Please, Please Help


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It’s been a while since I’ve written. But please take ten minutes and read this.

First and foremost, I am asking for a favor. A family I greatly respect and who shaped me into the person I am today has been faced with a horrible tragedy. If you are able, I would greatly, greatly appreciate it if you would donate to this GoFundMe cause.

Three members of the family (the mother, younger sister, and niece) were instantly killed in an automobile accident and a fourth (another sister and the mother of the niece) is in critical condition. In the coming weeks, months, and years the surviving siblings, children, and grandchildren will have to bury three people they love and help another recover from the worst thing a mother can experience.

I have written about my experiences in high school and college in Oklahoma before and I always highlight the negative things I went through, but the Alvarado family was a gleaming exception during those years.

Beginning in my 10th grade year, before I could even drive, one of the brothers became one of my best friends. He and his family had a huge impact on my life and I will never be able to repay them for the kindness, hospitality, and friendship they provided. I went to high school with three of the siblings and spent many afternoons and evenings at their house during the early part of my time in high school. Even after high school, when I left Oklahoma, I attempted to remain in touch with them (poorly so, on my part).

I never really ever felt like I fit in in Oklahoma and always had a hard time making friends, but the Alvarado’s embraced me and always made me feel welcome. From going on my first date ever, to learning to play pool and La Loteria, to learning about Vicente Fernandez and Pedro Infante, hearing stories about their time working in the fields in Minnesota, high school parties and car wrecks, barbecues and float trips, hospital visits and joy rides around Tulsa blaring La Camisa Negra and Baby Bash, beer pong and smoking my first cigarette, Pocos Pero Locos and trays of McDonalds fries, and too many more memories to count. My relationship with this family impacted every part of the person I have become academically, politically, socially, emotionally…

If you know me at all, you know my love and appreciation for the history and culture of Mexican and Chicano people runs deep and it all began with this family over twelve years ago. They helped me when I was new to a small rural town, when I was lonely and struggling to fit in, when I felt there was no way to relate to the people surrounding me, when my dad was in Iraq and my mom and I were in a new place alone. They made me feel like I was part of something and taught me so many things that I can’t adequately express in a few paragraphs.

This is not meant to be a verbose story about my experience, but rather I want to express, as clearly as possible, how incredibly appreciative I am of the relationship I had with this family during my formative years and how your donations could really help them through this time.

I can never repay them for what I’ve gained through knowing them, but I would appreciate any help you can provide.

Please, please donate and share this campaign

Rest In Peace

Please donate and share:

13 Reasons Why: Reality or Glorification?


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I am an avid Netflix binge-watcher and a couple of weeks ago after freshly cleaning out my queue I was looking for something else to watch. Netflix suggested (and I chose) 13 Reasons Why. I haven’t read the book, I didn’t know it was a hit, I had absolutely no preconceived notions or prior information about anything to do with the story. The first episode caught me off guard and I thought perhaps I was too old to enjoy the story, but then I was hooked. I binged it over a two or three day period and absolutely loved it. Loved it in a dark, cathartic, ripping-the-band-aid off way. I posted on Facebook about it and several friends (of various demographics) agreed that they loved it or planned on watching it, and I saw a few articles about school districts suggesting parents and students watch it together. I thought: cool, this was a realistic show and I hope people take some lessons from it and that was that.

Then I started reading posts about people who HATED the show. A friend posted a status about the fact she would never finish it because it glorified suicide. A Catholic magazine I follow posted an article with a warning from clergy stating that people shouldn’t allow their kids to watch it because it glorified suicide. Other viewers and critics said they thought the show was over-dramatic and that high school really isn’t that bad. And I continued to see posts stating the show portrays suicide positively. I thought about it at length and realized it connects to something my last post touched on: the idea that talking about or portraying something in pop-culture dediabolisizes or normalizes it. I talked about my disagreement with this idea in the political arena, but it fits here too.


If you haven’t watched the show or don’t plan to, this might be helpful.

So, I’ll get right to it. I don’t think this show normalizes, glorifies, dediabolisizes, or portrays suicide positively.

