The Erasure of Islam from the Poetry of Rumi Rozina Ali revisits the cultural legacy of Rumi in the West: 'The erasure of Islam from Rumi’s poetry started long before Coldplay got involved. Omid Safi, a professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at Duke University, says that it was in the Victorian period that readers in the West began to uncouple mystical poetry from its Islamic roots. Translators and theologians of the time could not reconcile their ideas about a “desert religion,” with its unusual moral and legal codes, and the work of poets like Rumi and Hafez. The explanation they settled on, Safi told me, was “that these people are mystical not because of Islam but in spite of it.” This was a time when Muslims were singled out for legal discrimination—a law from 1790 curtailed the number of Muslims who could come into the United States, and a century later the U.S. Supreme Court described the “intense hostility of the people of Moslem faith to all other sects, and particularly to Christians.” In 1898, in the introduction to his translation of the “Masnavi,” Sir James Redhouse wrote, “The Masnavi addresses those who leave the world, try to know and be with God, efface their selves and devote themselves to spiritual contemplation.” For those in the West, Rumi and Islam were separated.' [Rumi previously]
"One of the most enigmatic objects on display in the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is "Ashley's Sack." On loan from South Carolina's Middleton Place, this unbleached cotton sack features an embroidered text recounting the slave sale of a nine-year-old girl named Ashley and the gift of the sack by her mother. Until now, Ashley's identity has been unknown. New research by Mark Auslander traces Ashley's Sack from the initial gift during the era of slavery to the present."
The Strange Roots Of Globalization (And Its Discontents) - "Today's global economy has its roots in the frivolity of spice."
Making the Geologic Now is an online book in the form of a Zuihitsu, in which short chapters that are part science, part interview, part engineering, part art, part culture, and part whimsy mingle with each other to reflect upon the Anthropocene. It can be browsed on the web, downloaded for a price you choose (including free), or bought as a hardcopy.
I hardly ever heard about the Nagô, the Afro-Brazilians, and the Lukumí, the Afro-Cubans, who returned back to West Africa. The idea that the Yorùbá people share one identity is strongly related to the transatlantic experience of the slave trade and the returnees’ influence in the homeland. This story contributes a lot to the classical discussions of what is ‘Original-Yorùbá’ and what a diaspora invention - as not even the word ‘Yorùbá’ is of ‘Yorùbá’ origin itself. I summed up the basic facts.
Peruvian shamanic whistling vessels. Being made out of clay archaeologists first thought these beautiful, ceramic sculptures were water bottles or toys until an amateur anthropologist explored their ritual use. One can just blow into the vessel but when water is added in one of the chambers and the vessel is rocked back and forth the shifting air creates an interesting sound pattern. [more inside]
From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
How did Southeast Asian identities originate? The legacy of the 19th century continues to shape us more than we think 'We also wanted to show how many of the things that we may accept and take as ‘normal’ and ever-present in our part of the world were, in fact, fairly recent innovations introduced to Southeast Asia during the colonial era'. Political scientist and historian Dr Farish Noor hosts a three-part series examining the legacy Western colonialism has left upon a region now known as Southeast Asia. The first episode, 'Conquerors & Merchants', is now available for viewing online. [more inside]
In the Great Lakes region there are people with roots in Finland and among indigenous North American peoples. It’s impossible to know how exactly many of these so-called ‘Findians’ exist, but their numbers are estimated in the hundreds. Author Katja Kettu, journalist Maria Seppälä and photographer Meeri Koutaniemi documented their lives over the course of three years. Their experiences form the basis for their book, ‘Findian country’.
Porta Polonica is a site (courtesy of the Westphalian State Museum of Industrial Heritage) devoted to the culture and history of Poles in Germany. Some examples of the dozens of articles therein: an account of the novelist Witold Gombrowicz’s year in Berlin; a biography of the pioneering harpsichordist, pianist and composer Wanda Landowska; a piece about Jan Łukasiewicz, who devised what was once known as ‘Reverse Polish Notation’; a brief account of Rosa Luxemburg’s career; an article about star of stage & (silent) screen Pola Negri; and a piece about the letter ‘P’ worn by the millions of Polish forced labourers in wartime Germany.
