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Recall This Book
29 minutes | 7 days ago
49 The Capitol Insurrection and Asymmetrical Policing: David Cunningham (EF, JP)
We first heard from the sociologist of American racism David Cunningham in Episode 36 Policing and White Power. Less than a week after the horrors of January 6th, he came back for an extended conversation about “asymmetrical policing” of the political right and left–and of White and Black Americans. His very first book (There’s Something Happening Here, 2004) studied the contrast between the FBI’s work in the 1960’s to wipe out left-wing and Black protests and its efforts to control and tame right-wing and white supremacist movements. That gives him a valuable perspective on the run-up to January 6th–and what may happen next. “The FBI was seeking to eliminate left-wing threats….with the Klan…the overriding motive was to control…not to eliminate.” Mentioned in the Episode Ulster Defence AssociationOklahoma City Bombing2017 Charlottesville Rallysource: The New York Times, Jan 6, 2021 Kathleen Belew, Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America Ulster Defence Association Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing: FBI perspective and reported book Two of the “after-action” reports on Charlottesville that David discusses are: “Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Events in Charlottesville, Virginia” (Hunton and Williams 2017) “Virginia’s Response to the Unite the Right Rally: After-Action Review” (International Association of Chiefs of Police, December 2017) Lessons Charlottesville (should have) taught us: “Prohibiting Private Armies at Public Rallies” (Georgetown Law School, Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and protection, September 2020). Listen and Read 49 Transcript: David Cunningham and asymmetric policing Upcoming Episodes First, another rapid responses to the Capitol attack of January 6th. Episode 50 is a discussion of the racially-inflected genealogy of the words that are used to describe uprisings, rebellions and riots. Joining us is Brandeis historian Greg Childs, expert on political mobilizations and revolutions in the Americas. Next, we are delighted to pick up our pandemic-interrupted Recall This Buck series by speaking with the brilliant French economic historian Thomas Piketty, tackling questions of wealth inequality, the failures of capitalism as ideology, and the depressing rise of “Brahmin left” political parties. Adaner Usmani (you know him from episode 44 on mass incarceration) co-hosts with JP.
27 minutes | 14 days ago
48 Transform, Not Transfer: Lisa Dillman on Translation (PW, EF)
The eternal challenge (obsession) of translation: “how not to get lost in translation”. However, the award-winning translator and literary scholar at Emory University Lisa Dillman suggests that we may be missing the truly challenging and exhilarating part of translation in this endless and “elitist” obsession. In fact, not “losing” original meaning may not be what translation is about at all. “I find it more useful a view of translation, not as a transfer of meaning, but a transformation.”Lisa Dillman Lisa ought to know: she won the 2016 Best Translated Book Award for Fiction for her translation of Yuri Herrera‘s Signs Preceding the End of the World (2015), a multilingual patchwork of a book that follows its (tri-lingual) heroine Makina across boundaries both geographic and linguistic. In fact, Lisa proposes it is Makina’s fluency in crossing those borders that makes her “so kickass”. Elizabeth is joined by Brandeis comparative literature scholar Pu Wang. Loyal RTB listeners may remember Pu artfully translating for the acclaimed science fiction novelist Cixin Liu in episode 14. You can expect to hear Pu’s border-crossings in this one as well. Together, Lisa, Elizabeth, and Pu slip in and out of the indeterminate space of English, Spanish, indigenous language in a rural part of Mexico, Arabic, some of them, and all of them. Mentioned in The Episode Lawrence Venuti’s critique of the rhetoric of “loss” in The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation (1995) Jacques Derrida’s notion of textual indeterminacy (and post-structuralist reading of literature) Karen Emmerich, Literary Translation and the Making of Originals (2017) Yuri Herrera, Signs Preceding the End of the World Diez Planetas (Lisa’s translation is on the way as Ten Planets) Recallable Books Lisa’s: Michael Cooperson’s translation of Al-Ḥarīrī’s “untranslatable” Arabic poetry collection Impostures (2020) Pu’s: Dictionary of Untranslatables (2014), an encyclopedia of “untranslatable” philosophical words — “to be” is not to be translated. Elizabeth’s: George Kalogeris’s Guide to Greece: Poems (2018), an exquisite exploration of writing Greek poetry in English, and in Massachusetts! Listen and Read Here 48 Transform, Not Transfer: Lisa Dillman on Translation Upcoming Episodes We offer two rapid responses to the Capitol attack of January 6th. Episode 49 features a discussion on the history of “asymmetrical policing” of black and white protestors or activists. Elizabeth and John talk with FBI and KKK expert David Cunningham–who first joined us to discuss white-supremacist policing back in Episode 36. Episode 50 is a discussion of the racially-inflected genealogy of the words that are used to describe uprisings, rebellions and riots. Joining us is Brandeis historian Greg Childs, expert on political mobilizations and revolutions in the Americas.
