Geography Conference Abstracts
[ Logo Image: Old map of Planet Earth fading into images of 
California State University, Long Beach ]
      Department of Geography
College of Liberal Arts
1250 Bellflower Boulevard
California State University
Long Beach, CA 90840-1101 USA


Dr. Vincent Del Casino


Dr. Del Casino (with Dr. Christine L. Jocoy) is the co-author of:

"Persistent discourses in the construction of homeless policy," to the Association of American Geographers meeting in Chicago in March 2006.

A significant barrier to solving the problem of homelessness in American cities is the stigma associated with homelessness and the spaces and places inhabited by homeless people. The way such perceptions of the homeless are articulated in public discourse affects the creation of public policy. Homelessness is currently on the policy agenda again, as many American cities respond to the Bush administration's "10-year plan to end homelessness" initiative. Based on an analysis of a series of public meetings and newspaper media coverage, this paper examines the spoken and written discourse constitutive of homeless policy planning processes in Long Beach, CA. When compared to Dear and Gleeson's (1991) study of community attitudes expressed in national newspapers in the late 1980s, results reveal the persistence of discourses of personal responsibility and NIMBY syndrome. Newer versions of these discourses, as seen in "housing first" efforts to eliminate the "shelter industry" and "assertive community treatment" for the removal of homeless bodies from the streets, justify continuing the criminalization of homelessness and transfer of responsibility for providing social services from the state to private enterprise and charitable organizations. The paper concludes with some reflections on how community members involved in the policy planning process have begun to engage these discourses.

Dr. Del Casino presented:

"Queering the spaces of HIV outreach: Rethinking the discourses and practices of 'prevention for positives'," to the Association of American Geographers meeting in Denver in April 2005.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in targeting HIV prevention services to those people who are already positive. The assumption underlying is that HIV positive individuals, if educated and made aware of the risk of transmitting HIV, are best placed to reduce HIV transmission and prevent the epidemic from spreading further. Prevention specialists believe they can, in literal and metaphorical terms, construct new boundaries of prevention in the urban environment around the "positive" that would reduce HIV transmission. The assumption, however, that HIV positive people have a greater responsibility to prevent the spread of HIV is highly problematic because it divides risk dualistically across positives and negatives, closes off the conversation across/between identities, practices, and sexualities, and places the preponderance of blame on HIV positive people. This paper offers a critique of this "model" of HIV prevention through a de/reconstruction of the risk- and behavior-based approaches that undergird the geographies of this set of discursive practices. This is done from the context of prevention program development for "men who have sex with men" in Long Beach, CA. We have to move beyond the binary oppositions that drive current models of prevention that mark out particular spaces and identities as "positive" or "negative," "straight" or "gay," "healthy" or "ill." To do this, prevention theorists must engage in debates about identity, space, and practice that have emerged from feminist and queer geographies scholarship.

Dr. Del Casino also presented:

"Rethinking Regions and Regionalization in the Context of World Regional Geography," to the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers meeting in San Luis Obispo in September 2004.

In recent years there has been an attempt to integrate a more critical human and environmental geography into the ways in which geographers teach world regional geography. The proliferation of world regional geography textbooks with theoretical frameworks that are organized around themes such as globalization and incorporate feminist and developmentalist geographies bears witness to this change. Yet, for all these innovations world regions remain fairly static in the discipline's rendering of world regional geography. Little discussion can be found in world regional geography textbooks, at least within the substantive `regional chapters,' as to how world regions have shifted over time and in relation to each other. Moreover, world regional geography remains relatively timeless, utilizing sweeping narratives to render the history of places in both their environmental and temporal contexts. Through a meta-analysis of world regional textbooks, this paper offers a critique of world regional geography through a discussion of `new world history.' Ironically, it has been world historians, not geographers, who have challenged the hegemony of a world regional approach. This is not to say that regions are not important organizational structures, rather this is to suggest that regions, as fluid and dynamic processes, need to be theorized in our classrooms and textbooks in the same ways in which regions and regionalization are theorized in the broader discipline of geography.