I understand why people may think the show portrays suicide as a solution (especially if they didn’t watch the entire series) because in fact, Hannah’s peers only understand how their actions impacted her after she kills herself and they choose to listen to the tapes she leaves behind. But the show does not portray suicide as a solution to Hannah’s problems.

The show never shows that Hannah killing herself or recording the tapes has any effect on she and Jessica’s rapist. Their rapist never hears her tapes. He is not held accountable for his crimes. Her death does not fix Jessica’s pain. Her parents financial problems are not fixed-in fact, her death makes them worse. Her death and her reasons for killing herself do not solve any of the problems she used to justify killing herself. Her death leads directly to another student being shot in the head (we don’t know the details surrounding that situation, yet). Her death allowed her to escape her circumstances as all death does, but the producers and author never even elude to the fact that suicide “fixes” anything. *Her tape to Clay does contribute to him being nice to Skye, buy his tape clearly states he was always nice to Hannah too.

The show also certainlyyy did not portray suicide as the easy way out. If we are to believe the tapes, this was far from an easy choice for Hannah. It took thirteen separate encounters for her to decide to do it. She didn’t get knocked down in the hall one day and decide, “Welp, imma slit my wrists tonight”. Her rape wasn’t even enough to make her kill herself.  She tried-12 times-to move on, to ignore, to make new friends and 13 times her efforts were met with yet another incident. The show does not portray suicide as an easy decision.

I’ve also seen posts stating that the tapes were a way to get revenge. I don’t see it that way at all. She thoroughly and diligently explains how each interaction with these 13 people made her feel. She got revenge in a passive way, of course. Those people will have to live with the knowledge of how their actions (even if they weren’t violent or mean) led to the death of someone, which is definitely some serious baggage to carry around. She uses the tapes as a way to explain why she did what she did, not as a way to seek revenge. Clay seeks revenge on her behalf, but her suicide is portrayed as an escape not as vengeance. The whole point is that she made the tapes so that people would listen to them and understand how their actions contributed to her suicide. It shows that children (and all people, really) just want to be listened to. She could have written notes. She could have left nothing behind. The emphasis is on the tapes for a reason and that reason isn’t to convince victims to kill themselves.

Also, the show explains that a HUGE part of Hannah’s suicide was caused by her OWN actions, not her victimization. Not only does it show that she ultimately chose to end her life, but two or three of the tapes (maybe more, I can’t remember) center around the fact that she did something wrong. She watched her friend be raped and did nothing. Her PTSD caused her to reject Clay and in turn made her blame herself for hurting him. The show made her an active participant in her downfall. While ultimately she was a victim, it did not paint her as someone who just had some bad stuff happen to them and decided to get revenge. If she was seeking vengeance, she was seeking it against herself as well as her peers.

Lastly but most importantly for my defense of the show, throughout the show the counselor and his lack of professionalism are emphasized time and time again. His character’s conscience is burdened from the start because he knows he did not act correctly to prevent Hannah’s death. By the end, we know that Hannah asked for professional help before killing herself! She did the right thing! She did what we are all taught to do! She asked for help. She went to a professional. She dropped her pride and fear and went to an adult. After trying 12 other times to avoid situations, to avoid being antagonized, to ignore her tormentors, to make new friends, to find love, to have fun, to express her pain through art (poetry), to anonymously ask for help (that letter in class), to change her attitude, she asked an adult for help. And that adult could not or would not or did not know how to help so then she took her life.

Bullying is a problem. Sexual assault is a problem. Yes, high school (and college and graduate school and the workplace) is that bad. People are that mean. Bullying often isn’t a singular event. People’s actions impact other’s in ways they never realize. Some children (and adults) kill themselves after they are bullied. This show portrays that in an in-your-face kind of way. Yes, it isn’t perfect. No, you shouldn’t watch it if self harm causes you to act out (although there are trigger warnings for the episode in which she kills herself, so perhaps you could just skip that one). Yes, Bryce avoiding any consequences is problematic. Yes, not addressing mental health is problematic. Yes, it’s painful to watch. I could go on. But if I listed all of the problems this show has, the glorification of suicide would not be one.


European and U.S. Populisms: Gender, Economy, and Society.


