The Passport of Whiteness

Darryl Pinckney

An African migrant, Sicily, July 17 2017

Everyone knows we are a nation of immigrants, that immigrants are good for the economy, and that freedom seekers are our kin. What I find sad is that we all know this history. We did not think the ideal of liberal democracy, the open society, would have to be fought for all over again. We are so spoiled we thought that it just grew naturally with everything else we have in our gardens of relative good fortune.

Terrorism: The Lessons of Barcelona

Nafees Hamid

A journalist pointing to the name

I’ve spent the last few years in Barcelona studying radicalization. As the day of the terrorist attacks in Spain unfolded, I thought, what comes next? The blaming of the Muslim community, the demonizing of the town the attackers came from, and vows from politicians to throw more money at the problem. But my time in Barcelona taught me one thing: radicalization is a local phenomenon. Equipping local officials to solve local problems—and avoiding the distraction of easy, unhelpful generalizations about immigrant or local communities—is the best way to thwart the jihadists’ international aims.

Three Tales of Moral Corrosion

Masha Gessen

Here is one way to take stock of the ways in which this year has changed us. Consider three stories of alliances—or misalliances—unfolding in three different important institutions in this country. One involves Congressional Democrats and the president in Washington; the second is a story of political troublemakers descending on Berkeley; and the third involves political actors welcomed and not welcomed by Harvard. These are stories of new alignments and battles over legitimacy. All three showcase shattered expectations, both institutional and personal, and represent new and profound failures of moral compasses.

A Glove, a Car, and a Camera

Erin Schwartz

Willa Nasatir: Hitchhiker, 2017

Willa Nasatir—whose exhibition currently at the Whitney Museum features ten large chromogenic prints and seven smaller black-and-white prints, all produced in 2017—shoots on film and does not digitally retouch her images. Her analog production is made all the more surprising by the complexity of her compositions, which densely layer objects, tangles of wire, mirrors, surface glare, and textured patina in a shallow depth of field. The surreal effects happen entirely in the camera.

India: Assassinating Dissent

Mukul Kesavan

People protesting the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh, Kolkata , India, September 7, 2017

Four journalists—most recently Gauri Lankesh—have been murdered in India. While it’s reasonable to be concerned about the impact of these killings on free speech and journalism, to see them primarily as an extreme form of censorship is to underestimate the enormity of the crime. Their murders look more like ideological assassinations designed to punish intellectual dissent.

Beloved & Condemned: A Cartoonist in Nazi Germany

Elke Schulze

The carefree world of Father and Son gives little hint of the fate that would be suffered by its creator, E. O. Plauen, who had become world-famous for his comic strips and was driven to take his own life. He was tall, heavy-set, and hard of hearing. Those close to him described him as humorous, awkward, curmudgeonly. The author Hans Fallada speaks of “an elephant who could walk a tightrope.”

Indonesia & China: The Sea Between

Philip Bowring

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Yanqi Lake, China, May 15, 2017

Indonesia announced on July 14 that it was renaming a part of the South China Sea the “North Natuna Sea.” China immediately demanded a retraction—which it will not get. At no point since the fifteenth century had a Chinese government been actively involved in the seas that it now claims on the basis of history.

The Great Africanstein Novel

Namwali Serpell

Amuria, Uganda, 2008

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s magisterial first novel Kintu continually diverts us from our preconceptions about Africa. Despite the generalizing and pigeonholing, African writers are rarely thought to speak to universal questions. But as its two-faced title—man/thing—suggests, Kintu does in fact have a grand philosophical question in mind. The novel forces us to reckon over and again with what it means to be kintu, to be man, or human.

The Hardening of Consciousness

Riccardo Manzotti and Tim Parks

Jean Cocteau: The Ram, 1900-1963

Manzotti: In declaring consciousness the “hard problem,” something extraordinary, and separating it from the rest of the physical world, Chalmers and others cast the debate in an anti-Copernican frame, preserving the notion that human consciousness exists in a special and, it is always implied, superior realm. The collective hubris that derives from this is all too evident and damaging.

A Show Trial in Moscow

Amy Knight

Alexei Ulyukaev at Zamoskvoretsky Court, Moscow, September 7, 2017

As the sensational trial of former Minister of Economic Development Alexei Ulyukaev continued this week in Moscow’s Zamoskvoretsky District Court, it seemed more and more like a replay of the infamous show trials of the Stalin period—the charges bogus, the outcome predetermined. Ulyukaev is the first Kremlin minister to be charged with a crime while in office since 1953. While Ulyukaev’s case points to a conflict over power and resources within Putin’s elite, it is also a manifestation of a broader crackdown by Putin.