News and Reviews
On Tuesday last week, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that scientists had found incontrovertible proof about the fate of the lost Franklin Expedition. Archaeologists had found, and gotten images of, the underwater remains of one of Franklin’s ships. The intriguing aspect of the news story is that it proves beyond a reasonable doubt the accuracy of Inuit oral histories, which had preserved the memory of the rough locations of the ships for nearly 170 years.
In 1845, Sir John Franklin sailed from England in search of the fabled Northwest Passage in two ships, the Terror and the Erebus, with 24 officers and 110 crew members. The two ships sailed to West Greenland, sent back six men, and with a slightly reduced crew continued west into unknown Canadian Arctic waters. They disappeared from the view of Europeans. After three years of no word, the English, and others, became intrigued about the fate of the men. Myriads of expeditions were mounted over the next 30 years in search of them.
The Inuit had observed the wreckage of the ships frozen into the ice, and they would tell anyone who asked. But that didn’t stop the subsequent searches. Not only are library shelves filled with volumes by and about the expeditions searching for Franklin and his men, but many scholarly and popular versions of the history have been produced, not to mention novels, poetry, songs, paintings, and television documentaries about the story.
After a century-and-two-thirds, the drama was resurrected last week by the latest scientific discovery, prompting the Prime Minister himself to make a dramatic announcement: “This is a great historic event,” he said. The underwater archaeologist for Parks Canada, Ryan Harris, who managed the investigation this year, said that the wreck they had found, using advanced sonar technology, was “indisputably” one of the two Franklin Expedition ships. The sonar images of the underwater remains show that the main deck of the ship is still mostly intact, supporting hopes that additional remains of the expedition will be found inside it.
In addition to finding, finally, dramatic proof of what had happened, numerous observers noted the fact that nearly 170 years ago some Inuit people had seen the wrecks, observed the English sailors, and told and retold their stories of the apparent fate of the expedition. The dramatic announcement on Tuesday made it clear that Inuit oral history is remarkably accurate.
Louie Kamookak, an Inuit historian from Gjoa Haven, the community that is closest to the site of the discovered shipwreck near King William Island, has studied the fate of the Lost Franklin Expedition for 30 years, with a particular focus on the Inuit oral memoires of what had happened. The current news, he said, is “proving the Inuit oral history is very strong."
Inuit oral tradition has preserved the memory of the two ships appearing on the northwest side of King William Island, he relates. One got crushed by the ice, while the other ship drifted southward. It floated for two more years before it finally sank too. Inuit elders told Kamookak that Europeans may have been living on the ship during the first winter, but there were no signs of human life during the second.
"For us Inuit [the news] means that oral history is very strong in knowledge, not only for searching for Franklin's ships but also for environment and other issues," Kamookak said. He told the Toronto Star, “We can celebrate that in our time we have found one of the ships based on Inuit theories—I’m very grateful for that.”
Dr. Doug Stenton, an archaeologist and director of heritage for the Government of Nunavut, said more or less the same thing. He indicated that the archaeological team might not have made the discovery without the oral memory of the Inuit stretching back to the time of the disaster. "It's very satisfying to see that testimony of Inuit who shared their knowledge of what happened to the wreck has been validated quite clearly," he said.
David Woodman, the author of a book about the Franklin Expedition, had similar praise for Inuit memory. "The Inuit are validated more than anything else," he said. "All that really happened was it took 200 years for our technology to get good enough to tell us that Inuit were telling us the truth."
Kamookak and Woodman admitted that there were problems with the Inuit historical memories of the fate of the expedition. Their stories have eroded over time; there have been mistranslations on the part of Europeans who have interviewed Inuit elders; understandings of units of distance have varied; and different witnesses pointed to different islands as the ones near which one of the ships supposedly lay.
Woodman said he is especially eager to learn the exact location of the newly discovered ship—a spot which Parks Canada has not yet revealed. He hopes to “reverse engineer what the Inuit actually meant, as opposed to what we were told they said.” In essence, this latest story will add substantially to our understanding of Inuit cultural knowledge, a subject at the basis of a different news story three months ago about a dramatic new mapping project of Inuit trails across the Artic landscape.
One of the causes of the May 2014 military coup in Thailand was the persistent rhetoric about corrupt governments that had tried to favor the Rural Thai people. Few commentators noted the fabled peacefulness of the Rural Thai society that Phillips (1965) had so effectively described, nor did they appear to pay much attention to more recent scholarship describing the complex issues that rural Thailand has faced, and that it continues to deal with.
A current journal article by Rigg, Promphaking, and Le Mare addresses one of the fundamental issues facing the rural villages: migration to find work. It analyzes the fundamental economic concerns of the countryside in terms that are important to rural residents—the availability of jobs, prosperity, and security.
