What We’re Reading

From our editors: What we’re reading this month (2/2)

Picasso, Femme Couchee lisant (1960)


Beyond Settler Time: Temporal Sovereignty and Indigenous Self-Determination by Mark Rifkin is a work of political and literary theory that re-interprets the axes and language of past and present as experienced by settlers and Native peoples in the Americas. Writing outside of a binary that forces a choice between casting indigenous peoples as keepers of the past or as necessarily co-eval with Europeans, Rifkin draws from philosophy, queer theory, and postcolonial theory to interpret texts and the experiences they bring to bear on a notion of “settler time”, a concept with he uses to draw out the stakes of thinking time along with politics, namely sovereignty and the temporal and spatial aspects of self-determination. I’m starting to work through this text as part of my foraging for helpful interpretations of political freedom, and it stands as another affirmation of the complicated relationship intellectual histories have to texts, which are so differently deployed in adjacent disciplines. (Rifkin is the Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program and Professor of English at  the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.)

A Specter Haunting Europe: The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism by Paul Hanebrink details the rise of a paranoia at the beginning of the twentieth century that crystallized into one facet of a deadly ideology, and remained grafted onto each vision of white supremacy that came afterwards — including the one that persists today in Europe and North America. The myth that Jewish masterminds cooked up Communism to ruin Europe and take control of the world began, in Hanebrick’s telling, in the counterrevolutionary currents of the interwar period. He draws a line through the myth’s Cold War adaptation to today’s racist hand-wringing over Islam’s so-called global designs that often co-exists with its anti-Semitic ancestor. After a string of white supremacist attacks in the past weeks, and the direct line drawn by the Pittsburgh shooter from his hatred of Jewish people to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, intellectual histories that connect the century-long entanglements of such strands seem like necessary (if also incredibly grim) reading.

On a lighter note, as I wind down my bi-annual re-read of Barbara Pym’s 1952 novel Excellent Women to the tune of some not insignificant fines from the local library, I’d also like to recommend it here. It details the life of a single woman in her thirties living in a London parish after the Second World War, and her chagrined and slightly titillated forays into the personal lives of her new neighbours, including an ex-Naval officer, a clergyman’s attractive widow, and a woman anthropologist (!). As the days become shorter and the impulse to eat dinner comes earlier and earlier during the workday, the attention to the small joys and indignities of being a person in Pym’s novels remains a welcome dose of comedy. Daniel Ortberg observes as such in his compilation of the most emotionally muted meals that appear in Excellent Women. Highly recommend. Please let’s talk about it. I’m going to have the Princeton Public Library’s copy out for another week, tops.



Certain objects seem to perform a kind of magic upon the beholder–time doubles back on itself, and past and present somehow fold into one. The most famous example, of course, is the Proustian madeleine. In The Remembrance of Things Past, a whole host of objects play this role–of both signalling a specific moment in history, and blurring the boundaries of the beholder’s present, so that multiple temporalities crowd together and become one. Fashion, for Proust, is capable of casting that particular magic. In the final volume of Remembrance, “Time Regained,” the narrator yokes the year 1916 to this specific image: “As if by the germination of a tiny quantity of yeast, apparently of spontaneous generation, young women now went about all day with tall cylindrical turbans on their heads, as a contemporary of Mme. Tallien’s might have done, and from a sense of patriotic duty wore Egyptian tunics, straight and dark and very ‘war,’ over very short skirts; they wore thonged footwear recalling the buskin as worn by Talma, or else long gaiters recalling those of our dear boys at the front…” The passage continues for a while, describing the vogue for “rings or bracelets made out of fragments of exploded shells or copper bands from 75 millimetre ammunition,” and the decision to wear bonnets of “white English crepe” in lieu of traditional mourning attire. But the narrator is not writing this in 1916. The fashion of 1916, so current in 1916, now serves also to distance the narrator’s own moment from the one where young women wore tall cylindrical turbans and spoke of “our dear boys at the front.” The clarity of the memory, the exactness of each detail,  serves to confirm the pastness of the past.


Lately, I’ve been thinking about this magical quality of fashion while scrolling through the artist Guadalupe Rosales’s two intertwined projects, Veteranas and Rucas and Map Pointz. Rosales describes these projects as “digital archives found on Instagram.” Veteranas and Rucas came first, in 2015. The New York Times described the Veteranas and Rucas digital archive as “an Instagram feed dedicated to Latina youth culture in Southern California, mainly from the ’80s and ’90s, but sometimes dating back much earlier.” Map Pointz, dedicated to the SoCal “90s party crew and rave scene,” came a little bit later, in 2016. Both archives are largely crowdsourced. These two intertwined archives serve as both autobiography and history. “I was born in California in 1980, daughter of two Mexican parents,” writes Rosales, “I grew up on Los Angeles’ Eastside and lived in a house that faced Whittier Blvd. That is when I realized how rich my culture was and was not what we see in movies or in the television.  From the age of 14-17, I was part of the party crew scene- a subculture organized by and for the youth in a time when many of my friends and relatives were in gangs. The gatherings occurred on the weekends and some weekdays in residential backyards and industrial warehouses throughout Los Angeles. Like most youth subcultures, music played a key role – we listened Techno, House and New Wave. Then on Sundays we cruised down the boulevard while bumping some oldies and freestyle. The Boulevard was a place where boys and girls met and exchanged telephone numbers.

These two digital archives came into being because Rosales was hungry for a way to connect to her history, her past: “I focused my research on the Los Angeles youth cultures in hopes of finding a deeper identity. If I Google searched my experiences as a teenager, what would I look for and how would I describe myself and those experiences? Someone who lived in Los Angeles and in the midst of gang violence, the Los Angeles riots and numerous protests. I wanted to read and look at images the brown youth on the dance floor and backyard parties, cruising the boulevard or anything that had documented the (sub)culture that existed in the midst of violence, unfortunately I wasn’t finding anything. With very little success, I started an Instagram feed, titled Veteranas and Rucas and posted photos from my own personal collection as reference. Within a week of my initial posting, people began to submit their own photos through email and messaging them through Instagram.”


The rise of material culture studies in the 1980s and 1990s helped shift our concepts of archives. Suddenly historians wanted to write about posters, or embroidery samplers, or military parkas. Any set of objects could be an archive.

The Internet opened up the archive further–more users, more stories, more material, more access, more of everything. In some ways, the internet itself is one vast archive. The power of Rosales’s crowdsourced Instagram archives lies in their ability to evoke–and capture–emotion. And they are not cordoned off from everyday life. For the moment, Instagram is a platform that is fully integrated into the fabric of quotidian life. Which also means that I cannot easily “forget” these faces, these histories. They show up on my phone screen, they speak to me, intimate as family, their images and stories cradled in my palm.



