UTBLICK Nr 3 is finally here!

The first issue of the autumn 2018 is finally HERE!! In this number we’ve talked about the broad subject of MEDIA.

For more than a decade the press freedom has declined in the world, but at the same time new kinds of media are on the rise.

Recent events have made us wonder about which changes media will go through in the near future (digital revolution?). Since cases such as Snowden’s whistle-blow or Cambridge Analytica, how much do we know about how the data we provide and the data we receive is being handled? Furthermore, could the current state of a decentralized and extremely rapid flow of information have any consequences with practices like biohacking?

But we should not forget the people behind technology, and for instance, how the information is being moderated outside of algorithms; who are the people behind the reporting button?

This leads us to social media and how we interact with it; from the narcissistic use of social media to the unconsented recording of Korea
n women in public spaces. And also fake news, a term that has come up and been discussed all over during the last couple of years. But what exactly is fake news and how does it affect you? We hope you can find some answers with the specific case of Macedonia and how fake news managed to disband the country’s renaming referendum.

We also want to build your hopes up with a very inspiring inte
rview with Swedish news reporter Carina Bergfeldt and her thoughts on the journalistic career, the current politics and how has she managed to do some amazing things such as reporting the KKK from within.
We should also be aware of the role of the more conventional media, by some cases such as Singapore and LGBT rights, performative violence and its treatment by the conventional media and lastly, Spain and its controversial freedom of expression. And on a bigger trend, the tu

rn to illiberalism in democracies. So, to wrap it up, you will be able to find an “authoritarian handbook” :)

You can check the magazine here.

Pleasant reading!

Moa Persson and Ariadna Carrascosa

New issue of UTBLICK out now!!

The second issue of 2018 is finally here!! This time we have explored the theme of elections and democracy in a changing world.

This year we are facing an enormous amount of elections. One of the most important aspects of a democracy is elections, free and fair elections is what gives voice to our societies. Earlier this year we have seen Putin’s reelection in Russia, and also Hungary and Poland’s move towards nationalistic politics and anti-european governments. Since previously we have already witnessed the low Utblick_No2_2018_COVER-1voting participation in France’s elections, Germany’s struggle with building a government, the victory of Trump in the US. But not to forget some positive trends in democracy as the surprisingly peaceful resignation of Zimbabwe’s long ruling leader Mugabe, that now will lead up to a parliamentary election later this year. As well as the formation of new political parties, like the Demokraterna in Gothenburg, who is claiming to be neither left or right and the left wing Podemos in Spain, just to mention a few. So we thought it would be the right time to explore the concept of elections and a myriad of issues entailed to it, especially with the upcoming Swedish election that will be held in September.

We wanted to look at elections in a wider spectrum and from different countries and cultures. So in this number of Utblick we hope you will learn about some of the elections which are taking place this year and some trends we are witnessing in the world right now. Such as the worrying lack of participation of the young generation in elections or the disconnect between society and politicians. This has brought to life alternatives like e-democracy initiatives such as DigidemLab.

This is not to undermine national election issues, such as the coming mexican election, which is believed to shake the country’s policies. As well as the need to critically review parliamentary and presidency laws that might be discriminatory, such as the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Or democratic retreats, like in Cambodia.  

So, in this issue we have compiled these and many more articles and topics that we hope you will enjoy.

You can check the magazine here.

Or grab a copy in different campuses, libraries and cafés around Gothenburg!

Pleasant reading!

Moa Persson and Ariadna Carrascosa

Utblick nr 4 2017 out now!

25189544_10203841689920222_1891558650_oPower is a complex concept. What is power, who has it and what are the consequences of power being exploited? None of these questions can be immediately and easily answered; they require careful analysis and critical thinking on the ever-changing rules of power. In this last issue of 2017, we try to shed some light on these faces of power. Some of the covered aspects are the power of discourses, the role of money, and the authoritarian state mechanisms of disciplining the masses. These are however only scratches on the surface, yet we hope they give some insights and trigger some thought about the role of power in a modern society.

So feel free to pick a copy of the magazine in a university campus or library, or read the online version here!

 

We wish you a pleasant read,

Axel and Mikael

Utblick nr 3 2017 out now!

Dreams and nightmares of politics is no new thing. Used as a rhetoric tool, as means of analysis and subject of comparison, utopias and dystopias has from time to time been an influential ingredient of public debate. Carrying hope and dreams of a better future, utopias also come with the risk of oppression – if the ends justify the means, hope might quickly turn into despair.

Utblick3_2017_fram2The third issue of Utblick 2017 examines these topics in greater detail. Covering subjects like (but not limited to) the state of contemporary politics, the role of social media, and the former colonial capital of Great Britain, we hope to provide some interesting reading for most of you. Pick up a copy of the magazine in a university campus or library nearby, or read it as PDF here.

