The controversial Minuteman Project encourages citizens to volunteer their time guarding the U.S./Mexico border against illegal immigration.  Well, if you are disinclined to wander the border desert, you can now be a virtual Minuteman.  Sandra H. N. sent us a link to BlueServo where you can click on a series of webcams.  Each webcam is pointed at a spot where there may be illegal border crossings.  Here’s a screenshot of the webcams you can select from:


Here’s a video about the project:


Here’s a description of a virtual border guard from an NPR story:

[He] pops a Red Bull, turns on some Black Sabbath or Steppenwolf, logs in to — and starts protecting his country. “This gives me a little edge feeling,” Fahrenkamp says, “like I’m doing something for law enforcement as well as for our own country.”

This is a fascinating convergence of patriotism, masculinity, class, and (likely) race.   Minutemen protect (white) America by putting their bodies on the border, but now men can do so without the trappings of masculinity that Minutemen can lay claim to.  Instead, if they have a computer with a (quick)  internet connection, they can defend America from behind a computer screen and, perhaps, lay claim to at least some of the masculine capital that Minutemen on the border earn by putting their bodies on the line.

From another angle:  I wish Foucault were alive today.  Any Foucauldians out there who want to comment on this virtual panopticon?

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Brady sent me a link to a story in the Times Online about a poster put out by the British National Party, a right-wing anti-immigrant political party. Here’s the poster (found at the BNP website):


They’re clearly trying to connect efforts to defend Britain during World War II to the idea of a modern “battle for Britain,” which this time is against immigrants. However, they missed a detail when the chose the image for their poster, according to the Times story:

[The plane] could be clearly identified by its RF marking as belonging to 303 Squadron, an expatriate Polish unit, even though the BNP campaigns against immigration from Eastern Europe.

The BNP claims they knew it all along and did it on purpose; others believe they’re just trying to cover an incident that they find embarrassing.

Regardless, it brings up interesting questions about nationhood and definitions of who can be included in a country’s idea of its history. In the imagining of the BNP, would immigrants’ contributions be erased? Would they be acknowledged, but only as something that was appropriate and welcome in the past? After all, one of the very groups they’re vilifying played a role in defending Britain during the exact era that the BNP is trying to symbolically connect itself to. I suspect they might try to make an argument that the ex-pat Polish fighters were involuntary and temporary refugees that were being protected by Britain during a time of warfare and were in fact fighting to retake their own country, which is different than permanent immigrants who take British jobs and mess up the culture and whatnot, but that’s just a guess.

Of course, this isn’t something unique to the BNP; nativist groups everywhere face the problem of having to erase or explain away the contributions of groups they’re trying to exclude from citizenship.

Thanks for the tip, Brady!

In Race, Ethnicity, and Sexuality, Joane Nagel talks about the role that the intersections between ethnicity and sexuality play in nationalist projects–that is, how they are used as groups define who is and isn’t part of the entity defined as “the nation.” Those who are part of the nation are part of “us,” and those outside it are the Other. She brings up the example of Nazi Germany. Clearly ethnicity played a huge part in definitions of nationhood as the Nazis saw it. But as Nagel points out, it went beyond that; individuals were also included or excluded from membership based on other characteristics, including sexuality. Specifically, homosexuals were marked as unworthy of inclusion and were also sent to concentration camps.

This image, found at The Pink Triangle, illustrates the intersection ethnicity and various categories, including sexuality. It shows the various markers Nazis used to identify prisoners.


The bottom row of seven triangles clearly represents different categories of Jews. The fifth column of triangles (they look tan but they were pink) identified homosexuals. The third column (blue) was for immigrants. I believe the first column (red) was for political dissenters, but I’m not certain. We see other specified groups of Jews in the three partly-yellow triangles at the bottom, as well as triangles for Poles and Czechs. I don’t know enough German to figure the others out.

It’s a great example of a nationalist project: we can visibly see here the clear effort to define some groups as Others and the way that both ethnicity and sexuality (and the intersections) can be an important part of that, and even mark individuals as multiply stigmatized.

