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Originally published in 2006, Art of the Northwest Coast offers an expansive history of this great tradition, from the earliest known works to those made at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Although non-Natives often claimed that First Nations cultures were disappearing, Northwest Coast Native people continued to make art during the painf…
 
“Made of light and later sound, the film experience cannot be touched, but that does not mean it is immaterial.” So writes Dr. Caetlin Benson-Allott in her third academic monograph, The Stuff of Spectatorship: Material Cultures of Film and Television (University of California Press, April 2021). In The Stuff of Spectatorship, Dr. Benson-Allott turn…
 
Everybody eats. We may even consider ourselves experts on the topic, or at least Instagram experts. But are we aware that the shrimp in our freezer may be farmed and frozen in Vietnam, the grapes in our fruit bowl shipped from Chile, and the coffee in our coffee maker grown in Nicaragua, roasted in Germany, and distributed in Canada? Whether we kno…
 
The contemporary opioid crisis is widely seen as new and unprecedented. Not so. It is merely the latest in a long series of drug crises stretching back over a century. In White Market Drugs: Big Pharma and the Hidden History of Addiction in America (U Chicago Press, 2020), David Herzberg explores these crises and the drugs that fueled them, from Ba…
 
Is it possible that efforts to make war more humane can actually make it more common and thus more destructive? This tension at the heart of this query lies at the heart of Samuel Moyn's new book Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2021). He draws fascinating connections between literary fig…
 
In this episode, I interview Shaoling Ma, professor of Humanities (Literature) at Yale-NUS about her new book, The Stone and the Wireless: Mediating China, 1861-1906 (Duke UP, 2021). In this fascinating book, Ma grapples with theoretical and historical questions of media and mediation in the late Qing. Calling on a diverse set of sources, including…
 
“The good life” and “the American Dream “remain powerful animating principles in popular culture, politics, and also our individual psyches. I spoke with Professor Dora Zhang at the University of California at Berkeley who teaches a course on “the good life,” using mostly literary rather than philosophical texts. From Sophokles’s Antigone (441 B.C.…
 
For a majority of African women, the “colonial encounter” occurred at the maternity ward, the health centre, or Maternal and Infant Welfare Centres. In Être mère en situation coloniale: Gold Coast (années 1910-1950) (Editions de la Sorbonne, 2020), Anne Hugon analyzes the consequences of colonialism on colonized women, through a history of maternal…
 
Photographers and their images were critical to the making of Mozambique, first as a colony of Portugal and then as independent nation at war with apartheid in South Africa. When the Mozambique Liberation Front came to power, it invested substantial human and financial resources in institutional structures involving photography, and used them to in…
 
Figures of the Future: Latino Civil Rights and the Politics of Demographic Change (Princeton UP, 2021) examines the “contemporary population politics of national Latino civil rights advocacy.” The book challenges readers to generally understand democratic projections as problematic, political, and manufactured -- and specifically consider the case …
 
Suspect Communities: Anti-Muslim Racism and the Domestic War on Terror (University of Minnesota Press, 2019) is a powerful reassessment of the U.S. government’s “countering violent extremism” (CVE) program that has arisen in major cities across the United States since 2011. Drawing on an interpretive qualitative study, Nicole Nguyen, Associate Prof…
 
Priyanka Sacheti speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her essay “Oman is Mars: An Alien All Along,” which appears in a portfolio of writing from the Arabian Gulf, in The Common’s fall issue. In this conversation, Priyanka talks about her feeling of not belonging anywhere—born in Australia to an Indian family, but growing up in Oman as a th…
 
With COP26 and high fossil fuel prices, energy is back in the headlines. And Russia, as one of the world’s largest producers of hydrocarbons, is part of the conversation--most recently, in Putin’s refusal to expand oil production to ease global prices. The world is coming up on three major transitions—peak use of fossil fuels, renewables competing …
 
In Dissident Histories in the Soviet Union: From De-Stalinization to Perestroika (Bloomsbury,, 2019), Barbara Martin traces the careers of four prominent figures: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Roy Medvedev, Aleksandr Nekrich and Anton Antonov-Ovseenko. Based on extensive archival research into these four authors, Martin provides a new account of dissiden…
 
According to US Secretary of War Henry Stimson, the "most shocking single event" of World War II was not the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but rather the fall of France in spring 1940. Michael Neiberg offers a dramatic history of the American response--a policy marked by panic and moral ineptitude, which placed the United States in league with f…
 
In Economic Thought in Modern China: Market and Consumption, c.1500–1937 (Cambridge University Press, 2020), Margherita Zanasi argues that basic notions of a free market economy emerged in China a century and half earlier than in Europe. In response to the commercial revolutions of the late 1500s, Chinese intellectuals and officials called for the …
 
One Hundred Years of Solitude is a revered classic today fifty five years after it was first published in 1967. Today I talked to Alvaro Santana Acuña a sociologist and historian who describes the ingredients that went into manufacturing the success of this book. In Ascent to Glory: How One Hundred Years of Solitude Was Written and Became a Global …
 
Today I speak to Stephen Batchelor, figurehead for Secular Buddhism, well known author, and Scot. I present the lovely man some of the critique aimed at his work in the book Secularizing Buddhism, and from my previous interview with Richard K. Payne. We also discuss some of his intellectual influences, touch on phenomenology, Gianni Vattimo, and wh…
 
The Enlightenment is often either praised as the wellspring of modern egalitarianism or condemned as the cradle of scientific racism. How should we make sense of this paradox? The Color of Equality: Race and Common Humanity in Enlightenment Thought (U Pennsylvania Press, 2021) is the first book to investigate both the inclusive language of common h…
 
We tend to think that states can act wrongfully, even criminally. Thus, we also tend to think that states can be held responsible for their acts. They can be made to pay compensation to their victims or suffer penalties with respect to their standing in the international community, and so on. The trouble, though, is that when states are held respon…
 
How can it be that deeply religious poetry is being written by a committed socialist, literary revolutionary and modernist? How sacredness appears in working in the field? How one can pray after the “death of God”? This magical contradiction is being explored and explained in the book Abraham the Hebrew Believer: Secularism and Religion in the work…
 
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