"T’Challa emerged as the fictional representation of those countless dreams denied; the unbroken manhood that Ossie Davis famously invoked after the assassination of Malcolm X. Wakanda symbolized the dreams of black utopias like Ethiopia and South Africa that had grown as the Black Freedom Struggle grew over the twentieth century. In this moment when superheroes become a way to explore contemporary anxieties about activism and authority, the Black Panther provides an opportunity for global audiences to study the traditions of black nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and the variety of African indigenous cultures. Dr. Walter Greason (Monmouth University) took a few minutes to suggest a collaborative exploration of these influences" in the Wakanda Syllabus.
In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." [more inside]
The State of Soul Food in America: Exploring the Past, Present, and Future by Adrian Miller [First We Feast] What does soul food mean in 2016? A roundtable of experts discusses the emerging movements and obstacles the cuisine faces. [more inside]
Almost a quarter of the votes in the last US presidential election were cast by women without spouses, up three points from just four years earlier. They are almost 40% of the African-American population, close to 30% of the Latino population, and about a third of all young voters. The most powerful voter this year is The Single American Woman.
The high-street staple is under threat. Can a new generation of entrepreneurs save the nation’s tandoori?
Children have been sending letters to Santa for well over a century now, and for much of that time those letters don't look very different from today's. Children want toys, and they want to convince Santa that they ought to get them. But where did that tradition come from, and how did it develop into its modern form? How did we come to believe that Santa lives at the North Pole and that the postal service can carry letters to Santa? What kinds of things have changed in the things children ask for over time? The Smithsonian's trying to deliver some answers for the holidays. (Previously: 1, 2).
Judaism's core texts grew out of millennia-long conversations and arguments across generations, with interconnected dialogues, source citing and (re)interpretation. Now, it's all going digital: Sefaria is creating a massive public domain, interactive "living library of Jewish texts and their interconnections, in Hebrew and translations." Their goal is to build a reference resource and community that "gives a better learning experience than anything that comes before it," from ancient to modern texts and "all the volumes of commentary in between." Read texts, browse submitted public source sheets on dozens of topics or visualize associations between texts.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari - "The book delivers on its madly ambitious subtitle by in fact managing to cover key moments in the developmental history of humankind from the emergence of Homo Sapiens to today's developments in genetic engineering." Also btw, check out Harari on the myths we need to survive, re: fact/value distinctions and their interrelationships.
Empire tells of the legacy of the Dutch East India Company, and its cultural legacy, through online experience blending image, text, video, and audio.
"It isn’t easy to discover new podcasts. There are just SO many out there. Sometimes the best approach is to simply turn to a friend and say, 'Hey, what are you listening to these days?'" So, NPR has created earbud.fm, a "friendly guide to great podcasts."
As the main supplier of fashion prints to nearly half a continent, the textile company has continued to dominate that fashion scene there for almost 170 years. How’d that happen? Rooted in European colonialism and a testament to African ingenuity, creativity, and cultural pride; it’s a surprising story…
Ivan Aivazovsky (1817–1900) - "In 1840, Aivazovsky traveled to Rome, where he became friendly with Nikolai Gogol. He also received high praise from the Roman critics, newspapers, and even Pope Gregory XVI. The pope purchased Aivazovsky's 'Chaos' and hung it in the Vatican... [more inside]
It was not until 1971, 65 years after Finland became the first European country to grant women the vote, that Switzerland became the last, not only in Europe but in much of the world.
Notes Towards a Theory of Hair: Novelist Siri Hustvedt Reflects on the Cultural Meaning of Coiffure [New Republic]
“Even this simple act of plaiting my child’s hair gives rise to questions about meaning. Why do more girl children wear their hair long in our culture than boy children? Why is hairstyle a sign of sexual difference? I have to admit that unless a boy child of mine had begged me for braids, I probably would have followed convention and kept his hair short, even though I think such rules are arbitrary and constricting. And finally, why would I have been mortified to send Sophie off to school with her tresses in high-flying, ratted knots?”
Walt Disney - "An unprecedented look at the life and legacy of one of America's most enduring and influential storytellers -- Walt Disney."
The modern market allows us to personalize that style. Casual is the sweet spot between looking like every middle class American and being an individual in the massive wash of options. This idea of the freedom to dress in a way that is meaningful to us as people, and to express various types of identity.
