Thomas Ponniah

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Thomas Ponniah, Ph.D, was a Lecturer on Social Studies, Assistant Director of Studies, and Faculty Associate of the Project on Justice, Welfare and Economics at Harvard University from 2003-2011. He taught courses on modern social and political thought, the philosophy and methods of the social sciences, globalization and global justice. He is currently an affiliate of Harvard's David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. His rabble column offers commentary on contemporary social, political and cultural ideas, issues and events.

After the U.S. Social Forum 2010: The potential for a multi-scalar strategy

Is the U.S. Social Forum primarily an arena for movements to propose a diversity of alternatives or is it a political agent of the left that pulls movements together into a counter-hegemonic program? Photo: Sasha Y. Kimel/Flickr
Is the U.S. Social Forum primarily an arena for movements to propose a diversity of alternatives or is it a political agent of the left that pulls movements together into a counter-hegemonic program?

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After the U.S. Social Forum 2010: The potential for a multi-scalar strategy

Is the U.S. Social Forum primarily an arena for movements to propose a diversity of alternatives or is it a political agent of the left that pulls movements together into a counter-hegemonic program? Photo: Sasha Y. Kimel/Flickr

In 1933, Mexican artist Diego Rivera completed his Detroit Industry fresco cycle. The abundant, controversial work, considered one the 20th century's outstanding achievements of monumental art, covers the four walls of the Garden Court in the Detroit Institute of Art.

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The Tommy Douglas Institute: Igniting a commitment to social justice

Photo: Lieut. G. Barry Gilroy/Library and Archives Canada/Wikimedia Commons

"My dream is for people around the world to look up and to see Canada like a little jewel sitting at the top of the continent."

- Tommy Douglas, 1951

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Pedagogy and Global Great Thinkers

Photo: Abhi Sharma/flickr

For my undergraduate degree I had the privilege of studying in a "Great Books" program at Concordia University's Liberal Arts College in Montreal. This bachelor of arts degree in "Western Society and Culture" is one of a hundred Great Books curricula in North America, Europe and Asia. The Concordia program was modelled on the Great Books movement which began at Columbia University in New York in 1921 and which now constitutes that university's Core Curriculum.

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Orpheus, opium and Robert Lepage

Photo: Stefano Corso/flickr

The Greek myth of Orpheus hints at the paradoxical relationship between creativity and anguish. Orpheus was the one mortal whose musical ability was as great as that of the gods. The renowned lyre player fell in love with the maiden Eurydice and the two were married. Shortly after the wedding, Eurydice was stung by a serpent and died; Orpheus, unwilling to accept her death, decided to descend into the underworld to rescue her. The gods were touched by the musician's plea and released her from Hades on the condition that he did not look at her face until the two had returned to the world of the living.

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The most interesting mayor in North America

Photo: Bill de Blasio/flickr. Photographer: William Alatriste

The most interesting mayor in North America is not Toronto's superego-averse Rob Ford, the conservative populist who has received much publicity from comedians across the world, but is instead the recently elected progressive populist Bill de Blasio -- the new mayor of New York City. De Blasio's campaign "One New York, Rising Together," was a refreshingly progressive one that did not emphasize crime, as did the slogans of New York's previous Republican mayors. De Blasio campaigned to support workers, teachers' unions, undocumented immigrants, welfare rights and the need for affordable housing, while criticizing the New York Police Department's unconstitutional use of stop-and-frisk tactics.

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Robert Redford: When all is lost

Photo: Sam Javanrouh/flickr

There is certainly no other actor who can command our attention -- our empathy, our loyalty, our love -- with such efficiency.

- A.O. Scott

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OECD Skills Outlook 2013: The skills needed for the 21st century

Q. What skills are required in order to be employed and receive relatively high wages in the 21st century? 

A. You mean, other than blindly furious industriousness, continuous calculation of one's self-interest, being raised by wealthy parents, and having good luck amidst the crises produced by neoliberal mismanagement of the economy?

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Acts of gaiety, acts of assimilation

Source: University of Michigan Press

Sexual liberation was a core principle of the social movements of the 1960s. The desire to emancipate desire was central to the belief that a new society and a new experience could be created. The United States' LGBTQ (lesbian/gay/bisexual/trans/queer) movements are often described as having begun with the Stonewall Revolt in Greenwich Village in New York City. The rebellion consisted of hundreds of gays resisting a police raid over the course of three days. In The Power of Identity, the sociologist Manuel Castells notes that there were 50 organizations for sexual minorities throughout the U.S.

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The trials (and triumphs) of Muhammad Ali

Photo: Visionello/flickr

"I don't have to be who you want me to be."

- Muhammad Ali

There are a number of fascinating interviews between the 20th century's greatest boxer Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell, one of the most intelligent sports commentators of the era. In one conversation, Cosell asks Ali, "Who would you like to fight?" Ali replies, "I would like to fight whoever you think is the best, the number one man…" Cosell, responds with resignation and awe, telling the young man, "I am not sure that there is anyone left really for you to fight."

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