An Inauguration Day Greeting from Tropics of Meta

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Many years ago, I was teaching high school in Gastonia, North Carolina. The senseless, world-destroying catastrophe of the Iraq War was just breaking over the horizon at the time, and students asked me what I thought about it.  As a novice teacher, I didn't know what my proper response should be.  Personally, I was despondent.  Whether or not Saddam Hussein had "weapons of mass destruction"--we'd given them to him, after all--it seemed transparently obvious that Iraq posed no immediate threat to the United States, and the ideologues and used car salesmen in Washington were driving us into a pointless war of choice. It was a dark time, and arguably much of the horror of the twenty-first … [Read more...]

Trump, Brexit, and the Abject Poverty of Liberalism

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Two seemingly monumental and world-historic events occurred in two of the most powerful imperialist countries this past year. On 23 June, the United Kingdom held a referendum on its membership in the European Union, resulting in a “leave” vote. On the other side of the Atlantic, Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for President of the United States, was victorious in his electoral campaign against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. The Leave Campaign won the “Brexit” referendum with 17.4 million ballots, or 51.9 percent of the votes, whereas Donald Trump won the US presidency with 62.9 million votes, amounting to 46.1 percent of the ballots cast (note that Clinton won the popular vote with … [Read more...]

The Fight to Exonerate Ethel Rosenberg

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Why is the sixty-five year-old spy case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg back in the news? Anderson Cooper reported a segment for 60 Minutes, and Democracy Now joined numerous newspapers in continuing the siren’s call.  The case is grabbing unprecedented attention because the Rosenberg sons – Michael Meeropol and Robert Meeropol – want to get President Obama’s attention before he leaves office.  They are asking him to posthumously exonerate their mother – Ethel Rosenberg – for being wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and executed in 1953. They have good reason to ask.  The 1951 trial was a mess, plagued with shocking irregularities and illegalities.  President Harry … [Read more...]

The Triumph of the TA: Graduate Students and the Future of Postindustrial Labor

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On Tuesday afternoon, I got the most welcome news I’ve gotten in a long time. In a 3-1 vote, the National Labor Relations Board reversed a Bush-era decision that denied graduate student employees at private universities the right to unionize. This news might seem both trivial and esoteric.  After all, the wording of the last sentence implies an exceedingly narrow and likely small slice of the overall workforce—that’s the esoteric part. And the fact that it has to do with, to a significant extent, PhD students at the likes of Yale, NYU, and Columbia—well, we are not exactly talking about an eleven-year-old toiling in the dark Satanic mill of yore.  Such students might seem privileged and … [Read more...]

SACRPH 2015: The Politics (and Non-Politics) of the Unplanned City in the US, UK, and Germany

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Panels at conferences often feel like a hastily assembled mishmash of different things, like a fruit salad made by Mr. Magoo. Scholars who do not know each other and know less about each other’s research work together over email to try to slap together panel proposals that seem just plausible enough to pass muster with weary conference organizers, who have papers to grade, toddlers with runny noses, and annoying emails from students to answer. (In my best John Oliver voice: If the reading is listed next to the class date on the syllabus, you read it BEFORE CLASS on that day Jeremy!) But occasionally you get to see a panel where all the papers interlock in meaningful and intellectually … [Read more...]

If Your Debate Lasts for More than Four Hours, Please Contact Your Doctor

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“I'm all lost in the supermarket/I can no longer shop happily/I came in here for that special offer/A guaranteed personality - “Lost in the Supermarket”, The Clash from London Calling In the marketplace of retail politics, all we’ve received in this early election season is “guaranteed personality,” lots of flopsweat—I’m looking at you Rubio and O’Malley—and dubious personality—need I even point fingers for the latter? If “Lost in the Supermarket” served as a sort of platonic love song from Joe Strummer to Mick Jones (Strummer wrote the lyrics, Jones arranged the music), the closest thing we got last night was Bernie Sanders’s cry in the night regarding Hillary’s modern correspondence: … [Read more...]

Rachel Dolezal and the Racial Trickster: A Local Perspective on Crossing and Crafting Identities

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I live in Spokane, WA, where I write and teach about race, identity, and social justice. I have never met Rachel Dolezal, who also resides in Spokane, though we have at least a few acquaintances and causes in common. My own visceral reaction to the Dolezal story is tied to but also goes beyond the fact that I am a resident of Spokane as a well as a student of race. In part it’s a reaction to the racial crossing and how she did it. But it’s also a disappointment because she had been effective as an activist on the local scene.  Dolezal was an effective and cogent organizer and talking head—bodies and boots matter, and she did bring them out. (Then again, I don't want to discount organizations … [Read more...]

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

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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...]

Public Performance and the Freak Left: ASCO, Metropolitan Indians, and the Politics of Disrespectability

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The mainstream Left often finds itself struggling to construct a respectable image within a liberal political sphere whose survival is based on the marginalization and exclusion of radical political thought and practice. Since winning the January 2015 election, SYRIZA, Greece’s respectable left coalition party, has faced ongoing difficulties restructuring loan terms outside of the logic of the nation’s new debt holder, the Troika (European Union, IMF, and European Central Bank), which has bought up the Greek debt in return for a series of payments and harsh austerity measures on the Greek people. SYRIZA’s inability to push the Troika beyond their already established rules of the game during … [Read more...]

Cry into Your Craft Beer, Democrats. All Is Not Lost

Businessman Matt Bevin Challenges Senate Minority Leader McConnell In Primary Election

As John Green often does in his Crash Course US history lectures, I’d like to consult Me from the Past. My own Me from the Past is from yesterday at 4PM, when it still seemed possible that Mark Begich’s GOTV strategy could lead to a surprise win and Bruce Braley’s ground operation would bring out Democrats in Iowa and North Carolina might actually reelect a Democratic Senator for the first time since Sam Ervin in 1968. What a wonderful world that would be! But we know it’s not necessarily a wonderful world we live in. Republicans basically swept the table last night, and Democrats can only console themselves by not losing Senate seats in New Hampshire and Virginia that should have easily … [Read more...]