BR Blog

January 15, 2016 The Invisibility of Black Women Christopher Lebron

Tessa Thompson portraying Diane Nash in Selma. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on the horizon, I dutifully re-watched Ava Duvernay’s powerful and accomplished movie, Selma. The story chronicles King’s struggle to secure unencumbered black suffrage in Selma, Alabama, which led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This time I watched with a particular question in mind: how are the women portrayed? This question is urgent because it is increasingly clear that black women are America’s invisible population. Black women leaders are not honored anywhere near commensurate with their deep historical contributions to the struggle for racial—and, more broadly, democratic—justice. Neither are deaths of black women at the hands of the police and private citizens properly attended to and commemorated.

Consider how the women in Selma are portrayed, not for the sake of criticizing the movie but to understand how it reflects an overwhelming and commonplace bias in how black women leaders are treated. Diane Nash (Tessa Thompson), a key figure in integrating Southern lunch counters and co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, delivers only a handful of lines. In one crucial scene, a strategy meeting, she shifts her gaze among the various male verbal combatants in the...

January 12, 2016 Colin Dayan’s Ethics Without Reason Simon Waxman

For some years now, Colin Dayan has been developing a rich and challenging approach to ethics steeped in something other than reason. Her latest book, the newly released With Dogs at the Edge of Life, deepens this provocative project in unique and interdisciplinary terms. The book is hard to pigeonhole: it is not memoir or journalism or literary criticism or biblical exegesis or cinema studies or legal scholarship. It is all of these, at once erudite and imaginative as it asks why only members of our species get to be persons, what so-called progress has destroyed, and whether an ethical life demands less humanity, not more of it.

Throughout her career, Dayan, a professor of humanities and law at Vanderbilt University, has written widely—on Moby Dick, Christianity, Haitian art and religion, American solitary confinement practices, the meaning of cruel and unusual punishment, the role of law in creating the category of personhood, and the shared world of human and animal life, particularly dog life. “How can I seize on dog life in words?”...

December 16, 2015 Boston Review's Top 20 Poems of 2015 Boston Review

Photo: takomabibelot

Boston Review takes pride in having published over 150 poems in print and online in 2015—more than any other year in our 40-year history. As ever, we looked for excellence in the poetry we chose to publish this year, although it’s hard to say what that means exactly because our notion of excellence is always changing, and never the same thing twice. Let’s just say each poem we published managed to redefine that notion, at least momentarily.

We continued in 2015 our decades-long practice of presenting emerging writers alongside established figures, although there were far more of the former this year, most of them appearing in our pages (or on our site) for the first time. Likewise, we continued to aim for variety, and happily accommodated verse, prose, and hybrid forms; short lyrics and long sequences; and over a dozen new translations. Our appreciation of variety pertains not only to the formal and aesthetic character of what we publish, however, but also to the perspectives and experiences the poems embody as well as the topics and concerns they speak to.

Take a look at our twenty most-read poems from 2015, presented here in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Revisit a favorite or...

December 15, 2015 Top 15 Articles of '15 Boston Review

In no particular order, here are some of our most-loved, and most-read, stories from 2015:

1. The Logic of Effective Altruism | Peter Singer believes that charitable giving is central to an ethical life and should only be directed to organizations that are highly efficient at lifesaving interventions. Daron Acemoglu, Angus Deaton, and others respond.

2. The Lure of Luxury | Paul Bloom leads a forum exploring why luxury items possess value that far surpasses their practical utility.

3. The Virtue of Scientific Thinking | Steven Shapin writes that science can offer unexpected moral guidance.

4. Forensic Pseudoscience | Nathan Robinson argues that forensic science sends innocent people to jail.


November 24, 2015 Assassinating Terrorists Does Not Work Alex de Waal

Two important events in the confrontation between the Islamic State and the West occurred on November 12 and 13. Although overshadowed by the Paris atrocities, they warrant our attention. On November 12, Mohammed Emwazi (“Jihadi John”) was killed by a drone missile in the Syrian city of Raqqa, in a joint U.S.-British operation. On November 13, the commander of IS in Libya, an Iraqi national called Abu Nabil (also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi), was killed by a U.S. air strike. These two high-profile killings were part of an ongoing American campaign to systematically assassinate terrorist leaders—“high-value targets”—a strategy that has become a central component of the War on Terror.

More than ever, it is crucial to debate the political strategy behind such targeted killings. Insofar as there is a political rationale to these acts of remote execution, it is deeply suspect. Even the pragmatic rationale is flawed: the evidence is that targeted killings make us less safe, not more.

The policy of assassinating high-value targets, modeled after Israeli practices, was adopted in the early days of the U.S. War on Terror but escalated by the Obama Administration with the aid of drone technology. Advocates describe it as an efficient way of killing terrorists that poses minimal risk to service members and entails much lower collateral damage than do...