Street art celebrating the real-life Louise Michel © Frédéric BISSON |Flickr
EducationEssaysFeaturePower and CrisisScienceTheory & Practice

What Could History Have Been?

Imagining new approaches to the humanities

“What could history have been?” The question asks how events might have turned out otherwise, if only X had happened instead of Y. What if JFK hadn’t been assassinated? What if Hitler had? The official term for this kind of what-if thinking is “counterfactual history,” and it covers anything from an academic’s earnest attempt to imagine the US economy without railroads to Quentin Tarantino’s WWII redux Jewish revenge fantasy, Inglourious Basterds — anything, that is, which imagines history as it did not happen.

But the same question can be the spur to a different kind of speculation.“History,” after all, has two meanings. It’s not just the sum of past events, but the discipline that studies them. …

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Taken in Bil'in, Palestine © Netta van Vliet | Courtesy of the author
EducationEssaysThe LeftTheory & Practice

On the Academic Calls to Boycott Israel, Part III

The Jewish Question and the debate over the Israeli academy

The “Jewish Question” was defined in turn of the century Europe as a question about the manner and degree to which Jewish difference was compatible with the ideals of European modernity (Librett 2014) as well as with political projects that took shape with and against its geopolitical contexts (Bauer 2000 [1843]; Marx 1978 [1844]; Peled 1992). What defined “Jewish difference” was part of this question. Questions about whether the Jew is defined by anti-Semitism …

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Child in Gaza © andlun1 | Flickr
EssaysThe LeftTheory & Practice

On the Academic Calls to Boycott Israel, Part II

The Jewish Question and the debate over the Israeli academy

After summarizing Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip and dispossession of Palestinians from land and livelihood, the pro-boycott petition’s signatories declare: “As employees in institutions of higher learning, we have a particular responsibility to oppose Israel’s widespread and systematic violations of the right to higher education of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line.” Pointing out the ways in which Israeli authorities, including institutions …

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Peace Canisters in Bil'in, Palestine © Netta van Vliet | Courtesy of the author
EssaysThe LeftTheory & Practice

On the Academic Calls to Boycott Israel, Part I

The Jewish Question and the debate over the Israeli academy

This post is the first part in a three-part series, which will be posted over the remainder of the week.

If Israel is a contentious topic of conversation in mainstream and alternative news media, in everyday exchanges at the grocery store or the dinner table, it comes with at least as much vitriol when discussed in academia. Recent calls by members of professional associations such as …

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Injured Palestinian baby, July 8, 2014, Gaza © Basel Yazouri | Flickr
Essays

Israeli Academics Condemn the Slaughter and Endless Oppression of the Palestinian People

This protest petition just came to our attention. As a pubic service we are circulating it here. In the coming days, analysis from alternative perspectives will follow, including pieces by Nahed Habiballah, Benoit Challand and yours truly. – Jeff Goldfarb

The signatories to this statement, all academics at Israeli universities, wish it to be known that they utterly deplore the aggressive military strategy being deployed by the Israeli government. The slaughter of large numbers of wholly innocent people, is placing yet more barriers of blood in the way of the negotiated agreement which is the only alternative to the occupation and endless oppression of the Palestinian people. …

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The author's childhood home © Robert L. Reece | Courtesy of the author
EducationEssaysRaceRace/isms

How My Social Justice Failed My Family

I’ve never felt more helpless than when I heard my dad tell me that he was selling the house where I was raised. After using my student loans to help cover the overdue mortgage payments, we were still unable to stave off the inevitable. Facing the prospect of the bank foreclosing on the house, my father was forced to sell my childhood home. And despite my knowledge of the precarious position of middle and working class black people and the enduring nature of poverty, particularly in an area like the Mississippi Delta, I still feel like it’s at least partially my fault.

The sociologist in me says that divorce often plunges black families into poverty. My parents divorced in 2009. The sociologist in me says that the economic downturn disproportionately damaged black people. My dad lost his job soon after the divorce. …

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