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...]

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...]

Who Were the Monte Boys?

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“Law And Order Monte Boys Style” is the title of a chapter in one of the more recent histories of El Monte. Those six words capture the popular stories associated with the men of the nineteenth-century township. Any written history of Los Angeles County has to at least mention the Monte boys. Their involvement with “the repression of crime” is characterized variously as the work of righteous citizens, frontier-savvy former Texas Rangers, or all-too-eager vigilantes. From the 1850s through the 1870s and perhaps beyond, if there were bandits to be caught, murderers to be punished, or horse thieves to be hanged in the county, the men from Monte seemed always to be on the scene. Their … [Read more...]

Jeff Davis’s Ghost: The Long Battle over the Memory of the Civil War

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History versus heritage? Memory versus history? Whose history and why? These questions are currently brewing a controversy at the University of Texas-Austin campus. The controversy swirls around a statue of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America. The turn-of-the-century statue is being hotly contested because of its association with a certain memory of the Civil War and for the heritage it represents. To opponents of the statue, Davis represents a racist past – one incongruous with a multicultural present. Those battling to preserve the statue, namely the Sons of Confederate Veterans, claim that the Davis statue represents a piece of heritage. Contestations over … [Read more...]

Redefining Asian America: Japanese Americans, Gardena, and the Making of a Transnational Suburb

Kashu Realty had branches in Crenshaw, Wilshire, Los Feliz, and Monterey Park | Google Street View

Naomi Hirahara never "got" Raymond Chandler. The dark, mistrustful view of Los Angeles that Chandler's work so embodied seemed foreign to the award-winning mystery writer. "He has set a tone for stories about the darkness under L.A.'s glitz for 80 years, but I can't relate to the paranoid view Chandler had of my Los Angeles, or his fear of 'the other,' or how his loner detective Philip Marlowe navigated his investigative cases without the weight of family or community," she confessed in a recent article. Rather the Pasadena-born Japanese American writer knew a life of family and strong immigrant networks. L.A.'s sense of reinvention, not alienation, she confided to readers, was its real … [Read more...]

What Did the Three-Fifths Compromise Actually Do?

constitution 1787

Occasionally, a student asks a question so basic, about a presumption so fundamental to the teaching of history, that an instructor is caught completely unaware. A friend of mine found this out in his US history survey—in teaching about the colonization of the Americas, he made the commonplace assertion that indigenous peoples were highly susceptible to diseases brought from the Old World. Of course, we all know that smallpox, measles, and yellow fever ravaged the New World—at times literally decimating local populations—while the Americas only really sent back syphilis and lung cancer in return. But why, one student asked, were Native Americans so highly vulnerable to diseases from … [Read more...]

Pioneering the Pacific Rim: Baseball, California, and the Creation of Transpacific Trade

Babe Ruth in Japan, 1934

On September 1, 1964, Masanori Murakami threw a scoreless eighth inning for the San Francisco Giants. Amid a playoff push, Murakami took the mound for his first action in the big show. Though he gave up one hit, he struck out the side and would go on to make nine total appearances that year with one victory, a save, and an ERA of 1.80. The following year, Murakami made 45 relief appearances, went 4-1 with a 3.40 ERA and eight saves. After a contract dispute between his Japanese club and the Giants led to his return to Japan, another Japanese player would not enter the Major Leagues until Hideo Nomo joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1995, which set off a consistent flow of Japanese players … [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...]

Indiana GOP Rep. Decries Creeping “Ving Rhames-ification” of America

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Mark Lawson, a Republican lawmaker from Evansville, spoke out on Tuesday against a trend that he sees as threatening the future of the United States.  President Obama's executive order allowing some 5 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the country was a gross violation of the separation of powers under the Constitution, Lawson said on the floor of the State House.  He also referred to the recent announcement of Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential bid, saying that it did not matter whether a Democrat or Republican won in 2016. "If America keeps allowing thieves and criminals to run rampant over our laws and Constitution," Lawson said, "there won't be much of a Constitution left when the … [Read more...]

The Light Rail Conundrum from Los Angeles to Atlanta: LRT in the 21st Century

Boyle Heights train station

In a recent study examining the efficacy of light rail (LRT) and modern bus rapid transit (BRT), University of Sydney transit experts David Hensher and Corinne Mulley concluded that the preference for light rail over BRT and other bus systems rested on an ideological preference more than actual service. “The main point is that the enthusiasm (almost blind commitment) for LRT has caused many to overlook the potential for more cost-effective bus-based systems and even simpler improvements to bus services that do not require dedicated right of way,” the two researchers noted. Hensher later told CityLab writer Eric Jaffe, apparently paraphrasing a former Mayor Los Angeles, to the public “buses … [Read more...]

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