as a politicians’ game where some truly care for the people and some do not. But the truth is, everyone is a part of it and you can’t just trust the government to change on its own. You don’t get change unless you ask and press for it.” This is where Shun-yu and Lin differ the most. For Lin, his dad is living proof that Communist Party members don’t have to be elitists or social climbers who want to take advantage of their Party membership, so he channels his political faith into active participation and reshaping of the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Shun-yu, on the other hand, has learned to distrust her government, and is an eternal outsider of Taiwanese politics, constantly going onto the streets to push for change. Lin seeks change through the existing system, while Shun-yu believes that the only effective change comes from outside the system. Despite their political differences, Lin and Shun-yu both researched the same topic during CEP, investigating government policies regarding Hong Kong farmers and their land. Each pushing their own domestic governments for reform, Lin and Shun-yu may very well find more common ground as time goes on. Xiaoying Zhou ’14 is a Philosophy major in Branford College. She participated in the Cross-strait Exploration Project in the summer of 2013. She can be reached at xiaoying.

From Left to Right: (1) Lin presenting the ten most important historical events for Mainland China from 1900 onwards. (2) Shun-yu presenting their field research. (3) Lin and Shun-yu in a group discussion with other CEP-ers. (Tengyi Wang)

38 feature

Imported Intolerance

Distinguishing the indigenous roots of homosexuality in Uganda from the non-native character of the country’s widespread homophobia. By Zoe Rubin

A street in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. (Courtesy of Pek Shibao)


istening to Ugandan Pastor Martin Ssempa rail vehemently against “homosexual acts,” a worshipper at the evangelical Makere Community Church in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, could hardly be blamed for equating homosexuality with pedophilia. Ssempa has a genial smile that reaches his warm, bespectacled eyes and seems to grow naturally into place as soon as he opens his mouth to speak. Yet this same smile instantly contorts into a grimace when Ssempa talks of homosexuality, a subject that he regularly addresses by screening gay pornographic videos, particularly child pornography and depictions of extreme S/M acts, during his church meetings. Uganda has long been a highly conservative country where “issues of sex are rarely discussed in public,” according to Christine Ochan, the Communications Manager of Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG), a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexual (LGBTI) rights organization based in Kampala. The East African state is widely regarded as one of the most devoutly Christian nations on earth; the U.S. State Department reports that eight-four percent of Uganda’s population of nearly thirty-five million people identify as Christian. Ssempa takes a virulent stand against what he deems as the sickness of homosexuality, particularly because he perceives it as a Western “export.” In numerous interviews, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has also given voice to the popular belief that homosexuality is not natural to African culture, but rather an artificial exportation of Western beliefs. This notion of homosexuality as a Western export, coupled with the international censure of Uganda’s severe anti-homosexuality culture, feeds into widespread concern in Uganda over neo-imperialism. winter 2013, issue 2

Yet the inflammatory rhetoric of Ssempa, and numerous other religious and political leaders, distorts a far more nuanced reality. In fact, extreme homophobia in Uganda—not homosexuality—could be considered a Western export, the consequence of the expansion of American evangelical culture wars worldwide. With political support for gay marriage in the U.S. rapidly increasing, American evangelical movements have shifted their attention to what they perceive as more promising regions abroad, particularly the Global South. Frank Mugisha, who leads Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a prominent network of LGBTI advocacy and support groups, emphasized that Uganda’s cultural aversion to homosexuality clearly preceded the arrival of missionaries from groups like Abiding Truth Ministries. However, these evangelical organizations have transformed the cultural perception of homosexuality from that of a “taboo” into “something evil.” “Uganda would not be in such an extreme position – homophobic discourse, homophobic policies being put forward by state and religious leaders,” explained Neela Ghoshal, a senior researcher in the LGBT rights division of Human Rights Watch (HRW) based in Kenya, “if there hadn’t been this influence.” Identifying as “kuchu” after the historic term for homosexual in Lugandan, the country’s most widely spoken language, the LGBTI community argues that the indigenous roots of Ugandan homosexuality date back to the pre-colonial era. “The fact that there were native names given to LGBTI-appearing persons in pre-colonial Uganda is evidence enough that they existed,” Ochan said. Through FARUG’s ‘Unlearning the Myth About Homosexuality’ research project, the organization hopes to reframe debate about the his-

