ajnabieh: Robin Sparkles (character from How I Met Your Mother) in front of a red maple leaf, dancing. (canada sparkles)
There's a whole list of "totally subtle but surprising things I've noticed since moving to Canada" in my head (did you know that kids' amoxicillan is BANANA flavored here? That's just wrong), but here's one that's particularly odd: the number of students I have whose last names begin with Mc or Mac is really high. Granted, across 110 students, there are only 6 of them, but that's three per class, and that's definitely, like, 4 more than I've ever had at a time. (I also spent a lot of time alphabetizing assignments, so I have to think about last names a lot.)

This made me wonder about relative ethnic makeup. I'm not surprised that I've got more students with obviously francophone last names in Canada than in the US (not least because I teach at a francophone/bilingual university, and a reasonable chunk of my students have French as their primary language), but the Mac/Mc thing is throwing me. Generally, when we think about the European-descended populations of the US and Canada, we tend to assume that they look similar. Do they really, in terms of country/ethnic group of origin?

So I went to Statistics Canada and the US Census Bureau's American FactFinder. FactFinder is great because you can get some pretty specific queries in there; I'm not as experienced at using StatCan for getting data, but I was able to get to ethnic breakdown fairly quickly.

Here's the tally: In the US, 35.7 million people said they had Irish ancestry, 4.2 million said they had Scotch-Irish ancestry, and 5.8 million said they had Scottish ancestry. The ancestry question allows for multiple answers, so we don't know if there's any overlap there. This means that 11.2% of the US population has some Irish heritage, 1.8% has some Scottish heritage, and 1.3% have some Scotch-Irish heritage. Now, obviously not every person with Scottish/Irish heritage has a last name starting with Mac/Mc (says an Irish-American named Regan*), but that gives us a potential universe.

For Canada, the stats are different. 4.7 million Canadians said they had Scottish origins, with 568,000 saying they had only Scottish origins; 4.3 million people said they had Irish origins, with 491,000 saying they had only Irish origins. (Canada doesn't have a Scotch-Irish category.) Now, these numbers are lower than the American ones, but it's important to remember that Canada has a population about 1/10 the size of the US population. So, of the entire population of Canada, 12.2% has at least some Irish heritage, and 13.3% has at least some Scottish heritage. The Irish number isn't much higher, but the Scottish is much higher. So the frequency of individuals with some Scottish or Irish heritage in Canada, as a whole, is likely higher in the US (caveat in place because overlap is always possible).

And, in fact, in Ontario (where the majority of my students are from), the situation is even stronger. There are 2.1 million Ontarians with some Scottish heritage, and 1.98 million with some Irish heritage. Ontario has about a third of Canada's population (the GTA alone has 1/6th, which is freaky), but still, this means that 15.5% of Ontario's population has Scottish origin, and 14.7% has some Irish heritage. In New York State, where I've done all my teaching, it's 1% Scottish, 12.5% Irish, and .3% Scotch-Irish; in Pennsylvania, where I'm from, the Irish proportion is about the same and the Scottish and Scotch-Irish are both equally low.

So, conclusions:

1. Yes, it is not surprising that I'm seeing more Mac/Mc names in my classes than I ever have before, because it's likely that a higher percentage of my students have some Irish and/or Scottish ancestry.
2. While the proportion of people with Irish ancestry in the US vs in Canada is fairly similar (a percentage point is usually inside the margin of error), the number of people with Scottish ancestry is much, much higher in Canada.
3. The ratio of Irish-to-Scottish in Canada is also much closer to 1:1 than it is in the US, where it's, what, 6:1? *does math* Yeah, 6:1 if you take only Scottish and don't count Scotch-Irish.

Without knowing anything, I'm going to guess this has something to do with the dynamics of Canada's relationship to the United Kingdom--whether this was about Irish non-immigration to Canada because of the UK relationship in the 1800s (before formal Irish independence from Britain) or high Scottish immigration to Canada (facilitated by the formal relationship), I can't guess. Of course, I'm sure there are also reasons to do with chain migration, and it wouldn't surprise me if there were immigration-law reasons as well. In other words, it's caused by stuff. (Anyone know the stuff?)

Now I really should start grading...

*Regan is the name of my more-Irish side of the family, which is also the only side of my family to have decent genealogy records**. I'm not terribly into genealogy, but I'm glad to know it when someone else has done the work...

