An eclectic weekly selection of new academic articles, essays, talks, podcasts, and more.

Every week, we send out our carefully curated syllabi (the full list). You can also build – and receive – your own. We also invite interesting people to play with our infrastructure and choose their own favorite pieces. Here are Brian Eno‘s, Hito Steyerl‘s, Adam Tooze‘s, Rana Foroohar‘s (who is our resident “cyberflâneur” this week).


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Best of the Week


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Odds and Ends


I.

Fetishizing Captain America’s Sidearm: Iconography, Exceptionality, and the Politics of Representing Guns

Tim Posada Palgrave Communiations

“…Fetishistic emphasis on Captain America’s gun exposes the state of exception inherent in all superhero media, prompting a digital discourse across professional and amateur platforms on gun-related subjects. This project analyzes how superhero media portray gun use and the subsequent reception from both news media and digital fandom. A sampling of comics, television series, and films are textually analyzed, along with digital news media and online fan forums pertaining to those examples.”

II.

Whitening Italian Sport: the Construction of ‘Italianness’ in National Sporting Fields

Sandra A. Kyeremeh International Review for the Sociology of Sport

“This article examines the ways in which narrow understandings of race and Italianness are reproduced by those who govern and administer sport at elite levels of competition. By shedding light on how citizenship discourses establish who can and cannot represent the nation, I specifically focus upon the belongings and identities of Black, foreign-origin and mixed-heritage Italian women athletes…”

III.

Between Modernity and Nostalgia: the Meanings of Death in Hotels

Ulrike Zitzlsperger Forum for Modern Language Studies

“This article takes its cue from the public impact of the deaths of singers, artists and writers in hotels. Particular attention is paid to the murder of Nancy Spungen in New York’s Chelsea Hotel, in 1978. A long tradition of literary and filmic hotel deaths shows similarly strong links with contemporary cultures – illustrating political, social or cultural change and questioning the impact of modernity. However, as well as responding to change, death in the context of hotels is also linked with nostalgia for an irretrievable past. Such are the two poles of cultural criticism in the topos of hotel deaths: they throw modernity into relief, celebrating or criticizing it through the symbolic structure of the hotel; or they inculcate a warm nostalgia, in critical opposition to the world outside on the street…”

I.

Horrifying Bodies: Waste in Monastic Imagination

Allison Gose Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance

“Demons were ubiquitous creatures in the Middle Ages, manipulating the human form and wreaking havoc on the pious and impious alike. In this paper, I examine two thirteenth-century demonologies and how religious men depicted the malicious machinations of these beings on their bodies, particularly on their gastrointestinal systems. By applying waste theory to our understanding of these texts, I illuminate how both Richalmus of Schöntal and Caesarius of Heisterbach projected the ineffable processes of body onto demonic figures in order to corporealize and combat the sinful human forms perpetually producing abject waste in spite of self mortification…”

II.

Parliament, Print and the Politics of Disinformation, 1642–3

William White Historical Research

“This article explores the political uses of disinformation during the English civil war. It argues that forged and falsified publications formed part of a sophisticated propaganda strategy employed by the parliamentarian war party, aimed at discrediting Charles I during the first months of the conflict. It therefore offers an important corrective to traditional emphases on the anxieties that partisan print engendered. Furthermore, by showing that this strategy drew on both the practices and texts associated with early Stuart scribal opposition to Caroline rule, the article suggests an important link between pre‐war manuscript culture and the print practices of the sixteen‐forties.”

III.

‘Dionysian Socialism?’: The Korčula Summer School as Kurort of the New Left

Kaitlyn T. Sorenson Forum for Modern Language Studies

“This article explores and analyses several remarkable parallels between two unique cultural spaces, namely, that of the Korčula Summer School and that of the Kurorte – the Grand Spas of Central Europe. Though distinct from one another with respect to their historical as well as topographical locations within Europe, it is as cultural spaces that the two share their least apparent – but perhaps most significant – points of affinity. Just as Baden-Baden had served as the ‘summer capital of Europe’ for one set of cultural elites across political, linguistic and national boundaries, so did Korčula offer a space for cultural and intellectual exchange for philosophers from both sides of the Cold War…”

I.

