Archive for April, 2009


Ear & Eye Thing: Russian Rap Humpday w Bad B

April 29, 2009

Bad Balance takes us back a couple of decades into the history of Russian hip-hop in the video for Стиль оригинальный.  The late-Soviet photos are interesting, but I think the sepia-toning of the whole video is a little cheap and goofy. I’d rather have seen the weird hues and contrasts of Soviet color photography.

Academic query: Has anyone written a history of Interclubs, or better yet a study of just one Interclub? They are all over the margins of my dissertation, but I know nothing about what they look like between 1933 and their appearance in this video.


Stupid Russian Thing: Gessen Detained

April 26, 2009

Keith Gessen of n+1 and the New Yorker has been detained in Sochi, where he was covering the mayoral election. It is expected that he will be released shortly.

It’s just stupid to arrest literati darlings. Not only will the Russian government get bad press, but Gessen will get more street cred with which to peddle some ironic tale of tragedy. (That noise is droplets of David Remnick’s drool hitting the floor.) Everyone suffers.

All the same, I hope Keith gets through what I imagine is a frightful experience without too much hassle.

Via, via, via.

Late update: He was released after about two hours.  He says that he’s fine.


Migrant Thing: Baimurat, Jimmy the Disco Dancer and “The Best Antifascist Gig For Years”

April 26, 2009

Baimurat was born on a collective farm called Pravda in the southwestern corner of Tajikistan. As a boy, he attended music school and studied Arabic with a neighboring mullah. He also watched all the movies that came to town, as his brother was the local film projectionist. Bollywood shows, with their catchy songs and dance numbers, were especially popular. Through these movies, Baimurat discovered a unique talent. After hearing a song a few times, he could sing it in its entirety, even if he couldn’t understand any of the words. Friends and family were suitably impressed and soon he was being invited to perform at weddings.

But such gigs didn’t pay the bills. So, like many citizens of Tajikistan, the singer hit the road. Read the rest of this entry ?


Feminist Thing: HRC Wallops Mr. Smith

April 26, 2009



Pundit Thing: Obama’s First 100

April 25, 2009

Foreign Policy asked thirty-five pundits to evaluate Obama’s first 100 days in office. Among the various curmudgeonly, sycophantic and ponderous assessments of the style and execution of the President’s foreign policy–some of which do bring up relevant and important issues–this tidbit from Andrew Bacevich stood out:

Yet when it comes to fundamentals, Obama gets at best an “I,” for incomplete. There is little evidence that his administration has even begun to connect the dots between the foreign-policy failures that defined the Bush era and the economic crisis that defines the age of Obama. Bluntly, the American Century has ended. The world no longer sees the United States as alpha and omega, source of salvation and sustenance, vanguard of history, guiding spirit, and inspiration for all humankind. Obama faces the challenge — and the opportunity — of conceptualizing what follows the American Century, a feat that will require not only dialogue and realism, but also historical imagination and creativity. Read the rest of this entry ?


Academic Things: Recent Articles

April 24, 2009

Here are the hits from my latest round of reading academic articles not exactly related to my dissertation. In no particular order and with no pickiness about citation format.

Hazel V. Carby, “Lost (and Found?) in Translation,” Small Axe 28 (March 2009): 27-40.
A brief memoir of growing up West Indian-Welsh in post-war Britain by a leading figure in Africana Studies. I came for the academic back story–I’m always a sucker for these–but stayed for Carby’s interesting reflections on presenting the story of her parents’ interracial marriage to an American audience: “In the United States, audiences seem to expect, if not demand, that I deliver a full-fledged romance with all the trimmings, a tale of a love that triumphed against tremendous odds, starring a couple that resemble a youthful Sidney Poitier and a starry-eyed Veronica Lake.” I know exactly what she’s talking about.

Jeremy Kuzmarov, “Modernizing Repression: Police Training, Political Violence and Nation-Building in the ‘American Century,'” Diplomatic History (April 2009): 191-221.
This is brilliant. Kuzmarov synthesizes a wide range of sources to examine police training programs as an imperial process tied up with anticommunism, modernization and social control across the twentieth century and into the era of the Iraq War. The attention to ties between domestic and foreign practice is especially welcome. More than anything else, this essay reminded me of Bernard Cohn’s Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge with a dose of revisionist diplomatic history (in the vein of W.A. Williams), unflinchingly revealing the ugly realities and deep roots of American empire.

Read the rest of this entry ?


Documentary Things: Round-Up

April 22, 2009


1. Maud Newton calls attention to the World Digital Library, where you can find an eighteenth-century history of Bengal, a nineteenth-century map of Chukotka (above), and an early twentieth-century photograph of Persian Tatars (new banner image). Read the rest of this entry ?