Queen Arsem-O’Malley focuses on grassroots labor organizing, youth-led social movements, anti-carceral feminism, and critiques of mainstream media.
“The Anti-Olympics,” by Jules Boykoff. New Left Review 67, January-February 2011.
This week, I'm looking back at a great essay on anti-Olympics organizing around the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Jules Boykoff explains the damaging effects of being an Olympics host city and details the activism leading up to and during the 2010 Games, creating an archive of the movement. Currently, #NoBoston2024 is mobilizing against the possibility of a 2024 Olympics in my hometown, and being able to read records of previous organizing is extremely useful.
Avi Asher-Schapiro focuses on US foreign policy, politics in the Middle East and South America, and technology issues.
“Academics Are Losing the War over the Middle East to the Thomas Friedmans of the World, Who Write All Too Clearly,” by Neeshat Afyonkara. Muftah, January 23, 2015.
An anonymous graduate student submitted an article intentionally packed with vague and confusing jargon to a prominent online journal of Middle East Studies. That the journal accepted the manuscript underlines the opaque and out-of-touch state of the discipline. Writing in Muftah, the student urges Middle East specialists to sharpen their language. Or else, she/he writes, the lucid yet uninformed Thomas Friedmans of the world will continue to dominate public discussions over a region where the United States is prone to dangerous military adventures.
Cole Delbyck focuses on LGBT politics, East Asia, and representational issues in film and television.
“An Open Letter to My Sister, Ava DuVernay,” by Robert Jones Jr. Indiewire, January 21, 2015.
Self-proclaimed Son of Baldwin, Brooklyn writer Robert Jones Jr. pens a beautiful open letter to his “sister,” Ava DuVernay, acclaimed director of the film Selma. Although Jones’s letter is meant for the public, his prose feels intimate, as he describes the joy of identifying with fully realized representations of black identity in a time of national strife. By rejecting whiteness as the Default, DuVernay has created a “sanctuary” for black audiences, one Jones holds close to his heart, regardless of any validation accumulated during awards season.
Khadija Elgarguri focuses on MENA issues including women’s rights, the relationship between foreign policy and cultural change, and women’s roles in protest movements in the region.
“Muslim women's bodies – the hottest property in 2014,” by Shelina Janmohamed. The Telegraph, December 29, 2014.
As Islamophobic attacks continue to rise, Sherina Janmohamed's piece from last month rings true today. Janmohamed delves into the inherent ethnocentrism that drives the Western world's seeming inability to view Muslim women through any other than an appearance-based lens, reducing them to “one-dimensional voiceless images” that overshadow their sometimes remarkable “achievements, opinions and self-determination.” Her argument that the attire choices of Muslim women, particularly those in Western countries, are a symbol of freedom of self-expression and not a symbol of oppression is a necessary reminder in a world still steeped in lingering traces of Orientalism.
Benjamin Hattem focuses on Israel/Palestine and the broader Middle East, as well as economic inequality, homelessness, and the prison system.
“Shell Announces $11 Billion Petrochemical Plant for Iraq: What Could Go Wrong?” by Jim White. Emptywheel, January 28, 2015.
Shell is building an $11 billion petrochemical plant in the southern Iraq city of Basra. This piece argues that the security situation in Basra remains unstable, and notes a shortfall of $200 million for the World Food Programme’s efforts to distribute food to internally displaced people living in the Basra area. It situates the Shell plant within the context of the US military-industrial complex and the money that will be generated by the need to defend the facility.
Nadia Kanji focuses on foreign policy, political art & alternative economic structures.
“Unauthorized memory,” by Yasmin El-Rifae. Mada Masr, January 25, 2015.
During a recent gathering in Egypt commemorating those who have been killed since the 2011 uprising exactly four years ago, political activist Shaimaa al-Sabbagh was shot dead by state forces. In this poignant text, Yasmin El-Rifae illustrates how the regime continues to censor and brutally repress the Egyptian people. They are no longer allowed to mourn or remember those who hoped for a better world outside the confines of the regime’s “barbed wire barriers”: “The gunmen and their bosses have made it clear that unauthorized memory will not be tolerated. Neither will grief. Public language, thought, and opinion is either legal or illegal, patriotism or treason.”
James F. Kelly focuses on labor, economic inequality, world politics and intellectual history.
“After Syriza's Victory,” by Stathis Kouvelakis. New Politics, January 26, 2015.
Syriza’s triumph in the Greek elections this past weekend gives hope to working class movements around the world. The capitalists, whose interests are forcefully advanced by world leaders, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, now face an opposition with real governing power. This article necessarily probes the true scope of Syriza’s victory and recognizes some of the challenges that await the new government.
Ava Kofman focuses on technology, popular science and media culture.
“Hunger games,” by Will Wiles.Aeon, January 22, 2015.
“Scarcity sells. Starvation sells. Survival sells,” observes Wiles, of the recent trend of open-world PC games focused on austerity, apocalypse, and resource management. In these McCarthy-esque “hunger games,” the “elemental calculus”––“eat, don't get eaten, keep going”––displaces zombie-fighting gameplay. Wiles attributes the popularity of this survival genre, characterized by its realistic “art of failure” and romantically-rendered scenery, to a “disempowerment fantasy” driven by our perverse desire to simulate terror, pity, cunning, fear, as environmental and economic emergencies off-screen worsen.
Abigail Savitch-Lew focuses on urban policy, labor, and race.
“High Stakes: The Looming Battle Over New York's Housing Laws,” by Jarrett Murphy. City & State, November 2014.
Murphy provides a full picture of the rent regulations that will be up for renewal in June, the political prospects of various reforms, and the efforts so far—by real estate lobbyists, tenant organizers, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo—to influence the State legislature’s decisions. This article serves as an important reminder that the affordability crisis in New York is not an inevitable product of the market but rather the outcome of decades of pro-landlord policy decisions. Interestingly, the conclusion suggests that the success of tenant groups may in part depend on the tone adopted by the press and the “broad sentiment” of city and upstate residents.
Hilary Weaver focuses on reproductive rights, feminism and related political, health and education issues.
“Why Opponents of a New Planned Parenthood Are Doing Everything in Their Power to Stop It,” by Jill Filipovic. Cosmopolitan, January 23, 2015.
Cosmopolitan’s Jill Filipovic provides an effective and smart narrative about the politics of healthcare in Louisiana, a state where religion and religious affiliations have proven to trump the needs of its women. With the help of telling and introspective interviews from affected residents, Filipovic reports that Louisiana ranks as one of the states with the highest reported STIs and infant and maternal mortality rates. Despite the financial backing it has already received, the site for a New Orleans Planned Parenthood still remains an empty lot and women’s health risks remain in the balance.