Guys, we don’t mean to brag but… we do. There has been some great stuff on ToM this year. Not that that’s anything new, but in 2016 a wide range of contributors generously shared their work with us on a remarkable number of subjects, from architecture to music to politics, both tragic (the Orlando shooting, the election) and inspiring (struggles for social justice). Looking back, we’ve picked out a number of favorite posts for readers to revisit–and we’re excited to see what 2017 brings. Even if this year has been an unending parade of horribles, the best we can do is to keep reading, thinking, writing and informing each other.
Ryan Reft, The Sound of Motor City: Ruin Porn, Popular Memory, and Protomartyr’s Vision of 21st Century Detroit, January 4, 2016
RR looks at the history and contemporary musical sound of Detroit, the ruin-porn tourist destination and beloved underdog of 21st-century economic travail and willful rebirth, chiefly through the music of the band of Protomartyr.
Yuri Gama, The Rise and Fall of an African American Inner City: The Case of Parramore, Orlando, March 2, 2016
A fascinating insight into the history of segregation in Florida, by UMass Amherst PhD student Yuri Gama.
Brian M. Ingrassia, Gunning the Throttle for the Llano Estacado: The Epistemic Amarillo, March 10, 2016
West Texas A&M historian Brian Ingrassia takes readers on a journey through the physical and musical landscape of his recently adopted hometown, the fabled Amarillo.
Joel Suarez, Barbara Fields on Dysplacement and Democracy, March 28, 2016
A new piece of work from legendary historian/world-historical bad-ass Barbara Fields is always an occasion for comment. J-Wow engages with the ideas from Fields’s presidential address for the Southern Historical Association, sympathetically but critically considering her concept of “dysplacement.”
Rachel Grace Newman, A Truth that Had to Be Told: Uncovering the History of School Segregation in El Monte, April 8, 2016
A peek into the inspiring, decades-long struggle for equity in the schools of El Monte, and the key role of activist Olga Gutierrez, one of the many great people taken in 2016. Part of the forthcoming book East of East from the South El Monte Arts Posse.
Evan Thomas-Arnold, Birthing Mass Transit in the DMV: WMATA and the Difficulties of Multi-Jurisdictional Transportation Systems, April 21, 2016
The ultimate wonk-a-thon: a deep dive into the complicated politics of planning and transit, especially in regional contexts where multiple authorities (cities, counties, states) have to agree on how to work out complex systems to serve citizens in metropolitan areas.
RR, Greenberg to Koufax to Valenzuela: Ethnicity, Identity, and Baseball in “Chasing Dreams”, May 10, 2016
3000 years of beautiful tradition from Moses to Sandy Koufax to Fernando Valenzuela? Hell yes I’m living the past! More of ToM’s unique coverage of the intertwining of race, ethnicity, and sport.
H. Robert Baker, When Trump Loses, June 7, 2016
It’s hard to be prescient when you turn out to be wrong, but Georgia State historian Rob Baker somehow pulled it off. His June 2016 piece captured the essence of the Trump phenomenon–and the insouciant trampling of the Constitution that it represents remains with us, despite the fact 20,000 people in Wisconsin made a different decision than most of us anticipated.
Alex Sayf Cummings, Into the Spaceship: A Visit to the Old Burroughs Wellcome Building, June 13, 2016
As part of this year’s Vernacular Architecture Forum conference in Durham, NC, ASC took participants on a journey through the iconic former headquarters of pharma giant Burroughs-Wellcome, a modernist masterpiece designed by architect Paul Rudolph.
Jerry Watkins, Queer Florida: Reflecting on Reaction and History in the LGBTQ South, June 14, 2016
In the wake of the heart-breaking events at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, William & Mary historian Jerry Watkins reflected on the untold history of LGBT people in Florida and the South more broadly.
Jeffrey Lawrence, The Miranda-Obama Collaboration (From Hamilton to Puerto Rico), August 8, 2016
In this timely piece, Rutgers professor Jeffrey Lawrence considered what the smash musical Hamilton meant about the politics of liberalism and the interpretation of the Founding Fathers in the Age of Obama. Spoiler alert: it’s disappointing.
