View of Singapore harbor from the top of the Marina Bay Sands

The questions below were created to accompany Michael Goldman and Wesley Longhofer’s Winter 2009 feature article, “Making World Cities.”

1)    Development is often viewed in a positive light.   But, are there possible negative consequences?  Provide an example.

2)    With these potentially negative implications of global cities in mind, why do cities and communities continue to pursue growth? In other words, what are common reasons in support of world cities like those covered in the article?

3)    The article claims that inequality in Bangalore has increased five-fold since the software boom in the ’90s. What might have lead to the increase in inequality?

ACTIVITY: The article mentions that the World Bank funds many projects related to the expansion and infrastructure of global cities. Spend 10 minutes on the World Bank’s website.  What is it, and what types of projects does it fund?


Check out this article from the Summer 2007 issue of Contexts: “Global Corporations, Global Unions” by Stephen Lerner and use the following questions and activity to easily integrate it into your class.

1)   What benefits do unions bring to workers and employers? Can you think of any drawbacks?

2)    How does globalization represent both a threat and an opportunity for low-income workers?

3)    What does “the race to the bottom” refer to? How does it affect economic stability and working conditions at local, national, and international levels?

Check out How does this union impact your
understanding of the potential benefits and challenges of global unionizing?

We recommend using this intriguing article about an impoverished shantytown in Buenos Aires that has been horribly polluted by a Shell oil refinery: “Amidst Garbage and Poison: An Essay on Polluted Peoples and Places” by Javier Auyero and Debora Swistun (Contexts Spring 2007)

To discover how the children of this town feel about living in such a place, the authors give children disposable cameras with the instruction of photographing places and things they consider ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in the town. The article also poses the question of what responsibility corporations have to the people whose towns they pollute or destroy.

This article would work well in a lesson on inequality, environmental racism, corporate ethics, capitalism or methodologies. Use the questions and/or the activity below to get a discussion started on this topic:   hell oil

1)    How did it make you feel to learn about how the people in Flammable live? What do you think could be done to improve their situation?

2)    Describe how capitalism in the U.S. affects people in Flammable. Do you think that Shell-Capsa has a responsibility to the people of Flammable? Why or why not?

3)    Research and define the terms “environmental justice” and “environmental racism.” How do they relate to the case of Flammable?

ACTIVITY: Take three photographs of sites in your neighborhood or city that you think exemplify environmental inequality and share them with the class. Why did you choose these sites and what do you think they say about your city?

Full Disk Image of Earth Captured Feb. 7, 2011
Lane Kenworthy’s article “Is Equality Feasible?” (Contexts, Summer 2007) is a great article to get students thinking about inequality in society.  Below are some questions that you can use with the article.

1)    What is the Gini coefficient and how can it be used to influence social policy?

2)    Summarize the argument that inequality contributes to affluence in a given country. What is the equality/jobs trade-off?

3)    The author talks about the non-pay benefits of employment. Can these benefits be accomplished in other ways? What are some possible consequences of not having access to these benefits (both for individuals and society)?

4)    Beyond poverty, how does unemployment affect societies?

5) Is equality feasible?


Using article Permanent Impermanence by Syed Ali from the most recent issue of Contexts, Graduate Student Editorial Board member Shannon Golden offers our blog these ideas for use in the classroom. The full text of this article is available for free online!

This article would be great for a class or unit on immigration, globalization, or world cities.


1) For a class that has covered immigration policy:

-Compare and contrast immigration and citizenship policy in Dubai with that of other immigrant-receiving countries, such as the U.S., Japan, Australia, Canada, or western European countries.

-Do you agree with the author’s conclusion that Dubai’s policy may represent the future?

2) To focus on the intersection of biography and social structure, the instructor could:

-Provide biographical/narrative case studies of several foreign workers in Dubai, one that would represent a blue-collar laborer, another middle class example, and an upper class professional. Ask students to develop a sociological analysis of these lives using info from the article, illustrating how social structures are experienced differently by different groups of people.

3) Suggested small group discussion questions:

-What are the strengths and weaknesses of Dubai’s immigration policies? What are the intended and unintended consequences?

-Who are the actors who have a stake in determining the policies? Who benefits from this system? Who loses in this system?

– Discuss the following concepts in relation to this article: power, citizenship, labor, home, rights, legality, belonging

– The author discusses Paul Krugman’s writing on “the Dubai effect”: “Writing in 2006, Krugman said that a guest worker program could amount to a dangerous betrayal of the United States’ democratic ideals. It would, he wrote, basically form an entrenched caste system of temporary workers whose interests would largely be ignored and whose rights would be circumscribed. Further, their wages would undoubtedly be less than those of people with greater labor market mobility, though the ripple effects of a glut of guest workers would be expected to lower wages for all workers in sectors where guest workers are “bonded” to their employers, Dubai-style.” (p.29) Do you agree with Krugman’s speculations about what would happen if the U.S. adopted similar policies to Dubai? Discuss the implications of such a change.

4) Have the students read one of the “recommended resources” and discuss its connection to this article.

Here is a learning activity that can be used with The Scarcity Fallacy, by Stephen J. Scanlan, J. Craig Jenkins, and Lindsey Petersen (Contexts, Winter 2010).  Click on the links to obtain a pdf of the learning activity or to read “The Scarcity Fallacy” online through Contexts.

1. How many people live on less than $2 a day?

a. 2.5 billion
b. 2.7 billion
c. 3 billion
d. 3.2 billion

2. What percentage of the people who live in extreme poverty are women?

a. 50
b. 60
c. 70
d. 80

3. Someone dies from starvation every ______ seconds.

4. Approximately how many people do not have access to safe drinking water?

a. 100 million
b. 500 million
c. 750 million
d. 1 billion

5. How many people are hungry every day?

a. 200 million
b. 600 million
c. 800 million
d. 900 million

6. _________people lack access to basic healthcare.

7. How many children die from malnutrition before their 5th birthday every year?

a. 3 million
b. 4 million
c. 5 million
d. 6 million

8. A woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth every _______

a. 1 minute
b. 2 minutes
c. 3 minutes
d. 4 minutes

9. How many people die from malaria each year? _________

10. Approximately _______ people are homeless.

a. 50 million
b. 75 million
c. 100 million
d. 125 million

Answer Key:

1. B
2. C
3. 3.6
4. D
5. C
6. 1.3 billion
7. D
8. A
9. 3 million
10. C

All answers can be found at the UN Millenium Project website.  See the websites of the following organizations for more information: UN Development Program, World Bank, UNIFEM, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.