Archive for the ‘arts and humanities’ Category

Lessons from Afghanistan’s History for the Current Transition and Beyond

October 1, 2012 Comments off

Lessons from Afghanistan’s History for the Current Transition and Beyond (PDF)

Source: U.S. Institute of Peace

Despite interesting patterns from the past and at least superficially striking parallels with the present, policies on Afghanistan have not been adequately informed by an understanding of the country’s history. Nor has the extensive academic literature on Afghan history been translated into policy; on the contrary, much that has been attempted in Afghanistan since late 2001 has been remarkably ahistorical. This report identifies broad historical patterns and distills relevant lessons that may be applicable to policies during the 2011 to 2014 transition and beyond.

The Short Stories of Playboy and the Crisis of Masculinity

September 16, 2012 Comments off

The Short Stories of Playboy and the Crisis of Masculinity (PDF)
Source: Utrecht University

We look at the world through media. They bring us the news; they bring us entertainment, science, art. They influence the way we view the world. In a way, they influence who we are. This does not mean that they change a person from one day to the next, but they co-determine structures of thought. One specific area in which the role of media becomes clear is gender – perhaps best described as the culturally defined and self-defined aspects of one’s identity relating to being a ‘man,’ a ‘woman,’ or perhaps something else. Different media propagate ideal images of what it means to be a man or a woman, and in our daily lives these ideal images are not often questioned.

This observation lies at the foundation of this thesis. My initial plan was to examine the ways in which media (re-)present gender identity. In particular, I wanted to examine male gender identity. The first ensuing issue was that as a historian, the historicity of gender and media needs to be acknowledged. In other words, media and masculinities are fluid and change over time. The second issue was that ‘media’ was too wide a category. Since this thesis is of a limited scope, I needed to demarcate the research further.

Ultimately, I chose one case-study of a magazine in a specific historical context: Playboy in 1950s America. The American 1950s were interesting given the subject, since a lot of literature discusses some sort of perceived ‘crisis of masculinity’ – it was a time where historical developments caused tensions with contemporary male identities that required a re-thinking of masculinity. Playboy was perhaps one of the most iconic examples of this re-thinking. The magazine offered a specific masculine identity that reacted to the contemporary gender identity crisis.

In a way, a magazine is a patchwork: It consists of differing elements, from articles to pictorials to advertisements. In order to explore male identity in the magazine in more detail, I chose to highlight one element: short stories. One of the features in Playboy that appeared from its start in December 1953 were short works of fiction. Moreover, these appeared on a highly regular basis. Therefore, the short stories made for an ample amount of source material.

The goal of this thesis is thus to answer the following research question: “How do the short stories in Playboy Magazine (re-)present a male identity in the context of the American 1950s?”

Transgenerational transmission of trauma and resilience: a qualitative study with Brazilian offspring of Holocaust survivors

September 4, 2012 Comments off

Transgenerational transmission of trauma and resilience: a qualitative study with Brazilian offspring of Holocaust survivors

Source: BMC Psychiatry


Over the past five decades, clinicians and researchers have debated the impact of the Holocaust on the children of its survivors. The transgenerational transmission of trauma has been explored in more than 500 articles, which have failed to reach reliable conclusions that could be generalized. The psychiatric literature shows mixed findings regarding this subject: many clinical studies reported psychopathological findings related to transgenerational transmission of trauma and some empirical research has found no evidence of this phenomenon in offspring of Holocaust survivors.


This qualitative study aims to detect how the second generation perceives transgenerational transmission of their parents’ experiences in the Holocaust. In-depth individual interviews were conducted with fifteen offspring of Holocaust survivors and sought to analyze experiences, meanings and subjective processes of the participants. A Grounded Theory approach was employed, and constant comparative method was used for analysis of textual data.


The development of conceptual categories led to the emergence of distinct patterns of communication from parents to their descendants. The qualitative methodology also allowed systematization of the different ways in which offspring can deal with parental trauma, which determine the development of specific mechanisms of traumatic experience or resilience in the second generation.