toric character of gender and sexual identity in Uganda. Ochan detailed how among the Lango ethnic group of present-day central Uganda, “mudoka dako,” or transformed men, would take on wives, whereas the feminine men of Iteso in eastern Uganda would dress as women and adopt female gender roles in their community. Like the word “kuchu,” the Lugandan “abasiyazi” and “etigwa,” a word in the Runyankole language spoken in southwestern Uganda by the Nkore and Hema peoples, both translate to homosexual, Mugisha said. The existence of British imperial codes banning homosexuality ironically further demonstrates homosexuality’s native roots. Mugisha emphasized that these laws must mean that “there was something capable of bringing a law on—something was already happening.” Yet both Mugisha and Ochan are intimately familiar with the perilous consequences of such imperial codes today. Under Uganda’s penal code, modeled after earlier colonial models in 1950 and retained following the nation’s independence in 1962, LGBTI individuals can be sentenced to life imprisonment for “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature.” Such institutionalized discrimination regularly endangers activists. FARUG has been evicted from several offices and robbed on four separate occasions. Likewise, Mugisha meets daily with Kampala’s police stations to address the physical brutality and prejudicial treatment toward LGBTI individuals who are often arrested. He knows only too well what can come from the security sector’s utter disregard for threats against his fellow activists. When local tabloid Rolling Stone, not to be confused with the American publication of the same name, published the names of 100 presumed LGBTI Ugandans under the glaring headline “hang

feature 39 them” in 2011, David Kato, Mugisha’s close sexuals under the ideology of the “pink swas- creasingly harasses civil society organizations friend and colleague at SMUG, was bludgeoned tika” engineered the Holocaust. Yet while he focused on oil revenue transparency, legal reto death. Kato’s particular activism against may be a fringe activist in the United States, in form, and other social reforms. Serious cases the country’s infamous Anti-Homosexuality Kampala none other than First Lady Honorable of police torture and indefinite detention have Bill was cited as motivation for the murder. Janet Museveni, who chaired a breakfast semi- gone unchallenged by Uganda’s geopolitical In October of 2009, David Bahati, a Ugan- nar during the three-day event, lauded him as allies, like the United States, which rely on the dan Minister of Parliament, introduced a bill an expert on LGBTI issues. Thousands of Ugan- Ugandan military’s efforts against Al-Shahaab that would punish homosexuality and LGBTI dan civilians listened to Lively condemn the in Somalia to further their interests in the globindividuals with sentences ranging from life supposed homosexual recruitment of school- al “war on terror.” In denouncing Museveni’s in prison to the death penalty in instances of children and liken the spread of homosexual- crackdowns against LGBTI people, Ghoshal “aggravated homosexuality.” The ambiguous ity to “a social cancer,” according to Ghoshal. said, the West makes the claim of having then done its “due latter disdiligence” tinction of criticizing included the nation’s consenbroader sual horecord of mosexual fraudulent intercourse elections, carried widespread out by repression, HIV-posiand rights tive indiviolations. viduals, Through “reparents verse pinkor other washing,” the authority United States figures, then “creates minors or this image in disabled Uganda, for persons, the ordinary or repeat U g a n d a n ,” offendshe continers. Even ued, “that heterothe West sexuals only cares were imLGBT activists in Kampala, Uganda. Faces have been pixelated to protect privacy. (Courtesy of Pek Shibao) about one plicated, of human right.” “During that conference, suggestions kind as failing to report the “homosexual acts” of Western governments must instead put friends or family to the relevant authorities were made to tighten laws against homocould result in a three-year prison sentence. sexuality including mandatory therapy for “uniform pressure” on Ugandans nationwide Parliamentarians and religious leaders largely homosexuals to make them straight,” Ochan and so elevate “the case of police abuses celebrated the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, but recalled. “It was after that conference that and military abuse against ordinary citithe international community rallied to block that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was born.” zens,” Ghoshal explained. By investing donor Currently, she noted, the bill is stalled, money to strengthen partnerships between indefinitely what global media outlets termed the “kill the gays bill.” U.S. President Barack in part because Museveni recognizes the LGBTI organizations and other Ugandan conObama stated publicly in no uncertain terms ruinous effects its passage would have on ventional human rights organizations, LGBTI that Uganda would lose critical American mil- the international stage. Yet while the glob- issues can be brought into the mainstream. itary and economic aid should the country’s al backlash against the bill may have been From his own experience building partnerlongtime president, Yoweri Museveni, sign beneficial on a macro level, the consequenc- ships with such groups, Mugisha trusts that what he deemed the “odious” measure into law. es of an international focus solely on LGBT reform is eventual: “the role of civil society is A month earlier, in March, Scott Lively, the rights has inevitably created new challenges to help us understand that all human rights president of Abiding Truth Ministries, joined for SMUG, FARUG, and other activist groups. are a package—there are no special rights, “One of the problems in Uganda actual- and there are no different rights. If they accept fellow missionaries, Don Schmierer of Exodus International and Caleb Lee Brundidge, in ly is that the Western governments haven’t to work with us then they are strengthening Kampala for an anti-gay conference entitled put enough pressure in Uganda on other the human rights community of Uganda.” “Exposing the Truth Behind Homosexuality forms of human rights abuses,” Ghoshal said. Zoe Rubin ’16 is in Timothy Dwight College. According to recent research by HRW, and the Homosexual Agenda.” Lively is a historical revisionist who claims that militant homo- the authoritarian regime under Museveni in- She can be reached at

