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No-Self and Mindfulness as Tools for Liberatory Activism

January 01, 1970


In this paper analyzes the conceptual value of the Buddhist teachings of no-self and mindfulness for contemporary activism. First it explores how the doctrine of no-self promotes extended empathy, self-awareness, self-love, and self-care. Second, it explores how the doctrine of mindfulness both resolves some of the organization-related tensions between no-self and activism and provides additional tools for effective activism, as mindfulness promotes embodied care and right action.

The main purpose of this paper was to propose a new philosophical approach to contemporary activism that would address its central problems on personal, interpersonal, and organizational levels.

    Keywords-component; Buddhism; Zen; No-Self; Mindfulness; Activism

I. Introduction  

It may seem counterintuitive to suggest that the Zen Buddhist doctrines of no-self and mindfulness might be effective tools for activism, considering that no-self completely undermines the Western conception of moral agency, and mindfulness promotes an awareness and acceptance of the present and detachment from desire for change. If activism is an organized effort to help others and ourselves in the face of injustice, can that really be achieved without a robust notion of the self and a powerful desire for change?

This paper argues that together, mindfulness and no-self can create a basis for better activism by addressing its central problems on personal, interpersonal, and organizational levels. First, it will be argued that the doctrine of no-self, far from limiting agency, promotes extended empathy, self-awareness, self-love, and self-care. Second, it will be argued that the doctrine of mindfulness both resolves some of the organization-related tensions between no-self and activism and provides additional tools for effective activism, as mindfulness promotes embodied care and right action. In this way, the incorporation of no-self and mindfulness into activism creates a comprehensive new approach to activism that is equipped to combat its main issues.

II. No-Self

Zen Buddhism is based upon a radical doctrine of no-self. Because no single part of what makes up the self can individually be considered the seat of the ego that “selfhood” is a term that, rather than actually defining a real entity, simply acts as a reference to an unfounded conception of ego. [5](Warren 133) In this way, no-self is a valuable conceptual tool for activism.

A. Extended Empathy

First, no-self promotes extended empathy because the practitioner of no-self is unable to make an ontological distinction between the suffering of others and their own suffering, which in turn becomes a trigger for advocacy and cooperation among activists.

One could argue that no-self will not adequately extend empathy to distant others, as being informed of suffering at the other end of the world will not have the same effect as seeing someone suffering in front of you. However, it logically follows from the doctrine of no-self that we are not a self experiencing others but rather a being experiencing itself. [3](Tanahashi 69) In this way, no-self cannot favor empathy for the suffering of “near others” over “distant others”, as according to this doctrine there is no “other” at all.

B. Self-Knowledge

Second, no-self entails a detachment that not only allows individuals to engage with the world with the same care with which they engage with themselves, but also to engage with themselves with the same honest with which they engage with the world. no-self leads to self-awareness which is actualized through a recognition of privilege and an intersectional approach to activism. Introspection becomes outwardly inclusive when the “potential of inner-subjective diversity” - that is to say, the power of acknowledging the “multiplicity” of individual experiences creates an inclusive activism. [2](Kalmanson 817)

It could be argued that such an intersectional approach will not necessarily strengthen an activist movement, because giving equal weight to all experiences might undermine the purpose of a movement by shifting the focus, or accidentally promoting contradictory goals. However, intersectionality is the only way to effectively achieve any goal. For instance, if the goal of the feminist movement is gender equality, then it logically follows that it should work to dismantle oppressive norms and systems that subjugate women. Not all women experience the oppressive norms and systems in the same way, based on individual circumstances, and so will present a multiplicity of experience. If we are to reject an intersectional approach, it follows that there must be one accepted form of womanhood, and so resistance will only happen along those lines – and almost always, the standard is set by the most powerful within that group and excludes many other experiences. As such, the doctrine of no-self may be a critical tool to facilitating an intersectional approach to activism – an approach that is not only helpful, but also arguably necessary.

C. Self-Love

Third, the doctrine of no-self facilitates radical self-love, which in turn becomes a tool to counter internalized disvalues. Though it may seem ironic that no-self would promote self-love, acceptance of the multiplicity and change of identity, and so leads to greater self-love as there is no longer a need to fit a self- or societally-imposed narrative of identity. Kalmanson has identified the aesthetic value of rejecting a fixed self, and argues that recognizing of the value of multiplicity and change is potentially liberatory. [2](Kalmanson 818) Not only does this rejection of a single self be beautiful in itself, but it allows one to see the beauty in oneself in one’s particularity, and as a constantly shifting and infinitely faceted becoming. This self-acceptance is key to activism because a greater acceptance of oneself dismantles internalized oppression on a micro scale and validates a struggle for justice.

One possible objection to the utility of self-love in activism is that self-love may blind people to their faults, making them inefficient and potentially even counterproductive activists. If self-love is not conditional upon doing good, but rather naturally follows from no-self, then it seems that there is no mechanism to revoke this love, and so there is no emotional consequence to doing something wrong. However, if paired with self-awareness, which requires constant contextual evaluation of experience, self-love can nonetheless be a valuable tool. Promoting self-love does not imply that one should have a preference for oneself; it is simply another way to be able to see the beauty and faults in all perspectives, especially those that are in constant flux.  

D. Self-Care

Fourth, no-self promotes self-care to prevent burnout and martyrdom in activists. Successful and ethical activism should protect those who engage in it, especially because often those who are engaged in fighting for justice are those who most affected by the injustice. To this end, no-self can be employed to promote self-care. Insofar as an activist’s goal is to rectify injustice and a practitioner of no-self should have no preference for self over other or, crucially, for other over self, then an activist should give themselves the same care they give to others.

It could be argued that activists practicing self-care may be a detriment to their cause as presumably activists are in a more powerful position than those they advocate for, and so any act of self-care maintains this power dynamic. However, regardless of whether or not activists are more powerful than those they aim to protect, self-care is still an important tool for activism. Firstly, because if an activist has more power than those they are defending, they will not necessarily be cared for in the same way they care for others. And secondly, because they are more likely to know what they need and address their needs accordingly, thus using their limited time and energy in a way that is more likely to be efficient. Therefore, self-care as facilitated by no-self is vital to sustainable activism.

Because it leads to extended empathy, self-awareness, self-love, and self-care, no-self is a valuable tool for rethinking activism to make it more efficient, inclusive, and sustainable. However, despite its many benefits, no-self is not sufficient on its own to radically improve activism because it cannot be used as a guide for action or as a tool for organization, both of which are essential parts of effective activism. At the very least, even if no-self does not impede agency, it is only helpful in addressing the more theoretical aspects of activism. In order to complement this discussion of no-self, one must turn to the potential role of mindfulness in efficient activism.

III. Mindfulness

   In order to achieve enlightenment, Buddha proposed the Eightfold Path, of which one of the steps is "right mindfulness", which entails being fully attentive to one's experience in every moment. In addition to the benefits of applying the no-self doctrine to activism, mindfulness is a useful tool for activism because it promotes the application of embodied care and the prioritization of right action, both of which are helpful to guiding action and organization in activist movements.

A. Embodied Care

Mindfulness can be a useful tool in facilitating responsible and effective activism by promoting embodied care. Embodied care consists in being fully mindful while engaging in care, so that we are more responsible in our actions, thus maximizing our impact while limiting unconscious repetition of damaging behaviors, such as microaggressions. [1](Butnor 422) A mindful approach to activism would therefore allow activists to do the most good and the least harm, and takes into account one’s behavior instead of just one’s goals, which encourages a much deeper and more purposeful engagement with one’s experience and values.

One serious objection to the relevance of embodied care in activism is that such a sensitive awareness of the world, and particularly of others, is not possible for everyone. For instance, embodied care may not be accessible to all individuals on the autism spectrum, which seriously limits its applicability in all areas of activism, but especially when it comes to activism with the goal of promoting the rights of neurodivergent individuals (i.e. those whose mental state is consistently divergent from the norm through mental illness, etc.). However, even if some individuals are less capable of engaging mindfully with all of their surroundings and so less capable of engaging in embodied care, it is still a valuable tool for activism. Embodied care does not require reciprocity to work, except insofar as it is easier to care for others that also care for you. Because of this, just because some people may be less capable of engaging in this way does not meant that it will be a less valuable tool for those that are willing and capable.

B. Right Action

Mindfulness is also a path towards consistently right action. For the mindful activist, the end cannot justify the means, as all actions must be both appropriate and effective. [4](Uebel & Shorkey 221) In this way, mindful activism holds its practitioners to a higher standard of awareness. Not only will this prevent the justification of morally questionable behavior, but it will also require that activists with the same goals act in compatible ways, because mindful activism values being concretely aware over being abstractly “better”.

Though one could argue that this approach to activism makes long-term planning and cohesive vision difficult, mindful activism is actually beneficial in the long-term and facilitates the creation of a cohesive vision across differences. First, mindfulness paired with no-self not only facilitates communication across differences but actually requires it, making activism more effective and inclusive as discussions will be ego-less. Second, long-term planning is not necessarily a problem for mindful activism because part of mindfulness includes a particular awareness of the present moment in which the present moment encompasses all of time. [3](Tanahasi 77 §4) As such, one is always aware of the future is always but one can never override situational appropriateness.


   The author gratefully acknowledges and thanks Dr. Ian Sullivan for his eye-opening perspective on the practical applications of Buddhist thought and for his support.


[1] Butnor, Ashby. 2014. “Dogen, Feminism, and the Embodied Practice of Care”. In Asian and Feminist Philosophies in Dialogue, ed. Jennifer McWeeny and Ashby Butnor.

[2] Kalmanson, Leah. “Buddhism and bell hooks: Liberatory Aesthetics and the Radical Subjectivity of No-Self.” Hypatia Vol. 27, No. 4 (2012): 810–827.

[3] Tanahashi Kazuaki, trans. 1985. Moon in a dewdrop: Writings of Zen master Dōgen. New York: North Point.