The conceptual categories constructed by the Grounded Theory approach were used to present a possible model of the transgenerational transmission of trauma, showing that not only traumatic experiences, but also resilience patterns can be transmitted to and developed by the second generation. As in all qualitative studies, these conclusions cannot be generalized, but the findings can be tested in other contexts.

World Cities Culture Report 2012

August 2, 2012 Comments off

World Cities Culture Report 2012 (PDF)
Source: Mayor of London (UK)

The Mayor of London’s World Cities Culture Report 2012 is the biggest international survey of its kind. It has collected an unprecedented amount of data on the scope and impact of the cultural assets and activities that are produced and consumed in 12 major cities:
New York
São Paulo
Using 60 indicators and reports from each of the participating cities, the World Cities Culture Report 2012 shows that culture is seen as important as finance and trade and sits at the heart of public policy.

“Little Holes to Hide In”: Civil Defense and the Public Backlash Against Home Fallout Shelters, 1957-1963

July 23, 2012 Comments off

"Little Holes to Hide In": Civil Defense and the Public Backlash Against Home Fallout Shelters, 1957-1963

Source: Georgia State University Digital Archive

Throughout the 1950s, U.S. policymakers actively encouraged Americans to participate in civil defense through a variety of policies. In 1958, amidst confusion concerning which of these policies were most efficient, President Eisenhower established the National Shelter Plan and a new civil defense agency titled The Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization. This agency urged homeowners to build private fallout shelters through print media. In response, Americans used newspapers, magazines, and science fiction novels to contest civil defense and the foreign and domestic policies that it was based upon, including nuclear strategy. Many Americans remained unconvinced of the viability of civil defense or feared its psychological impacts on society. Eventually, these criticisms were able to weaken civil defense efforts and even alter nuclear defense strategy and missile defense technology.

Increases in Individualistic Words and Phrases in American Books, 1960–2008

July 20, 2012 Comments off

Increases in Individualistic Words and Phrases in American Books, 1960–2008
Source: PLoS ONE

Cultural products such as song lyrics, television shows, and books reveal cultural differences, including cultural change over time. Two studies examine changes in the use of individualistic words (Study 1) and phrases (Study 2) in the Google Books Ngram corpus of millions of books in American English. Current samples from the general population generated and rated lists of individualistic words and phrases (e.g., “unique,” “personalize,” “self,” “all about me,” “I am special,” “I’m the best”). Individualistic words and phrases increased in use between 1960 and 2008, even when controlling for changes in communal words and phrases. Language in American books has become increasingly focused on the self and uniqueness in the decades since 1960.

Proud to Be an American: Perceptions of American Patriotism Portrayed Through Captain America Comic Books, 1941-2009

July 19, 2012 Comments off

Proud to Be an American: Perceptions of American Patriotism Portrayed Through Captain America Comic Books, 1941-2009 (PDF)

Source:  Historia: the Alpha Rho Papers
Patriotism, while easily defined as “love of one’s country” is not easily quantified. Patriotism is neither constant through space nor is it constant through time. Simply put, what constitutes patriotism depends on who is defining it. The United States of America has often been described as being a patriotic country and yet the idea of Patriotism continues to be a divisive and controversial ideal in America. One of the United States of America’s greatest symbols of patriotism in popular culture is Captain America. Created during the World War II, Captain America has defined patriotism for the youth of America, not only reflecting ideas of popular patriotism, but in ways shaping them. This paper seeks to analyze changing perceptions of patriotism since World War II through Captain America comic books. This will not only demonstrate where patriotism has come, but demonstrate the divisiveness of patriotism throughout United States history, how patriotism has be constantly reinvented throughout United States history, and where patriotism may be headed during the post-911 world.

