Jonathan Shainin

  • Notes from the Undercity

    On December 9, 2011, the ABC News program 20/20 aired a dramatic report from India, presented by the show’s Emmy Award–winning anchor Elizabeth Vargas. In an uncharacteristically long piece devoted to social issues in a foreign country not recently liberated from tyranny by an American invasion, the fifteen-minute segment set out to reveal what its title dubbed “India’s Deadly Secret.” The deadly secret in question—so secret that the Times of India has only mentioned it about six hundred times in the past two years, according to LexisNexis—is the propensity of Indian families to abort

  • The Global Edge

    Before I moved to Abu Dhabi in 2007, one of the few things I knew about the United Arab Emirates was that it was home to a vast army of slave labor, imported from the Indian subcontinent to build Pharaoh’s new glass-and-steel pyramids—not to mention staffing his grocery shops and gas stations, weeding his gardens, sweeping his floors, and paving his roads.

    This impression—of subaltern workers oppressed and exploited by oil-rich Gulf Arabs—was not necessarily inaccurate: The worst-off of these laborers are housed in cramped compounds, defrauded by agents in their home countries and saddled with

  • Ignition Switch

    In the files of the Atlas Group, an “imaginary foundation” co-created and administered by the Lebanese artist Walid Raad “whose purpose is to collect, produce, and archive documents of the Lebanese civil wars,” there are nearly one hundred black-and-white photographs chronicling the wreckage of a fraction of the 3,641 car bombs set off in Lebanon between 1975 and 1991. “The only part that remains intact after a car bomb explodes is the engine,” Raad writes in the introduction to My Neck Is Thinner than a Hair (2005). “Landing on balconies, roofs or adjacent streets, the engine is projected tens