[4] Uebel, Michael, and Shorkey, Clayton. 2014. "Mindfulness and Engaged Buddhism: Implications for a Generalist Macro Social Work Practice". In Mindfulness and Acceptance in Social Work: Evidence-Based Interventions and Emerging Applications, ed. Matthew S. Boone: 215-234. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

[5] Warren, Henry Clarke. 2005. “There is no ego”. Buddhism in Translations: 129-146. New York: Cosimo Classics.

Behind Closed Doors: Psychology Behind the Making of a Serial Killer

January 01, 1970


Abstract: The human mind has long been a mystery, able to disguise the most rotten characters from public scrutiny. Killers like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, and Ed Gein, were all once perceived as normal, even exceptional, in society’s eyes. Though we tend to focus on their evil deeds, we do not often ask ourselves why, or how, these individuals decided to become the despicable, infamous serial killers they are known as today. To better understand how potential perpetrators become full fledged killers, scientists dove deep into the psychology behind the outer persona, discovering similar genes in the brain and traumatic childhood events of such individuals who may exhibit proclivities for future violent tendencies. A combination of neuroscience and psychology studies have revealed the underlying clues  that any average person can become a bloodthirsty serial killer. While they may be able to keep up a calm, charismatic exterior and easily blend into our society, they may be capable of hunting down the vulnerable to satisfy their own sick, twisted desires.

Keywords: MAOA, serotonin chromosome, psychopath, psychotic, sociopath


I. Introduction

Jim Fallon’s Ted Talk, “Exploring the Mind of a Killer,” offered a plethora of scientific information about both the mind of a serial killer and recent findings in neuroscience. Specifically, he talked in depth about the Monoamine Oxidase A (MAOA) violence gene that is commonly found in killers. In this paper, I will discuss his scientific findings along with other external factors that affect the psyche of  these murderous human beings otherwise described as psychopaths. According to Fallon ,  a neuroscientist at the University of California, over 90% of convicted serial killers are observed to have a particular gene that triggers violent behaviors. This gene, known as MAOA, has different variations.  Moreover, . the MAOA enzyme,coded by the MAOA gene, catabolizes serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Some researchers have concluded that low MAOA density in certain regions of the brain may contribute to psychopathology but further research still needs to be done (Kolla 2017).  Others have focused on studies that show youth having a long allele of the serotonin transporter gene in the presence of environmental stress can exhibit interpersonal and affective traits of psychopathy (Sadeh et al. 2013).  In this paper, I will focus mainly on the influence of serotonin which is . a chemical produced by nerve cells, sending signals across those cells, otherwise known as a neurotransmitter. In the case of psychopathy, serotonin’s most important function is to regulate mood and social behaviors. A lack of serotonin, therefore, will offset the psychological balance of the human brain.


The MAOA enzyme is a mitochondrial enzyme that is encoded by the x-chromosome linked MAOA gene.  MAOA can determine aspects of human personality and thereby can increase the risk for personality disorders. Variations in the MAOA gene and the MAOA enzyme levels have been linked to antisocial behavior and aggression (Kolla 2017). Furthermore, low MAOA density in regions of the brain may contribute to psychopathology although environmental influences must also be considered..  Researchers have found that males displayed signs of extraversion of this gene at age 16, which continued to develop through their late 20s. This result was expected, as most genetic effects, especially those of more complex traits, are most strongly developed during the late childhood and early adulthood years.  (Xu et al 2019.). 

The MAOA gene is only one of two main factors that contribute to the makings of a future serial killer. An extra amount of serotonin in the brain during developing stages is also a factor. Ironically, normal amounts of serotonin are supposed to make the human body calm down. However, combined with the MAOA gene, the brain overloaded with serotonin, can eventually become insensitive to this chemical. This is equivalent to having a car without brakes causing desires in the brain to run wild without any mechanism to stop them from spiralling out of control.

Xu et al. (2019) expounds on this important point in their study, “Monoamine Oxidase A (MAOA) Gene and Personality Traits from Late Adolescence through Early Adulthood: A Latent Variable Investigation.”, The data in this experiment aligns with the statistics presented by Michaud and Aynesworth, successfully tying together the neuroscience and psychological portions of my paper.

Both these factors are phenotypes, genetic information that has not yet been expressed externally, in behavior or on the human body. In the book The Only Living Witness, Michaud and Aynesworth are a reporter and an investigator team reveal -that all killers need a trigger, most times taking the form of a traumatic childhood event (environmental factors) that results in physical damage to the brain. 74% of serial killers underwent mental abuse and 42% underwent physical abuse during their childhood years. Most likely, those events leave the child prone to injury, with 29% of convicted serial killers having suffered some sort of head trauma. Children mimic what they see, with their mental states not yet fully developed. With 43% of future killers suffering through sexual abuse and 35% witnessing such acts as a child, it is no surprise that those unforunate children grow up to be the monsters they’ve suffered under all those years. To block out childhood trauma, most killers in turn develop psychopathic behaviors as a coping mechanism (Michaud 2012). 


The term ‘psychopath’ is commonly misunderstood among the general public; most people seem to associate it with crazy, or disarray, the complete opposite of the true definition. Psychopaths cannot feel love, but they can have strong feelings over their possessions. James Blair,claims that psychopaths are extremely good at hiding their tendencies and dark urges, able to blend in with society as just another normal member (Blair 2013); this often comes as a shock to most. 

Blair (2013) introduces a new concept toreaders by highlighting the point that psychopaths are often inaccurately depicted as crazy, visibly unstable people and that society has the misconception they behave in accordance to this myth  in real life. Blair explores the truth behind psychopathy, offering information that most people have never thought about. Blair  claims psychopathy is easy to hide.  He had also previously noted that psychopaths can be insensitive to cues of punishment as well as insensitive to others in distress which is relevant and important to the underlying discussion in this paper.The most horrifying fact is that psychopaths understand how charismatic they can be, thereby using their charm as  their modus operandi. In his book The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers Second Edition, author Michael Newton comments that  those “predators in human form” who have long been hidden in society, are invisible to the naked eye until they strike. Newton’etail about the lives of infamous killers.  He goes into depth about the influencing aspects in these psychopaths’ lives that played a role in shaping them into who they become. For example, he noted parental abuse, and head trauma as two common factors that many killers shared.

One of the main factors that is emphasized by Newton is the extent of their “psychopathic charm”. Ted Bundy wore fake casts to appear weaker in front of unsuspecting young women (Brogaard 2012)(Newton 2006). Jeffrey Dahmer coaxed his victims into a drunken state before having his way with them (Michaud 2012). Edward Gein was well known around his town as the “helpful man,” successfully using his reputation to cover up what happened behind closed doors (Newton 2006). These psychopaths often understand the extent of their heinous crimes, and yet feel no remorse when caught. 

In the Ted Bundy tapes, for example, the famed killer chatted with the interviewer as if they were old buddies, completely ignoring the current circumstances. By observing different patterns in human interactions around them, psychopaths are able to mimic those actions, allowing them to appear perfectly sane to the eyes of the public (Michaud 2019)(Newton 2006). The live, broadcasted interview with infamous serial killer Ted Bundy proved how “normal” murderers can act. Even with all the cameras, Bundy was still able to hold a clear, casual conversation with the interviewer, as if they were friends. It’s not often that we get to observe the actions of a killer, and this is one of those rare moments in history that contains a dark, rotten core. However, seeing Bundy’s casual behavior supported my previous claims in the paper about psychopathic traits and how easily they can be hidden from the public.

Blair (2001) has suggested that reduced amygdala functioning is a key biological factor in psychopathy.  This supports the finding made by Hariri et al (2002) in using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore the connection between genetic variation in the serotonin transporter gene and brain activity.  It has been suggested  by Heinz et al. (2005) that the genetic variants of the serotonin transporter gene  are linked to the amygdala functioning.  Furthermore, the reduction in amygdala activity in the presence of a long allele of serotonin transporter gene appears to suggest a potential risk factor for development of psychopathic traits (Glenn 2011).

While only some serial killers may exhibit manipulative psychopathic behaviors, most of them are also ‘psychotics,’ a completely different classification from ‘psychopathic.’ Berit Brogaard, a PhD and director of the multisensory research at the University of Miami, further explores the psychotic traits in her article “The Making of a Serial Killer: Possible Social Causes of Psychopathology.” Though there are overlaps, such as “blunted emotions,” psychotics lack a touch with reality, existing in a constant state of hallucination, not aware of their surroundings (Brogaard 2012). They may hear a voice in their head, continuously force feeding them false ideologies about the world around them, motivating them to commit unspeakable deeds. With this given information, unsurprisingly most convicted serial killers have been diagnosed with psychotic diseases, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, both of which negatively impact the mental state of the human brain.


Serial killers do not simply pop out of the womb feeling murderous; there are many factors throughout their lives that impact the way they think, act, and feel around others. While these traumatic events should not make society feel any sympathy for those who take the lives of others, it is interesting to piece together similarities that change a normal human to a cold-blooded killer.

One factor in explaining this complex disorder may be hidden in the brain and the MAOA enzyme.  Specifically, along with a broad spectrum of environmental influences are the epigenetic factors that may determine the decreased activity of MAOA and long allele of serotonin transporter gene..


Blair, R. J., Colledge, E., Murray, L., & Mitchell, D. G. (2001). A selective impairment in the processing of sad and fearful expressions in children with psychopathic tendencies. Journal of abnormal child psychology, 29(6), 491–498.

Blair R. J. (2013). Psychopathy: cognitive and neural dysfunction. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 15(2), 181–190.

Brogaard, B. (2012, December). The Making of a Serial Killer. Psychology Today. 

Fallon, Jim. “Exploring the Mind of a Killer.” TED, 2009,

Glenn A. L. (2011). The other allele: exploring the long allele of the serotonin transporter gene as a potential risk factor for psychopathy: a review of the parallels in findings. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 35(3), 612–620.

Kolla, N. J., & Vinette, S. A. (2017). Monoamine Oxidase A in Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. Current behavioral neuroscience reports, 4(1), 41–48.

Hariri, A. R., Mattay, V. S., Tessitore, A., Kolachana, B., Fera, F., Goldman, D., Egan, M. F., & Weinberger, D. R. (2002). Serotonin transporter genetic variation and the response of the human amygdala. Science (New York, N.Y.), 297(5580), 400–403.

