Category Archives: proposal

Uprising: The Rumble in the Jungle by the EZLN

In a fast-paced, technologically dependent world, traditional foraging groups attempting to preserve their culture face more challenges than ever. All throughout the world, indigenous groups face many obstacles, including disease, hunger, discrimination, environmental degradation, being driven to marginal land, and more. Many are forced to move into cities and join a market economy which translates into loss of their culture and becoming enmeshed in a systemized poverty, dependent on wage labor, which rapidly becomes very competitive. As poverty increases, more people become desperate and are willing to work for lower wages and under worse conditions.

Faced with such problems some indigenous groups fight back. An excellent example of cultural perseverance of an ancient indigenous people is the Maya. The contemporary Maya are faced with the fast spread of capitalism, which heightens the pressure for survival. According to June Nash (2001:6), globalization often leads to the militarization of societies resisting capitalist markets. The capitalist goal of a global economy threatens the existence of subsistence economies as well as its own capitalist sector since it eliminates both nonrenewable resources and the basis for biodiversity alternatives. Dehumanizing conditions tend to lead to various movements of resistance, rebellion, and political activism (Nash 2001:1). In the Chiapas region, this is evident in the multiple opposition actions of the Maya indigenous groups, particularly the Zapatista National Liberation Army.

Despite centuries of cultural and knowledge preservation the Maya’s struggle to maintain their cultural system is more difficult than ever before. The main challenges to their preservation center in the overflowing influences of globalization present in ethnic tourism and major economic pressures to survive as cultures become part of a global economy. All of these changes resulted in many indigenous uprisings and revolutionary movements, including the most well known Zapatista movement or EZLN. Applied anthropologists and indigenous rights activists worldwide have been working closely with the EZLN seeking to stop the destruction of alternative worldview and the preservation of indigenous cultures with their immense wealth of knowledge.

I’m particularly interested in the application of Marxist theories to the socialist movement of the EZLN. Additionally, the issues of representation that surround this movement are fascinating to me. Who are the Zapatistas? Are they really indigenous Maya? Or are they the remnant of the socialist student protestors from the Tlateloco massacre of 1969? (A major student and teachers uprising resulting in the deaths of thousands in Mexico City). The answers to these questions vary depending who you ask. The average middle class Mexican would argue that the Zapatistas are a bunch of trouble makers in the South of Mexico. Leftist groups in the U.S. may claim that the Zapatistas represent the first postmodern revolution of the 21st century (N.Y. Times). Through the mysticism of the masks they wear, and their main voice of MARCOS, the Zapatistas have raised much awareness from an international community. Perhaps they represent hope for a humanity struggling to survive in an ever spreading capitalist model. Through this project I hope to explore all the various aspects and facets of their representation. Many of theories about imperialism and civil disobedience apply to the Zapatistas. Through an exploration of Marx’s theories on capitalism, I will attempt to explore the way that its predatory spread along has resulted in the immense inequalities of indigenous people of Chiapas, Mexico. I will also include key concepts from Edward Said’s work on imperialism and Fanon’s theories on the exploitation of the “wretched of the world.” Additionally, Gramsci’s on hegemony and the idea of the “organic intellectual” really apply to a holistic understanding of the Maya as key sources of knowledge for humanity today.

Revised proposal: The economics of marriage

After looking into the movement for gay rights, I realized what I should really be examining is the entire institution of marriage itself (gay marriage being the most recent challenge confronting the issue). It has a long, complicated history that most people (including my former self) don’t really know about. The general format of my paper will be to move chronologically, thus ending in current debates about marriage. I will explore not only the history behind “traditional” marriage (white, Christian, man and woman) but the idea of marriage in societies much older and non-Western. This will provide a clearer view of what the “natural” relationships among humans really are, since that is often used in arguments against non-“traditional” marriages.

I am also looking into any deviations that specifically crop up in U.S. history (since obviously that geographic area is of relevance to us) and so will discuss the implications of, for instance, the Mormon polygamists and the amazingly communist Oneida Community of the nineteenth century. I will show how the purposes for marriage have always been economic in some way, and only recently did marriage become the romanticized relationship it currently is in Hollywood. Furthermore, I will argue that the type of marriage practiced in a society not only reflects its economic ideals (because it is a practice based in economics) but perpetuates them—thus “traditional” marriage perpetuates capitalism as well as patriarchy (it is a social practice, so it also perpetuates social ideals). Ultimately, I will argue with the help of Martha McPheeters that the most radical thing the gay rights movement can do for society is to completely destroy our concept of (and state-sanctioned) marriage.