Though reading about Isaac Newton’s theological views is not exactly my idea of a good time, I recently found myself digging deep into the subject. I am working as a teaching fellow at the Yale divinity school this semester and had to give a lecture to my class on the ‘scientific revolution.’ To better explain some of the historiographical problems associated with early modern science, I was on the lookout for a case study which I could introduce towards the end of the lecture as a way of summing up some of my main arguments. While preparing the lecture, Newton came to mind. I suspected that, while the students would know quite a bit about Newton’s work on calculus and optics, his theological views, especially his ardent anti-trinitarianism, may come as a surprise.

To get a better grasp of some of Newton’s basic theological positions, I picked up Rob Iliffe’s new book Priest of Nature: The Religious Worlds of Isaac Newton and it was nothing short of a revelation. Iliffe, who currently holds a chair in the history of science at Oxford, has been working on Newton’s religious views for over three decades now and the book clearly shows his impressive learning and incisive thinking on the topic (Iliffe is also the co-editor of the Newton papers project which has compiled and transcribed an astonishing number of Newton’s manuscripts which are scattered in collections across the UK and Israel).

Iliffe’s claim is simple: Newton, he argues, was a deeply devout man who took his religious thinking and theological research as seriously as his ‘scientific’ work. Though this may hardly count as a path-breaking insight on his own, it is Iliffe’s relentless quest to painstakingly document the evolution of Newton’s theological views and their impact on his scientific work that makes his book one of the most exciting that I have read in a while. In particular, I was fascinated by the chapter “Methodizing the apocalypse” which examines Newton’s obsession with prophetic images in the bible. It looks at his deep interest in eschatological thinking and explains how Newton drew upon the ideas of older thinkers such as Joseph Mede and some contemporaries such as Henry More. Iliffe is especially good at using Newton as a lens for thinking about some of the bigger issues in the history of science. For anyone interested in early modern science and theology, this book is a must read.



In the first half of the twentieth century, a handful of scholars writing mostly in England attempted to understand how capitalism worked to produce the kind of isolated and self-interested people that its defenders associated with the natural human condition. These critics included R.H Tawney, the labor activist, education reformer and early modern historian whose research on the intellectual and social history of capitalism in the seventeenth century left such a deep imprint on my own field that the period of English history he studied came to be known as “Tawney’s Century.” Tawney and the intellectuals he helped inspire are the subjects of Tim Rogan’s rich and incisive book The Moral Economists: R.H. Tawney Karl Polanyi, E.P. Thompson, and the Critique of Capitalism (PUP, 2017).

Rogan traces the development over half a century of the distinctly historical critique of a capitalist system that these three scholars saw as insufficient for human flourishing. While the three scholars were familiar with each other’s work, Rogan groups them together not because they identified each other with a common mission but rather because they shared some conception of a “moral economy” that had been suppressed over time, to varying degrees, by laissez-faire capitalism and the theologies and philosophies that had served as its handmaiden through history, whether puritanism, liberalism or utilitarianism. Rogan’s close attention to the continuities and the subtle differences in these thinkers’ narratives of history and accounts of human flourishing leads him to convincingly demonstrate how they were all talking about moral economy in distinct ways, even before Thompson popularized the term itself in a famous article from 1971. This rigorous reconstruction of the logic of their arguments also allows Rogan to end with an evaluation of those accounts which he believes offer promising paths to guide political thinking today. Rogan sees Polanyi’s framework in particular as potentially fruitful for the present. Polanyi unmoored his own critique from the specifically Christian theological conception of human nature that Tawney had expounded before him. This transition leads me to wonder whether it’s valuable to think about such a shift as a kind of “secularization” between Tawney and Polanyi, and how that rejection of theology as a guide for their politics might lead Polanyi, his contemporaries and successors to attribute a different kind of significance to theology within the histories they write.

What We’re Reading: September, Part 2


While generally accustomed to questions more politically utilitarian than philosophical, my recent studies have led to a new forest of questions which I am having all too much fun exploring.  These questions surround the concept of leadership. In a world with so many challenges to face, what does it mean to be a capable leader? Which qualities are understood to be the most beneficial in a leadership position?  Which behaviors might be observed to indicate the degree to which these qualities are present in an individual?

In this exploration of qualities and behaviors indicating an aptitude for leadership, Shih-ying Yang and Robert J. Sternberg’s co-authored article, “Conceptions of Intelligence in Ancient Chinese Philosophy(Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 17, no. 2 [1997])  has been a fascinating and highly informative read.  Drawing from a cultural tradition in which intelligence is immensely valued as a sign of leadership potential, Yang and Sternberg detail the concept of intelligence as described by ancient Confucian scholars, and as a separate group, ancient scholars of the Daoist tradition.  After a lengthy analysis of philosophical texts, the co-authors reflect on the influences of these two distinct understandings of intelligence on the modern Chinese education system and leadership culture.

With textual roots and analysis strong enough to attract Sinologists and a writing style which renders the material accessible to those more generally interested in the intellectual history of intellect itself, “Conceptions of Intelligence in Ancient Chinese Philosophy” is a work offering insights on questions of political, philosophical, and historical natures.  



Frantz Fanon, Alienation and Freedom (Bloomsbury, 2018).

Previously unpublished writings by Frantz Fanon have been gathered in English in a new volume edited by Jean Khalfa and Robert J.C. Young (translated by Steven Corcoran). Alienation and Freedom contains much literary and psychiatric work, which, when read alongside Fanon’s canonical texts on colonialism, revolution, and Blackness, should offer a new portrait of the man as well as of the oeuvre which has been so critical for thinking through what it means to be oppressed and what it might mean to be free. I’m looking forward to working through this volume in tandem with a seminar on Capital, as part of a methodological deep-dive on writing about twentieth century anti-imperialism as I move into the prospectus phase of my degree.

Reading Theory, by the Canadian writer Dionne Brand, will be a continuation of this year’s happy regimen of first-person narratives by women, and should arrive in time for me to finish Ottessa Mossfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation. In Theory, an unnamed narrator labors on a dissertation that is supposed to be monumental, while being interrupted by the transformative messiness of encounters with other people:

In retrospect, I loved Selah for reasons anyone can understand. First, she loved herself more than she loved me. And this led me to think that I would get some respite from the world, and at the same time receive the little affections I required to complete my life’s work: my dissertation.

I haven’t read it yet, so I can’t say much more than that, but I suspect that September is a good time to turn to books about writing, scholarship, and academic work that allow us not to take this whole enterprise too seriously, all the while underscoring the immense seriousness of even that attempt. Last year at this time I was spending a lot of time with Selin, the undergraduate narrator of Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, and I think Brand’s narrator will also be good company.


