Israel – Explore the Holy Land!

WRITTEN BY Linda Sundqvist


So, I started my journey with this blog post by googling, of course, and to my surprise, this headline was the first thing to pop up on my screen. This was the slogan for a site called the world Jewish travels, suggesting the ten places I need to visit when exploring Israel – the Holy Land.[1] This list, of course, included places like Jerusalem, “the world-known historical epicentre”, and the oh-so-trendy Tel Aviv “, the vegan capital of the world”[2]. Now, these places in central Israel are beautiful, so beautiful that I almost got lost in my travel fever, forgetting what I was trying to research.


This was worrisome. You see, I am white and from Finland, which means I am privileged and have never witnessed anyone living in the circumstances like the ones in Palestine-Israel. The only way for me to get information about something happening outside of Europe is by searching for it. So, for me to actively be searching for information about what is happening only to find some travel agency really puts the problem into perspective.


There is an ongoing conflict between Palestine and Israel; this much I feel you could call common knowledge. Now what that conflict is about and why it seems it cannot be resolved takes a lot more than a few hours on google. To understand why the situation is so dire in Palestine-Israel, one must first know how these arrangements came to be and why these two states are clumped into one name in the first place. Another thing one must become familiar with is social exclusion. You see, social exclusion describes a situation where not everyone has equal access to the opportunities and services that would allow them to lead a decent, happy life, which is the case in Palestine-Israel[3].


Looking into the history of this conflict, one could go back as far as time. Where you start telling the story also really matters. For the sake of this post, I feel like we could start about 100 years ago with the fall of the Ottoman Empire in WWI, leaving Britain to take control of the Palestine area. Back then, Palestine had a majority of Arabs and a minority of Jews. This came to change with growing tension when Britain was “tasked” (I find this an ironic choice of words) by Europe (no surprise there) to establish a national home for Jewish people.[4]


Approximate image. Not official. CC[5]


The years after WWI had European Jews leaving Europe seeking a home in Palestine, culminating in a flood of Jewish refugees fleeing the horrors of WWII. For these people to go through all they did to find a new home where they could live in peace sounds like a silver lining to sorrows. What that point of view on this story forgets though is that there already were people with their own culture living there. As expected, this British “task” backfired, and when this Europe-induced mess got even bigger, Britain backed out and left the people in Palestine to their own devices.


After this, we have numerous other states getting into this conflict, thinking they would know how to fix centuries of sorrow or just wanting to take advantage of a shattered country to expand their own. The country’s civilian people are refugees or caught in the middle of it all. They are left without a home, without peace, which is what they were seeking in the first place. Today the whole area previously known as Palestine is officially Israel, according to the UN.[6] The irony of it all is that Europe appointed the area as a home for the Jews they were persecuting, only for the Arabs living there to then be persecuted.


Social exclusion is a relatively new theory on a multidimensional phenomenon. It is a process as well as a state in which individuals are unable to fully participate in different societal aspects of life, like economic, social, political, and cultural. Participation might be hindered by a lack of material and resources like education or income. Social exclusion can also result from alienation and oppression, when an individual cannot exercise their voice or when their rights and dignity are not respected and protected in the way that they should be.[7]


The Palestinian people are clumped into the West Bank and the Gaza strip, which are the only areas still referred to as Palestine. They are being separated from the rest of Israel by hard, physical borders that are not easily passed. They do not have the same health care, education, or economic resources. A lot of the resources they had have been taken away because of the borders, making trading almost impossible. The lack of education and integration into the rest of society leaves them without any of the necessary tools to get out of the deprived life induced by social exclusion.


As I am sure, you have noticed, something is very wrong with the status quo in Palestine-Israel. In no way do I feel it would be of any use pointing fingers and playing the blame game, discussing who did what to whom, and so on. I feel like we need to focus on the situation at hand and the people suffering. No people in Palestine-Israel are strangers to suffering. Still, with this post, I would like to point out that borders, disdain, and deprivation socially exclude Palestine’s people. They are being excluded from a society on the verge of flourishing where exclusion serves no other purpose than that of hate.







[5] Palestine loss of land, Credits to Noorrovers, CC BY-SA 4.0:



Is Puerto Rican Emigration an Issue of Fragility or Exclusion?

Written by Sandis Sitton


In my last blog, I discussed how the border of Puerto Rico can be understood as an institutional tool that transfers various kinds of power over the lands of the territory to those in the mainland United States and how inclusion in the United States under those conditions means exclusion for local Puerto Ricans from other institutions of power which other states are guaranteed under the Constitution. This time, I’d like to look at how migration off the islands and into the United States is motivated not just by local conditions but also by exclusionary policies like those already explored, which obstruct locals from political power and their local markets and economic policy as well.


