about ToM

Tropics of Meta is meant to offer a historical and theoretical perspective on current events, popular culture, and issues in the academic world. We hope it can serve as a sounding board for new ideas and new research, as well as a clearinghouse for innovative projects in digital arts and humanities.


Alex Sayf Cummings is an associate professor of history at Georgia State University.  His work deals with media, law, and the political culture of the modern United States.  He has previously received a Consortium for Faculty Diversity fellowship, an ACLS-Mellon postdoctoral fellowship, and the American Baptist Historical Society’s Torbet Prize, among other awards. His work has appeared in Salon, the Brooklyn Rail, the Journal of American HistoryTechnology and Culture, HNN, Pop Matters, OUP Blog, Al Jazeera America and the edited volume Sound in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction from the University of Pennsylvania Press. His first book, Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the Remaking of American Copyright in the Twentieth Century, was published by Oxford University Press in Spring 2013.

Ryan Reft completed his PhD in Urban History at the University of California at San Diego in June 2014.  Prior to his graduate studies, Ryan taught for nine years in the New York public school system. During this period he participated and appeared in the PBS documentary Starting from Behind: The Success Story of Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day H.S. (8/13/2004). His research deals with the history of militarization, war and society, housing, homeownership, metropolitan America, gender/sexuality and the politics of race and class in the twentieth century US.  His work has appeared in the The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics, and Culture, Planning Perspectives, the journal Souls, California History, Journal of Urban History and Barack Obama and African American Empowerment: The Rise of Black America’s New Leadership. He writes the Intersections column for SoCal’s KCET.  He is the 20th century specialist at the Library of Congress in its Manuscript Division. Any views expressed here are those of Ryan and do not reflect those of the Library.

Assistant Editor

Charles Lee is a Los Angeles-based editor, writer and recovering social scientist with degrees from UCLA, CalArts and the University of Chicago.  His interests include cycling, contemporary art, noodle shops, architecture, urbanism and Japanese studies.  He spends his free time exploring the streets of Los Angeles and supporting independent artist’s spaces

Senior Writers

Joel Suarez is a doctoral candidate in History at Princeton University. He received his BA from the University of Texas at Austin and his MA from Columbia University.  His research interests include the history of morality, the history of political thought, and cultural and intellectual history.

Adam E. Gallagher is an independent media analyst and writer focusing on U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East and Afghanistan. He has an MA in International Relations from George Mason University and a BA in Political Science and Philosophy from Ohio Northern University. His research interests largely focus on critical approaches to the study of international relations, U.S. foreign policy, social movements, nonviolent civil resistance, and philosophy in literature. His work has appeared in Capital & Class and Speckled Axe, among other publications, and he has written and spoken on Middle Eastern affairs for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Jerusalem Fund’s Palestine Center respectively. He can be followed on Twitter.

Cherie Braden is a freelance editor and indexer, primarily of scholarly work.  She received her BA in Philosophy and English from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and is currently an adjunct instructor of philosophy at Rutgers University. Her interests include philosophy, chess, mechanical puzzles and puzzle-solving in general, cycling, choral singing, experimental explanatory poetry, popular science and other oversimplified abstractions, and consumer advocacy.

Amy Heishman is an adjunct professor at Durham Technical Community College and a writing coach with the Emily Krzyzewski Center.  She received her BA in American Literature and History from Belmont Abbey College and MA in Contemporary American Literature from NC State University.  She is a contributing editor for the Triangle Free Press (Durham, NC) and freelances for several local publications.  Her research interests include digital media, subversive art, alternative histories, responsible agriculture, sustainable lifestyles and gender politics.  She spends most her time immersed in culture studies in hopes of one day subverting her own third world country.  Her professional home on the web can be found at itsonthesyllabus.wordpress.com.

Keith Orejel is a doctoral student in History at Columbia University. He received his BA in History from the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently working on a dissertation that examines the political economy of post-World War II rural America. His research interests include the history of American conservatism, deindustrialization, Republican Party politics, the Civil Rights Movements, and the American South. His article “Violence in Behalf of Civil Rights: The Federal Government’s Response to the Murder of Medgar Evers,” is forthcoming from Southern Quarterly.

Lauren MacIvor Thompson is a doctoral student in History at Georgia State University. Her dissertation focuses on the influence of eugenics, spiritualism and the law on the Progressive Era women’s movement. Her work has appeared in the University of Virginia’s Essays in History and the Southern Historian. 

Shane Updike works for Highline Public Schools near Seattle, providing data analysis with an emphasis on ensuring students are college and career ready when graduating from high school.  He has studied at Seattle University, New York University, and the University of Washington.. He is also on the Board of Directors of Team Read, an education non-profit that works with Seattle Public Schools. Prior to moving to Seattle to pursue of Master of Public Administration degree at the University of Washington he was a high school history teacher in New York City. He is not sure where he would have landed in the recently published rankings of New York teachers, but is relatively confident he would have been in top 60% or so.

Contributing Writers

Kevin BakerH. Robert BakerYesenia BarraganMark BrayMoses Casual, Wendy ChengMindy CleggBen Coates, Maryann Dabkowski, Andrew David EdwardsCarribean Fragoza, Eric Frith, Adam Goodman, Larry GrubbsRomeo GuzmanNathan Hartle, Bradlee Hicks, Brian Ingrassia, Jimmy Jenkins, Maria JohnNick Juravich, Mookie Kideckel, Michelle Lacoss, Jeffrey LawrenceClement Lime, Will Moore, Nina Morrison, Kenneth MaffittAdam David Morton, Jennifer RenteriaJason Resnikoff, Mark SholdiceJohn Southard, Lela UrquhartVickie Vértiz, Jude Webre, Amanda Wood

Inquiries should be directed to tropicsofmeta@gmail.com, and submissions are always welcome.


  1. Hellow “Tropics of Meta”
    Just wondering if you give attribution anywhere for where the name “Tropics of Meta” comes from?
    I’m thinking of Hayden White…his great “Metahistory” followed by his “Tropics of Discourse”?
    I love how you put them together, very poetic, tropological move toward historical justice!


  1. […] The UC Food Observer loves history. A site that we’re intrigued with – and really enjoying – is Tropics of Meta (ToM). […]

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