At a workshop and in recent articles, I’ve encountered philosophers and intellectual historians grappling with the work of Bernard Williams to understand what we’re doing when we write the “genealogy” of ideas, and why such history matters to the way we think about those ideas. I’ve been interested in the philosophical underpinnings of such stories of the origins and development of ideas for some time, so after reading the philosopher Amia Srinivasan talk about Williams’ thoughts on the topic, I decided to read for myself.


Bernard Williams

Bernard Williams (1929–2003) was a British philosopher who garnered a reputation for refreshingly elegant prose and an attention to the history of ethical ideas that is uncommon to the tradition of analytic philosophy from which he came. In his essay “Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline,” Williams challenges philosophers (and by extension intellectual historians) who build normative claims through concepts to recognize that “in many cases the content of our concepts is a contingent historical phenomenon.” Even though our concepts gain their meaning through history, they often don’t feel like it. Our commitment to the natural equality of people, for instance, seems itself natural and beyond the scope of debate, even though we know that there was a time when no one subscribed to it. Even since people began to subscribe to it they’ve meant very different things by “equality” and “persons.” This orients research toward the explanatory question of why some ideas seem natural, and what conditions perpetuate them.


Dana Goldstein, The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession (Penguin Random House, 2014).

Williams points the way toward the natural assumptions that stay with us as phenomena in need of explaining, and we can take him further to question the sources of the perennial problems that arise when those assumptions diverge. This is the kind of framework in which Dana Goldstein, a reporter at the New York Times, approaches her subject in The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession (2014). In this compelling and accessible history of the teaching profession in the United States, Goldstein illustrates the continuities in debates, separated by centuries, about the professionalism of educators, democratic control of schools and equality of students’ education. She links arguments among nineteenth-century education reformers and early feminists about the professionalization of a teaching field associated with women’s work with contemporary debates about Teach for America and the meaning of a “professional” teaching force. Goldstein doesn’t just remind us that debates that seem new actually aren’t, but also leads the reader to think about whether these disagreements emerge from a recent history of feminization, unionization or integration, or from some deeper national commitment to democratic relations in all institutions. 

What We’re Reading: September, Part 1


Here are some highlights from what our editors have been reading this month—with another installment next weekend. Let us know what you’ve been reading, or if one of your favorites is here.


Elaine Mokhtefi moved to Paris from New York in 1951. She hoped that there she might ‘drink at the fountain of the past’ through immersion in the literary and cultural capital that had drawn so many revolutionary luminaries. As it happened, she became one of those revolutionaries herself, swept up in the anti-colonial movements of the 1950s. When she returned to New York in 1960, it was to work in the provisional headquarters of the unrecognised Algerian government. Two years later, after Algeria finally won its independence from France, Mokhtefi moved to Algiers to take part in building the new nation. Her memoir, Algiers, Third World Capital, is a testament to her time there. It is filled with tantalising recollections of Mokhtefi’s interactions with pivotal activists such as the psychologist and writer Frantz Fanon and the Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver. At the risk of sounding dictatorial, it is an unmissable read.


Elaine Mokhtefi

I’ve been meaning to revisit Achille Mbembe’s Critique de la raison nègre since I finished my dissertation and this summer seemed the perfect time to do so. The work remains an indispensable guide to the genealogy of the historical category of blackness, bringing together both francophone and Anglophone postcolonial thinking. It has also just come out in English translation by Laurent Du Bois. I was particularly enamoured by Du Bois’ introductory lines to the book. They encapsulate both his philosophy of translation and the intellectual elegance of Mbembe’s work. I could do no better than to reproduce them here: ‘If a language is a kind of cartography, then to translate is to transform one map into another. It is a process of finding the right symbols, those that will allow new readers to navigate through a landscape. What Mbembe offers us here is a cartography in two senses: a map of a terrain sedimented by centuries of history, and an invitation to find ourselves within this terrain so that we might choose a path through it— and perhaps even beyond it’ (ix).

I’ll finish this month’s recommendations with another firm declaration: everyone should read Imaobong Umoren’s Race Women Internationalists. It came out in May this year and is a brilliant reconstruction of the lives and activism of three incredible women: the American Eslanda Robeson; the Martinican Paulette Nardal and the Jamaican Una Marson. From the 1920s through to the late 1960s, these three women traversed the globe and built activist alliances against racism, imperialism and fascism. Umoren’s meticulous scholarship not only enhances our understanding of these women but gives great insight into the dynamics of black internationalism in the mid-twentieth century.


Just what on earth is natural for humans to do? Is it natural for us to tuck and barter? To dominate and kill? To cheat on our spouses? To marry at all? To be religious? To eat wheat and drink milk or almonds and bacon? To run barefoot? A big trend today is to search for a moral example in our primate past. You can see this in hip American in our paelo diets and barefoot running shoes. You also see it in the reactionary right’s fundamentalist appeals to strict gender norms and racial purity.

Most of these treatments promise that if we could just see the moment of our emergence as a species, then we could know what kind of society we should have today. It’s troubling that the picture that often emerges is, as Paul Seabright says, one of “a shy, murderous ape.” Our closest genetic relatives save the bonobo, the chimpanzee, have frequent male violence. Some reports from hunter gatherer societies show high murder rates. And most evolutionary psychology agrees. Men kill. They rape. They wage war. Is this our nature? There is a book called Demonic Males whose cover portrays a bestial chimera, horned, one-half snarling human, one-half snarling chimp.


Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Mothers and Others; The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011).

But in her recent book, Mothers and Others, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy presents a very different image of pristine humanity. We are not violent at all. In fact, the puzzle is how we came to be so peaceful. Consider the fact that we very rarely feel the urge to kill anyone on an airplane, even though people on airplanes regularly commit very killable offenses like eating blue cheese next to you, or stealing your arm rest. Chimps, or any other great ape, wouldn’t stand for that—they would be red in tooth and claw before the flight touched down in Pittsburgh. Why? Why are we able to cooperate so well?

To explain this deep history of the pro-social emotions—what Hrdy calls our ‘emotional modernity’—Hrdy look at that other peculiarity of humans: our weird life histories. We have long and very helpless childhoods (a baby human needs perhaps a million calories to grow to an adult human), and long reproductively-useless old ages. The extended childhood of humans means that no single person—nor even a devoted couple—can conceivably care for a child on their own. We need help. And in our distant past, children were raised by whole communities, not by pairs of dutiful hunter-gatherer wives and husbands. Allo-parents (non-parent child-rearers who may or may not be related to the child in question) pick up children, take care of them, and often share food with them. In technical terms, humans are cooperative breeders. This also explains our extended non-reproductive dotages. Grandmothers and grandfathers are important allo-parents. But mostly grandmothers. In some hunter-gatherer societies, the presence of a grandmother can cut child mortality in half. Tellingly, a chimpanzee mother will not let even her own mother touch her child except in the direst circumstances. This makes sense, as a key cause of infant death are other chimpanzees. But human mothers are fine with friends, family members, and annoying uncles picking up their defenseless newborns from the very moment of birth.