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Let’s talk about European and U.S. populisms, shall we? Maybe you read my previous post about how one could equate Fascism and Communism as they relate to populism. Well, on Friday I went to a conference at NYU titled, “The French National Front and Beyond: A Global Populist Movement?” It was SO interesting. I was able to confirm several things I understand about populism, come up with some new questions, and widen my understanding of Right-wing political movements in both the United States and Europe. Unfortunately, I didn’t stay for the keynote speech because I arrived when the conference started and couldn’t stay until the evening, but the two panels I listened to,“Sexual Politics” and “Populism from Below: Ethnographers at Work”, were both amazing.


DISCLAIMER: I have complex opinions (some lengthy and mature in their development, others new and ever changing) regarding topics each panelist spoke about. I am not prepared to write each of them out in this post. When I write about my disagreement with a panelist it does not mean that I agree with the alternative viewpoint, it only means that I don’t agree with their specific interpretation in the context of their presentation. If I write something that offends or confuses you, ask me to clarify what I mean and I will gladly do so!

The first panel was about Sexual Politics and three presenters spoke about their work: Kathleen M. Blee, Anika Keinz, and Cornelia Moser. Kathleen spoke about Right-wing movements in the United States as they relate to gender. Kathleen touched on something that I agreed with: the Right isn’t necessarily ignorant, but they use a different strategy of ideological bundling than the Left. Ethno-nationalism, masculinity, hierarchy, and anti-globalism are each ways the Right in the United States is able to appeal to different ideological bundles people hold. This directly confirmed my idea that one’s hierarchy of social identities determines if they will vote Left or Right. I did disagree with one assertion she seemed to make which was that politicians who develop or articulate their stances issue by issue rather than as a complete ideology are opportunistic. I am of the opinion that anyone (politician or not) can hold opposing views on different things without being a hypocrite or an opportunist so I would have liked to have heard more about her ideas on that.

Cornelia spoke mainly about gender and the Right in France. I liked all of the presenters, but two points in Cornelia’s presentation struck me. She identified the Right as “familialist”. That is, promoting ideologies that emphasize families in tandem with oppressive sexual and gender norms. Had this been used solely as an adjective to describe the way the Right wishes to organize society, I may have agreed, but it wasn’t. I understand that it refers to the way in which a group hopes society organizes itself-that is in a familial structure-but the definition of a family has expanded considerably over the years. With the progressive changes in domestic partnership and adoption law (especially in France), the traditional husband and wife with two children is no longer the only form families take. What I mean to say is that familial organization of society is not as narrow as it once was and doesn’t not have to denote “oppressive sexual and gender norms”. Even historically, a familial organization of society has not always meant organizing around a nuclear family. I also do not know what one who is against familialist parties or societal organization would propose as an alternative. Cornelia mentioned that the Right is also anti-individualistic in some ways, so I am again curious what the alternative is, if anti-individualism and familial organization of society are both negative. Cornelia also spoke about something that was my biggest objection of the 6 presenters: “dediabolization” or the idea that “making stances discussable” makes them less negative. She specifically mentioned this regarding neo-nazi stances. I wish I could have asked her to explain what she meant more clearly but I vehemently disagree that talking about an idea or stance makes it less evil or negative.

Anika spoke about the politicization of gender/sexuality in Germany. Her presentation was very interesting and she spoke about a topic that was the focus of many of my classes at NYU: othering. She specifically talked about German politicians bringing lesbian and gay citizens (all presenters were clear that politicians do not recognize TQIA* in Europe) into their constituencies in order to make Muslims the new, more other, other. She and Anika both explained homo-nationalism and gay-imperialism as ways in which the West is reinforcing the Orient-Occident colonial (and pre-colonial) divide in a neo-racist way. I’ve often thought about this topic, so I was glad that these two presenters discussed it and provided examples. That being said, I would love to hear more about gay-imperialism because it seems to be a poor way of describing the permeations of Western sexual culture outside of the West. I don’t agree with cultural imperialism (hence my firm belief in regionalism), but where is the line to be drawn? Speaking of gay-imperialism between the Occident and Orient seems to imply that there is a singular cultural idea about sexuality in the Occident, which is being forced onto the Orient . When, in fact, as each of these presenters showed, cultural ideas about sexuality and gender in the West are very different. It was also mentioned that many decolonial governments preserved sexist and homophobic legal systems, which in itself seems to contradict the idea of a contemporary gay-imperialism in many ways. Who constitutes a cultural group? Should all cultures be preserved and protected from ideological imperialism? Which cultures are to be made to embrace contemporary, progressive ideas of gender and sexuality? When is ideological imperialism “liberation” and when is it imperialism? Why? Anika also presented the Right on a spectrum, which I also thought was quite accurate and fitting (right conservative-right populist-right extremist). This panel was the most eye-opening and definitely sparked my curiosity and need for more research. If you have thoughts on these topics or want to recommend literature, feel free to drop a comment below and we will discuss!

