In this week’s episode of Past Present, Neil, Natalia, and Niki debate whether intersectionality is a religion, the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, and Trump’s plan to defund the NEA and NEH.
In a recent piece for New York Magazine, Andrew Sullivan called intersectionality a “religion.” Sullivan’s essay was inspired by student protests at Middlebury College when Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve, came to speak. Natalia explained how the legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw had developed the theory of intersectionality in the late 1980s as a way to understand how African-American women experienced legal discrimination. Niki pointed out that Frances Beal’s classic essay, “Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female,” had developed many of these ideas as early as 1969. Natalia noted conservative Alan Dershowitz’s critiques of intersectionality that linked disparate leftist causes such as Black Lives Matter and Palestinian liberation. Niki outlined Sullivan’s relationship with Murray, including his editing the New Republic’s symposium on The Bell Curve in 1994. Natalia recommended Prof. Kevin Gannon’s recent blogpost that outlined the Sullivan-Murray connection. Natalia also recommended Jonathan Zimmerman’s new book, Campus Politics, for a history of free speech debates on college campuses.
Beauty & the Beast
Disney’s new live-action movie Beauty and the Beast is breaking box office records. Neil noted the film had already received glowing critical responses, and Natalia commented even a writer for Jezebel had praised the film.
Defunding the NEH & NEA
- Donald Trump’s recently released budget included a complete defunding of the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. Neil detailed the origin of the NEA and NEH and commented on some of its controversies through the years, including the dustup over Piss Christ, a 1987 photograph by Andres Serrano. Niki added the controversies over the Smithsonian’s Enola Gay exhibit and the National History Standards. Niki also mentioned a recent David Brooks columnthat lamented Americans lacked a unifying story, in part because leftist academics have focused so much on negative aspects of American history.
What’s Making History
- Natalia commented on Patricia Benjamin’s book, The Emergence of the Massage Therapy Profession in North America.
- Neil discussed the Boston public school system’s decision to replace its classroom Mercator projection maps with Peters projection maps.