A young human child raised by parents and friends and grandparents and aunts and uncles, needs to be able to read the emotions of the people around them, to know who will take care of them, and cutely manipulate allo-parents to parent them. At the root of human society, then, Hrdy puts not a snarling chimp, but a cooing child.


Early modern sermons are some of the most important primary sources that I work with. While I tend to read them primarily to ascertain the intellectual commitments of the preachers, several scholars have now begun to study them within a wider cultural and commercial context. The results of some of these studies have been nothing short of fascinating.


John Tillotson

Seventeenth and eighteenth-century clergymen, both Anglican and nonconformist, preached regularly and intensively. They wrote sermons on a wide variety of topics and constantly refined them to suit the occasion and the needs of their respective audiences. While many sermons remained in manuscript form, others were printed in folios or as individual pamphlets. They constituted one of the primary means of intervening in political and theological controversies. As such, their impact on early modern religious and political debate was immense. Especially towards the end of the seventeenth-century, sermons became some of the best-selling printed materials. In the eighteenth-century, the copyright for the sermons of John Tillotson, former Archbishop of Canterbury, was sold for an enormous sum of £2,500.

Amongst the many studies on preaching and sermons in recent years, two stand out. Arnold Hunt’s The Art of Hearing: English Preachers and their Audiences, 1590-1640 is an exceptionally detailed study of what was preached from Elizabethan and Jacobean pulpits and how it came to define the religious culture of the time. Hunt deftly analyzes a whole series of manuscript sermons to show how the laity actively engaged with the content of the sermons and how its responses often forced preachers to revise the content. His analysis provides a strong critique of Keith Thomas’s somewhat dismissive thesis that most early modern parishioners lacked the sophisticated of an educated schoolboy. The Oxford Handbook of the Early Modern Sermon can be read with great profit along with Hunt’s study. It contains a number of vivid chapters on various aspects of preaching. Rosemary Dixon’s wonderful essay on printed sermons from 1660-1720 explores the economy of sermon printing and distribution and offers insights into the more commercial aspects of preaching.

These studies, however, are only the start of what appears to be a very exciting engagement with the extremely prolific and, at times, contentious world of early modern preaching and sermons. I look forward to learning more about the subject in the coming years.



Octavia E. Butler

Queer Feminist Science Studies: A reader (edited by Cyd Cipolla, Kristina Gupta, David A. Rubin, and Angela Willey) begins with a transnational and trans-species approach to journey through a myriad of fascinating inquiries. Twenty essays probe into the intersectional nodes between science and technology studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. The authors interventions are significant as their overall goal is to “get inside” categories and ideas that seem self-evident areas of science study. The collection argues that a queer feminist analysis offers a pathway into two main bodies of knowledge about the production, construction and transformation of sexual and gender norms: science and technology. This approach to reading science offers a novel insight into enduring questions such as: What exactly is sex? What ideas and practices need to be tamed to normalization to maintain these fictional hierarchies?  How do the categories of gender, sexuality and race interact to hold up these norms? For example, Sarah S. Richardson traces how the X chromosome became assigned as the “Female Chromosome” whilst Aimee Bahng’s treatment of slime molds and science-fiction writer Octavia E. Butler demonstrates how visions of the natural world created spaces for femi-queer conversations. This impressive volume seeks to queer not only the materiality of natural objects in science and technology that became elevated to ontological status but the discourse around such objects.


Gilles Deleuze—not a name I am in the habit of citing—called Michel Foucault’s “The Lives of Infamous Men” (1977) a “masterpiece,” and for once I am in full agreement with the Abbot to Félix Guattari’s Costello. Foucault wrote this little essay as the introduction to “an anthology of existences” (76), a proposed volume of brief notices of criminals’ lives from the historical record, chosen because “in the shock of these words and these lives [are] born again for us a certain effect mixed with beauty and fright” (78). The first example he gives is worth quoting in full:

Mathurin Milan, sent to the hospital of Charenton, 31 August 1707: “his madness has always been to hide from his family, to lead an obscure life in the country, to have lawsuits, to lend usurriously and recklessly, to walk his poor spirit upon unknown paths, and to believe himself capable of the very greatest works.” (76)

Spellbinding as such a volume would have been, worthy of a Jorge Luis Borges or a Franz Kafka, this would-be introduction stands on its own merit, as Foucault reflects on his characteristic methods and on the ends of history. He writes that in order for these lives to become visible, “it was […] necessary that a beam of light should, at least for a moment, illuminate them” (79). This beam goes by the name of power: the peculiarities of each rogue in this gallery were recorded because each collided with authority in one way or another. Power, of course, has the same exhausting ubiquity in Foucault as does castration does in Freud or capital in Marx—it is the coin of his realm, the laws of his intellectual physics. And “Lives” contains a moment of charming self-awareness: Foucault writes, “It shall be said to me: that’s just like you, always with the same incapacity to cross the line, to pass over to the other side, to listen to and make heard the language which comes from elsewhere or from below…” (80). The essay goes on to run promiscuously through themes dear to Foucault’s heart: legal discipline, the state, modernity, public and private, sexuality, all channeled through the lettres de cachet, early modern French petitions to the king for the imprisonment of a putative malefactor. Though a collection drawn from this narrow compass was all that came of the project for “an anthology of existence,” even the dream of such a book offers a new window onto the work of calling to life the personages of the past.

What We’re Reading: August, Part 2




W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn

Returning to W.G. Sebald during the heatwave in Europe was both balm and irritant, as I read once more the lines: “I became preoccupied not only with the unaccustomed sense of freedom but also with the paralysing horror that had come over me at various times when confronted with the traces of destruction, reaching far back into the past, that were evident even in that remote place.” (The Rings of Saturn, 3) A meditative travelogue about a walking trip Sebald took through coastal East Anglia in August 1992, this book was first an undergraduate favorite of mine, then the focus of a collaborative project in my first year of graduate school, and remains the dreamiest and bleakest of summer reads. Though perhaps at first glance, a stroll through the life of Roger Casement, the silkworm industry, Bergen-Belsen, and the Taiping Rebellion might seem like mere literary list-making, there is a hard, righteous edge to The Rings of Saturn that I have found helpful when reading and writing about the world-historical. Walking back and forth across Heidelberg during this uneasy August also compelled me to request Yair Mintzker’s The De-fortification of the German City, 1689-1866 (2012) from the university library’s reading room, as I became aware of moving from the Altstadt to the rest of the city, from what used to be inside the walls to what used to be outside. From a concrete and discrete legal entity — the walled city — to something that lay open to blending with the surrounding countryside, the German city in Mintzker’s telling is the site of political re-imagination and traumatic (de-) construction, of “the old world to which the walls belonged and the modern world that replaced it” (5). Destruction as driving force has become the theme of my summer reading, with potentially disastrous consequences for my dissertation prospectus draft, due next semester. (And if you take up these recommendations and need a destruction-bop, I’d suggest this.)