Traveling Anthropophagy: the Depiction of Cannibalism in Modern Travel Writing, Sixteenth to Nineteenth Centuries

José M. H. Gutiérrez Journal of World History

“Travel writing had a significant impact on the way cannibalism was to be interpreted and diffused from the sixteenth century onwards. By analyzing how much our current understanding of anthropophagy owes to the discourse of travel writing and the simultaneous interaction between concept and medium, a better understanding of its implications in philosophical, political and scientific discourse can be perceived. It also elaborates on how we built self-identification through the uses of fears and cultural stereotypes. A quick glance at the structure of travel writing helps conceptualize how the encounter with Native Americans by Christopher Columbus transformed the Western perceptions of cannibalism and determined relations with other peoples in the following centuries, from Polynesians to Africans…”

II.

The Path to Pistoia: Urban Hygiene Before the Black Death

Guy Geltner Past & Present

“…The demands of a new urban metabolism, evident from the twelfth century, prompted numerous cities, including Pistoia, to develop preventative health programmes in anticipation of and in response to diverse threats. The latter certainly included famine, floods, pestilence and war, but Pistoians and others were no less concerned by routine matters such as burials, food quality, travel and work safety, artisanal pollution and domestic waste disposal. All of these were recognized as impacting people’s health, based on the medical and natural-philosophical theories prevalent at the time, and their management took into consideration not only climactic conditions and multi-species behaviour, but also the smooth functioning of sites such as wells, canals, bridges and roads…”

III.

“Living Hell”: Fulci’s Eternal City

Daniel V. Sacco Studies in the Fantastic

“The commercial success of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) in Italy, and the contribution of famed Italian filmmaker Dario Argento as producer to its sequel Dawn of the Dead (1978) (recut and released as Zombi in Italy), kick-started an enduring cycle of zombie films in the passionately celebrated, yet equally oft-derided tradition of Italian horror… This essay outlines how [Julio] Fulci’s 1980 masterpiece City of The Living Dead resists (by design) the social and cultural commentary typically ascribed to American zombie films. City of the Living Dead is a stark vision of “Hell on Earth”, one marked by a rejection of the rational, a reverence of the scriptural, and recognition of the horror film as a form of apocalyptic religious vision.”

I.

Belief System Disintegration: Evolutionary Insights from Bergman’s Det Sjunde Inseglet

Mads Larsen World Futures

“Paradigm transitions come with tremendous risk, as societies can come undone when people stop believing in the imaginary constructs that unite us. The Black Plague’s devastation resulted not only from its lethality, but from how its ensuing crisis in faith triggered evolved cognitive systems that lead to tribalism, self-destructive despair, and attacks on authorities and minorities. This article examines Bergman’s film through the lens of evolutionary theory to illustrate the mechanisms that cause people to wreck havoc when we no longer share a vision for the future. The crisis of the 1300s has been compared to challenges we face today.”

II.

The Discomfort of Thorne v Kennedy: Law, Love and Money

Renata Grossi Alternative Law Journal

“The 2017 High Court case of Thorne v Kennedy highlighted and sparked discussion around the injustice of financial agreements and when they may constitute unconscionability and undue influence. However, the case also raises another important discussion about the relationship between love and money. This article picks up this conversation. How does society navigate the distinctions we make between economic exchange and romance? Between altruism and commodification? And how should this be manifested in the law in general, and the law governing financial agreements specifically?”

III.