UPDATE: In comments philoserine and xac offered translations. Here’s xac’s:

red: political
green: professional criminal
blue: emigrant
purple: Jehovah’s Witnesses
pink: homosexual
black: work-shy Reich (not 100% sure wether the meaning here is “rich” or “member of the Third Reich” – more likely the last one though)
black: work-shy
[I thought I read somewhere that black might stand for antisocial, so maybe work-shy was how they defined that?]
1. row (triangles) base colour
2. row: label for reoffenders
3. row: penal camp
4. row: jews
5. row:
yellow triangle/black bordered triangle: jewish race desecrator
red circle with white border: under suspicion to escape
grey ring: ?? prisoner
6. row: left: Example: political jew, reoffender, penal camp
middle: special campaign Wehrmacht (?)
7. row: Pole


And Zeitzeuge says that “Special campaign Wehrmacht is a deserter from the Wehrmacht.”

In agriculture, monoculture is the practice of relying extensively on one crop with little biodiversity.  In the 1840s, a famine in Ireland was caused by a disease that hit potatoes, the crop on which Irish people largely relied.  At Understanding Evolution, an article reads:

The Irish potato clones were certainly low on genetic variation, so when the environment changed and a potato disease swept through the country in the 1840s, the potatoes (and the people who depended upon them) were devastated.

The article includes this illustration of how monocultures are vulnerable:

The Irish potato famine reveals how choices about how to feed populations, combined with biological realities, can have dramatic impacts on the world.  In the three years that the famine lasted, one out of every eight Irish people died of starvation.  Nearly a million emigrated to the United States, only to face poverty and discrimination, in part because of their large numbers.

The article continues:

Despite the warnings of evolution and history, much agriculture continues to depend on genetically uniform crops. The widespread planting of a single corn variety contributed to the loss of over a billion dollars worth of corn in 1970, when the U.S. crop was overwhelmed by a fungus. And in the 1980s, dependence upon a single type of grapevine root forced California grape growers to replant approximately two million acres of vines when a new race of the pest insect, grape phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae, shown at right) attacked in the 1980s.

Gwen adds: The Irish potato famine is also an example of a reality about famines that we rarely discuss. In most famines there is food available in the country, but the government or local elites do not believe that those who are starving have any claim to that food. In the years of the Irish potato famine, British landowners continued to export wheat out of Ireland. The wheat crop wasn’t affected by the potato blight. But wheat was a commercial crop the British grew for profit. Potatoes were for Irish peasants to eat. We might think it would be obvious that when people are starving you’d make other food sources available to them, but that’s not what happened. In the social hierarchy of the time, many British elites didn’t believe that starving Irish people had a claim to their cash crop, and so they continued to ship wheat out of the country to other nations even while millions were dying or emigrating. Similarly, in the Ethiopian famines of the 1980s, the country wasn’t devoid of food; it’s just that poor rural people weren’t seen as having a right to food, and so available food was not redistributed to them. Many people in the country ate just fine while their fellow citizens starved.

So famine is often as much about politics and social hierarchies as it is about biology.

Inspired by a recent post about a T-shirt where an Asian stereotype was saying I SPEAK ENGRISH, I thought of the perennial online popularity of “Engrish” in general., one of the oldest such compendia on the Web, offers a selection of photos from clothing, packaging, menus, signs, etc., largely from Asian companies. All of these photos have been collected for their supposed humor value because they contain text poorly translated into English, English text that seems incongruous with whatever it’s describing, and/or place names that sound taboo in English. Examples below the cut [some taken from the Adult Engrish section and thus possibly NSFW].  more...

Immigration and migration are a modern-reality of global social transformation. I don’t often see as much discussion of refugees however. A nice infographic via Good Magazine.

A Cracked article compiled their candidates for the Nine Most Racist Disney Characters. Select stolen clips and liberal quoting below:

American Indians in Peter Pan:

Why do Native Americans ask you “how?” According to the song, it’s because the Native American always thirsts for knowledge. OK, that’s not so bad, we guess. What gives the Native Americans their distinctive coloring? The song says a long time ago, a Native American blushed red when he kissed a girl, and, as science dictates, it’s been part of their race’s genetic make up since. You see, there had to be some kind of event to change their skin from the normal, human color of “white.”

The bad guys in Alladin:

“Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face” is the offending line, which was changed on the DVD to the much less provocative “Where it’s flat and immense and the heat is intense.”

In a city full of Arabic men and women, where the hell does a midwestern-accented, white piece of cornbread like Aladdin come from? Here he is next to the more, um, ethnic looking villain, Jafar.