**Fun fact: the only ancestor from Ireland whose entrance details I'm 100% sure...arrived in North American at Halifax, Nova Scotia, during the Famine. How she ended up in Glens Falls, New York is anybody's guess. Will that make naturalization easier, do you think?
ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
Yesterday was a major political event in Egypt; millions of people turned out on the streets to demand the resignation of the president, Muhammad Morsi. The "Tamarod" (Rebellion) campaign is an interesting case of social mobilization, and a powerful rebuke to the behavior of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of the past year; it also raises important questions about the limits and strengths of electoral democracy for determining what counts as representing "the people." That said, I don't think I, in particular, have anything to add to this conversation; I'm following Mada, the new news website from the team that used to run Egypt Independent, as well as the new Egypt Independent, and journalists on twitter like [twitter.com profile] bassem_sabry and [twitter.com profile] ghazalairshad. If people want me to do a links roundup, I'm happy to put one together.

Although I spent yesterday glued to my twitter feed following what was happening on the ground, my deepest focus was on protests by Egyptians outside of Egypt in solidarity with Tamarod. Egyptians abroad have been highly political mobilized by Egyptian politics over the past two years; the hashtag #egyabroad on Twitter is always active, presidential candidates campaigned in diaspora communities, and activists from Egypt have traveled to diaspora communities to present their work. None of my writing on these actions has come to print yet, but I generally argue that demonstrations and actions by Egyptians abroad serve to figuratively transport the diasporites participating back into their homeland, and to extend the political ground of the homeland fully into diaspora. Yesterday's protests fall into this category; the Egyptians around the world who joined in objecting to Morsi's rule were a part of the demos of Egypt, and were engaged in claiming the right to judge his policies.

Here's the list of protests I was able to count yesterday, based on what I saw on social media. I'm also including links to some of the tweets/posts with best photos of the protests.

cut for length; protests in North America, Europe, and Australia, with links to photos )

For the record, this gives me a count of at least 22 cities worldwide. I may be missing some--if you know of one I missed, leave me a comment or send me an email or tweet! But here are some preliminary analytical thoughts:

  • I had the passing thought as I looked at these of "but are there any protests in the Gulf?" And then the immediate answer, "Duh, of course not." Public protest is, if not banned, highly restricted in the Gulf states where Egyptians emigrate, and Qatar and Saudi, in particular, have been major supporters of Egypt under Brotherhood rule, which makes the possibilities for protest even smaller. But this actually is a conflicting effect. Something that my interviewees mentioned when I was in Cairo is that people who emigrate to the Gulf are different than people who emigrate to Europe or North America--they tend to care more about money and financial safety, and less about freedom and rights. They are also less highly educated and less political. Now, this might be a stereotype (and people I heard it from, who identified themselves against the type of people who go to the Gulf, themselves talked about the possibility of moving there, so obviously the idea is not exactly like the practice), but it probably also has some interesting implications for what the political engagement of Egyptians in the Gulf might be like. Another truism, this one in policy circles, is that Egyptians in the Gulf voted for Morsi, while Egyptians elsewhere voted for Shafiq (his secular but Mubarak-allied opponent). So how can we untangle suppressive protest environment, possibly different social attributes, and different political views in understanding the position of Gulf Egyptians during moments like these? If your answer is, "[personal profile] ajnabieh, that sounds like an excellent grant proposal for a research trip," you read my mind.

  • The protests that got the biggest circulation (that I saw--I obviously might be wrong) on social media were London and New York. My networks are New York-centric, though.

  • New York, Washington DC, and Los Angeles are all in the top five largest cities for Arab population [eta: in the US--I don't know about largest cities for Arab diaspora population outside the US]. The ones that are missing are Detroit and Chicago. Without going deeply into the Census data, a glace at the AAI profiles tells me neither of those cities have large Egyptian populations. That suggests this isn't a pan-Arab mobilization--it's an Egyptian mobilization, and it's only happening where there's a critical mass of Egyptians. (Even though there aren't a lot of Egyptians in either Chicago or Detroit, there are still *some.*)

  • Again, something else I've noticed in my research: Egyptians in Egypt who are themselves a part of the transnational class are promoting and circulating images of protests abroad. That picture montage I linked above the cut was posted by Bassam Youssef, the satirist, and both Egyptian Streets and Cairo Gossip had posts about protests. So Egyptians in Egypt who are politically engaged don't differentiate between diaspora action and action at home, at least not in the aggregate.

In any case, watch this space for more info as it happens...

