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The Week in Ideas (1/16)

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  January 15, 2013 02:54 PM

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Mt. Auburn’s farsighted message: Cornell historian Aaron Sachs on the unique landscape and thoughtful planning that went into the creation of Mount Auburn Cemetery, which have made it a place where generations have been able “to ponder their connectedness to each other and to the soil; to understand the interdependence of death and life, nature and culture; to remember the significance of cycles in an age of linear progress and ‘go-aheadism.’”

What really drives civil wars?: Thanassis Cambanis on MIT political scientist Fotini Christia who thinks prevailing theories about why civil wars occur are wrong. We think of conflicts like the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq as being about centuries-old ethnic and tribal hatreds, but Christia argues that the actors in these conflicts are more opportunistic and rational. “The many factions in a civil war are less like Cain and Abel and more like the mafia families in “The Godfather” trilogy. Loyalties follow business interests, and business interests change; meanwhile, the talk about family and blood keeps the foot soldiers motivated.”

What China watches: Patricia Wen interviews Ying Zhu, a professor of media culture at City University of New York, about the political pressures faced by journalists at CCTV (China Central Television), China's largest television network.

Boardinghouses: Where the city was born: Ruth Graham with a fascinating look at how boardinghouses reshaped how Americans lived and played a crucial role in the growth of 19th-century American cities. She also explores the possibility that they offer a glimpse of the future of urban living in the U.S., as cash-strapped adultolescents look for affordable ways to strike out on their own.

Plus: Kevin Lewis on how having a heavy workload may help people avoid life’s temptations, and more.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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