Installation 4: February 7, 2019
It's been a while, and I have some pieces to share. They deal with:
- lessons on police torture in Chicago public schools
- "populism" and what (if anything) it means
- the misguided food nostrums of our time
- and more!
I'm crossing my fingers that I'll get to hear some of your responses (short, long, critical, ambivalent, rapturous), because no aspect of publication is more fun or gratifying.
1) "This, Too, Was History": The Battle Over Police-Torture and Reparations in Chicago's Schools
Starting last school year, all Chicago public schools are required by city law to give their students lessons on the sordid local history of police officers torturing confessions out of suspects. In the spring, I spent 18 days at one high school, watching students work their work through this extraordinarily challenging material. This piece––which runs about 9,000 words, so wait until you have a minute––describes what I saw, briefly explains how the initiative came into existence, and speculates a bit about Chicago, reparations, and historical memory.
This story exists thanks in large part to a collaborative agreement between Chicago-based journal The Point and LongReads.com. The two outlets pooled resources and $ to make a lengthy reporting process possible, plus give me time to experiment with different approaches to the material.
It appeared first in the current print issue of The Point, which you can buy at many quality bookstores (or subscribe to via ThePointMag.com). Thanks to the magazine's attention to tyopgraphy and layout, this is the absolute best experience of the piece available.
But today it is also published on The Point's website ("This, Too, Was History") and, simultaneously, on LongReads.com (The Battle Over Teaching Chicago's Schools About Police Torture and Reparations).
As some of you know, I've been thinking and writing about the question of how individuals and communities process torture for a long time, so this was in many ways a dream story for me.
2) "We the People": The Academic Battle to Define Populism
Long before populism became a breathless one-word explanation for everything (Trump, Brexit, Occupy, Bernie), a small group of academics was puzzling over the concept, trying to figure out not just a usably rigorous definition, but also what implications, if any, the concept has for the project of democracy. I spent a few months reading these scholars' work, wondering how they help us think about politics today, especially at the porous frontier between liberalism and points further left. The end result was this Guardian "long read," which you can also listen to as a podcast.
3) Home Cooking Won't Solve Our Problems
I enjoy cooking at home, but I loathe the moralizing, so-elitist-it-doesn't-know-it's-elitist nature of most contemporary writing about the virtues of cooking at home. We will never shop and plan and prep and cook our way to a better world! So, it was a pleasure to read an upcoming book by four food anthropologists examining American beliefs and practices about home cooking––and to write this short review for Pacific Standard.
Okay, that's it for today. If you know anyone who might enjoy these very infrequent updates, please send them my way: tinyletter.com/petercbaker. I feel lucky to be doing this work, and grateful that people are interested enough to sign up for this newsletter.
Until next time,