Journal of International Women’s Studies

I have recently joined the board of the Journal of International Women’s Studies (JIWS), an open-access, peer reviewed journal on gender issues, as an Editor. Check out the current issues here.

Simon Hedlin

How Marco Rubio proved the polls wrong

In another column in Swedish, I explain how Marco Rubio’s mastery of retail politics helped propel him to a strong third place in the Iowa caucus. In over fifty polls leading up to the Iowa contest, Rubio received over 20 percent in just one poll, and yet he ended up with 23 percent when the votes had finally been cast. The column can be found here.

Simon Hedlin

Review of “Soul Machine: The Invention of the Modern Mind”

In my latest article for The Economist, I review an interesting book about the notion that makes us human. An excerpt:

ABOUT a century and a half ago, an American railway worker named Phineas Gage was setting an explosive charge near Cavendish, Vermont. While he was tamping down the charge with an iron rod, it went off and sent the rod through his head. Gage miraculously survived—or least part of him did. But contemporaries thought that his personality had changed; where once he had been well-behaved, now he was downright antisocial. The incident raised questions about what constitutes the self and to what extent it is influenced by the body.

Although Phineas Gage is cited in medical and psychological literature as one of the earliest known cases of brain damage and personality change, the debate about what makes people human had, by then, already been going on for centuries. In “Soul Machine” George Makari, a psychiatry professor at Weill Cornell Medical College, presents an electrifying narrative of the intellectual disputes that gave rise to the Western conception of the mind.

Read the full piece here.

Simon Hedlin

Both Republicans and Democrats are pandering to public fear

Today I write in Sweden’s second largest morning newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, about terrorism and gun violence, both of which are used by politicians to the left and the right to pander to public fear. The column can be found here.

Simon Hedlin

Unfair criticism of Obama on domestic terror

I am by no means a staunch supporter of Barack Obama, but I still do think that some of the criticism that he has received with respect to dealing with terrorism has been unfair. In particular – while one might argue that he has not done enough to suppress the threat from the Islamic State (IS) – it does not seem right to claim that he has systematically underplayed the threat from domestic terrorism. On this topic, the following is my letter to the editor in The Wall Street Journal:

Your editorial about a jihadist revival misrepresents President Obama’s position on domestic terrorism (“The Terror This Time,” Review & Outlook, Dec. 5). You claim that Mr. Obama systematically has tried “to minimize the terror risk on U.S. soil” and cite as evidence his May 23, 2013 speech at National Defense University.

But if you read the transcript from that very speech, the president clearly said both that “we face a real threat from radicalized individuals here in the United States” and that “alienated individuals—often U.S. citizens or legal residents—can do enormous damage, particularly when inspired by larger notions of violent jihad.”

It is also available to read here.

Simon Hedlin

Changing the fact instead of fighting the stereotype

In the student newspaper of my alma mater, I write about the lack of political interest among many Asian-Americans. Some claim that Asian-Americans are held back by the stereotype that we are apolitical. But the problem here is that the stereotype actually appears to be true. An excerpt:

In 1990, the Asian-American voter turnout rate was significantly higher than that of Hispanics. But in 2010, it had dropped by almost 10 percentage points, and Asian Americans were suddenly lagging behind Hispanics, as well as whites and blacks.

The extent to which we are underrepresented in politics because of discrimination is a legitimate topic for discussion, but that does not explain why our voter turnout is so embarrassingly low. If blacks had the same low voter turnout as that of Asian Americans in the 2012 presidential election, five million fewer blacks would have cast their ballots.

Nor do Asian Americans show a particularly strong interest in politics in other realms either. As Janelle Wong and co-authors point out in the book “New Race Politics in America,” data suggests that only 12 percent of Asian Americans donate to political campaigns, compared with 25 percent of Hispanics and 22 percent of blacks.

Moreover, a survey found that among Asian Americans, over the past four years, only 11 percent had contacted a government official, merely seven percent had protested, and an abysmal two percent had worked for a political campaign.

Even if we were to broaden the definition of political interest to cover public service in general, it does not make us Asian Americans look better—as a group, we are less likely than blacks to do volunteer work and less likely than Hispanics to serve in the armed forces. If Hispanics would have done military service to the same lesser extent as Asian Americans, the number of Hispanic veterans would be cut by a third down to just over one million people.

Of course, we Asian Americans face many unjust stereotypes that have little basis in reality. But a lack of civic participation is not one of them. In this case, instead of fighting the stereotype, we ought to change the fact.

Read the full piece here.

Simon Hedlin

Guns, but not just guns

I comment in The Washington Post on the fact that some states that have lax gun policies and high firearms ownership rates have relatively low rates of gun homicides. This means that although gun access certainly contributes to homicides and mass shootings, it cannot be the only factor that matters. We therefore need to ask ourselves: why is America such an outlier in the Western world when it comes to gun violence? What can we do to keep pushing gun violence rates down to stop the horrific killings of innocent people? An excerpt:

I agree that gun ownership matters, but this can hardly be the sole explanation. Wyoming has the highest gun-ownership rate in the nation, yet its number of gun murders per capita is lower than Israel’s. Vermont, North Dakota and Idaho are other states with easy and widespread access to firearms, but the homicide-by-gun rate in Vermont is lower than in Italy. In North Dakota, the rate is on par with that of Taiwan; and in Idaho, it is substantially below the rate in Macedonia.

Read the full comment here.

Simon Hedlin