John O’Brien, Keeping it Halal: The Everyday Lives of Muslim American Teenage Boys (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017).

This has been a crazy summer, so fair warning: I’m not going to spend a lot of time turning my prose into poetry. But when asked to recommend a book, one popped immediately to mind: John O’Brien’s Keeping it Halal: The Everyday Lives of Muslim American Teenage Boys. Simply put: I really enjoyed this book. Keeping it Halal is an ethnography focused on the lives of Muslim American teenage men as they navigate their identities in a complicated context. It’s been widely praised, and rightly so. For one, the subject matter (in hindsight) seems almost confusingly neglected. Many scholars have worked on the idea of being Muslim and American from a variety of angles. But they’ve also almost unanimously dealt with adult immigrants. After reading O’Brien’s book, it’s clear that the different stages of life should also be carefully included as we model the “immigrant experience”. Further, while the sample is rather small, O’Brien stays with them for quite a long time, allowing him to develop analysis that is deeply historical and reflects more than just a single moment.  Perhaps most importantly, the book is intimate and is surprisingly enjoyable to read. The boys featured are very much real and the struggles—and triumphs—they experience are rendered potently. While slogging through endlessly, unnecessarily dense academic readings, it can be easy to forget that reading can be both smooth and impactful at the same time. In short: I both grew and had fun reading Keeping it Halal.


I spent too long this summer puzzling over the final chapter of Istvan Hont’s 2005 Jealousy of Trade. Hont’s larger concern is the integration of political economy, and especially international trade, into the history of political thought.  In the final chapter of the book Hont pursues his arguments, or perhaps his reconstitution of arguments between neo-Republicanism and post-Hobbesian natural right theorists, into and through the French Revolution. The details of Hont’s claims about the Abbé Sièyes and Jacobin political thought, as well as the emergence of the incoherent concept of the nation-state, to the side, it seems clear to me that what emerges from his approach to the period is how territory has function as a stumbling block for political thought. Since his death in 2013, Hont has himself become the subject of scholarship. At least one attempt to think systematically about the consequences for political theory does not agree with my reading. It seems to me that we have recently seen significant attempts to apply republican political ideas, for instance, in fields that are no longer intuitive. A Hontian history of political ideas would be a useful background for such projects, rather than ruling them out of court. Is our world still one in which territorially based states can meaningfully intervene in their own economies to, for instance, alter wage levels or the organization of debt, in order to compete with other territorially based states? The intuitive answer is surely yes, we are still living in the world of jealousy of trade.

And yet any serious answer to this question must look also to contemporary conditions in the global marketplace—or, what is a somewhat different thing, the global economy. It seems to me that a full accounting of Hont’s historical framework—its genesis from the 70s on as well as its meaning today—must take place with a view to what is radically new or anomalous in the economic conditions of those years and today, as for instance Adam Tooze’s new book begins to allow us to do. Does it seriously make sense to worry about the imperial tendencies of neo-republicanism amidst such disorder? What do the conditions of global finance do to the political meaning of liberal attachment to the territorial state? And finally, how—if at all—might the 18th century help us to think through these questions?



Tim Marshall, Prisoners of Geography

In celebration of submitting my master’s thesis, I recently made a conscious effort to expand the subject matter of my reading list; however, victim of my own obsessions, I must wryly admit that I am still recommending a book which dedicates one chapter to my own subject.  With the aim of expanding my knowledge of global political history, I took up Tim Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World.

A veteran foreign correspondent for the BBC and Sky News, Marshall presents a materialist’s perspective on national borders, their reasons for being, and causes of conflict on and within those borders.  The book is divided into ten chapters, each focusing on a different geopolitical region. Each of these chapters contextualizes current events within the given region by supplying information as to the natural resources available in the area, actions required to access necessary resources, and the state’s military defensibility.  Together, these ten case studies present and support a principle theory of geopolitics: geography dictates the needs of a people and the state which they form.

Well-researched and cohesively presented, Marshall’s book provides a great deal of useful information for readers interested in expanding their knowledge of political histories and conflicts around the world.  While providing accurate information as to the states of affairs in ten regions, however, Marshall’s work reflects ardent support for geopolitical theory and occasionally omits complicating factors from the discussion.

In short, for the newcomer, Prisoners of Geography serves as a strong introduction to regional geopolitics, while for those more knowledgeable in the subject, Marshall’s analysis may inspire fascinating questions and conversations.


Sam Wineburg; Mark Smith; Joel Breakstone, “What is Learned in College History Classes,” Journal of American History 104, no. 4 (March 2018), 983–993.

“The study of history should be a mind-altering encounter that leaves one forever unable to consider the social world without asking questions about where a claim comes from, who is making it, and how time and place shape human behavior.” It’s hard to disagree. But, for all of the conversations and fine mentorship I’ve had about teaching history over the past five years, I have never thought seriously about formative assessments to evaluate these skills during the course of the semester. The authors of a recent essay in the Journal of American History’s “Textbooks and Teaching” section explain that a formative assessment, “is distinguished from end-of-course assessment by its purpose: to inform teaching, not to give students a grade.” In fact, I don’t believe I have ever observed or participated in such an assessment. I can’t imagine who would contest the authors’ straightforward prompt: “Historians have long claimed that historical study teaches critical thinking. Our results suggest that this may not occur by osmosis. Might a more direct approach be necessary?” They helpfully suggest how we might do so.

I’d strongly recommend this small archive of insightful guidance and research about teaching history (now a decade old) and this short essay in particular: “What is Learned in College History Classes.” The authors recount the effective failure of college history students and majors to accomplish a set of tasks designed to test high school learning outcomes. The well-designed tasks test the ability of students’ to perform basic historical skills through the analysis of primary documents, thus bridging the gap between the abstract goals we claim about the purpose of teaching history and the point. In the much larger puzzle of how to promote the humanities in this era, this seems a small but very important and actionable piece.

What We’re Reading: August, Part 1


Regular readers of the blog will have noticed the (temporary) disappearance of our “What We’re Reading” feature, which used to run every Friday. Starting today, we’ll be replacing our weekly link round-ups with monthly reading recommendations from our editors. These longer-form recommendations will allow our editors to share some of the why, as well as the what, of what we’re reading. Here is part one, part two will be published next Saturday.


