FOOD (NOT SO) GLORIOUS FOOD. PART 1: FOOD DYSTOPIA

By Stu Lucy

Food. We all need it and each every one of us has a unique and complex relationship with it. From production to acquisition to preparation and finally consumption, the constituent parts of this process vary widely across the planet. The unfortunate reality for most of the global community, however, is that this personal and multifaceted relationship is fraught with difficulty and dilemma. In fact, as we further examine the inner mechanisms and processes of the human-food relationship, we can find ourselves exposed to a somewhat dystopian state of affairs.Continue Reading

ARTS IN ASIA: A REFLECTION

by Carmina Masoliver

I spent four months in South East Asia; two and a half were spent working in Vietnam, but I also got to go to Thailand, Laos, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. Although it has been the longest time I’ve been away from the UK, it would be impossible and presumptuous for me to generalise the arts in the whole of South East Asia, or even just one country. Instead, this will be a reflection on the things I experienced whilst travelling.Continue Reading

INTERPRETATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN ISLAM

by Faizal Nor Izham

Trigger warnings: Female Genital Mutilation, Islamophobia, Homophobia, Torture

How does Islam actually fare in terms of human rights, and is it really any different from any other religion? The “religion of peace” has been getting a poor reputation in Western media over the issue for decades, with human rights abuses in Muslim countries often stretching from the major to the mundane.

Female genital mutilation, the stoning of homosexuals to death, the subjugation of women – the list goes on and on. Apostasy is frequently met with the death sentence in conservative states such as Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, individual liberties in these countries, such as speaking up against the state, are frequently curtailed on the pretext of actually insulting the religion itself. Just ask Raif Badawi, the Saudi activist and blogger who dared to criticize the Saudi regime and was sentenced up to 1,000 lashes from the theocratic state for his troubles.

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CASUAL RACISM: WHY IS IT STILL A PROBLEM IN ASIA?

by Faizal Nor Izham

Disclaimer: mentions violence against women, casual racism

Last week, the Internet was sent into its usual frenzy over the latest political correctness issue. Amidst the now sadly all-too-common Western-centric controversies, such as actress Rose McGowan raising the issue of the use of casual violence against women in movie posters to market ‘X-Men: The Apocalypse’, the Internet also reacted strongly to a television advert from China that was making its rounds on social media. The ad, featuring national detergent brand Qiaobi, contained levels of racism considered disturbingly casual by most standards.

In the commercial, a pouch of Qiaobi cleaning liquid is forced into a black actor’s mouth by a Chinese woman, who goes on to bundle him head-first into a washing machine. After a few cycles, she opens the lid and in his place, a Chinese man emerges instead. He proceeds to wink at the camera before the tagline appears onscreen: “Change begins with Qiaobi”.Continue Reading

ONLINE DEMOCRACY UNDER THREAT IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD

by Faizal Nor Izham

One novel I’ve always been meaning to finish is the the award-winning sci-fi classic Neuromancer by William Gibson. Since the initial publication of the counter-cultural novel in – of all years – 1984, it went on to inspire the ‘cyberpunk’ movement in the science fiction genre, as well as the ‘high-tech, low life’ type neo-noir aesthetic that often goes with it. Neuromancer has also gone on to inspire popular films such as Ghost in the Shell and The Matrix.

But what makes the novel so prominent in popular culture is that fact that it was the first to coin the term ‘cyberspace’, i.e. a ‘consensual hallucination‘ replicated artificially by millions of interconnected computer users – which in turn makes up the Internet as we know it today. The story revolves around a washed-up computer hacker hired by a mysterious employer to pull off the ultimate hack (not dissimilar from Keanu Reeves’ original role in The Matrix). This in itself can be seen as an allegory for counter-cultural movements literally taking place within this ‘Matrix’ – a term first coined by the novel way before the movie of the same name was released – a world within the world, similar to the setting of the Tron films.

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THE REACH OF CORPORATE SPONSORSHIP

by Gunnar Eigener

The exploitation by corporate sponsorship of many different aspects of our lives is so deeply embedded that we barely express any outrage at the sheer audacity and hypocrisy of it all. Yet it is this sponsorship that attempts to deceive us into believing these companies should somehow be part of our lives, that we should embrace them. Integrity and morals are left outside the boardroom, deals are struck, and brands and corporate logos are pushed into our line of vision and within earshot at every opportunity. The sums are vast and are already eclipsing any sense of decency in pursuit of more money.

The problem that we are facing is that those in power adhere to the desires of the corporate sponsors. You just have to look at the TTIP and TISA deals to see how the rights of citizens and any concerns for their health and safety are overridden in favour of advancing corporate globalisation.Continue Reading

THE MYTH OF ASIAN DEMOCRACY

by Faizal Nor Izham

Although Asia as a whole will always be making great strides economically, much more remains to be seen in the way of democracy and human rights. There has always been the myth that Asian values and democracy are incompatible — a well-known fact in Asia, especially in the more developing countries — but in the Internet and social media age, there appears to be a renewed demand for freedom, especially when people’s livelihood and most basic rights are in jeopardy.

However, despite these assumptions, a more thorough analysis shows that Asian history is actually rich in philosophies and traditions that are well-steeped in democratic ideals.Continue Reading