Our Mothers Once Again: Not just about the Shoulder Extra Credit

Living in Los Angeles, and having the opportunity to cross paths some high end people, I have had the opportunity to delve into conversations which have led me to question if living the high life results in some pretty extravagant and shallow notions. One, which is a conversation on a constant basis, for LA plastic moms and even college girls, is breastfeeding. While we have a certain amount of women that are religiously devoted to the ritual, other have brought the notions that breastfeeding is not for them because of specific conversations, predominately that it will ruin their body. Which led to my question, can we apply the notions of pro-choice to breastfeeding children?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) deemed breastfeeding a “public health issue and not only a lifestyle choice.” Such recognize presents this strong perspective in regarding the body modifying ritual. Researchers have found that breast-fed babies have a decreased risk of dying of SIDS, fewer ear infections, less likelihood of obesity or cardiovascular disease and fewer hospitalizations for pneumonia. As for mothers, they decreased risk of  breast, ovarian and uterine cancers. There are so many aspects of breast-feeding that are beneficial for both parties alike. As much as this perspective is great for the American community, what happens in the third world countries? In those areas, we are looking at a greater picture where the problem  is not in providing the early nutrients, but rather having mothers who can provide those nutrients. In drastic situations like those in third generations, not even mothers can provide breast milk. If it is so important to our world, imagine how essential it is in another world.


Political Birth Control- Extra Credit

As the 2012 elections are coming underway, politicians our out seeking their representatives. While this class is centered on the global health, one of the key issues that is being shown throughout the elections have been the wealth gap within the candidates and the general population of Americans. Mitt Romney constantly evokes his wealth while trying to promote the well being of all Americans. However, besides this constant gap, the vulnerability of some Americans is coming to light. While this is a political battle, where constant questions of Puerto Rican statehood are being brought, energy conservation and fuel struggle is a conversation, the Republican candidates seem to bring into their campaigns religious attitudes and with religion, sexuality seems to then come into the conversation. Birth control and abortion is becoming a heating topic and the irony of it all is the conversation is among men. I pose this question, what do THEY know about my body, and about my struggle as a woman in a world that seeks to promote equality for men and women, yet we are still eroticized and forced to fall on this domestic sphere of raising children and becoming a wife.

In the news, I have seen so much anti birth control propaganda and laws coming into light. In Texas, Governor Rick Perry decided to cut off all Medicaid funding for family planning to the state of Texas. Because of such law Texas lost the entire Medicaid program which provides cancer screenings, contraceptives and basic health care to 130, 0000 low income women. The federal government provides 90 percent of the government and almost half of the providers are Planned Parenthood clinics. The reason Rick Perry enacted these laws: because Planned Parenthood was providing abortions, however the funny thing out of the whole situation is that the federal and state governments do not pay for abortions. Medicaid does not pay for abortions! Thus, families throughout Texas, who are low income will no longer be receiving health care for women. What does this mean? This stop in health care for women from the government will lead to a questioning on the health of those  children born in low-income communities. By removing institutions such as Planned Parenthood we are removing communities from what little access they had in developing a healthy family. All for the fear of the practice of abortion which consists of only 3 percent of the services provided in such organizations.


Stepping out of the Anthropological Lens for Social Justice

One of the most impacting statements throughout Paul Farmer’s analysis of Public Health,  is his critique on the power that anthropology has in disassociating the needs because of local ideology or long standing tradition. It is by far the first time I have seen this statement really become known especially in the case that Paul Farmer is presenting. Such an idea makes it a staple and necessary when discussing the pursuit of Human Rights and the application of doctrine which is necessary for the creation of social justice. Where do we draw the line, when can we provide this intervention and how can we determine when the ideological state and culture needs to be surpassed in order to provide Westernized support to these people.

One of the major concerns throughout the conversation of implementation of Westernized situations being placed in third world settings has been a conversation within the classroom setting. I would like to specifically revisit the conversation on Plumpy’ Nut. This is one of the initiatives that provides an alternative form of feeding these communities that for centuries were basing their nutrition on their crops and agriculture. More and more we see programs mainly from the Western world (Plumpy Nut is from Virginia), that are being incorporated to eradicate third world problems. However, while most saw this as such an ideal aspect in providing a source of nutrition for these children, I saw this as a problem. I question Paul Farmer, when it comes to choosing when we should move away from the anthropological lens, because situations such as Plumpy Nut may be hurting a community more than they are helping.  We can provide the health rights to food access, but are we doing anything when food production is not being taught to the people, must there always be doctors from throughout the world in order for malnourished communities to get the food they need?