First We Feast: An Illustrated History of Hamburgers in America. "The rise, fall, and resurgence of America's greatest cultural export." [more inside]
You Must Remember This: Charles Manson's Hollywood - Karina Longworth's podcast on the hidden history of Hollywood (previously, previously) takes an an in depth look at the darker side of the 60s. [more inside]
Something about this country – the divisions, the class system, the general sense of distrust and dissatisfaction – seems to breed youth subcultures like no other place on Earth. The strange, stylish clans that this island incubates have been exported across the world, influencing everything from high street fashion to high art. From teddy boys to 2 Tone rudeboys, soulboys to Slipknot fans, grunge bands to grime crews, mods to mod revivalists, the history of these groups shows us a version of modern Britain that goes way beyond Diana and Blair.[more inside]
The Asians Art Museum is a parody site bringing a cirtical lens to orientalist tropes in art museums, prompted particularly by rhetorical choices of the San Francisco Art Museum's 2009 Lords of the Samurai exhibition [audio]. It highlights the tendency for museums showing Asian art to present their shows as a"a harmless trip to a fantasyland of romanticized premodern Otherness, a place where dreams of Manifest Destiny never have to die?" [more inside]
Yet to tell the diffusion of Indian influence at this period as two separate processes partially obscures a still more extraordinary story. For it is now increasingly clear that between the fourth and twelfth centuries the influence of India in both Southeast and Central Asia, and to some degree also China, was comparable to the influence of Greece in Aegean Turkey and Rome, and then in the rest of Europe in the early centuries BC. From the empire of the Gupta dynasty in the north and that of the Pallava dynasty in the south, India during this period radiated its philosophies, political ideas, and architectural forms out over an entire continent not by conquest but by sheer cultural sophistication.
As an archivist, my ethical duty is to maintain those objects of intrinsic value to future generations. I’ve often found that others assume my profession is focused on facts and figures, the hard data from which a census or otherwise lifeless historical record can be drawn. Such data will inform one on how a people survived. As important as this data is, it cannot tell you how a people dreamed. [more inside]
Unsung Heroines provides bite-sized biographies of Black women who changed the world, and is a great way to learn history you were deliberately not taught in school. Women profiled include Fannie Lou Hamer, the civil rights hero who first said "I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired;" Mary Church Terrell, an early advocate for civil rights and the suffrage movement; Melba Roy Mouton, a NASA mathmatician; as well as: [more inside]
Irish-American Dining. A history of and guide to food that is expressly Irish-American, by Mefi's own Max Sparber. Irish Egg Rolls! Early onion-based pub food! The hidden history of the Shamrock Shake! [via mefi projects]
HistoricPlacesLA is the first online information and management system specifically created to inventory, map, and help protect the City of Los Angeles' significant historic resources. It showcases the city's diversity of historic resources, including architecturally significant buildings and places of social importance as well as historic districts, bridges, parks, and streetscapes. You can search for specifics or try some popular seaches, and the map view let's you combine different overlays and base maps.
Every year in Uto, a remote town at the Southern tip of Japan, a festival is held to celebrate a woman known locally as the Mother of the Sea. Dr Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker died without knowing her research would save the Japanese seaweed industry and lead to a world multi-billion dollar obsession with sushi. The story of nori in Japan.
