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Mon, Apr 15


Ronald Tutor Campus Center Rms. 350-352


USC-UNESCO Journal for Global Humanities, Science & Ethical Inquiry 2018-19 research fellows presentations with a Q&A to follow.

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Time & Location

Apr 15, 2019, 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Ronald Tutor Campus Center Rms. 350-352, 3607 Trousdale Pkwy, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA

About the event

USC-UNESCO Journal for Global Humanities, Science & Ethical Inquiry 2018-19 research fellows presentations with a Q&A to follow.


12:00pm-12:15pm: Opening Remarks by Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Horwitz

12:15pm-1:20pm: Presentations

Anushka Sapra:

The Ethical Dilemma of Decision Making: Ethical Leadership, National Security and the Use and Abuse of Power

There are some decisions taken by world leaders that stand out as historical milestones. They were decisions that were unbelievably hard to make and that, in theory, had multiple alternatives to them. These decisions shook entire communities and nations to their core. One such decision was taken by the former Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, in 1984. The decision was Operation Blue Star and the outcome affected a religious community and the entire country so deeply that remnants of it are still present today. I hope to bring light to this story, largely untold to the Western world, to illustrate an ethical paradox. This story demonstrates just how hard it can be to make a decision that can have consequences one could never hope to foresee at the time. It highlights the fact that while theoretically multiple alternatives exist, there is a myriad of complications one has to navigate before concluding that the number of actual viable solutions and options is extremely few. Applying the levels of analysis framework to Operation Blue Star demonstrates the significance of individual psychology and personality on decision making. Its interaction with ethics and morality creates a unique forum for the eventual actions to play out.

Virginia Bullington:

The Presence of the Past: Memory and Narratives of Sexual Violence of the Nanjing Massacre

In this paper what I hope to explore through a feminist lens is not only the importance of what a culture remembers, but how a culture remembers it, and what we can glean from the language used to describe instances of sexual violence in atrocity. Through my analysis of testimony from witnesses of the Nanjing Massacre, and comparison of these testimony to those of other genocides, I have found that while the Nanjing Massacre at once has been a point of shame for China, it has also allowed China to develop an identity of victim in comparison to Japan’s imperialistic endeavours. Continued Japanese denial exacerbates this conflict, and I would argue, more firmly roots this event as a key aspect of China’s history and how it views itself. Furthermore, before the Marriage Act of 1950, women in China were not viewed as equal citizens under the law. Because the survivors grew up with this as their reality, many are still cautious and feel humiliated in describing the sexual violence that they or a loved one experienced. I drew these conclusions based on my analysis of testimony, while also keeping in mind my own biases as a non-Mandarin speaking individual, and the way that the interviews were conducted could influence them, as they were collected by a young man from the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall.

Sama Shah:

Unraveling Iraq: The Effects of the 1990-2003 UN Sanctions Regime on the Hussein Government and Iraqi Civilians

I was drawn to the topic of Iraq under the 1990 – 2003 sanctions regime because it lay at the intersection of my two fields of study: Political Science and the Middle East. I had taken a course previously about humanitarian intervention in the event of conflict, and began grappling with the recurring issue of what the international community should do then it wants to punish a leader for violating international law but does not want to cause harm to the offending nation’s civilian population. The case of Iraq drew my interest both because I was familiar with the political landscape of the country due to my coursework in the Middle East Studies department and because it has been cited often as an example of the devastating effects comprehensive economic sanctions can have on a nation. Ultimately, through the journey of conducting research for and writing this paper, I learned a great deal about the process through which the UN Security Council outlines and imposes the terms of sanctions, the ways in which sanctions contribute to institutional decline, and authoritarian resilience in the face of international condemnation and punishment. I was also able to discuss my paper with Prof. Douglas Becker of USC’s School of International Relations. Together we explored the larger question of whether the effects of sanctions match the purposes they were implemented to achieve, and, if they do not, what alternatives exist. Overall, this question of alternatives is one I was only able to explore briefly in my current paper; however, it remains a question I hope to pursue further in order to find avenues through which international bodies can correct the actions of autocrats while simultaneously upholding the dignity and human rights of the people living under oppressive conditions.

Mia Poynor:

Moving Towards Human Rights in the Voluntourism Industry

This paper discusses the current state of voluntourism discourse and what could be done to orient the industry towards a more human rights perspective. Background on voluntourism is provided and an overview of the varying opinions of the industry are discussed. Lastly, the integration of human rights in voluntourism is attempted.

Kurtis Weatherford:

From Xenia to Xenophobia: Evolving Moral Foundations of Asylum in Greece

The field of refugee studies is lacking in terms of historical analysis. Without such a perspective, the status quo is often taken as given, immutable, or even natural. One aspect of the field where this status-quo bias can become counterproductive is the moral justification of the asylum practice. Moral psychology tells us that different moral foundations can be used to justify the same behavior, and that some foundations are more convincing than others to certain people. If advocates wish to make effective moral arguments in favor of a coherent and humane asylum regime, they should maximize the number of moral arguments at their disposal. This paper attempts to provide additional moral foundations for asylum through a historical analysis of the practice in Greece, a country for which displacement has almost always been a salient issue. This analysis, contrasted with contemporary asylum politics in the country, provides insights into the origins of and potential replacements for the current moral boundaries of asylum politics both in Greece and beyond.

