This article is by Naomi Schalit, from The Conversation.

Damaged radar arrays and other equipment is seen at a Ukrainian military facility outside Mariupol, Ukraine, Feb. 24, 2022. AP Photo/Sergei Grits

This is a frightening moment. Russia has invaded Ukraine, and certainly those most frightened right now are the people of Ukraine. But violent aggression – a war mounted by a country with vast military resources against a smaller, weaker country – strikes fear in all of us. As a Washington Post headline writer recently wrote: The Ukraine crisis is “5,000 miles away but hitting home.”

The Conversation U.S. has spent the past couple of months digging into the history and politics of Ukraine and Russia. We’ve looked at their cultures, their religions, their military and technological capacities. We’ve provided you with stories about NATO, about cyberwarfare, the Cold War and the efficacy of sanctions.

Below, you’ll find a selection of stories from our coverage. We hope they will help you understand that today may feel both inevitable – yet inexplicable.

1. The US promised to protect Ukraine

In 1994, Ukraine got a signed commitment from Russia, the U.S. and the U.K. in which the three countries promised to protect the newly independent state’s sovereignty.

“Ukraine as an independent state was born from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union,” write scholars Lee Feinstein of Indiana University and Mariana Budjeryn of Harvard. “Its independence came with a complicated Cold War inheritance: the world’s third-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons. Ukraine was one of the three non-Russian former Soviet states, including Belarus and Kazakhstan, that emerged from the Soviet collapse with nuclear weapons on its territory.”

A soldier wearing a helmet peeks out of a tank.
A Ukrainian serviceman rides atop a military vehicle past Independence Square in central Kyiv on Feb. 24, 2022. Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images


The 1994 agreement was signed in return for Ukraine giving up the nuclear weapons within its borders, sending them to Russia for dismantling. But the agreement, not legally binding, was broken by Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. And today’s invasion is yet another example of the weakness of that agreement.

2. Clues to how Russia will wage war

During the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Russia invaded Georgia, a country on the Black Sea. In 2014, Putin ordered troops to seize Crimea, a peninsula that juts into the Black Sea and housed a Russian naval base.

West Point scholar and career U.S. special forces officer Liam Collins conducted field research on the 2008 and 2014 wars in Georgia and Ukraine.

“From what I have learned, I expect a possible Russian invasion would start with cyberattacks and electronic warfare to sever communications between Ukraine’s capital and the troops. Shortly thereafter, tanks and mechanized infantry formations supported by the Russian air force would cross at multiple points along the nearly 1,200-mile border, assisted by Russian special forces. Russia would seek to bypass large urban areas.”

3. Spies replaced by smartphones

If you love spy movies, you’ve got an image of how intelligence is gathered: agents on the ground and satellites in the sky.

But you’re way out of date. These days, writes Craig Nazareth, a scholar of intelligence and information operations at the University of Arizona, “massive amounts of valuable information are publicly available, and not all of it is collected by governments. Satellites and drones are much cheaper than they were even a decade ago, allowing private companies to operate them, and nearly everyone has a smartphone with advanced photo and video capabilities.”

This means people around the world may see this invasion unfold in real time. “Commercial imaging companies are posting up-to-the-minute, geographically precise images of Russia’s military forces. Several news agencies are regularly monitoring and reporting on the situation. TikTok users are posting video of Russian military equipment on rail cars allegedly on their way to augment forces already in position around Ukraine. And internet sleuths are tracking this flow of information.”

A rocket is stuck coming through the ceiling of a damaged apartment with rubble around it.
The body of a rocket stuck in a flat after recent shelling on the northern outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. Sergey Bobok/AFP via Getty Images

4. Targeting the US with cyberattacks

As Russia edged closer to war with Ukraine, cybersecurity scholar Justin Pelletier at Rochester Institute of Technology wrote of the growing likelihood of destructive Russian cyberattacks against the U.S.

Pelletier quoted a Department of Homeland Security bulletin from late January that said, “We assess that Russia would consider initiating a cyberattack against the Homeland if it perceived a U.S. or NATO response to a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine threatened its long-term national security.”

And that’s not all. “Americans can probably expect to see Russian-sponsored cyber-activities working in tandem with propaganda campaigns,” writes Pelletier. The aim of such campaigns: to use “social and other online media like a military-grade fog machine that confuses the U.S. population and encourages mistrust in the strength and validity of the U.S. government.”

5. Will war sink Putin’s stock with Russians?

“War ultimately requires an enormous amount of public goodwill and support for a political leader,” writes Arik Burakovsky, a scholar of Russia and public opinion at Tufts University’s Fletcher School.

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Putin’s support among Russians has been rising as the country massed troops along the Ukrainian border – the public believes that its leaders are defending Russia by standing up to the West. But Burakovsky writes that “the rally ‘round the flag effect of supporting political leadership during an international crisis will likely be short-lived.”

Most Russians, it turns out, don’t want war. The return of body bags from the front could well prove damaging to Putin domestically.

Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

As always, publishers’ spring catalogues have a full complement of new titles in Black and African American History and Studies. OTH reached out to authors of titles that particularly intrigued us:

The Inconvenient Lonnie Johnson: Blues, Race, Identity

Julia Simon

Professor of French, University of California, Davis

Penn State University Press, April 2022

Professor Simon told OTH: “Lonnie Johnson is a blues legend. His virtuosity on the blues guitar is second to none, and his influence on artists from T-Bone Walker and B. B. King to Eric Clapton is well established. Yet Johnson mastered multiple instruments. He recorded with jazz icons such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, and he played vaudeville music, ballads, and popular songs.  Largely neglected by scholars, Johnson challenges critical perceptions of the blues as a genre.  In my book, The Inconvenient Lonnie Johnson: Blues, Race, Identity, I take a closer look at Johnson’s musical legacy. Considering the full body of his work, I present detailed analyses of Johnson’s music—his lyrics, technique, and styles—with particular attention to its sociohistorical context. Born in 1894 in New Orleans, Johnson’s early experiences were shaped by French colonial understandings of race that challenge the Black-white binary. His performances call into question not only conventional understandings of race but also fixed notions of identity. Johnson was able to cross generic, stylistic, and other boundaries almost effortlessly, displaying astonishing adaptability across a corpus of music produced over six decades. The Inconvenient Lonnie Johnson introduces readers to a musical innovator and a performer keenly aware of his audience and the social categories of race, class, and gender that conditioned the music of his time.

Lonnie Johnson’s music challenges us to think about not only what we recognize and value in “the blues” but also what we leave unexamined, cannot account for, or choose not to hear. The Inconvenient Lonnie Johnson provides a reassessment of Johnson’s musical legacy and complicates basic assumptions about the blues, its production, and its reception.”




On Black Media Philosophy

Armond R. Towns 

Associate Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa

University of California Press, March 2022

From the Author: “Who is the human in media philosophy? Although media philosophers have argued since the twentieth century that media are fundamental to being human, this question has not been explicitly asked and answered in the field. Towns demonstrate that humanity in media philosophy has implicitly referred to a social Darwinian understanding of the human as a Western, white, male, capitalist figure. Building on concepts from Black studies and cultural studies, Towns develops an insightful critique of this dominant conception of the human in media philosophy and introduces a foundation for Black media philosophy. Delving into the narratives of the Underground Railroad, the politics of the Black Panther Party, and the digitization of Michael Brown’s killing, On Black Media Philosophy deftly illustrates that media are not only important for Western Humanity but central to alternative Black epistemologies and other ways of being human.”





Love and Abolition: The Social Life of Black Queer Performance

Alison Rose Reed

Associate Professor of English at Old Dominion University.

Ohio State University Press, Feb 2022

From the Author: “This book looks at Black queer performances in art, theater, and activism to show how love can be a creative and revolutionary practice. I here define love as the embodied action of replacing systems of coercion, criminalization, and control with deep forms of communal care. Of course, love as well as care work can become sites for the reproduction of carcerality; but in the book I chart possibilities for love as a mobilizing force alongside the difficult work of undoing carceral logics, embedded deep in the psyche. Tracing the everyday circulation of affective responses that compel action, I ground social justice–oriented reading and organizing practices specifically in the modern abolitionist movement. The book therefore provides a brief history of love in the Black radical tradition of abolition.

Dominant perspectives on mass incarceration prioritize discipline and punishment. At the same time, mainstream liberal discourses of reform tend to center normative frameworks of the nuclear family and moral rehabilitation. Such logics rehearse disciplining narratives that either minimize the weight of structure or romanticize individual agency inside of it. In contrast, Love and Abolition necessarily centers Black queer feminist analysis and praxis, which offers more expansive possibilities for reimagining collective social life. In the ongoing struggle to dismantle the prison industrial complex and rebuild the world anew, Black queer performance continues to envision radical ways of being together against and despite racial capitalism’s uneven production of alienation, isolation, competition, and premature death. 

The book contributes to Black queer studies and feminist theories of affect by positing that structures of feeling figure centrally in movement-building work. Focusing on love as an affective modality and organizing tool rooted in the Black radical tradition’s insistence on collective sociality amidst unrelenting state violence, I consider the work of visionaries such as James Baldwin, Ntozake Shange, Sharon Bridgforth, and vanessa german. Such work produces what I call tough and tender love, or transformative knowledge and affectionate action. Against a critical overemphasis on the spectacular, the book also looks to everyday sites of emotional and social life—in all its messiness and lived texture. For example, rather than idealizing the writings of famous political prisoners, I analyze the complex and sometimes contradictory creative interventions of jailed writers in the Humanities Behind Bars program I cofounded in Virginia.

Since carcerality shapes everyday psychic and social life, the book argues for a capacious redefinition of prison literature in an age of mass incarceration. Centering Black creative insurgency, what I describe as “abolition literature” resists fetishizing the prison as such and studies how artists and activists seek to reconstitute social practices of addressing harm on their own terms. I therefore identify abolition literature as an emergent field of inquiry that emphasizes social relationships in the ongoing struggle to dismantle constitutively harmful systems. Ultimately, Love and Abolition complements the social science bent of critical prison studies by examining how queer networks of creative solidarity forge new concepts of care. In so doing, the book functions as an abolitionist manifesto during a time in which the work of the humanities must be met with urgency.”