Heinz, A., Braus, D. F., Smolka, M. N., Wrase, J., Puls, I., Hermann, D., Klein, S., Grüsser, S. M., Flor, H., Schumann, G., Mann, K., & Büchel, C. (2005). Amygdala-prefrontal coupling depends on a genetic variation of the serotonin transporter. Nature neuroscience, 8(1), 20–21.

Michaud, SG, Aynesworth H. The Only Living Witness: the True Story of Serial Sex Killer Ted Bundy. Irving, TX: Authorlink Press, an imprint of Authorlink; 2012.

Michaud, SG. Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. [Documentary]. USA: Netflix; 2019.

Newton, M. The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. New York: Facts On File; 2006.

Sadeh N, Javdani S, Verona E. Analysis of monoaminergic genes, childhood abuse, and dimensions of psychopathy. J Abnorm Psychol. 2013;122(1):167‐179. doi:10.1037/a0029866

Xu, K., Gaysina, D., Tsonaka, R., Morin, A., Croudace, T., Barnett, J., Houwing-Duistermaat, J., Richards, M., Jones, P., & The LHA Genetics Group (2017). Monoamine Oxidase A (MAOA) Gene and Personality Traits from Late Adolescence through Early Adulthood: A Latent Variable Investigation. Frontiers in Psychologie, 8(1736), [1736].




Depolarizing Polarity: Data Mining Shared Likes on Twitter to Uncover Political Gateway Groups

January 01, 1970
(*Please email to to get access to the full article.)


Abstract: Abstract This project applies a new theory in the field of intergroup conflict known as "Gateway group theory," which posits that to decrease conflict between two groups, a third group with specific characteristics that appeal to both sides needs to be identified, enabling them to act as a medium. This group is known as a "Gateway group." With the background of the bitter digital divide and echo chambers plaguing the United States’ current political discourse, this paper sought to find the Gateway group between polar Democrats and Republicans on Twitter. This project data mined and examined the shared “likes” of these two populations using originally developed code and definitional parameters. Then, the study analyzed the profiles of the authors of these liked Tweets to compile an aggregated Gateway group profile that can be used to find Gateway group individuals on Twitter who have the ability to decrease conflict between Democrats and Republicans. The study found that Gateway group members exist. They are a group of Moderate Democrats. Every post that was liked by both a Democrat and Republican was also tagged and analyzed for similarities in content. It was found that 55% of all posts referenced “Trump” and 92% of those votes had a negative sentiment. Additional similarities in content were found, for example a keen interest in elections and certain Democratic candidates. This project develops an effective methodology that can be applied to any conflict on Twitter to find the Gateway group for that conflict to decrease polarity between polar groups.

Keywords: Gateway group theory, Democrat and Republican, political discourse, Twitter

I. Introduction

In 2016, The New York Times opinion columnist Lee Drutman penned an op-ed titled “The Divided States of America.” He commented on the fact that local elections were blowouts for one party or another, and instead of being a one two-party nation, America had devolved into two one-party nations. Current elected officials are more polar than they have been in decades because voter bases are more polar. In September of 2017, eight months into the Trump presidency, the Pew Research Center released a report which found that 75% of Republicans had negative views of Democrats and 70% of Democrats have negative views of Republicans. This was a large increase from the mid-1990s, when about 20% of the members of each party held unfavorable views for the other. These sentiments came to a boil during the confirmation hearing of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. According to a CNN national survey, 91% of Democrats opposed Kavanugh’s confirmation while 89% of Republicans supported it. This project attempts to find a middle ground between the two groups -- perhaps a way back to “We” the People -- using applications of social psychology and computer science. All conflict is a result of two or more groups disagreeing with each other on a fact, principle, or idea. The more divided, the greater the conflict. One of the guiding theories in intergroup contact and conflict is the Common Ingroup Identity Model. Broadly defined, an ingroup consists of members with similar beliefs, and an outgroup is a group with the conflicting ideology. At its core, the model states that if members of conflicting groups would think of themselves as belonging to a singular larger group with shared values and perceptions, they would have more positive beliefs, feelings, and behaviors toward one another. The key notion and guiding principle of the Common Ingroup Identity Model is that successfully integrating ingroup and outgroup members into a one-group through a shared identity can reduce feelings of racism or friction between the two groups (Gaertner and Dovidio, 2012). One study found that if individuals faced certain similar stressors, they were more likely to develop “we feelings,” which caused them to act as a single common group (Dovidio and Morris, 1975). The Common Ingroup Identity Model, and theory of increased contact leading to a decrease in prejudice, has been quantified. Pettigrew and Tropp (2006) conducted a meta 2 analysis of 515 studies from 38 countries and found that 94% of them showed this negative correlation. Studies in Italy, Germany, Northern Ireland and the U.S. demonstrate that simply having ingroup friends who have outgroup friends can diminish prejudice (Pettigrew et. al, 2011). This is interesting because it proves that even proving that indirect contact can have an effect on the polarization of two groups, an idea that will be explored further in this paper. The key idea of the Common Ingroup Identity Model is that the characteristics that ingroup members use to connect with other ingroup members need to be expanded to the outgroup to create a connection between the two and form a larger unitary group (Gaertner et al., 1993). Thus, more positive beliefs, feelings, and behaviors, which are usually reserved for ingroup members, are extended or redirected to former outgroup members because of their recategorized ingroup status. Gaertner et. al. (1993) furthers that consequently, recategorization changes the intergroup dynamic as an “us” versus “them” orientation to a more inclusive “we”. Once people regard former outgroup members as ingroup members, the conflict can then start to diminish and even be resolved because the behavior of the two groups changes and it is, in effect, one large ingroup (Gaertner and Dovidio, 2012). This last finding has been reexamined in recent years and has evolved into the Gateway Group theory. Gateway groups are members of both an ingroup and an outgroup. They are defined as groups that can be characterized by “unique social categorizations that enables them to be categorized as and identified with more than one group in the context of intergroup relations” (Levy et. al., 2017). In other words, they share key characteristics of each group and recent research suggests their existence and role can be crucial. Having multiple identities could bridge the gap between two completely separate groups without shared identities. In the United States, for example, the rise of a multiracial (African American and Caucasian) group poses the interesting question of whether their existence can help repair race relations (Levy et. al., 2017). Gateway groups can exist in multiple forms and capacities. Currently, the most important and relevant work on Gateway groups explores the issue of dual identity. Dual identity is a subgroup of a population that also identifies with another group (Dovidio, et. al., 2009). In the context of ingroup conflict, people with dual identities share characteristics with both an ingroup and an outgroup. Combined with the Common Ingroup Identity Model, the existence of common 3 groups could imply that those people could be used to create common identities, but still have two distinct groups. In other words, a Gateway group could bring together groups to decrease conflict but the additional step of creating one “we” group wouldn’t be necessary. The most important part of Gateway Group theory is that Gateway groups have been proven to decrease conflict. According to research by Hornsey and Hogg (2000), different groups with different identities have more bias towards one another. However, upon the introduction of Gateway groups, the amount of intergroup bias between the two groups actually decreased because the two groups felt more related, which supports the Common Ingroup Identity Model. The majority of research so far has been theoretical, as this theory is relatively new. And -- when gateway groups have been involved in experimentation, they have been defined before the experiment. This paper will take the opposite approach. First, it will define the two ingroups, and then examine who the Gateway group is and what are its defining characteristics. There is another key difference between past exploration of Gateway Groups and their impact on conflict reduction and what this paper is interested in examining, and it relates to the arena of the conflict. Previous studies involving Gateway groups have only examined the introductions of Gateway groups into real-world, corporal conflicts. However, conflict has increasingly been migrating from the physical world to the virtual. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have been the battlegrounds of current ideological wars. So that is where this research chooses to focus. With large amounts of data available, and many recent studies into the use of data to gather information about people, social media is an optimal source of information for this paper. Several recent studies have deduced physical traits and characteristics of humans in the physical world using their online behavior – their likes and follows. For example, an analysis of the “likes” of people on social media was an accurate source to trace certain characteristics. One study correctly identified homosexual and heterosexual men in 88% of cases, African Americans and Caucasian Americans in 95% of cases, and accurately sorted Democrat and Republican in 85% of cases, all based on a thumbs-up “like” (Kosinski et. al., 2013). Other factors that could be identified, with relative degrees of accuracy, were Openness, Agreeability, Extroversion, and Density of Friendship Network (on Facebook). On Twitter, one way of determining political polarity is by comparing the number of Democrats versus the number of Republicans that users 4 follow (Demszky et. al., 2019). The analysis of likes and tweets demonstrates the relative ease researchers can create profiles of random users with a high degree of accuracy. So, extrapolating from that, how would one define an ingroup online? On social media, people with similar views tend to comment, share, They serve as amplifiers for the same viewpoints, in essence, an echo chamber. Another term for this would be: an ingroup. Bessi (2016) argues that these echo chambers are problematic due to the fact that discussion with like-minded peers only increases polarization towards an outgroup (Zollo et. al., 2015). His key finding was that users would undergo a positive selection bias, by which they partook in groups that were aligned with their own beliefs, joining polarized virtual communities in the process. Additionally, in these insular bubbles, blatantly or deliberately false information is received as fact, which can be extremely dangerous because Bessi found that as ideas became more conspiratorial and radical, more people shared them in the same social media group, and more of it was taken as fact. The online world has created some of the most rigidly defined polar in and out groups. In the context of this study, the echo chambers will be formed by two conflicting polar political groups who have negative attitudes towards each other on Twitter. The overall hypothesis of this study is that by analyzing the shared Tweet likes of these two groups a profile of an online Gateway group on Twitter can be synthesized and used to decrease the effect of the online political echo chamber in the future.