The Arts, New Growth Theory, and Economic Development

July 5, 2012 Comments off

The Arts, New Growth Theory, and Economic Development
Source: National Endowment for the Arts

New growth theory argues that, in advanced economies, economic growth stems less from the acquisition of additional capital and more from innovation and new ideas. On May 10, 2012, the Brookings Institution and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) hosted a symposium examining new growth theory as a tool for assessing the impact of art and culture on the U.S. economy, including the theory that cities play a major role in facilitating economic growth. The symposium featured papers jointly commissioned by the NEA Office of Research & Analysis and Michael Rushton, the co-editor of the Journal of Cultural Economics. The presentations were moderated by experts from Brookings, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Set in Stone: Building America’s New Generation of Arts Facilities 1994-2008

June 29, 2012 Comments off

Set in Stone: Building America’s New Generation of Arts Facilities 1994-2008

Source: Cultural Policy Center (University of Chicago)

From press release:

Civic leaders, arts organizations, donors and government officials can better plan new or expanded arts facilities by first focusing on the arts organizations’ missions and assessing demand for the projects, according to a new study from the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago.

The study, “Set in Stone,” looks at a major building boom of museums, performing arts centers and theaters in the United States from 1994 to 2008. It is the first scientifically prepared study of its kind and was requested both by cultural leaders and major foundations that had, in many cases, provided support for these building projects.

The work was based on interviews with people in more than 500 organizations and drew data from more than 700 building projects, including both new facilities and major renovations. The costs of the projects ranged from $4 million to $335 million. It relied on rare, behind-the-scenes access to the discussions surrounding the buildings.

See: Report shows overspending on cultural institutions in boom years (EurekAlert!)

Dating the Origin of Language Using Phonemic Diversity

June 18, 2012 Comments off

Dating the Origin of Language Using Phonemic Diversity
Source: PLoS ONE

Language is a key adaptation of our species, yet we do not know when it evolved. Here, we use data on language phonemic diversity to estimate a minimum date for the origin of language. We take advantage of the fact that phonemic diversity evolves slowly and use it as a clock to calculate how long the oldest African languages would have to have been around in order to accumulate the number of phonemes they possess today. We use a natural experiment, the colonization of Southeast Asia and Andaman Islands, to estimate the rate at which phonemic diversity increases through time. Using this rate, we estimate that present-day languages date back to the Middle Stone Age in Africa. Our analysis is consistent with the archaeological evidence suggesting that complex human behavior evolved during the Middle Stone Age in Africa, and does not support the view that language is a recent adaptation that has sparked the dispersal of humans out of Africa. While some of our assumptions require testing and our results rely at present on a single case-study, our analysis constitutes the first estimate of when language evolved that is directly based on linguistic data.

FBI Records — The Vault: Watergate

June 15, 2012 Comments off

The Vault: Watergate
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

On June 17, 1972, several people broke into the Democratic National Committee Headquarters; they were discovered by an on-site guard and were arrested by local police. Subsequent investigations by the FBI, Congress, and the media showed that these intruders were connected to the campaign staff of President Richard Nixon. The White House under Nixon worked to cover-up this connection, and subsequent revelations of the cover-up led to Nixon’s impeachment and resignation in 1974. These files, released many years ago, document the FBI’s investigation into the break-in and related issues between 1972 and 1979.

NASA Offers Guidelines To Protect Historic Sites On The Moon

June 1, 2012 Comments off

NASA Offers Guidelines To Protect Historic Sites On The Moon
Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NASA and the X Prize Foundation of Playa Vista, Calif., announced Thursday the Google Lunar X Prize is recognizing guidelines established by NASA to protect lunar historic sites and preserve ongoing and future science on the moon. The foundation will take the guidelines into account as it judges mobility plans submitted by 26 teams vying to be the first privately-funded entity to visit the moon.

NASA recognizes that many spacefaring nations and commercial entities are on the verge of landing spacecraft on the moon. The agency engaged in a cooperative dialogue with the X Prize Foundation and the Google Lunar X Prize teams to develop the recommendations. NASA and the next generation of lunar explorers share a common interest in preserving humanity’s first steps on another celestial body and protecting ongoing science from the potentially damaging effects of nearby landers.

NASA assembled the guidelines using data from previous lunar studies and analysis of the unmanned lander Surveyor 3′s samples after Apollo 12 landed nearby in 1969. Experts from the historic, scientific and flight-planning communities also contributed to the technical recommendations. The guidelines do not represent mandatory U.S. or international requirements. NASA provided them to help lunar mission planners preserve and protect historic lunar artifacts and potential science opportunities for future missions.

