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. …

READ MORE →
"We the People," National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  ©  Stefan Ogrisek | Flickr
EssaysFascism: Old and NewFeatureLiberal Democracy in QuestionMedia & PublicsPower and CrisisTheory & Practice

Claims to Populism, Danger to Democracy?

No US election campaign in living memory has seen as many invocations of “populism” as this one. Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are labelled as “populists;” the term is regularly used as a synonym for “anti-establishment,” irrespective of any particular political ideas; it is also associated with particular moods and emotions: populists are “angry,” their voters are “frustrated,” or suffer from “resentment.” Similar claims are made about figures in Europe: Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders are most commonly …

READ MORE →
George Washington Carver Museum, Tuskegee Institute Campus, Macon County, AL  © Vieilles Annonces | Flickr
EducationFeatureLiberal Democracy in QuestionO.O.P.S.Power and Crisis

Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment in an Early Modern Science Course?

Reflections on continuous contingent foundations for liberal education and liberal democracies

In my final post of the old year , I promised that my next post would defend my claim that “however much I believe the liberals’ heart is in the right place, I believe the critiques of liberal universalism both within the academy and without hit home in some real ways, not least in terms of the self-delusion we liberals have all-too-often suffered about our own tolerance of, and even appetite for, cruelty.” Such a promised defense is only the more necessary in light of David Kretz’s response, which among many other interesting things, raises the question about whether or not a liberal arts college today, …

READ MORE →