40 feature Parents pick up their children at the education center at the City Orphanage in Shenyang, China (Feng/TYG)

Foster Care in China: A Solution to Child Abuse and Neglect? By Yujia Feng


n 2012, in the Chinese province of Shanxi, a seven-year-old girl named Shen Xiao-ran was killed by her stepmother after over two years of continuous abuse. As in most such tragedies, there were many things that, had they gone differently, could have saved her life. Xiao-ran’s father turned a blind eye to the violence. Her stepmother refused to let her grandmother take custody. The court was too slow in transferring guardianship of Xiao-ran from her stepmother to her birthmother. But even if the events leading up to her death had unfolded differently, Xiao-ran still would have been at risk, because in China children are almost never removed from their parent’s custody due to abuse or neglect. The state depends entirely on extended families to step in to protect children and reserves foster care for orphans. In the West, this isn’t the case. According to the Children’s Bureau, a federal agency within the U.S. Government, in September 2011 alone, 400,540 American children were living in foster homes. Some were orphans, but many others were removed by the state from parents that could not provide them with proper care. While in foster care, they waited to be reunified with their parents, be adopted, or exit foster care as adults. In the 1990s, the concept of foster care spread from the West to China. The system that developed in China is simpler than that in the U.S. In China, the state only takes custody of orphans: children with no other adult to claim custody of them. Although the system in China winter 2013, issue 2

is well organized, it excludes abused and neglected children who need the state’s protection. The question remains, can and should China provide foster care similar to that in the U.S.?

Orphans Only: The Chinese Approach to Foster Care Today, China has two main types of foster families. Members of the first type live in apartment located inside orphanages. Members of the other type live in their own houses in the countryside. Many foster children who had chronic conditions such as Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy had been abandoned by their parents and entered custody of the orphanage. Last summer, I visited foster families of the first type at the City Orphanage in Shenyang, a major city in northeastern China. Among the 400 orphans, 104 of them lived with foster families inside the orphanage, while 86 lived with foster families in a village two hours away outside Shenyang. The orphanage houses 26 families in suites of the same structure: two doubles for the children, one bedroom for the parents, one living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. Being a foster parent requires a large time commitment. The foster mother is required to live inside the orphanage 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The foster father may work outside the orphanage in the daytime, but must return to the foster family in the evening. The first family I visited was the Lis, a typ-

