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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Global Societies Journal (GSJ) at UCSB is a peer-reviewed and open-access journal that explores and analyzes globalization and global-scale issues from a variety of perspectives and disciplines. GSJ encourages innovative approaches that bridge social sciences and humanities, and seeks to open up new conversations that speak to contemporary global issues. The journal addresses a diversity of social, cultural, political, economic, environmental, and legal issues with a holistic perspective that aspires to further our understanding of the contemporary societies. Global Societies Journal has published a wide range of articles on a variety of topics since 2013.

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Original Research

Agency, Expression, and the Virtual Sphere: Social Media in Saudi Arabia

This paper seeks to address the question of why so many Saudi Arabians use social media. Prior literature investigating social media usage in the Saudi Arabia is either too broad or too narrow. This necessitates academic inquiry that addresses the “middle ground”. Saudi Arabians' markedly high rates of social media usage appear incongruous with the traditional, highly restrictive nature of Saudi Arabian society. Given social media's status as a relatively new phenomenon, and its recognized ability to engender civil engagement and political participation, its foothold in a conservative, undemocratic society appears unusual. Thus, this paper investigates the motivations behind Saudi Arabians' social media usage. Qualitative and quantitative data from NGO reports, statistical databases, case studies, news articles, and social media accounts demonstrate a causal link between state repression and social media usage. The evidence indicates that Saudi Arabians use social media to circumvent societal restrictions.

Water Privatization: A Threat to Human Rights?

In developing countries, women often have responsibilities that are water dependent, such as collecting water and tending to the sick (Sewpaul, 2008: 45) As unpolluted water supplies diminish, these tasks become increasingly difficult to accomplish. Women face greater threats to their security as they are forced to walk farther, occasionally into dangerous areas, and lose several hours of their day, potentially reducing the household income and resulting in missed economic opportunities (Sewpaul, 2008: 46) To treat, ration, and dispense water, states may resort to privatized water management systems. Privatization, however, has routinely resulted in unaffordability and inaccessibility as well as poor service and water quality. This tendency has resulted in the question that this thesis will resolve, which is whether privatized water management is a violation of human rights. To answer this question, this thesis will analyze the impact privatization has on a number of groups, particularly women. In addition, to solve this puzzle, this thesis will examine Chile’s water management system, which is viewed by a number of scholars as a ‘star’ example of water privatization.

Conceptual Papers

Constructing a Human Rights Campaign: Contemporary Slavery in Mauritania

This paper seeks to draft a human rights campaign with regards to contemporary slavery in Mauritania. The research focuses on political, economic, social, and religious factors that account for the persistence of the institution of slavery within the Mauritanian society. These aspects are taken into consideration to construct a campaign that addresses the human rights issue at hand. In order to ensure a measurable impact, a twofold top-down and bottom-up approach is considered. The focus is set on measures aimed at the Mauritanian government, while simultaneously engaging with the local grassroots population. The core pillars of the campaign are a symbolic voice that articulates the human rights claims, a convincing message constructed around the well-established frame of slavery, the adequate use of media, and the construction of a receptive audience. This work gives an overview of the possibilities of promoting a certain aspect of human rights in a society where slavery is deeply ingrained. It also draws on the certain limits to the campaign that, to this day, represent important obstacles for a more egalitarian Mauritanian society.

The Syrian Crisis and Cultural Memory

Citing news reports from the height of the Syrian refugee crisis and academic papers relating to cultural identity and memory, I will suggest that the diaspora of Syrian people and the loss of their material culture will have extreme repercussions on the current and future identity of the Syrian people.  This paper shines a light on the human cost of war and loss of irreplaceable material cultural heritage.  I will posit the effects of such cultural trauma on the future of the displaced Syrian people by focusing on individual stories of loss, relocation, and change, using historical examples to validate the experience of the refugee.  Finally, I will look to the future, grounding this analysis in scholarly theories of identity and memory to ask the question: what is next for Syrian identity? In May 2015 the terror group, ISIS first overtook Palmyra—a cultural World Heritage Site that dates back two thousand years. The destruction of the ancient Roman ruins was swift and devastating. The European shores have become awash with desperate and soaked Syrian refugees fleeing the war, and while the world is deeply concerned with the threats to human life, I am equally concerned with the material heritage being left behind by those fleeing. The Roman architecture, art, pottery, and massive works of human innovation and creativity that illustrate Syrian culture are literally being blown apart. My historian-self was afraid that this rich chapter of human history would be lost forever. Thankfully, I was wrong.  In my research, I discovered archaeologists, scholars, religious people, cultural institutions, and the refugees themselves were working continually to salvage, preserve, and document cultural heritage. I discovered that there are many who share the same conviction that material culture is fundamentally important to identity.