The second panel and my personal favorite featured Don Kalb, Christele Marchand-Lagier, and Rachel Meade. Don spoke about the Right as it relates to workers in Poland and race in Hungary. Rachel spoke about populisms on the Left and Right in Michigan, and Christele explained the intricacies of the social positions and views held by voters for the French National Front-the leading Right-wing party in France. Rachel’s presentation was an explanation of her field work in Traverse City, Michigan. She spent 4 months with an Occupy group, a group of Bernie Sanders supporters, and a 912 group. She explained that both the Left and Right populist groups situated themselves against the party establishment, felt their values were being undervalued, and distrusted the media. Her research also echoed something similar to Christele’s: there was a clear disconnect between people’s day-to-day life, their online persona, and their voting identity, especially among those on the Right. She explained the similarities and differences between populism on the Left and Right in each of these cases and also relayed her personal experiences as a researcher. She also focuses on Argentina and I was quite sad that she didn’t talk more about her work there because I have done some research about clientelism in Latin America as well as Italian Fascism in Argentina so I would have loved to have known more about populism there (she did explain that Argentina presents a perfect example of historical populism on the Left with Peronistas, while contemporary Leftists in Argentina reject the populist label).

Don spoke in-depth about class and labor-share as it relates to voter turnout and the way people vote. He focused on the working poor and how the Right was able to capture their vote. His was the most historical of the 6 and he also explained the evolution of Left-wing Catholic, Trotskyist voters in post 1989-Poland. I was intrigued by this aspect of Polish labor history and will definitely be looking into it more. He also introduced an amazing idea that I felt was a great way of distinguishing populisms on the Left and Right. He characterizes populism on the Left as binary: “the people” against the elite with equality as their main goal and populism on the Right as tripartite: “the people” against the elite and against the undeserving classes in the promotion of a new elite made of the “deserving classes”. While I don’t necessarily agree completely, I do think this is a productive and helpful way to distinguish populisms. He also threw out an alarming statistic about the working poor and Roma in Hungary: many families in each group survive on 200 Euros ($212) a month, which I think is absolutely insane. He mentioned several other things including geography, nationalized welfare and public schooling (would love to see how it relates to the formation of French nationalism and public education—see The New Regime: Transformations of the French Civic Order, 1789-1820s by Isser Woloch) as they relate to the MagyarRoma relationship in Hungary.


Christele interviewed people in two southern French departments over many years and asked why they voted why they voted. She has also done extensive exit polling. She explained that the French National Front attracts a diversity of voters that often do not know or may not even agree with the party platform, but that feel they are choosing the best candidate out of many bad candidates…She explained that one’s interpersonal, social, and economic relationships to society and how they change over time (Dan also made a point to explain how one’s class identity changes over time and therefore often causes a change in voting) are the biggest factors in determining how a person votes. She also made a point to dispel the notion that any party speaks for the “silent” citizens or those that “don’t have a voice” because as she said, silent citizens or citizens who aren’t represented do not vote. I thought that was a great point. Another point that I agreed with and was glad to see her research support is that people’s votes do not necessarily translate to agreement. I thought this also played into one thing that Kathleen brought up which was the erasure of gender as a factor for the 53% of Caucasian women who voted for the Right in our most recent election. Christele also spoke about geographic differences in voting, as did Don, which I am also very much interested in.

