A behind-the-scenes look at what Public Books editors and staff have been reading this month.
The Dawn of Scientific Racism
In the 1740s, Bordeaux developed some of the first modern theories of racial difference, even as the city profited from the slave trade.
COVID: The Pandemic Without Honor?
“I don’t believe there was any conspiracy inside government to kill people off,” a health official explains. “From what I saw there was no plan.”
Poe: America’s “Artificer”
Many view Edgar Allen Poe as a uniquely gloomy, mad writer. But what if Poe was normal, simply representative of a gloomy, mad era?
The Planet Needs Collective Action—Not Tech
Digital tech cannot stop climate change merely by “greening” individual consumption.
Public Thinker: Ainissa Ramirez on Putting the Story Back in Science
“We teach science as separate from the rest of the world. I want people who live in the world to see how they’re actually doing science.”
Leaving Orthodoxy, Again
Losing faith in Orthodox Judaism is an old story. But today it’s often the “heretics” who rely on faith, and the “faithful” who draw on science.
Tech promises to cure any ailment, whether an unwelcome feeling or a global pandemic. But what if tech itself is ill? And what is a cure, anyway?
Public Thinker: Chanda Prescod-Weinstein Looks to the Night Sky
“There are two ways of reading Black invisibility and one of them is futuristic.”
Plants and Other Science Fictions
Can thinking like a plant save the world?
Public Thinker: Katherine McKittrick on Black Methodologies and Other Ways of Being
“How might scientific storytelling, or stories of science, shape the struggle for liberation?”
Science Turned Upside Down: Carolyn Merchant’s Vision of Nature, 40 Years Later
The Death of Nature wrote a new narrative of science that explored the costs of modernity for nature and humankind.
When Black Humanity Is Denied
Critiquing the Enlightenment is essential, because there the asylum, prison, and science itself unveil their violent foundations.
Public Thinker: Shobita Parthasarathy on Why We Need to Diversify Expertise
“I'll say something controversial. Bioethics tends to not interrogate the details of science, let alone the more technical questions.”
Beyond the Objectivity Myth
It is no exaggeration to say that Evelyn Fox Keller and her compatriots made possible not only my work but entire generations of scholarship on science.
“Soulful, Perhaps Even Magical” Science
Yaa Gyasi’s new novel meditates on the problems we try to solve with science, with faith, and with love.
What Birders Don’t See
Rather than studying birds—and birders—in isolation, the time has come to see both as linked to the crises of racism and climate change.
Public Thinker: B. R. Cohen on How Food Became “Pure”
“There were so many new laws, I had to make a map showing the spread and intensity of antimargarine laws in states over a quarter century.”
All Tomorrow’s Warnings
Both left and right employ “speculative nonfiction” to imagine the world after climate change. But who will win the battle of the futurists?
The Art of Care: Susannah Cahalan on Madness, Diagnosis, and COVID-19
“These are not the stories that medicine necessarily wants us to tell, but that means it’s even doubly important that we try our best to track down these narratives.”