ical foster family living inside the orphanage. In their fifties, Mr. and Mrs. Li have four foster sons aged two, six, seven and twelve. Their eldest foster son goes to an elementary school outside the orphanage, but the seven-year-old son, who has cerebral palsy, and the six-year-old son, who has Down Syndrome, study at the education center inside the orphanage. Their youngest foster son, who has cleft palate, goes to the kindergarten also located inside the orphanage. The three younger foster sons were at home during my visit. From what I saw, they seemed well-adjusted and happy. The two-year-old son sat in Mrs. Li’s arms, kissed her, and smiled to the camera. The 6-year-old and 7-year-old sons were not shy to strangers; they brought me water and showed me around their home. Like most high-quality foster care programs in China, this foster care program is regimented. All the foster families in the Shenyang program have the same schedule. Everyday, after sending the children to school at eight in the morning, Mrs. Li cleans the rooms and prepares for lunch, which includes rice, a meat dish, two vegetable dishes, and soup. At noon, the Lis pick up their children from school. The children have lunch and take a short nap before the Lis send them back to school at 1:30 pm. In the afternoon, Mrs. Li usually does housework and prepares for dinner with the same nutritional standard as lunch. They bring the children back home when school ends at 4:30 pm. Unlike the American foster care programs, whose social workers visit foster fam-

feature 41 ilies weekly or monthly, this orphanage at Shenyang checks in with the families everyday. Every morning, orphanage staff visits with Mrs. Li and evaluates the foster family as a whole. Once a week, the Lis attend an afternoon meeting, where the orphanage officials announce the evaluation result of each family and where foster parents report the children’s current health condition. In addition to managing their foster children’s health, foster parents like the Lis work to develop their children’s interests and personalities. The Lis nurtured their children’s talents in art by decorating the wall of their living room with the children’s paintings of animals, landscapes, and fruits. Mrs. Li was very proud of her eldest foster son who won the gold award in a national painting competition for elementary school students. She said: “In the evening, we paint, watch TV, sing, and dance. I hope to discover their hidden interests and help them develop these little interests into bigger things.”

Towards a New Approach to Foster Care? The orphanage in Shenyang is not an outlier; many orphanages in China closely supervise and assist their foster families. While this system is far more involved than that in U.S., foster care in China does not address those children who are abused and neglected by their parents but not abandoned altogether, because the state does not take custody of them. Although many families keep these personal problems hidden, among the 429 cases of abuse reported by the Chinese media from January 2008 to June 2011, 222 children died and 77 suffered from continuous abuse, with the longest case of abuse lasting 14 years. In recent years, Chinese legislators have proposed that the state should challenge the parental rights of abusive and neglectful parents. In 2011, Lu Yiyu, a national legislator from Zhejiang Province, proposed that the state should terminate the rights of such parents and accommodate these children in state child welfare system. Critics argued that Mr. Lu’s proposal is not practical, because China does not have any welfare service that temporarily or permanently places these children. Taking care of children with living parents within the foster system can be more complicated than taking care of orphans. Additionally, there’s the practical question of who will take care of all of these children if their abusive parents’ rights are terminated. In the West, this question is traditionally addressed

through state-run foster care. The American process usually has three steps: removal of the abused and neglected children from their parents, temporary placement of children inside foster families, and permanent placement of children with at least one reliable custodian. If China were to adopt a Western-style foster care system, it would require preparation in the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. The Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Minors, the only national act on protecting children, requires the state to warn and even punish abusive parents. However, it doesn’t require the executive branch to remove children who are in actual or potential danger due to abuse or neglect. Statutes on the removal process are necessary if China is to establish foster care for abused and neglected children. China also does not have any state welfare agencies like the Department of Children and Families in the U.S., which assists children navigating the foster care system. An agency under the Ministry of Civil State would have to be chartered if China instituted more comprehensive foster care. Although China technically has laws allowing the termination of parental rights, the condition for termination is so restricted that it is rarely invoked. The Law of Protection of Minors requires individuals other than the child to apply for termination of parental rights. In the Research Report and Case Analysis of Children’s Suffering from Domestic Violence, Zhang Xue-mei, Secretary General of the Protection of Minors Committee of the All China Lawyers Association, wrote, “In most cases, individuals and organizations do not apply for termination of parental rights (for these children), because no one wants to