 

Pleasant read,

Mikael and Axel

Utblick nr 2 2017 out now!

Utblick2_2017_framhelTime goes by and soon the spring semester will end. Dominated by the French elections, this spring has brought a lot of interesting matters of international policy. In this the second issue of Utblick 2017, we offer a mix of exciting topics, including but not limited to geopolitics in the Arctic, Islamic terrorism (and the practice of othering) and a few angles on capitalism. Read it online here – or pick up a copy of the magazine at Campus Haga or a library nearby, crash in a chair on a warm summer’s day and enjoy!

Pleasant read,

 

Mina and Axel

Utblick nr 1 2017 out now!

With a politically turbulent winter behind us, there has been no shortage of subjects to choose from when creating this first issue of Utblick 2017. Covering topics like the possible case of a Catalan state, the Dutch elections, automation in the global economy, and many more, we hope you will find some interesting reading in the International Machinery issue.

You can find tUtblick1_2017framsidaRätthe magazine in University of Gothenburg campuses, as well as in various libraries and cafés around town – and of course here on our website.

 

Pleasant read,

Mina and Axel, Editors-in-chief

New Issue of Utblick: (In)security

What is security? The field of Security Studies has various bids; some argue that it is a form of value that stands in proportion to an actor’s material well-being. Others claim that it is impossible to formulate a definition that satisfies every country, every culture, every people and every religion – in this view, security is a subjective concept defined by circumstances.

The matter is complicated even further when the topic is global security – different countries, cultures, peoples and religions have different ideas of what security is. While Americans may perceive US military presence in the Middle East as a reassurance of national security, the people living in that region may regard the very same thing as a cause of insecurity. In the same way, the individual goal of radicalization among Muslims may be to achieve individual social security. However, the result of that pursuit will inevitably endanger the security of others. Evidently, global security is an eternally multi-faced concept for which a single definition will never be enough.

The final issue of the year deals with some of the issues on the contemporary global security agenda, with the goal of providing a detailed and enlightening view of the problems facing our world today, and with the objective of shedding light upon conflicts that have ended up outside the public spotlight.

You can look for this issue of Utblick at coffee shops, libraries, museums, movie theatres and university faculties all across Göteborg, or read it online here.

New Issue of Utblick: Exit

In the aftermath of Great Britain’s surprising decision to leave the European Union, there has been no shortage of speculations about the consequences that such a departure will have. Emerging Euro-sceptical forces throughout Europe have unanimously approved of the result of the referendum, and have attempted to reinforce anti-EU sentiment in their respective countries, calling for their own referenda. It remains unclear, however, if Brexit will ignite a trend that leads to the demise of the union, or if it instead marks the turn of that very same trend.

Peoples and governments receding to the nation state is by no means exclusive for the European continent. It’s happening in every part of the world, and even if the different movements distinguish significantly from one another, there is at least one reoccurring critique – the denunciation of globalization. On the other side of the Atlantic, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and even Hillary Clinton, have all taken a critical stance against both the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade- and Investment Partnership (TTIP). In South America, market liberalization has been said to lead to exploitation of the continent’s underdevelopment, effectively cementing many countries in their current, underdeveloped state. In Asia, China has benefited greatly, and is currently breathing down the US’ neck as the world’s only superpower. And in the Middle East, Turkey is picking the raisins out of the globalization cake, utilizing the global market while attempting to steer clear of cultural change. Everything in the middle of the worst refugee crisis in decades, and an existential environmental crisis that requires intergovernmental cooperation more than anything.

This issue of Utblick offers discussions on the future of the European Union, in depth analyses on specific countries, and debates, both on the origin and progression of different forms of criticism against globalization, and on the character and effects of the process itself.

We wish you a pleasant read!

You can look for this issue of Utblick at coffee shops, libraries, museums, movie theatres and university faculties all across Göteborg, or read it online here.

Intercontinental exchange: missiles & learning in Canadian IR

800px-McGill_University_Montreal
“Students taking this course will be able to appreciate that innovations in weaponry and strategy of war have had a profound effect on the outcome of modern wars since history in the last century has taught us that triumph or downfall in battle has more often than not been determined by innovation in weaponry and combat strategy”

The point of view emphasized in the passage above is unusual as a part of a university course outline. Or, to be precise, it is unusual from a Swedish perspective. To deliberate on the different advantages of weaponry innovation and combat strategy seems miles away from the main focus in Swedish international relations studies. Not that military activity is a banned issue in Swedish universities, but that the emphasis is generally on how to reduce military hostility in general and not on debating the effects of different offensive moves.

