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The American ScholarThe American Scholar

The American Scholar

Winter 2019

Inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous speech, The American Scholar is the quarterly magazine of public affairs, literature, science, history, and culture published by the Phi Beta Kappa Society since 1932.

United States
Phi Beta Kappa Society
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4 Issues


access_time2 min.

OUR COVER STORY IN THIS ISSUE became sadly personal a few days ago when a friend called to say, “My wife is in jail.” Both he and his wife are Mexican, and both have lived and worked in the United States illegally for many years. Three years ago, my friend’s mother-in-law died. She had also been living here, and her daughter decided to take her body home to Mexico for burial. Some years ago, my friend’s wife had come to this country on a visa and overstayed her allotted time, so, although her son and grandson are now United States...

access_time6 min.

The River Ran Red As an African-American man who grew up in the Deep South, in an environment of abject racial segregation, I found that David Gessner’s article “Dangerous Ground” (Autumn 2018) conjured up a wide range of emotions for me. It’s both laudable and remarkable that Gessner established a friendship with his African-American student Will—one that transcended the teacher-student relationship—and courageous for Gessner to defend him, after Will had several confrontations with Wilmington policemen. However, I did consider it to be poor judgment on Will’s part when he refused to shake the hand of one of the officers who...

access_time12 min.
beauty and the beef

Will the nation’s identity continue to be pastoral, or will its urbanites create a hip young image of environmental awareness? THE FIRST MEAT PIE I had in New Zealand was a mince-and-cheese from the Coffeepot Café along State Highway 1 in Kaiwaka, a rest stop on the InterCity bus route from beachy Paihia to Auckland, the largest city in the country. On the way to Paihia, I had not partaken of the pies because I was suspicious of their quality. The Coffeepot Café seemed to exist only to cater to bus passengers: German, Chinese, and Canadian flags fluttered...

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the delta blues

Long before the “forgotten” people of America became the focus of postelection media coverage, Louisiana-based photographer Debbie Fleming Caffery was documenting former boomtowns that had lost their economic base and their population. Caffery is best known for her intimate black-and-white photographs of African-American men and women in the South. Her work has also taken her to brothels in Mexico and post–Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. In 2017, Atlanta’s High Museum commissioned Caffery for its ongoing Picturing the South series, allowing her to return to areas in rural Mississippi and Louisiana that she has visited and documented off and on for 30...

access_time3 min.
fighting the endless war

After more than 20 years of active service as a U.S. Army officer, ANDREW J. BACEVICH taught history and international relations at Boston University, where he is now an emeritus professor. His new book, Twilight of the American Century, examines the ambitions and failures of America’s foreign policy. We asked him to consider the future of the U.S. military in an era of permanent war. 1. The success of Operation Desert Storm back in 1991 found America’s military in a mood to reap accolades. Politicians and press alike agreed that U.S. forces were easily the world’s best, and likely...

access_time2 min.
license to thrive?

(ISTOCK) Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are flourishing around the country. In Washington, D.C., for example, this market has more than quadrupled since 2015. The sudden ubiquity of Uber and Lyft left Katie Wells, a geographer and postdoctoral fellow at Georgetown University, wondering about their effects not only on public transit but also on the lives of the drivers themselves. Since May 2016, Wells and her fellow researchers have been interviewing Uber drivers living in the D.C. area. Often, Wells finds, the financial benefits of driving for a ride-hailing service are elusive. Drivers can become entrenched in what she...