Halloween and Thanksgiving are two of the slipperiest holidays in the American tradition. Costumed masquerading and trick-or-treating used to happen on Thanksgiving, while Halloween was mostly devoted to vandalism. As Americans did they best to stamp out the vandalism, they also cleaned up the unruly traditions of Turkey Day, banishing the Thanksgiving Ragamuffins to October. [more inside]
A decade after Halo 2 (and a day before the MCC), enjoy this loose timeline of essential Halo fandom: Halo.Bungie.Org / Halo at Macworld '99 / Red vs. Blue / The Halo Trilogy in 5 minutes / The Cortana Letters / HBO's cutscene library and dialog databank / Main Menus / Kitty Cat / Warthog Jump (and BOLL's Warthog Launch game) / How Not To Be Seen / Fan Art / Panoramas / The Music of Marty O'Donnell (prev.) / Video Games Live: Halo / Analysis by Stephen Loftus / Who was Brian Morden? / I Love Bees and the ARG radio drama / Halo 2 Trailer / Halo 2 E3 '04 Demo / Full Halo 2 making-of documentary / Voice acting / Conversations from the Universe / The Beastiarum / Surround Sound Test! / Geography of New Mombasa / This Spartan Life / The Solid Gold Elite Dancers / Creepy Guy at Work / Gameplay May Change / Master Chief Sucks at Halo / Another Day at the Beach / '06 Bungie Studios Tour / Halo 3 Trailer / Starry Night / Believe / HALOID / No Scope Was Involved / 100 Ways to Die / "Bungie Favorites" gallery / Mister Chief / OONSK / OneOneSe7en / 2553 Civilian 'Hog Review / Griffball / ForgeHub / 405th Cosplay / Neill Blomkamp's Landfall / Weta's Real-life Warthog / Halo Legends anime anthology / List of Halo novels / Halopedia / Halo 3 Terminal Archive / DDR Dance / Animatronic Elite project / HBO's "Guilt-O-Lantern" contest / Keep It Clean / We Are ODST / Sadie's Story / Halocraft / "A Fistful of Arrows" fan comic / RvB Animated (and CGI) / Project Contingency / Halo Zero / Halo 2600 (prev.) / Reach Datapad Transcripts / The last Halo 2 player on Xbox LIVE / Bungie's Final Halo Stats Infographic / Key & Peele: Obama on Halo 4 / Top 10 Halo Easter Eggs / Behind the scenes of Halo 2 Anniversary
Abdel Kader Haidara awarded Germany's 2014 Africa Prize for rescuing Timbuktu manuscripts. Under his direction centuries' worth of texts were smuggled out when the city was taken by book-burning religious conservatives in 2012. The collection is currently in Mali's capital Bamako where it is being preserved and digitized. More text, slideshow, video, previously previously previously [more inside]
"In reconsidering the metrosexual, we must first distinguish between the metrosexual’s imagined and actual properties. Like hipsterism, metrosexuality is an insult more readily slung than substantiated. According to canon, David Beckham is the ur-metro. Although Beckham initially goes unmentioned in the word’s first printing (in 1994), the word’s progenitor, Mark Simpson, introduced American readers to metrosexuality through the British football star in 2002, when he called Beckham a "screaming, shrieking, flaming, freaking metrosexual…famous for wearing sarongs and pink nail polish and panties…and posing naked and oiled up on the cover of Esquire." " - Johannah King-Slutzky for The Awl on the 'Metrosexual' situation a decade later
Up, up and g'day: Superdoreen is Miss Galaxy 1982 A fascinating peek into Australian history and culture through a tiny sliver of artwork. [more inside]
Politically Incorrect was an American late-night, half-hour political talk show hosted by Bill Maher that ran from 1993 to 2002, first on Comedy Central and then on ABC. Four guests (usually including at least one comedian) would debate topics across the political spectrum in what Maher once described as “The McLaughlin Group on acid.” Of the 1300+ episodes produced, 190 can be viewed on YouTube. [more inside]
The Root's ?uestlove on the invisibilizing of Black culture... "...you can point to this as proof of hip-hop’s success. The concept travels. But where has it traveled? The danger is that it has drifted into oblivion. The music originally evolved to paint portraits of real people and handle real problems at close range — social contract, anyone? — but these days, hip-hop mainly rearranges symbolic freight on the black starliner. Containers on the container ship are taken from here to there — and never mind the fact that they may be empty containers. Keep on pushin’ and all that, but what are you pushing against?" [more inside]
Bonfire of the Humanities. "Nobody goes to Timbuktu, right? Patrick Symmes did, to discover what happened when jihadi rebels set out to burn one of the world’s finest collections of ancient manuscripts. Bouncing around by truck, boat, and boots, he got an intimate look at West Africa’s most mythic locale." [Via] [more inside]
Deviates, Inc is a tumblr devoted to exploring the visual culture of LGBT history ranging from Gilded Age drag queens, classic Hollywood lesbians, to militant gay activism.
His recipe calls for a bustard stuffed with a turkey stuffed with a goose stuffed with a pheasant stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a duck stuffed with a guinea fowl stuffed with a teal stuffed with a woodcock stuffed with a partridge stuffed with a plover stuffed with a lapwing stuffed with a quail stuffed with a thrush stuffed with a lark stuffed with an ortolan bunting stuffed with a garden warbler stuffed with an olive stuffed with an anchovy stuffed with a single caper - The Roti Sans Pareil or Roast Without Equal.
Each week, the Internet Archive's tumblr account is completely transformed by a digital resident along a theme of their choosing. [more inside]