Self-parody that I am, I have invited John Calvin to accompany me back from Geneva, in the form of his commentaries on Paul’s Epistles to the Romans and the Thessalonians. Calvin composed one of the greatest pieces of systematic theology ever written in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, an achievement that has obscured the crucial fact, to quote Bruce Gordon, that the reformer “never taught theology as a separate discipline: he taught scripture” (300). The commentaries are texts of superlative erudition—filled with careful discussions of variant readings and the opinions of previous exegetes—and of polemical vitriol (“No words can express how foul is the abomination of the Papists…” [407]). All just as one would expect from the pugnacious theological architect of reformed Protestantism. The commentary on Romans, in particular, is something of a magnum opus, “a work that radically transformed Protestant theology” (Gordon 103). But not every note is scholarly or savage: “whatever may happen, we must stand firm in the belief that God, who once in His love embraced us, never ceases to care for us” (186). Of the correction of others’ faults he writes, quite movingly, “if we want to be of service, gentleness and restraint are necessary so that those who are reproved may still realize that they are loved” (422). Love is an apt word: Calvin loved Paul, whose prophetic mission he embraced as his own, and he loved the Bible, the revealed Word of God whose very existence was a miracle—these loves fill every page of his commentaries. It has been nothing short of wonderful this summer to discover the loving Calvin.



Olivier Rieppel, Phylogenetic Systems: Haeckel to Hennig (Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2016).

As I grapple with the concept of time(s) in modern biology I return to Olivier Rieppel’s Phylogenetic Systematics: Haeckel to Hennig. Rieppel, an evolutionary zoologist, maps the development of modern phylogenetic systematics. He covers 100 years, from the German Darwinist Ernst Haeckel to Willi Hennig, the German founder of modern cladistics, as biologists vacillate between materialism and idealism to find a methodology to uncover nature in its “real” form. Rieppel reconstructs the origins of many contemporary big questions that have haunted the discipline since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of the Species (1859). Is evolution the basis of comparative anatomy, or idealistic morphology? What morphological characters need to be elevated to understand an organism’s history? How do we use characters to reconstruct a tree? Are all characters equal? Rippel’s impressive cannon of German biological literature is the major strength of the book. Rieppel also offers a perspective on German biology during the Third Reich, a welcome addition to a literature more generally focussed on medicine and the atomic bomb. The author argues that idealistic morphology and phylogenetic systematics represented two antagonistic ideological traditions, empiricist-positivist and organicist-holistic, and critically evaluates the impact and influence of Nazism on evolutionary biology. Side by side, I read Brent D. Mishler’s What are Species? as one always needs to balance those charismatic zoologists perspective. Mishler, an evolutionary botanist, argues that the multitude of single species concepts needs to be abandoned for a more fluid, pluralistic concept of species.  Whilst this has been happening in contemporary practice it has yet to reach consensus formally within the biological community. These books leave me contemplating time, its measurability, its complexity and the work done to tame time on evolutionary trees.


Edna Lewis published The Taste of Country Cooking in 1976. In the very first paragraph of the book, Lewis informs us: “I grew up in Freetown, Virginia, a community of farming people. It wasn’t really a town. The name was adopted because the first residents had all been freed from chattel slavery and they wanted to be known as a town of Free People.” The book, a hybrid between a memoir and a cookbook, is both a historical document and a commentary on a moment in history. Structured as a series of seasonal menus, the book takes us through the rhythms of life in Freetown, where the bonds (and pleasures) of family and community were not taken lightly, for slavery–and emancipation–were both still held in living memory.

Her memories of Freetown are beautiful and tender, but never saccharine. After all, it is a book that includes the menu and recipes for an Emancipation Day Dinner. “My grandmother,” Lewis wrote, “had been a brick mason as a slave–purchased for the sum of $950 by a rich landowner.” The Emancipation Day dinner included a Guinea fowl casserole, wild rice and wild grapes, and a simple plum tart. We learn what the residents of Freetown might have enjoyed for a midday dinner during the wheat harvest, what might have been served for dinner after a Sunday Revival, and what went into packing a picnic basket for a day at the horse races. Lewis gives us that other history, the one written by the body, on the land. In an interview with the New York Times, Judith Jones (who also worked with Julia Child on Mastering the Art of French Cooking) recounted that “when they were working on the book together, Jones noticed that there wasn’t a menu for Thanksgiving. She asked Lewis about it, who said, quietly: ‘‘We didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. We celebrated Emancipation Day.’’ And so she wrote a menu for that, leaving it to the reader to figure out why.”


Since the end of my research trip to England, I have gradually been working through my rather long list of readings not directly related to my own research. Though most of my time has been taken up with Life and Fate, Vasily Grossman’s epic novel about the Second World War, I have recently read Noah Millstone’s excellent Past & Present article ‘Seeing Like a Statesman in Early Stuart England.’ Millstone, currently based at the University of Birmingham, argues that early Stuart politics was characterized by a specific form of political thinking which he describes as ‘politic.’ It relied on decoding hidden intentions and was obsessed with secrecy and intrigue. Since simple inference could be misleading, it was deemed necessary to use a number of hermeneutic techniques that allowed one ‘to unveil the true, hidden causes behind events.’ (82).

What makes Millstone’s research and argument so impressive is his insistence that this mode of thinking cannot be understood only through printed treatises written by elite actors. He has combed through a vast amount of manuscript material that allows him to understand how ‘politic’ thinking, best thought of as a technique of interpretation rather than as an ideology, pervaded all levels of English society. Millstone is also very good at explaining the wider implications of his argument. He suggests that ‘politic’ thinking implies that there was such a thing as a ‘distinctly early modern form of the political.’ (84) Historians, therefore, should no longer think of politics as a transhistorical category that necessarily retains some common features across time and space.

Summer Reading: Part I

Book of Hours

Book of Hours, 1480-1490, Victoria & Albert Museum. Photo Courtesy of Britain Loves Wikipedia.

Here is the first installment of some of the books that the Blog’s editors have lined up for summer. From art history to critical theory, from fiction to poetry, we’ve got you covered if you’re looking for something to pick up during the academic off season. Look out next weekend for the second installment!


I got hit by a car this year. After surgery, after a month of Netflix and couch, after I had weaned myself off the pain pills, I slowly began to piece myself together again. I picked up an old favorite, Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, a book I’ve returned to again and again throughout my life. The book follows a fin de siècle everyman, Hans Castorp, as he spends seven years of his early adulthood in a TB sanatorium. The book is filled with characters who are allegories standing for this-or-that Big Thing: militarism, liberalism, extremism, nihilism, sex, death, bodily pleasure. The book ends with Castorp disappearing into the mass of young men in the trenches of the First World War. Castorp may or may not have been sick; but Europe certainly was.