34 minutes | a month ago
47 Glimpsing COVID: Gael McGill on Data Visualization (GT, JP)
What’s a picture worth? How about the picture that allows scientists to grasp what’s actually going on in a cell–or on the spiky outside of an invading virus? Gael McGill, Director of Molecular Visualization at the Center for Molecular and Cellular Dynamics at Harvard Medical School is founder and CEO of Digizyme and has spent his career exploring and developing different modes for visualizing evidence. For this scientific conversation, John is joined once again by Brandeis neuroscientist Gina Turrigiano (think ep 4 Madeline Miller; think ep 2 Addiction!). And because Gael’s work proves that a picture can be worth far more than a thousand words, our RTB post is more picturesque than usual. Start by checking out Digizyme‘s image of the spike protein attaching the SARS-CoV2 virus to a hapless cell and fusing their membranes: Or maybe you’d rather click through to watch a gorgeous video Gael and his team have created? Gael praised Galileo’s revolutionary images (drawings? diagrams?) of Jupiter’s moons: And Leonardo’s stunning anatomical drawings: The DNA Double-Helix: We all knew that Watson and Crick‘s revelation came with this model: But it’s easy to forget this indispensable antecedent: the enigmatic yet foundational x-ray crystallography of Rosalind Franklin: “All models are wrong; some are useful.”smiley statistician George Box “A picture held us captive. And we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably.” Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 115 And what sort of deceptive picture did Wittgenstein have in mind? well, how about the 1904 “Plum-pudding model” of what the atom might look like? Wrong, and productive of all sorts of mistaken hypotheses. Gina credited the beautiful drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal with inspiring and illuminating generations of neuroscientists. John credits Science in the Marketplace, an edited collection reminding us that even in crowded lecture-halls, to display science may also mean doing science….. Gael ended his historical tour by praising David Goodsell, cell-painter extraordinaire: David Goodsell, “Zikavirus” John also raved (as he is wont to do) about cave paintings as the first animation in the world (e.g. these horses from Peche-Merle). Listen and Read Here: 47 Glimpsing COVID: Gael McGill on Data Visualization
30 minutes | 2 months ago
46 Leah Price on Children’s Books: Turning Back the Clock on “Adulting” (EF, JP)
What do children love most about books? Leaving their mark on inviting white spaces? Or that enchanting feeling when a book marks them as its own, taking them off to where the wild things are? To understand childhood reading past and present, Elizabeth and John talk with the illustrious and illuminating book historian Leah Price. They explore the tactile and textual properties of great children’s books and debate adult fondness for juvenile literature. Leah asks if identifying with a literary character is a sign of virtuous imagination, or of craziness and laziness. She also schools John on what makes a good association copy, and reveals her son’s magic words when he wants her to tell a story: Read it! For many years an English Professor at Harvard, Leah is founder and director of the Rutgers Initiative for the Book, and she tweets at @LeahAtWhatPrice. Her What We Talk About When We Talk About Books recently won Phi Beta Kappa’s Christian Gauss Award. Sometime around the turn of the millennium, the concern about distinguishing between juvenile and adult books seemed to shift from moral panic about speeding up sexual maturity to worry about turning back the clock on what we now call adulting through the mainstreaming of young adult literature. Mentioned in the episode: Patrick Mc Donnell, A Perfectly Messed-Up Story “Association copy”–e.g. Frida Kahlo’s goofily annotated and illustrated Works of Edgar Allen Poe. Mo Willem, We Are in a Book! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) Manners with a Library Book Dorothy Kunhardt, Pat the Bunny Erica Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar Peggy Rathmann, Ten Minutes Till Bedtime Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are Richard Wilbur, The Disappearing Alphabet Dr. Seuss, On Beyond Zebra! Miguel Cervantes, Don Quixote Charlotte Lenox, The Female Quixote Recallable Books: what else should I read if I enjoyed this episode? (Leah) Francis Spufford, The Child that Books Built: A Life in Reading (Elizabeth) E. Nesbit The Railway Children: not to mention The Phoenix and the Carpet and Five Children and It (John) Wanda Gag, Millions of Cats: it’s The Road for cats… John also wrote a children’s book, back when his kids were tiny: Time and the Tapestry: A William Morris Adventure Listen and Read Here: 46 Leah Price on Children’s Books