Is Puerto Rico a Fragile State?

One reason migrants will often travel to a country is to improve on their material conditions, find work, and/or transition out of areas of hardship or shortage1. This is undoubtedly a component of Puerto Ricans’ reasons for migrating to the mainland states. The islands in 2017 suffered immense devastation at the hands of two subsequent hurricanes, leading to lives lost in the thousands and catastrophic infrastructural damage, conditions which were directly credited for the emigration of over 200,000 locals to the mainland states2.  These situations certainly contribute to the fragility of the state, a known motivator for emigration to places of greater stability3.

States can be called fragile for several reasons. They can lack the full capacity to govern their populations and territory or cannot provide security and economic opportunity4. However, the economic, environmental, and political conditions in Puerto Rico prompt migration to the mainland states do not extend to everyone involved. For some, the fragility of Puerto Rico is not a reason for emigration, but immigration, as attempts to rebuild it, has instead created a new opportunity. In this space where there is an opportunity for some but continued fragility for others, we find new processes of exclusion unfolding in the territory.


Fragility for Some, Opportunities for Others

While conditions for the locals have indeed been difficult, especially in comparison to the rest of the U.S., that is not to say there are no opportunities there at all, only that there are none for them. The main island of Puerto Rico has, in recent years, seen massive growth in its housing market. Thousands of mainland Americans have moved or applied to move their place of residence to the commonwealth because of policies made by the local government to attract outside investment5. For example, policies like Act 60 create tax breaks for people moving to the island as a way to revitalize the local housing market. Still, the tax breaks offered to newcomers are unavailable to those who already live there6. This has been something of a success; in 2021, house sales rose 84% from the previous years7. At the same time, however, new housing construction has remained stagnant or even fallen8. Because of this, locals, 43% of whom live under the federal poverty level are being priced out of neighborhoods they could once afford to live in. Many have had to leave the island entirely, searching for work and affordable housing, while new investors buy and repurpose properties as vacation housing9. Some decry the often-wealthy newcomers as colonizers and say their country is being sold out from under them10.


Not Poverty, but Exclusion from Opportunity

These circumstances create a situation of exclusion for locals, whose towns are being invested in, while they are kept apart from the benefits of that growth. Exclusion often comes in situations wherein there are obstacles to upward mobility, which are not always direct or evident because their effects are only seen in overlapping structures and institutions11.

For this reason, it is not always solely an issue of poverty, or any such condition, even in cases where they do create significant problems12. Puerto Ricans who endured several natural disasters in succession, under an economy and government that were heavily restricted under restructuring plans, often had to pay for the reconstruction of their neighborhoods with their labor13. Sometimes they waited years, if not still to this day, for the government to step in and take on this burden for them14. Now, though, the territory is shifting to accommodate new markets, prices change, and the cost of living with it. Puerto Ricans are not only poor but excluded from the same policies that attract people to these markets; they are experiencing states of fragility that others are not.



1 Anke Hoeffler, “Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire? Migration from Fragile States to Fragile    States,” OECD Development Co-Operation Working Papers, (2013),, 4.

2 Nicole Acevedo, “Puerto Rico Sees More Pain and Little Progress Three Years after Hurricane Maria,” (NBCUniversal News Group, September 20, 2020),   years-after-n1240513.

3 Anke Hoeffler, (2013), 6.

4 Ibid.

5 Coral Murphy Marcos, Patricia Mazzei, and Erika P. Rodriguez, “The Rush for a Slice of          Paradise in Puerto Rico,” The New York Times (The New York Times, January 31,   2022),

6 Ibid.

7 Lelaine C Delmendo, “Puerto Rico’s Housing Market Gaining Momentum,” Global Property     Guide (Global Property Guide, October 16, 2021),

8 Ibid.

9 Coral Murphy Marcos et al., (2022).

10 Ibid.

11 Andrew M. Fischer, “Reconceiving Social Exclusion,” BWPI Working Paper, no. 146 (April    2011),, 23.

12 Ibid.

13 Nicole Acevedo, (2020).

14 Ibid.

How U.S. Border Policy Built Puerto Rico into “a State of Exclusion”

Written by Sandis Sitton


Borders are a complicated concept. What they are, how they look, are enforced, or what they have been called has changed throughout history1. Research has shown that even the conventional concepts of national borders resulted from very specific evolutions in notions of territoriality and the relationships between power, land, and people2. Today they are geographical and institutional together, inclusionary in one sense while necessarily exclusionary as a cost, and how changes depending on where these lines are drawn, how, and for whom.