Dr. Del Casino presented:

"Miracle Cures, Local Wisdom, and Biomedical Care: Mapping the Competing Discourses and Practices of AIDS Care in Thailand," with Stephen P. Hanna to the Association of American Geographers meeting in New Orleans in March 2003.

In the wake of the AIDS crisis, Thai medicine has received new attention as a means by which people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) can receive some level of care. The revitalization of Thai medicine, however, is complicated by the competing organizational politics and social dynamics that regulate discouses and practices of health and health care in Thailand. This paper examines the complex interrelationships between 'traditional,' holistic medicine and 'modern,' allopathic medicine in a Thai context; and investigates the role of 'Thai medicine' and 'village medicine' as part of governmental and nongovernmental efforts to provide care to people living with HIV and AIDS in Chiang Mai, Thailand. At the heart of these debates is the struggle over 'local knowledge' and 'global change' and the ways in which places are organized in relation to the available treatment regimens for HIV/AIDS care. What this paper suggests is that the meanings of health and health care are inextricably linked to the complex, contested nature of social relations as they flow in, and are reworked through, particular places.

Dr. Del Casino presented:

"Tourism Workers and the Reproduction of Heritage in "America's Most Historic City," with Stephen P. Hanna to the Association of American Geographers meeting in Los Angeles in March 2002.

Emblazened on a railroad overpass and on the back of the local tourist trolley, Fredericksburg, Virginia, proclaims itself as "America's Most Historic City." In a variety of media, the Fredericksburg City government uses this construction of place to attract visitors to its colonial era taverns and homes, its Civil War battlefield, and its touist-oriented "old-town" shopping district. The City does not rely merely on texts and images to reproduce the events and sites that make Fredericksburg historic, however. The employees of Fredericksburg's Visitor's Center and local heritage tourism companies contribute to this process as part of their interactions with visitors. To do this effectively, these workers combine official histories with social memory and personal experience in their attempts to ensure that tourists enjoy Fredericksburg's ability to "visit the past . . . today." This paper draws from ongoing ethnographic research in Fredericksburg to argue that the the reproduction of a heritage tourism site involves the entanglement of personal experience, social memory, and official history within an everyday work environment.

Dr. Del Casino also presented:

"Social Protest, Spatial Praxis, and Radical Geography in the Teaching of World History" to the Southeast Division of the Association of American Geographers meeting in Lexington, KY, November 2001.

This paper examines how to synthetically integrate world history and radical geography within a social studies framework for K-12 students. New approaches to world history, which move away from teaching history in "isolation" to teaching world history as "global history," mimics trends in world regional geography that focus on global interconnectivity and themes of global change over regions in isolation. The overlap in approach between "global history" and "global geography" presents an opportunity for teachers to explore the role of "spatial praxis" in the development of place-based social systems in cross-cultural and cross-temporal context. Specifically, the study of social protest makes present the importance of spatial praxis for an ever-changing world historical geography. The paper explores the importance of social protest and spatial praxis by first examining the development of the world history and geography curriculum in California. Next, readers are provided with a theorization of space that builds a conceptual base for studying social protest as spatial phenomena. In the final section, we examine the spatial politics of Mahatma Gandhi for how one might go about teaching radical geography as part of a "globalized" world history and geography curriculum.

While at this (SEDAAG) meeting, Dr. Del Casino was the second author with a team from Mary Washington College (Stephen P. Hanna, Casey Selden, and Benjamin C. Hite), which presented a paper, entitled:

"Representation as Work: The Everyday Production of Heritage in Fredericksburg, Virginia" to the Southeast Division of the Association of American Geographers meeting in Lexington, KY, November 2001.

