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Today I interview Mary Cappello about her new book, Lecture (Transit Books, 2020). Although I almost hesitate to call it a book. It’s much more—like all great lectures are—a performance, one full of erudition and insight, humor and humanity, profound diversions and wry musings, one asking for your most acute attention and simultaneously inviting yo…
 
Bringing to the fore a wealth of original research, A Detroit Story: Urban Decline and the Rise of Property Informality (University of California Press, 2021) examines how the informal reclamation of abandoned property has been shaping Detroit for decades. Dr. Claire Herbert, Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of Oregon lived in the cit…
 
By 1935 William Faulkner was well established as an author of critically praised novels, yet the low volume of his sales forced him to seek work in Hollywood. As Carl Rollyson details in The Life of William Faulkner: This Alarming Paradox, 1935-1962 (University of Virginia Press, 2020), this led to an itinerant life divided between Mississippi and …
 
The moral horrors of genocide and mass atrocity lead us to wonder how such things are even possible. A common and understandable reaction is to see events of this kind as arising from the collapse and eventual disappearance of norms. That is, because we find genocide and mass atrocity so difficult to comprehend, we grasp for an explanation that asc…
 
In the past few years isolationism, which had long been derided in the national discourse, has been making a comeback as a political force. In Isolationism: A History of America’s Efforts to Shield Itself from the World (Oxford University Press, 2020), Charles A. Kupchan traces the history of the concept in American politics and considers its futur…
 
The Color of Creatorship: Intellectual Property, Race, and the Making of Americans (Stanford University Press, 2020) by Anjali Vats is an intricate and meticulously researched text on intellectual property history, race, and citizenship from the 1790s to the present. This is a complex narrative that engages multiple fields of knowledge including rh…
 
In the wake of a rise in nationalism around the world, and its general condemnation by liberals and the left, we have put together this series on Third World Nationalism to nuance the present discourse on nationalism, note its centrality to anti-imperial, anti-colonial politics around the world, and its inextricability from mainstream politics in A…
 
In 1964, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) made a momentous policy decision. In response to rising tensions with the United States and Soviet Union, a top-secret massive military industrial complex in the mountains of inland China was built, which the CCP hoped to keep hidden from enemy bombers. Mao named this the Third Front. The Third Front recei…
 
Mathematics as a subject is distinctive in its symbolic abstraction and its potential for logical and computational rigor. But mathematicians tend to impute other qualities to our subject that set it apart, such as impartiality, universality, and elegance. Far from incidental, these ideas prime mathematicians and the public to see in mathematics th…
 
We often hear stories of people in terrible and seemingly intractable situations who are preyed upon by someone offering promises of help. Frequently these cases are condemned in terms of "exploiting hope." These accusations are made in a range of contexts: human smuggling, employment relationships, unproven medical 'cures.' We hear this concept so…
 
Tom Rastrelli is a survivor of clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse who then became a priest in the early days of the Catholic Church’s ongoing scandals. Confessions of a Gay Priest: A Memoir of Sex, Love, Abuse, and Scandal in the Catholic Seminary (University of Iowa Press, 2020) divulges the clandes­tine inner workings of the seminary, providing an i…
 
Why does The Empire Strikes Back matter? In BFI Classics Series's The Empire Strikes Back (Bloomsbury, 2020), Rebecca Harrison, a lecturer in Film and Television Studies at the University of Glasgow, tells the story of the film’s production and reception, and analyses the film’s on-screen representations. The book is framed through the idea of disr…
 
In his new book Empire of Law: Nazi Germany, Exile Scholars, and the Battle for the Future of Europe (Cambridge UP, 2020), Kaius Tuori examines the inherent unity of European legal traditions that extend to ancient Rome. This book explores the invention of this tradition, tracing it to a group of legal scholars divided by the onslaught of Nazi terr…
 
New York City's Lower East Side has witnessed a severe decline in its Jewish population in recent decades, yet every morning in the big room of the city's oldest yeshiva, students still gather to study the Talmud beneath the great arched windows facing out onto East Broadway. In Yeshiva Days: Learning on the Lower East Side (Princeton University Pr…
 
Today I talked to Peter Gordon and Juan José Morales about their book Painter and Patron: The Maritime Silk Road in the Códice Casanatense (Abbreviated Press, 2020). The Códice Casanatense, or Codex Casanatense 1889 as it is formally known, is a 16th-century Indo-Portuguese collection of some 76 captioned watercolours now held in the Biblioteca Cas…
 
The Routledge Handbook of Yoga and Meditation Studies (Routledge, 2020) is a comprehensive and interdisciplinary resource, which frames and contextualises the rapidly expanding fields that explore yoga and meditative techniques. The book analyses yoga and meditation studies in a variety of religious, historical and geographical settings. The chapte…
 
In this episode, I speak with Matt Rafalow, about his book, Digital Divisions: How Schools Create Inequality in the Tech Era (University of Chicago Press, 2020). This book provides an ethnographic study of students and teachers at three Los Angeles schools utilizing instructional technology. We discuss the role of play in learning, how disciplinary…
 
Muslim Women’s Rights: Contesting Liberal-Secular Sensibilities in Canada (Routledge 2019) By Tabassum Fahim Ruby follows the legal debates and public discussions that surrounded the proposed shari‘ah tribunals in Canada from 2003 to 2006. In her close readings and discourse analysis of the public and media scrutiny that followed this discussion, R…
 
Harvey Araton’s new book Our Last Season: A Writer, a Fan, a Friendship (Penguin, 2020), reads like a mix between Tuesdays with Morrie and a sequel to his book When the Garden was Eden (which chronicled the New York Knicks’ early-70s title teams). It’s a book about friendship, aging and of course, basketball. Harvey Araton is one of New York's--and…
 
Parrots and snakes, wild cats and monkeys---exotic pets can now be found everywhere from skyscraper apartments and fenced suburban backyards to roadside petting zoos. In Animal Traffic: Lively Capital in the Global Exotic Pet Trade (Duke UP, 2020) Rosemary-Claire Collard investigates the multibillion-dollar global exotic pet trade and the largely h…
 
The figure of Sigmund Freud has captivated the Western imagination like few others. One hundred and twenty-five years after the publication of Studies on Hysteria, the good doctor from Vienna continues to stir controversy in institutions, academic circles, and nuclear households across the world. Perhaps Freud’s sharpest and most adamant critic, Fr…
 
David Rundell brings to his book, Vision or Mirage: Saudi Arabia at the Crossroads (I. B. Tauris, 2020), a granular analysis and insider’s understanding of the inner workings of the kingdom garnered as a US foreign service officer who served a total of 15 years in the country. Rundell skilfully weaves history into a multi-layered portrait of the tr…
 
In 1996 Argentina adopted genetically modified (GM) soybeans as a central part of its national development strategy. Today, Argentina is the third largest global grower and exporter of GM crops. Its soybeans—which have been modified to tolerate being sprayed with herbicides—now cover half of the country's arable land and represent a third of its to…
 
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