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Livia Gershon

Livia Gershon is a freelance writer in Nashua, New Hampshire. Her writing has appeared in publications including Salon, Aeon Magazine and the Good Men Project. Contact her on Twitter @liviagershon.

A calculator

Why Are Tax Forms So Complicated?

When it comes to the U.S. tax system, benefits are often indirect, which makes them more politically palatable to many.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau in nature

Discovering the Joy of Solitude While Social Distancing

Does the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Romantic notion of solitude offer a lesson for those practicing social distancing?
Children push a fishing boat to shore in Zanzibar

An Islamic Approach to Environmentalism

A number of contemporary Muslim environmentalist groups have been inspired by Koranic verses that stress the conservation of nature.
People wearing latex gloves while food shopping in Merrick, NY, March 17, 2020

Could Foreign Policy Stop Another Pandemic?

Diseases know no borders. International cooperation and solidarity, say scholars, are as essential as funding.
The location of the Earth encircled by the celestial circles, 1661

The Protestant Astrology of Early American Almanacs

The wildly popular books helped people understand farming and health through the movement of the planets, in a way compatible with Protestantism.
Students of an engineering course in training in Japan, 1915

When Scientific Management Came to Japan

Japanese workers, many of them women, worked up to 17 hours a day in the early 20th century. Yet experts still wondered why they “wasted” time.
A vintage ad for Crest toothpaste

How Toothpaste Got Scientific Cred

Would you brush with a toothpaste for the sweet taste alone or because of its touted health benefits? The answer wasn't always so obvious.
William Cheselden giving an anatomical demonstration to six spectators in the anatomy-theatre of the Barber-Surgeons' Company, London, c. 1730

The Study of Human Anatomy and the Corpses of Vienna

For cultural and geographical reasons, the city was a great place to find bodies to dissect. But there was also the matter of one well-connected doctor.
Quaker tobacco farmers in Barbados

The Invention of the “Healthy” Caribbean

Europeans used to believe that "bad air" caused diseases, so they distrusted the Caribbean's air quality and land features like swamps.
Anthony Benezet

The Undercover Abolitionists of the 18th Century

Since many people considered them an off-putting radical sect, some Quaker abolitionists worked behind the scenes to eradicate slavery.
"Spirit" photograph, supposedly taken during a seance, actually a double exposure or composite of superimposed cut-outs, showing woman with portraits of men and women around her head

How Spirit Photography Made Heaven Literal

Are the departed watching over us, and if so, what are they wearing? Victorian spiritualists believed that ghosts could be captured on film.
Karneval in Rom by Johannes Lingelbach

Is It Really Carnival if You’re Not Drunk?

Carnival is known for overturning the rules of society for a short time. But strangely, many scholars don't discuss what a big role alcohol plays in it.
Nicholas Black Elk

Wounded Knee and the Myth of the Vanished Indian

The story of the 1890 massacre was often about the end of Native American resistance to U.S. expansion. But that's not how everyone told it.
A Russian poster criticizing alcohol abuse.

The Politics of Drinking in Revolutionary Russia

To leaders, the ideal Soviet worker should be sober. Actual workers had other thoughts.
A moustachioed young man and a girl in long braids dance the 'original polka' on page one of 'Jullien's Celebrated Polkas', dedicated to Mr E Coulon.

The Rebellious, Scandalous Origins of Polka

The dance is often associated with the traditions of immigrant communities in America. But it emerged in Europe during a time of radicalism.
A man lying down on a couch in a psychiatrist office.

The Inner Life of Neoliberalism

Does it seem like left-wingers have a monopoly on therapeutic ideas? Not so fast.
An early 20th century drawing of different foods

A Brief History of the Calorie

The measure of thermal energy expended by exercise was adapted from the study of explosives and engines.
Tableau d'histoire naturelle Annelides, Crustaces, Arachnides, etc, 1834

Are Insects Capable of Moral Behavior?

Some 19th-century naturalists believed that bugs could think and should therefore definitely know that biting is out of line.
Pop art style comics panel angry woman grinding teeth with speech bubble and swear words symbols

The Theory of Cuss Word Relativity

Which words are considered taboo varies by place and time, scholars find.
Native Hawaiian schoolchildren around 1900.

How Public Schools “Americanized” Hawai’i

Colonial education administrators recruited teachers from the mainland, but soon realized another strategy was in order.

How Conservation Is Shaped by Settler Colonialism

The legal concept of "terra nullius"—meaning "no one's land"—influenced European colonialism and continues to shape the practice of conservation.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shakyamuni_Buddha_with_Avadana_Legend_Scenes_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

How Comparative Religion Took Root in the 19th Century

Many Americans considered faiths outside Christianity and Judaism to be "pagan." Unitarian minister James Freeman Clarke argued otherwise.
An advertisement for Schlitz Beer, 1967

Selling Hedonism in Postwar America

The hedonism of American consumer culture is the result of deliberate efforts by mid-twentieth century marketing experts.
A fallout shelter

The D-I-Y Fallout Shelter

In the 1950s and 1960s, families planning for the apocalypse often took a homespun approach.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Why Were There Still Stories of Blackface in 2019?

One of the minor themes of 2019 was the revelation that various prominent white politicians had once worn blackface. The question is: why?