EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionRaceRace/isms

The Muslims are Coming! Video of Arun Kundani’s Lecture

Islamophobia, extremism, and the domestic war on terror

This lecture by Arun Kundani, Adjunct Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, was part of the NSSR Sociology Lecture Series. It took place on February 9, 2015, in the Wolff Conference Room of the Vera List Academic Center at 6 E. 16th St. in New York.

Over the last few years, it has become increasingly apparent that Muslims in the U.S. are being subjected to systematic surveillance by law enforcement agencies. How does this surveillance relate to the longer histories of surveillance in the U.S.? How can we understand the construction of Muslims in the U.S. as a racial “other”? …

Arts & DesignEssays

An Interview with Amos Oz on Literature, Judaism and Zionism

A conversation with the Israeli author Amos Oz, conducted on November 12th in the guesthouse of the Hamburg Senate, upon receiving the first Siegfried-Lenz Prize.

NF: Bruchim Habaim leHamburg! — Welcome to Hamburg!

AO: Thank you very much. Being the first recipient of the Siegfried Lenz literary award is a great honor but also a very deep sadness, because we have lost Siegfried Lenz just a few weeks ago, and I was so much hoping that he will be the one who will hand me the award. …

Arts & DesignEssaysMedia/Publics

Rap as News or Art?

“Rap music is the CNN of the ghetto.” – Chuck D

Rap began — Chuck D nailed it — as news from the streets. Rap riffed ghetto life, syncopated in hard rhymes and dense metaphor the raw reality of the ghetto. In Ronald Reagan’s America, blacks in the ghettos from Harlem to Bed Stuy to South Central formed what George Bataille called the heterogeneous element of society — or the unassimable byproduct of a culture, born of that culture, upon which the culture rests. In plain English, rap was the art of the dispossessed, and as the art of the dispossessed, it tells us the truth of the trickle-down economic era from the mouths of those who were held far beneath the place where the trickle dried up. …


Amusing Ourselves to Life

I am in mourning and in withdrawal. I am losing my two nightly sanity fixes, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. I’m left with my morning fixes: running, swimming and cycling. Sleeping will become more of a problem. I published this piece a number of years ago in Deliberately Considered. I might want to expand on it, exploring the importance of televised political satire and the American social condition. 

Neil Postman was a famous media critic. He thought that the problem with television was not its content but its formal qualities as a medium. It presented a clear and present danger. …


An Interview with Lance Taylor on Inequality

In a new paper for the Institute For New Economic Thinking’s Working Group on the Political Economy of Distribution, economist Lance Taylor and his colleagues examine income inequality using new tools and models that give us a more nuanced — and frightening — picture than we’ve had before. Their simulation models show how so-called “reasonable” modifications like modest tax increases on the wealthy and boosting low wages are not going to be enough to stem the disproportionate tide of income rushing toward the rich. Taylor’s research challenges the approaches of American policy makers, the assumptions of traditional economists, and some of the conclusions drawn by Thomas Piketty and Larry Summers. Bottom line: We’re not yet talking about the kinds of major changes needed to keep us from becoming a Downton Abbey society.

EssaysMedia/PublicsSex & Gender

Memories of Identities, Identities of Memory

How do memorials shape who we think we are? And how do we “do” identities when we interact with memorials? As and others noted, gay men have been using the signature concrete slabs of the Berlin Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe as backdrops to their profile pictures on grindr, a geo-social app that lets those have have logged on find each other that is popular with gay men. In Salon’s account, the combination of the memorial and the anticipation of erotic pleasure is “odd” and “peculiar.” The Memorial appears as a “prop” for self-presentation. The trend is portrayed as equivalent to the EasyJet airline’s 2009 fashion shoot for an in-flight magazine at the memorial. …

CapitalismEssaysSex & GenderTheory & Practice

OOPS versus MOOCs

I first thought of writing this post over a year ago as a follow up to my piece “Against the Educational Uncertainty Principle.” I was struck by the way that recent interventions to address the various dimensions of higher educational crisis have made matters worse. MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, are a particular case in point. As I wrote then:

“I worry about magical solutions: MOOCs, substituting television for face to face inquiry, even though using the web to strengthen educational practices makes sense to me. …

EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

African Style Democracy?

Alarmingly a question being increasingly asked is whether democracy has failed in Africa, or similarly, whether democracy is unworkable or perhaps not suitable for Africa: this, given the fact that many African countries, which are supposedly democratic, are characterised by dreadful human rights abuses, ethnic conflicts, life presidents and economic chaos.

Many African leaders wrongly argue that democracy is “unAfrican,” “Western” or somehow anti-African “culture.” China’s economic rise without democracy appears to have emboldened those who argue that Africa should push for development first, and think about building democracy later. …

EssaysIn DepthPsyche

Clinical Psychology, Psychological Science, and Neo-liberal Times

Clinical psychology first emerged as a formal subdiscipline within psychology in the aftermath of World War II. During the war, psychologists were initially hired by the military to play a role assessing recruits for psychological stability, combat readiness, and potential for officer training. They were also charged with the task of evaluating whether soldiers exhibiting symptoms of psychological trauma were experiencing bonafide psychological problems or malingering. Over time as the massive prevalence of psychological trauma became apparent, the demand for professionals capable of providing psychological treatment far exceeded the supply of available psychiatrists, and psychologists increasingly came to play a role as treatment providers as well. …

EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Argentina in Shock

A mysterious death in Buenos Aires raises questions about the true sources of power inside Argentina's state

A federal prosecutor in a democratic state accuses the elected president of a major cover-up. Alberto Nisman is scheduled to explain the cover-up in Argentina’s congress when, hours before testifying, he mysteriously dies in his apartment. What kind of democracy allows this to happen? In the context of such events, what will be the fate of this democracy? As a result of Alberto Nisman’s death, Argentina is facing a traumatic shock, one without precedent in the last two decades of its young democracy. …