Editor's Note

Editor’s Note

HUMANITIES, Spring 2022, Volume 43, Number 2

Reading Carolyn Stewart’s road-trip cover story about Appalachian food, I felt drawn, inexorably, to my kitchen for something to eat. How do the editors of food magazines control their appetites, I wonder, when all day long they look at fabulous images of perfect-looking food? 

More important, Stewart’s voyage down Route 11, starting in Virginia, reminds us that our favorite foods have passed through many cultures on their way to our plates, a veritable humanities lesson we see echoed in many projects funded by NEH and state humanities councils over the years. 

One of my favorite images in this issue is of the psychiatrist François Tosquelles holding up a sculpture made by a patient at Saint Alban’s hospital in France during World War II. The emphasis on art and community speaks to Tosquelles’s vision for treating patients’ psychological problems by remaking the environment around them. Camille Robcis, author of a new NEH-supported book about the rise of institutional psychotherapy, tells us about the life and significance of this important thinker. 

Instead of looking inward or outward to fix what was wrong, gentlemen, for centuries, looked to a code of honor that deliberately exposed their lives to the swords and, later, guns of their enemies. Joseph Farrell examines the code duello, the Italian-born cultural practice of dueling, not for sport but to recover one’s honor following an insult or other transgression. The staff of Humanities had mixed feelings, however, as we learned that, in some cases, editors (sadly, the font of many an insult) were held in such low regard that they were not even worth killing. 

Swati Srivastava is a political theorist who, with NEH support, is writing a book on how the collection of personal information by big tech companies is reshaping daily life and political culture. Reading her scholarship, I was struck by how little I knew about this whole field, so I asked her to write a lexicon of some of the key words and phrases used in her work. The result is a short primer in how she and others are thinking about the political significance of big tech. 

In our next issue we plan to run an interview with NEH’s new chair, Shelly C. Lowe, whose Senate confirmation in February made her the subject of pieces in the Washington Post, Indian Country Today, and many other media outlets. 

In the meantime, you can feed your appetite for humanities subjects by reading an essay on that master essayist Francis Bacon or learning about the new First Americans Museum in Oklahoma or hearing from the award-winning children’s book author Jacqueline Briggs Martin on what it is like to see your book win a Caldecott Medal.