Enter Puerto Rico, U.S. Territory

Image of an 1186 map of the main island of Puerto Rico and part of Vieques. Credit: G.W. & C.B. Colton & Co. (1886)


Under the control of the United States, Puerto Rico has been the center of several controversies involving the rights and powers of the locals there over Puerto Rico itself. These range from the decades-long military occupation of its islands, their exploitation and pollution, and the forced relocation of their inhabitants3, to the mitigation of its local government’s power to self-govern and direct seizure of its control over its own financial policies 4. All of this has happened under the facilitation of the very law of the land, the institutions and policies which define Puerto Rico as a place. Instrumental to this, of course, is the border.


What Kind of Border Does Puerto Rico Have?

The archipelago was first a colony under Spain following Columbus’ discovery of the Americas in 1492. They traded hands into the possession of the United States in 1898 due to the Spanish American War, at which time ownership of the land and the national status of its people was changed, and the border around it and its meaning changed with it.


Today Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory, one of five the United States owns, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Marianas Islands, although it does have other territories without permanent populations and relationships with the Free Associated States which it does not directly govern5. However, Puerto Rico and the other unincorporated territories are still governed by the United States federal government above their own. Though like the Northern Marianas Islands, Puerto Rico is also considered a Commonwealth, with its own constitution and elected local governments, the Puerto Rican government must still uphold the U.S Constitution as well as its own6.


This relationship originates back to the Jones Act of 1917, the first written legislation to define Puerto Rico’s involvement with the United States7. Under the act, Puerto Rico was defined as unincorporated, meaning not a part of the United States or, consequently, not represented in the U.S. Constitution8. This was allowed based on the reasoning in a 1900 Supreme Court case titled Downes v Bidwell, where the court determined that some territories could be incompatible with the U.S. Constitution, saying this:

“[For] possessions inhabited by alien races differing from [the people of United States] in religion, customs, laws, methods of taxation, and modes of thought, the administration of government and justice according to Anglo-Saxon principles may for a time be impossible.”9

As such, the role and rights of citizens in Puerto Rico and why they are different from those in the states themselves are directly connected to the perception of difference, legally tied to the land of the territory itself.


What does this make Puerto Ricans?

Residents of Puerto Rico are still U.S. citizens and do have access to the other states, even to move there and integrate as any other citizens could. 5.83 million Puerto Ricans were estimated to live in the United States proper (the 50 states themselves), steadily rising10. Puerto Ricans living in the states have all the rights of other citizens; they can vote for federal representatives in the federal government, including the President, Senators, and members of the House of Representatives11. In this respect, Puerto Ricans are not excluded from the rights established in the Constitution because there are institutional obstacles that obstruct them from its guarantees12.


Locals still pay federal taxes like people of any of the states, though some do not need to pay income tax, and they are still subject to all federal laws and obligations, like military service in the form of the draft13. They still serve voluntarily in the military, like any other citizen of the United States, however, despite these similarities, they cannot vote in federal elections and have no voting representatives in Congress for long as they remain residents in Puerto Rico13. They bear the duties of full citizenship, but their membership is contingent on their place within its borders.


Puerto Ricans, then, are not Americans, not in all of the ways that matter. Because the land they live on is governed by different rules than the States, so are the people themselves. They may inhabit the islands, but they do not share equally in their ownership, their governance, or in the rewards to the society that does.


1 Brunet‐Jailly, E., 2009. The State of Borders and Borderlands Studies 2009: A Historical View and a View from the Journal of Borderlands Studies. Eurasia Border Review Part I < Current Trends in Border Analysis >.

2 Ibid.

3 Lawrence Wittner, “Breaking the Grip of Militarism: The Story of Vieques,” History News Network, February 28, 2019,

4 Nick Brown, “Puerto Rico Authorizes Debt Payment Suspension; Obama Signs Rescue Bill,” Reuters (Thomson Reuters, June 30, 2016),

5 Francisco H. Vázquez, Latino/a Thought Culture, Politics, and Society (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009), 374-375.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid.

9 Henry Billings Brown and Supreme Court Of The United States. U.S. Reports: Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244. 1900. Periodical., 287.

10 U.S. Census Bureau , “B03001 HISPANIC OR LATINO ORIGIN BY SPECIFIC ORIGIN,” United States Census Bureau (United States Census Bureau, 2019),

11 Tom C.W. Lin, “Americans, Almost and Forgotten,” California Law Review 107, no. 4 (August 2019), forgotten/#:~:text=There%20are%20millions %20of %20Americans,and %20die%20defending%20our%20Constitution.

12 Andrew M. Fischer, “Reconceiving Social Exclusion,” BWPI Working Paper, no. 146 (April 2011),, 17.

13 Tom C.W. Lin, 2019.

14 Ibid.

Registration is open for Social Exclusion’s Annual Seminar: Colour still matters

“Colour still matters” is the name of this year’s Social Exclusion annual seminar. The seminar, as always, is part of the course Race, Racism and Anti-Racism and is arranged by the students in the course. This year the seminar will take place on May 24th and be hosted both on campus, in Arken and online, through Zoom. The seminar is free of charge but does require registration. Click here to register.