I took this class, POLI 388, last semester as an exchange student in Montreal, Canada. I was deeply uncomfortable having to express my own opinions on how the raising threat from China should be confronted by the US. Would it be best to invest in increased arms to create deterrence? Or should “we” rely on strong allies and balance the power? Or perhaps we should focus on the national resources and growing industries in Africa and try to get an advantage? All the other course participants actively engaged in these considerations. I, on the other hand, just wanted to follow my instinct and shout out “I am not Henry Kissinger and this is not the 80s!”. It did not feel reasonable to have this conversation without any reflection and criticism about our starting point. The realist tradition of international relations studies was never questioned; other states were always portrayed as potential threats and military means was always a possible procedure.

At one point, our professor mentioned that it could be healthy to, citing his powerpoint, “try and step outside one’s own cultural perspective in order to embrace the possibility that non-Western cultures may exhibit different ways of thinking and acting”. He clearly admitted that there was a possibility that the world could be seen in another light. However, his main argument for doing this mental exercise was that it “could help reduce the criticism that strategic studies has traditionally been too Western-centric”.
I cannot say that the class was pointless. Week after week, I found myself taking part of these bizarre deliberations, because although the situation was absurd, it was also intriguing. No wonder the North American foreign policy is so offensive if this unreflective and dogmatic conception of the world is what is advocated in school.

The unique political history of the North American countries give us a hint about why the realist perspective is so normalized and unquestioned. In contrast to Sweden, both Canada and the US have been involved in several military conflicts during the 20th century. Besides the two major world wars, the nations have been engaged in many foreign military operations and interventions, and they have also been the targets of other states’ hostile threats, particularly during the cold war. The military has traditionally received huge financial resources and foreign affairs have always been a political key issue. Being the hegemon of the world, the US, with Canada as its ally, sets the political, military and scientific agenda and by questioning the ideas in any of these spheres, you question the world order.

In conclusion, this course actually taught me something profound about international relations by broadening my understanding of different political traditions and cultures. Nevertheless, my own conception of the world has not changed. I still feel alienated from the perspective proclaimed in the course outline and I am still not convinced of the advantages of being able to tell the differences between intercontinental ballistic missiles and multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles.

Text by Lina Englund
Photo by laslovarga

The realities of adventure



The Society of Foreign Affairs’ magazine, Utblick, mostly features serious, thought-provoking articles about political struggles, ideas and revolutions – anything officially “foreign affairs” related. While this interests me a great deal, I also enjoy the more individual side of international relations. Perhaps some of you have had the experience of living abroad for a prolonged while. If so, then I hope you enjoyed yourself and look back on it with fond memories. As for me, I feel that my triple exchange student experience has given me invaluable insights that probably will keep influencing my life for a long time. Obama’s policy decisions and Kim Jong-Un’s antics might make it to newspaper headlines but for me these personal experiences abroad are really how international affairs come into play in our daily lives. So let’s get personal at the end of this year, and allow me to share some of these insights with you! (Every exchange experience is different though, and one should be careful with broad cultural assumptions – so consider this just one perspective: that of a Belgian girl who is no expert, but breathes restlessness whenever she has stayed in one place for too long.)

FOTO 1_Arpingstone_CC

First, the concrete exchange facts! One year in a small, dry, northeastern Thai town near the Mekong river and the Laotian border, communication with smiles and little more took place, to shape a loving bond with three host sisters. Next; half a year on the west coast of Japan in a city that specializes in tea with gold-leaf flakes floating in it. Living in a traditional Japanese house, I once crashed through a paper sliding door while attempting to elegantly enter my tatami-mat bedroom. Finally; two years here at seventy-five degrees north, eleven degrees east – Gothenburg.

What I always find remarkable and amusing when abroad, is the speed with which you can adapt to foreign ways that struck as utterly baffling when you first arrived. In Thailand, I was convinced I would die every time I crossed the street with my friends. They had a way of blindly throwing their bodies into traffic, zigzagging through cars with nerve-wracking calm while I covered my eyes and prayed to the gods. Only a few months later though, I was equally traffic-suicidal and convinced that those same gods would shape a divine path for me to reach the other side of the street – never mind the bus that passed within inches of me! Here in Sweden, the opposite thing happened. I was initially surprised at how often drivers stop gallantly for pedestrians crossing the street. Now though, I catch myself casting angry looks at those daring not to stop, muttering vile things and almost shaking my fist at them when they drive on.

FOTO 2_Miki Yoshihito_CC

My wardrobe also seems to change imperceptibly to adapt itself to the country I’m staying in. During my first days in Tokyo, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I noticed The. Shortest. Skirts. You. Have. Ever. Seen. Sometimes I even wondered if they were skirts at all or rather fancy belts with pink ruffles! No one is immune to Japanese fashion though, and soon I had my own lovely pair – with rhinestones and a satin bow! (The secret, I discovered, was that the shortest skirts have hotpants attached underneath – to respect the owner’s modesty, I happily assume. I still don’t dare to wear it back home, though.) Here in Sweden too, some of my Belgian fashion-rules have been flushed down the drain. Wearing sneakers underneath a dress, a Michelin-man style down jacket, and a winter hat that makes your face look like an egg? You must be kidding, right? Enter the awesomely practical Swedish mentality, which throws silly fashion concerns to the wind when faced with Nordic temperatures and distances to be covered briskly! I’m still not sure whether I should snigger from the sidelines or admire your good common sense. But I am learning, that’s for sure.

