On Conferences as Political Spaces

Maria Elena Torres-Quevedo | April 13, 2018
When I began my academic career, as a student on a Masters degree by research, conferences seemed both exciting and daunting. They were exciting because, as an unexperienced researcher, the prospect of being in a space with people who had been doing research for years, exchanging ideas, and being treated seriously as a researcher, was extremely appealing. They were daunting because of the competitive aspect that they represented— an opportunity to share research and thoughts, and an opportunity for those with more knowledge and experience to point out the flaws therein. They would involve inherently awkward situations where you would be forced to make small talk with someone whom, in all likelihood, you shared nothing in common with, else you would stand in the corner of a crowded room, staring at your phone screen. Nevertheless, they were something to be endured because they were a necessity on the curriculum vitae of any aspiring academic, and a space to make contact with people who might be valuable to your professional network.

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The Mary Beard Effect: A Brief Review of ‘Women & Power’

Mary A. Pura | April 12, 2018
If you’ve been wandering through Blackwell’s and Waterstone’s lately, you’ve probably noticed the beautifully arranged and aesthetically pleasing displays featuring popular female authors. Partly inspired by a surge in public attention to the #MeToo Movement, there has been an outpouring of new and old literature addressing women’s equality. Amidst the heaping piles, you’ve likely caught sight of the shining silver and gold design adorning Mary Beard’s new publication, Women & Power: A Manifesto. Over the past twenty years, Beard has become a kind of celebrity academic. You may recall an incident back in 2012 consisting of public outrage towards the late AA Gill regarding his statement that Beard was “too ugly for television.” Her response placed her among the feminist gods:

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Rethinking Celtic Medieval Tales: The Worlds of Sarah J. Maas

Sonia Garcia de Alba | April 11, 2018
I have met many adults who confess to reading Young Adult novels for fun. While we may be willing to admit that we use them to disengage from our routines or to while away time, we should question whether such entertainment is the sum of these texts. Some of these books, like the novels of Sarah J. Maas, prompt us to explore and learn about other things, like the fairy tale tradition and Celtic folklore.

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Capitalist Palliatives: Antidepressants, and How Not to Talk About Them

Vivek Santayana | March 30, 2018
A few weeks ago, the philosopher and literary critic Timothy Morton took a dig at his late colleague Mark Fisher, who committed suicide last year after a lifelong struggle with depression. Morton claimed the one big difference between himself and Fisher was that he took antidepressants, and so is still alive to write his new book. He was commenting on Fisher’s critique of neoliberal ideologies that shape discourses around mental health and pharmacological treatment. Morton’s tweet read like an insensitive gloat at his outliving his colleague whose opinion he disagrees with. At best, it was an ad hominem attack dismissing Fisher through a crude, mischaracterised version of his argument.

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Stories Worth Telling: Black Panther and the Rise of Diversity in Popular Culture

Patricia Ng | March 28, 2018
No matter what you say about the Marvel cinematic franchise, they are making some bold moves. Rather than simply making films about popular superheroes, they have now moved on to lesser-known characters, especially those belonging to minority groups. The newly released Black Panther is certainly one of their best examples. Featuring T’Challa (Black Panther), the king of the fictional African nation Wakanda, as the lead, the film can be seen as yet another attempt to diversify the entertainment industry. In recent years, Hollywood has been producing more and more movies with female leads and a culturally diverse cast, like the upcoming female spin-off of Ocean’s Eleven and the multi-ethnic cast in the new Star Wars reboot films. There is nothing wrong with creating films that don’t have white male leads, and we should welcome narratives that promote diversity. Yet, with the rise of such a trend in popular culture, one has to question what it means for a diverse narrative to be good.

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Fantastic Catharsis and Where to Find It

Laurie Beckoff | March 27, 2018
Fantasy, science fiction, and other speculative genres are often pejoratively labelled ‘escapist’, accused of being too distant from real-world issues and allowing audiences to dissociate from reality to indulge in daydreams. They let us forget about the problems plaguing our society so that we can enjoy an action-packed adventure or a whimsical jaunt through a magical land.

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Fever Ray’s Monster

Madison Pollack | March 13, 2018
There is a latent threat behind each frame of Fever Ray’s video for “To The Moon And Back:” the setting is a large abandoned building whose sparsely placed neon tubes compensate for a lack of overhead lighting. We find our protagonist encased in glass, and she is a fright to behold; her face looks to have been recently carved into, with red encircling her mouth and eyes; her skin is an inhuman shade of white, and she jolts to life surrounded by smoke in a series of twitchy, cross-eyed frames. She is Fever Ray’s Monster in the tradition of Dr. Frankenstein and his unnatural creation. Both come to life alone, abandoned by their creators, hideous in their appearance. Both wander into the dark, lacking any preparation for the world they’ve been born into, not knowing what to expect.

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#LoveisLove: Exploring Polyamory in a Monogamous Setting

Julian Menjivar | February 26, 2018
Once upon a time, there was an age of innocence, when beautiful fantasies of love and adoration blossomed. And love was everywhere–from displays of affection by our primary caregivers and friends to the billboard signs announcing the romantic comedy/drama of the year. Love was in the air, and all around us. As we grew older, the meaning of love got complicated. Then, in a beautiful chaotic motion, so too did our understanding of the concept.

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Smelling the Colour Nine

June L. Laurenson | February 24, 2018
There is a phrase in the English language that is often used to express confusion and bafflement: ‘Understanding you is like smelling the colour nine’. You can’t smell a colour, let alone a number; and nine isn’t a colour. For most people, this chaotic multisensory phrase effectively conveys a deep incomprehension about a thing or a person. But to me the number nine does have a colour (although not a smell), and I am not alone in experiencing this; I am in very good company.

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