Academia Deserves Its Crisis

I was recently invited to be part of a student panel to welcome all new Ph.D. students to the large research university I am currently attending and to share with them my words of “wisdom,” so they can learn more about the upcoming challenges of graduate student life. The student panel was the last on the hierarchy of speakers, so we had to wait for and listen to people with big titles—titles like “provost”, “associate” with this, “assistant” for that, “co-director” of this center, and “under-secretary” for such and such affairs. It was clear from these presentations that graduate students are being encouraged to think of themselves as at-will employees who are expected to do the job “well,” … [Read more...]

Frontier Domesticity

In a July 10, 2017 entry on her website, The Pioneer Woman—popular television cooking personality Ree Drummond—describes a scene in which her husband and children round up their herd of cattle for shipping in the rain. Labeled under the tag “Confessions of a Pioneer Woman,” Drummond’s post details the cattle roundup and also serves as entry into the ways that the fantasy of the frontier continues to underpin gendered conceptions of individual, familial, and communal identity in the United States. Describing her daughter’s experience, Drummond writes, “Aw, poor cowgirl. She definitely earned her stripes. I wanted to run over and wrap her in a blanket, but she likes being one of the big kids … [Read more...]

Gary Soto, Oranges, Politics, and the World of Fresno

The Gary Soto Literary Museum is, unarguably, the "smallest, cutest, cleanest museum in the country." In Fresno, California, it tells the story of Soto, a high school graduate with a 1.6 GPA who went on to become one of the distinguished poets in American history.  Tropics of Meta and our sister podcast Doomed to Repeat had the extraordinary opportunity to sit down and talk with Soto about his life, work, poetry, and politics last Spring, at Fresno's LitHop festival.  ToM contributor and Fresno City College professor Juan Luis Guzman interviewed, and we hope you will enjoy this illuminating interview.  Soto reflects on both his own experience with youth and love as well as how to engage in … [Read more...]

We Regret to Inform You that Tropics of Meta Is Closing Its Doors

When we started ToM in early 2010, we had no idea what we were getting in to; we only wanted a place to share our work and bounce ideas around.  We never imagined that it would become the academic publishing powerhouse that it was for much of its run.  But Alex, Romeo, Will and the rest of the team have come to the painful decision to wind down the blog. (Not really.) But this is the future of the Internet without Net Neutrality.  The principles of openness and equal access that allowed the World Wide Web to become a rambunctious, protean, contentious, sometimes insane but always creative place are under serious threat from the current administration, the GOP, and their allies in the … [Read more...]

The Deep, Frustrating, Complicated History of the Anti-Vax Movement

Do you feel feverish? Impotent? Suffer from ADD? You might have been vaccinated! Call the attorneys at Tropics of Meta at 976-HOT-TOMS to join our class action lawsuit against Big Science. In the latest episode of our sister podcast Doomed to Repeat, we delve into the gory glories of the anti-vaccination movement.  We obviously have strong feelings about the issue (all of our kids are enrolled at Los Feliz Daycare, after all).  But we wanted to talk to some bonafide historians of science, medicine, and public health to understand the contemporary movement to get to the bottom of this problem, and really understand the deeper historical and cultural roots of vaccine skepticism.  In the … [Read more...]

What Modern Monetary Theory Can Teach Us about Criminal Justice

I delivered the talk published below as part of a panel at Yale’s annual Rebellious Lawyering Conference, on February 17th, 2017. The panel, entitled “Financing Criminal Justice”, co-hosted by The Modern Money Network, focused on the connections between fiscal austerity and the horrors of the U.S. criminal legal system. I was joined on the panel by Thomas Harvey, Co-Founder and Executive Director of ArchCityDefenders, Judge Jaribu Hill, Director of the Mississippi Workers' Center for Human Rights, and Mitali Nagrecha, Director of Harvard Law School’s National Criminal Justice Debt Initiative. Together, we discussed how financially-strapped local government entities, charged with public … [Read more...]

Carolyn Bourdeaux Is Running for Congress in One of the South’s Most Diverse Suburbs

Carolyn Bourdeaux is an associate professor of Public Management and Policy at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta.  She has just embarked on an ambitious campaign to unseat four-term Republican incumbent Rob Woodall, in a district that has been held by the GOP since the wave election of 1994.  If Carolyn wins, her predecessors in office would include former Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens and GOP-er-turned-Libertarian Party presidential nominee Bob Barr. If that sounds like tough territory, it's not necessarily.  Republican incumbents have run unopposed or faced only nominal opposition in the past in this district.  Black, Asian, … [Read more...]

Looking Back at American Studies on the 4th of July

Lady Liberty has, admittedly, seen better days--bring us your awesome, bring us your amazing, bring us your winners, but not your losers, not your bleeding Syrian refugee children, please, OK? Sad! But those of us who are native-born or newly minted Americans still find the country fascinating, infuriating, and crazy.  On this most festive of days, it is good to keep in mind all that is decent, inspiring, creative, and complex about the United States and its culture. Over the years, ToM has covered a wide range of issues, from copyright to foreign policy to sports (the latter thanks mostly to our senior dude correspondents, Ryan Reft and Adam Gallagher). Our instincts have always run toward … [Read more...]

The Long History of Americans Getting Their Drink On: Our Interview with William Rorabaugh

Last week, we talked with Jonathan Baker of Atlanta's Monday Night Brewing about the ins and outs of getting into the beer business, amid the revolution in American drinking habits over the last decade or two.  We also pondered broader shifts and currents in Americans' attitudes toward booze over time, especially regionally within the United States and as compared to other countries. To go a little deeper, we also decided to talk to the great historian William Rorabaugh of the University of Washington, whose seminal 1979 book The Alcoholic Republic is basically the Citizen Kane of historical whiskey bingeing.  Alex's interview can be found here, with some really fascinating insights … [Read more...]

The Real Drunk History: Exploring the Rise of Craft Beer in Atlanta

Episode 2 of Doomed to Repeat Live from Young Augustine's, the great professor haunt in Atlanta's Grant Park, we delve into the history of beer and the revolution in American drinking habits in the last thirty years.  People have become beer snobs in just the way people have always been wine snobs, but the upside is that we all have a vastly greater range of tastes to sample, from double IPAs to goses to summer ales.  What prompted these changes in the beer market, and how have they changed American culture? We talk the long history of booze and politics in American life, such as the stigmatization of drinking with respect to immigrant and religious groups and rural … [Read more...]