AN INTERVIEW WITH MARTIN W. LEWIS, AUTHOR OF 'THE MYTH OF CONTINENTS'

Martin W. Lewis is a Senior Lecturer in International History in the Department of History at Stanford University. He is the co-author of The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography (University of California Press, 1997) and the former associate editor of Geographical Review. In December 2009 he started Geocurrents.info, a blog which offers "brief, map-illustrated analyses of current events, both major and minor, from all reaches of the world."

You describe yourself as a "historical geographer." What does a historical geographer do, exactly? Could you give a thumbnail sketch of the development of historical geography as a research field? And how has new technology such as GPS and Google Earth changed your field?

By the standard definition, historical geography seeks to uncover the spatial patterns of earlier societies and to analyze the evolution of landscapes. The classic work in areal reconstruction is H.C. Darby’s six-volume Domesday Geography of England, which gives a snapshot of the English countryside in 1086 CE, based on the famous survey completed twenty years after the Norman conquest.

I was trained in the Berkeley school of historical geography founded by Carl Sauer, who emphasized the environmental consequences of the subsistence activities of rural peoples. But I now view the field much more broadly, regarding all works of historical inquiry that use maps to advance arguments as instances of historical geography. In this sense, more historical geography is currently being conducted in history departments than in geography departments. That said, the small number of geographers who conduct historical research produce some high quality work (see especially the Journal of Historical Geography).

Most historical geographers use basic documentary methods, focused on the close reading of primary sources. A few also employ scientific techniques, charting ecological change, for example, through tree-ring data or sediment cores. Another method is repeat photography; comparing archival and current photos can reveal all kinds of landscape transformations. Historical geographers use more maps than other historians, and they are generally keen to personally explore the places that they write about.

My own historical-geographical research has relied on a variety of methods. My current work entails examining old maps and geography texts to see how cartographers and other scholars divided the world in past times. My earlier work on environmental change in Northern Luzon in the Philippines was more multi-disciplinary. To determine the environmental baseline conditions of the late 1800s and early 1900s, I turned to papers of nineteenth century German ethnographers and Spanish officials, governmental reports of the American colonial administration, and unpublished diaries and photographs of early twentieth century American scholars, teachers, and administrators. To examine the transition from subsistence cultivation to intensive market gardening in the mid-twentieth century, I relied most extensively on living memory; I traveled widely to search out and interview elders, and then used standard techniques of oral history to assess the reliability of their accounts. Newspaper accounts and agricultural and forestry reports also proved useful.

The main technological innovation in geography over the past few decades has been GIS, or Geographical Information Systems, which weds mapping to digital databases to allow the ready construction of complex map overlays. A number of historical geographers and geographically inclined historians have made excellent use of GIS; see any of the works of Anne Kelly Knowles, especially Past Time, Past Place: GIS for History. I would also recommend the work of my colleagues in the Stanford Spatial History Project.

According to the University of California Press webpage of the now-classic The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography, you and co-author Kären Wigen "reexamine the basic geographical divisions we take for granted, and challenge the unconscious spatial frameworks that govern the way we perceive the world." The book was published in 1997. Have there been any developments (a) in the field of geography or (b) in geopolitical events in the last decade that a new edition would have to consider?

The most important recent academic development is the rise of ocean- and sea-based studies, especially in world history. Atlantic history, Mediterranean history, Indian Ocean history, and so on, have expanded significantly. In The Myth of Continents, we gestured toward this development in advocating the use of multiple, overlapping regionalization schemes, but we did not delve into it in any detail. If a new edition were to be forthcoming, I would want to devote a new chapter to maritime geographies, examining the historical development and the intellectual implications of viewing the world from such a perspective.