I liked that each panel had a presenter who showed how populism in the United States both aligns with and differs from European populism. I would have liked for any of them to relate their work to regionalism and Euroscepticism (one of the audience members asked about this but they ran out of time). It delighted me that most presenters agreed that populism was not a manifestation of only the Right or only the Left and that it can emerge from any political ideology. I was also happy to see presenters from different fields presenting their research (historians were under-represented though) and it was especially good that there were people who had done fieldwork on their topic. Historians don’t have the luxury of being able to prove things that aren’t available in primary or secondary documents (except oral historians), so it was great to see research that was based on living people. Christele focused on something I am most interested in: what makes people vote the way they do. She is a political sociologist; she said that it is an underrepresented field of Political Science and that there is only 1 other Ph.D. in France working on anything remotely similar to what she focuses on. I wonder if there are any political sociologists in Italy studying Lega Nord voters or secessionists in the south? What about the political sociology of members of organized crime syndicates? The political sociology of voters in the Southern U.S. or Hawaii? I could do it! Anyway, this was an amazing conference and I hope that I am able to attend other similar events in the future. I think next up will be another lecture at Columbia about Italian Renaissance drawing so come back soon!


Settis Lecture

If you’re near Columbia on the 20th, you should check it out!


Check Out My New Online Store!


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Hey! So, you guys know that I love to travel and take pictures. In the past couple of years, I’ve been to Italy, Florida, and Israel and taken literally thousands of pictures on my trips.

Well, I just discovered and would love for you to check it out.

I am selling custom-printed items. Each series uses a unique, limited-edition pattern I created based on the many photographs I’ve taken during my travels. Look below for a sample of my work and if you see anything that catches your eye or you think someone might like, check out my store and SHARE this post.

Don’t forget, Easter and Mother’s Day are right around the corner.




phone/iPad/laptop cases

travel mugs

home accessories

and several other things!

Please be sure to save the link to my store and check back regularly for new products featuring unique prints and eye-popping patterns.

Contemporary Lessons from La Serenissima’s Eastern Borders


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First, Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I hope you guy have a lovely day with someone you love and if not, drink some wine and eat some food and it’ll feel the same! 🙂

Second, if you want to work with me, I’ve added a new contact page to my blog with links to my CV and resume. Check it out and let’s collaborate!

Anyway, last night I went to another lecture (read about the first one here) at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies at Columbia. This one consisted of 4 speakers who talked about various topics including architecture, music, economy, and religion as it related to the Venetocracy or period of Venetian rule in what is today modern Greece and Eastern Europe. East of Venice: La Serenissima as seen from its eastern frontiers showcased scholarship from Patricia Fortini Brown, Larry Wolff, Molly Greene, and Daphne Lappa.img_3170

Patricia Fortini Brown spoke about policies and ideas that influenced Venetian defensive architecture in its colonies. This presentation was fascinating because while I have obviously seen copious amounts of Venetian architecture in my travels, one seldom things about the civic ideals which influenced it (at least I don’t). Brown points to the idea of Munire et Onare or the dual concept of protection and ornamentation. She also related her work to scholarship presented in Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference and The Kings Two Bodies. She mentioned that Venice governed in its eastern (SN: I ALWAYS WANT TO CAPITALIZE DIRECTIONS) colonies by using local elites as middlemen between the Venetian state and the local population. This was a common practice for all successful empires, including Venice. She also explained that the ornamentation of defensive structures was often tripartite: it featured the Doge, St. Mark, and God the Father and could either be directed inward or outward-conveying different ideas of civic identity in each case.


The crowned lion and archways were mentioned in her presentation as well.

Gates and fortresses were the most commonly built structures in the colonies and they focused on points of egress and ingress. A few interesting things I learned from this presentation: the longest continuous siege in history occurred between Venice and the Ottomans (21 years), Corfu remained a Venetian colony until the Republic itself collapsed in 1797 (knew about this but forgot), and in 1567 Venice finished building an 11-point star fortress with each point being named after a noble family.