II. Methods

This analysis will answer two different questions that have not been scientifically answered in the realm of intergroup conflict studies. The target population is a group of Democrats and Republicans on the social media platform Twitter. The end goal is to apply social psychology -- specifically Gateway Group Theory as defined below -- to identify what factors contribute to a decrease in the effect of political echo chambers on social media and beyond. A new theory in the intergroup contact branch of social psychology called Gateway Group (GG) Theory modifies the received notion that polarization could only be decreased through direct contact between the two groups. GGs are people with connections to both, and GG theory states 5 that their mere existence leads to decreased polarization. Given that this is a relatively new theory, the few previous experimental applications looked at a specific predefined GG and explored its effects on the target populations. This experiment differs in two key ways. First, it explores GGs in social media and determines if their effects in the physical world parallel those in the digital world; and second, its goal is to define the GG based on parameters derived from social media activity (Twitter). This contrasts with previous studies which have started knowing what their GG is, and then measured its effects on a target population. This experiment will have four separate parts. The first is data collection round one, the second is analysis, the third is data collection round two, and the fourth is overall analysis. Every step of this project was completed with originally developed Python code created specifically for this research. The online setting will be preserved as it is crucial that the observed natural interactions are untampered. A prerequisite to data collection is the definition of operational variables. A random sampling of Twitter users will be taken using the Twitter API. The users will be selected based on the number of current members of the 116th United States Congress they follow. Users who follow more than 25 Congresspeople will be included in the set. To determine their level of political polarity, the number of politicians they follow from one party will be divided from the other to determine the net polarity. For example, if a person follows ten Democrats but only two Republicans they will have a net ratio of 5 Dem. This is important because it sets the context for the rest of the study, as all users must be labeled beforehand. The next part of the study analyzes shared likes. The data set will be divided into quintiles based on users’ polarity ratios. The fifth quintile will be the highest “Democrat” ratio, or the most polar Democrats, and the first quintile will have the highest “Republican” ratio, or the most polar Republicans. Using this, the last 200 likes of 400 users in the first quintile will be compared to the last 200 likes of 400 users in the fifth quintile. A list of “political” terms was created in order to filter tweet content so only political tweets are evaluated. Political terms include (but are not limited to): “impeach”, “vote”, “President”, “immigration”, and “election”. Every time the users like the same post, the post and the user who posted it will be filed away. 6 This profile is a Gateway person because they attracted likes from the opposite ends of the spectrum. First, the profiles will be collected and using the Twitter API, their important characteristics will be put into the RapidMiner TurboPrep and Auto Modeler Software and that will determine the most prevalent characteristics for a Gateway group. The characteristics that will be evaluated will be user location, how many followers the user has, how many friends the user has, the number of Tweets the user has liked, and how many times the user has Tweeted or retweeted. Second, the posts that receive likes from both Democrats and Republicans will be tagged and will be matched against the list of political words, most of which are topic areas (i.e. elections, immigration, impeach, metoo) to see what subjects appear most often. Additionally, the profiles of the Gateway Groups will be evaluated in the same manner the original Democrats and Republicans were classified -- by using the politicians they followed as the metric for determining polarity. The purpose of this is to better understand who these people are in the context of Twitter.

III. Results

The analysis of the shared likes was fruitful in gathering data on Gateway groups. First and foremost, the 800 polar users analyzed had thousands of shared likes with each other, and 155 active “Gateway people” were identified. The individual numerical characteristics (friends, followers, favorites (Tweets liked), Tweets) of the profiles are listed in Table 1 below. For each of these, the data column was broken into quintiles and the upper and lower bounds of the third quintile was taken as the range of values. The Tweets that received the shared likes were analyzed for content. The two most prevalent Tweet topics were “Trump” and “election”/ “vote”. “Trump” was mentioned in 55% of the Tweets, and “election”/“vote” was mentioned in 13% of all Tweets. In the case of “Trump” Tweets, 92% had a negative sentiment. Additional recurring topics included “impeach” (10%), “war” (9%), and “kurds”/“turkey”/“syria” (4%).

Contrary to the narrative of a hopelessly divided America, especially online, this paper finds that the most polarized Democrats and Republicans do share likes on Twitter of certain third party accounts. In other words, they won’t see or share or like each other’s Tweets but will both see, share, and occasionally like the Tweets of a third subset of people on the platform. So the most important finding of this project is therefore that Gateway groups on Twitter do, in fact, exist. This is thanks to the novel application of weak link theory (Goyal, 2005) based on the methodology of using shared likes to determine the existence of a Gateway group. No previous study about Gateway groups has not known who Gateway group was in advance of the study. 9 They have all studied the effect of predefined Gateway groups on predefined target populations. This is also the first time Gateway groups are explored within the virtual, rather than physical, world. Those previous studies established that Gateway groups deescalate conflict. This is valuable information because a following experiment to this study should be to use this aggregated profile to find users who fit it on Twitter, and introduce them into the feeds of polar Republicans and Democrats and observe the effect of depolarization. So what is the profile of a Gateway group that can bridge polarized Republicans and Democrats on Twitter? The data reveals certain repetitive characteristics, starting with location. Approximately one-third of the users were from the Northeastern United States (including Washington, D.C.). On Twitter, these users have amassed a large following -- the median range of followers was in the hundred thousands. They have many more followers than people they follow. They are prolific Tweeters -- the median number of Tweets they generate is in the tens of thousands. Combined, this reveals that in order to appeal to multiple sides, they need to populate the feeds of their many followers constantly. Probably the most important finding in the context of the characteristics is the political affiliation and relative degree of polarity of Gateway group members in comparison to the overall political spectrum on Twitter. To provide context, the polarity of the sample Democrats and Republicans overall (i.e. not the Gateway group) was in the high tens, low hundreds, which meant that for every 100 Democrats or Republicans they followed, they followed one member of the opposite party. The Gateway groups in comparison were much more moderate. The average follow ratio of the Gateway groups was 3 Democrats for every 1 Republican. The breakdown of the Gateway profiles’ political affiliation was also interesting: 87.74% of the profiles were either Democratic or Neutral. Only 12.26% of the users were Republicans. This uniquely places these Gateway group members in a political context and who they are in relation to Democrats and Republicans becomes clearer. By and large they are Moderate Democrats. This data can have an interesting real-world application: Moderate Democrats evoke more positive reactions from the staunch liberals and staunch conservatives than do Moderate Republicans; the average “Republican” Gateway profile only followed 2 Republicans for every 1 Democrat (even more moderate and closer to the center than the average Gateway). In the 10 context of the current political reality, the fact that Moderate Democrats specifically are able to bridge the divide between the extremes with political content is a critical finding. One application of this finding is that it supports the argument that in 2020, the Democratic Party should strongly consider nominating a Moderate Democrat to run for President because they have the best chance of building a coalition of Democrats and Republicans. The idea of Moderate Democrats as a Gateway group is also borne out through the examination of the actual names of the Twitter account holders. While the names of Gateway profiles were not sought for in the data, the code written to extract profile information also provided the names of the Gateway people. While most of them were not household names, there were a few known personalities. Not surprisingly, they were politicians. The two Democratic candidates who appeared the most in the shared likes pool were Tulsi Gabbard and Joe Biden. Biden has claimed the role of the Moderate Democratic candidate in the 2020 Democratic Primary race. Gabbard, who is more controversial, is running on a platform that mixes ideas from the right and the left. So while not a classical “Moderate,” her overall aggregated profile is that of a Centrist. Both these candidates received more than double the shared likes than the next Democratic candidate, Elizabeth Warren, who is perceived to be much farther to the left. While this paper is not endorsing a Gabbard or Biden candidacy, it does suggest that whomever runs against President Trump should not skew too far to the left on policy, but rather stay centric and build a large enough support base from both sides to win the election. Within the vast number of people who follow Gateway groups, there are polar Democrats and Republicans who actively like the Gateway group’s content, and because only political Tweets were examined in this study, that opens the door to more discourse and exposure to content that is not necessarily within the confines of their respective echo chambers. The content Tweeted about and liked spanned many topics. To better understand what was Tweeted, the data was sorted by keywords. The highest-occurring keyword in the data was “Trump”, appearing in 55% of the Tweets. But more telling was the fact that 92% of these Tweets were negative. This is partially expected and partially surprising. That polar liberals are not enamored with President Trump is not surprising, but it is interesting that many polar conservatives like content that is critical of the President: these negative Tweets Tweeted by Moderate Democrats were also liked 11 by polar Republicans. This raises an interesting question: if a Moderate Democrat does run, would some polar Republicans abandon President Trump to vote for that candidate? The point of this paper is not to dole out political advice to any one party, but rather to explore ways to reduce the digital divide that plagues our political culture and national discourse. Now that we have established the existence and profile of Gateway group members on Twitter, we must explore their role and how to amplify it. First of all, according to Gateway Group Theory, their mere organic existence suggests the ability to reduce conflict. There are also a few steps that could be taken proactively to increase their influence. Currently, the majority of the Gateway group members are Democrats. These Democrats have not actively become Gateway persons (they don’t think of themselves as such or even know they belong to a unique group that decreases polarization on Twitter), rather, their online activity makes them so. But there is actually an ingroup and an outgroup dynamic occurring within the Gateway group, where Democrats are the ingroup and Republicans the outgroup. And while this paper deals with Gateway Group theory, the Common Ingroup Identity Model still holds true. The Background Section explained that a key idea of the Common Ingroup Identity Model is that the characteristics that ingroup members use to connect with other ingroup members need to be expanded to the outgroup to create a connection between the two and form a larger unitary group, changing the dynamic from “us” vs “them” to “we.” In this case, the “we” is the Gateway group. If these Gateway Democrats actively followed more Republicans and started to increase the similarities in Tweet content, more Republicans could be made a part of the Gateway and consequently increase the scope of its influence. These Gateway groups could ultimately decrease the echo-chambers. Unfortunately, this cannot be mandated or achieved artificially. But one idea is to encourage the platform to design algorithms that would recommend Gateway group members to polar Republican or Democratic users (platforms routinely recommend additional accounts to follow.) As this study shows, Twitter, which is often seen as the source of so much of the polarity in contemporary US political discourse, can actually become the vehicle for reducing that polarity. This via Gateway Twitter members deliberately reaching out to those beyond their current sphere of shared followers, for example by growing their own ratios of Republican vs. 12 Democratic users they themselves follow. To truly evaluate the long-term effect of Gateway groups on the echo chamber, a further study would have to observe the same polar profiles over time as they interacted with more Gateway group members and use sentiment analysis on their Tweets at different points in time to see if they became less polarized. Using this study’s profile, that should happen. And there is wide-applicability to this idea well beyond politics on Twitter. While the methodology of the study was based in computer science, and the study examined social media, it was all through the lens of social psychology. The guiding principle behind social psychology is that human behavior is constant and so theories are made and applied to a variety of different situations. Because of that, this study has two key impacts and implications. First, it successfully defines Gateway groups on social media through its unique methodology. It establishes two conflicting ingroups. It then uses a metric (shared “likes”) to find the people that evoke positive reactions from both ingroups. Finally, it extracts profile data on these people to make a composite Gateway profile. But the second implication is crucial in the context of social media, which is only making people more and more polarized because of the echo chambers that are so prevalent on these platforms. This method of identifying a Gateway group online via shared likes can be applied to any “conflictual” echo chamber on social media. The originally developed code from this project can be adapted and used to this end. It is the first step in combating the polarity of users on social media because now researchers can build on this idea to find the Gateway groups to then insert them into polarized feeds to decrease intergroup conflict. Social media has been the scapegoat for the political polarization plaguing this country. But if the influence of the Gateway groups this study identified could be increased, then social media could become a social medium and decrease the polarity of our political discourse.