Although most of The Myth of Continents is devoted to the intellectual history of dividing the world into large areas, it does in the end advocate a rather conventional scheme of "world regions" for teaching purposes (East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and so on). Such regions, we stressed, should be regarded as convenient categories rather than as pre-existing entities. Today I tend to highlight the "fuzziness" of regional boundaries more strongly, emphasizing how demographic, cultural, and geopolitical dynamics are causing regional realignments. When The Myth of Continents was written, for example, we assigned Xinjiang—the vast so-called Autonomous Region in northwestern China—to Central Asia, due largely to the fact that the majority of its people were Muslim in faith and Turkic (Uyghur-speaking) in language. Owing to migration from central and eastern China, Xinjiang now has a Han Chinese majority, substantially so in most of its eastern districts. As a result, Xinjiang is now not just geopolitically part of East Asia, but is also becoming East Asian in cultural terms. Historically, however, it remains part of Central Asia.

You are currently working on a project called Misled by the Map. Can you tell us what this is about? How does it relate to The Myth of Continents (if it does)?

My thinking on Misled by the Map has continued to evolve since I wrote about it on my website. Much of what I was planning to do in the book, I am now doing in a more diffuse manner through the Geocurrents blog. So I now conceive of the prospective book as a more scholarly work of intellectual history, much like The Myth of Continents. Only where that work looked at continents, civilizations, and world regions, the new project turns to the next level down in the spatial taxonomy. In the contemporary world, the map that really counts is the one that divides the Earth’s land area into 190-odd countries. Misled by the Map will trace the cartographic and textual history of splitting the continents into discrete regions and, ultimately, into the countries of today.

You write on your webpage: "I also write on environmental politics, propounding a technoenvironmentalist position that seeks to maximize habitat preservation and restoration through pragmatic politics and the decoupling of economic processes from natural ecosystems". What is "technoenvironmentalism"?

"Technoenvironmentalism," as I define it, seeks high-density, high-tech settlement forms, both to enhance human capabilities and to leave more room for wildlife. The closer people are packed, the fewer resources they need and the less space they occupy. In agriculture, high yields per acre reduce the overall human monopolization of land: To the extent that genetic engineering increases agricultural productivity, I’m all for it. Synthetic fibers and plastics made out of oil or coal are environmentally preferable to cotton and wood, as they leave more space for nature, and do not extract as many resources from ecosystems. The development of realistic, ersatz meat-substitutes cultured from vegetable proteins would be a godsend. By the same token, I prefer nuclear power to biofuels, which grab land and thus reduce habitat. "Split woods, not atoms" was a common slogan among my contemporaries in the 1970s; I embraced the creed to the extent of spending four months in 1979 cutting and splitting firewood for a living. It didn’t take long to figure out that if we all had to "split wood" for our energy needs, the United States would soon be a cut-over wasteland.

If you want to see such a wasteland, visit the so-called Demilitarized Zone and peer into North Korea. The South, by contrast, is a land of technoenvironmentalist renewal. South Korea is densely populated: nearly fifty million people on less than a fourth of the land area of California. Fifty years ago, it was an impoverished agricultural country barely able to feed itself, its mountains denuded and its wildlife nearly gone. Today South Korea’s uplands are almost fully reforested, and the state is working with environmental groups to create wildlife corridors linking areas of natural habitat. As high-yield South Korean farms over-produce rice, marginal paddies are being abandoned to nature, while villagers relocate to high-density, internet-saturated cities linked by efficient mass transit systems. This settlement pattern is a win-win, benefiting both the Korean people and Korean wildlife. It’s true that South Koreans import much of their food and energy, but it’s also true that they live surprisingly well with a far smaller carbon-footprint than ours.

I have played with some of these ideas in fictional form; roughly half of my novel Terranova: The Black Petaltail takes place in a technogreen northern California of the future.

You began the blog Geocurrents back in December 2009. What are you trying to accomplish with it? How do you pick what events and regions to blog about?

Geocurrents has been a compelling forum for me for several reasons. First, I have long wanted to spread geographical literacy to a wider audience. For the past few years I have been periodically teaching in Stanford’s adult education program ("Continuing Studies"), and I have enjoyed it immensely. Several of my courses are available on iTunes and YouTube, and I have been pleased to interact with listeners on email. There is a real hunger for knowledge about the world, in part because our school geography courses are so rudimentary. Most people in this country are ignorant about the world, and they know it. The infamous YouTube video of Miss Teen South Carolina pathetically attempting to answer a simple question about geographical knowledge has garnered more than forty million views. Whether they find that amusing or appalling (or both!), a lot of people seem to want to work on their mental maps, to master what differentiates places—and borders—from each other. Whatever small part my blog may play in imparting that kind of geographical knowledge makes it worthwhile.