I’ve come to appreciate different things about The Magic Mountain with every reading. My first I treated the book like a puzzle, proud of myself for each allegory I managed to identify. Later, I came to appreciate the book as a narration of the First World War. This latest reading, my body still bruised, my bone still knitting back together, still bound to the Barcalounger in my living room, I came to appreciate the Magic Mountain as a novel about sickness. Virginia Woolf wondered in On Being Ill why “illness has not taken its place with love, battle, and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.” Illness is uncomfortable. It is boring. Not much happens when you’re ill. So sickness is dealt with in fiction usually invisibly: the bones heal in the spaces between chapters. We get better, slowly. Yet in The Magic Mountain, sickness was ruminated on, lingered over, discussed, understood as its own form of experience. This comforted me. How differently time passed on that Barcalounger! Months which would have otherwise been filled with activity, instead passed by like minutes. And here I read Hans Castorp feeling the same way. Laying on his chair during the rest cure, letting his mind wander, thinking about the peculiar way time passed while he was ill, wondering whether the stuff inside him was healthy or invisibly diseased, wondering about what it all meant to be sick.



Besides research-related adventures and a foolhardy scheme to read the entirety of John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, my reading list this summer is drawn from the books that have lain in my house unread for far too long. Here are three of those hitherto-neglected titles:


Penelope Fitzgerald, The Blue Flower (1995). Described by its author as “a novel of sorts,” The Blue Flower retells the early life of the poet and philosopher Novalis, his puzzling engagement to twelve-year-old Sophie von Kühn, and the beginnings of what would become German Romanticism. This was the last work of Penelope Fitzgerald, whose subtle wit and profound insight into the peculiarities of human relationships remain criminally under-appreciated.


Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004). My blurb was going to say, “Dueling magicians in the Napoleonic Wars—need I say more?” But then I discovered a fact that will prove an even greater enticement to readers of JHIBlog: footnotes! Clarke has constructed a baroque edifice of fictitious scholarship upon which her story rests—and, truly, what self-respecting library could be without John Segundus’s A Complete Description of Dr. Pale’s fairy-servants, their Names, Histories, Characters and the Services they performed for Him (Thomas Burnham: Northampton, 1799)?


Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe (1819). Sir Walter Scott’s iconic historical romance, to which we owe the familiar tale of the doughty Richard the Lionheart, the dastardly King John, and the honest thief, Robin Hood. On a personal note, the “Dedicatory Epistle” to Ivanhoe is addressed to a (spiritual) ancestor of mine, the Reverend Dr. Jonas Dryasdust, FAS.




Rachel Kushner, The Mars Room — this is the book to tuck into your carry-on bag. You’ll speed through it so you can get to the ending, but once you get there, you’ll want to read the whole book all over again. You won’t even notice that your flight is delayed, or your luggage still hasn’t arrived on the carousel. I’m not going to tell you what the book is about (you can cheat and read the reviews if you want). When you get to the end, and find yourself meditating on questions of fate and agency, not sure if you’re looking into darkness or light, remember to thank me for this recommendation.


Lucie Brock-Broido, A Hunter, The Master Letters, Trouble in Mind, Stay IllusionI am re-reading Brock-Broido’s oeuvre this summer. Brock-Broido passed away this past March. She was only 61. Her language followed the diction and syntax of another time–but what was that time? Was it the deep past, or some future yet to come? Brock-Broido’s poetry was always beautiful, in a way that flirted with the decorative. Her best work veered away from mere beauty, aching towards something like the sublime.


Kelly Jones, South of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s — Jones tells a “hidden history of blackness” of 20th-century California. African Americans, as well as members of the Latinx and Asian Pacific Islander communities, have traditionally been excluded from the story of modernism in California. Jones tells the history of the African American art community “south of Pico” in Los Angeles, embedding well-known artists such as Bettye Saar and Noah Purifoy within the complicated historical contexts of both Los Angeles and California in the second half of the 20th century. This book changed how I think of modern and contemporary American art. It will change how you think, too.

What We’re Reading: Week of 26th March

Here are a few interesting articles and pieces we found around the web this week. If you come across something that other intellectual historians might enjoy, please let us know in the comments section.



Cecilia D’Anastasio, Dungeons And Dragons Wouldn’t Be What It Is Today Without These Women (Kotaku)

Jia Tolentino, The Very Unnerving Existence of Teen Boss, A Magazine for Girls (New Yorker)

Tanya Basu, Meet the Interstitum (Daily Beast)

Niko Maragos, The Body In Painlessness (New Inquiry)



Asad Haider, “A New Practice of Politics: Althusser and Marxist Philosophy” (Verso)

Erica Johnson, “White Creole Identity on Trial: The Haitian Revolution and Refugees in Louisiana” (Age of Revolutions)

Ben Reynolds “Some Problems in the Theory of Imperialism” (Fragments)

Priya Satia, “The Whitesplaining of History is Over” (Chronicle), which is relevant to explaining this.



Benjamin E. Park, “The Revolutionary Roots of America’s Religious Nationalism” (Politics and Religion)

Walter Johnson, “Guns in the Family” (Boston Review)

Jenna Tonn, “Women’s Work in Natural History Museums” (Lady Science)



Zach Dorfman, “The Disappeared” (Foreign Policy)

Margaret Renkl, “Easter Is Calling Me Back to the Church” (The New York Times)

Luc Sante, “The Kinks: Something Else” (Pitchfork)

Michael Taylor, “Living in limbo: Indonesia’s refugees face uncertain future” (Reuters)



Edward Cavanough, “The Mountains: TImor Leste’s Blessing and Curse” (The Diplomat)

Sarah Zhang, “Scientists Still Don’t Know Exactly Why Knuckles Crack” (The Atlantic)

Krzysztof Iwanek, “How Marvel Failed to Promote Seoul and Busan” (The Diplomat)



Max Rodenbeck, “A Mighty Wind” (NYRB)

Michael Prodger, “Why 1932 was Picasso’s year of erotic torment” (New Statesman)

Kate Webb, “Angela Carter and Wilson Harris” (TLS)

Jennifer Wilson, “Floating in the Air” (The Nation)

What We’re Reading: Week of 19th March


Here are a few interesting articles and pieces we found around the web this week. If you come across something that other intellectual historians might enjoy, please let us know in the comments section.



Michael C. Behrent, “Age of Emancipation” (Dissent)

Bronwen Everill, “Demarginalizing West Africa in the Age of Revolutions” (AoR)

Pankaj Mishra, “Jordan Peterson & Fascist Mysticism” (NYRdaily)

Quinn Slobodian, “Making Sense of Neoliberalism” (HUPblog)

Amia Srinivasan, “Does Anyone Have the Right to Sex?” (LRB).



