Security/Insecurity in the News, Sept. 27 – Oct. 11

2010 10 30 - 9376 - Washington DC - Fear-Sanity Rallies

Hey there, sports fans! Here’s your biweekly round-up of security and insecurity in the news:

Is ethical parenting possible? (New York Magazine)

Marvel’s Diversity Issue: Screen Output Doesn’t Reflect Open-minded Comics (Vulture)

Videogames are making us too comfortable with the modern surveillance state (The New Republic)

It’s Always Time for a Midlife Crisis: When are people most likely to face a tough stretch? (Slate)

‘Drones might be the future of food’ (The Atlantic)

The state of the American war novel (LA Review of Books)

Die Like a Man: The Toxic Masculinity of Breaking Bad (Wired)

Thomas Pynchon understands the power of conspiracy theories (Salon)

Why are there still so few women in science? (The New York Times)

How music makes us feel better (The New Yorker)

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Security/Insecurity in the News: First Dispatch

Airport Security Playmobil

New feature time. Again.

Every other Friday we’ll offer a compilation of links and news stories that connect to notions of security and insecurity, our 2013-2014 departmental theme. Some of these connections will be clearer than others  – we’re interpreting the theme very, very broadly. So, have at it, and enjoy!

Comedian Louis C.K. takes on the smart phone and why it makes us feel sad (Big Think)

Louis Menand reviews Eric Schlosser’s Command and Control, a new book on nuclear weapons in America (The New Yorker)

“The importance of the afterlife. Seriously.” Seriously. (The New York Times)

What will 3-D printing actually bring us in the future? “Will it save the world? Will it bring on the apocalypse, with millions manufacturing their own AK-47s? Or is it all an absurd hubbub about a machine that spits out chintzy plastic trinkets?” (The New York Times)

The myth of executive stress: how hard is it, really, to be the boss? (Scientific American)

Guardian editor: NSA surveillance goes beyond Orwell’s imagination (The Guardian)

A moment-by-moment timeline of the immediate aftermath of Kennedy’s assassination. “From noon to dusk on November 22, 1963, history went dark, locked inside the closed and crowded cabin of Air Force One. Fifty years later, what happened after JFK died has fully come to light.” (Esquire)

Are soldiers becoming too emotionally attached to the robots that accompany them in war zones? (Slate)

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Announcement: The American Studies Film Series on Security/Insecurity


Hey folks! The American Studies film series kicks off soon, so here’s a word of introduction from Eddie Whitewolf, who will be coordinating the series this year.

The AMS Film Series, presented by the Department of American Studies, offers free film screenings during the fall and the spring semesters.  Each semester, the series programs both classic and new films from the American film industry that have been selected due to their connection to our departmental theme.

This semester, we’re excited to view films that connect in some fashion to our departmental theme of “Security/Insecurity,” and have been selected by a number of faculty members and graduate students.  Each screening will feature a short introduction to the film by the faculty member or graduate student who selected it.

So please join us each month, starting Thursday, September 26th, when Brendan Gaughen will present Peter Bogdanovich’s Targets.

Security/Insecurity: Contribute to our Spotify Playlist

Music to Work or Study By

One of our new social media initiatives this year is to create a crowd-sourced, collaborative playlist on Spotify featuring songs relating to our 2013-2014 department theme of Security/Insecurity. So we need your help! If you have any favorite songs that touch on those themes – loosely defined – and if you have a Spotify account, subscribe and contribute to our playlist here. Once you click through the playlist and Spotify opens, just drag and drop your favorite security/insecurity tunes onto the playlist that should appear in the left sidebar.

We’ll be adding tunes all year, so make sure you follow the playlist to receive updates.

To get you started, a few videos from some of our favorites can be found below.

David Bowie, “I’m Afraid of Americans”

Dead Kennedys, “Kill the Poor”

Helen Reddy, “I Am Woman”

Ice-T, “Colors”

Security/Insecurity: Our Departmental Theme, 2013-2014

Two weeks ago we announced that our department’s theme for the 2013-2014 school year would be Security/Insecurity. On this first day of school, we’d like to share some lengthier commentary on that theme from Dr. Randy Lewis.

