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Fall 2014

First Prize: Paresh Khetan, An Evaluation of Democratic Practice in the United States of America
Can the United States be considered a democracy? If so, then why has voter turnout dwindled over the past years? If not, then what hope is there for democratic practice in the future? Clearly there is a sense that American democracy has deteriorated, but people often misjudge the magnitude of this situation. This research paper aims to evaluate American democracy and arrive at a better understanding of the true components of a democratic society. It then offers potential repairs for democratic principles that are currently being corrupted. The paper also compares the United States to other nations whose democracies function more efficiently and are of more benefit to its citizens. Placing the United States on a democratic spectrum and creating such assessments are significant because the United States is a global leader and serves as a model for developing nations. In order to embrace democracy we must first have a firm understanding of what it is.

Runners Up: Handrio Nurhan and Cai May Tan
Handrio Nurhan: Globalization, Anxieties, and Religion in Oceania
While globalization inevitably exerts particular influences on vernacular cultures, it does not ineluctably replace the entirety of those cultures with a homogenized monoculture of foreign origin. Such total-dislocation scenario oversimplifies the complexity of globalization, understates the power of cultural resilience and people as creative agencies. The contention will be demonstrated through the religious dimension viewed under a functional approach that Goodenough (2002) used in his study of pre-Christian religious tradition in Chuuk, while the possible connection between religion and globalization is suggested by a correlational study by Skinner (2003) that found nations with greater percentages of Christians, non-religious, and atheists have greater Globalization Index. I will deal mainly with Christianity as the historically predominant religion in Oceania, and its intermingling with the indigenous beliefs that have existed long before European contacts and missionization. I further demonstrate that under a functional approach, the intermingling of Christianity and the indigenous religion can produce a localized Christianity characterized by both oppositions and accommodations. In some cases, the concerns people showed are indicative of the inconspicuous willingness from the indigenous to partake in modernity preconditioned, among others, by postcolonial remnant of cultural denigration in the Pacific. This evidence will also reveal how religion serves a function in the midst of postcolonial situation and the anxieties produced.

Cai May Tan: How has the globalization of agriculture affected deforestation and land tenure in Paraguay?
Paraguay is the world’s tenth most deforested country. The small South-American nation is approximately 157,048 sq. miles in total area. In the year 2000, 24.30 Mha of Paraguay was covered by forest canopy. However, over the course of years from 2001 to 2012, Paraguay lost 3.65 Mha of the forest extent. The main factors that has been driving deforestation is clearing the land for agriculture plantations and livestock farming. This scale of deforestation is alarming for Paraguay, and the nation certainly has a strong economic reliance on the current usage of these cleared land areas. However, several issues have arisen due to the ongoing deforestation and the usage of the cleared land. There is special concern regarding using cleared land for soybean plantations and cattle ranching. Both play a crucial role in Paraguay’s income, contributing to the agriculture sector, which makes up 20.4% of the nation’s GDP. The main concern surrounds how the land clearance have created social impacts such as land-tenure conflict and poverty. So far, only minimal actions have been taken on resolving this issue. Many that are affected still do not produce a collective voice over this matter. Although with the help of both local and international organizations, the government has yet to take on the role as problem-solver over this matter.

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