Category Archives: Psychology

Journal of an American plague year

MOST of the books written about Covid-19 to date have been journalistic. They did the essential job of capturing the pandemic while we were living through it, but they lacked distance. Now, with the benefit of hindsight and a great deal more data, come the first of the histories. Early out of the starting blocks is Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at New York University who has made a speciality of what he calls the “social autopsy” of disaster…

K. Kendall from Portland, OR, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

This article first appeared in New Statesman online on 26 February 2024, and in the subsequent print edition. To continue reading, click here.

The secret police have a file on you. Do you want to see it?

IN East Germany, during the communist period, people would sometimes join a queue on the basis that if others were waiting, there must be something worth having at the end of it. Siegfried Wittenburg, whose images accompany this article, photographed this waiting-for-I-know-not-what in his home town of Rostock. It was safer to take photos than to criticise the regime in words, but only just…

A sea of mud between apartment blocks whenever it rained. Rostock, East Germany, 1981. Photograph: Siegfried Wittenburg

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 28 November 2022. To continue reading, click here.

Going viral

FIRST the pharaoh changed his name, from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten. Then he decreed that a new capital should be built far away from the old one. And in this city, one god should be worshipped, forsaking all others: the sun god Aten…

Pete Reynolds for New Scientist

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 19 July 2022. To continue reading click here (paywall).

Interview: Frans de Waal, primatologist

SEX and gender have come to represent one of the hottest fronts in the modern culture wars. Now, on to this bloody battlefield, calmly dodging banned books, anti-transgender laws and political doublespeak, strolls the distinguished Dutch-American primatologist Frans de Waal, brandishing nearly half a century’s worth of field notebooks and followed, metaphorically speaking, by an astonishingly diverse collection of primates…

Bonobos

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 17 April 2022. To continue reading, click here.

From zero to hero

IT was the alt-history, the policy that didn’t get enacted. No-Covid, zero-Covid or elimination aimed to stamp out community transmission of Covid-19 in a given area, rather than just reduce it to “manageable” levels. Most of the world eschewed it, and it got bad press from the start. Only autocratic regimes could pull it off, one mantra went. Countries like China and ah, New Zealand and, oops, that notorious police state Davis in California…

University of California Davis

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 28 March 2022. To continue reading, click here.