bvanwassenhove's blog

Politics on the Hoof: Exploring Late Bronze Age Food Production and Political Organization

In recent years, it has become very clear that food is a political matter. Food deserts, GMO crops, ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ labeling disputes, various ‘slow food’ movements, and even recent controversies over the ethics of eating quinoa have brought the political dimensions of the simple, everyday act of eating to the forefront of the contemporary moment. This strong connection between food and politics is not limited to the present or even to recent history. The production, distribution, and consumption of foods always have political implications and impacts.

Discovering the Roots of Racist Vigilantism in Louisiana

My work involves exploring the role of violence in American politics, and to do so, I look into the archives.  In July of 2013, with the support of the Social Sciences Division at the University of Chicago, I went to Louisiana to investigate the organizational roots and practices of a mostly forgotten vigilante group active during Reconstruction known as the White League.

Wine Made in China: An Experiment of Industrial Agriculture and Transformation of Farmland Ownership

Whenever I explain about my research topic to American friends, they are usually surprised by the fact that wine is actually produced in China. As a matter of fact, China is now the sixth largest producer of wine by volume, surpassing Chile and Australia. Since the early 2000s, the Chinese government has been promoting the wine industry as a model of rural development and agricultural industrialization. Supported by local governments, major wine companies are expanding their vineyards by leasing farmland from village collectives and employing villagers as contract farmers.

Spatial and Temporal Fluctuations in German and Austrian Gasoline Prices

This work uses spatial and temporal fluctuations in gas station retail prices to study the price effects of competition and how government-mandated price restrictions impact consumer welfare.  Gas stations present a large, spatially differentiated market:  consumers have close substitutes, but the cost of choosing a competitor is measurable with distance; prices are publicly displayed and are adjusted dynamically; station owners are highly heterogeneous and employ different pricing strategies; and potential demand can be directly observed through traffic counting stations.  Competition take

The Credibility Cartel: Forging the National Security Establishment During the Cold War

Outside interest groups and similarly constituted outside organizations have played an important role in U.S. national security politics since World War II.  However, this role is not understood as well as the conventional wisdom would have us believe.  My dissertation examines in detail the source of interest group influence, building on the literature of American Politics and International Relations. 

A Journey through Caribbean Culture(s)

As the sun began to set and offered a slight break from the Caribbean heat, the percussive sounds of a tassa band filled the air before the start of the Diwali motorcade.  While we waited for the parade to begin, the youth of this particular tassa band entertained the growing crowd standing outside the Shri Krishna Mandir in the Campbellville neighborhood of Georgetown, Guyana.  Diwali – or the Hindu festival of lights – celebrates the triumph of good over evil and has been celebrated as a motorcade in Guyana since at least the 1970s.  As night fell and the procession began, the streets fil

States of Care and Corruption

            Security check cleared, required entry permit in hand, I head to the Lower House building at the Jordanian Parliament to start my SSD-funded summer research on public discourse on corruption in Jordan since the late-1980's.  I find Rula, the last remaining librarian that day, a 17-year old who had started working there two months prior to her completing her high-school examination (General Certificate of Secondary Education).

Negotiating the Politics of Construction in Luanda, Angola

If the government would agree to move them to Kilamba (a new Chinese-built satellite city for the middle class), Miguel[1] explained that I would come back to the neighbourhood to find everyone had already voluntarily relocated. He and others were facing forced removal to a poorly built set of matchbox houses in Zango, a resettlement area on the edge of Luanda province. Having launched a protest against the removal, they were waiting for what the response to their demands would be.

Social Conditioning: The Politics of Transracial Adoption and White Care for Black Hair

I am writing a dissertation on private agency adoption in Chicago, which involves the circulation of predominantly black infants and children from the South and West sides of the city (as well as international “sending countries” such as Haiti and Liberia) to primarily white adoptive families.

Medicine & Muslim Subjectivity in Colonial India – A Note from the Archive

The practice of yunani medicine in India today is one of the signs of the Arab engagement with Hellenic knowledge systems in the medieval Mediterranean world. While histories of renaissance Europe acknowledge a debt to Arabic translations of Greek classics which coincided with the modernization of medical knowledge in that period, an examination of the legacy of that same textual tradition in modern India is a neglected area in the global history of medicine.