Genetic Analysis of Floral Symmetry in Van Gogh’s Sunflowers Reveals Independent Recruitment of CYCLOIDEA Genes in the Asteraceae

April 6, 2012 Comments off
Source:  PLoS Genetics
The genetic basis of floral symmetry is a topic of great interest because of its effect on pollinator behavior and, consequently, plant diversification. The Asteraceae, which is the largest family of flowering plants, is an ideal system in which to study this trait, as many species within the family exhibit a compound inflorescence containing both bilaterally symmetric (i.e., zygomorphic) and radially symmetric (i.e., actinomorphic) florets. In sunflower and related species, the inflorescence is composed of a single whorl of ray florets surrounding multiple whorls of disc florets. We show that in double-flowered (dbl) sunflower mutants (in which disc florets develop bilateral symmetry), such as those captured by Vincent van Gogh in his famous nineteenth-century sunflower paintings, an insertion into the promoter region of a CYCLOIDEA (CYC)-like gene (HaCYC2c) that is normally expressed specifically in WT rays is instead expressed throughout the inflorescence, presumably resulting in the observed loss of actinomorphy. This same gene is mutated in two independent tubular-rayed (tub) mutants, though these mutations involve apparently recent transposon insertions, resulting in little or no expression and radialization of the normally zygomorphic ray florets. Interestingly, a phylogenetic analysis of CYC-like genes from across the family suggests that different paralogs of this fascinating gene family have been independently recruited to specify zygomorphy in different species within the Asteraceae.
Categories: art, PLoS Genetics, science

Afghanistan’s Ethnic Groups Share a Y-Chromosomal Heritage Structured by Historical Events

April 6, 2012 Comments off

Afghanistan’s Ethnic Groups Share a Y-Chromosomal Heritage Structured by Historical Events
Source: PLoS ONE

Afghanistan has held a strategic position throughout history. It has been inhabited since the Paleolithic and later became a crossroad for expanding civilizations and empires. Afghanistan’s location, history, and diverse ethnic groups present a unique opportunity to explore how nations and ethnic groups emerged, and how major cultural evolutions and technological developments in human history have influenced modern population structures. In this study we have analyzed, for the first time, the four major ethnic groups in present-day Afghanistan: Hazara, Pashtun, Tajik, and Uzbek, using 52 binary markers and 19 short tandem repeats on the non-recombinant segment of the Y-chromosome. A total of 204 Afghan samples were investigated along with more than 8,500 samples from surrounding populations important to Afghanistan’s history through migrations and conquests, including Iranians, Greeks, Indians, Middle Easterners, East Europeans, and East Asians. Our results suggest that all current Afghans largely share a heritage derived from a common unstructured ancestral population that could have emerged during the Neolithic revolution and the formation of the first farming communities. Our results also indicate that inter-Afghan differentiation started during the Bronze Age, probably driven by the formation of the first civilizations in the region. Later migrations and invasions into the region have been assimilated differentially among the ethnic groups, increasing inter-population genetic differences, and giving the Afghans a unique genetic diversity in Central Asia.

Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: 1999-2000 and 2009-10

April 5, 2012 Comments off

Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: 1999-2000 and 2009-10
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

This report presents selected findings from a congressionally mandated study on arts education in public K–12 schools. The data were collected through seven Fast Response Survey System (FRSS) surveys during the 2009-10 school year. This report provides national data about arts education for public elementary and secondary schools, elementary classroom teachers, and elementary and secondary music and visual arts specialists. Comparisons with data from the 1999–2000 FRSS arts education study are included where applicable.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Facts for Features Special Edition — 1940 Census Records Release

April 4, 2012 Comments off

Facts for Features Special Edition — 1940 Census Records ReleaseSource: U.S. Census Bureau

On April 2, the National Archives and Records Administration will make individual records from the 1940 Census available to the public for the first time. The 1940 Census was conducted during a momentous time in our nation’s history, as the Great Depression was winding down and not long before our entry into World War II (although the war was already raging in Europe). It marked the only census conducted during the lengthy presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was also notable for many other reasons, as detailed below. In this edition of Profile America Facts for Features, we compare notable 1940 Census facts with corresponding information from the 2010 Census. Included is an early look at plans for the 2020 Census.