I also use Geocurrents to learn more about the world myself. I have basic knowledge of the topics I write on, but the blogging process gives me an excuse to dig in further. An idea for a post usually starts with some news-making event, and that invariably leads me to Wikipedia, an indispensable, comprehensive, and constantly improving compendium of knowledge. I typically follow the links to a number of the sources listed in any given Wikipedia article, and then do further Internet searches on the topics of interest. As a general rule, I don’t visit the library, simply because I don’t have time for that kind of research on the Geocurrents timeline. I am, however, contemplating a more in-depth series of mini-atlases, somewhat like the "Atlas of Indian Development" posted in July in Geocurrents. For those, I would definitely do a combination of internet and conventional text research. China is the prospective next topic in this series, but the necessary statistical data does not seem to be readily available. A little library work, it seems, will be necessary.

The inspiration for a particular post can come from any of several directions. Sometimes I read an article that piques my curiosity and then delve into the issue; more often than not, that leads to related topics. Recent Moroccan protests around the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla, for example, led me to think about Gibraltar as well, raising broader issues of Spanish sovereignty, nationalism, and regionalism. On other occasions I decide in advance that it’s time to take a look at a particular part of the world. In that case, I search the web until I find an article of interest. Such searches often bring me to obscure local publications, many of which are amazingly good. The Shan Herald Agency for News, operating out of Chiengmai, Thailand, for example, offers first-rate coverage, in English, of events on the violence-scarred Shan Plateau of eastern Burma.

Finally, Geocurrents has become increasingly connected with my teaching. I have long been frustrated with the typical research paper assignment: my students do a great deal of work, I laboriously grade their papers, and yet most of this effort ends up in the recycling bin. This quarter, I’m experimenting with blogging assignments for the students enrolled in my Stanford seminar called The History and Geography of Current Global Event. If all goes well, their first efforts will appear on Geocurrents this November.

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From The Boston Globe's The Big Picture, a photo essay of the miners rescued in Chile.

From Harper's, Gary Grenberg on the war on unhappiness: Goodbye Freud, hello positive thinking. Harvard's Shawn Achor on how to be happier. The Spoils of Happiness: Whatever happiness may be, it's not a state of mind. A review of What Is This Thing Called Happiness? by Fred Feldman. More Money, Less Mirth: Economist Carol Graham tries to fathom the sometimes paradoxical relationship between prosperity and happiness. Here are 5 things you think will make you happy (but won't). A history of happiness: We've forgotten much of what older traditions knew about happiness. Medical journalist Ian Smith uses past experience to inform his book Happy: Simple Steps to Get the Most Out of Life.

An interview with Steven Rattner, author of Overhaul: An Insider's Account of the Obama Administration's Emergency Rescue of the Auto Industry (and part 2 — and a response by Jonathan Bernstein). And here's Rattner on TARP, an unloved bail-out that saved America.

Andreas Follesdal (Oslo): Religious Liberty Versus Gender Equality: In Memory of Susan Moller Okin. Denise Walsh (Virginia): Culture Versus Women’s Rights Conflicts and Multicultural Policies. Charles Taylor on solidarity in a pluralist age. On multiculturalism, the cardinal rule is that all immigrants to Canada love their adoptive country but cling to the habits of home, but some immigrants chose Canada to get the hell away from their homescape and after arrival never gave the old country a second thought. How multiculturalism fails immigrants: Grouping people according to their "historical" cultural identity is both divisive and dangerous — migration is about change, not ossification. Slavoj Zizek on how liberal multiculturalism masks an old barbarism with a human face: Across Europe, the politics of the far right is infecting all with the need for a "reasonable" anti-immigration policy. From Alternative Right, Fjordman on Thilo Sarrazin vs. the multiculti oligarchs (and a response by Paul Gottfried). A review of Multiculturalism: Some Inconvenient Truths by Rumy Hasan. In the hands of today’s students, multiculturalism is a fruit that has over-ripened — the fact that all human beings are born equal has thoughtlessly become confused with the myth that all cultures are born equal.

