Global Studies 300
Local Responses to Global Issues: Case Studies from Around the World
M,W 2:30-3:45 Stevenson 3036
Professor Tom Shaw
Fall 2013


Global issues cross national borders. They are not isolated within single societies or cultures. Still, our understanding of global human issues is greatly enhanced by a careful analysis of how they affect particular people in particular places. In this course we will examine a handful of important global issues in the context of how they impact individuals in a particular place and culture, at a particular time. In keeping with the GE, Area D1 requirement, this class focuses on how people respond to issues as these are filtered through a prism that combines culture, social structure, institutions, ideologies and customary practices. Human responses to global issues will be the focus and primary point of interest in this course. Not all global issues will be dealt with each semester this course is offered. Candidates for coverage include health pandemics, human trafficking, refugees, poverty, hunger and the politics of food and water, human rights, a spectrum of environmental issues, inequality, racism and other fundamentalist ideologies. Determination of the issues covered in any given semester will be made by the professor before the start of the class. This semester we will cover human responses to health pandemics, to economic inequality, to environmental degradation and human rights abuses.

Course readings will highlight the diverse ways humans adapt to global challenges at the local level. Case studies will feature individuals who have made a significant impact locally as they have dealt with a global issue. Cases will illustrate how these persons have had to interact with social systems and institutions in response to challenges. Students will spend three or four weeks on each case study, focusing first on prevailing political and cultural institutions, and secondly on the specific actions of individuals who have (more or less) successfully navigated those institutions to meet the challenge. Students will discover how institutions and cultural frameworks impact a person’s or group’s responses to global challenges, and they will learn how people often “bend” forces to meet challenges. They will see how in some instances individuals creatively negotiate solutions that oppose social norms and institutions. At the same time, they will learn how individual responses are impacted by social structures that distribute resources and life chances unequally and, some would argue, unfairly.

Course Objectives

1. Students will explore global human issues and people’s responses in a variety of cultures and settings.
2. Students will gain an understanding that people respond to global challenges in their environment using the tools at their disposal: cultural frameworks, social institutions, ethnic politics, religious and other ideological narratives, including artistic media.
3. Students will better understand the systemic causes of global social problems including political and social oppression, poverty, resource shortages and so on.
4. Students will explore how social structures and institutions change as problems are challenged and addressed.
5. Students will learn how responses to global issues are impacted by social structures that distribute resources unequally.
6. Students will learn how different people creatively resist oppressive social structures and institutions.

Course Readings

Autobiography: Unbowed, by Wangari Maathai
Biography: Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder
Documentary (non-fiction): Fanshen, by William Hinton
Book:  2048: Humanity's Agreement to Live Together by J. Kirk Boyd

*all books available at SSU bookstore
Also available online, through the SSU Library:

Book:Mountains Beyond Mountains
Book: Fanshen.
Book: Witness to Aids

Also, some articles may be provided in class to give students some historical background and current context to each of the issues discussed in class.

Evaluation Criteria

The class will use a combination of assessments, including a final project. Final grades will consist of:

Participation 10%
Exams (2) 30%
Presentation 25%
Research Paper 35%

Thesis statement 15%
Annotated outline 15%
Paper 70%

Class Schedule




Wed, Aug 21 Class 1:  Introduction to course

I.  The ecology of health pandemics:  TB and AIDS

Mon, Aug 26 The climate of treatment
Social stigma and public policy

Read: Mountains Beyond Mountains, Pgs. 3-121
Read NY Times article here

Sign up for oral presentation topic/week

Wed, Aug 28
Mon, Sep 2

Labor Day Holiday

Wed, Sep 4 Belief systems, poverty, racism and just plain denial

Read:  Mountains Beyond Mountains, Pgs. 125-177
Read:  HIV/Aids and Sorcery
Read: How belief effects treatment adherence

Review criteria for choosing an effective research topic (statement due Monday)

Mon, Sep 9 Pharmaceuticals
Video:  Patents and Patients VHS 5797  

Read Book: Witness to Aids , Chaps 6,7 Pgs. 157-204.
Due: Two paragraphs describing the topic, and the analysis you are planning for your final paper.  Due Monday, Sep. 9th

Wed, Sep 11
Mon, Sep 16
Student presentations: health and social justice  (approx 5 students each day/10 mins each)
Wed, Sep 18

II. Environment, Resources and the People: 

Mon, Sep 23 Standing up to social, cultural and political forces Read:  Unbowed  Pgs. 98-295.
Wed, Sep 25  
Mon, Sept 30

The movement to develop sustainability standards and certification. 

DVD:  Taking Root:  The Vision of Wangari Maathai.
Corte Madera. Maathai BIO

Read:  Standards initiatives
Wed, Oct. 2 Forest Stewardship Council:  market-driven product management and network governance. Read:  Forest Stewardship Council
Mon, Oct 7 Student presentations:  sustainability systems (approx 5 students each day/10 mins each)
Wed, Oct 9
Mon, Oct 14

EXAM: Health pandemics & Environmental degradation


III. Inequality: Understanding the revolution in China & the roots of Chinese communism

Wed, Oct 16 Land redistribution and collectivization Read article on inequality research.
Book: Fanshen. Chaps. 1,2,3,8-11
Mon, Oct 21
Wed, Oct 23 Collectives
Marxist ideology, capital and commodity fetishism
Read Fanshen Chaps. 13-16, 20-24
Film: China: A Century of Revolution (DVD 702)
Mon, Oct 28
Wed, Oct 30 Descent into chaos
Identifying the class enemy

Finish FanshenChaps 29-34
Movie:  Up the Yangtze  DS793 Up

Mon, Nov 4 Student Presentations: Current Struggles for Economic Equality in China
Wed, Nov 6

IV. Human Rights movement

Mon, Nov 11

Veteran's Day Holiday - no classes

Wed, Nov 13 History of the international human rights movement

Video:  Eric Li on the one party system
Read:  Aryeh Neier, The International Human Rights Movement: A History  Chaps 1-3  pgs.1-92
Due Mon, Nov. 18: Annotated Outline of Final Paper

Mon, Nov 18
Wed, Nov 20 What are human rights?  Are they universal?

Read:  Kirk Boyd, 2048: Humanity's Agreement to Live Together

Kirk Boyd on Youtube

Swiss Panel on Human Dignity

Mon, Nov 25
Wed, Nov 27-29

Thanksgiving Holiday

Mon, Dec 2 Student Presentations: Human Rights
Wed, Dec 4 Student Presentations:  Human Rights

Final Papers Due
(for a relatively brief guide to writing a paper that argues a point, check this out)

(for a more extensive look at the ins and outs of making an argument in an academic paper, check this out)
Finals Week

EXAM: Inequality & human rights
MONDAY, DECEMBER 9, Stev 3036, 2PM

Class Policies

There are important University policies that you should be aware of, such as the add/drop policy; cheating and plagiarism policy, grade appeal procedures; accommodations for students with disabilities and the diversity vision statement. (Go to this URL to find them: )