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Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology,2, 439-457. Gaertner, S. S., Dovidio, J. F., Anastasio, P. A., Bachman, B. A., & Rust, M. C. (1993).

The Common Ingroup Identity Model: Recategorization and the Reduction of Intergroup Bias. European Review of Social Psychology,4(1), 1-26. doi: Goyal, S. (2005).

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Subgroup Relations: A Comparison of Mutual Intergroup Differentiation and Common Ingroup Identity Models of Prejudice Reduction. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,26(2), 242-256. doi:10.1177/0146167200264010 Kosinski, M., Stillwell, D., & Graepel, T. (2013).

Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,110(15), 5802-5805. doi:10.1073/pnas.1218772110 14 Levy, A., Saguy, T., Halperin, E., & Zomeren, M. V. (2017).

Bridges or Barriers? Conceptualization of the Role of Multiple Identity Gateway Groups in Intergroup Relations. Frontiers in Psychology,8. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01097 Pettigrew, T. F., Tropp, L. R., Wagner, U., & Christ, O. (2011).

Recent advances in intergroup contact theory. International Journal of Intercultural Relations,(35), 271-280. Zollo, F., Novak, P. K., Vicario, M. D., Bessi, A., Mozetič, I., Scala, A., . . . Quattrociocchi, W. (2015). Emotional Dynamics in the Age of Misinformation. Plos One,10(9). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138740




Assessment of Lake Water Quality and Quantity Using Satellite Remote Sensing

January 01, 1970

AbstractAssessment of both water quality and quantity pose a great challenge to those studying the effects of anthropogenic activities on bodies of water. Eutrophication created by the increased concentration of nutrients including nitrates and phosphates has been known to contribute to the development of both toxic algal blooms, which serve as limiting factors in the ecosystems of the water, rendering it useless for consumption.1,2 Another common development is the buildup of suspended sediments (SS/TSS), contributing to the anoxic conditions characterizing environmental hypoxia.3 Because current methods for the assessment of the presence of such issues rely upon tedious and costly methods, a timely and cost-efficient method is desirable for application to the practice.4  This research relies upon analysis of the inherent optical properties of chlorophyll and sedimentation present within the bodies of water in question, achieved through analysis of the reflectance values of the red and blue bands from Landsat satellite images of five bodies of water. 5 The analysis, performed using Geographic Information System ArcMap, allows for determination of the values that attest to changes in surface area, turbidity, and eutrophication. The trends in the data hold consistency with the natural occurrences surrounding the bodies of water associated with the three parameters outlined above, supporting usage of remote sensing for qualitative and quantitative analysis of water.


Lakes are popular hosts of environmental problems as a result of anthropogenic activities. For the majority of these lakes, causes of these problems often involve sediment loading or nutrient enrichment, also known as eutrophication.1 Eutrophication is also the cause of algal bloom in water. Both eutrophication and algal bloom are a natural phenomenon, but human activities may accelerate them, which can cause harm in terrestrial ecosystems. In fact, eutrophication and harmful algal blooms are the leading source of impairment of water quality in many lakes around the world.2 Specifically, human-derived sources due to industrialization, urbanization, or agricultural wastes due to the amount of excess nutrient that these sources then load onto their local freshwater bodies. Anthropogenic activities change the amount of Nitrogen and Phosphate - both of which are nutrients essential to algal growth - present in water. For instance, sewage, agricultural, and household discharges often contain large quantities of P minerals.3 Harmful algal blooms may cause anoxic conditions, which is the depletion of oxygen in water. Such conditions are especially dominated by cyanobacteria, which is a blue alga that produces cyanotoxins and makes lake water toxic, causing wildlife deaths and seafood poisoning in humans.4 

Traditional methods to measure water quality parameters like algal blooms involves field surveying techniques while measuring suspended solids involves the filtration technique. Unlike the other methods, studies show that satellite remote sensing is more cost-effective, economic, and ideal for acquiring spatial data from lakes with large surface areas7 like the ones that will be investigated. For the purpose of this study, there are two

other water quality parameters measured, besides the quantity factor with surface area. One is the chlorophyll, which will indicate the severity of algal bloom, and the other is total suspended solids, as a measure of water turbidity. The Inherent Optical Property (IOP) - which refers to absorption and scattering properties of underwater contents - of chlorophyll and suspended solids were used to determine algal and sediment presence. And because of the optical properties of chlorophyll and suspended solids in water, one can use commercially available optical instruments to measure their respective concentrations.7 This can be applied to satellite data because of the way in which satellite sensors collects the intensity of light reflected. And since satellites measure reflectance values in different intervals of the electromagnetic spectrum, the focus will be placed on reflectance values on certain intervals - also known as band values - in this paper. In summary, a lower reflectance value of blue band correlates to a higher concentration of sediments. As a lower reflectance value of the red band would suggest a higher presence of chlorophyll.

In this study, three lakes across the world are analyzed, and each is chosen for the significance of their impact on local livelihood. The three bodies of water are the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan, the Wular Lake in Kashmir, and Lake Taihu, or Lake Tai in China.


United States Geological Survey satellite images were to collect the data related to the measures of surface area, turbidity, and eutrophication. The satellite images were acquired from the United States Geological Survey’s Earth Explorer Database. The GIS software was utilized in order to determine the surface area and mean red and blue band values for each of the bodies of water.6 The satellite images that were selected were without any cloud coverage over the bodies of water, as the functions that were utilized in determining the presence of chlorophyll and sedimentation relied upon the properties of reflectance of light.6 The mean red band values of each image would analyze the levels of chlorophyll present in the lake, while the mean blue band values would represent the presence of Total Suspended Solids (TSS). The selected images were then downloaded with the “ LandsatLook Images with Geographic Reference” option in order to be able to have the images automatically oriented geographically upon downloading, taking advantage of the automatic georeferencing done by ArcMap. Following the creation of a mosaic image, a new shapefile was created and categorized as a polygon, to permit usage of the editing tool that allows users to outline figures. The shapefile was edited to create features known as “profiles.” The “Freeform” tool was utilized in creating the profiles over the bodies of water, as it is designed to function as a tracer. This ability permitted the creation of accurate profiles that covered the bodies of water. The profiles were created with the intention to analyze to mean values for the red and blue bands of the lakes. In order to receive the intended values from only the areas that were covered by a profile, the “Clip” tool found under the Raster Library was utilized. This tool allows users to make a copy of the areas that are underneath the created profiles. Clipping the shapefile to the mosaiced image creates the copies of the profiles, that appear as a new layer on ArcMap. ArcMap automatically computes the data values that are associated with the new layer and attaches them to the newly created layer. To calculate the surface area, the attribute tables were opened. The area is not automatically calculated, but can be computed using the software. An attribute was added to attribute file: “Surface Area, adding the values of the surface areas of the shapefiles created. For each clipped layer, the properties feature was utilized to access the statistical analysis section, locating the values listed as “mean.” The values were listed as Band 1, Band 2 , and Band 3.  Each pixel that forms an image derives its color from the values of intensity of three different bands: Red, Green, and Blue. Band 1 and Band 3 were the bands that were observed as they represent the values of the bands that attest to the degrees of turbidity and eutrophication: the conditions in question.

Data and Results

The data visualizations shown below display the conglomeration of the data that were collected using the methods outlined above. The graphs present the calculated mean red and blue band values as represented by the bars of the respective colors. The solid black line represents the surface area of the lake for that specific year.
In regards to the most drastic change in surface area, the Aral Sea suffered from the
greatest decrease in surface area during the two decade period in which the available data samples were analyzed. Below are two images that were used in the study: the first on the left is from the sample used to analyze the desired values for the year 1999. The photo on the right is the image that was analyzed to retrieve the data for the year 2017.

                                           Figure 1.  Data for the Lake Taihu

The figure below shows the Landsat­7 - image of the Aral Sea Aral Sea in the first year of the study: 1999. The figure below shows the Landsat­7 - image of the Aral Sea Aral Sea in the final year of the study: 2017

                                                                                                   Figure 2. Aral Sea in 1999 and 2017

The two figures show the Aral Sea in 1999 and 2017 respectively.


                            Figure 3. Graph of Aral Sea with all three parameters

In Figure 3, the blue represents blue band values, red represents red band values, and black line shows the trend for surface area 

                               Figure 4. Images of Lake Taihu in 2001

The figure above shows an image of Lake Taihu in 2001, maintaining non uniformity about it in its color, with the northern region of the lake suffering from greater nutrient concentration, creating a faint green tint.


                                 Figure 5. Images of Lake Taihu in 2016

The figure above shows an image of Lake Taihu in 2016, having maintained a more consistent and clearer body of water, attesting to the decrease in pollution.