Much of the critical literature in tourism geography and tourism studies more broadly recognizes the important role that representation plays in the reproduction of tourism spaces and the identities of tourists and tourism workers. For the most part, however, these literatures focus on the representations themselves or on governments and corporations that produce such place-images and enact policies to ensure that tourism spaces "live-up" to their representation. Lost in such macro-scale analyses are the everyday practices of tourism workers who both create the maps, films, and brochures used to sell places as sites of tourism and interact with the tourists themselves helping to translate representation into experience. These activities, we argue, constitute representation as work. In this paper we present preliminary findings of ongoing ethnographic research on tourism workers in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Drawing from interviews with employees at the city's Visitors Center, we note that their daily efforts to reproduce Fredericksburg as "America's Most Historic City," identify what history is important, attach those past moments to the city's present identity and landscape, and recreate tourism as a gendered activity.

Dr. Del Casino is also the primary co-author (with Rachel Safman of Cornell University) of a presentation entitled:

"Working the 'Middle Ground': NGOs, Health Care, and AIDS in Chiang Mai, Thailand" to the Association of Asian Studies meeting, in Chicago, March 2001.

In recent years, NGOs have proliferated in Thailand. While these organizations are often mentioned in Thai Studies, they are rarely analyzed critically. In this paper I examine the role of NGOs, in particular one key NGO called AIDS Organization, as 'mediators and facilitators' of care programs for people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) in Chiang Mai, Thailand. AIDS Organization is a meso-level organization situated in between the state apparatus and various locales and individuals. What this means is that AIDS Organization works between the spaces of provider and client, health care facility and PLWHA, the state-sector and local community organizations, and the international funding community and their outreach sites. AIDS Organization works these boundaries intentionally in the hopes of maintaining a distance, imagined or real, between themselves and funding agencies, the Thai government, and their self- constructed target populations. Positioning itself 'above' the fray, AIDS Organization attempts to organize health care in ways that transform the social and physical and political and economic dimensions that impact the overall health of its target populations. In so doing, AIDS Organization dedicates itself to the 'local,' whereby the organization hopes to see locales develop some relative autonomy from the Thai State and the global economy. AIDS Organization does not exist outside the flows of power, however, that mediate organizational life in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Their work, which fosters connections between PLWHA and the State provide opportunities for new structures of surveillance to be put into place. At the same time, their work opens up the possibility that new populations, such as PLWHA, can access the State and its decision-making mechanisms. AIDS Organization thus works the boundaries between various social actors and organizations, at the margins of power and resistance, and in relation to the flows of social relations that are present each time they enact their outreach efforts.

Dr. Del Casino additionally presented:

"Organizational Ethnographies and the Politics of Fieldwork" to the Association of American Geographers meeting in New York City in late February and early March 2001.

One of the first steps in developing a field study is the determination of one's object(s) of inquiry. In my research, I focused on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working with people living with HIV and AIDS in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In an attempt to narrow my field, I chose one key organization, AIDS Organization. I collected ethnographic data on this organization for over fifteen months. As such, I came to be defined as a member of the organization by those working both within and outside this particular place. Indeed, as part of my fieldwork I offered my services as a volunteer, assisting staff in translating documents, participating in meetings, and consulting on project proposals. My position as a volunteer created some interesting interpersonal dynamics. I found that I had to eventually create some distance between the organization and myself in order to understand the ways in which their outreach efforts functioned after staff returned home from their outreach sites at the end of the day. To create this distance, I focused on one of their outreach sites and lived in the area for almost nine months. Over fifteen months, therefore, my positionality in relation to this organization was constantly changing. As I became more comfortable, as friendships developed, and as projects evolved (or died), so to do the ways in which I came to identify and be identified within the context of this organization. In this paper, I trace my changing position in relation to this organization and the ways in which I, and others, deployed identities in order to understand my role and position in the organization.

Dr. Del Casino also served as a discussant on a panel (which he co-organized) entitled:

"Interrogating Tourism Maps: New 'Guides' to Space and Identity" at the upcoming Association of American Geographers meeting in New York City in late February and early March.

Dr. Del Casino also made a presentation to a panel entitled:

"HIV/AIDS in Thailand," at the West Coast Meeting of the Association of Asian Studies, CSULB, in October 2000.


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Last revised: 01/10/06