Write for BPR
Do you want to have your writing featured in a nonpartisan student publication? Submit a pitch to Brown Political Review!
Our special feature topic for this magazine is RABBIT HOLES.
*All pitches are due on Monday, November 1st at 11:59 pm*
In Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice falls down a rabbit hole into a magical and illogical wonderland, where she encounters eccentric characters like the hookah-smoking Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat, and the Mad Hatter. Today, the term has come to mean a bizarre, confusing, or nonsensical situation or environment, typically one from which it is difficult to extricate oneself. We’ve all found ourselves down rabbit holes, lost in a book or article or the fascinating depths of the Internet—making use of the handy Wikipedia hyperlinks, mindlessly clicking the next recommended Youtube video, or getting stuck in a Twitter black hole.
In this issue of BPR, we’d love to feature the political rabbit holes you’ve gone down. Whether it’s serious or lighthearted, pitch us a topic that entranced you—something you couldn’t stop researching or thinking about. We look forward to reading your pitches!
Guidelines for a great pitch:
- Original angle
- Specific and interesting story – BPR likes all things “niche”
- Strong thesis which presents a normative claim
- Not widely covered in major news media
- Supported with empirical evidence that demonstrates your command of the topic
- Leverages your unique perspective as a college student writing about world affairs
Example 1 of a pitch:
Pitch: While there are more than 7,000 languages spoken worldwide, the top 20 account for over 50% of speakers and many researchers estimate that 90% of the total will be extinct by the year 2050 Even relatively prominent minority languages such as Irish are considered endangered by UNESCO, and concern has mounted about how to preserve these markers of the world’s cultural diversity. In some cases, language endangerment can be attributed to repressive government policies, but it is most often also the result of natural processes of cultural assimilation that, while still resulting the loss of diversity, are not nearly as malicious in nature. In recent years, many governments have instituted policies to try and support regional and indigenous languages in the face of this homogenization; the United Nations has affirmed that protection of minority languages is a matter of human rights.
Yet government language policies are often controversial. While it seems reasonable to commit resources to compensate for government-sponsored repression of minority languages, it’s less clear when languages have become endangered by natural process, given that some common policies can be enormously expensive. Ireland, for example, made the controversial decision to stop producing government documents in Irish during the financial crisis, which cost an enormous sum of money even though only 10% of the population speaks it outside of education. Similarly, the European Union is committed to translations of every official language of a member state, which means that the body must find and pay translators of languages like Maltese which has just 520,000 native speakers. While few would argue that there’s no value in protecting languages as a matter of cultural value, the varying approaches taken by different governments demonstrates that there are many potentially expensive pitfalls.
Thesis: Government preservation of minority languages is a worth goal, but this often expensive endeavor should be carefully tailored for maximum effectiveness and without being too restrictive.
Example 2 of a pitch:
Pitch: Surf and Turf Wars: How the lobstering economy and its lack of regulation fostered the gangland politics of Maine’s lobster ports From the inception of lobstering as a trap fishery in 1850, the Maine midcoast lobstering industry was a relatively unregulated one — lobstermen were limited in number of traps and individual lobster size, just like any other hunter would be — but in addition to the explicit regulations came traditional agreements demarcating “territories” for each lobsterman to exclusively harvest. These territories were not officially legislated like property; however, on smaller islands each lobsterman knows all the others, lobstering is the primary livelihood, and violating such territorial agreements is equitable to trespassing on another’s land and stealing his personal income. Thus, these boundaries were sacredly respected.
However, as markets globalized it became easier to ship the Gulf of Maine’s unique lobster around the globe. Therefore, lobstering continued to become more and more lucrative bringing more lobstermen from the mainland and out of state into the market. The Lobstering communities, forced to accommodate this expansion, became tenser as territories were confined and lobstermen began to dispute what waters belonged to them. Feeling pressure to protect their incomes, lobstermen escalated tensions engaging in vandalism, threats, intimidation, fights, trap cutting with rivals as a means of gaining territory through a literal ‘trap war’. These reached a head in 2009 when a man on Matinicus Island was shot in the neck in a territorial dispute. While there have been no further shootings, lobstermen routinely keep handguns aboard their boats, and aggravated assaults and boat sinkings continue to occur with frequency each year as the lobster high season begins.
Thesis: This article seeks to provide a closer look into one of the most unexpectedly complicated and cutthroat industries in the United States. It then asserts that these territories need to be officially recognized and regulated on both the local and state level to curb the wave of violence that accompanies Maine’s largest export.