For the last few weeks I have examined how African American intellectuals tackled the long, hot summers of the mid-1960s. Today I’ll fast-forward in time to 1992. The Los Angeles Riots of that year were some of the worst in U.S. history since the 60s. There had been other riots between the late 1960s and 1992—my hometown of Augusta, Georgia had a particularly nasty riot in 1970, Miami in 1980, and Crown Heights in New York City in 1991. But the Los Angeles Riots of 1992 have stayed in public memory for a long time. The timing of the riots—and the response to the riots—need to be thought of in a post-civil rights era context.
Blame Andy Seal. He made a brief observation that American civil religion might exist in films such as Nicholas Cage’s National Treasure by folding together U.S. history and the exodus story. My obsession regarding civil religion got the best of me as I thought about suffering through a viewing of that film. But, lo! instead I stumbled upon a more substantial “treasure”–Kirk Cameron’s Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure (2011). While ostensibly a documentary, Monumental provides a remarkable fictional account of America’s origins [you know, the single origin story that we all believe in], while delivering an equally remarkable glimpse into a certain American evangelical mind that demands a conflation of the exodus story with the origins of the United States. (more…)
Inspired by a post over at the Religion in American History blog highlighting a number of forthcoming titles in that field, I thought I would offer readers here a quick run-down of some US intellectual history-related books that are on our radar, and ask readers if they will add some more in the comments. It looks like a very promising crop of new titles, and I’m sure we’ll be discussing many of them here in the coming months. Follow me over the jump for a list: (more…)
[Editor’s note: This guest post comes to you courtesy of S-USIH member Bryn Upton. Bryn is an associate professor of history at McDaniel College. He recently completed a book titled Hollywood and the End of the Cold War: Signs of Cinematic Change (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014). – TL]
It appears that Throwback Thursday has taken on new meaning today as everywhere I look there are stories about our Cold War era foes Cuba and North Korea. At one time these two nations represented the front lines in the global struggle between Western Democracy and Soviet sponsored Communism, but now the last vestiges of the Cold War are being swept away.
So much of the Cuba story from the 1960s was about proximity. (more…)
Last week I talked about the value of exploring and explaining historical developments where ideas are not quite as powerful as is commonly assumed. Lest this make anyone nervous – this is the intellectual history blog after all, right? – this week I’ll balance it out a bit by looking at an arena where, it appears, ideas are not only very important, but their importance is also chronically underappreciated. For if we take the subject of intellectual history to be that which deals with the “ideational stuff,” then the history of mental illness, it turns out, is so rich a place to look at that I’m going to have struggle to keep this post down to a readable length.
It has previously been discussed on this blog whether or not the particular ways in which we “go mad” ought to be a subject matter for intellectual historians, to which I reply of course. In particular, an article by Ethan Watters in the Times, written almost four years ago, greatly shaped my thinking on this matter. I read this article when it was published, and it has become, for me, one of those narrative milestones where it is impossible for me to contemplate a particular subject without referring back to my own memory of the moment I finally “got it” in a new and thrilling way. That article was called “The Americanization of Mental Illness.”
Briefly put, the argument of the article is that while mental illness is indeed a physical occurrence related to what is happening in the brain, the way we interpret its effects is so heavily influenced by cultural and social norms that it has drastic consequences not only for how we explain the symptoms, but the way individuals actually experience them. This means, in effect, that ideas can actually shape what forms the illness itself takes, and also greatly impacts the manner in which patients recover and the chances they have of doing so.
Long-time USIH blog readers know Mike O’Connor. Mike was one of the original members of the blog team. His first post (a CFP relay) came in February 2007, shortly after our 1/25/07 founding. It was followed by several others, including our first book review. Mike chaired the Fourth Annual S-USIH Conference in 2011, and is one of the cofounders of the Society. He no longer blogs here but, after finishing his book (which will receive a roundtable here at some point), he’s recently taken up short-form writing again at his own site, eight hundred words. I asked Mike to tell us about his new creation and how it relates to his old, and continued, interest in USIH work. Here’s his response: (more…)