The New York Times has a review of newly translated works by Roberto Bolaņo. The man without a country: Robert M. Downey on the cottage industry of Roberto Bolaņo (and more and more and more and more and more at Bookforum). From Swans, Peter Byrne on Roberto Bolaņo's Poetic Justice.


From n+1, excerpts from What Was The Hipster? A Sociological Investigation (and more by Carolyn Kellogg).

Gareth T. Davies (VU Amsterdam): Geoengineering the Climate: Science, Governance and Uncertainty. Can ecosystem engineering prevent ecological catastrophe? As geoengineering has moved from fringe fantasy ("space mirrors") to sober consideration, one thing has become abundantly clear: Geophysics doesn't care about politics. Hacking the Planet: There's plenty of controversy swirling around the idea of climate intervention—and no shortage of new words. Prozac for the Planet: Can geoengineering make the climate happy? An interview with Jeff Goodell, author of How to Cool the Planet. From FDL, a book salon on Hack the Planet: Science’s Best Hope—or Worst Nightmare—for Averting Climate Catastrophe by Eli Kintisch. From Slate, a special series of articles on geoengineering. From Solutions, Chuck Greene, Bruce Monger, and Mark Huntleyan on geoengineering and the inescapable truth of getting to 350 (and more and more).

The oldest university on earth is reborn after 800 years: Nalanda, an ancient seat of learning destroyed in 1193, will rise again thanks to Nobel-winning economist Amartya Sen (and more). In light of Nalanda: The ruins of one of Asia’s great centres of learning still inspire travelers.

Tulane's Shael Herman writes about the mechanisms of social cohesion among monotheisms of the Iberian Convivencia, but here is a less convivial view of the Convivencia. Ali Khan of Washburn University says the Quran and the constitution are mutually supportive supreme texts—one does not negate the other. People of the book: Ted Widemer on the true history of the Koran in America. David Rayside (Toronto): American Muslim Response to Queer Visibility. Things that make us Muslim: At the height of Michaelmania, everyone moonwalked—even Muslim kids in Hamilton, Ontario. Is Obama trying to indoctrinate your children with Muslim comic books? Josh Marshall on how the kinds of things with Muslims that are supposed to make us run around with our hair on fire are already happening and have been for decades with Jews and no one seems to care. Objectivist Craig Biddle on the Ground Zero mosque, the spread of Islam, and how America should deal with such efforts. The Ground Zero Mosque’s Missing Muslims: The Park51 controversy isn’t really about a building—it’s about erasing individuals. Listen Up: A deaf Muslim atheist responds defiantly to the debate over the "Ground Zero mosque". If that "mosque" ISN'T built, this is no longer America.

From Design Observer, William W. Braham on the temptations of survivalism, or, what do you do with your waste?


The Swarthmore College Bulletin interviewed Victor Navasky (Class of '54), publisher emeritus and former editor of The Nation, a man interested in controversy but also interested in civility, and a man who thinks one caricature may be worth 10,000 words (though make sure to see Ted Rall's comments at the bottom of that page). Back in 2005, Conversations with History interviewed Navasky as he published A Matter of Opinion.

"What does it mean to be cool?" Thorsten Botz-Bornstein, an assistant philosophy professor at the Gulf University for Science and Technology in Kuwait, links the ancient Greeks' Stoicism and hip hop, offering this chic summary: "In spite of the ambiguity, it seems that we remain capable of distinguishing cool attitudes from uncool ones. So what is cool? Let me say that cool resists linear structures."