Geographies of the Book(shop): Reading Women’s Geographies in Enlightenment Edinburgh

Phil Dodds Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

“This article examines the place of women’s geographical reading in a centre of Enlightenment: Edinburgh, 1770–1810. It analyses two sets of booksellers’ records to identify key sites – women’s private libraries, Georgian domestic spaces, and women’s schools and boarding houses – in which women engaged with the geographical materials sold in the city’s bookshops: maps, globes, travel accounts, gazetteers, guidebooks, books of roads, geographical dictionaries and grammars. Women used these diverse materials to transform spaces into sites of geographical education and discussion. Crucially, this article makes the case for understanding these spaces as key sites in Edinburgh’s Enlightenment topography. These were spaces where women oversaw the circulation and appraisal of geographical information: women, in the absence of men, interrogated geographical publications and promoted particular methods of reading and ways of understanding the world…”

I.

Modern Central European Hotels and Spas in Cultural Criticism: Grand Hotel Nostalgia: an Introduction

Sean M. Williams Forum for Modern Language Studies

“Exclusive hotels are commonplaces, or topoi, of twentieth-century cultural criticism. Speaking in 1967, Michel Foucault suggested that the hotel is a ‘heterotopia’: a social counter-site designated for ritualistic behaviour, or the limited subversion of cultural convention. He gave the example of sex in a honeymoon suite. Foucault mentioned Scandinavian saunas, too, as a further type of heterotopian scenario, in which civilized norms are exchanged for rituals of hygiene. And so we might introduce the grand hotels and spas of Central Europe – the subject of the subsequent pages – as such ‘effectively enacted utopia’…”

II.

Subverting the Art of Diplomacy: Bullshit, Lies and Trump

Selman Özdan Postdigital Science and Education

“…Bullshit, a deceptive method which aims at manipulating the opinions and attitudes of those with whom the bullshitter speaks, with no regard for the truth, can be no part of [the diplomatic] art. Yet…the U.S. president Donald Trump all too often engages in bullshit and lies in his dealings with international states. Trump confidently, even bombastically, asserts his success and abilities on foreign policy issues and international negotiations; however, on closer analysis of social media, it is clear that Trump lacks these vital skills, frequently compromising agreement and undermining progress. This article examines the difference between bullshit and diplomacy by analysing Trump’s statements on social media platforms and concludes that Trump’s bullshit is a threat to diplomacy.”

III.

Talking about the ‘Rotten Fruits’ of Rio 2016: Framing Mega-Event Legacies

Adam Talbot International Review for the Sociology of Sport

“Legacy has become a watchword of hosting mega-events in recent years, used to justify massive spending and far-reaching urban transformations. However, academic studies of legacy outcomes suggest there is only limited evidence for the efficacy of using mega-events to deliver broader policy goals. The discourse of legacy promulgated by the International Olympic Committee promotes a fantastical vision of the possibilities created by mega-events while obfuscating critical analyses of legacy. This paper explores legacy talk among a wholly different group – activists who have protested against the Olympic Games, specifically in Rio de Janeiro – based on interviews conducted two years after the Games as part of a broader ethnographic study. The positive connotations of legacy, even among these Olympic critics, places a straitjacket on conversation, leading activists to discuss specific legacy projects, at the expense of highlighting the very real harms of mega-event development…”

I.

Popular Songs as Vehicles for Political Imagination: the Russian Revolutions and the Finnish Civil War in Finnish Song Pamphlets, 1917–1918

Sami Suodenjoki Ab Imperio

“This article examines the way in which the widespread printed collections of songs reflected the developing revolutionary situation and fuelled political imagination in Finland during the years 1917 and 1918. The analysis shows that the Russian February Revolution of 1917 and the Finnish Civil War of 1918 became key events that stimulated the proliferation of popular song pamphlets and influenced the content of the songs. Acting as an affective medium, the song pamphlets contested old forms of political legitimacy and reinforced ideas of class solidarity, national unity, and ethnic stereotypes.”

II.

