Required Reading

This week, unzipped architecture in Milano, photographer Lana H. Haroun speaks, white supremacy and Viking history, the Classics and Biblical Studies divide, and more.

British artist Alex Chinneck has unveiled an installation during Milan design week. The installation, created for the Iqos vaping and heated tobacco brand, added a giant zip that seems to open the front of the building’s right side to reveal a glowing light behind that fades between blue and bright white. See more images at Dezeen (via Dezeen)

Q: Don’t think what?

A: Don’t think all these things you are saying about Charlottesville. What does he have, a ninety-three-per-cent approval rating, or, let’s say, a hundred per cent, from his base? Let’s say it is, over all, way up, from thirty-eight per cent to fifty per cent, or even higher. And let’s say Latinos are now fifty-per-cent approval for Trump.

Q: That’s not true, but O.K.

A: Well, whatever.

As many classical studies departments continue to shrink and are increasingly threatened by faculty attrition, limited funding, and low undergraduate student enrollment, we must again think about how we define the field of Classics and whether these disciplinary walls are doing more harm than good. We must also consider whether efforts to diversify the field are stymied by our pretensions and by 19th century definitions for what Classics is or is not. Some departments, like my own at the University of Iowa, have welcomed split appointments between religious studies and classics that have successfully intermixed religious studies with the classical canon. Yet far too many reject the inclusion of Judaism, Islam, and early Christianity (its texts and its scholars) as part of the core classics curriculum for undergraduate and graduate students.

  • Discussing this week’s disgusting New York Post‘s cover that attacked Rep. Ilhan Omar, Elizabeth Spiers writes:

Barring serious listening comprehension problems, no one who watches the full video of Omar speaking could possibly take away from it that she was making any sort of comment on the relative importance or horror of 9/11. If anything, the allusion was a respectful avoidance of sensationalism. And it goes without saying that Republicans refer to 9/11 in passing all the time without rending their clothes, publicly grieving in demonstrative ways, and going out of their way to emphasize that the terrorists were evil. They are allowed to use oblique descriptions like “when the towers fell” or “the events of 9/11.” We all know what they’re talking about, and no one thinks they’re reducing the terrorist attacks to a meaningless abstraction.

But that is precisely what the Post and many right-leaning commentators and outlets suggested, and it wasn’t a simple misunderstanding, either. The editors at the Post have access to the full speech, which is public, on YouTube, and if only for fact-checking reasons, it’s nearly impossible that someone there didn’t watch the whole thing. They have the full context, and they willfully removed and distorted a single phrase to paint Representative Omar as callous, disrespectful, and most importantly for their purposes, as giving the terrorists a pass as some sort of act of Muslim solidarity. It is utterly implausible that they did not understand what she was saying; they simply didn’t care.

So where does the white supremacist vision of Viking genealogy come from?

Despite the fact that real Viking history was multicultural, academic medieval studies have historically been to blame for the upholding of that imaginary past.

In the 19th century, Romantic German nationalism metastasized into the Völkish movement, which was interested in historical narratives that bolstered a white German nation state. The movement rewrote history, drawing on folklore such as that of Brothers Grimm, medieval epics and a dedication to racial white supremacy. Late 19th and early 20th-century scholars simultaneously drew from and reinforced this racialized imagination of the medieval past. Crucially, Vilhelm Grønbach’s multi-volume work Vor Folkeæt I Oldtiden (The Cultures of the Teutons) imagined an ancient Germanic genealogy that ran from Tacitus through the Middle Ages.

Ivanka believes that this won’t harm her in the long term. She is intent on returning to New York when her time in the White House is over. Invitations to the Met Gala, dinners with girlfriends at Italian restaurants, charity events—she is said to be certain that they’re “all waiting” for her. And she could very well be right. Trump will not be president forever. Afterward, it will be easier for people to see the Ivanka that Ivanka wants to be seen. “Look, this crowd is not off reading Rosa Luxemburg at two in the morning,” says Rich Farley, a New York lawyer and the author of Wall Street Wars. “They invited Roy Cohn back with open arms.” Farley is sure: “The only unpardonable sin in New York society is poverty.”

  • LOL (for the art history nerds):

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

comments (0)