Search and Destroy: The New Yorker's Ben McGrath on Gawker founder and "gossip monger" Nick Denton’s idea of journalism, and a recent New York magazine profile of Denton, the "Demon Blogger of Fleet Street." The people behind Blogger and Blogspot.com look back at how they accidentally changed the Internet and the world. Brandon Scott Gorrell thinks the blogosphere is sort of raping you. "Bugger the bloggers," writes Georgie Williamson in The Australian, "old-world critics still count." Karine Barzilai-Nahon's tale of political blogs and content and on the place of blogs in the life cycle of viral political information, and in Quadrant, Edwin Dyga tells the story of conservative dissent in the blogosphere (and part 2). Carl Anders writes that "those who scorn blogs for their highly agenda driven information ignore that the traditional media has had to mirror this to survive. That is the greatest proof of just how important Web 2.0 has become in shaping and influencing society." Jacob McArthur Mooney writes in defense of blogging. In the science blogosphere, men significantly outnumber women — is this evidence of discrimination? Common-place profiles Kevin M. Levin, a blogger who is trying to open new fronts in the historical profession. In First Monday, Sara Kjellberg of Lund University writes about the "motivations for blogging in a scholarly context" in I Am a Blogging Researcher; there's also a review of Scott Rosenberg's Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters. "Opinionating" is cheap: The strange, poignant logic behind Mayhill Fowler's decision to quit blogging for HuffPo.

A look at what the Economics Nobel says about the US unemployment crisis.

The Economist profiles a Himalayan rivalry: Asia’s two giants, China and India, are still unsure what to make of each other, but as they grow, they are coming closer — for good and bad — and that is the contest of the century. While the industrial policies pursued by both countries up until the 1980s led to mistakes and inefficiencies, China and India would not be as successful as they are now without them. The Globalist describes the Battle of the (Population) Billionaires. Time magazine looks at how China and India displaced the West in Sri Lanka, and in Foreign Affairs, there's a review essay on India, China and the West. And from Outlook India, a review of India and China: The Battle between Soft and Hard Power by Prem Shankar Jha (and more at Asia Times) and a review of Superpower? The Amazing Race Between China's Hare And India's Tortoise by Raghav Bahl.


Vagelis Siropoulos of the University of London has two papers on musicals in Image and Narrative: Online Magazine of the Visual Narrative: Evita, the Society of the Spectacle and the Advent of the Megamusical, and Cats, Postdramatic Blockbuster Aesthetics and the Triumph of the Megamusical. And have you heard of any great playwrights lately? The days when the national media turned high-culture figures into mainstream stars are long past.

Intellectual historian Richard Wolin recently published The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution, and the Legacy of the 1960s, which shows "how French students and intellectuals, inspired by their perceptions of the Cultural Revolution, and motivated by utopian hopes, incited grassroots social movements and reinvigorated French civic and cultural life" (reviewed by Times Higher Education and Standpoint). Writing in Bookforum, Scott McLemee revisited Russell Jacoby's The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe during its 20th anniversary in 2007. An important essay Richard Bellamy, "Gramsci, Walzer and the Intellectual as Social Critic", which appeared in The Philosophical Forum in 1998, was recently made available online. There is also a review of Politics and the Intellectual: The Legacy of Irving Howe by John Rodden at The Common Review. York University's Allan Hutchinson "want[s] to explain what is the 'business' that I think that I am in as an academic or, more grandly, as an intellectual." It’s easier to be brilliant than right: There is a danger with intellectual brightness — it is to overemphasize and develop a bias for cleverness, quickness, facility with data, and the ability to persuade. R.R. Reno, writing in First Things, thinks that "an exaltation of theory is unique to late modern culture, and it’s what makes an intellectual an intellectual rather than what used to be called a 'man of letters'". The Acton Institute recently reviewed Thomas Sowell's Intellectuals and Society (and more at The American Spectator). And focusing on a specific phenomenon within Egyptian intellectual history over the past sixty years, Hassan Khan writes in defense of the corrupt intellectual.

The most important relaxation sounds release of all time: Clocking in at precisely 58 minutes and 32 seconds, Ocean Surf — the Metal Machine Music of relaxation sounds records — proved an audio gem of intellectually substantial, far-from-relaxing waves crashing down brutally on some innominate beach.

Shiladitya Verma (LNCTS): Addicted to Shopping: When You Don’t Know When to Stop. What's more American than shoplifting? One out of 11 of your fellow shoppers is guilty. When shopping was sociable: Alexandra Lange writes about her book Design Research: The Store That Brought Modern Living to American Homes. The Washington Times reviews The American Department Store Transformed, 1920-1960 by Richard Longstreth. Punk'd in the Great Depression: Catalog No. 439 gave American men everything they never knew they needed. In Common-place, an online magazine on American history and culture, there's a review of Paper Money Men: Commerce, Manhood, and the Sensational Public Sphere in Antebellum America by David Anthony.