The authors base their analysis on an important economic question. Why did Thailand so successfully enter the ranks of middle income countries about 35 years ago, but it has not been able to rise since then into the first rank of economically successful nations? Rigg et al. refer to this as the “middle income trap,” and they explain why much of the problem appears to lie in the social and economic habits and attitudes at the individual and household levels among the nation’s rural population.
By way of background, the authors explain that “middle income trap” simply refers to countries which, while they have achieved a fair amount of growth, seem to be trapped between really poor countries on the one hand and high income nations on the other. The reason that middle-income countries remain stagnant is that there is a substantial proportion of mostly rural people who, while not living in poverty any longer, remain mostly unskilled or semi-skilled. The article explores this issue by studying three villages in rural Northeast Thailand, investigating why migrants move, temporarily, to other parts of the nation for work and education, but then return to the home villages.
Rigg and his colleagues do a good job of explaining the complexities that their research has revealed. Despite differences among the three villages, agriculture remains the essence of their existence, the basic livelihood of each, notwithstanding the fact that many immigrants have returned home after years of training and work in the cities.
When the authors did their surveys in late 2012, they found that 81 percent of the households in the three villages still owned land and grew rice, at least for household consumption. The same percentage of households had members who had temporarily migrated outside the villages in search of work. Rigg et al. sent questionnaires to 105 households, 28 percent of the three villages, seeking information on social structure, land uses, assets, debts, livelihoods, and migration patterns. They followed up this survey with interviews with a sub-sample of the households. They note that they have done research in these three villages for over 20 years.
Their results are interesting. They found that only about 15 percent of the migrants from the villages were believed by the remaining family members to have left permanently and were not expected to return. However, Rigg and his colleagues acknowledge that it may be problematic to insist on a clear distinction between permanent and temporary migrants. But this situation of temporary migration explains, to the authors, at least one reason for the “middle income trap” at the local level.
In rural Northeast Thailand, people in the early 1980s started migrating away to get jobs, earn money, and buy things they wanted, such as new houses for themselves and their families—back in the villages. Those migrants, whom the authors term first generation, were not seeking to transform their lives in the long term. Rather, they left because farm work was not returning much income and they wanted more, yet their expectation was that they would return to the home village at some point to resume farming.
The authors describe these first generation migrants most effectively: “They did in the main enjoy the challenge of working away from home, the buzz of the city and the satisfaction of making new friends from distant places, and of having ‘got by’ in a new environment (p.192).” The returned migrants were proud of their accomplishments—they had learned such skills as carpentry, machine work, welding, sewing, and so on. But in reality, they had not actually achieved skills that would lead them to better employment back in the villages.
They returned with considerable savings and went back to farm work. About 60 percent admitted they had not acquired skills that would be useful at home. More to the point, they did not aspire to any transformations of their lives. They did not expect to escape the “middle income trap.” Migration was a way of staying in the village, not a way of permanently leaving it.
Oddly, the sons and daughters of those first generation migrants, the second generation, did not have much higher aspirations. While they have achieved higher levels of education and skills, in part due to advancing state requirements for schooling, the people in this second generation themselves remain in the same fix as their parents—or even more stuck in it.
While the second generation has achieved higher skill levels, they continue to find that they are even less employable in the home villages. The authors describe what may seem surprising: that three-quarters of those second generation people who have migrated realize that their skills are quite useless in the home village. The first generation returned with at least manual skills, while the knowledge economy education and training of the second generation so far have relatively little utility back home.
These country people, like their parents before them, are not rural romantics. They don’t idealize village life. But they do realize that non-farm work in rural Thailand has become more precarious rather than less so. On the other hand, they are also aware that there is security and resilience from maintaining a presence in their former home area. The village has social and cultural attractions that the city can’t match. That said, however, there is some evidence that at least a few of the members of this second generation are showing some interest in life-long learning.
But the authors argue that, as long as the village remains a place of refuge, of return, of retirement, it will continue to form a barrier in some ways to highly skilled, high income employment for people who are so committed to Rural Thailand.
Rigg, Jonathan, Buapun Promphaking and Ann Le Mare. 2014. “Personalizing the Middle-Income Trap: An Inter-Generational Migrant View from Rural Thailand.” World Development 59 (July): 184-198
News and reviews of publications relating to peaceful societies—and sometimes to related topics—are normally posted here on Thursday mornings (U.S. time) and are kept on this page for one week. Older news and reviews for 2014 are listed below, and ones from previous years are listed on the News and Reviews 2004-2005 page, the 2006 page, the 2007 page, the 2008 page, the 2009 page, the 2010 page, the 2011 page, the 2012 page and the 2013 page. All stories are also included in the News and Reviews Subject Listing. Recent ones are listed at the bottom of each society entry in the Encyclopedia of Selected Peaceful Societies, after the heading: Updates: News and Reviews. News and reviews about peacefulness in general are referred to from the bottom of the Facts page, while news stories about this website are linked from the About This Website page. News and Reviews can also be found with the Google search bar.