Four Links

Jun. 10th, 2013 09:19 pm
ajnabieh: Happy woman with broom: FIGHT ALL THE OPPRESSIONS; same woman, dejected, "Fight ALL the oppresssions?" (ALL the oppressions?)
I meant to do this earlier today, but my brain was all taken up with writing. How are your writing lives, comrades? I got all my easy summer projects (abstracts, revisions, etc) out of the way, and now I'm staring down the barrel of a book proposal and a couple of articles. Boo hiss.

Anyway, four things I read recently that I thought were worth passing on.

Arizona Everywhere: Immigration Policing and the United States’ Expanding Borderlands is a frankly horrifying piece on the powers of the US Border Control and their actions policing immigrants well inside what we think of as the US border region. I'm particularly appreciative of this piece for its analysis of Sodus, New York, which is about half an hour from my house. I have the slightest of bones to pick with the section on Detroit, however: while the author is absolutely right to point out the consequences of increased border patrols on the Latin@ community, he neglects that there's another community in Detroit that is the focus of Border Control attention: the Arab community, who has been under particular security surveillance and has seen a rise in deportations as well. In fact, I'd wager that the rationale behind the huge quantity of border agents in Detroit is tied to the Arab community there--and that other communities are suffering collateral damage because of it.

Children of Egyptian Diplomats: Caught Between Two Worlds is a short piece on the experience of being a transnational Egyptian. I'm thinking about this a lot lately, as it's research relevant.

The AKP's Accountability Problem and The Might of the Pen(guin) are two great pieces on the current protest cycle in Turkey. I appreciate the former for the way it focuses on horizontal accountability, meaning the sharing of power among different governing institutions; it's not that the government lacks democratic accountability in the sense of having been fairly elected (nobody's disputing that, at least according to what I've seen), but that the AKP is overly centralist and assumes that, once it's in power, it doesn't have to be accountable ever again. It's good to see a piece of analysis that takes Turkey seriously as a country with democratic institutions, while also recognizing the seriousness of the problems at hand and the real lack of legitimacy the AKP has in many quarters right now. The second piece, which explains some of the symbolic politics of the demonstrations, demonstrates how significant this portion of the population is: they're media-makers and creators, which means they have an effective means of communicating with the population and bringing people over to their side.
ajnabieh: Palestinian flag in front of billboard for the movie Prince of Persia.   (prince of persia)
During the 2008 campaign season, I wrote a short piece for Flow, the media studies online magazine, about Tigh/Roslin 2008, the joke campaign that drew from the resemblance between John McCain and Sarah Palin, in the real world, and Saul Tigh and Laura Roslin, from the fictional world of Battlestar Galactica. In, it, I argued that

The Tigh/Roslin campaign is not just of a sign of how pop culture can be used to provide a springboard for political reasoning; it is also a call for consideration of substantive politics, not because other forms of politics lack seriousness, but because there are more serious things to make fun of here than lipstick and beauty pageants

I thought of that when, today, this image got posted on Facebook:

A numbered list of 15 quotes, with the title "Who Said It: Mitt Romney or Mr. Burns?" Cartoon images of both Romney and Burns are on the top.

This image is another joke about a Republican candidate for office, but one with a very different thrust. The Tigh/Roslin campaign was at least partially absurdist--it wasn't a real endorsement of the candidates, or even a real criticism of them. (In most of the contexts in which it was discussed, it was clear that those making the comparison a) liked/had affection for the BSG characters and b) did not like/did not plan on voting for the actual candidates.) But the Romney/Burns comparison is intentionally critical of Romney as a candidate, by portraying him as literally cartoonish in his unawareness of what his wealth means.*

Thinking critically about these, my first reading is that these are different sorts of political gestures. The Tigh/Roslin campaign might have been about taking politics at least as seriously as we take our pop culture, but the Romney/Burns comparison is about using pop culture to make a metaphorical argument about politics. Metaphors and symbols are politically useful because they are dense; they carry a lot of information, and, when they're well-deployed, they make a whole complicated argument in a relatively short amount of time. If the makers (and circulators) of this list are saying that the presumptive Republican nominee (I say on Super Tuesday) is a cartoon plutocrat capable of building a giant disk to block out the sun in order to increase profits, most likely they are encouraging us not to vote for him. (And if Obama is Luke Skywalker, presumably we should stand against the Dark Side.**)

*Interestingly, images of Mr. Burns were used against Angela Merkel in Germany during a recent campaign. There, it wasn't a criticism of wealth, but her public support for nuclear energy. How do I know this random piece of trivia, when I otherwise know nothing about German politics? Because I peer-reviewed an article about it. Coming soon to an issue of TWC near you!