Your mailman is watching you: A review of Postal Systems in the Pre-Modern Islamic World by Adam Silverstein.


When you consider the intelligence explosion effect, the next few decades could determine the future of intelligent life. But should we listen to futurists or are they leading us towards "nerdocalypse"?

In the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can spend an unlimited amount of money to support candidates. How's that working out?, asks blogger Kevin Drum. The Boston Review has a symposium on "Democracy After Citizens United," including a lead essay by Lawrence Lessig (who also writes more in The Washington Post), and responses by Will Wilkinson, Allison Hayward, Nancy Rosenblum and others. Law professor Molly J. Walker Wilson challenges the decision in Too Much of a Good Thing: Campaign Speech after Citizen United, and NYU's Samuel Issacharoff uses Citizens United to examine what possibilities for reform remain to redress the vulnerabilities of democracy before the powers of the purse How much has the case changed campaign finance in 2010? Kenneth P. Vogel writes in Politico that a massive $4.2 million ad buy announced Tuesday by American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS erases any doubts that the groups, conceived by veteran GOP operatives Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, have the cash to be major players in next month’s election. WaPo columnist Eugene Robinson writes that it's unconscionable that we can't know who the buyers are of public offices these days. Mother Jones has just published a special report: "Who owns Congress?," detailing the top corporate spenders. And the latest issue of PS: Political Science & Politics has a series of articles on the 2010 mid-term elections.

Is Tehran a suitable host for World Philosophy Day? Why some are calling for a boycott.

Increasingly DIY and nihilistic, it's not surprising that contemporary philosophy is drawn to the untilled fields of undead subculture. The recent book Hideous Gnosis unleashes a bloodthirsty plague of para-academic commentary upon Black Metal, but how to talk about a music that refuses to talk about? Heather Havrilesky investigates Lady Gaga's strangely empty song of herself in a review essay in Bookforum's music issue.

How good are we at estimating other people's drunkenness? Psychologist Steve Rubenzer investigates.


From magCulture, here's an A-Z of favourite independent magazines. An airline magazine that makes travelers want to pull the rip cord: Safi shows the real Afghanistan, from dog fighting to dry swimming pools. The in-flight magazine of Afghan airline Safi Airways does not mince words; in an interview, editor Christian Marks talks about dog fighting, war zones and why passengers want the truth. A different kind of Israeli magazine: Bambi Sheleg’s Eretz Acheret is making waves. A review of Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine: A History of Star Makers, Fabricators, and Gossip Mongers by Anthony Slide. Why is the September issue a big deal? An interview with Dirk Barnett, creative director at the helm of Maxim magazine. If magazines were forced to be honest. What do you get if you cross the internet and magazines? You get Ivan Pope, a former zinester who created the world’s first internet magazine, The World Wide Web Newsletter (later 3W Magazine), in 1993, and later went on to help launch the first consumer magazine about the web, .net, and has now turned his entrepreneurial zeal to creating Magazero, an online magazine store dedicated to “gathering the best, freshest, strangest, most inaccessible, juciest, loveliest independent magazines from around the world and bringing them into your life”. The golden age of magazine illustration: Vicki Woods previews a new collection of glorious, romantic illustrations from 1950s and 1960s women's magazines. A look at the most ridiculous magazines of all time.