be the custodian after the parental rights are terminated and no support was offered by the national policies on custody. Not having found any proper custodian for a child, the court cannot terminate rights of the parents.” The enforceability of this statute is connected to the broader question of whether these children can ever be adopted after their parents’ legal rights are taken away. Under the Adoption Law of the People’s Republic of China, “children whose parents are unable to rear them due to unusual difficulties” are adoptable. However, the law has not identified abused or neglected children as falling into this category. This law also only allows childless Chinese adults to adopt, making it impossible for foster parents who have children themselves to adopt their foster children. However, other adults who meet the requirements of this law may be able to adopt them. Although it may take years for these changes to occur, foster care has already shown its viability in Chinese society. Many Chinese adults have been successfully providing foster care for orphans, and the Chinese government has also shown its capacity to supervise and assist those foster families. It’s uncertain whether China will ever have a foster care similar to that in the U.S., but one thing is certain; the Chinese government should take a stronger role in protecting children. Although foster care systems in the U.S. and other Western nations are imperfect, they at least provide China a possible model for addressing child abuse and neglect. Yujia Feng ’14 is an Economics and History major in Silliman College. She can be reached at

The foster children in the Li family dance in front of the visitors in the common room. (Feng/TYG)

42 feature

The Art of the Steppes The money and politics behind Mongolia’s new aesthetic By John D’Amico


e walked through what looked like the entrance to an underground bunker. Two pillars loomed above us, holding up the heavy roof; the dark steps leading us down promised state secrets or a weapons cache. The area was desolate. Dust blew in from a nearby construction site, one of many in the city. Trash from the empty parking lot tumbled by. The outskirts of Ulaanbaatar stood behind us in undifferentiated brown and grey, a few old apartments towering above. Turns out the place was an art gallery, stocked full of the best of Mongolia’s modern art, we were told. “We shouldn’t pay for entry. This place is owned by a powerful politician—he doesn’t need the money,” my guide said as we turned away. Like they would anywhere else, art and patronage go hand in hand in Mongolia, a country in the midst of record economic growth powered mostly by mineral extraction. Its population of 2.9 million, spread across a landmass more than six times the size of the United Kingdom, now finds itself wealthier than ever. This wealth brings new problems and opportunities for a country where around 30 percent of the population are nomadic herdsmen. Subject to new foreign influences and propped up by new money, Mongolian art looks to change alongside the economy. Right in the heart of Ulaanbaatar, Blue Moon Art Gallery’s clean, modern minimalism contrasted nicely with the dull colors of the outer edge of the city. With abstract sculptures lined up around a tastefully decorated lobby, it embodied all at once Mongolia’s newfound prosperity. Yet Uyanga, the director of the gallery and an artist herself, wasn’t satisfied. “Artists here have talent,” she said, “but their minds are still narrow—they need to see the world.

winter 2013, issue 2

Real art is about human feeling, but Mongolian painting is just technical so far.” The works in the gallery proved her halfway right. Clever parodies of Buddhism hung side by side with generic landscapes meant for mass consumption—the height of bland technical mastery. In Mongolia, where most of the capital’s population still lives in yurts, do people really buy fine art? Different gallerists gave me different answers. The manager at the Zanabazar Museum, shepherding children around as they experimented with paint and crayons, saw popular interest in art on the rise: “Middle-class people want their kids to be educated. Knowing art is respected internationally. Society is developing, minds are growing, and families are now buying paintings instead of rugs for home decoration.” Yet others saw art as more of a niche interest. Batral, a program assistant at the nonprofit Arts Council of Mongolia, remarked, “There’s really two main groups of people who buy art here – people in the art world who want to support their friends, and businessmen who want to sponsor art as a legacy for the future.” My translator added, “This is Mongolia. With the kind of money we could spend on a painting, we could get a car or a house. Our parents especially think this way.” In spite of financial constraints, many artists still find chances to train abroad. In Soviet times, many Mongolian artists went to study in Russia, but now, according to a manager at the Zanabazar Museum of Art, students travel all over the world: “The world is getting more international. Artists here now paint in modern style but with traditional elements. Because of globalization, we’re getting more influences from other countries, but that’s inspiring more nationalism as well.” At an exhibition at the gallery of the Union of Mongolian Artists, next to a few impressionistic

depictions of Mt. Fuji, I found a long row of paintings featuring warriors on horseback, half-naked wrestlers, and the endless steppe characteristic of the country. One, entitled “Mongol,” depicted a row of fierce soldiers straight from the 13th century, drawn without the use of linear perspective. It looked old and new at the same time, and seemed to reflect a sense of Mongolian pride now resurgent with the country’s economic growth.