Follow Social Exclusion’s social media and the seminar’s own social media for more updates about the seminar, like who are the keynote speakers and panellists.

Why do looks limit?

Written by Valentina Frank


Have you ever seen a photo of a beautiful person and ended up in front of a mirror unconsciously comparing yourself with the photo? The more you look at yourself, the more flaws you find in your appearance, and your self-esteem can easily be affected. In today’s world, you constantly get brainwashed into thinking that you are not enough the way you are and should change your looks to become a “better person”. I recently wrote a blog post regarding the issues of beauty standards, but I feel there is so much more to research and study on the subject. This time, I didn’t have an aim for where I was going with my post; I just started surfing the internet on beauty standards and looks. With the help of photos and images, I want to analyze and give my thoughts on this subject.


I started by simply googling “beautiful woman”, and in just the blink of an eye, my screen was filled with dozens and dozens of beautiful women. Most of the women that popped up as the definition of a beautiful woman were white. I noticed only a handful of “genuinely” colored women when scrolling through the images. Many women probably have different ethnic backgrounds, but with the help of makeup, hairstyling, and heavy photoshop, they were whitewashed to fit the norm of the beauty standards. I made a quick google search on what the biggest ethnic group in the world is; Han-Chinese. What stunned me was that I had to scroll through the pictures of the beautiful women for quite a while until I came across a picture of a woman who could fit the standards of a Han-Chinese. It is very odd that only one picture could represent the biggest ethnic group in the world amongst the hundreds of photos. However, it is an eye-opener to how Eurocentric our beauty standards are.


Beautiful woman”


I then went on to type “handsome man” in my google search, and I was shocked. Several handsome men popped up on my screen, but all of them were white! It took me quite a few scrolls to find a man with a different ethnic background than a Caucasian white, and when I finally found one, he was heavily whitewashed. I scrolled through the whole first page of “handsome men” and was shocked to notice that I didn’t come across a single black man; keep in mind that I went through several hundreds of different photos. The lack of representation of people of color in our society is unfortunate and there is no wonder that non-white people feel excluded when it comes to beauty standards.

Handsome man”


People with disabilities in our society are another group of people who face constant exclusion, and the risk of them being marginalized is significant. About 15% of the world population experience some sort of disability, yet the representation of people with disabilities in the context of beauty is almost non-existent. Recently I came across an article about the first girl with down syndrome to become Victoria’s Secret model. Victoria’s Secret as a brand feeds off people’s insecurities and their desire of looking like runway models. It’s no surprise that people would like to look like the beautiful women representing the brand; I mean they are some of the most beautiful women we’ve ever seen. The issue is that the life behind the scenes of the runway models is not glamorous at all. Starvation, invasion of privacy, and unrealistic expectations of their looks are just the iceberg tip. The fact that a girl with a visual disability has been accepted to represent a brand as heavily concentrated on looks as Victoria’s secret is a sign that we are slowly moving in the right direction. People who suffer from disabilities- or anyone who feels they can’t fit the norm of beauty, can now refer to a supermodel, gain confidence, and truly understand that they are as beautiful as anyone, despite their imperfections.


Victoria’s Secret models”


“Sofia Jirau, the first Victoria’s Secret model with down syndrome”


In my previous blog post, I explained how we become limited and exclude ourselves from society due to our insecurities. We feel anxious that our imperfections will define us as human beings, and therefore we want to protect ourselves by hiding them. The issue is that these so-called “imperfections” most often are only in our heads. It would help if you did not exclude yourself from society because you feel you don’t fit perfectly to beauty standards. I mean, who really fits? Almost everybody has insecurities, meaning most people think they can’t define themselves as “perfect”. So why even strive for perfection? It is such an unrealistic aim. What you can do instead is to think about what you define as beautiful. Not what the media or the society thinks. What does the definition of beautiful mean to you? Then you try to change your aim and strive for that without caring about what’s important to others.


Because at the end of it all, why do we even care about looks? What matters is the way we act towards one another, and everyone should be able to enjoy their life without being limited by the way they look.



Fleming, E. (2021) “What is the most common race in the world?”, Available:

Infogram. “Race of the world population” Available:

Basaninyenzi, U.(2021) “Disabilitiy inclusion”, Available:

Weigel, M. (2019) “What Life Is Really Like For A Victoria’s Secret Model” Available:

Acevedo, N. (2022) “First Victoria’s Secret model with Down syndrome is Latina”, Available: na16533

Photo by Zoey Grossman, published by (2022)


Photo by Evan Agostini, published by (2020) Available: