Friday, September 4, 2009

Fall Syllabus 09

Hey, so for today's post I decided to take a look at each of the books I have on my syllabus for this coming class and based off of nothing more than the title and/or cover, give you my impressions of it.

I'll use this as a way to track my before/after of the book and also to keep myself accountable as I read through the year.

1- Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy by Kevin Bales
I'm REALLY looking forward to this one. I'm currently reading "Not For Sale" and a lot of statistics were taken from Bales' work. I would really like to see the original source material. Plus, if you know me, you know that I'm deeply indebted to Rand for her describing the world in terms of economic value. I don't find this at all demeaning or wrong and I think it doesn't indicate a low view of humanity but rather a high view of our production value. That said, I'm interested to see what Bales has to say in connecting global economies to new slavery. Will it be a simple connecting of dots from globalization to slavery or will there be a broader, more over-arching analysis of economics and power itself?

2- Pathologies of Power: Health Human Rights, and the New War On The Poor by Paul Farmer
Have not read this one either. Going by the title, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's a book about the failures of health care systems around the world. Interestingly enough, I'm not sure what to make of it. I'm not someone that thinks that health care should be universally provided by the government and I don't think that it should be the government's position to judge what's a need and what's not. But I don't hold that position tightly as I'm rethinking it often. And more than that, I have no idea if this book is truly about health care. Going by the main title itself, I suppose it might've been about case studies in the psychologies of oppressors. Too often, I think they're written off as simplistic monsters. GREED! LUST! PRIDE! Whereas in fact, they may be the most human of us all.

3- Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History After Genocide And Mass Murder by Martha Minow
I'm expecting a lot out of this book. Recently in "Not For Sale" I read about a concept of reconciliation from central Africa -- "drinking together from the bitter cup" -- where two parties both swallow their grievances and put the past behind them, in full acknowledgement of its hurt but also in realization that they both have to swallow their tears to move forward. That's all it said on that topic. I hope that this text on the other hand drills in deeper and I'm particularly hopeful that it might shows situations of both successful and failed reconciliation attempts.

4- Torture: Does It Make Us Safer? Is It Ever OK? A Human Rights Perspective by Roth, Worden and Bernstein
The methodology concerns me the most here. My gut instinct tells me that many, many wars have been won with actionable intelligence and that it is often gotten through torture. Moreover, I, as an individual, think that the idea of laws governing war is ridiculous. War is the nastiest, most brutal thing possible. It is the unrestricted use of force and might to achieve an end. That's the exact opposite of civilization. Any attempt to civilize it is an attempt to lose a war. So with the first question of torture's efficacy, I really would like to hear the author's arguments on this point.

5- Fraternity Gang Rape: Sex, Brotherhood, and Privilege on Campus by Peggy Reeves Sanday
Let me just start off by saying I find frats to be the douchiest organizations on the planet. The older, the more established, the more "bro-ness" to them, the douchier I think they are. Backwards baseball cap, goatee, sports jersey, BEER, and foo-ball instinctively boils my bile. I love baseball caps, facial hair, sports, and have no problem with alcohol but I have an immense problem with frattiness. That said, I am extremely wary of this book given the events of the Duke lacrosse fiasco where jocks were crucified for... being jocks. Selena Roberts and her anti-jock crusade against the Duke boys, A-Rod and probably others smacks of nothing but vengeful high school fantasy. I want to read this book badly if only to find out whether she really does weigh both sides carefully or whether it's just hatred of good-looking, athletes poised to become millionaires.

6- First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung
A memoir? This is an interesting addition to the syllabus. Looking at the other books, I see tons of possible structural analysis, statistics and more, but a memoir offers something else. I think it offers a good balance to the course as it reminds me that these are real, human persons and not just statistics and theories. As someone whose father suffered through China's Cultural Revolution, I hope I can gain a new appreciation for my past by reading hers.

7- Triangle: The Fire That Changed America by David Von Drehle
At first, I thought this was about Mrs. O'Leary's cow and the great Chicago fire and racism against the Irish. But my wonderful girlfriend actually knew that it was about the Triangle Waistshirt company and a workplace disaster. So, now instead of racism I surmise it'll probably be about labor law -- an area I don't know too much about. So, it should be a great educational read.

8- Graves: Forensic Evidence at SR
Couldn't find it on Amazon. I bet it's about mass graves. That's all I got.

Check back to see how these books go!

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