The figures above show an images of Lake Taihu in 2001 and 2016, maintaining non uniformity about it in its color, with the northern region of the lake suffering from greater nutrient concentration, creating a faint green tint, and then having maintained a more consistent and clear body of wate in 2016, attesting to the decrease in pollution.


                       Figure 6. Graph of Wular Lake with all three parameters

Blue representing blue band values, red representing red band values, and black line shows the trend for surface area.)

Discussion and Conclusion

From observing the images of the Aral Sea, there is an apparent decrease in surface area from the almost two decade period that was examined. This is greatly reflected in the rapid decrease in value of the surface area as represented on the graph. In addition, there is a trend present in the values of the red and blue bands where the values are present: the values of the red bands are significantly higher than the values for the blue band means, though this disparity does seem to decrease in the more recent years. The decrease in the red band value from the year 1999 to the 2017 reflects the presence of organisms that absorb more red light, representative of the occurrence of algal blooms that are caused by the phenomenon of eutrophication. The minor increase in blue bands may allow us to determine a decrease in the presence of total suspended solids present within the lake.

For the Wular Lake, the values for the blue bands are consistently significantly higher than the values for the red bands, slowly decreasing in recent years until meeting values similar to those of the red bands. The Wular Lake shows to have maintained a consistency with the values of the red bands as they do not display a significant gap, showing a stability of the values representing the presence of chlorophyll in the lake. There was a significant decrease in the values for the blue bands, representing an overall increase in the quantity of total suspended solids in the lake. The surface area for the lake remained rather stagnant with the exception of 2014, during which floodwaters increased the surface area of the lake. It otherwise did not exhibit any significant change during the years that were utilized in the data extracted.8

 With both of its red and blue band values observed to have an increasing trend, Lake Taihu is the only lake in which its case with pollution is gradually getting better over the course of the 15-year period. The increase in band values is more notable as the mean of the reflectance value in the blue wavelength is nearly three times at 2016 than it was 2001. This suggests a significant decrease in the presence of TSS. The increase in both band values also suggests a decrease in chlorophyll presence in the lake. The surface area of Lake Taihu has remained relatively stagnant over the 15-year period.

It is relevant here to mention that not all of these lakes were expected to have large fluctuations in all three quality as well as quantity parameters to begin with. For instance, during the lake selections phase, it is expected for lakes like the Aral Sea to show a more obvious trend in decreasing surface area for the past few years, because it is more notoriously known globally for its problem with the shrinking size. Other lakes, like Lake Tai and Wular Lake, are not expected to have as much of a decrease in surface area, though it is expected to have more problems in terms of its water quality, as they are often subject to case studies involving the extents of their harmful algal bloom or excessive sedimentation.

Looking at the red band values of these graphs, there seems to be an observable trend in all the lakes except for the Aral Sea. Which makes sense because the Aral Sea is the only lake out of all the five that is technically located in the middle of a desert in Central Asia, and it seems to be the most remote from live plants and vegetation. The rest of these lakes are most located in scenic areas where there are mountains full of trees some of them are located in a more subtropical climate. In the Wular Lake, for example, there is the most apparent trend of a decrease in red band means, which is correlated to an increase in chlorophyll concentration. This is an indicator that the algal growth in Wular Lake is certainly still an ongoing problem. Lake Tai, however, seems to be in the minority as there is an upward trend in the red band value, indicating a decrease in algal growth. This is evidently consistent with its local government’s conservation efforts to control local industrial pollutions. The blue band values seem to be fluctuating from year to year. The only cases with an obvious trend may have been present is in the case of Wular Lake. There is a relatively strong trend of decreasing blue band values, which indicates an increase in suspended sediments. This fits context as reportedly, the lake still suffers from pollutions from fertilizers and animal manure from plantations nearby. Another trend in blue band is observed in Lake Tai, as there is a slight increase in blue band values, meaning there has been a decrease amount of sediments.


[1] Smith, V., Tilman, G., & Nekola, J. (1999). Eutrophication:Impacts of excess nutrient inputs on freshwater, marine,andterrestrial ecosystems. ​Environmental Pollution,100(​ 1-3), 179-196. doi:10.1016/s0269-7491(99)00091-3 12     

[2] Chislock, M.F.; Doster, E.; Zitomer, R.A.; Wilson, A.E. (2013)."Eutrophication: Causes, Consequences, and Controls in Aquatic Ecosystems". Nature Education Knowledge. 4 (4): 10. Retrieved 10 March 2018.                                                            

[3] Anderson, D. M., Glibert, P. M., & Burkholder, J. M. (2002). “Harmful algal blooms and eutrophication: Nutrient sources, composition, and consequences.” Estuaries,25(4), 704-726. doi:10.1007/bf02804901 

[4] Bush et al. (2017). "Oxic-anoxic regime shifts mediated by feedbacks between biogeochemical processes and microbial community dynamics". nature. Bibcode:2017NatCo...8..789B. doi:10.1038/s41467-017-00912-x. 

[5] Michaud, Joy P. (1994). "Measuring Total Suspended Solids and Turbidity in lakes and streams." Archived 2010-07-30 at the Wayback Machine. A Citizen's Guide to Understanding and Monitoring Lakes and Streams. State of Washington, Department of Ecology.                                        

[6] Alesheikh, A. A., et al. “Coastline Change Detection Using Remote Sensing”. International Journal of Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 4, no. 1, Jan. 2007, pp. 61–66., doi:10.1007/bf03325962.                                                      

[7]Babin, M., Cullen, J., Roesler, C., Donaghay, P., Doucette, G., Kahru, M., . . . Sosik, H. (2005). New Approaches and Technologies for Observing Harmful Algal Blooms. Oceanography, 18(2), 210-227. doi:10.5670/oceanog.2005.55 [8] Stony, J., & Scaramuzza, P. (n.d.). Landsat 7 Scan Line Corrector-Off Gap-Filled Product Development.

On the Political Voice of Uyghur Poetry through the Gungga movement and Perhat Tursun’s Elegy

January 01, 1970

Abstract: The political sensitivity of the region in turn propagates the popularity of political interpretations for literature from Xinjiang. When reading Uyghur poetry from the likes of Tahir Hamut, Perhat Tursun, or Ghojimuhemmed Muhemmed, it is difficult to divorce ones thinking from the political reality that defines everything in Xinjiang. Literature gives a lens to culture and reality, and concerning Uyghur Misty/ Gungga/ Menglong poets there are interesting viewpoints on the political value and implications of their works. This paper will seek to outline how the political intentions of these gungga poets are interpreted. An ethno-religious reading of these authors will be called into question while an argument for a political community consciousness of issues will be put forth. This will be mostly done through an analysis of various gungga works in this paper.

Keywords: Uyghur, poetry, Gungga movement, Elegy, and linguistics

I. Introduction

The political instability of the Uyghur situation within the People’s Republic of China is something that is front page news across the globe. The resource rich and vast territory of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is one that is crucial not only for the territorial integrity of the Chinese nation but a keystone for Chinese aspirations in the international field–especially with the New Silk Road initiative put forth by Xi Jinping in recent years. The wealth of this region is unevenly shared with dissatisfaction high among the Uyghurs of the region. The nationwide issues that spring forth from economic growth, modernization, and the control of the Communist Party are intensified in Xinjiang because of the volatile situation present. This results in the unwavering iron grip that the Chinese Communist Party exerts on the native populations of the province [1]. In the crusade to rid the region of “dangerous” elements, the Chinese Communist Party has recently sought to rid the province of “dangerous” people–the destruction of a people seems to be simply a means to an end for the pacification of Xinjiang under the Chinese Communist Party.

II. Thoughts on Poetic Interpretations

This paper will try to evaluate different interpretations of Uyghur poems, and Uyghur modern poetry in general, and the political lenses used to do so. Therefore, it is important to define “poetic interpretation” and “political significance.”

When it comes to poetic interpretation there is conflict on what is considered a “valid” assessment of aesthetics and message. While American literary critic E.D. Hirsch sees “the author's intention….is the ultimate determiner of meaning,” [2] there are viewpoints that are more pluralistic and relativistic. 20th Century German philosopher Martin Heidegger saw “the direct subjective experience of a work of art as essential to an individual's aesthetic interpretation” [2]. There is only one correct interpretation of a work and it coincides with the creator’s vision to the idea that everyone’s approach to art is different and each of those approaches are valid. These different schools of thought are important as the political nature of these misty Uyghur poems are very much up to the reader’s discretion.

This focus on the fluid nature of poetic interpretation is really emphasized here because of the fact that depending on where one lies on the spectrum, one’s take away from Modernist Uyghur poetry through a political lens really shifts. Also, this is mentioned as a disclaimer because who is right and who is wrong in their readings of poetry are really more or less up to interpretation.

Similar vagueness arises when the idea of what is “political” is considered. There is a language of vague analogies concerning the definition of political as the term seems to be all encompassing yet ever so specific and defined. Aristotle advanced the thesis that human beings are by nature political animals [3]. Going off this tangent, this paper therefore considers “political significance” to include the way people interact in the social realm. Aristotle’s viewpoint shows the tendency to fold the social into the political. Using this in modern contexts, the social spaces and community consciousness that literature creates will be considered political.

III. Usage of Sufi Allusions for the Creation of a New Identity

When it comes to the crossroads of what is “political” and the Uyghur gungga poets, Darren Byler of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington posits a fascinating view of a kind of pro-active modernist self-determination pursued by these avant-garde authors. Drawing from the Sufi-branch Islamic allusions and styles used by the authors Tahir Hamut and Perhat Tursun in some of their poems, Byler brings up how these poets are trying to redefine and give cultural capital to a novel modern image of Uyghur Identity [4].

Sufiism is the mystical cousin of more orthodox forms of Islam and was a school of religious thought that produced some of the most well-known minds of the Islamic World. Traditional Uyghur literature is highly intertwined with both Sufiism and the Persian language Sufiism was often communicated through [4]. The mystical nature of Sufiism allowed for more space for syncretic practices from other religions and therefore is also highly connected to folk culture in the Uyghur context, where Sufi saints form a core pillar of Uyghur folklore. Because Sufiism was centered on the individual and god, the Sufi literati across the Persianate world were relaxed concerning religious dogma and prescription–especially concerning alcohol.