The second speaker was Larry Wolff. His presentation covered the presence of Ottoman subjects in Venetian and European opera, as subjects of both tragedy and comedy. He presented samples of the music which was a really nice touch, but the presentation seemed rushed. He did introduce a fascinating concept: the triplex confinium or the axis between Venice, Austria, and the Ottoman empire. This was especially interesting to me because a large part of my research focused on the cultural influence of Viennese nobility on Venetian economic patterns. I am ignorant of art and music history in all capacities so I definitely learned the most from this presentation. He explained that the first opera about a Turkish subject emerged in 1689 but references to Turks were completely erased in the 1800s. I think this is an especially interesting topic because it provides a way to connect contemporary issues to the past. The portrayal of Ottoman subjects in Venice could easily be extrapolated to contemporary portrayals of Muslims in Europe today. There is definitely room for some fascinating comparative scholarship (he just wrote a book so maybe he talks about it?)! Something else that was especially intriguing was the fact that Naples seems to have been a more popular cultural center than Venice. Once of the operas he spoke about debuted in Naples in 1820 and then in Venice in 1822 with a revised ending (counter-factual, as he said). When one considers the north-south divide in contemporary Italy and the idea of Italian culture as it relates to this divide, one wonders how this divide affected opera and music history on the peninsula. Something else for me to look into!

The third presentation was the most interesting to me and connected most directly to my own past research, although I was disappointed because Molly Greene didn’t include any information about the Jewish influence on the Venetian-Ottoman economic relationship. This was especially surprising because she directly addressed the fact that many Venetian subjects in the Ottoman empire were Cretans-and there has been a lasting community of Jews on Crete which I believe played an important economic role as intercessors between Venice and the Ottomans. She did introduce an idea that I hadn’t ever heard about: the economic network between Alexandria, Istanbul and Venice. I have studied Venetian trade with the Levant, but didn’t ever consider the centrality of Alexandria in its economic history. I am also interested to know how Jerusalem factored into this economic network, if at all. She also introduced something I had absolutely no clue about-the fact that the majority of Venetians in the Ottoman empire were Greek and the fact that Greek merchants ran the Fondaco de Turchi in Venice! Her first book, A Shared World: Christians and Muslims in the Early Modern Mediterranean covers the transition from Venetian to Ottoman rule on Crete so I definitely want to check it out and see if there is any mention of Jewish economic networks on the island or in either of the metropoles. She also mentioned the Venetian retreat from maritime trade, which connected directly the last chapter of my thesis. This is also a great place to connect Larry Wolff’s triplex confinium to changes in Venetian economic patterns because Venetian nobles looked to Vienna for ways to move away from the stato da mar.

Finally, Daphne Lappa presented part of her work on borderland religious practices and the blending of Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholicism in Corfu. This presentation was by far the best organized. She presented the time period, location, and subject clearly and she used primary sources (both textual and artistic) as evidence of her thesis. Again, I think this topic also opens up new areas to be explored relating to Judaism. She explicitly stated that Orthodox practices influenced Roman Catholics and vice versa. It would be interesting to see what the relationship was between Roman Catholics, Orthodox believers, and Jews in Venice’s eastern colonies. I think the most fascinating aspect of this presentation was the idea of double churches, or churches built for Orthodox and Roman Catholics to worship simultaneously. Her presentation was also extremely interesting for me because I know scholars who study borderlands in the context of Texas-Mexico and I would bedsc_0245 interested to see how borderlands religion in Texas has been influenced, especially in relation to Protestantism. Another fascinating aspect of this presentation was the role of calendars in Orthodox and Roman Catholic division. Lappa explained that Roman Catholics celebrated Orthodox Easter and didn’t follow the calendar change that occurred in the Roman rite.

SN: One of the presenters also mentioned that on the Hapsburg-Ottoman border, Hungarian was spoken on both sides.

While Molly Greene’s scholarship connected more closely to my own than the others, each presenter taught me something I didn’t know and definitely helped me expand and complicate my knowledge of Venetian history as it relates to the orient and occident. I think Venice proper was an economic and religious borderland in many capacities. As Muslims, Christians, and Jews worked and lived together in the city and its colonies, they created a unique economy and citizenry which helped forge a thousand-year-old empire. In the end, I think this topic is extremely relevant to our current time. Of course, history is cyclical. Not only can we explore the localisms of past European borderlands and adapt those lessons to our own southwestern borders, but Ottoman religious and economic relations with Europe are especially pertinent in contemporary times.

I don’t know when the next lecture is, but I’ll definitely keep you guys posted. I’ll be here learning more Venetian history!