Paper Proposal Round 2: Public Land

So after a bit of research for my bibliography I decided that it would be a tough task (that there really isn’t enough solid, specific literature) to write on the single subject of the national parks system in the united states. Due to this, I would like to broaden my paper to focus on the much wider topic of public land throughout international history, framing it of course in both the broad arena of cultural studies as well as contemporary conservation theories (specifically the aforementioned article which ties together these two fields of study).

I would like to begin the essay by talking about the idea of the “town common”, a method of public land allotment used by new englanders beginning pretty much as soon as townships were formed in the late 17th and early 18th century. I want to focus on how this use of land strengthened community and developed alongside methods such as town meetings and other community oriented activities. I want to touch upon the eventual shift away from this model as well.

Other examples I would like to cite as interesting, community focused land use are those of the Scandinavians, specifically the national parks systems in both Sweden and Norway, comparing them with that of the United States. Both these countries favor a much more open use of land for their citizens in terms of national parks (Professor Zuckerman at Pitzer has provided me with some readings of interest in this area during his Scandinavian Culture and Society class). I will look into the pros and cons of this more community oriented system of land conservation and how it has effected the national opinion as well as the state of the land itself.

Finally, and this may be a little cliche but I feel that it fits the model of this paper, I would like to discuss current theories on community farming in the united states and abroad. I see many of Marx’s theories emerging in today’s small farms and produce production (ughhh, had to use it), especially the ideas presented by Marx in German Ideology regarding the unavoidable exhaustion of resources which capitalism threatens.

Although this paper topic has more opportunity to remain slightly more disparate than the previous pitch I made, I feel that I will be able to create a strong vein of Marxist theory throughout all it’s parts. Suggestions on more specific directions and readings are always appreciated.

Internet and Democracy- Paper Proposal

I recently posted by change in paper topic, so I am just adding to my new proposal with some further research that I have done.

My overall theme would be technological determinism. I would be arguing that new technologies change social conditions. My examples to show this would be how new social networking sites are enabling the developing world to create more transparency and participation in the political process. Rather than arguing that a democratic environment creates social networks where people express their opinions, I will be trying to argue that the existence of online social networks create a more democratic environment.

I want to include discussions about cyber democratic theory – is the internet truly democratic? And, taking into consideration the groups of people that do not have access to the internet, can you still argue that it forces democratization with a limited number of users?

I am going to give a few examples of countries that have repressive governments, but where social networking sites have become popular as a form of protest.

1- The use of facebook in Eqypt to protest over the Gaza strip- how the youth is becoming revolutionary. It is easy for governments to shut down revolutionary websites but harder for them to shut down all of facebook.

2- In Saudi Arabia a facebook group was created to start a hunger strike against imprisonment of political opponents.

3- In Columbia, facebook was used to organize demonstrations against the FARC insurgency.

The above examples support my theory of social networks creating a more democratic environment, but to counteract my argument I am also going to talk about countries where the use of social networks is not allowed to thrive.

My main example for repression of social networks will be China. After riots in Xinjiang, China shut down Twitter, any unapproved sites that talked about the protests, and surged the media with their own comments of the riots. China uses the “great firewall of China” to block any information that they do not approve of. Going into internet cafes is harder than going into a bar underage- you are under constant watch. Although it is always possible to find ways to get around the firewalls, if you are very tech savvy, the country does not have an environment where citizens can search for and share information.

After using China as an example I am going to end my paper with a discussion of the future of the internet. How are the codes changing in the United States? How are copyright and censorship laws changing? We are in a time of chaos with the internet and things will definitely be changing in the next few years. I will end my paper by showing that although I argued that the internet is a social object that has promise for democratization, if the progression of internet regulation continues as it is today, this will not necessarily be the case five years from now.

Changing my paper topic – proposal

I have recently thought about changing my topic for my paper and wanted to propose it to see if there are any comments.

My overall theme would be technological determinism. I would be arguing that new technologies change social conditions. My examples to show this would be how new social networking sites are enabling the developing world to create more transparency and participation in the political process. Rather than arguing that a democratic environment creates social networks where people express their opinions, I will be trying to argue that the existence of online social networks create a more democratic environment.

