The Miranda-Obama Collaboration (From Hamilton to Puerto Rico)

Hamilton Burr musical

On March 14, President Barack Obama welcomed the company of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton to a special White House performance.  In his introductory remarks, Obama celebrated Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop rendering of Alexander Hamilton’s “quintessentially American story,” and quickly identified the reason why the show has become a “cultural phenomenon.”  “In each brilliantly crafted song,” said the president, “we hear the debates that shaped our nation, and we hear the debates that are still shaping our nation.” Shifting to the same playful tone that has characterized his other recent public appearances, Obama even staked a claim to his own role in getting the show off the ground.  He … [Read more...]

Cognitive Capitalism: What Is It, If Anything?

phrenology map

For decades, scholars, activists and social critics have grappled with how to characterize the economic shift that has transformed the United States—and, indeed, the world—since the 1960s.  I have written elsewhere about the analytic challenge observers face in giving this change a name: postindustrial? Informational? Service? High-tech? Daniel Bell and Alain Touraine were among the first out of the gate, noting the decline of manufacturing as a relative proportion of employment and speaking of the “postindustrial society” in the early 1970s. (Bell had been using the term for a while, but his 1973 book helped put it on the map.)  The late futurist Alvin Toffler, in his breathless way, … [Read more...]

Anti-Mexican Graffiti at UC San Diego: Towards a Structural Analysis and Solution

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On the morning of Saturday April 9, 2016, members of the University of California San Diego (UCSD) community woke up to the following message drafted by a fellow student: Last night at approximately 10.00pm, five hooded White male adults were seen writing pro-Trump propaganda as well as violently racist and xenophobic quotes such as “build the wall”, “deport them all”, “fuck Mexicans”, “Mexico will pay”, and “make America great again”. The placing of these chalk quotes and timing means that these five men knew exactly what they were doing: targeting the Chicanx and Latinx community by placing them outside the Raza Resource Centro – partaking in a larger system of violence where Chicanx and … [Read more...]

Ten of the Greatest Books in Food Studies

pakistani desi chicken manchurian

In addition to taking over America’s public imagination – isn’t everyone a “foodie” these days? – Food Studies has firmly established itself as a serious academic discipline over the past decade. While the majority of popular food studies books fall into one of three categories (single commodity histories; explorations of individual ethnic foodways; and often problematically universalist and racially and class- biased works of food politics), many of the best critical works view the study of food as offering the possibility of a radically cross-disciplinary and trans-national re-engagement of key topics in studies of the Americas. This list offers some of the most important texts that … [Read more...]

Why German Economic Thought Made the Greek Crisis Inevitable

"Contrary to popular misconception, rules were not meant to be broken"

Yesterday, after months of negotiations, Greece's Syriza government relented to the demands of its creditors and offered a set of “reforms” in exchange for continued loans. This reform package, which essentially matches the content of the draft plan Greek voters voted down on Sunday's referendum, will force the country to slash pensions, make further budget cuts, and adopt a series of regulatory changes designed to make the Greek economy more “competitive.” In the lead up to Sunday's referendum, many observers hoped that a decisive vote against the proposed measures would force the Troika—Greece's creditor institutions, the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International … [Read more...]

Solidarity and Survival in Impoverished Greece: A View from the Ground

greece soup kitchen

Doing research in Greece these past five months since the January elections, and especially during the week since the referendum was announced, has been a bit like living in a twilight zone in terms of the shamelessly imbalanced coverage of the negotiations by the international media; the proliferation of bad or just plain wrong information; and the violent production of stereotypes that continue, frequently, to frame Greece and Greeks as a stubborn, stupid, if brave people who do not want to take responsibility for their own failings; or as “lazy," committed only to having a good retirement and not working too much. Sure, there have been some more nuanced pieces in the international … [Read more...]

Austerity vs Democracy: What’s Happening in Greece?

In the 1970s, they called it an "excess of democracy"

Like most folks, I’ve found the dizzying pace of events in Greece a challenge to grasp. Over the weekend, in a historic referendum, voters there rejected the latest harsh terms for a bailout offered by the nation’s European creditors. Emboldened by the “No” vote, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his left-wing coalition, Syriza, now seek softer terms from the unsympathetic leaders of the European Union (EU), specifically the “Troika”: the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Why does this matter? For those who want to understand why Greece is staggering under the weight of an economic catastrophe and is poised on the razor’s edge of ejection … [Read more...]

“Brick Mansions: it’s so dangerous, we built a wall around it.”

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Warning: This post is full of spoilers. Thankfully, Brick Mansions isn’t the kind of movie you watch for the plot. Brick Mansions is the American remake of the French film District B13 (not to be confused with District 9, the Academy Award-nominated South African film from 2009). Brick Mansions tells the story of a housing project in 2018 Detroit – a project so dangerous the city literally built a 40-foot wall around it, with police checkpoints at all entrances and exits. David Belle plays Lino, a resident of the projects who uses his parkour skills to steal drugs from the dealers and then destroy them. The plot really takes off when cop Damien (played by Paul Walker in one of his final … [Read more...]

The Opposition to American Occupation in Haiti

haiti march 1

Over the past several months, Haitian citizens have launched demonstrations in the streets of Port-au-Prince. Catalyzed by the government’s failure to hold parliamentary elections for the third year in a row, the protests take broad aim at the failures of the country’s reconstruction efforts. Five years after an earthquake left 250,000 dead and millions more without food or shelter, protests have called for free and fair elections, an investigation of political corruption, the removal of MINUSTAH troops, and the end of what many perceive to be the U.S. occupation of Haiti. In many ways, the protests now serve as a referendum on almost a century of U.S. interventions carried out under the … [Read more...]

Album 88: Historically Right on the Music, Presently Leaving the Dial

save WRAS

Since 1971, Georgia State University has hosted an important Atlanta cultural institution—one that has created a positive relationship between the University and the city (and the general metro area). WRAS, known as Album 88, has allowed GSU students to bring their musical discoveries to Atlanta listeners. In doing so, this student-run radio station has been a touchstone for the local community for over four decades. What began as a 20,000 watt local college station has become a 100,000 watt megaphone for independent music in Atlanta and beyond. In the past 43 years, student volunteers at Georgia State University have had a voice in shaping the local and national music scene. During this … [Read more...]