** Wait, where does the "I am your father?" moment fit in that metaphor?
ajnabieh: Happy woman with broom: FIGHT ALL THE OPPRESSIONS; same woman, dejected, "Fight ALL the oppresssions?" (ALL the oppressions?)
I am watching two political struggles going on today. The first is the attempt to get the New York State Senate to pass a bill allowing same-sex marriage. The second is the "Women 2 Drive" protest in Saudi Arabia, where dozens of women who hold international driver's licenses are driving in violation of the law. (Check the Twitter hashtag if you want to see what's going down right now, on 6/17.)

The differences here are obvious and striking. One is about negotiating within a highly fractious electoral public, and mobilizing constituent power for and against a political position that's at the center of ongoing debates. The other is about civil disobedience against an authoritarian government, in the hopes of mustering transnational support for a change in policy. But what I keep coming back to is that both of these struggles are about symbolic rights.

I support both these demands. In fact, I'm spending a lot of my time engaged in the one that's happening in my home state (*ahem*). And I think the Saudi protest is pretty amazing, considering precisely how hard it is to mobilize any action at all in KSA. By calling these "symbolic rights," I'm not trying to diminish the importance of the claim, nor the strength of those making it.

But the centrality of driving to Saudi women's protest is largely about its symbolic value. Of all the injustices that Saudi women cope with--an enforced dress code, highly segregated work opportunities, unequal access to marriage and divorce, etc--driving seems relatively minor by comparison. And yet, it isn't: it's a daily insult to their personhood that, despite being autonomous adults with responsibilities and roles in the world, they have to be driven around like ten year olds going to soccer practice. The symbolic injustice so rankles that it becomes a mobilizing force for change.

I feel similarly about marriage. Frankly, in the world where I am philosopher-king, there would be no state-recognized marriages. 'Marriage' would be a purely social bond, which people could enter into or not enter into as they saw fit, in whatever configurations they felt appropriate. Simultaneously, the state would allow people to formally establish family relationships (among couples raising children, friends collectively supporting each other, siblings caring for an elderly parent, etc) which would provide for legal rights such as hospital visitation, tax benefits for providing unpaid caring work, rights of survivorship, etc. Being 'married' would be one thing. Being a legal unit would be another.

I don't get to be philosopher-king, so that's not how it works. But, even in this world, marriage isn't the battle I would put first of all my queer rights. I'd rather we were fighting harder for non-discrimination legislation, for the inclusion of material on LGBT issues in educational institutions, to make it easier for trans people to legally transition, and for rights to adoption and parenthood. And, frankly, I am married--I've got the white dress and the credit card debt to prove it, and anybody who tries to tell me I'm not is both empirically wrong and a douche of epic proportions, as far as I'm concerned.

And yet, it rankles whenever I look at my "legal docs" file, and realize that I have to have a will, a power of attorney, a health care proxy, and a living will to give my wife the same rights that straight couples get merely for registering their relationship. It rankles when I say "my wife" and people respond "your partner." (No disrespect to the many same-sex and opposite-sex couples I know who use partner; I think it's a good word. It's just not mine.) And, yes, it rankles that if I were an infertile man, my name would be on my son's birth certificate as his father even though he was conceived with donor sperm, but because I'm a woman I had to drop thousands of dollars and collect letters of reference to earn the right to be his legal parent.

The insult to me, and to thousands of queers like and unlike me, is enough that it's worth fighting for. And the massive insult that the Republican caucus can't even decide to bring this to a vote--and that thousands of people are mobilized to condemn my relationship--well, that makes me want to get a big angry sign and go yell at somebody, long and loud.

The deep political insight here is the one that Axel Honneth makes so clearly in his work--that the vast majority of injustices that people experience are injustices based in misrecognition, the sense that something crucial and important about yourself is being disregarded, misinterpreted, or silenced in social interactions. And the more daily one is that disrespect is a key experience of being an oppressed group within a society. Symbolic victories are real, because they undo this disrespect, and counter with the sort of recognition that make societies possible.

So, yes, I'm cheering for the women in Saudi who are driving through the streets, and hoping for their safety. Yes, I'm dropping emails to state senators, bombarding my poor Facebook friends with action links, and endlessly refreshing New York 1's website. Because symbolic rights are rights nonetheless, and we all deserve them.

And you know if the law passes, my ass is getting married. Again.


ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
Ajnabieh - The Foreigner

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