I want to include discussions about cyber democratic theory – is the internet truly democratic? And, taking into consideration the groups of people that do not have access to the internet, can you still argue that it forces democratization with a limited number of users?

Some of the historical examples that I have come across while researching this are:

– the use of Facebook in Egypt and the Arab world, especially when used a a form of protest in relation to the gaza strip.

– the use (and banning) of social networks in China. I think China is a particularly interesting example because it shows how citizens are able to react and get information about protests in a country where there is not democratic representation. This example also relates to what a want to propose, which is that the use of these sites is going to create a more democratic environment in places where citizens previously didn’t have a place to voice their opinions.

So– any comments or suggestions? Or examples that you many of come across where this topic fits in? I am also trying to look for ways to connect it to the work we have done in class. What comes to mind is discussions of “culture” and the “intellectual” and of course Walter Benjamin (and the discussions we had in class about the internet).

self-help books

So I’ve decided to change my paper topic and I was wondering whether anyone had any suggestions for me…

I’m pretty sure I want to write about self-help books which
address dealing with depression and how to feel happier. In general
depression, anti-depressants, the growing number of people being
diagnosed with depression in highly industrialized countries really
fascinates me. Looking at self-help books seems like one of the more
accessible ways to approach the issue of depression…but if you have
a suggestion please let me know. I’m going to post this on the

Term Project Proposal

I think one of the most interesting ideas that I’ve gotten from Marx is that under communism, one actually has more room for individuality than under capitalism because they aren’t defined by the type of work they do (there’s that famous passage about being this in the morning, this in the evening, etc., but never being defined by any of those things. Although my topic isn’t entirely related to this, it comes perhaps to a similar conclusion. I want to write about music copyright laws and how they have restricted the freedom of musicians. I wonder how capitalism has actually changed the way music sounds by restricting its ability to borrow from others within or without the genre. To what extent are artists free under the capitalist system? How does making music a product change the way we think about it and what we can do with it? I think the genre changes how this can be answered. For example, in jazz, musicians are free to borrow ideas from others without fear of lawsuit, but in hip-hop or electronic music, sampling the material of others can be illegal (I’m not actually sure this is true, which is why this is just a proposal). This reflects cultural ideas about the different genres themselves. Are jazz musicians more free than hip-hop artists, or is it simply because hip-hop is a more lucrative commodity that there is more copyright law involved there?

Project Proposal

For my Term Paper, I’m interested in looking at our “free culture” on the Internet. How we disregard the value of products once placed on the Internet. Piracy is one of the greatest problems with our economy. I want to look into how legislation tries to deal with the problem, and how others are doing the same, such as Creative Commons. I’m interested in comparing Marxist theory to this phenomenon. A recently published book by Chris Anderson titled Free: The Future of a Radical Price talks about the Capitalism side of this topic, but I’m intrigued as to how his thoughts compare to those of Marx.

Project Proposal

H and I had a brief discussion about this in class last week. Anyhow, I’m a huge Apple fan and find the entire cultural phenomenon that they’ve pulled off to be absolutely fascinating. I’d love to be able to use this paper as an opportunity to take a step back and try to use what I’ve learned about Media Studies in the past few years to analyze what exactly Apple has achieved and, reflexively, what that tells us about culture and how it’s formed. I think it probably makes most sense to focus on a specific product of theirs as the cultural object (the iPhone or iPod, likely) instead of the Apple brand itself, but I need to figure out what sources I want to rely on and how those can fit into my analysis of the cultural object.


After I blogged about Marx’s Commodities and mentioned the commodification of human beings (by others and by themselves), I realized the subject warranted a lot more examination. As a popular culture aficionado, I am a heavy consumer of the commodified individual, and I think that placing an academic (and predominantly Marxist) lens on celebrity culture is a natural extension of my interest. I would like to discuss exactly what “labor,” “exchange,” “commodity,” etc. means in the context of celebrities and the virtual pop culture realm. I think my paper would also include some musings on how all these interactions play out in the “real world” vs. the “digital world” – i.e. concert performances vs. leaked sex tapes on the Internet. While I’m at it, I’ll also explore the idea of performing an identity and how that ties into being marketed as an object. All of this is pretty nebulous, as I can’t decide on a particular celebrity or group of celebrities to focus on, but at this point I am leaning towards Britney Spears or Tyra Banks. More suggestions on heavily marketed/publicized celebrities would be awesome.