Race & Romance in America

Mira Jacob

When I was five and we went back to India for a visit, everyone was upset about two things. The first was that my brother and I still did not speak Malayalam. The second was how much I had “changed” since I was a baby. Toward the end of the visit, my grandmother gave me a bottle of Fair & Lovely. I knew what it was. I had seen the advertisement on train station walls. It showed a woman’s face getting lighter and happier and lighter and happier. Coming back to New Mexico was almost a relief. In New Mexico, I wasn’t dark. I was just brown.

The Ominous Decadence of László Nemes’s ‘Sunset’

J. Hoberman

Juli Jakab as Irisz Leiter in László Nemes's Sunset, 2019

Sunset, the forty-two-year-old French-Hungarian filmmaker László Nemes’s follow-up to his astonishing 2015 debut Son of Saul, is a gothic melodrama and a modernist period piece, set on the eve of World War I and shadowed by impending doom. Less dire than Saul but nonetheless alarming, Sunset tracks the quest of its protagonist, the young milliner Irisz Leiter (Juli Jakab), an orphan arrived in Budapest, to find employment at Leiter, the fashionable, luxury emporium founded by her parents. Perhaps Nemes—an artist far more comfortable discussing his filmmaking than his politics—is speaking through the character who says of Leiter’s elaborate creations: “the horror of the world hides beneath these infinitely pretty things.”

What Is the World to Do About Gene-Editing?

Stephen Buranyi

Gene-editing researcher He Jiankui with staff at the Direct Genomics Laboratory, Shenzhen, China, August 4, 2016

He Jiankui’s announcement that in November that he had created the first two gene-edited humans in history was met with universal condemnation. Hundreds of Chinese scientists signed a letter calling the research “crazy,” CRISPR’s co-creator, Jennifer Doudna, said she was “horrified,” and Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes for Health, labeled it “profoundly disturbing.” If everyone can agree He crossed some kind of line, the questions of what that line is and where it should be are still open. The disturbing thing about the aftermath of the He affair is that a reckoning with these questions hasn’t happened.

Rite of Passage: Moroccan Boys Reach for Europe

Louis Witter

Moroccan minors who have managed to enter the Port of Ceuta and are waiting to attempt to board the ferries to Spain are thrown food by friends on the other side of the port's walls, Ceuta, February 20, 2019

“Europe would be a chance for us to work, a chance to study, a chance to learn a new language, in Spain or France, for example,” Rachid told me, one of a group of teenage Moroccan boys hoping to board the ferry from northern Africa to Europe. “In Morocco, there is nothing, nothing! No work, no money, no future. That’s why we want to go.” Rachid advanced toward the barbed wire-topped fence, followed by Ayman. On the pier, the fences are no longer monitored by officers of the Guardia Civil, who have been replaced by security cameras, though police still patrol inside the port.

A Minister, a General, & the Militias: Libya’s Shifting Balance of Power

Frederic Wehrey

Members of the Tripoli Protection Force, an alliance of militias, inspecting a compound used by the rival Seventh Brigade group in an area south of the Libyan capital, January 18, 2019

Fathi Bashagha, a leading figure in the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, is touring Washington and European capitals, where he pleads for equipment and for help in cutting off funding to what he calls Libya’s “princes of militias.” By many accounts, these have been impressive performances and Western backers of the Government of National Accord have placed great hopes in him to restore order. Even so, European governments and, increasingly, Washington have recognized that the landscape has now changed, with the dominant military force of General Khalifa Haftar on the horizon.

Making Good on the Broken Promise of Reparations

Katherine Franke

African Americans preparing cotton for the gin on Smith’s plantation, Port Royal Island, South Carolina, 1861–1862

Even during the Civil War, Union military and political leaders who were directly responsible for stewarding black people from enslavement into their new lives as freed people felt strongly that slavery was an atrocity and a theft that required compensation. Reparations were understood as both a remedy for the rape, torture, death, and destruction of millions of human souls, and a measure that recognized that freedom without material resources would lock black people into second-class status for generations to come. Promises made to freed people in 1865 that they would receive land—as reparations for their enslavement and the leg-up they needed to start their lives anew—were never honored.

Snapshots from Soviet Lithuania

Carole Naggar

Pioneer. Ignalina, 1964

For their attention to everyday life and their tender spirit, Antanas Sutkus’s photographs in Planet Lithuania often evoke the spirit of Robert Doisneau, André Kertész, or Paul Strand—but Sutkus only discovered their work and that of other photographers of the humanist school much later in life, when he first traveled outside his country in 1992. Cultural isolation meant there was no access to photography books in Lithuania. Sutkus’s vast collection of images of everyday life in Lithuania under Communism from 1956 to 1991 is one of the largest existing archives of life under Soviet rule, a record of simple, quiet resistance.

Don McCullin’s Art of War

Geoffrey Wheatcroft

Near Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin, West Germany, 1961

There are other dangers than gunfire for the war photographer, almost more than for the war correspondent: the temptations of angry partisanship or aestheticization of horror. Don McCullin is innocent of the first. “No one was my enemy, by the way,” he says, in the companion book to the show. “There was no enemy in war for me. I was a totally neutral, passing-through person.” The second hazard might be more problematic. Biafran children with bellies distended by hunger, two dead Khmer Rouge sprawled in almost gymnastic postures, a Bengali father holding the body of his young son who has died of cholera, all come close to being artistic creations like the gyrations of athletes frozen for a split second for the sports pages.

Do Corporations Like Amazon and Foxconn Need Public Assistance?

E. Tammy Kim

Activists and community members who opposed Amazon's plan to move into Queens rallying in celebration of Amazon's decision to pull out of the deal, Long Island City, Queens, February 14, 2019

With the Wisconsin’s Foxconn deal still drawing skepticism, Amazon’s HQ2 plan for Long Island City canceled, a national conversation about corporate subsidies is underway—at a moment of broader reevaluation of our welfare state, climate policy, wealth distribution, and government accountability. Rules-based incentives for small and medium-sized enterprises are one thing; rubber-stamped agreements with trillion-dollar companies are another. Could the divergent paths of the Amazon and Foxconn projects mark an inflection point in the nation’s approach to economic development?

The Impact of #MeToo in France: An Interview with Lénaïg Bredoux

Aida Alami

Lénaïg Bredoux, 2011

Aida Alami: Many speak of the “séduction à la française” as a way of accounting for Denis Baupin’s alleged conduct toward women.
Lénaïg Bredoux: This is something we have heard for decades; it’s completely outmoded. These arguments are the last remnants of an old world, a world that is disappearing. It’s a pretty gloomy conception of seduction and relationships. Women describe gestures—like the too-firm pressure of a hand on the back when men greet them—that can make one uneasy. We have all experienced that. I do think that there are still problems, but a counter-narrative has emerged.