Essays

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Saturday night in Borgarfjörður eystri, Iceland, 2007. In 2018, 70 per cent of births in the country were outside of marriage. Photo by Jonas Bendicksen/Magnum

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Love and friendship
Is marriage over?

Marriage is practised in every society yet is in steep decline globally. Is this it for longterm intimate relationships?

Manvir Singh

Photo by Debbie Lee Harrison/Getty

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Cognition and intelligence
It’s hard to fool a nose

Theories of perception are heavily tilted to the visual: we have much to learn from our surprisingly acute sense of smell

Ann-Sophie Barwich

Photo by Mark Cornick from the Soho Nights series

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Mental health
My psychosis

It was one terrifying, exciting night of delusions, hallucinations and paranoia. What would it teach a future psychologist?

Tom Hartley

From the Chansonnier of Zeghere van Male (1542), Bruges. Cambrai, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 128B, Folio 116v. Courtesy ISMPL.org

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Environmental history
Human crap

We are demigods of discards – but our copious garbage became a toxic burden only with the modern cult of ‘disposability’

Gabrielle Hecht

Detail from Interior (with Gabriele Münter and Marianne von Werefkin) (1910), by Wassily Kandinsky. Photo by AKG London

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Psychiatry and psychotherapy
Therapy that sticks

Quick-fix psychotherapies have been hailed as the gold standard. But depth therapies can be far more enduring and profound

Linda Michaels

Why did the woman cross the road? Photo by Harry Gruyaert/Magnum

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Cognition and intelligence
You are the world

Are your decisions made by your brain, or via the experience of the world relative to your body? A dialogue on consciousness

Tim Parks & Riccardo Manzotti

Photo by Ed Kashi/VII

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Medicine
No patient is an island

How a concern to protect the autonomy of patients leads to the exclusion of families just when they are needed the most

Anita Ho

Former child soldiers forced to join the Lord’s Resistance Army, seen here at an army child protection unit following their rescue by the Uganda People’s Defence Force. Gulu, Uganda, September 2004. Photo by Vanessa Vick/Redux

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Human rights and justice
Against humanity

What the Lord’s Resistance Army can teach us about flaws in the ideal of human rights and the fight for justice

Sam Dubal

Photo by Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG/Getty

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The environment
A vision for agriculture

We know how to replace toxic, intensive livestock raising with beautiful, efficient grasslands. Do we have the will?

Randall D Jackson

A Japanese-American shopkeeper and graduate of the University of California unfurled a banner proclaiming ‘I am an American’ in the window of his grocery store in Oakland, California, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. This photo was taken three months later, just prior to the man’s forced removal to an internment camp. Photo by Dorothea Lange

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Political philosophy
The theorist of belonging

Judith Shklar fled Nazis and Stalinism before discovering in African-American history the dilemma of modern liberalism

Samantha Ashenden & Andreas Hess

Portrait of an African Man ( c1525-30), by Jan Jansz Mostaert. This is the only known portrait of a black man in early European painting. He is thought to be Christophle le More, an archer who was a member of Emperor Charles V’s bodyguard. Photo courtesy the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

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Race and ethnicity
Is ‘race’ modern?

To counter racism, scholars must trace the idea of ‘race’ to its origins, but asking the right questions is half the battle

Adam Hochman

The infamous ‘London fog’, seen here on 17 November 1949. Two generations after the Clean Air Act of 1956, London seems much cleaner with Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emission zones. Photo by Keystone/Getty

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The environment
Slow hope

Climate change is an emergency but despair is not the answer. The world is full of untold stories of people-powered change

Christof Mauch

Les Baigneuses (1912), by Albert Gleizes. Courtesy Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris/Wikipedia

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Human evolution
Choose your own birth

Every human is both an animal with a deep evolutionary history and an individual who must bring their existence into being

Ada Jaarsma

Erotic scene from the Persian Safavid period c1660. Photo courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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Sex and sexuality
Islamic sexology

Popular stereotypes of Islam as a prudish religion ignore rich traditions of freewheeling, explicit erotica and advice

Mark Hay

Poster advertising the 1948 Superman series. Photo courtesy Getty Images

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Stories and literature
Supermensch

Superman et al were invented amid feverish eugenic speculation: what does the superhero craze say about our own times?