EU — Regional development and creativity

March 28, 2012 Comments off

Regional development and creativity (PDF)
Source: Research Papers in Economics

The aim of this paper is to assess the role played by creativity and other components of human capital on the process of economic growth for 257 regions in the 27 member countries of the European Union. We first decompose the regional human capital endowment to distinguish between the educational component (the share of individuals with a university degree) and the creativity component, which considers the actual occupations of individuals in specific jobs like science, engineering, education, arts and entertainment. We define three non overlapping categories of human capital (creative graduates, bohemians and non creative graduates) which are simultaneously included in a spatial model as determinants of regional growth measured by labour productivity. After extending the analysis to control for other relevant factors which may affect regional development, such as physical, technological and social capital, cultural diversity, industrial and geographical characteristics, we provide robust evidence on the growth enhancing effects of graduates, in particular for those of the creative category.

Expression of Emotion in Eastern and Western Music Mirrors Vocalization

March 17, 2012 Comments off

Expression of Emotion in Eastern and Western Music Mirrors Vocalization
Source: PLoS ONE

In Western music, the major mode is typically used to convey excited, happy, bright or martial emotions, whereas the minor mode typically conveys subdued, sad or dark emotions. Recent studies indicate that the differences between these modes parallel differences between the prosodic and spectral characteristics of voiced speech sounds uttered in corresponding emotional states. Here we ask whether tonality and emotion are similarly linked in an Eastern musical tradition. The results show that the tonal relationships used to express positive/excited and negative/subdued emotions in classical South Indian music are much the same as those used in Western music. Moreover, tonal variations in the prosody of English and Tamil speech uttered in different emotional states are parallel to the tonal trends in music. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that the association between musical tonality and emotion is based on universal vocal characteristics of different affective states.

“It is my life”: A Psychoanalytical and an Existentialist Study of People of Suicidal Tendencies in Modern and Contemporary American Suicide Drama

March 8, 2012 Comments off

“It is my life”: A Psychoanalytical and an Existentialist Study of People of Suicidal Tendencies in Modern and Contemporary American Suicide Drama (PDF)
Source: Studies in Literature and Language

This study presents a psychoanalytical and an existentialist investigation into people of suicidal tendencies in modern and contemporary American drama in the elated hope to probe deeper into the minds of such characters and reveal the causes behind developing such suicidal ideation, attempted suicides and completed suicides. Before committing or attempting to commit suicide characters of suicidal tendencies must have experienced many ordeals in their lives that have made them want to commit suicide. They feel or must have felt overloaded by the miserable conditions they find themselves entrapped in. Their suicidality is the culmination of long years of pent up frustration, hopelessness, powerlessness and helpless endurance. For them resorting to suicide seems inescapable to relieve them of the pain of daily living.

Human cortical activity evoked by the assignment of authenticity when viewing works of art

February 19, 2012 Comments off

Human cortical activity evoked by the assignment of authenticity when viewing works of art
Source: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

The expertise of others is a major social influence on our everyday decisions and actions. Many viewers of art, whether expert or naïve, are convinced that the full esthetic appreciation of an artwork depends upon the assurance that the work is genuine rather than fake. Rembrandt portraits provide an interesting image set for testing this idea, as there is a large number of them and recent scholarship has determined that quite a few fakes and copies exist. Use of this image set allowed us to separate the brain’s response to images of genuine and fake pictures from the brain’s response to external advice about the authenticity of the paintings. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, viewing of artworks assigned as “copy,” rather than “authentic,” evoked stronger responses in frontopolar cortex (FPC), and right precuneus, regardless of whether the portrait was actually genuine. Advice about authenticity had no direct effect on the cortical visual areas responsive to the paintings, but there was a significant psycho-physiological interaction between the FPC and the lateral occipital area, which suggests that these visual areas may be modulated by FPC. We propose that the activation of brain networks rather than a single cortical area in this paradigm supports the art scholars’ view that esthetic judgments are multi-faceted and multi-dimensional in nature.

+ Full Paper (PDF)

See: Being Told Painting Is Fake Changes Brain’s Response to Art


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