With the new year on the horizon, we’re looking back to some of the most popular writing we published in 2021. Over the past year, scholars explored pressing topics including disinformation and authenticity online, the rise of right-wing extremism in digital spaces, Covid-19 responses in East Asia, burial practices in contexts of migration and distance, and more. Grantees shared results from their SSRC-funded research on the wide-ranging impacts of Covid-19, while our programs published new reports on human development and housing justice in California and trends in mobile journalism.

Our most popular essays grapple with the greatest challenges we faced in 2021 and offer social science insights on how we might move forward in the year to come. Read our top ten most popular essays of 2021:

When the Past Becomes Present: A Legacy of Anti-Asian Hate
In the first contribution to our “Covid-19 Fieldnotes from Our Grantees” series, Jennifer Lee considers the structural dimensions of racism and the dehumanization of Asian Americans in the aftermath of the tragic March 2021 mass shooting in Atlanta.

Genocidal Rape? The Tigray Conflict and Women’s Bodies as a Battleground
For Kujenga Amani, Sela Muyoka Musundi provides insight on sexual violence against women during the conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia, arguing that rape has become “a weapon of war against Tigrigna women and girls.”

Distorted Mirrors: Toward a Clear Gaze on Black Suffering
Rebecca A. Wilcox writes on anti-Black violence, the meaning of “Black joy,” and community in the midst of suffering for The Immanent Frame’s forum on “Antiblackness as Religion: Black Living, Black Dying, and Covid-19.”

‘Public’: A Pandemic Diary of a Future Idea
Meditating on the concept of the “public” during the pandemic, Mike Ananny argues that Covid-19 has both destabilized public life and revealed means of social connection and mobilization that could expand the scope of “what public life could be like.”

Covid-19 Could Strengthen Federalism in the United States
As part of our annual “Democratic Erosion” undergraduate series, Andrea Gustafson discusses what the pandemic has revealed about federalism in the United States, drawing attention to reinvigorated democratic participation at the state level and its effect on democratic erosion.

The Cognitive Empire and Gladiatory Scholarship
Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa advisory board member Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni unpacks the colonial underpinnings of gladiatory scholarship and writes on the path towards a decolonization of knowledge and knowledge production.

Southeast Asia’s Disinformation Crisis: Where the State is the Biggest Bad Actor and Regulation is a Bad Word
For our “Disinformation, Democracy, and Conflict Prevention” series, Jonathan Corpus Ong looks to Southeast Asia’s disinformation crisis and regulation strategies, drawing valuable lessons for better disinformation prevention practices based in the language of responsibility.

Behind South Korea’s Success in Containing Covid-19: Surveillance and Technology Infrastructures
Investigating South Korea’s Covid-19-response, Myungi Yang traces the development of disease prevention infrastructures and raises questions on the implications of surveillance for individual privacy in an essay for our “Covid-19 in East Asia” forum.

A Theodicy of the Unliving, or Why I Won’t Teach My Black Lives Matter Class Anymore
Biko Mandela Gray reflects on his personal decision to stop teaching a class on “#BlackLivesMatter and Religion” in the wake of anti-Black violence perpetrated during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Understanding Gender Complementarity in Igbo Society: The Role of Ụmụada and Ụmụnna in Peacebuilding
Ngozi Ugo Emeka-Nwobia discusses the complementary nature of gender roles and relations in peacebuilding for the Igbo people of Southeastern Nigeria and illuminates misconceptions about social relationships in Igbo society.