Category Archives: Culture

The therapeutic value of swearing

Stephen Tuffin writes: When I was a kid, swearing was taboo – except for that one time when my dad, a hulking great navvy of a man, took me down the yard where they kept all the equipment road workers used out on the roads, and I witnessed the cutting down of a tree. An… Read More »

Waste is central, not peripheral, to everything we design, make and do

Justin McGuirk writes: The opposition between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ is problematic for many reasons, but there’s one that we rarely discuss. The ‘nature vs culture’ dualism leaves out an entire domain that properly belongs to neither: the world of waste. The mountains of waste that we produce every year, the torrents of polluting effluent, the… Read More »

Primate memory

Tetsuro Matsuzawa writes: The most recent common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans lived between five and seven million years ago. This shared heritage became evident when sequencing revealed a 1.2% DNA difference between species. Chimpanzees have a living sister species, bonobos, that is equally closely related to humans. Both chimpanzees and bonobos are found only… Read More »

Being Persian before nationalism

Mana Kia writes: At the end of the 19th century, under the looming shadow of European colonial encroachment, political and intellectual elites in Iran began to draw on nationalist forms of belonging as a way to unify the various ethnic and religious groups that lived within its territory. The nation was gaining ground at this… Read More »

What misspellings reveal about cultural evolution

Helena Miton writes: Something about me must remind people of a blind 17th-century poet. My last name, Miton, is French, yet people outside of France invariably misspell it as “Milton”—as in the famed English author, John Milton, of the epic poem Paradise Lost. It is not uncommon for people to misspell an unfamiliar name—yet 99… Read More »

It is only Utopia that allows us to dream together

Jeet Heer writes: Utopia and dystopia are twins, born at the same moment from the shared ancestry of social critique. Although remembered as the first modern attempt to systematically imagine an ideal society, Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) began with a stark portrait of a Europe torn apart by war and crushing poverty, with the shocking… Read More »

Once again, America is becoming a nation of drunks

Kate Julian writes: Few things are more American than drinking heavily. But worrying about how heavily other Americans are drinking is one of them. The Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock because, the crew feared, the Pilgrims were going through the beer too quickly. The ship had been headed for the mouth of the Hudson River,… Read More »

The miracle of the commons

Michelle Nijhuis writes: In December 1968, the ecologist and biologist Garrett Hardin had an essay published in the journal Science called ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’. His proposition was simple and unsparing: humans, when left to their own devices, compete with one another for resources until the resources run out. ‘Ruin is the destination toward… Read More »

Hollywood’s anti-Black bias costs it $10 billion a year

Franklin Leonard writes: Days after a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, suffocated George Floyd and the video went viral, I watched my social media feed fill with blackout tiles and corporate publicity statements. They poured in from every industry, proclaiming solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Hollywood — where I have worked for almost… Read More »