Op-eds and Essays

What politicians mean when they call the border wall ‘medieval’

By Paul B. Sturtevant

In: The Washington Post, January 22nd 2019.

As the fight over funding for President Trump’s wall has dragged on, the conversation has taken an odd turn. The president’s critics and Democratic opponents have been slamming his proposal for a wall on the border with Mexico as “medieval” for years. In September 2017, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) called it “a medieval solution to a modern problem. A ‘Game of Thrones’ idea for a world that is a lot closer to ‘Star Wars.’ ” In recent weeks, Democratic leaders such as Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) and Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) have joined the chorus slamming the idea as “medieval.” Read more at WashingtonPost.com.

Science fiction’s anti-Semitism problem

By Paul B. Sturtevant

In: The Washington Post, August 14th 2018.

Like many other gamers, last week I fired up “No Man’s Sky” again. It is a massively popular and hugely ambitious science-fiction game. In it, you explore a vast galaxy, discover new planets and species, and uncover the mysteries of the universe. Along the way, you encounter three sentient alien species: the scientific Korvax, the martial Vy’keen and the greedy Gek.

The Gek are, in essence, space Jews. Read more at WashingtonPost.com.

What if Thanos’s plan in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ actually happened? It already did (sort of).

By Paul B. Sturtevant

In: The Washington Post, May 11th 2018.

The following contains spoilers for “Avengers: Infinity War.”

Thanos, the uber-villain of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, finally arrived in “Avengers: Infinity War.” He made his intentions clear: The universe, he says, is overpopulated and its consumption of natural resources unsustainable. His solution? Kill 50 percent of the population in an entirely random lottery. A mass, but impartial, genocide. Read more at WashingtonPost.com

Review: Paul B. Sturtevant’s ‘Middle Ages’: Learning a little history from popular culture

By Scott Manning

In: The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 1st 2018.

The Middle Ages in Popular Imagination
Memory, Film and Medievalism
By Paul B. Sturtevant
I. B. Tauris. 299 pp. $110

Paul B. Sturtevant is tired of quantitative studies that aim to broadcast the public’s ignorance of history. To him, they reduce history to memorizing facts and dates while taking “an explicitly negative position when framing the results,” typically focusing on the small minority of people who failed the test. Sturtevant, an American with a Ph.D. in medieval studies from the University of Leeds who now works at the Smithsonian Institution, believes there is a more fruitful approach for historians and public alike. Quite simply, instead of playing Jeopardy followed by an insulting headline, historians and surveyors should study how the public understands the past. Read more at Philly.com

History Is Not a Useless Major: Fighting Myths with Data

By Paul B. Sturtevant

In: Perspectives on History, April 2017.

Over the past 20 years, warnings from a variety of sources—from career counselors to administrators to government officials—have convinced many prospective college students (and their parents) that the only safe path to a well-paying job is through a STEM major. Members of the academy—including STEM faculty themselves—have repeatedly challenged assertions that majoring in the humanities is useless. And employers of STEM graduates say that they value skills cultivated in a wide-ranging curriculum. Read more at Historians.org.

The Humanities Must Unite or Die

By Paul B. Sturtevant

In: Inside Higher Ed, November 6th, 2015.

At a town hall campaign stop in South Carolina, Jeb Bush recently singled out an interesting group for attack: psychology, philosophy and liberal arts majors.  He said:
“When a student shows up, they [their college or university] ought to say, ‘Hey, that psych major deal, that philosophy major thing, that’s great, it’s important to have liberal arts … but realize, you’re going to be working a Chick-fil-A.’” Read More at Insidehighered.com.

The Secrets of Authentic American Barbecue

By Paul B. Sturtevant

In: The Daily Telegraph, July 15th 2015.

Barbecue to most Brits means cremating sausages and burgers directly over hot coals, usually under an umbrella.

To an American, particularly one from the southern United States, “barbecue” is a very specific word. It does not mean simply the act of cooking al fresco, but refers to a specific set of dishes, cooked in a very particular way and traditionally served at informal, social gatherings.

True barbecue – that is food cooked low and slow over smoke – was born at the intersection of Native American, African and European cultures. Read more at Telegraph.co.uk