Joel Suarez, Artisanal Despair and Farm-to-Table White Nationalism: Watching Trump in Austin, August 26, 2016
An unfortunately prophetic piece about the politics of Trump, in a first-hand field report from J-Wow.
Antonio Del Toro, Born For Love: Juan Gabriel’s Ballads of Solitude, and the Pain of Immigration, August 31, 2016
A gorgeous meditation on the personal and cultural significance of the Mexican superstar, who passed away in August of this year, by Asheville writer Antonio del Toro.
Troy Andreas Araiza Kokinis, Kaepernick’s Protest Gesture and the Militarization of Professional Sports, September 1, 2016, and Adam Gallagher, Colin Kaepernick’s Critics Only Care about Symbolism and Ignore Substance, September 9, 2016
UC-San Diego doctoral candidate Troy Kokinis considered Colin Kaepernick’s protest–both celebrated and derided–in the context of a much broader reshaping of American sport through a pageantry of militarism and patriotism, while professional troublemaker Adam Gallagher also weighed the long history of hypocrisy toward African-American athletes who take political stands.
Casey Baskin, The Whole World a Prison: Forced Feminization Narratives and the Politics of Sexual Identity, September 19, 2016
In this thought-provoking essay, ToM editorial intern Casey Baskin looks at a little studied genre of literature–online sex stories–and focuses on the way that gender, sexuality, and sexual assault are constructed in stories of rape and imprisonment. We’re not huge on trigger warnings at ToM, but in this case the content is worth taking into account.
Katie Marages Schank, From Infamous to Famous: (Re)Constructing Atlanta’s Public Housing Through Rap and Hip Hop, September 22, 2016
The incomparable Dr. Schank, now a post-doc at Emory, offers this illuminating look into the way Atlanta public housing’s image was refracted through music, television, and other media. Notably, this post has a high OutKast content–please be advised. (B.O.B.!)
Jeffrey Ryan Harris, Is Hillary the Most Qualified Nominee for President Ever?, September 27, 2016
Not that it matters anymore, but UNC PhD candidate Jeffrey Harris pondered the claim made by President Obama, former President Clinton, and others: was HRC really the person with the best credentials ever for the job? The answer may surprise you.
RR, Charles and Ray Eames: How Wartime L.A. Shaped the Mid-Century Modern Aesthetic, October 11, 2016
It is literally impossible to get enough of the Eames style, especially as mid-century modern-mania continues to grip America. RR revisits the social landscape that influenced the Eames and tells us what’s up.
ASC, On Creativity, Knowledge, and Epistocracy, October 18, 2016
Sayf lays out some speculative thoughts about the concept of “epistocracy”–newly in vogue among cyberlibertarian elites in Silicon Valley–and how it relates to the knowledge economy. After November 8th it seems adorably antiquated.
Then there’s our pre-election “Is Trump Sui Generis?” series, with contributions from Gallagher, ASC, Gary Gristle, Rob Baker, Tim Lombardo, and Casey Baskin. Sweet Jesus.
Amy Starecheski, Ours to Lose: When Squatters Became Homeowners in New York City, November 23, 2016
In this excerpt from Columbia oral historian Amy Starecheski’s new book, we learn about the brave struggle of Manhattanites to reclaim housing and gain control of their homes. Buy/read/assign the book!
Romeo Guzman, The Last Lecture of My First Semester: My Daughter, Pocahontas, December 12, 2016
In the age of our catastrophe, a bittersweet riff on the importance of parenting, teaching our kids, and teaching people to teach our kids, from Fresno State historian Romeo Guzman.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that this piece on the dreaded Electoral College by philosopher Cherie Braden was a monster all through the year, smashing records for ToM page views and in some sense perhaps offering a leading indicator for the unexpected and paradoxical outcome of the election. It was published in 2013, but it is truly the post of 2016.