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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.


The Status of Mental Health Care in Ghana, West Africa and Signs of Progress in the Greater Accra Region

Mental health care is becoming a critical international concern, but developing countries are still straining to attend to the mental health needs of their suffering and stigmatized citizens. This study assessed the situation of mental health care in Ghana, an Anglophone democratic republic in West Africa. For four months, interviews and secondary data were conducted and collected in the Greater Accra Region to gain information on the available mental health services, the condition of psychiatric hospitals, the most common diagnoses, the challenges the mental health system faces, the changes that need to occur, and the progress made thus far. Currently, the few psychiatric hospitals in Ghana are severely congested, the number of mental health professionals is staggeringly low, community and rehabilitative care is non-existent, and the law on mental health has not changed in over thirty years. This is all due to inadequate funding, a longstanding stigma, the low fatality of mental illness, and the government's ambivalence towards mental health. Mental health personnel and NGOs have been involved in increasing the awareness of mental illness and improving the delivery of mental health care, but there are still many changes that need to take place in order to secure the rights of the vulnerable, and provide equal access to mental health treatment for all Ghanaians.

Stock Market and Consumption: Evidence from China

Despite the rapid development of the Chinese stock market in recent years, relatively little is known about its characteristics or its relationship to other macroeconomic variables. For example, in contrast to more developed markets, dependencies between stock market movements and consumer expenditure are less documented for China. In this paper, I first show that the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE, 1999--2010) has higher average returns and variability than the Standard and Poor's 500 Index (S&P 500). The General Autoregressive Conditional Heteroscedasticity (GARCH) model also shows that the SSE has high volatility clustering. Then, I examine the statistical relationships between consumer expenditure and the behavior of the SSE against theoretical predictions. Following the stock market "wealth effect," one would expect higher (lower) stock returns would lead to higher (lower) consumer expenditure. The uncertainty hypothesis predicts that high volatility in the stock market will create higher uncertainty in consumption spending. However, my analyses using the Vector Auto-Regression (VAR) model show that private consumption expenditure in both rural and urban areas had no relationship with and was not aected by the market returns. Analyses also show that the volatility of the Shanghai Stock Exchange had a small lagged eect on urban private consumption expenditure. Results suggest that the Chinese stock market is relatively immature with higher volatility. At this stage, stock markets in China are still inefficient and do not serve as good leading indicators of future economic activities for Chinese consumers.

Discouraged Workers?: Making Sense of Unemployment in the Midst of the Great Recession

Past research suggests that for middle class Americans facing economic decline, the cultural repertoire available to them offers few tools with which they can make sense of their experience. Thus, when executives who have made cautious decisions in their career choices and sound investments in their personal security are laid off in the wake of unforeseen structural economic changes far beyond their control, they look to personal failings to provide explanation and meaning to their struggles. Through interviews with sixteen men and women who have faced significant long-term unemployment since the onset of the Great Recession, this research looks at whether and how this pattern has changed today. In the midst of this very public, wide reaching, and much discussed economic decline, what does downward mobility mean for Americans? Ultimately, it finds that while people facing long-term unemployment today see their problems in more structural terms than did their predecessors, they still overwhelmingly think about solutions in a highly individualistic framework.

Reading and the Representation of Ambiguity in Jean Toomer’s Cane

When Jean Toomer's modernist experimental novel Cane was published in 1923, both he and the text were taken to be representative voices of African American life, even though Toomer explicitly renounced these labels during Cane's pre-publication promotion. The larger project of the Harlem Renaissance, during which Toomer lived and wrote Cane, was to validate and celebrate African American artists and their work. As a result, the author's claims of racial ambiguity and multiracial identication, and their expression in his work, were poorly received. This paper looks at the tension between the aesthetically ambiguous qualities of the text as well as its role as a cultural artifact that can be explored and interpreted against different backdrops. Cane's aesthetic elements work primarily through the text's structural and linguistic ambiguity, a blurring of various themes that allow for readers to search for and conceive of their own meanings and experiences. To that end, I examine interpretations of racial identity in Cane during three signicant cultural periods: Cane's initial publication in 1923 during the Harlem Renaissance, its re-publication at the cusp of the modern Civil Rights movement in 1951, and our current age of supposed "post-raciality" in which the modern reader first discovers the text.

Biotechnology Adoption in Sub-Saharan Africa

The majority of Africans still live in rural areas, and an astonishing one in three Africans, or 215 million people, are malnourished. At the same time, eleven African countries use less than half the arable land within their borders (Economist). 62% of Africa’s population (excluding South Africa) works in agriculture, generating 27% of these countries’ GDP. An astonishing 80% of Africans depend on subsistence agriculture to provide food for their families (Bunting). An agriculture-led strategy for economic growth is one of the best ways to alleviate poverty on the continent. Not only are the direct effects powerful due to the huge number of Africans employed in agriculture, but the indirect effects of improved agricultural output and efficiency can also have a multiplier effect on the economy. Increased production can lower staple food prices, increasing purchasing power parity for consumers thereby allowing Africans to divert spending onto other products. A more reliable food system increases political stability and the welfare of the general population. In many of the faster growing African countries over the last few decades, agricultural growth rates were highly correlated with overall GDP growth. This paper will examine how technology transfers can improve agricultural productivity on the African continent, being sensitive to problems associated with each proposed solution. Through several case studies, this report will provide a comprehensive overview of the current obstacles and available solutions that shape national and international policy decisions.

Apotheosis Now: A Hegelian Dialectical Analysis of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

More than a nineteenth-century Gothic monster story, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein provides much fertile ground for the exposition of the text with contemporary philosophic inquiry. Utilizing such philosophic analysis, some scholars assert that the critical moment in the text occurs in Victor Frankenstein's refusal to grant the monster's demand for a mate, which commences a downward trajectory in the text that culminates in a textual failure to achieve any elevated moment. By analyzing Frankenstein using the master-slave dialectic from Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, I argue that the critical moment occurs, instead, in the development of the conclusion of the text where both Victor Frankenstein and the monster face their demise, and that throughout the text there is an upward trajectory all the way to the text's conclusion, where Frankenstein takes Hegel's master-slave dialectic to its zenith, or telos.

Environmental Injustice in China’s Industrialized Rural Areas: Observations from Juancheng County and their National Context

China’s rural areas are increasingly becoming the operating sites of factories and small-scale industry, which employ parts of the population, give rise to a new social class of “rural-industrialists” and contaminate the environmental and agricultural systems in all-pervasive ways. The rise of the rural industrialists has meant that a handful of factory owners in a given township become wealthy by exploiting the cheap labor and minimal environmental restrictions of the countryside, and live luxurious modern lifestyles in the midst of rural poverty. These factory or business owners are often the newly rich, who have only gained their status in the recent decades and still have family and friendships ties in the townships, meaning that they are responsible for the heavy polluting of the environment that their own family members live in. This paper is a gathering of observations from my visit to Juancheng county, located in Shandong province in northeastern China. Past studies on rural industrialization in China are used to put my observations in historical and national context. Suggestions from other scholars and journalists on how to deal with the environmental and health impacts of rural industrialization are discussed. However, most of these suggestions deal primarily with economic incentive targeted at polluters for the sake of environmental protection. More emphasis should be placed on the health of the rural people who often work in both factories and farms, and these people’s rights to organize against government corruption. Furthermore, increasing factory owner and rural people’s access to education on ecological relationships, environmental well-being and public health, would be a meaningful step toward combating the government’s sole emphasis on economic growth, and shifting focus toward creating a more sustainable rural society.