Geographies
Horrifying Pastoral

Horrifying Pastoral

When most people visit the Washington D.C. area, they think of visiting the Smithsonian, or perhaps the White House or Pentagon. But when I met up with a friend on a recent trip there, we had our hearts set on an abandoned mental asylum. More»

The American Burden

The American Burden

Ever since the first Snowden leaks in 2013, something strange has been happening in Germany. On the one hand, Germans were shocked by how ruthless the US was, going so far as to tap Angela Merkel’s phone. On the other, the government’s response was incredibly subdued. Of course, there were some publicized angry calls to Obama, and the BND reduced its cooperation with the NSA. But that was it. More»

The Missionary Position

The Missionary Position

A European hat in those days was a rarity except in the large towns, and it attracted notice. That is the reason why I generally discarded it, with other too conspicuously Western adjuncts. Where the inhabitants were not well mannered, the hat was apt to be saluted with a shower of stones. More»

American Europe

American Europe

On a visit to Washington DC in 2012 Barack Obama and David Cameron spoke as one. The ‘special relationship’ (a term only used in the UK) was on show. Still, the terms were glowing. President Obama portrayed a “rock-solid alliance” as constant in an ever-changing world. Prime Minister Cameron went further to describe the relationship as “the United States of Liberty and Enterprise”. More»

The Allure of ISIS

The Allure of ISIS

When I called a father-in-law of one of the women who purportedly left Georgia to join fighters in Syria (along with a relative), he shouted angrily, saying that the “girls are simply” in Turkey, and that the gossip must stop. More»

Oman Red Scare

Oman Red Scare

The United Kingdom fought one of its last colonial wars in Oman, between 1962 and 1976. The Dhofar Uprising was initially a tribal revolt in the fiefdom of Dhofar, which evolved into a Communist-led insurrection. The conflict is crucial for understanding the development of the Gulf monarchies. More»

Little America?

Little America?

In the mall adjacent to Israel’s Supreme Court in Jerusalem, you’ll find this giant image of a hamburger — no cheese, naturally — branded as “Big America”. It’s hard to imagine a better visual allegory for the relationship between the United States and the embattled nation which receives so much of its annual giving, if that’s what you want to see. But the reality is more complicated. More»

Anarchy in the UK

Anarchy in the UK

North of Hadrian’s Wall, the party of Scottish nationalism has won an almost total victory. The Liberal Democrats and Labour have suffered huge losses, while the Conservatives maintained the one blue patch left. The Scottish National Party lowered the voting age to 16 and tapped into a reservoir of disenchantment with status quo politics. More»

Sectarianism in Yemen

Sectarianism in Yemen

Media analysts frequently overemphasize Sunni-Shi’i divisions in Yemen, as though they are longstanding religious problems, with crude, irrational origins. Such discourse purposefully clouds the complex tribal, regional, and structural conflicts in the country. More»

Late Night Nostalgia

Late Night Nostalgia

Like many Americans, I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about David Letterman’s final shows. But it wasn’t until the past few days that I actually watched them “live”. Aside from sporting events, I almost never watch television in a traditional way anymore. So when I finally managed to tune into our local CBS affiliate at 10:30pm, it felt almost like time travel. More»

UKIP and the Far-Right

UKIP and the Far-Right

It’s a landmark achievement. UKIP won 3.8 million votes, and secured one parliamentary seat, as well as control of Thanet Council. Nigel Farage lost his bid for South Thanet, as Mark Reckless lost his seat, leaving Tory defector Douglas Carswell to hold on in Clacton. This right-of-centre party has broken into the mainstream after two decades on the margins. More»

The Shame of Malls

The Shame of Malls

For my birthday last week, I received three T-shirts featuring Walter Benjamin. It’s hard to imagine a better example of “long tail” marketing. I was delighted. But one of them made me uneasy. Playing off the now-ubiquitous religious slogan, it asks, “What would Benjamin do?” The truth, though, is that few thinkers have been less invested in getting things done. More»