Required Reading

  • Professor Michael L. Blakey, who is a bioarchaeologist, biocultural anthropologist, and historian of science, talks to Dr. Jemima Pierre for the Black Agenda Report about the long history of the anthropological use and abuse of human remains (particularly of Black and Indigenous people) in the United States:

This science was used to create a ranking of races. From the 1830s to the 1850s, Samuel Morton, a physician and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, had a collection of 1300 skulls. He thought he could measure skulls to identify racial differences (a field called craniometry). His technique for measuring skulls included pouring mustard seeds and then lead shots (BBs) into the foramen magnum, which is the hole at the base of the skull where the central nervous system passes. But in the skull of a dead person it’s a hole. He poured this mustard seed into the hole and filled it up, filled up the calvarium, the brain case, and then poured that into a graduated cylinder. With this method, he felt he had a measured mentality and intelligence. And it was important for him to have skulls of different races and so he did. 

I just want to mention that this is all in line with the European Enlightenment idea of science — about objectivity. And, let me say there are two ways of understanding objectivity. The first, I call Objectivity #1, is that one relies on the object for knowledge, evidence, material evidence. I think that is, surely, what science is, that way of knowing. But this Objectivity #1 is often confounded with Objectivity #2. Objectivity #2 is presumed neutrality, the ability to ascertain universal truths from observation. But if there is a neutral truth, we have no way of knowing that scientifically. We have no way of knowing that in terms of Objectivity #1. For example, human beings can’t imagine a way of being in every place in time to see if any truth ever lasted that long. So, the idea that we can be a neutral is like a religious idea. It’s about belief, it’s not a scientific idea. Yet, we’ve come to believe that it’s a quality of science, that scientists are neutral. That they have the magic method that takes them out of history, out of their culture out of their social background.

What came to me is that our dream space has been stolen, that there has been a theft, a complete theft. What could have happened if our ancestors had a space to rest, if they were allowed to dream. They may have received downloads from their ancestors and from God to say, “Go right, not left, and you will be free. Do this and you won’t be in slavery anymore. The button to that thing is here.” You know? These downloads that could have been given to us. Could our freedom have come quicker? I’m thinking about Harriet Tubman and her prophetic dreams, of waking up and saying, “My people are free.”

I think when we miss out on that dream space, we’re literally missing out on very important information, very important downloads and knowledge that are going to be for our benefit. I really literally believe that our path to our liberation, to really getting to the next dimension, is in dreams. It’s there. The information is waiting for us. The ancestors are like, “I wish they would just stop for a minute and lay down because I got the word for them.” They’re looking at us like grind machines and saying, “If they would lay down for a moment, I’m ready to come in through that dream space, that ancestral liminal space. I got a word, but I can’t give it to them in this dimension.” You know? If rest is another dimension, which I think it is, I think the more we go there, the more we’re going to wake up. The information is there for us.

  • Sindre Bangstad, writing in Africa Is a Country, considers the “impossibility of the Black intellectual”:

Discovering Hall’s Caribbean origins or migrant identity could be a shock only in a world where the mission of black intellectuals remains impossible, where being a black intellectual is unimaginable.

Gilroy makes a convincing case for the centrality of race and racism as “indispensable for coming to terms with the meaning and the politics of his intellectual work as a whole.” In Gilroy’s rendering, race is for Hall, “a constitutive power” and “a prism” through which people are “called upon” to live through “crisis conditions.” Hall is singled out as “the first academic to highlight the reproduction of racism as common sense.” As a founding figure of Cultural Studies and the Birmingham School, Hall did as Gilroy rightly notes demonstrate a particular interest in showing how the modern mass media accelerated the reproduction of racism.

The library’s special collections include extensive original materials related to gender equality, reproductive rights and other social justice movements, and it holds personal papers connected with figures such as Gloria Steinem, Marian Anderson and Sylvia Plath. 

Neilson also represents something unique: a building designed by women for a client team of women for a public that would consist principally of women. It is architecture that quite literally centers women’s knowledge at a time in which women remain underrepresented in the field. An estimated 20% of licensed architects are women, despite the fact that they represent half of all architecture degrees earned. 

  • An important story about how people get sucked into the cult of Trump. Writing for Mother Jones, Stepahnie Mencimer reports on the “radicalization of Simone Gold“:

Her arrest highlights the role of conservative media in fomenting an insurrection, but Gold’s personal experience also illustrates what experts on extremism have long known: Education is no defense against radicalization. “If you think of who is susceptible of extremist ideology, people tend to think it’s people who don’t have much education,” says Don Haider-Markel, a University of Kansas political science professor who has studied extremism and radicalization. “That’s not the case at all. It tends to be more middle class and upper class. Those who have spent more time educating themselves tend to think they know better than other people.”

In fact, much like the tea partiers of the Obama era, the Capitol insurrectionists were by and large an aging, middle-class mob. Researchers at the Chicago Project on Security and Threats at the University of Chicago have dug into the demographic profiles of hundreds of people charged with crimes related to the Capitol incursion. They’ve found that about 30 percent of the arrested rioters are white-collar professionals like Gold. Only about 13 percent were affiliated with traditional far-right militias or extremist groups like the Proud Boys, and only 7 percent were unemployed.

  • New York Post writer Laura Italiano left after a story she wrote about Vice President Kamala Harris’s children books being given to migrant children turned out to be a lie. Writing for Vanity Fair, Joe Pompeo explains the context:

The children’s-book article was conceived based on a Reuters photograph. No one I spoke to was able to confirm precisely how everything went down, but one version of the backstory is that the item began as an extended photo caption and snowballed into the ensuing shit show; another is that Italiano’s original marching orders were to look into the Reuters image. There’s a lot of sympathy for Italiano, who is highly regarded among her peers, but even sympathetic sources acknowledge that she is not blameless. (Reached on her cell, Italiano declined to comment.) Overall, people just sound really bummed about the whole thing, and about the state of the Post in general. One disenchanted staffer said, “The Post has always been a balancing act of catering to the masses and the elites. Lately, it feels as if everything is now for the masses.”

  • You may have been hearing about the cicada invasion we’re all awaiting in the US (every 17 years Brood X emerges in the Eastern US and this year’s we’re expecting trillions of them), but did you know about the insects’ strange biology?

Despite appearances, that individual cicada will be a swarm unto itself—the insect and a community of organisms living inside it. Their lives have been so tightly entwined that they cannot survive alone. Their fates have been so precariously interlinked that their future is uncertain. And their relationship is so unusual that when John McCutcheon first stumbled upon it in 2008, he had no idea what he had found.

… Many insects harbor beneficial bacteria called endosymbionts, which live permanently inside their cells. Cicadas usually have two—Sulcia and Hodgkinia. Between them, they produce 10 amino acids that are missing from the cicadas’ diet of plant sap. Because those amino acids are essential, so too are the bacteria. Without them, the cicadas can’t survive. The opposite is also true: Inside the cushy confines of their insect hosts, endosymbionts eventually lose the genes they’d need to exist independently. They become forever tethered to their insects, and their insects to them.

  • The Smithsonian posted this to correspond with the popular Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo, which is often celebrated in the US with frozen margaritas:
  • The CIA released a creepy recruitment video, proving yet again that governments easily co-opt any language (whether it’s the peace movement — remember “peace dividends” — or, in this case, feminist) to get what they want:

Required Reading is published every Saturday, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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