Bastards and Game of Thrones


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Now that we are all waiting for the next season of Game of Thrones which will only air next year, here is an article on the categories of bastards in medieval Europe.

Much as in Medieval Europe, there are several different kinds of bastards in Game of Thrones, falling into sometimes overlapping categories. The first and most obvious type of bastard is one born to a known “highborn” father who recognizes the child as his but whose mother is either unknown or known to be low status. Here the most memorable example is Jon Snow, Snow being the surname for Northern bastards of this type (though of course — spoiler alert — Jon’s parentage turns out to be more complicated, and extremely throneworthy regardless of any niceties of marriage law), or Sand, Sand being the surname for bastards from the south. It is quite clearly better to be a Sand than a Snow, with the warm sunny climate of the south both more openly licentious than the restrained north, and more tolerant of children born to extramarital sex.

The complete article

Sara McDougall — OUPblog

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The partition goes on: A Pakistani perspective


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A Pakistani perspective.

Twenty years on, I feel we had underplayed the whole thing. When I hear about another beef lynching in India, I am reminded of all those old men who boasted about throwing a pig’s head into a mosque or slaughtering a cow in the middle of a Hindu festival.

And I think of my own beloved country we carved out of India to protect our liberties. And where we don’t have to cower in fear of a Hindu or Sikh mob.

We can get lynched by our fellow Pakistani classmates for quoting a bit of poetry and questioning some fragment of a religious text.

The partition goes on in slow motion. I took a flight back from India after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The complete article

Mohammed Hanif — Al Jazeera

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The Ugly Briton


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World War I killed 7 million civilians. The 1943 Bengal Famine killed 3 million people! Beware who you consider as your heroes. Churchill certainly isn’t mine.

In 1943, some 3 million brown-skinned subjects of the Raj died in the Bengal famine, one of history’s worst. Mukerjee delves into official documents and oral accounts of survivors to paint a horrifying portrait of how Churchill, as part of the Western war effort, ordered the diversion of food from starving Indians to already well-supplied British soldiers and stockpiles in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, including Greece and Yugoslavia. And he did so with a churlishness that cannot be excused on grounds of policy: Churchill’s only response to a telegram from the government in Delhi about people perishing in the famine was to ask why Gandhi hadn’t died yet.

The complete article

Shashi Tharoor — Time

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Barbaric Beauty


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What did Vikings look like? Is their representation in pop culture accurate?

How authentic is Vikings’ representation of Vikings, then? If we merely compare the characters who strut onscreen with the imagery imparted on us by the Icelandic sagas and the sparse Viking Age sources that supplement them, not bad at all. These finely attired TV Norsemen are, to a man, mikill ok sterkr, their bodies and faces tattooed and painted, their gazes penetrating and haunting, their hair and beards carefully kempt. But the point to drive home is that the question itself is ill-posed and ultimately unanswerable, because we would need to reorient our own mental set-up in order to be able to grasp the alien mindset to which descriptions like ‘very much eyed’, made sense.

The complete article

Oren Falk — History Today

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THE THUGS OF INDIA


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A movie called “Thugs of Hindostan” is currently under production. Found this interesting needull about the thuggee cult that existed in India. A cult of killers and criminals who existed for centuries in India.

For the members of Thuggee, murder was both a way of life and a religious duty. They believed their killings were a means of worshiping the Hindu goddess Kali, who was honored at each stage of the murder by a vast and complex system of rituals and superstitions. Thugs were guided to their victims by omens observed in nature, and once the deed was done, the graves and bodies were prepared according to strict ceremonies. A sacrificial rite would be conducted after the burial involving the consecration of sugar and of the sacred pickax, the tool the brotherhood believed was given to them by Kali to dig the graves of their prey. Thugs were certainly not above robbing their victims, but traditionally a portion of the spoils would be set aside for the goddess.

The complete article

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All in the Family Debt


What do social conservatism and neoliberalism have in common? They both undermine community responsibility and force families to take on cross-generation debt.

Indeed, many of the policy reforms after the Reagan revolution can be understood as an attempt to reinvent the imperative of familial responsibility in the new idiom of household debt. As policymakers imposed cuts to health, education, and welfare budgets, they simultaneously identified the family as a wholesale alternative to the twentieth-century social state. And as the responsibility for deficit spending shifted from the state to the household, the private debt obligations of family were defined as foundational to socioeconomic order. The family, not the state, would bear primary responsibility for investing in the education, health and welfare of children.

Boston Review

Image: Painting by Brianna Keeper

Curating a New Literary Canon


Who would you put in a museum of the best American writers? Hemingway? Kerouac? Bukowski? Note those are all white guys. The author visits a new museum devoted to writers to ponder the question of “who (and what) deserves to be in America’s first museum dedicated to writers?”

Walking through Chicago’s new American Writers Museum a week before it opened to the public, I felt like a cross between that eleven-year-old (wide-eyed, thirstily trying to absorb the canon, inspired by history) and that twenty-one-year-old (tallying up gender and race and queerness on the 100-author “American Voices” wall of fame and doing some quick math).

The museum’s creators faced an impossible task, the same one undertaken perennially by anthologists and English professors: How can we represent four hundred years of American literary history in a way that doesn’t reinforce the unfortunate hierarchies of those four hundred years?

Electric Literature

Image: Painting by Brianna Keeper