A new issue of New Internationalist is out. Pamela Samuelson (UC-Berkeley): The Google Book Settlement as Copyright Reform. Jimmy Carter says he's "superior" to other U.S. ex-presidents, but on the world stage, he's got some tough competition. Me, Myself and My Stranger: An article on understanding the neuroscience of selfhood. Why do we believe what we believe? Kris Notaro investigates. James Ledbetter on the troubling disappearance of salesmen and how it helps explain America's economic woes. Lewis Lapham on "the end of capitalism": The former longtime editor of Harper's discusses the possibility that America's economic system will go extinct. How a bookseller in Willow Creek caused the biggest Bigfoot forum on the web to be shut down — or did he? Devaditya Chakravarti on the politics around the assassination of Gandhi. Regulatory Blowout: A look at how regulatory failures made the BP disaster possible, and how the system can be fixed to avoid a recurrence. A review of A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell (and more). Brad DeLong on the tax debate we are not having: Can a great nation remain great while its leaders spout talking points and evade reality? Jesse Bering on an ode to the many evolved virtues of human semen. Atlas Obscura visits Puzzlewood, the mysterious and fantastical woodland inspiration for The Lord of the Rings. Can Americans rightsize their desires? From Yes! magazine, a look at 10 Resilient Ideas: Ideas for building resilience from communities across the country. "Dear Hannah Arendt": An article on the correspondence between Leni Yahil and Hannah Arendt, 1961-1971. From Catapult, a special issue on weight: What kinds of heaviness do we solemnly accept? What kinds do we fight as if our lives depend on it?

Attention college students: Bookforum will pay you $10 for every $16 subscription you sell. Sell 10 subscriptions and we'll double your money for a total of $200!


Andreas Follesdal (Oslo): How to Organize Democracy in Multi-Level and Multi-Cultural States: Can it Be Done? Should it Be Done? Jacqueline Mowbray (Sydney): Language in the UN and EU: Linguistic Diversity as a Challenge for Multilateralism. Poul F. Kjaer (Frankfurt): The Societal Function of European Integration in the Context of World Society. Andrew R. Glencross (Aberdeen): A Post-National EU? The Problem of Legitimising the EU Without the Nation and National Representation. From Democracy, Henry Farrell on A More Perfect Union: Over the years, European leaders forgot how to justify integration to their citizens; it’s time they remember — and proceed with tough reforms. As nationalism rises, will the European Union fall? According to the conventional view, the far-Right in Europe is antithetical to the values of liberal democracy — new research showing that far-Right ideology is a radicalization of mainstream values has a major impact on how populism is understood (and more and more). President Sarkozy's recent campaign against the Roma people highlights their growing persecution across Europe — as their numbers increase, integrating this group will become ever more important. As long as the Roma remain persona non grata at the rich lands' tables, the emancipation of the European individual is still on shaky ground. From Re-public, Jutta Urpilainen on why we need more welfare state, not less; and Victor Ponta on how a true welfare state is still possible in Europe. From Strange Maps, a solution to dealing with the potential divisiveness of diversity, and if done in good humour at least a lot funnier, is the great European Shouting Match. Tyranny’s got talent: At the next Junior Eurovision contest, Europe’s most repressive regime will go pop.


A new issue of Spectrum is out. Corey Brettschneider (Brown): When the State Speaks, What Should it Say? Freedom of Expression and Democratic Persuasion. An interview with Thomas Geoghegen, author of Were You Born on the Wrong Continent? How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life. A review of The Political Power of Bad Ideas: Networks, Institutions, and the Global Prohibition Wave by Mark Lawrence Schrad. Is video killing the concert vibe? Lighters held aloft at rock shows have given way to camera phones — meet the backlash. After elections, is Bosnia closer to unity or collapse? Stars shine light on issues, but should we consider it illuminating? Surveillance, America’s pastime: A Hall of Shame of state snooping, prying, and informing aimed at destroying the fabric of civil society. Down with fun: The depressing vogue for having fun at work. A too-gentle madness: Pradeep Sebastian‘s essays are a great introduction to the genre called Books on Books. Cops on the beat: Dancing Thai policemen become a Youtube hit. Steve Pearlstein on the costs of rising economic inequality. The post-Singularity future of astronomy: Astronomy could be the first discipline in which the rate of discovery by machines outpaces humans' ability to interpret it. Will America come to envy Japan's lost decade? Ezra Klein wonders. The banality of narcissism: Ron Rosenbaum on the class war over cultural diagnosis. If a student asks you "why is essentialism bad?", how do you answer that? Wisdom Facing Forward: What it means to have heightened future consciousness. Keeping up with Tyler Cowen on a regular basis resembles drinking from a fire hose — not everyone is so infovoracious.

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