Articles in Population Geography
A recent report in India Today mentions a fatwa (Muslim religious decree) issued by a cleric associated with the Muslim Brotherhood to prohibit women from swimming in the sea. The declared reason is that the word for ‘sea’ is grammatically masculine in Arabic, and so when a woman goes swimming and “the water touches the woman’s private parts, she becomes an ‘adulteress’ and should be punished”. An earlier fatwa issued in Iraq in 2007 “warned street vendors not to place tomatoes beside cucumbers because the vegetables are different genders”. But are authors of these fatwas driven by grammar or by culture? And how do literary translators grapple with gender issues?
The special role of Moscow and Saint Petersburg is highlighted by a consideration of the space between them. A recent photo diary in The New York Times documented a trip taken by Ellen Barry and Dmitry Kostyukov between the two principal Russian cities. This trip was inspired by an imaginary journey described by liberal-minded bureaucrat Alexander Radishchev in his book A Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow, written in 1790. In this post we revisit the cities and towns visited by Radishchev.
To follow up on the previous GeoCurrents post on the geography of first names, this post will examine that of surnames. The first map on the left shows the most common European surnames by country. Some interesting patterns emerge here. The geography of surnames in the US is considered as well.
As a university lecturer, I noticed that certain first names are common in different cohorts of students. A few years ago, I would often have two or three Jessicas in my classes, then it was Ashleys, then Jessicas made a come-back. This personal hunch is confirmed by a series of maps, published recently by Jezebel.com and reproduced at the bottom of this post. Based on data from the Social Security Administration, these maps show the most popular names for girls by state, for babies born from 1960 through 2012. While some parents select unusual names for their kids, most opt for safe or fashionable choices. As with clothing, certain names sweep the country, stay popular for a while, and then fall out of fashion, rarely to return.
A few years ago, the New York Times published a fascinating interactive map depicting where various foreign-born groups have settled in the United States over the years. Immigrants are categorized by country of birth, with the colors representing countries or regions of origin. History of several immigrant groups can be read off those maps.
The intense political polarization of the United States is most clearly reflected by the dysfunctional nature of the federal government. At a more local scale, it is seen as well in the growing movement to create new states by splitting existing ones. Most of these cases involve the desire of people in rural, conservative counties to secede from the more …
Thailand has been a major destination for migrants from the neighboring Burma (Myanmar) for decades. In the past, members of ethnic groups residing along the Thai-Burma border, such as the Karen, the Mon, and the Shan, often crossed the borders to visit friends, buy goods, or seek healthcare services. In the 1980s, under the military regime administration in Burma, this temporary migration continued unofficially even though border crossings were not officially allowed. A large number of asylum-seekers fighting against the government of Burma started to enter Thailand to take refuge in the same period. Since the 1990s, migrants from Burma, both members of ethnic minorities and Burmans, have come to Thailand mostly for economic reasons.
As noted in the previous GeoCurrents post on global patterns of tobacco consumption, manufactured cigarettes remain the main way to consume tobacco worldwide despite the existence of alternative tobacco products such as dry and moist snuff, water pipes, and roll-it-yourself cigarettes. This post focuses on economic implications of cigarette consumption across the world.
An earlier GeoCurrents post noted that despite the triple warning on each pack of cigarettes sold in Bosnia and Herzegovina, smoking rates in all the former Yugoslavian republics remain extremely high. Indeed, Serbia is the world’s top smoking nation, Slovenia ranks 7th, Bosnia and Herzegovina 8th, Macedonia 14th, and Croatia 24th. This post examines the issue of smoking rates and tobacco consumption in the global perspective.
Among the world’s many social development indices is the 2013 Mothers’ Index recently published by the Save the Children charity. The index is a composite of five factors: maternal health (measured as lifetime risk of maternal death), children’s well-being (measured as under-5 mortality rate), and women’s educational, economic, and political status. The latter three components involve such criteria as “expected number of years of formal schooling”, “gross national income per capita”, and “participation of women in national governments” (specifically, the percentage of national legislative seats held by women). It is, however, questionable whether these measures are true reflections of the selected factors. Moreover, the data for the various components comes from different years, ranging from 2010 (maternal health) to 2013 (political status).
On June 5, 2013, The Times published a brief article on the death of the last speaker of Livonian, Grizelda Kristina, at the age of 103. While it is heartening to see a major popular media outlet taking notice of the issue of language endangerment and death, it is discouraging to see even a short piece such as this one riddled with errors, inaccuracies, and misleading statements.
The Deportation and the Return of the Crimean Tatars—And the Controversial Issue of Collaboration with the Nazis
Crimean Tatars were among the many ethnic groups deported under Stalin during World War II due to the alleged collaboration with the Nazis. Today, this Turkic-speaking group constitutes merely 0.5% of Ukraine’s population, but historically, they held the key to the Black Sea shores that the Russian Empire (and later independent Ukraine) needed to gain access to warm sea ports.
When I was a college student in Russia, one of my classmates was a Volga German from Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. At the time, her identity made no sense to me as Germany, the Volga River, and Uzbekistan are thousands of miles apart. Who are the Volga Germans? How did they come to live in Central Russia, and later in Central Asia? This post examines the twisted history of yet another group victimized by Stalin’s deportations.
One of the first ethnic groups deported by the Soviet regime on purely ethnic grounds was the Koreans of the Far East. Their deportation was conceived in 1926, initiated in 1930, and carried out in 1937, when virtually all ethnic Koreans were forcefully moved to unpopulated desert areas of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. This resettlement program was so brutal that it engendered enduring bitterness not only among the deportees themselves but also among many of their descendants as well. It is thus unsurprising that the two most famous ethnic Koreans in Russia are songwriters known for the subversive lyrics.
Global overpopulation has recently returned to the public spotlight with the publication of Inferno, the latest offering from novelist Dan Brown, author of the 2003 blockbuster The Da Vinci Code. A mystery thriller on the surface, Inferno is ultimately a piece of demographic fiction. As one reviewer notes, “The specter of a catastrophically overpopulated Earth, its desperate people grasping and …