Russell Cobb

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then.


Russell Cobb

Stories about the Heartland and beyond. I write about identity, who we are, who we want to be and the gaps between.

Scholar, writer, basketball fanatic.

Dumb Okie, PhD


What do you do when there's no reliable Internet?

I’ve tucked into an alleyway in Old Havana looking for shelter from a downpour, content to wait out the storm under a crumbling balcony. No point checking my phone. Data is both extremely slow and very expensive in Cuba. As I wait, something catches my eye: a placard for a store selling phone cards.
New Trail-University of Alberta Link to Story

Oklahoma isn't working. Can anyone fix this failing American state?

The Guardian Link to Story

Cold War kids: This time it’s youth, not ideology, igniting unrest

Just when you thought the Cold War could be consigned to museums and thrillers like The Hunt for Red October, along came Donald Trump’s threats of “fire and fury” in North Korea and military intervention in socialist Venezuela. In a twist worthy of a John Le Carré novel, diplomats from the United States and Canada stationed on the island nation fell ill in the past year due to some sort of “sonic attack.”.

Trash to Treasure

A search of the river valley provided the long-lost items needed to create art that makes us think about what we throw away. On an unusually warm February night in the garage of a north Edmonton bungalow, Chad Baba advises Olivier L’Abbee on the finer points of grenade manufacturing. Truck bearings, some unidentifiable piece of metal serving as a safety lever: To my untrained eye, L’Abbee’s grenade looks like the real deal, straight from the Battle of the Bulge.

In Alberta, Oil, Cowboys … and Liberalism?

WHEN I moved from Houston to Edmonton, Alberta, in 2008, I was told to prepare for a soft landing, politically speaking. Alberta was supposed to be just like the Lone Star State: a place full of backslapping good ol’ boys in cowboy hats, riding high on the hog of oil money. The province’s politics were even more predictable than Texas’.
The New York Times Link to Story

North by South West

Most people consider Alberta to be the Texas of Canada. But what do actual Texans think? Both places are fiercely libertarian, proudly outspoken and they share a common history defined by ranching, oil exploration, country music and conservative politics. That traffic has only grown over the last decade as oil and gas prices have shot up, creating a pipeline of people that may soon be accompanied by the actual oil pipeline TransCanada so fervently wants to build between the two places.
Alberta Venture Link to Story

Russell Cobb

Carlton Pearson's church, Higher Dimensions, was once one of the biggest in the city, drawing ...Religion. Reporter Russell Cobb takes us through the remarkable and meteoric rise of Carlton Pearson from ...Religion. Once he starts preaching his own revelation, Carlton Pearson's church falls apart.
This American Life Link to Story

Why Do So Many People Pretend to Be Native American?

This Land PressFor this week’s Longreads Member Pick, we are thrilled to share a brand new essay from Oklahoma’s This Land Press, just published in their August 2014 issue. This Land has been featured on Longreads often in the past—you can support them here.
Longreads and This Land Press Link to Story

The Paradox of Authenticity in a Globalized World

Authenticity in our globalized world is a paradox: culture flows across borders with unprecedented ease while consumers demand "the real thing" like never before. This collection examines how authenticity relates to cultural products under globalization, looking closely at how a cuisine, musical genre, or artifact attains its aura of genuineness, of originality, when almost all traditional cultural products are invented in a certain time and place.
Palgrave MacMillan Link to Story

Locker Room Confidential

Rob and I watched the scrimmage from the sidelines, helmets off. We weren’t getting any playing time, so why bother paying attention? I heard the whiz of a football and then a thud as it hit Rob in the back of the head. Rob flinched like he had been stung by a swarm of bees. His forearms clasped the sides of his head and he shook, trying to hold back tears.
This Land Link to Story

A Reading of Russell Cobb's "Where the Buffalo Drift"

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Glorious and Free. Mostly.

We got to Canada Place at the appointed time—9:00 a.m. sharp—but people were already lined up past the elevators. A security guard waved an arm in exasperation. “If you are ready to take the Oath of Citizenship,” he said,“please step forward in a single-file line.”. It was one of those March days where you long to be anywhere but the Canadian prairies.


Russell Cobb

Russell Cobb is a writer and academic, currently in residence as a Visiting Scholar at Cal-Berkeley. He is Associate Professor in Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta, where his work bridges the worlds of print and radio journalism with the digital humanities. His journalistic work has appeared in The New York Times, Slate, NPR, and The Nation. He is a contributing editor and frequent contributor to This Land Press. His scholarly work has examined the cultural Cold War in Latin America and contemporary cultural politics in the region.

His books include the eBook single Heart in Darkness (2013) and the edited collection The Paradox of Authenticity in a Globalized World (2014).