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For centuries, the Crusades have been central to the story of the medieval Near East, but these religious wars are only part of the region’s complex history. As Nicholas Morton reveals in The Mongol Storm: Making and Breaking Empires in the Medieval Near East (Basic Books, 2022), during the same era the Near East was utterly remade by another serie…
 
For as long as humans have existed, we have struggled when a loved one dies. Poets and playwrights have written about the dark cloak of grief, the deep yearning, how devastating heartache feels. But until now, we have had little scientific perspective on this universal experience. In The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from L…
 
In this episode, I interview Dr. Christina Civantos (University of Miami, FL, USA) about her open access book Jamón and Halal: Lessons in Tolerance from Rural Andalucía (Amherst College Press, 2022). This case study examines a rural town in Spain’s Andalucía in order to shed light on the workings of coexistence. The town of Órgiva’s diverse populat…
 
Conservatism needs to be rediscovered. That is, it needs to be differentiated from the post WWII concept of liberal democracy and return to its traditional three pillars of religion, nationalism, and economic growth. And it needs to be thought of as Anglo-American conservatism, rooted in the tradition of the English Constitution going back to such …
 
In this episode I have interviewed Gabriel Polley, winner of the Ibrahim Dakkak Award for the best essay published in 2021 by the Jerusalem Quarterly. Narratives of the modern history of Palestine/Israel often begin with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and Britain's arrival in 1917. However, this work argues that the contest over Palestine has i…
 
While the story of women’s liberation has often been framed by the growing acceptance of pants over the twentieth century, the most important and influential female fashions of the era featured skirts. Suffragists and soldiers marched in skirts; the heroines of the Civil Rights Movement took a stand in skirts. Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe revol…
 
Women played an essential role in the international struggle against fascism during the interwar period, though their work has been neglected in broader historiography. In Anti-Fascism, Gender, and International Communism (Routledge, 2022), Jasmine Calver provides a comprehensive history of the Comité mondial des femmes contre la guerre et le fasci…
 
Primo Levi and Ka-Tzetnik: The Map and the Territory (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022) is about Primo Levi and Ka-Tzetnik, both Auschwitz survivors and central figures in the shaping of Holocaust memory, who dedicated their lives to bearing witness and writing about the concentration camps, seeking, in particular, to give voice to those who did not return…
 
In mid-September of this year, a young Iranian woman named Mahsa Amini died under suspicious circumstances after her arrest by the morality police for improperly covering her hair. Her death set off a huge wave of protests across Iran – the biggest in many years. The protesters’ rallying cry was “Women, Life, Freedom,” and women have indeed taken a…
 
Inspired by the lapidaries of the ancient world, Lapidarium: The Secret Lives of Stones (John Murray/Penguin, 2022) by Hettie Judah is a beautifully designed collection of true stories/essays about sixty different stones that have influenced our shared history. The earliest scientists ground and processed minerals in a centuries-long quest for a my…
 
The writer and activist James Baldwin grew up in a majority white America that saw white American lives as standard and universal, and Black American lives as different and particular. But in his 1963 book The Fire Next Time, Baldwin showed that his life as a Black man in America was universally human. Josef Sorett is the Professor of Religion and …
 
Cathy McClive (Florida State University) offers the first full-length bilingual edition of an extraordinary treatise on childbirth written by a seventeenth-century French midwife in The Art of Childbirth: A Seventeenth-Century Midwife's Epistolary Treatise to Doctor Vallant (University of Toronto Press, 2022). In 1671, Marie Baudoin (1625-1700), he…
 
In the episode of Conversations from the Institute, we hear from Eyal Press, who is the author of Absolute Convictions: My Father, a City, and the Conflict that Divided America (2006), Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times (2012), and Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequalit…
 
Julia Richardson is an award-winning children’s book author. Today we talk with her about her debut picture book, Little Dandelion Seeds the World (Sleeping Bear Press, 2021), which won the Growing Good Kids Book Award from the American Horticultural Society and the Junior Master Gardener Program for connecting children to nature. When Julia was yo…
 
