cultural history

  • Hollywood Has Abandoned the Citizen-Inventor

    After generations of populist inventors making the things they need, Hollywood has framed our relationship to invention as receiving the gifts bestowed on us by plutocrats. 

  • Museum Celebrates Sweet Smell of... Failure

    The Museum of Failure is a global traveling exhibition that celebrates the signal marketplace flops of capitalism, from the infamous Edsel and New Coke to the obscure, highlighting the vagaries of consumer taste and historical contingency. 

  • The First Campgrounds Took the City to the Wilderness

    by Martin Hogue

    The growing popularity of the Model T put wilderness excursions within reach of ordinary city dwellers, bringing trash, fire, and pollution with them. The solution, mass campgrounds, made camping more accessible at the cost of rendering the experience more orderly, rule-bound, and urban. 

  • Beyond Quiet Quitting: The Real Crisis of Work

    by Erik Baker

    Impressionistic accounts of worker withdrawal and labor militancy both fail to capture a deeper issue: Work is failing to deliver on the promises the state has made as an avenue of meaning and fulfillment. 

  • The History and Politics of the Right to Grieve

    by Erik Baker

    Grief isn't a personal psychological and emotional process; we experience it through the demands a capitalist economy makes on our time, energy and attention. It's time to make bereavement a matter of right, instead of a favor doled out at the whim of your boss. 

  • Is Globalization Changing Mexico's Relationship to Death?

    by Humberto Beck

    Post-revolutionary Mexico embraced cultural commemorations of the dead—Diá de los Muertos—to help conceal the violence of the regime's rise. Now, that "traditional" culture is again being transformed by global cultural appropriation and the escalating violence of global drug trafficking.

  • Can a "Return to Normal" Happen Without Repairing Sociability?

    by Nate Holdren

    The push to return to many pre-pandemic modes of working and living is taking place without sufficient provision for mitigating risk, and with seriously damaged bonds of trust and mutual support; people are again in proximity to each other, but far from being together. 

  • The Case For Calling the Language "American"

    by Ilan Stavans

    The history of pragmatic adaptation that built the American form of English is reflected in its present status as the world's second language. It's not jingoistic, just accurate, to declare the particularity of the American tongue. 

  • The Case for Blondie as the Sound of the 70s

    by Kevin Dettmar

    While the decade's pop scene was undeniably eclectic, there's an argument to be made that the New York group was at the center of the most lasting trends of the 1970s. 

  • Masculinity and Trauma in War and Football

    by Sarah Handley-Cousins

    Sports have been cast as a (relatively) peaceful way of inculcating a set of masculine virtues otherwise associated with war. But the experience of injury and grief will continue to confound the rules of manhood—and football fans and citizens should pay attention. 

  • Cheers... to Drinking Songs

    by R. Eric Tippin

    Drinking songs have been pervasive in human history, but profoundly divided between those framing drink as a divine gift ordered by ritual and those concerned with a party. 

  • Review: How Fitness Joined the Middle-Class Mainstream

    by Katrina Gulliver

    Natalia Mehlman Petrzela's "Fit Nation" reviews the move of exercise from the fringe to the mainstream, while examining the ways fitness culture reflects social divisions in America. 

  • You Can't Unsee the Truth About Cars

    by Andrew Ross and Julie Livingston

    Despite cultural mythology, cars are actually un-freedom machines, and drivers of inequality, particularly for racial minorities. It's a mistake for the Biden administration's infrastructure agenda to further enshrine the car as the dominant means of mobility. 

  • The History of Fashion's Turn to Embracing Fakery

    Fashion historians Valerie Steele and Einav Rabinovitch-Fox explain the historic push and pull between designers and copycats, and how recent trends have blurred the lines between authenticity and fakeness and exclusivity and popular style.