Few more links

March 29, 2023

Nothing special, but every one is interesting, and that makes them special.  Said in best Mr. Rogers voice.



“the line between a politically engaged critical history and a dogmatic reading of the past is not easy to distinguish. It is made more difficult by the right’s conflation of criticism with dogmatism and by identitarian purists’ attacks on what they take to be distortions of their experiential truth. But it is a line worth attempting to draw.”

(Also, some useful background to this whole debate.)


In brief, what disturbed us was the behavior not of our enemies but of our friends.”   This was also very true of the Trump era, at least for me; I was astonished at some people more conservative than me, who began to support frankly authoritarian policies and personalities.  David Bromwich on Hannah Arendt.


First part of a conversation with Lorraine Daston, on what the history of science can teach to actual practitioners of science, and to the rest of us.  It is as expected lucid and acute, two of Daston’s representative intellectual virtues.


Seems right to me, but maybe I’m biased:

“At the moment, academe strongly values findings of racial discrimination. The rewards for such findings are therefore high, and people will go to extraordinary lengths to achieve them.…The people who commit such errors sense that reviewers and editors will not check them on it. That fact helps explain some of the attacks on academe from the right. “Progressive activists,” only 8 percent of the population, now dominate much of the social sciences and humanities. There should be a way to check institutions whose groupthink produces flawed research, though that of course has its dangers. The activists’ enemies on the hard right control many state legislatures and, as in Florida, are attempting to legislate speech in higher ed. This is a recipe for continued polarization and conflict, not for truth.”


This piece has a good if imho obvious point, but over-elaborates it in self-indulgent piling up of vague evidence. In the 90s it was obvious that many people were somnolescently non-political. Today, it is obvious that many people (esp on social media!) are manically hyperpolitical. Try not to be either one, but admit that it's hard.


I hadn’t known about this book Monsoon Islam, which focuses not on Islam in the Middle East, nor Islam in Central Asia, nor Islam around the Mediterranean world (alternative, overlapping, and often more well-researched ways to represent Islam), but Islam as flourishing in the Indian Ocean.  The role of the Indian Ocean in antiquity still seems to me hugely under-studied, esp. when compared to the Mediterranean; but clearly, the Indian Ocean and the Med were the two main waterways of human contact (not the Atlantic or Pacific, for sure).  We need to understand a lot more the history of antiquity as seen from the coast of the Indian ocean—I’d love a book that tells the story that way.


Here’s another book about Islam in the Indian Ocean world, by a colleague of mine at UVA.  And here’s one on a Jewish trader in the Indian Ocean as well.


Yes good:  

“Because negative connotations continue to adhere to it so tightly, a strange blurring of political vision affects us when we use the word, so that many people talk about their possession of the good kind of privilege—the “positive advantages that we can work to spread, to the point where they are . . . simply part of the normal civic and social fabric”—not as something they should work to extend to others but as something they’re ashamed of. As Phoebe Maltz Bovy puts it in The Perils of “Privilege”: Why Injustice Can’t Be Solved by Accusing Others of Advantage, “It can seem as if the desired goal is for everyone to be oppressed, rather than for all to be free from oppression.” ”


Take care!