The Hateful Fifteen: Dog Meat, Light Rail, Selma, and the Many Textures of Karachi

best of 2015

2015 was a big year for Tropics of Meta – we wrote about subways and parking lots, learned to ride a bike, and won a date with Tad Hamilton! (We also asked Mother if we could sleep with Danger, but she said no. It’s hard to do frowny faces inside parentheses, which only compounds our frowny face.)

But seriously, folks, a lot of good people sacrificed a lot to write a lot of good stuff and somehow bring Matt Damon back from whatever predicament he’s in this time. We’ve heard about dog-meat panics in Tijuana, German economic theory and the Greek crisis, David Foster Wallace, light rail, Selma, and the geography of hipsterism over the last year.  We also did a pretty neat series on seeking alternative careers (alt-ac), which provided some handy tips for History PhDs trying to figure out the next step.  2015 may have been a shit taco of a year for the world, but it was alright for the peanut gallery at ToM. Here are fifteen(ish) of the best pieces from 2015:

East of East 

As part of our ongoing East of East project, Melqui Fernandez recounts the turbulent history of one of California’s most important labor conflicts:

The El Monte Berry Strike of 1933

Also part of our East of East collaboration with the South El Monte Arts Posse (SEMAP), Juan Herrera digs into the metropolitan history of the Chicano movement while also exploring its gender dynamics through the groundbreaking Chicana activist and El Monte resident Gloria Arrellanes:

¡La Lucha Continua! Gloria Arellanes and the Making of a Chicano Movement in El Monte and Beyond

Civil Rights

Pretty self-explanatory, but still commonly misunderstood:

What Did the Three-Fifths Compromise Actually Do?

Keith Orejel considers the portrayal of civil rights history in one of the year’s most profound films:

Breathing in Selma: The Powerful History and Contemporary Resonance of Ava DuVernay’s Film


A photo essay on the sights and textures of Karachi, Pakistan’s megalopolis:

Karachi: A Sensory History

We dig mass transit like most folks dig donuts. RR continues our furtive transportation fetish:

The Light Rail Conundrum from Los Angeles to Atlanta: LRT in the 21st Century

Building Subways in the Post World War II World: Los Angeles and Washington D.C.

The history and theory of parking lots – deal with it:

Can the Parking Lot Speak? Uncovering Untold Histories of Parking in America

Exploring the hipster “creative” economy of neighborhoods like Chicago’s iconic Wicker Park:

Floridian America Redux?: Wicker Park, Hipsterdom, and Neo-Bohemia

Jael Vizcarra delves into the intersection of Chinese immigration, Tijuana food culture, NAFTA:

Yellow Peril in a Globalized Tijuana: The Dog-Meat Incident, NAFTA, and Chinese Immigrant Labor

Pop Culture

Deep thoughts about platypuses, The Office, and the metaphysics of intellectual property from ASC:

The Thing Called Information: Understanding Alienation in the Post-Industrial Economy

On the occasion of the sort-of biopic The End of the Tour, A-God looks at the memory of celebrated author DFW:

A Radically Condensed History of David Foster Wallace’s Legacy

Nathan Hartle examines the parallels between Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones:

Dog Days Classics: Tolkien and Martin in Love and War


Kevin Baker gave some deep historical context for the inexplicable and interminable Euro-crisis:

Why German Economic Thought Made the Greek Crisis Inevitable

Alternative Careers from Academia (aka Alt-Ac)

Our Alt-Ac series:

How One Tenure-Track Prof Left Academia: A Beginner’s Guide

Working for the Man?! Turning Your PhD into a Meaningful Job with the Federal Government

I Have a PhD in History. How Can I Survive in the Private Sector?

Making Your Way as a History PhD in the Think Tank World