Shattered shelters


All summer long, between all the meetings and field visits and interviews and note-taking, I had been thinking a lot about shelter as a recurring theme that touches on my more direct interests in climate change, food security and health. For such a basic human right, how could shelter be so disparate, so inadequate, so cruel? How does it contribute to good or poor health, to vulnerability and capacity, to life and death? This post is a loosely structured collection of musings on the theme of shelter, serving as my closing thoughts from the summer. I write in honor of … Continue reading

Posted in Africa, Featured | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

No goodbyes for us

Watercolor of prisoner

“When you know people, you have to behave towards them like human beings.” – Oskar Schindler  *** Politicians’ voices dominate the public discourse about forced migration, asylum seekers and refugees in Australia. During my time in Sydney, I encountered very few citizens who had ever met an asylum seeker or refugee. This is not surprising, as asylum seekers comprise less than 2 percent of the country’s migration intake, and those individuals are detained upon arrival in mostly geographically isolated localities.  It’s not easy to relate to invisible people whose voices aren’t heard on the nightly news. The most powerful illustrations of … Continue reading

Posted in Featured, Oceania | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Manufacturing mental illness

Painting by asylum seeker

Last week, a mental health nurse was fired from an immigration detention center in Darwin, Australia for saying that mandatory detention contributes to mental illness in asylum seekers.  Just days ago, the Australian federal government’s Detention Health Advisory Group, the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses and the Australian Psychological Society recommended an end to mandatory detention, noting the high levels of self-injury and hunger strikes by detainees. Immigration detention centers have been called “mental illness factories” by several advocates (see press accounts from The Australian and ABC). Comcare, the federal government’s own workplace safety agency, recently delivered a disparaging … Continue reading

Posted in Featured, Oceania | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Urban buffalo and water

Buffalo on a Dharwad street

In my last weeks here, I’ve become obsessed with the buffalo. They graze outside my window. Every night, two liters of extra-creamy buffalo milk arrives in a large can strapped to the back of a bicycle, then gets poured by a young man from a silo-shaped can into my pot. The buffalo, being water buffalo, also connect to the water picture here in plenty of ways. Here are some of those connections, paraphrased from interviews I’ve done over the last weeks. A neighborhood activist in a low-income 24/7 water zone in Dharwad gave both political and economic arguments against his … Continue reading

Posted in Asia, Featured | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Urban buffalo and water

Leaving the nest

Oxlajuj B'atz' community facilitators repping Cal!

It’s hard to believe my fellowship in Guatemala is over. I returned home last Monday, and returned to Berkeley just a few days later. The last few days were a huge blur — showing my parents around Pana, wrapping up all of my projects, transferring and sharing my files, preparing for a final preparation for my co-workers at OB, getting ready for OB’s celebration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, and of course, last-minute shopping and saying goodbye to my colleagues and friends. My parents arrived in Pana on Tuesday, and I took Wednesday and Thursday off … Continue reading

Posted in Featured, The Americas | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Leaving the nest

Final blog: A reflection on being a complete human being

One last photo with Rep. Lewis

“And yet, being a problem is a strange experience, peculiar even for one who has never been anything else…” — W.E.B. Du Bois At one time in my life I would have said “the only thing more peculiar than being a problem in the world is to know you’re a problem within your world” — meaning that it’s one thing to be a problem to the larger world around you, but entirely different to know you’re a problem within the community that surrounds you (i.e. family). History and life both taught me that I was a problem. People of my … Continue reading

Posted in Featured, The Americas | 2 Comments

Inching closer to the end of my internship in D.C.

Poster: And Justice for All

The clock is ticking, and I just can’t believe it. This program has been an incredible experience, and I know there’s still a week left, but the Justice for All event made it seem all so official. I’ve made so many great memories, met so many awesome people, and learned so much. Life changes so much in a few months, indeed. I think what I’ll take away from this internship experience are the ever-changing professionalism, an increased eye for detail, and a greater understanding of when to take a risk and when to take a stop back. I have always … Continue reading

Posted in The Americas | Tagged | Comments Off on Inching closer to the end of my internship in D.C.

He said, she said: Getting your pronouns straight!

What if you needed to wear a button like this when you when to the doctor's office?

As I have previously explained, for my master’s research I interviewed 25 transgender women in San Francisco about their experiences with health care. In this blog I’m going to tell you about the most commonly mentioned issue that comes up in the health care setting: the problem of names and pronouns. The single most common complaint I heard about health care was that receptionists, nurses and physicians refused to use the name or pronouns that a particular transgender person requested. Let me walk you through a fictional example so that you can get an idea of what I mean. Imagine … Continue reading

Posted in Featured, The Americas | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on He said, she said: Getting your pronouns straight!

Words of wisdom from The Congressman

Rep. John Lewis

This summer I had the honor of interning with Rep. John Lewis in his Washington, D.C., office as a congressional intern through the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute’s Victory Fund. The Congressman agreed to sit down with me for a short interview, and in this interview I asked him about topics ranging from the depressed job market and youth looking for employment to LGBT rights and how we can proceed with the struggle for equality. This interview was unrehearsed. Rep. Lewis was not given time to prepare a statement or briefed about the questions I would ask or the topics … Continue reading

Posted in Featured, The Americas | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Some case studies from behind closed bars


As much as I love research, my real “calling” is medicine. One of my most frustrating experiences to date has been dealing with and observing the problems with health care in the prison. For one thing, Malaysia may not have as much access to medical care  as the United States, but it has enough that the prisoners should be getting decent care. For another it’s a violation of these people’s human rights that they aren’t getting basic health care.  So far, there have been a few particularly painful (sometimes literally for the patient) incidents. To start with, the whole set … Continue reading

Posted in Asia, Featured | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Some case studies from behind closed bars