BTS 11/20/09: Crisis at UC; Honduran Workers Victory; Vicarious Traumatization at Fort Hood; China and US

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Chris Newfield, English Professor at UCSB blogs about the nature of the financial crisis hitting the University of California – where students are occupying and protesting in response to the regent’s decision yesterday to hike fees 32%, cut salaries, add furloughs and more to make it through the budget shortfall. Newfield writes on his blog, “Remaking the University” that the students’ actions are the best news in this crisis and doubts the assurances of the administration that students won’t be hurt by the fee hikes.

Jack Mahoney, National Organizer, USAS (United Students Against Sweatshops): The anti-sweatshop movement at American universities from Georgetown to UCLA won a tremendous victory in bleak times this week. Their pressure tactics persuaded leading sportswear company Russell Athletic to agree to rehire 1,200 workers in Honduras who lost their jobs when Russell closed their factory last January, soon after the workers had unionized. The anti-sweatshop coalition orchestrated a nationwide campaign against the company. Most important, the coalition, United Students Against Sweatshops, persuaded the administrations of at least 96 colleges and universities to sever or suspend their licensing agreements with Russell. We’ll talk to Jack Mahoney about the significance of this victory – students and workers together -- and the winning strategy they adopted.

David Gangsei, a clinical psychologist from Survivors of Torture International specializes in treating victims of torture. Missing from the discussion about Fort Hood psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hassan’s murderous rampage last week is something mental health workers who work with torture survivors understand well: vicarious traumatization. We’ll ask Gangsei what mental health professionals think about what could be behind the Fort Hood shootings.

President Obama’s trip to China was seen by most commentators as a balancing act given China’s economic ascendance and US economic decline. But Hung Ho-Fung questions whether China is as formidable an economy as appearance suggests. His recent article in New Left Review 60- “America's Head Servant? The PRC’s Dilemma in the Global Crisis” suggests that China is still America’s head servant and a recentering of global capitalism from West to East and from North to South in the aftermath of the global crisis remains little more than wishful thinking.

Read More for info on tonight's guests:

1. Chris Newfield is a Professor in the English Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He received his Ph.D. in American literature from Cornell University in 1988, and his central interests include: American culture after 1830, with particular attention to fiction since 1940; race; sexuality; affect; crime; California; and corporate culture. Professor Newfield is currently at work on two projects: The Empowerment Wars, which explores the literature, management theory, and everyday life of cubicle dwellers in corporate America; and Starting Up, Starting Over, an eyewitness account of the underside of the "New Economy" in Southern California.

2. Jack Mahoney is a recent Georgetown University graduate and organizer for United Students Against Sweatshops.

3. David Gangsei received his doctorate in clinical psychology from Columbia University. He is licensed as a psychologist in California. Since 1985, he has specialized in providing psychological services to
refugees, asylum seekers and torture survivors. Since 2000 he has served as Clinical Director of Survivors of Torture, International in San Diego, where he oversees the development and operation of a program serving health, mental health, case management and asylum support services for torture survivors and their families. Dr. Gangsei has lectured in the United States, Europe and Latin America on topics related to serving torture survivors. He is a contributing author to the Physicians for Human Rights publication “Examining Asylum Seekers: A Health Professional’s Guide to Medical and Psychological Evaluations of Torture.”

4. Hung Ho-Fung is an assistant professor at the Department of Sociology. He received his Ph.D from Johns Hopkins University in 2004. Professor Hung researches and publishes on contentious politics, globalization, nationalism, and social theory. His current projects include one that expounds how the Confucianist legacy shaped China’s trajectories of state formation and popular protests from the eighteenth century to the present, in contrast to the Western trajectories. Another project examines the dynamics and limits of the current economic ascendancy of China, as well as its impact on global capitalism. A third project traces China’s changing conception of nationhood in light of Beijing’s contentious interaction with Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan since 1949. Besides these major projects, he also published about the orientalist origins of classical social theories, globalization of epidemics, China’s environmental movements, among others.