Transformation by Fire: Changes in Funerary Customs from the Early Agricultural to Early Preclassic Period among Prehispanic Populations of Southern Arizona

Jessica I. Cerezo-Román, James T. Watson American Antiquity

“…The predominant mortuary ritual in the Early Agricultural period was inhumation, possibly emphasizing a variety of identity intersections of the dead and the mourners in the treatment of the body while creating collective memories and remembrances through shared ways of commemorating the dead. An innovation in funerary practices in the form of secondary cremation appeared in the Early Agricultural period and was slowly but broadly adopted, representing new social dynamics within the society… It is possible that the vehicle for displaying different identity intersections changed and was not placed in the body, per se, as much as in previous periods. However, the transformation characteristics of these funeral rituals and the increase in community investment could have fostered the building or reinforcing of stronger social ties that highlighted a ‘collective identity.'”

III.

Visioning African Lionscapes: Securing Space, Mobilizing Capital, and Fostering Subjects

Sandra G. McCubbin, Alice J. Hovorka Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space

“In September 2016, 14 months after the illegal killing of Cecil the lion raised an international furore over trophy hunting, 58 individuals gathered at Oxford University for the Cecil Summit, a meeting of experts designed to vision the future of lion conservation in honor of Cecil. This paper explores the Cecil Summit through an analytic of government as a means to provide new insights into securitized and neoliberal conservation governance in action…”

I.

Calouste Gulbenkian and His Coin-Collecting Network

George C. Watson Journal of the History of Collections

“This paper explores the numismatic collecting activities of the oil magnate and financier Calouste Gulbenkian (1869–1955), focusing in particular on his relationships with scholars who advised him, such as George Hill (1867–1948) and Stanley Robinson (1887–1976), as well as with dealers like Jacob Hirsch (1874–1955), from whom many of his purchases were sourced. The ways in which these relationships shaped his collections will be stressed, as will the similarities between Gulbenkian’s numismatic collection practices and his manner of collecting other art objects.”

II.

‘To Keep off the Company’ – a Study of a Seventeenth-Century Royal Bed Rail From Hampton Court Palace

Sebastian Edwards In Situ. Revue des Patrimoines

“This article discusses the use and evolution of the royal bedchamber in seventeenth century England, through a unique case study of a surviving bed rail from Hampton Court Palace… The final section of the article discusses how this unique object contrasts with the bedchamber furnishings of other English kings and queens in the later-seventeenth century, who developed their own distinctive form of bedchamber ceremony using a very different mode of bed rail. It is argued that this was in response to the new parliamentary monarchy in England, and contrasted to the focus on the royal body placed in the palaces of absolutist monarchs of France and many other European countries at this time.”

III.

Chinese Immigrant Entrepreneurship in Italy’s Coffee Bars: Demographic Transformation and Historical Contingency

Ting Deng International Migration

“Since the Economic Recession in the late 2000s, many neighbourhood coffee bars in Northern and Central Italy have been taken over by Chinese immigrants. This article investigates why neighbourhood bars, which are thought to be at the heart of Italian urban culture, have become a new business niche for Chinese immigrants in spite of overwhelmingly anti‐immigrant discourse. By elucidating the political economy of Italy’s coffee bar industry and restructuring of its Chinese ethnic economy, it shows how the formation of this new immigrant business niche is a form of historical contingency embedded in a set of structural transformation processes…”

I.

Henri Matisse’s Medical History: Multiple Health Problems and Impact on Creativity

Henning Zeidler Journal of Medical Biography

“…a comprehensive view on the relationship between health and art in the life and art of Matisse is attempted here. Matisse’s medical history not only provides an instructive example of life-long multiple somatic and psychosomatic health issues, but also contributes to the humanistic view of medicine by demonstrating how he impressively captured the problems of his artistic work and life through vitality and creative power.”

II.

Animal Welfare and Human Health: Rising Conflicts over Stray Dogs in Chandigarh

Namita Gupta, Rajiv K. Gupta South Asia Research

“India’s large stray dog population, estimated to be about 25 million, poses substantial risks to human health, motivating some civic bodies to employ cruel methods to control dog populations. This article argues that while human health is certainly a priority, it is also important to consider animal welfare and to handle dog population control measures without causing unnecessary animal suffering…”

III.

