Our Top Pieces of 2021 – Boston Review – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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This year began with hope for vaccines, a new U.S. president, and generally brighter days. But the January 6 attack on the Capitol quickly tarnished our optimism, and nearly a year later we find ourselves facing a holiday wave of soaring COVID infections (again) and Biden’s Build Back Better plan dead in the water. It is really no surprise, then, that the Ever Given blocking the Suez Canal became the ship that launched a thousand memes, the perfect metaphor for lockdown torpor. But the Ever Given saga also shone a light on the colossal shipping industry behind global trade, whose pursuit of profit has long wreaked havoc on laborers and the seas they sail. “If . . . the Ever Given should teach us anything,” Charmaine Chua wrote in May, “perhaps it is that something monstrous has always been at work in the operations of global capitalism.”

Although our essays about coronaskepticism and epistemological crises were among our most read of the year, it wasn’t all doom and gloom: philosophy pieces also proved popular, with essays on persuasion and pleasure providing some much-needed thoughtful escapism. Together the essays below constitute just a small selection from our output, with this year being one of our busiest ever. In addition to our new fellowship, revamped events series, and completely redesigned website, 2021 saw us publish 38 essays on race, 29 science pieces, 37 poems, and 31 contributions to our class and inequality section—not to mention hundreds more essays across our other categories and special projects.

Be sure to check out all of these offerings across the Boston Review site. But before you do, here’s what you loved most:

Race, Policing, and the Limits of Social Science

Studying the social world requires more than deference to data. In some cases, it may even require that we reject findings—no matter the prestige or sophistication of the technical apparatus on which they are built.

Lily Hu

Pleasure and Justice

Three new books explore the gap between sex that is good and sex that is virtuous, making the complexities of desire central to our conversations about sexual ethics.

Becca Rothfeld

The Ever Given and the Monstrosity of Maritime Capitalism

Two timely new books unmask the colossal shipping industry behind global trade,


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