NEW: Miguel (of El Forastero) sent in a post from El Blog Ausente that compares an image of Goofy, a character generally portrayed as sort of dumb and lazy, to a traditional Sambo-type image:



The post suggests that Goofy is a racial archetype, built on stereotypical African American caricatures. I can’t remember ever seeing anything that suggested this, but that doesn’t mean much, and I certainly don’t put it past Disney to do so. Does anyone know of any other examples of Goofy supposedly being based on African American stereotypes? On the other hand, is it possible to depict a character eating watermelon in an exuberant manner without drawing on those racist images? When I look at the image of Goofy above, I have to say…that’s pretty much what it looks like when my (mostly White) family cuts a watermelon open out on the picnic table in the summer and everybody gets a piece and they all have ridiculous looks on their faces as they dribble juice all down themselves eating big chunks (I say “they” because I’m a weirdo who doesn’t really care for watermelon, so I rarely eat any, and even then only if I can put salt on it). I’m fairly certain that I couldn’t put up a photo of my family eating watermelon like that without it seeming, to many people, to draw on the Sambo-type imagery. It brings up some interesting thoughts about cultural and historical contexts, and how and in what circumstances you can (or can’t) escape them, regardless of your intent.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Laura Agustin, author of Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets, and the Rescue Industry, asks us to be critical consumers of stories about sex trafficking, the moving of girls and women across national borders in order to force them into prostitution.  Without denying that sex trafficking occurs or suggesting that it is unproblematic, Agustin wants us to avoid completely erasing the possibility of women’s autonomy and self-determination.

About one news story on sex trafficking, she writes:

…[the] ‘undercover investigation’, one with live images, fails to prove its point about sex trafficking… reporters filmed men and women in a field, sometimes running, sometimes walking, sometimes talking together.

…I’m willing to believe that we’re looking at prostitution, maybe in an informal outdoor brothel. But what we’re shown cannot be called sex trafficking unless we hear from the women themselves whether they opted into this situation on any level at all. They aren’t in chains and no guns are pointed at them, although they might be coerced, frightened, loaded with debt or wishing they were anywhere else. But we don’t hear from them. I’m not blaming the reporters or police involved for not rushing up to ask them, but the fact is that their voices are absent.

There are lots of things we might find out about the fields near San Diego… [but] we don’t see evidence for the sex-trafficking story. Feeling titillated or disgusted ourselves does not prove anything about what we are looking at or about how the people actually involved felt.

Regarding a news clip, Agustin writes:

…a reporter dressed like a tourist strolls past women lined up on Singapore streets, commenting on their many nationalities and that ‘they seem to be doing it willingly’. But since he sees pimps everywhere he asks how we know whether they are victims of trafficking or not? His investigation consists of interviewing a single woman who… articulates clearly how her debt to travel turned out to be too big to pay off without selling sex. Then an embassy official says numbers of trafficked victims have gone up, without explaining what he means by ‘trafficked’ or how the embassy keeps track…

So here again, there could be bad stories, but we are shown no evidence of them. The women themselves, with the exception of one, are left in the background and treated like objects.

To recap, what Agustin is urging us to do is to refrain from excluding the possibility of women’s agency by definition. Why might a woman choose a dangerous, stigmatized, and likely unpleasant job? Well, many women enter prostitution “voluntarily” because of social structural conditions (e.g., they need to feed their children and prostitution is the most economically-rewarding work they can get). Assuming all women are forced by mean people, however, makes the social structural forces invisible. We don’t need mean pimps to force women into prostitution, our own social institutions do a pretty good job of it.

And, of course, we must also acknowledge the possibility that some women choose prostitution because they like the work. You might say, “Okay, fine, there may be some high-end prostitutions who like the work, but who could possibly like having sex with random guys for $20 in dirty bushes?” Well, if we decide that the fact that their job is shitty means that they are “coerced” in some way, we need to also ask about those people that “choose” other potentially shitty jobs like migrant farmwork, being a cashier, filing, working behind the counter at an airline (seriously, that must suck), factory work, and being a maid or janitor. There are lots of shitty jobs in the U.S. and world economy. Agustin simply wants us to give women involved in prostitution the same subject status as women and men doing other work.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.