In this episode of Past Present, Natalia, Niki, and Neil debate the historical origins of Antifa, cultural appropriation, and the role of contract labor in an unequal society.
We discussed Antifa, which has been popularized by historian Mark Bray’s Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook. Natalia commented on the romanticized assumption of Antifa opponents that there ever was a “perfect” nonviolent protest culture, as explained in this New York Times opinion piece. Niki referred to the long tradition of anti-fascist activism in the United States, which she outlined at U.S. News and World Report. On the global history of anti-fascism, Natalia recommended historian Federico Finchelstein’s new book.
Cultural appropriation has been making headlines recently, and one especially strident one – “Three Cheers for Cultural Appropriation!” – in the New York Times sparked our conversation. Niki pointed out that the Times has been remarkably sympathetic to those accused of cultural appropriation, recently publishing another piece by Kenan Malik that made a similar argument. Natalia pointed out the difference between syncretism and outright cultural theft, as in the case of the Kardashian-Jenners stealing the designs of black fashion designers, as Teen Vogue reported.
Income inequality is rising in this country, and we considered a New York Times article that compared the professional and economic mobility of a janitor working at a major corporation in the 1980s and today. Natalia cited Margaret O’Mara’s Pacific Standard article that argued that the technology industry has elevated those with access to capital, intensifying inequality.
What’s Making History
- Neil commented on the surprising hike in football participation in Alabama even as national rates have fallen.
- Natalia discussed historian Emily Contois’ appearance on the FoodPsych podcast, in which she explored the history of dieting.
- Niki talked about the discovery of – and resistance to accept – the fact that at least one woman apparently served as a Viking warrior.