Putting Orthodox Studies on the Radar

by bjs | Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - 10:00 AM

Earlier this year, the JHU Press published the first issue of a new journal The Journal of Orthodox Christian Studies . An initiative of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University, the journal will publish leading scholarship on all aspects of the thought, history, society, politics, theology and culture of Orthodox Christianity broadly conceived.

Journal editors George E. Demacopoulos (Fordham University) and Vera Shevzov (Smith College) agreed to publish the introduction to the inaugural issue on the blog.

Often associated with the qualifier "Eastern" and perceived as the Christian "other" in the context of contemporary world Christianity, Orthodox Christianity has historically remained largely off the curricular and scholarly radars of American academics. Yet, from late antiquity to modern times, as persecuted minorities, subjects of state-supported imperial regimes, or immigrants to "foreign lands," Orthodox Christians have made some of the most significant and lasting contributions to the visual arts, literature, music, philosophy and theology, among other fields. Equally significant, yet politically more contentious, is the fact that Orthodoxy, in all its distinctive permutations, has historically offered a host of alternatives to...Read More

The Future of News

by eea | Friday, October 12, 2018 - 12:00 PM

Until very recently, the things that we refer to as “newspapers” were exclusively material objects made of paper. Today, many people actually read what they call “newspapers” on digital devices, and some have even taken to calling printed newspapers “dead tree media” as a way of signaling what they see as the backwardness and even irrelevance of that particular method of news distribution. Though there are some signs that printed newspapers are thriving in local communities, it is unclear as of late 2018 what the future of the medium is. Dead Tree Media is not a forecast of what that future will be, but rather it offers a reconsideration of the newspaper’s past by proposing a new history of its industrial production as a paper object.

When most people think about printed newspapers, they tend to think about the words on the page and the effects and influence that those words have on public opinion. Newspapers are the things that provide us with the journalism that is vital for a democratic society. Dead Tree Media explores another element of the newspaper’s material history. Rather than starting with the news appearing before the reader...Read More

Let There Be Enlightenment

by eea | Thursday, October 11, 2018 - 12:00 PM

Most people think that the Enlightenment was the “age of reason,” characterized by the emergence of rational approaches to socio-political problems, the rise of religious toleration, and the decline of devout fanaticism. In describing the learned culture of the eighteenth century to students, it would be hard not to conjure up Voltaire’s attack against superstition and religious intolerance, encapsulated by his famous signature: “ écrasez l’infâme! ” (“crush the infamous thing!”) David Hume’s critique of not only all revelation but also of natural religion might also come to mind, as might the irreverent salon of the atheist baron d’Holbach, and the de-Christianization policies of the French Revolutionaries. Indeed, the Manichean struggle between the parti philosophique and the parti dévot continues to be central to almost all accounts of the Enlightenment. The story of a contest between conservative theologians and radical philosophers offers a simple explanation about secularization and the emergence of modernity. Depending on which side one takes in this contest, the bifurcation also allows for an oversimplified narrative about either the progress of human reason or the decline of traditional morality.

Recent scholarship has complicated these neat narratives of secularization. Throughout the early modern period, natural...Read More

Misconceptions in Nuclear History: ICBMs

by eea | Wednesday, October 10, 2018 - 12:00 PM

The creation of the intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, in the 1950s is an important event in both the history of nuclear weapons and in that of space exploration. Until recent years, however, the real stories behind the first ICBMs were concealed or misunderstood.

The Soviet Union’s first ICBM, the R-7, shot into the headlines in October 1957, when it was used to launch the first artificial satellite of the Earth, Sputnik. The surprise and consternation Sputnik caused around the world, and especially in the United States, led to major misunderstandings over the history of ICBMs that persist to the present day.

The R-7 was developed in secret, and once it began to fly, its story was distorted as part of larger Soviet propaganda narratives. The openness that followed the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s allowed the real history of the R-7 to be told.

The creation of America’s first ICBM, the Atlas, has also been shrouded in myth. My new book, The Bomb and America’s Missile Age, deals with those myths as it explains how marrying long range ballistic missiles to nuclear weapons went from an idea at the end of World War...Read More

Trials of Psychedelic Therapy

by eea | Thursday, October 4, 2018 - 12:00 PM

When I began exploring the history of LSD psychotherapy research in 2008, I had little idea that the momentum was in fact building on a new era of psychedelic research. In the 1950s and 60s, researchers reported impressive results using LSD in conjunction with psychotherapy to treat a range of psychiatric conditions, and an astounding 50% success rate treating chronic, treatment-resistant alcoholics. From my initial research, two narratives quickly emerged explaining the drug’s medical downfall: either LSD’s significant therapeutic potential fell victim the moral panic and government crackdown following its rising recreational use in the 1960s, or, by contrast, that the research had had little scientific rigor, had since been largely debunked, and had been spearheaded by enthusiasts such as Timothy Leary whose objectivity was significantly skewed by their own use of the drug.

The new era of research, underway at prominent institutions including Johns Hopkins University, New York University, and the University of New Mexico, has largely picked up from where the previous era left off, exploring the effectiveness of the same treatment methods developed in the 1950s and 1960s. This research has therefore naturally been in close conversation with the past, as researchers attempt to...Read More