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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Welcome to the Berkeley Undergraduate Journal, a biannual publication dedicated to publishing exemplary undergraduate research in the humanities and social sciences.

Volume 22 Issue 1 2009


The Future of Network Neutrality

On November 1, 2007, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was asked to evaluate whether Comcast, an Internet Service Provider (ISP), was violating principles of network neutrality, a Darwinian theory of Internet innovation that makes ISPs treat all Internet traffic the same. Because this FCC case acted as the front lines for the battle over network neutrality, the FCC’s final ruling a year later can give us a good idea about what the future holds for network neutrality in the United States. This paper examines the basic workings of the Internet, theories of innovation the Internet was built upon, levels of potential neutrality regulation and, finally, an analysis of the FCC’s ruling. This paper argues that while the FCC did not designate a clear long-term future for network neutrality, President Barack Obama’s strong stated support of network neutrality bodes well for a stronger FCC commitment to its preservation.

Combating the Privatization of Life in a Neo-Liberal Regime: The Fight for Water Democracies in India

“Natural” water scarcity is often touted by international banks and trade organizations as a justification for the wholesale privatization of common water supplies and urban water infrastructure, giving powerful multinational corporations ownership over the most precious precondition for Life. Through participatory research, fieldwork, and a critical anthropological lens, this paper examines two struggles against water privatization in South India: the fight for water rights in the village of Plachimada against the exploitation and pollution of water by the Coca-Cola company, and the fight against privatization of the municipal water supply in the “Silicon Valley” of India – Bangalore - which would effectively cut off free access to drinking water for the city’s massive population of urban slum dwellers. I seek to deconstruct the notion of water crises as a “natural” phenomenon by showing how British colonial practices and the modern Indian State have created water scarcity by systematically destroying indigenous water harvesting technologies that have long created ecological abundance in village India and by usurping control and the ownership of water. With the recognition that water scarcity, ecological destruction, and accompanying poverty are man-made phenomena, I explore the inverse by arguing that human design systems can instead create local ecological abundance and economic self-sufficient communities. And it all starts with water: Earth’s most precious free gift to Life.

China's Global Oil Strategy

China’s rapid rate of economic growth in the last few decades has increased its appetite for energy resources far beyond its production capability. China is now the world’s second-largest consumer of oil. To satisfy this need, Beijing has pursued an aggressive ‘going out’ policy to secure oil resources in every market it can. The resulting webs of interdependence have influenced China’s foreign policy, as it now finds itself bound to political, economic and security situations around the globe. This paper looks at how China has developed its oil strategy and what impact the search for oil has had on its foreign policy. By focusing on three case studies—Sudan, Iran and Venezuela—the paper evaluates different formulations of Chinese oil strategy, and examines possible inferences about the future implications of this strategy.

ICE Raids: Compounding Production, Contradiction, and Capitalism

Taking into consideration recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) workplace raids, this project argues that American and Mexican factory workers’ subjectivities are constructed within factory walls and (re)produced in the process of ICE raids. Works by gender theorists Leslie Salzinger, Donna Haraway, and Gloria Anzaldúa serve as a critical lens from which to analyze how changing legal, economic, and political notions of the nation and its citizens reconstruct laborers' rights and bodies. By tracing back economic and immigration policies such as NAFTA and Homeland Security developments, workers’ subjectivities are situated within the larger context of expanding neoliberal economic institutions. The paper culminates in the argument that the current construction of non-citizen workers in the United States is both potentially constraining and enabling. Though workers are held complacent by their vulnerability and ambiguity, their contradictory positions also offer spaces of resistance from which to understand, act upon, and subvert their present condition.

The Social Reintegration of Women: Reconstructing Womanhood and Moving Past Post-Conflict in Sierra Leone

Because post-conflict contexts are highly complex, the ways in which women both fit within accepted modern discourses of development and maneuver through more traditional systems of development and reconstruction are not fully understood. In Sierra Leone this dynamic is particularly true because of the small size of the population and the extended length of the conflict. Since the end of the civil war in 2002, transnational interventions have been highlighted as having successful programs that have been key in increasing stability in the country. Using the framework of women’s reintegration successes, this research aims to show that much of the stability in the country can also be attributed to linkages between past socio-cultural and political practices and institutions. This research shows that these linkages are spaces of strategic manipulation which women use to increase their economic and social standing. I argue that these manipulations between discourses and practices of the past, the present, and the proposed future have contributed to new ways of identity formation for women in Sierra Leone. Explorations in secondary data and theory pertaining to gendered social transformation in post-conflict settings are further informed by two months of intensive fieldwork using ethnographic research methods of participant observation and informal interviews in Sierra Leone in the summer of 2008.