Working Girls: Economies of Desire in the American Child Beauty Pageant

Jennifer D. Whitney The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth

“The American child beauty pageant is often met with controversy: allegations of indecency seem to swirl with every sashay. A stark example of this occurred in the early 2010s with the debut of Toddlers & Tiaras, a reality program dedicated to child pageantry. Using this program as its contemporary popular culture touchstone, the article traces back the history of the American child beauty pageant — and its moral panics…”

I.

Infant Political Agency: Redrawing the Epistemic Boundaries of Democratic Inclusion

Andre S. Campos European Journal of Political Theory

“One of the suggestions to bypass the epistemic requirement of political agency and to encourage the inclusion of infants in representative democracies is to resort to proxies or surrogates who share or advocate interests which may be coincidental with their interests… This article offers an alternative to this conceptual frame of reference by making a case for the political agency of infants…”

II.

Wishing You a Speedy Termination of Existence’: Aleister Crowley’s Views on Buddhism and Its Relationship with the Doctrine of Thelema

Goran Djurdjevic Aries

“Aleister Crowley was considerably influenced by the doctrines of Theravāda Buddhism, which he studied in his youth, both theoretically and practically. He correlated its principles to the principles of scientific agnosticism and considered that its objectives could also be achieved through the practice of ceremonial magic. His eventual acceptance of Thelema’s religious philosophy led to his ultimate renunciation of Buddhism as a worldview. This essay examines Crowley’s early writings on the subject of Buddhism and suggests that the presence of Buddhist theories remains quite significant in his formulation of the doctrine of Thelema.”

III.

More Sneezing, Less Crime? Health Shocks and the Market for Offenses

Aaron Chalfin et al. Journal of Health Economics

“This research finds novel evidence that crime is sensitive to health shocks. We consider the responsiveness of crime to a pervasive and common health shock which we argue shifts costs and benefits for offenders and victims: seasonal allergies. Leveraging daily variation in city-specific pollen counts, we present evidence that violent crime declines in U.S. cities on days in which the local pollen count is unusually high and that these effects are driven by residential violence…”

I.

“The Fatal Gaze of This Moral Basilisk”: the Salvation Army’s War on Drink in Victorian Britain

Steven Spencer The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs

“This article analyzes the historical development of The Salvation Army’s commitment to total abstinence, which grew out of the beliefs of its founders, William and Catherine Booth. Drawing on the Booths’ correspondence from the 1850s, the article will explore their differing stances on alcohol and will examine how Catherine’s views in particular came to be adopted by The Salvation Army, marked by a condemnation of moderate drinkers, fierce attacks on the drink trade, and a commitment to teetotalism as an essential part of Christian belief…”

II.

Working Days in a London Construction Team in the Eighteenth Century: Evidence from St Paul’s Cathedral

Judy Z. Stephenson The Economic History Review

“This article provides new information and data on the work and pay of skilled and semi‐skilled men on a large London construction project in the early 1700s. It offers firm‐level evidence on the employment relation in the construction industry at the time and sheds some light on the number of days worked per year and per week, showing that employment was more irregular and seasonal than current estimates of income infer. The patterns are considered in the context of new debates about industriousness and economic growth.”

III.

Market Stance: Navigating Face‐Threatening Terrain in Indian Real Estate

Llerena G. Searle Journal of Linguistic Anthropology

“This article advances a linguistic anthropological understanding of economic performativity by investigating how people uphold face when it is tied up in business performance. Analyzing interviews with the owners of Indian real estate firms, I demonstrate that under troubled market conditions, market indicators become indexical signs that can threaten a real‐estate professional’s face, necessitating interactional repositioning vis‐à‐vis market descriptions, or varied ‘market stances’…”


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