Taking Human Rights for Granted

The final chapter in Paul Farmer’s book Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor gives the readers a chance to reassess the frameworks that allow us to think about human rights. Throughout the book, Farmer has brought up many important concepts in which the book’s general audience learns about without physically undergoing them to the great extent that many others do. Overall, the ‘fortunate’ are to realize the circumstances given to oneself, while such freedoms are taken away from others. In other words, when measuring vulnerability, some social structures violate the human rights of some individuals to a greater extent than others.

In regards to the violation of human rights and my research topic of violence, these injustices are seen evident through the use of child soldiers particularly in Uganda. For instance, the KONY2012 video has stirred up a great about of commotion quickly throughout cyberspace, for it attempts to appeal toward its audience emotionally even though it provides misconceptions. The posted video calls for the attention of the ‘capable’ to bring awareness and make a difference by fighting for human rights. For decades, the Ugandan people were at high risk for many forms of violence, especially due to the fact that they had limited means of escaping and become easy victims for the rebels. Even though the civil war has softened, the war is still ongoing due to all the traumatic consequences that the community must now deal with and human rights not fully granted. The video urging for the capture of Kony is only one of the many criminal aspects against humanity and human rights. Those sincerely willing to help end the war must join together and form effective measures of action, or else the cycle will perpetuate itself.


Violence in Russian Prisons

Chapter 9 of Farmer’s book, Pathologies of Power, brings up the issue of tuberculosis in Russian prisons and how that relates to violations in civil, social, and human rights. He says that these prisoners are subjected to very long pre-trial incarceration times, leading to a susceptibility to getting TB, which flourishes in the overcrowded conditions of the prisons. He points out that most of the objections to this terrible situation are made through a human rights lens and therefore most human rights groups interested in this issue try to get the incarceration time lowered while people are waiting for their trial. Farmer points out that some inmates have died from TB before their case has even gone to trial, an egregious violation of the prisoner’s rights on multiple levels. However, Farmer also mentions that these human rights violations are tied into the right to medical care, because most TB patients aren’t given an adequate amount of medicine in order to cure it, which is worse than not giving any medicine at all because it can result in the spread of drug-resistant strains. These human rights issues can also be tied to violence in Russian prisons, as I will address further.

In 2010, penitentiary reforms were enacted to lower prison overcrowding in Russian prisons. However, overcrowding is not the only problem, as there is an astounding amount of violence in these prisons, and it is frequently perpetuated or at least accepted by the guards and administrative representatives at the prisons. As this article explains, there is a great need for further prison reform, including the reduction in violence. The high mortality rate in Russian prisons is the result of a multifaceted system of dysfunction. Overcrowding, TB, and violence are among a few of the problems that makes the Russian prison system so problematic. As described here, there is a very high mortality rate in these prisons. Paul Farmer makes the case that TB has a lot to do with that, but violence plays a role as well in not only the mortality rate, but also the overall environment of despair.

As Farmer describes later in the chapter, the way to solving these health crises and to facing other human rights violations is through “the rapid deployment of our tools and resources to improve the health and well-being of those who suffer this violence.” A multifaceted and pragmatic is the best approach to these issues of structural violence.

The following video shows the issues that were being discussed about Russian prisons leading up to the prison reform in 2010. It reports on how graphic videos that showed violence against prisoners were part of the arguments in favor of reform and that it helped push the legislation into existence.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-BqksjUNg0]

Neglect of Social and Economic Rights

Paul Farmer provides a compelling argument in his analysis of current efforts to pursue human rights through a legal framework. While civil rights are of vast importance, it is easy to neglect basic social and economic rights. He talks about Haiti and the abandonment of basic entitlements, such as food, medical care, and education while other human rights violations were being committed. “And although human rights groups were among those credited with helping to restore constitutional rule in Haiti, this was accomplished, to a large extent, by sacrificing the struggle for social and economic rights” (Farmer, 222). Its unfortunate that basic rights such as food and medical care can be sacrificed, implying that all human rights are not actually indivisible.


(Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU)

Farmer also provides another example—the “dirty war” in Argentina during 1976-1983, a source of major violence and violations of human rights. This website talks about the series of events in more detail, but essentially the government was responsible for the disappearance of suspected dissidents and subversives. The article talks about the restoration of basic civil liberties after the military regime in 1982, yet I find it interesting that the article fails to mention anything about the restoration of social or economic rights…

A Better Life consists of Leaving

In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, one of the general struggles that is presented come from the two worlds of color colliding and creating clashes among the relationships. While being a minority can bring hardships, having the birth defects of something like hydrocephalus bring in more stigma to the character. Additionally, we can see the hardships that come from living in a reservation stem from poverty. Arnold’s sister runs away, his parents are or have been alcoholics and the education provided is mediocre. Meanwhile 22 miles down the road, there exists a “white school,” where students are getting the best education and are not in the midst of struggle like in the reservation. Places such as reservations have some benefits yet at the same time they are laced with the injustices and cause them to be centers of poverty.