Agents of Subversion: The Fate of John T. Downey and the CIA's Covert War in China (Cornell University Press, 2022) by Dr. John Delury reconstructs the remarkable story of a botched mission into Manchuria, showing how it fit into a wider CIA campaign against Communist China and highlighting the intensity—and futility—of clandestine operations to ov…
 
It didn't always take thirty years to pay off the cost of a bachelor's degree. In Indentured Students: How Government-Guaranteed Loans Left Generations Drowning in College Debt (Harvard UP, 2021), Elizabeth Tandy Shermer untangles the history that brought us here and discovers that the story of skyrocketing college debt is not merely one of good in…
 
Sheikh Yusūf al- Qaraḍāwī is regarded as the most influential contemporary Muslim religious figure. His best-selling book, Al-Ḥalal wal-Ḥaram fi al-Islam ("The Forbidden and the Permitted in Islam") is perhaps one of the most widely read Islamic works, after the Qur’ān. The subject of jihad in Palestine is a salient feature of Qaraḍāwī’s thought an…
 
Games can act as invaluable tools for the teaching of the Middle Ages. The learning potential of physical and digital games is increasingly undeniable at every level of historical study. These games can provide a foundation of information through their stories and worlds. They can foster understanding of complex systems through their mechanics and …
 
The British monarchy is at a turning point. Concise and engaging, Jeremy Black's A Brief History of the British Monarchy: From the Iron Age to King Charles III (Robinson, 2022) charts the very beginnings of British reign through to the longest serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II - and looks forward to the reign of King Charles III. Much more than a…
 
Societies that are throwing off the yoke of authoritarian rule and beginning to build democracies face a daunting question: should they punish the representatives of the ancien regime or let bygones be bygones? In her interview, Professor Ruti Teitel talks both about these choices and more broadly about transitional justice as a field. Her book, Tr…
 
In Wandering Games (MIT Press, 2022), Melissa Kagen analyzes wandering within different game worlds, viewed through the lenses of work, colonialism, gender, and death. Wandering in games can be a theme, a formal mode, an aesthetic metaphor, or a player action. It can mean walking, escaping, traversing, meandering, or returning. Kagen introduces the…
 
Comedy is so frequently the topic of cultural dialogue, but it is rarely taken seriously as an object of study. Comedy Against Work: Utopian Longing in Dystopian Times (Common Notions, 2022) offers a major contribution to theorizing comedy but also thinking about the particular politics of the genre today. Work is a joke and often the butt of our j…
 
Tens of thousands of Palestinians migrated to the Americas in the final decades of the nineteenth century and early decades of the twentieth. By 1936, an estimated 40,000 Palestinians lived outside geographic Palestine. Transnational Palestine: Migration and the Right of Return Before 1948 (Stanford UP, 2022) is the first book to explore the histor…
 
Helen H. Wu is a children's book author and illustrator, author of Tofu Takes Time, illustrated by Julie Jarema (Beaming Books, 2022) and Long Goes To Dragon School, illustrated by Mae Besom (Yeehoo Press, 2023). In this, our second interview, we talk about her role as publisher of Yeehoo books, and the challenge of creating books that appeal to bo…
 
Unpayable Debt (Sternberg Press, 2022) examines the relationships among coloniality, raciality, and global capital from a black feminist “poethical” perspective. Inspired by Octavia E. Butler's 1979 sci-fi novel Kindred, in which an African-American writer is transported back in time to the antebellum South to save her owner-ancestor, Unpayable Deb…
 
When Kasimir’s Malevich’s Black Square was produced in 1915, no one had ever seen anything like it before. And yet it does have precedents. In fact, over the previous five hundred years, several painters, writers, philosophers, scientists, and censors alighted on the form of the black square or rectangle, as if for the first time. Foreshadowed: Mal…
 
The Shining: A Visual and Cultural Haunting (Rough Trade Books, 2022) is an immersive, multi-dimensional examination of one of the most famous films in cinematic history. This loose-leafed and beautifully boxed book—disguised as the ‘writing project’ Jack is typing throughout the course of the film—explores the film’s cultural legacy through exclus…
 
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