Because of the moderate nature of the Sufi ideology and the high prestige it carries in Uyghur society, Byler argues that Perhat Tursun and Tahir Hamut reference the Sufi cultural legacy of Uyghur literature through appeals to Sufi figures and symbols as well as the Persian ghazal poetic form [4]. This is done in order to incorporate and render palatable poetry on the modern urban and rural Uyghur experience within the social context of Uyghur society [4].

All these modernist Sufi elements are very much present in the poem Elegy by Perhat Tursun. The repetition of the phrase “Do you know I am with you” as well as the referring back to the author in the last line are stylistic choices influenced from Persian ghazal meter [4], while the reference to the Chagatai poet Elishir Nawa’i is  direct reference to an important Sufi figure and his viewpoint.


“Your soul is the entire world.’ Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Among the corpses that froze in exodus over the icy

mountain pass, can you recognize me?

The brothers we asked to shelter us took our clothes.

Go by there even now and you will find our naked corpses.

When they force me to accept the massacre as love

Do you know that I am with you.

In those times when drinking wine was a graver sin than                                   

drinking blood, do you know the taste of the flour

ground in the blood-turned mill?

The wine that Elishir Nawa’i deliriously dreamed up was                             

modeled on the flavor of my blood.

In that infinitely mysterious drunkenness’s deepest levels

Do you know that I am with you” [10].


The Poem opens with a reference to Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, openly evoking the Buddhist past of the Uyghurs before their conversion, while also highlighting the openness of the Sufi mindset. The intoxication of life is highlighted, and framed as something natural and native through the usage classical references [4]. Byler sees these messages as prescriptive pushes to promote a cosmopolitan Uyghur identity that marries the past and promotes spirituality but not necessarily religious dogma.

Modern Uyghur society had been under the influence of the Chinese Socialist Realist school of nationality for the past half century, and this had a significant impact on the literature and the ethnic mythology of the Uyghur people. The economic liberalization of the Deng years, along with the global rise of political Islam away from the Arab core of the Islamic world, has also offered another highly influential vision of Uyghur identity. This instability on what is a “Uyghur”, whether centered on ethno-nationalism within the Chinese family or reformist religiosity, is something that Byler claims the gungga poets are trying to solve by promoting a middle way with traditional a traditional Uyghur Sufi world view, between state mandated atheistic nationalism and foreign religious orthodoxy [4].

Byler puts forth the political nature of Uyghur poetry as something coherent, rooted, and yet not conservative. There is a strong argument that the gungga poets appeal to the Sufi past in order to justify the creation of a space where the Uyghurs are autonomous in their self-definition.

IV. Diversity of Uyghur Poetry and Politics

While all these poets are united in certain factors–they are more comfortable in Uyghur than Mandarin in nearly all fields, they draw heavily from the western tradition, they came of age during the years when Deng Xiaoping’s reforms were gaining momentum–all these factors are a result of the fact that they all hail from more or less the same generation. This fact brings up a reality that beyond the style of Gungga poetry, the inclusion of very contemporary subject matter, it is very hard to assign a political archetype that unites all the modernist Uyghur poets [6]. The unity of goals and motivations are assumed by Byler in his modernist Sufi readings of gungga poetry, which calls into question the wider applicability or even accuracy of his conclusions. The aligning of a literary style with politics or a worldview, might be a stretch.

In response to ideas published by Byler, Uyghur language specialist and translator Joshua Freeman of Harvard University is not convinced of the explicit political implications of Sufi allegory in gungga rhetoric–or any universal political message as a matter of fact.

Sufi imagery comes up occasionally in gungga poetry (e.g., in Perhat Tursun's Elegy), but it's not really a central theme in the genre. Some gungga poets do claim the Sufi poet Mashrab as a spiritual or poetic ancestor in a similar manner to the way Nawa’i was appealed to in Elegy, but by the same token these gungga poets would also claim poets “like Baudelaire or Pound as a poetic ancestor” [6]. There is a strong case for Freeman’s claim that “…Sufism is honestly a bit overemphasized in a lot of what has been written on Uyghur modernist poetry” [6]. It is arguable that when it comes to form, avant gardeness, and perspective, these modernist poets are as much students of Herman Hesse–who is quoted in the opening line of Elegy– or Franz Kafka as they are of Mashrab or Nawa’i–who is beckoned for in the closing line of Elegy.

While Byler reasons that there is a specific political motivation for the Sufi influences that are present in gungga poetry–the rendering of modern concepts into a form more familiar to the audience– Freeman again does not see the poets as having that focused of an agenda. Uyghur or not, it is hard to think of a catch-all answer to the question of why modernist poets sometimes use traditional forms:

“After all, "traditional" poetry is almost always among the influences of any modernist poet, and there's nothing preventing a modernist from drawing on those influences. In the case of Uyghur gungga poets in the 1980s and '90s, there was also sometimes an attempt to prove one's Uyghur bona fides by writing in traditional forms” [6].

Freeman pushes forth the idea that a Uyghur poet drawing on his roots, is not necessarily inherently a politically significant in the way Byler want it to be.

It should be of note that Byler draws his conclusions not out of thin air but from ground work in Xinjiang as an anthropologist. The political leanings that Byler highlights are very much present in Uyghur society. Freeman is not exactly negating the political message but the idea that it is gungga poetry that carries it. This becomes clearer when Freeman’s view point that there really is not any particular world view or political motivation that onw could generalize to gungga poets. A literary style does not overlap neatly with politics and worldviews:

“Much the same way that Auden was a liberal humanist, Eliot a conservative, and Pound a fascist sympathizer—yet all three were prominent anglophone modernists in the early to mid-twentieth century. Some (I'd say most) gungga poets are liberals, as that is defined in a Uyghur context, while others are religious conservatives. I'm not persuaded that gungga poets as a group are trying to put forward a new identity for Uyghurs, though of course individual poets and even groups of poets have their own ideas on identity, society, etc” [6].

While the modern Sufi vision of misty/gungga Uyghur poetry is possibly valid and fascinating, the defining of the political significance of these authors based on a supposed proactive prescriptivist world view is unsatisfactory.

V. Reality and Merit of Political Voice

The shaky territory on which the Sufi self-determinist lens of Uyghur poetry stands is obvious and this hesitancy extends to the idea of a unified drive for the creation of a new Uyghur identity. This, however, does not mean that Elegy by Tahir Hamut, or any of the other Uyghur gungga works, are not political. Going back to the socially intertwined idea of what constitutes the “political” derived from Aristotle mentioned earlier in this paper, the political lens of Uyghur poetry is still relevant and applicable–it just might not be Sufi modernist.

The political does not require poetry to be a tool for social activism–as it would be according to Byler’s Sufi analysis– but includes the creation of dialogue and a community consciousness of issues relevant to the community in question. This lens of a community consciousness of issues was used by reaserchers Rebecca A. Clotheya, Emmanuel F. Kokub, Erfan Erkina, and Husenjan Emata in an expansive survey of Uyghur language blog posts and literature published online. While this lens of analysis of Uyghur language works has not been used beyond the online world, the value of using this lens in the analysis and evaluation of political voice in Uyghur gungga literature is elucidating.

In Tahir Hamut’s Return to Kashgar the modernization and social change of his hometown is portrayed through a distinctly Uyghur point of view–a point of view tied to his memories of and membership in the community of old Kashgar. Because many of the misty poems communicate the daily lives and struggles of ordinary Uyghurs in the current landscape of Xinjiang, these poems are creating a social space of political consciousness and unity that is defined and adapted to the modern world. Even when poems are not fully explicitly set in the modern world, as in Ghojimuhemmed Muhemmed’s Chronicle of an Excecution, they provide an active critique of the society:

“The past that advances shouting Charge!

The odes sung by souls entering and leaving

to doors opening and doors closing

Distant graves approaching

Girls never seen twice and beds seen many times

Water in the blood, bread in the flesh, vows in the bone

A sword striking a head, a noose lain round a neck, bullets into the chest

And what comes before his eyes in the final breath

is a chain called homeland, an enemy called his people

And the beautiful life for which he longed    

is the flower garden he has laid waste”

The distinctly Uyghur point of view is not social activism or identity construction, but the communication of the reality of living in Uyghur society. The distance between the religious conservatism and mysticism of Uyghur society and the authors own life in this case is a vocalization of how the clash of old and new effects the normal Uyghur.

The gunnga modernist Uyghur poetry style expresses the idea of the authors and of society in general, it seems that the goal is not social activism or the overthrow of authority but the creation of a consciousness within the community of issues relevant to them [1]. Many of the gunnga poems address issues such as the Uyghur society and modernization, gentrification, urban isolation, and social shift. While these poems might not be trying to a new political Uyghur identity, they are inherently political because they are calling attention to relevant issues.

VI. Conclusion

In order for Uyghur poetry to have a political voice it is not necessary for it to have a coherent message or a political goal. The shifting of the analysis of political voice, in terms of poetry, from one focused on the supposed aimed goals to one that is focused on the sake of the voicing of experience is one that can be applied to the mists of gunnga poetry.

Misty poetry by its very nature is vague but not necessarily removed from the political. Considering the lengths the Chinese Communist Party has gone to rid the region of problematic individuals, the voicing of societal problems in poetry is a distinctly political action in Xinjiang among the Uyghurs. Misty poetry is a style that does not line up with world views and politics, and the diversity of the group makes it hard to point towards a coherent political narrative. Yet, the lack of political coherence of the style does not mean the works lack merit in political interpretation.  Gunnga poetry should not be viewed as a coherent movement of social activism, but as helping in the creation of community consciousness for relevant issues–an activity that is has become ever more dangerous over time.


[1] Clothey, Rebecca A., Emmanuel F. Koku, Erfan Erkin, and Husenjan Emat. "A Voice for the Voiceless: Online Social Activism in Uyghur Language Blogs and State Control of the Internet in China." Information, Communication & Society19, no. 6 (2015): 858-74. doi:10.1080/1369118x.2015.1061577.

[2] Thomson, Iain. "Heidegger's Aesthetics." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. February 04, 2010. Accessed December 9, 2018.

