3 min read

Kerim’s Triptych for Sunday, June 18, 2023

Kerim’s Triptych for Sunday, June 18, 2023
Passengers on a Bus in Taipei, Taiwan, by TC Lin (2023)

Welcome to Kerim's Triptych, a free newsletter that delivers 3 items to your email inbox, 3 times a month. If you didn't intend to subscribe, or you don't want to receive these anymore, there is an unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email. And, if you like it, please direct your friends to the signup page so they can get it too.

Item 1: The Radicalism of Thomas Paine

One of the things I’ve been doing lately, in my personal reading, is filling in some gaps in my education: books that I feel I should have read back in grad school, but somehow never did. One of those books is E. P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class (1963). In reading Thompson, one of the more interesting discoveries for me was to learn about the very different way Thomas Paine is remembered in England compared with the United States.

While, in the US, he is primarily remembered for his advocacy of independence and his critique of inherited aristocratic privilege, in the UK he became known more for his defense of the French Revolution and his advocacy of economic inequality. So I was really happy to discover this long read about Thomas Paine’s radicalism that was published in Jacobin back in 2015.

For Paine, the cause of political democracy is inseparable from the economic demands of the poor, and the solution is democratic government: the poor can escape their wretched condition only through politics.

Item 2: "Can the Subaltern Speak?" in Plain English

When I teach my Ph.D. course on cultural theory, one of the hardest texts for students is Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s 1988 essay "Can the Subaltern Speak?" Here, Amardeep Singh, a Professor of English at Lehigh University, does a wonderful job of breaking the essay down and explaining some of the missing context.

Spivak was deeply influenced by French poststructuralism, Freudian psychoanalysis, certain traditions in Marxian theory, and the Subaltern Studies school of colonial Indian history. How it all fits together can be difficult to ascertain, especially if you don't have competency in all of those areas! Below, I’ve attempted to summarize the key points from each section below as much as possible in “plain English," and I've aimed to provide links for further reading for each section.

Item 3: Passengers on a Bus

Passengers on a Bus in Taipei, Taiwan, by TC Lin (2023)
Passengers on a Bus in Taipei, Taiwan, by TC Lin (2023)

My goal for Triptych has always been to include photographs and artwork, not just long-form journalism or YouTube videos, so I reached out to TC Lin to ask if he would allow me to share one of my favorite photographs of his in this week’s issue. He generously agreed. (Thanks!)

A multi-talented guy, TC Lin is a writer and musician, as well as an internationally respected street-photographer. Here is a link to the photo on his Instagram feed. I am especially appreciative of how his photos manage to capture something uniquely local about Taiwan without reproducing the orientalist clichés one finds in so much photography done here. This partially comes from his concern with the more formal aspects of the art (light, composition, etc.), but many of his photographs — like this one — manage to combine that formalism with a sense of drama (and humor) as well.


Triptych will always remain free, but my hosting costs are not. If even a handful of subscribers choose to upgrade to paid accounts (just $1 per issue, or less with a yearly plan) it will help cover my costs and also greatly encourage me to keep going with this. Thank you!