March is women’s history month. The National Museum of Women in the Arts launched the #5womenartists social media campaign in 2016. The campaign asks: “Can you name 5 artists? Can you name 5 women artists? Can you name 5 women artists of color?”

To see what users are currently sharing, plug the #5womenartists hashtag into the search bar on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Now that we’re about halfway through the month, there’s quite a bit to see.

I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last Tuesday night for the Met’s 12th annual “Evening Celebrating Women.” One of the women celebrated that evening was Mariët Westermann, who reminded the (mostly female) audience that when she was a student, almost all of the professors and curators she encountered were men, while most of her fellow graduate students were women. Things are changing–though the gender gap continues to exist at the top levels of museum (and art world) leadership, as reported by this 2017 Association of Art Museum Directors study. 48% of art museum directorships are held by women, and the salary disadvantage for women directors continues to hold true (female museum directors make 73 cents for every dollar made by a male director, which is actually below average for women artists, who make 81 cents for every dollar made by a male artist).

I’ve thought a lot about these issues–especially in the wake of #metoo and #notsurprised, and the general drift of things–and thought particularly long and hard about how to go beyond the usual encomiums.

Coincidentally, this event fell on the heels of Armory Week. Art Basel / UBS also released Clare McAndrew’s “The Art Market 2018.”  If you are a keen watcher of art markets, McAndrew’s report won’t surprise you. It is a tale of 2 markets — the “haves” and everyone else. The art fair circuit lays that all out, right there–encomiums won’t get us to where we need to be, in terms of equality, and neither will good energy, nor buzz. Structures and institutions need to change.



Shannon Connellan, “Ai Weiwei Makes Bold Statement About the Refugee Crisis with Giant Inflatable Boat” (Mashable)

A ChinaFile Conversation, “What Is the Significance of China’s #MeToo Movement?” (ChinaFile)

Bogdan Gherasim, “First Sustainable Lego Bricks Will be Launched in 2018” (Lego.com)

Molly Gottschalk, “These Drawings Show How Pop Culture Has Changed the Way We See UFOs” (Artsy)



Reid McCarter, Astrid Budgor and Ed Smith, “Video Game Guns Don’t Need to be Fun to Be Interesting” (Waypoint)

Pauk Ford, “Facebook Is Why We Need a Digital Protection Agency” (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Tasmin Shaw, “Beware the Big Five” (NYRB)

Linda Colley, “Can History Help?” (LRB)



Matt Young, “Stop looking for one war story to make sense of all wars” (Lithub)

Jill Lepore, “The Right Way to Remember Rachel Carson” (New Yorker)

David S. Reynolds, “Fine Specimens” (NYRB)

Britta Lokting, “The Portlandia Effect” (Vulture)



Sandip Patel, Two-pore channels open up. (Nature)

David P. Barash. It’s Time to Make Human-Chimp Hybrids. (Nautilus)

Jacey Fortin, She Was the Only Woman in a Photo of 38 Scientists, and Now She’s Been Identified. (New York TImes)

Andrew McConnell Stott, Stage Light. (Lapham’s Quarterly)

Carolina Diettrich, Mallet de Lima, and Anita Göndör, Circadian organization of the Genome. (Science)



Charisse Burden-Stelly, “The Absence of Political Economy in African Diaspora Studies,” (Black Perspectives)

Eric Foner, “I just get my pistol and shoot him right down,” (LRB)

Jeremy Harding, “Report from Sirius B,” (LRB)

Louisa Lim, “Policing the Contour Lines,” (LARB)

Sumanth Subramanian, “How Balkrishna Doshi Bent Le Corbusier’s Modernism to the Needs of India,” (New Yorker)



Colm Tóibín, “Desolation Row” (NYRB)

Antonia Quirke, “Devastatingly Milton” (New Statesman)

Peter Nagy, “TV’s Radical, Bisexual Comic-Book Antihero” (The Atlantic)

Michael Fischer, “How Much Easier to Hate” (Guernica Magazine)

What We’re Reading: Week of 12th March

big book 2.jpg

Some reading gathered for you from around the web by members of the JHIBlog team. Let us know what else has caught your eye this week in the comments!


Mary Beard, “Sex and Death in the Classical World” (New Statesman)

Jonathan Carey, “The Africans Who Called Tudor England Home” (Atlas Obscura)

Graeme Smith and Louisa Lim, “Policing the Contour Lines: China’s Cartographic Obsession” (Chinoiresie, The Little Red Podcast)



Doreen St. Felix, “The National Geographic Twins and the Falsehood of our Post-racial Future” (New Yorker)

Martin Jay, “A History of Alienation” (Aeon)

Andrew Dole, “Could there be another Billy Graham?” (The Conversation)



Amy Murrell Taylor, “The historian who admired slavers” (TLS)

Josephine Quinn “Caesar Bloody Caesar” (NYRB)

Becca Rothfeld, “A Day at a Time” (The Nation)

Kyla Marshell, interview with Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (Guardian)

What We’re Reading: Week of 5th March


Here’s what our editorial team has been reading this week—let us know what you think and what you’ve been reading!


Tim Rogan, Why Amartya Sen remains the century’s great critic of capitalism (Aeon)

Jamie Fisher, The Left-Handed Kid (LRB)

Adam Roberts, Till Tomorrow (New Atlantis)



Heather Bowen-Struyk and Norma Field, ““Art as a Weapon”: Japanese Proletarian Literature on the Centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution,” (The Asia-Pacific Journal)

Anne Enright, “The Genesis of Blame,” (LRB)

Jiayang Fan, “Can Wine Transform China’s Countryside?” (New Yorker)

Anne Mette Lundtofte, “The Kim Wall Murder Trial,” (New Yorker)

Manisha Sinha, “Today’s Eerie Echoes of the Civil War,” (NYRB)



Marta Figlerowicz, “The Disillusionment of Post-Soviet Europe” (Boston Review)

Cassidy Faust, “7 Activists of Color You Should Read This International Women’s Day” (LitHub)

Allison Keyes, “Two Museum Directors Say It’s Time to Tell the Unvarnished History of the U.S.” (Smithsonian)



Paola Bertucci, “It Wasn’t Just Philosophers Like Diderot Who Invented the Enlightenment” (History News Network)

David A. Bell, “The PowerPoint Philosophe” (The Nation)

Ian Campbell Ross, “Alas, Poor YORICK!” (Public Domain Review)

James Campbell, “Jimmy is Everywhere” (TLS)

Dana Fishkinn, “Magic and Science in Medieval Ashkenaz” (Marginalia)