September 11, 2014. The Ladakh Project: An Audiovisual Mashup
September 11, 2014. The Peaceful Ju/’hoansi Mistreat their Dogs
September 4, 2014. Amish Hate Crimes Convictions Reversed
September 4, 2014. The Baybayin of the Buid
August 28, 2014. Inuit Plural Marriages
August 28, 2014. Zapotec Women Push Changes [online magazine article review]
August 21, 2014. Violence in a Yanadi Community
August 21, 2014. Frog Woman and Her Moral Code [anthology chapter review]
August 14, 2014. San Hunters Versus Botswana
August 14, 2014. Conflict Resolution and Gender Equality in Lepcha Society [book review]
August 7, 2014. Amish Self Concepts—Prisoners Relate their Experiences
August 7, 2014. Inuit Self Concepts—Are They Satisfied with Life? [journal article review]
July 31, 2014. Conviction for Corruption Upheld against Flosse
July 31, 2014. Uses and Customs in Oaxaca [online magazine article review]
July 24, 2014. Schooling for the Semai
July 24, 2014. Political, Religious, and Community Tensions in Ladakh [journal article review]
July 17, 2014. Rural Thai Children Threatened by Absence of Parents
July 17, 2014. Official Concern for Birhor Wanes
July 10, 2014. Police Remove Yanadi before Modi Visit
July 10, 2014. Children Learn to Be Peaceful the Batek Way [anthology chapter review]
July 3, 2014. Amish Volunteerism
July 3, 2014. Birthday Wishes for Glenn Paige
June 26, 2014. Atlas of Inuit Trails
June 26, 2014. The Challenges of Lepcha Identity [journal article review]
June 19, 2014. Nubians Waiting for Fair Treatment
June 19, 2014. Homeless Fipa Children
June 12, 2014. Huarime Festival in a Piaroa Community
June 12, 2014. Soups and Such from Hutterite Kitchens
June 5, 2014. Zapotec Affected by Wind Project
June 5, 2014. Reports of Violence in Thai High Schools [journal article review]
May 29, 2014. The Birhor and the Bees
May 29, 2014. Traditional Ways on Huahine
May 22, 2014. Lancaster County Amish Consider Leaving
May 22, 2014. Rat Hunting Holiday on Tristan
May 15, 2014. Ladakh Makes the Effort to Vote
May 15, 2014. A Visitor on Ifaluk
May 8, 2014. Yanadi Abandon Traditions, Modernize
May 8, 2014. Inuit Sale of Game Meat Questioned—and Defended
May 1, 2014. Paliyans Proud to Vote
May 1, 2014. A San Complains about Rotten Treatment
April 24, 2014. Birhor Boycott National Elections
April 24, 2014. Kadar Boycott National Elections
April 17, 2014. Hutterite Colony in Japan
April 17, 2014. Raging Violence, Nubians Versus Arabs
April 10, 2014. Paliyans Exploited in Tamil Nadu
April 10, 2014. Storytelling Preserves Traditions of the Lepchas
March 27, 2014. Presentation on Tristan Coming to Toronto Area Library
March 27, 2014. Philippine Conference Promotes Indigenous Languages
March 20, 2014. Proposed Port Threatens Yanadi Villages
March 20, 2014. A Jewish Scholar Visits an Amish Family
March 13, 2014. Seminar Presentation on Rural Thai Culture
March 13, 2014. Ladakh Political Status Challenged
March 6, 2014. Inuit Languages Celebrated
March 6, 2014. Rules for Maintaining a Peaceful Society [journal article review]
February 27, 2014. Zapotec Linguistics Analysis
February 27, 2014. Schooling for the Lepchas
February 20, 2014. Endangered Species and the San
February 20, 2014. Drive-by Horse Shooting
February 13, 2014. Nubians Recognized in Egyptian Constitution
February 13, 2014. Inuit Sex Trafficking
February 6, 2014. The Semai of Pos Betau
February 6, 2014. New Dictionary for Ju/’hoansi Children
January 30, 2014. Preserving Lepcha Culture
January 30, 2014. Rural Thai Culture of Rice Farming
January 23, 2014. Hutterite Colony School Burns Down
January 23, 2014. Batek Suffering from Logging
January 16, 2014. The Tamaraw and the Buid
January 16, 2014. G/wi are Being “Treated Like Dogs”
January 9, 2014. Central California Zapotec Festival
January 9, 2014. Birhor Poverty Finds Relief in a Picnic
January 2, 2014. A Semai Christmas
January 2, 2014. Nubian Recognition in New Egyptian Constitution