Fri. May 31st, 2024

‣ Edward Thomas offers an analysis of the Civil War in Sudan for the Middle East Research and Information Project, tracing the region’s sociopolitical and cultural climates back to the Colonial Era. He refuses a simplified answer to the country’s ongoing violence:

The Masalit describe the events of 2023 as a second genocide. Observers of Sudan often interpret this violence—intended to destroy national, ethnic, racial or religious groups—through culturalist explanations. But behind the racialized violence in Darfur is a decades-long history of climate migration, austerity politics and export-led growth that has significantly altered the region’s relationship to land and livestock and people’s relations to one another.

Smithsonian Magazine reports on an endlessly fascinating topic uniting admirers of visual culture, science, and cute animals alike: Why are adorable things so squishable? Brigit Katz explains:

When these two powerful systems are triggered—emotion and reward—the brain tempers the onslaught of positive feelings by tossing in a dash of aggression. And researchers believe that aggressive response may have a positive function in evolution.

“If you find yourself incapacitated by how cute a baby is—so much so that you simply can’t take care of it—that baby is going to starve,” Stavropoulos said.

‣ Following the death of music criticism publication Pitchfork earlier this year, Eli Zeger delves into the field’s uncertain future for the Boston Review:

It is equally unsustainable to write about music as it is to write and perform music for a living. For an artist or critic to secure a smidge of income, they face top-down pressure to be formulaic at the expense of originality, experimentation, and slow craft. Musicians optimize themselves for streaming platforms, basing their creative choices on what will boost monthly listeners and land their tracks on mood-based playlists. These metrics now factor into whether an artist deserves to get a record deal or booked to play live (the shows, of course, being at venues that take a majority cut from the evening’s revenue). Meanwhile, as Spotify has monopolized music discovery, Pitchfork, along with SpinConsequence of Sound, and other corporate-owned music sites, continues to pump out content in a futile race against the algorithms, resulting in half-baked, largely short-form reviews that parrot press releases. Writers are afforded precious little time, money, and space—conditions ill-suited to doing better than a slapdash job.

‣ A group of Yale students are on a hunger strike against the school’s investments in Israeli weapons manufacturing. For the Middle East Eye, Umar A. Farooq reports: War on Gaza: Yale students launch hunger strike to demand divestment from Israel’s war

Yale University’s Graduate Students for Palestine (GSP), which helped organise the letter and the hunger strike, said this protest is the result of the administration ignoring their protests and demands for months.

“This is the last thing folks are able to give, their bodies,” a member of GSP, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told MEE.

“In the total nonresponse of any kind from the institution we are speaking to, the final thing we can put on the line really is our health and well-being.”

‣ A court decision effectively bars mass actions in Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi by holding protest organizers liable for any illegal conduct that occurs during an event. Mckesson v. Doe was brought against a Black Lives Matter organizer by a police officer injured at a rally. On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it would not hear the case, which means its decision is still the law of the land, at least for now. Ian Millhiser has the story for Vox:

For the past several years, the Fifth Circuit has engaged in a crusade against DeRay Mckesson, a prominent figure within the Black Lives Matter movement who organized a protest near a Baton Rouge police station in 2016. 

The facts of the Mckesson case are, unfortunately, quite tragic. Mckesson helped organize the Baton Rouge protest following the fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling. During that protest, an unknown individual threw a rock or similar object at a police officer, the plaintiff in the Mckesson case who is identified only as “Officer John Doe.” Sadly, the officer was struck in the face and, according to one court, suffered “injuries to his teeth, jaw, brain, and head.”

Everyone agrees that this rock was not thrown by Mckesson, however. And the Supreme Court held in NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware (1982) that protest leaders cannot be held liable for the violent actions of a protest participant, absent unusual circumstances that are not present in the Mckesson case — such as if Mckesson had “authorized, directed, or ratified” the decision to throw the rock.

‣ Google fired 28 employees for protesting against the company’s $1.2 billion deal with Israel. Afterward, the tech giant emailed an ominous memo to its employees, Ana Altcheck writes for Business Insider:

“We are a place of business and every Googler is expected to read our policies and apply them to how they conduct themselves and communicate in our workplace. The overwhelming majority of our employees do the right thing. If you’re one of the few who are tempted to think we’re going to overlook conduct that violates our policies, think again. The company takes this extremely seriously, and we will continue to apply our longstanding policies to take action against disruptive behavior – up to and including termination. 

You should expect to hear more from leaders about standards of behavior and discourse in the workplace.”

‣ Smartphones can be exhausting, and there’s a new wave of people returning to the analog flip phone in a move to bring back “dumbphones.” Kyle Chayka opines for the New Yorker:

The growing dumbphone fervor may be motivated, in part, by the discourse around child safety online. Parents are increasingly confronted with evidence that sites like Instagram and TikTok intentionally try to hook their children. Using those sites can increase teens’ anxiety and lower their self-esteem, according to some studies, and smartphones make it so that kids are logged on constantly. Why should this situation be any healthier for adults? After almost two decades with iPhones, the public seems to be experiencing a collective ennui with digital life. So many hours of each day are lived through our portable, glowing screens, but the Internet isn’t even fun anymore. We lack the self-control to wean ourselves off, so we crave devices that actively prevent us from getting sucked into them. That means opting out of the prevailing technology and into what Cal Newport, a contributing writer for The New Yorker, has called a more considered “digital minimalism.”

‣ The legacy of Sean Combs (aka Diddy) is now marred with violence and allegations of sexual assault. How did the music industry darling get so far with such bad behavior? Vulture‘s Craig Jenkins delves into the musician’s history and the industry’s acceptance of flagrant acts of wrong:

It’s tough to telegraph the future of the many-named mogul, to know what the FBI is looking for, to figure out what to make of the handcuffing of his sons and the sexual assault allegation that Christian “King” Combs is now fighting, and to predict what listeners would do with the vast catalogue of music Diddy touched if he ends up in prison. We can ditch our attachment to the all-knowing, unflappable business impresario as a concept, while its stock continues to plummet, or we can party and bullshit our way through this time pretending we rooted out a batch of bad apples, only to come together in another five years surprised when it happens again. Joking about the lasciviousness of Diddy’s parties now that it is socially acceptable to take such umbrage doesn’t change the reality that it wasn’t so long ago that many would walk through fire for an invitation. The urge to throw someone under the bus without dismantling the infrastructure upholding abuses of power is the allure.

‣ Hyperallergic contributor Sarah E. Bond created an ingenious flowchart for naming academic papers:

‣ Historian Margarita Lila Rosa continues her lovely series on the Arabic roots of Spanish words, this time with legend Celia Cruz’s favoriteazúcar!):

‣ A TikToker talks about Mexico-born panda Xin Xin, the last of her kind in Latin America. It turns out China loans out its black and white bears and literally renews — or terminates — their leases:

Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, 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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