FOTO 3_Christ 73_ Wikimedia Commons

No matter how easily you adapt to certain outward things, there are always some issues that continue to puzzle and even sadden me. Like Japanese public transport. That can get insanely crowded, so you would expect people to throw themselves at the last available seat and gladly sit down besides whoever is sitting there. However, I noticed that a whole bus would sometimes collectively regard one seat as the “outcast” seat and people would mysteriously refuse to sit down next to the poor student beside it, regardless of who this was. As if standing with your nose pressed into someone’s armpit is still preferable to sitting on the doomed-seat-of-the-day! I continue to wonder why this occurred: perhaps a herd-mentality, if everyone follows the others’ choice of not sitting there? A collective decision to reject and dislike the lone student? An unwritten need for an emergency seat in case somebody faints? I never found out.

FOTO 4_Tim Boyd_CC

A similar thing confuses me here in Göteborg: social rules. Back home, I think we have a back-and-forth way of getting to know people: I invite you, you invite me, and then we keep repeating this pattern and become better friends through our fika dates. Never taking initiative would thus be code for: “Dear person, I think you’re kind of annoying and would love for you to get my hint that I do not want to hang out with you, ever again. Only I’m too polite to say it.” Here though, it almost never seems to happen that a Swedish acquaintance proposes something first. Yeah, I see what you’re thinking: they are hinting! Well, I feared so too, and asked these Swedes in a little voice whether they would like me to leave them in peace. But they appeared surprised, said they’re having a good time and don’t know what I mean. Very strange! One thing is for sure though: the social struggle has multiplied my gratitude exponentially for the people I have gotten to know so far here, and for their initiative when they propose something out of the blue.

Less confusing but more exasperating, is the issue of language for me – and the way parts of my personality tend to get hidden when I end up in a foreign language environment. No matter how hard you try and study, to achieve a near-native level of fluency is no easy feat. Once you get to the point where you can happily converse with the locals, you can still be painfully reminded that you are not quite there yet. I cannot begin to count the times this happened to me in Japan, even though my major at university was Japanese. One night in the local public baths, a tiny, wrinkled Japanese grandma told me a long-winded story with great enthusiasm. I think I understood about 20% of what she tried to say, so all I could do was smile politely and hand her the soap. It made me feel detached and surreal, but mostly frustrated and sad, since it seemed my talkative and chat-happy nature had evaporated in the steam above our hot tub… Here in Sweden too, where I feel I can converse reasonably well in Swedish, it often takes me hours to get to the punch line of a story, making me despair that a loss of language also seems to entail a loss of wit, character and charm. Without further verbal progress, I feel so stuck in the moderately-interesting-people zone, helpless without tools to get me to the level of deliciously ambiguous puns or flirty humor. Abroad, I am a more quiet self, defeated by language even before I open my mouth.

So living abroad is sometimes unsettling, as part of who I am seems to get lost along the way, like luggage to be reclaimed. At the same time, when abroad, the physical distance has shown a priceless thing: who my true friends are. The people you thought were going to call you weekly, can sadly drop off the radar fast – but I have been surprised over and over by the kindness of friends I normally only seldom saw back home. Once, I got a surprise delivered in Thailand, from a girl whom I didn’t expect would send me anything. It was a package wrapped in sky-blue paper, with golden stars pasted on the inside. The contents included a wonderful letter, my favorite Dinosaur biscuits, marzipan, and a box of tampons… because my friend had heard how impossible it was to get a hold of those in rural Thailand. Her thoughtfulness and love actually made me cry from sheer gratitude. When someone sends you tampons halfway across the world, you know they are a keeper.

For me, this surprising discovery of solid friendship is worth the endless language battles of living abroad. That, and the reckless freedom that comes from being in a place where no one knows you yet – proudly singing karaoke (off key!) at the top of your voice in a bar in Japan, especially incomprehensible Korean pop songs. Going to the Swedish supermarket with mad, unkempt hair, no make-up and your best hangover face. And wearing the traditional Thai New Year’s outfit without a care in the world: a lurid shirt with floral print, straw hat, and the coolest pair of sunglasses you have ever seen. Hooray for the self you become when living abroad!

FOTO 6_own photo

Text: Eva Corijn

Photos:

Arpingstone, Miki Yoshihito, Christ 73 Wikimedia, Tim Boyd, Kristofferb, Corijn