The Copycat Art Problem Despite increasing interest at home and abroad, sales remain a problem. Batral said that the Arts Council, through its Red Ger Art Gallery, does not sell work that often, but other art galleries seem to prosper. The Union of Mongolian Artists often sells ten to fifteen paintings every week, to a diverse clientele. “Both foreigners and Mongolians, especially businessmen, buy around the same amount” the manager there said. Artists

“In the last few years, many Mongolians are buying more paintings just to keep art in Mongolia and out of foreign hands.”

feature 43 support each other as well, by buying each others’ work when business dries up. Some wind up working in art-production facilities tied to certain politicians, reproducing work on the same theme. In one showroom, I saw a whole series of camel paintings, some green, some blue, but otherwise identical. Uyanga identified what she thought of as the main problem: lack of money, both from patrons and from sales. “We get no support from the government. There’s no money to develop our art at the international level.” Despite this limitation, Mongolian artists, even the young ones, often choose to live off their art, and Uyanga believes it helps make Mongolian art aesthetically superior: “Mongolian artists are really exceptional. In the West, many paint part time while working another job, while in Mongolia, the majority only paint to support themselves.” But some people think that this paint-tolive mentality comes at a serious cost. One foreign-born gallery owner explained how artists she sponsored often make copies of their work for commercial use even if it destroys the value of the original at auction. They manage to pay their bills, but it stunts their artistic career. Like Uyanga, she believed promotion was essential for international recognition, but her experiences with artists have left her disillusioned. She blames the culture: “No one honors contracts. If they make a work for exhibition, they don’t care about the value of it being unique or the costs I bear to make sure their art gets out there.” She told stories of artists copying some of their best work to sell on the cheap, just for alcohol or

basic living expenses. The artists that succeed, she said, rely on contacts in the government. When working with her, however, they often break agreements, taking her sponsorship money but then choosing to go freelance. Sales practices in most galleries I went to, however, struck me as more organized and conventional than her stories suggested. In most cases, the galleries take a 20 to 30 percent commission for each work. For new artists, works can sell for as little as 200,000 to 300,000 togrogs ($180 to $280), while the more experienced and famous sell pieces for 10 to 30 million ($9,000 to $28,000). One work, a painting by an established artist, reportedly fetched $1 million at auction. That’s chump change in the art world, but in a country with an average monthly wage of around $200, only wealthy businessmen and foreign investors can collect art in earnest. “They often buy it to decorate their new offices, and some just use it as an investment,” Batral said.

A National Aesthetic Most of the people I spoke to believe that Mongolian art will gain popularity at home and abroad, for a variety of reasons. As a staff member at the Modern Art Gallery of Mongolia put it: “Mongolian art is unique – it’s a mix of European and Asian style unseen in the rest of the world.” National pride underpins much of the prevailing confidence. Many of the Mongolian gallerists and artists I spoke to see Mongolia’s traditions – the tough nomadic lifestyle and proud military history – and beautiful

landscapes as natural inspiration. Another employee at the Arts Council, Batgerel, stated with confidence, “The mixing of Mongolian traditional styles with modern art will be really popular in five years, for sure.” The “traditional” in Mongolian art makes it an object for patriotism and national identity. “People tend to buy more modern art, but the classical art is thought to be the ‘real Mongolian art’” said the manager at Zanabazar. With a resource-hungry China to their south and international investment powering much of their economy, some Mongolians feel the need to claim control over their cultural heritage. “In the last few years, many Mongolians are buying more paintings just to keep art in Mongolia and out of foreign hands” said Erdambataar, the owner of Blue Moon. Globalization, nationalism, and new cash now look to push Mongolian art into the limelight. Artists and collectors feel the need to shape Mongolia’s identity in the face of foreign influence. Indeed, nationalism and xenophobia gave many of my conversations about the future of art an existential edge. Explaining new developments in art inevitably drew comparisons to the current political situation. In the words of one gallerist, “Mongolians are becoming more original because they want to save our culture.” John D’Amico ’15 is an East Asian Studies major in Pierson College. He can be reached at

A view of the Mongolian steppe. (D’Amico/TYG).

The Yale Globalist Issue II - 2013/14  
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you