The forgotten nooks and crannies of American are left to fend for their own. We have communities throughout the country left to live through their poverty and fear, not just reservations. Our communities just in LA alone are tainted with poverty and crime. A simple conversation with a South Los Angeles friend constantly speaks about his angst towards the LAPD, their efforts to protect are provided in the hard hit crime areas. While in West Los Angeles a simple noise complaint will have the police at your door in three minutes, a drunken teenager firing his gun to a crowd in South LA will have police showing up 20 minutes after, if they are lucky.  One of the intricate aspects of the novel and reality is that the turning point, and the end of the cycle of poverty was in having Arnold go to the rich white school. While these “plagued” cities and communities continue to foster the notions of crime, gang life, or alcoholism we also have the cases where families are sending their children away to what they consider will be a turn for a better life. “You can’t give up. You won’t give up. You threw that book in my face because somewhere inside, you refuse to give up.” Once a community refuses to give up, there is a chance for something greater even if in the community there exists only one individual ready to change the pace for his life.



Poverty. Alcohol. Violence.

“It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you’re poor because you’re stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you’re stupid and ugly because you’re Indian. And because you’re Indian you start believing you’re destined to be poor. It’s an ugly circle and there’s nothing you can do about it.” (Alexie, 13).

While reading “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, it was interesting noting how many times Junior attributed his negative situation to being Indian, or more specifically, not being white. As an Indian, he felt less than human, and a loser in a society built for winners. He believes that white people have hope of a bright future, while Indian’s are left to face a “bone-crushing” reality.

What really stuck out to me was how often he spoke about alcohol and poverty on the reservation. He says things like, “I know only, like, five Indians in our whole tribe who have never drunk alcohol,” (158) or “I was crying because I knew five or ten or fifteen more Spokanes would die during the next year, and that most of them would die because of booze” (216). I decided to look further into the link between alcohol and poverty, which is addressed by the World Bank in this fact sheet. “Alcohol-related mortality is often highest among the poorest people in a society…and a significant part of family expenditure” (World Bank).



Alcohol usage is also linked to higher rates of violence. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that, “Not only may alcohol consumption promote aggressiveness, but victimization may lead to excessive alcohol consumption.” There tends to be a two-way association between alcohol use and violence. It is interesting how often Junior talks about the commonality of violence on his reservation…perhaps this is further linked to the frequent use of alcohol as a result of poverty. Causality cannot be implied, but the correlation between these different factors, and the social structures creating them are very interesting.

Indian History Embedded in a Young Boy’s Diary

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is a cleverly written novel that underlies many aspects about stigma, poverty, and violence among Native Americans. Arnold Spirit, Jr. is often bullied by his peers due to his medical conditions. The stigma placed upon individuals with medical issues is emphasized through how Arnold is treated by members of his community. In regards to poverty, Native Americans living on their Indian reservation are limited in the amount of wealth and material goods they own. Due to the general poverty Arnold’s family endured, he was prevented from attended school at times, as could be seen with the cartoon on page 174. In addition, the issue of alcoholism among Indians comes into light. They have been killed in masses by settlers during the colonial times and have died in high numbers through many disease epidemics, but alcoholism has remained a big problem among these people. Native American drinking problem has been examined to be due to their cultural situation and not because they fit into racial group. The unhappiness the Indian community face lead many to drink and eventually to their own deaths or the deaths of innocent others. Overall, Indian history is embedded into this account of an ‘absolutely true’ story. The differences between Indians and Whites are evident through the experiences of Junior/Arnold.


Is There Any Possibility of Ending Sexual Violence, Especially During Times of War?

[Extra Credit Post]

I recently came across an article co-written by Gloria Steinem, a well-known feminist activist. The article titled “Can We End Rape as Tool of War?” resonated with the central topic our group’s video podcast. There are many horrifying stories about rape victims, yet questions remain as to how the collaboration of stories victims experienced could lead to an end of sexual violence and create a positive impact for future generations to come. A high percentage of the brutality in which sexually abused victims face coincides with war. The article mentions:

Sexualized violence may be the only form of violence in which the victim is blamed or is even said to have invited it. In war, rape shames women, men, children, entire societies. The stigma imposed on all who are touched by this violence makes this weapon incredibly effective as a means of destroying the enemy.

Sexual violence and rape has been used as a tactic throughout many wars around the world, and its ‘commonness’ has allowed for it to sadly become naturalized. A newly formed program called ‘Women Under Siege’ documents how rape and other forms of sexualized violence are used as tools in genocide and conflict throughout the 20th century. Through public education of raising awareness and undergoing legal action, perhaps we steer towards ‘ending’ the large number of rape and sexual violence rates occurring in battlefields.