Contemporary Visual Art and Iranian Feminism

Iranian contemporary visual artist and filmmaker, Shirin Neshat gives us a unique lens into contradictions within Islamic feminism. She uses her situation as a culturally-hybrid individual to mediate the dichotomy construed between Eastern and Western cultures and male and female relationships. Special attention is paid to her use of art as a window into systemic socio-political and gender issues she observes from the vantage point of her “third space” locus. In her photographic and cinematic work, she creates provocative juxtapositions built on binaries to expose biases. Her work is equally political and personal. She uses it to critique societies and to construct her own cultural identity. As an actor in the supranational women’s rights movement, with the support of the Art World, she raises gender consciousness across cultures via her artistic provocation. Islamic feminism navigates the space within this chasm and Islamic feminist art is a visual articulation of its carefully construed ideology. An individual’s particular brand of Islamic feminism may be ascribed to a multicultural situation. This paper will explore the stereotypes established of Middle-Eastern women and Western women as a dehumanizing dichotomy, heightened by the way women are conflated with Islam as the problematic epitomization of an oppressed, mute “other.”

The EU’s Internal and External Responses to the European Immigration Crisis

Over the past two decades, millions of immigrants have begun to seek refuge within the European Union due to its open economy, stable job market, and security. This paper will help readers better understand the motives behind the current “European Immigration Crisis.” It highlights EU legislation and systems that have been proposed or have been put into effect throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, and their effectiveness. In particular, it examines the Commission’s efforts as well as individual member states’ responses within the Council and to the Commission. There have been growing internal concerns regarding the ongoing crisis, which many believe may be threatening the EU’s stability and identity. As a result, some member states have responded with reluctance to aid crisis relief efforts. Nonetheless progress has continued and various political shifts have occurred within the EU. For these reasons, the Commission and member states have begun to reassess their roles and put the European immigration crisis at the top of their agendas. This opens up entirely new prospects, raises new questions, and presents new efforts towards the preservation, protection, and promotion of global integration, cooperation, and unity.


Why Have Religious Zionists Perpetrated Acts of Violence in Hebron Post-2005?

Why have Religious Zionists perpetrated acts of violence in Hebron post-2005? Israel’s disengagement from Gaza and the northern West Bank settlements in 2005 caused the Religious Zionist settler movement to rethink the status of their struggle, leading to increased settler conflict throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the ongoing, multi-generational persistence of Religious Zionist theology in vibrant segments of the Israeli settler community. Particularly in Hebron, the fallout from Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza aroused a strong sense of betrayal and distrust among Religious Zionists in the region who evidently believed strategic realignment was imperative at a time when the ongoing project of Religious Zionism was challenged on the basis of its founding principle – that is, Jewish biblical right to total settlement throughout the Occupied Territories. Disengagement thus symbolized the direct opposite of everything the original Religious Zionist movement had set out to achieve vis-à-vis the continual expansion of Zionist control throughout the Occupied Territories through the agency of actions such as settlement. Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in the summer of 2005, by this logic, represents a failure – an antithesis – of what they believed to be the true path of Religious Zionism, or a deep-rooted conviction that settlers were carrying out the divine will of the Holy Land. In short, I attempt to describe and interpret why the consequences of this approach were particularly acute in Hebron, where settler conflict increased dramatically in the post-2005 period.

First as Farce: Symbolic Politics and Donald Trump’s Hands

The 2016 presidential primaries in the US featured a discussion of Donald Trump’s hands. Trump was a leading candidate for the Republican party and ultimately went on to win the presidency. This study analyzes the public discourse around this issue through the content analysis of nine news publications. A semiotic theory of mythology and symbolic politics is employed alongside sociological and psychological interpretations of fascist movements to understand the ideological underpinnings of the 2016 Presidential election. Because of the US’s central, hegemonic status in global politics, an understanding of the symbolic content and unconscious narratives which drive presidential elections is crucial to an understanding of emerging nationalist ideologies, governance, and culture. The language employed in presidential politics is an indicator of some of the cultural values and internal tensions characteristic of American society which are expressed through politics. Questions of libido, class, and gender -- particularly masculinity -- are raised by the results and addressed within this framework. The assertions of illegitimacy levelled against Trump, and his defenses, are seen to be predicated primarily on sexual power and also success in typically male endeavors, such as military or athletic contests. Distinctions of hierarchy and class are also strongly represented in the media dialogue surrounding the presidential primaries and Trump’s candidacy. Metaphorical language involving attacks and defense replaces, in American politics, direct representations of the leader as soldier which were more typical of the fascist representations of Mussolini. Symbolic politics play a role in the collective representation and discussion of political figures. In contrast to the distortion and personalization inherent in symbolism and mythology, political language could operate on the basis of simple denotation, serving to foreground concrete policy and reduce the emphasis on individual characteristics.