We’ll continue sharing content related to security and insecurity over the course of the year, so stay tuned. (and, as many of you eagle-eyed readers might have noticed, we’ve changed the logo of AMS :: ATX to align with the theme).

Security Circus

Everyone craves security in some form: emotional security in our relationships, job security at work, food security for our communities, or national security in the “war on terror.” Yet many Americans are still bedeviled by deep-seated feelings of insecurity–and understandably so. When we turn on the television, we often find politicians shouting about “securing the border,” reality shows celebrating backstabbing insincerity, and advertisements prodding us to feel hopelessly inadequate. Even in the placid imaginary world of Peanuts, Linus needs his security blanket.

Providing security in every sense of the word has become a massive business in this so-called “culture of fear”. Feeling a little freaked out? Build a panic room that would make Jodie Foster proud! Sign up for that new undergraduate major in “crisis management”! Or hunker down at night in a gated community designed to ward off “stranger danger”… Still feeling uneasy about the crisis du jour in “fortress America”? Why not stock up on anxiety meds and meditation apps for your iPhone? Have you considered “building a secure faith” in a megachurch equipped with armed guards? How about buying a 13,000 pound armored vehicle to drive around town? You can never be too careful—especially if you’re a member of group that is “profiled,” followed, and harassed for simply wearing a hoodie on the way home from a convenience store.

More than a decade into the “war on terror,” the issue of security seems to haunt every aspect of our lives, yet we rarely have a chance to explore its deeper impact on our psyche and culture. One exception is in the work of artists such as the playwright Eve Ensler, who has described the underlying paradox of security in these terms: the more we pursue security, the more we feel insecure. Sociologists have illustrated this paradox in relation to surveillance cameras: we install them to make us feel secure and protected, but their unnerving presence makes many people feel anxious and exposed. Does the camera suggest “this is a secure place where I can relax” or “this is an insecure place where bad things happen”? We could ask the same question about the NSA reading our email or the Department of Homeland Security sending drones overhead: does it make us feel protected or violated? Liberated or oppressed? Secure or insecure? These questions have particular poignancy in the case of individuals whose basic legal rights are insecure: undocumented workers who are afraid to report unsafe working conditions, indigenous people whose treaty rights are often violated, convicted felons who cannot serve on juries or possess a firearm, or transgendered individuals simply trying to use a public restroom.

Voting: Own Risk

Security and insecurity have so many different meanings that can be explored through the interdisciplinary prism of American Studies. We hope you’ll join us in a conversation this year as we weave this important theme into our teaching, research, and special events. It is one of the many ways that the American Studies department is trying to connect its faculty and students to the wider world beyond the Forty Acres.

Randolph Lewis teaches in the American Studies Department. He is writing a book on surveillance in the contemporary US as well as teaching a seminar on the subject this fall.

Announcement: The 2013-2014 Departmental Theme Is…


Homeland Security

Thanks to all of you who participated in the voting process! We appreciate your feedback very much. Look in the coming days for a lengthier discussion of what security and insecurity might mean in American culture and history, and the possibilities for integrating the theme into our classes, events, and social media content.

Announcement: PLEASE VOTE On Our Departmental Theme for 2013-2014!

American Studies

American Studies at Burning Man 2008

Last year, the Department of American Studies launched its first annual departmental theme, “DREAM.” The theme gives us a way to connect our diverse events (loosely) so that we have a year-long series of conversations. It will provide connection for undergrads across classes and across departmental events (if each class touches on the theme and you attend a movie screening and you see a lecture… then you see how intellectual ideas can cross-fertilize) and will provide creative informal writing, interview, conversational topics, or image production that can go on the blog, the webpage, and elsewhere.

This past school year, our blog featured the ways that particular classes treated the DREAM theme, our graduate conference was entitled “Reimagining the American Dream” and explored conceptions of the rags-to-riches narrative within America, and we also offered a film series on the broad theme of public and private dreams.

The time has come to select a new departmental theme, and WE NEED YOUR INPUT. Please fill out the form linked here to help us select a theme inspiring the coming year’s conversations, events, social media, and classes. And spread the word! We would love to see what you folks are interested in.