Iwan Rhys Morus

Photo by Getty Images

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Sports and games
Love is a hold’em game

While some keep their cards close to their chest, others try raising the stakes. What can poker teach us about dating?

Suki Finn

Photo by Getty Images

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Illness and disease
Traumatised by the cure

Survivors of life-threatening illness can be left in profound fear and distress. Are they suffering from a form of PTSD?

Liza Gross

Photo by Jagoda Matejczuk/Getty

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Animals and humans
Rats are us

They are sentient beings with rich emotional lives, yet we subject them to experimental cruelty without conscience. Why?

Kristin Andrews & Susana Monsó

Photo bt Emin Ozmen/Magnum Photos

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Knowledge
Nihilism

The risk of nihilism is that it alienates us from anything good or true. Yet believing in nothing has positive potential

Nolen Gertz

From Voyage dans l'Amérique Méridionale, (v.IX, 1835-47), by Alcide Dessalines d'Orbigny. Courtesy the Biodiversity Heritage Library/Public Domain

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Illness and disease
This ragged claw

It is a crab; no, a worm; no, a wolf. Early physicians weren’t entirely wrong to imagine cancer as a ravenous disease

Ellen Wayland-Smith

Photo by ragz13/Getty

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Philosophy of language
The ethics of speech acts

It’s one thing to say something. It’s quite another for a person to do (or not do) something because of what you’ve said

Guy Longworth

Wild geese in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York City, USA, 2017. Photo by Rebecca Norris Webb from the book Brooklyn, the City Within with Alex Webb/Magnum Photos

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Nature and landscape
A place of silence

Our cities are filled by the hubbub of human-made noise. Where shall we find the quietness we need to nurture our spirit?

Liam Heneghan

Detail from Hannah Duston Killing the Indians (1847) by Junius Brutus Stearns. Courtesy Colby College Museum of Art; Gift of R Chase Lasbury and Sally Nan Lasbury

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War and peace
American torture

For 400 years, Americans have argued that their violence is justified while the violence of others constitutes barbarism

William Fitzhugh Brundage

Aldous Huxley in 1958. Photo by Philippe Halsman/Magnum

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Philosophy of religion
Perennial philosophy

Aldous Huxley argued that all religions in the world were underpinned by universal beliefs and experiences. Was he right?

Jules Evans

Planetary System. Eclipse of the Sun. The Moon. The Zodiacal Light. Meteoric Shower. From Yaggy’s Geographical Study, 1887. Courtesy the David Rumsey Map Collection

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History of science
Naming the Universe

How the quick thinking of internationally minded astronomers avoided stamping the solar system with petty European rivalries

Stephen Case

Black clothing, a distracted gaze: the height of Elizabethan fashion. Portrait of Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland (1590-1595), by Nicholas Hilliard. Photo courtesy the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

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Stories and literature
My mistress Melancholy

In The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton gave his life to charting a Renaissance disease both alluring and dangerous

Mary Ann Lund

Dee, JoJo, Frankie and Lisa after school on Prince Street, Little Italy, New York City, in 1976. Photo from Susan Meiselas’s series Prince Street Girls/Magnum

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Love and friendship
The biology of love

Humans teeter on a knife’s edge. The same deep chemistry that fosters bonding can, in a heartbeat, pivot to fear and hate

Ruth Feldman

A cemetery in Bristol, England, seen from a hot air balloon flight in August 2009. Photo by Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

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Death
This mortal coil

The fear of death drives many evils, from addiction to prejudice and war. Can it also be harnessed as a force for good?

Jeff Greenberg

An aerial view shows a typically busy Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province, deserted amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak that originated in the city. 27 January 2020. Photo by Hector Retamel/AFP/Getty

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Technology and the self
Collaborators in creation

Our world is a system, in which physical and social technologies co-evolve. How can we shape a process we don’t control?

Doyne Farmer, Fotini Markopoulou, Eric Beinhocker & Steen Rasmussen

Samuelson explained economic theory to the postwar American public. Photo by retrofile/Getty

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Economics
The people’s economist

Paul Samuelson’s mathematical brilliance changed economics, but it was his popular touch that made him a household name

Roger Backhouse