1:20-1:40: Lunch break

Brooke Helstrom:

A Mixed Blessing: Colonialist Legacies and the Natural Resource Curse Theory in Botswana and Angola

A country’s level of natural resource endowment is often related to it’s levels of political and economic growth. According to natural resource curse theory, countries with abundant natural resources tend to grow less rapidly and are more conflict-prone than countries with resource-scarce economies. Most academic literature on the resource curse concludes that good governance determines the extent that resource abundance contributes to growth. Through examination of political and economic factors, one can determine whether natural resource abundance will be a blessing or a curse for a specific country. I will argue that researchers must examine factors beyond political and economic climate when labeling a country as either resource-blessed or resource-cursed. Because of Botswana’s large diamond endowment and relative stable democracy, researchers have dubbed the country as an exception to the resource curse. On the other hand, Angola’s diamond and oil endowment, coupled with it’s conflict ridden past, have led researchers to dub the country as resource-cursed. The difference between Angola’s and Botswana’s resource management is also due to their colonial pasts. The difference in colonization tactics by Portugal in Angola and Britain in Botswana not only helped shape each country’s post-independent state, but directly influenced each country’s natural resource wealth management.

Emily Wulf:

God Dam It: International Responses to Water Weaponization during the Iraqi Civil War

Vagueness in international agreements regarding water in armed conflict has left states unsure of how or if to involve themselves. Environmental emergencies-- the current term that has circulated in international documents that interprets natural disasters, climate change, water weaponization, etc.-- must be distinguished: environmental emergencies that occur naturally versus the direct use of environmental emergencies as a mechanism for war. This separation is imperative because there is an increased militarization of water infrastructure, displayed through the Islamic State’s military strategies utilizing dams, yet no precise design on how to address mass dangers to civilians that are not directly inflicted by a human or weapon. The latter concept should be explicitly included in an international agreement such as the Responsibility to Protect doctrine that delineates appropriate prevention and intervention requisites.

Catherine Knox:

Implementing Ethics in Transboundary Water Management

As climate change and population growth around the world threaten water supplies, it will be necessary to have sustainable, flexible, and just agreements for the management of transboundary waters. While many river basins are currently managed cooperatively by riparian states, nearly two-thirds of transboundary basins lack international governance agreements. Consequently, they are inefficiently managed. This paper will argue that basing water management agreements and institutions on the ethical principles of autonomy, justice, beneficence, and non-maleficence will lead to long-lasting and fair strategies for the management of transboundary water. Both the Nile and Mekong Rivers will be presented as case studies for how current methods of water governance vary and the impacts those institutions have on the management of each river. This paper will look at opportunities to improve these agreements and the rising threat of hydropower development on cooperation between states along either river. Following the discussion on both rivers, this paper will present a simple framework for how these principles can be incorporated into diplomatic discussions surrounding binding agreements for transboundary water management and the implications that these ethical principles could have on implementation of new integrated water management technologies in transboundary river basins.

Aarohi Mahableshwarkar:

Mitigating Opioid Crises in the United States, India, and Greece: A Comparative Case Study of Government Policies

Opioid addiction crises can be caused and resolved by two categories of drivers and solutions: demand-side, such as economic downturn and de-addiction treatment, and supply-side, which includes new forms of opioids and law enforcement. The United States, India, and Greece have all experienced opioid addiction crises in the last decade with the common demand-side contributing factor of economic downturn. In the case of the United States, over-prescription of opioids gave rise to a large addiction crisis which in turn drove up heroin use. These demand-side factors were exacerbated by economic downturn and the influx of fentanyl to cause an addiction and overdose epidemic. While supply-side policies have been in place for decades, the epidemic has only begun to stabilize as the government has instituted stronger demand-side policies. In India, increased heroin trafficking from Afghanistan and economic downturn have contributed to an increasingly fatal epidemic in the northern states of Punjab and Kashmir. Current government efforts have focused on supply-side policies and yet the crisis has only worsened. In both the United States and India, maintenance of ineffective policies would be unethical and therefore policy changes ought to be made. Finally, in Greece, the 2009 financial crisis and Greece’s role in various smuggling routes precipitated a rise in heroin abuse. However, the presence and augmentation of strong demand-side policies mitigated the human cost of the epidemic and was therefore ethical. Ultimately, the outcomes of these three cases suggests that demand-side policies are ultimately more effective in combating opioid addiction crises even when crises have strong supply-side causal factors. Further, this efficacy of demand-side policy results in reduced human suffering and hence is the more ethical policy choice.

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