[3] Etzioni, Amitai. "What Is Political?" George Washington University.

[4] Byler, Darren. "Claiming the Mystical Self in New Modernist Uyghur Poetry." Contemporary Islam12, no. 2 (2018): 173-92. doi:10.1007/s11562-018-0413-2.

[5] Freeman, Joshua L. "Two Poems by Perhat Tursun: "Morning Feeling," "Elegy"." - Share Research. Accessed December 22, 2018.

[6] "" E-mail message to author.

[7] Muhemmed, Ghojimuhemmed. "Magazine." Words Without Borders. Accessed December 22, 2018.






How the Space Theory Transformed the History Discipline

January 01, 1970

Abstract: Gender, labor and race historians have made a strong case for space as a social construct. A Foucauldian framework of analysis of space has allowed historians to reveal histories of the subaltern, which are otherwise often ignored. Interactions in space are social relations, as individuals relate to the space around them in response to other individuals and societal norms. Even so, the materiality of space cannot be understated, as the built space impacts how those interactions are produced and unfold. The consideration of the materiality of space as an additional layer to social space, make spatial history a more effective and illuminating methodological approach.   

Keywords: space theory, societal construct, social space, gender, labor, and history


Although historian Leif Jerram has criticized historians for overusing imagined space, stating that space is the material physicality of location, gender, labor, and race, historians have used space as a social construct to successfully unearth otherwise hidden transcripts of power relations and resistance [1]. Rather than looking at ‘imagined space’ as in competition with ‘built space,’ a layered definition of space must be adopted. As Sewell has argued, space is imagined, experienced, and built [2]. Discursive imagined space can be defined as the ways in which individuals understand their environment, while experienced space is the ‘material interactions between people and their environment’ [2]. Finally, the built environment can be defined as the physical structures that occupy spaces [2]. These overlapping layers must be examined through a social constructivist Foucauldian lens, as space is fundamentally interlinked with the production and reproduction of ‘economic, political, and cultural power,’ and the reaction of those in power and of the subaltern to that power [3].  This relationship of space with power means that ‘spatial relations are social relations’ [4]. The extent to which spatial theory has effectively been applied by labour, gender, and race relations historians must be examined to establish its use in the discipline of history.

Capitalism and Class Division

When space is considered through the socially constructivist lens, individuals who would otherwise be seen as passive become agents, since the ways in which they relate to space impacts that space. This is especially evident when labors’ relations to space are considered. Lefebvre argued that space is produced socially by the hegemonic class, asserting their dominance in society [4]. Thus capital becomes the ‘primary maker of the geography of capitalism.’ [5] Lefebvre’s theory was influenced by his Marxist approach, which became popular in economic geography in the 1970s in questioning the relationship between capital and space [5]. Lefebvre’s focus on economic geography does not give enough agency to subaltern people existing and resisting within such elite-dominated spaces. In contrast, Herod has argued that in response to capitalist space, workers construct landscapes in a way which increases their social power and diminishes the power of capital [5]. Judith Butler similarly argued that public protests not only take place in the built space, but they also “reconfigure the materiality of space.” By occupying spaces controlled by capital and those in power, the subaltern ‘performatively lay claim’ to the space and assert their right to it.

The reclaiming and coopting of space by workers in times of strikes has been explored by Percy. By comparing strikes in early twentieth century Chicago and London, Percy found that workers asserted their existence and attracted attention to their cause by claiming public space [3]. Their alternative use of public space strengthened collective action as it impacted how they related to one another, strengthening working-class consciousness and solidarity. People understand space in relation to other people, even as the physicality of the space also impacts their relationship to space. For example, there were some crucial differences in how the strikes played out in London and Chicago due to the different physical configurations of these urban spaces. In Chicago, the grid street layout allowed strikes to spread faster and made maintaining picket lines easier. In contrast, the web of streets in London meant that workers used parades and mass meetings for more effective resistance [3]. In this case study, space was produced socially as strikers constructed an alternative public sphere in which they asserted their right to be in middle-class neighborhoods and to dominate the streets. Percy demonstrates how the materiality of space impacted that production. This demonstrates the effectiveness of thinking about space predominantly as socially constructed, but also considering built space.

Gender and Conceptualization of Women

Historians of gender have also made effective arguments for space as a social construct. Traditionally, public space has been constructed as belonging to men, with women being confined to the private sphere. Women breaking this barrier by entering public spaces was often thus seen as a trespass, both by those who sought to police them, and by women themselves. For example, in Chicago in the late nineteenth century, public drinking was seen as a masculine act, with only ‘disreputable’ women drinking in public [6]. Only the rise of commercial gender segregated spaces, gave upper and middle-class women the ability the ability to drink and push the boundaries of the private sphere. Such spaces still belonged predominantly to white, middle-class women, as African American women were often barred from entering them, as were working-class women [6]. This demonstrates the extent to which capital does play in a role in space formation, as Lefebvre has argued. The rise of consumerism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries led to the creation of spaces which expanded the private sphere into the public one for women, demonstrate the power capital plays in determining spatial relations, even though such relations remain socially constructed.

Due to the conceptualization of women as belonging to the private sphere, women striking in public spaces has traditionally been treated both more severely and seriously. During the Polish Solidarity resistance strikes in Lodz in 1980, women marched with strollers and babies. These women not only claimed the physical public space, but also impacted how that space was imagined (both by them and others) by bringing objects of motherhood and the traditional private sphere into the public. As a result, the march in which they participated in was one of the most successful actions of the Solidarity Movement. The success of this march was predicated on a societal understanding of the streets as a public space in which mothers did not belong. By examining women in the Solidarity movement and their interactions with space, Kenney unearthed how women used popular understanding of public space to their advantage, reconfiguring the streets into sites of protest which shocked authorities and led to positive action.

Although Rosa Parks has been the traditional image of the American Civil Rights Movement, Kelley used space as a social construct in order to reveal an otherwise hidden transcript of resistance [7]. Kelley’s examination of space has broadened the understanding of historians about the Civil Rights Movement, leading Hall to conclude that there was a ‘Long Civil Rights Movement’ which spanned decades rather than beginning and ending in the 1960s. Kelley used police reports to analyze how public transportation in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1940s became a theatre of daily resistance [7]. Driven by white drivers and policed by them and by white passengers, the bus was a white space in which race relations were rigidly maintained. Drivers controlled who entered the supposedly public space, often passing by black passengers at stops [7]. Further, the space was hierarchical, as black passengers were forced to sit at the back of the bus or to stand. Kelley found that in response, black passengers would often speak loudly and cause a ruckus, aiming to make the white passengers, who were trapped in that space for the duration of the ride, uncomfortable [7]. Police records showed that black passengers could be arrested for any action that asserted their right to being in the space – from making noise, to sitting in the white-only seating area, to arguing with fellow white passengers or the bus driver [7]. Such resistance aligns with Butler’s theories about ‘performatively laying claim’ to space in the struggle for freedom [9]. Kelley’s analysis of the bus as a socially constructed space which reflected and reproduced the race relations present in American society deepens our understanding of those race relations, reconfiguring the struggle for Civil Rights from landmark moments like the March on Washington to the everyday spaces of black working-class resistance, like the bus.

Further, the eventual seeming acceptance of segregation in the United States by white middle-class people is also deepened by a spatial analysis predicated on social construction. Kruse found that white middle-class Americans in Atlanta in 1950s and 1960s responded to the desegregation of ‘public’ spaces by deciding they no longer wanted to participate in such spaces [8]. As a result, cities like Atlanta seemingly accepted desegregation – as a result of the reconfiguration of how public spaces were imagined. White middle-class Americans retreated to the private sphere and moved out of urban centers to the suburbs, essentially re-segregating cities. There was also an economic dimension to this conception of space, as white Americans refused to pay their tax dollars to spaces which African Americans could also use [8]. In contrast, the white working-class virulently remained opposed to desegregation because they used public spaces and did not have the economic power to leave them [8]. Desegregation thus exacerbated the divide between middle and working-class whites. Kruse’s analysis upends the narrative of the successful Civil Rights Movement leading to the sudden end of segregation and change in opinions of white Americans, demonstrating that just as the African American struggle for freedom was a constant for decades, so was the white resistance to that struggle.


Ultimately, gender, labor and race historians have made a strong case for space as a social construct. A Foucauldian framework of analysis of space has allowed historians to reveal histories of the subaltern, which are otherwise often ignored. Interactions in space are social relations, as individuals relate to the space around them in response to other individuals and societal norms. Even so, the materiality of space cannot be understated, as the built space impacts how those interactions are produced and unfold. The consideration of the materiality of space as an additional layer to social space, make spatial history a more effective and illuminating methodological approach. 


  1. Jerram, Leif. “Space: A Useless Historical Category for Historical Analysis.” History and Theory 52 (2013) p. 400-419.
  2.  Sewell in R. Percy, ‘Picket Lines and Parades: Labour and Urban Space in Early Twentieth-Century London and Chicago’, Urban History, 41/4 (2013), p. 457.
  3. Percy, Ruth. “Picket Lines and Parades: Labour and Urban Space in Early Twentieth-Century London and Chicago.” Urban History 41 (2014): 456-477.
  4.  Lefebvre, Henri. “Space: Social Product and Use Value.” In State, Space, World: Selected Essays, edited by N. Brenner and S. Elden, translated by J. W. Freiberg, 185-195. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.
  5. Herod, Andrew. “From a Geography of Labor to a Labor Geography: Labor’s Spatial Fix and the Geography of Capitalism.” Antipode 29 (1997): 1-31.
  6. Remus, Emily A. Remus, Tippling Ladies and the Making of Consumer Culture: Gender and Public Space in Fin-de-Siècle Chicago (2014).
  7. R. Kelley, “‘We are not what we seem’: Rethinking black working-class opposition in the Jim Crow South” (1993) p. 99.
  8. Kruse, Kevin M. “The Politics of Race and Public Space: Desegregation, Privatization, and the Tax Revolt in America.” Journal of Urban History 31 (2005): 610-633.
  9. Butler, J. 'Bodies in Alliance and the Politics of the Street'