39 minutes | 3 months ago
45 Global Policing 3 Laurence Ralph: Reckoning with Police Violence
In the third episode of our Global Policing series, Elizabeth and John speak with anthropologist Laurence Ralph about his 2020 book The Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence. The book relates the decades-long history in which hundreds of people (mostly Black men) were tortured by the Chicago Police. Fascinatingly, it is framed as a series of open letters that explore the layers of silence and complicity that enabled torture and the activist movements that have helped to uncover this history and implement forms of collective redress and repair. Elizabeth and John ask Laurence about that genre choice, and he unpacks his thinking about responsibility, witnessing, trauma and channels of activism. Arendt’s “banality of evil” briefly surfaces. “People are always reckoning. People are always trying, no matter how overwhelming the odds may be, people are always trying to fight back.” Mentioned in this episode: Laurence Ralph, Renegade Dreams: Living through Injury in Gangland Chicago James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me Mahomedou Ould Slahi, Guantánamo Diary Truth and Reconciliation Commission (South Africa) Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963, “banality of evil”; not optimism but hopefulness) Recallable …..Stuff Frederick Douglas, A Speech given at the Unveiling…… Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” (here introduced by Angela Davis) Listen and Read Here: 45 Global Policing 3 Laurence Ralph: Reckoning with Police Violence
31 minutes | 4 months ago
44 Adaner Usmani: Racism as idea, Racism as power relation (EF, JP)
Do we understand racism as the primary driving engine of American inequality? Or do we focus instead on the indirect ways that frequently hard-to-discern class inequality and inegalitarian power relations can produce racially differentiated outcomes? Adaner Usmani, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Social Studies at Harvard and on the editorial board at Catalyst joins Elizabeth and John to wrestle with the subtle and complex genealogy of Southern plantation economy and its racist legacy. Adaner offers a complex genealogy of violence, mass incarceration and their roots in the social inequity (and iniquity) of antebellum economic relations. He emphasizes a frequently overlooked fact that a century ago Du Bois had already identified a key issue: the belatedness of African-American access to the social mobility offered by the North’s industrialization, thanks to structures of a racist Southern agricultural economy that kept African-American workers away from those high-wage jobs. The result? An explanation for racial injustice that hinges on ossified class imbalances–contingent advantages for certain groups that end up producing (rather than being produced by) bigotry and prejudice. Adaner Usmani and John Clegg, “The Economic Origins of Mass Incarceration” (Catalyst 3:3, 2019) Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010) Robin Einhorn, American Taxation, American Slavery (2006) Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law (2017) Kenneth Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier (1987) Barbara and Karen Fields, Racecraft (2014) makes the point that racism is the kind of thing that social scientists should try to explain rather than invoke as explanation. Ira Katznelson et. al., Southern Nation (2018; the story of the Southern plantation elite’s successful effort to smother American economic development) Bayard Rustin’s Time on Two Crosses, where Rustin asks how you build a civil-rights movement that is more than just symbolic in a country where white racism is an enormous obstacle. Listen and Read Here: Adaner Usmani, Racism as Idea, Racism as Power Relation 49 The Capitol Insurrection and Asymmetrical Policing: David Cunningham (EF, JP)In "David Cunningham"36 Policing and White Power: (EF, JP) Global Policing SeriesIn "Brandeis Colleagues in conversation"22 Ajantha Subramanian: Meritocracy, Caste, and Class (EF, JP)In "Ajantha Subramanian"
38 minutes | 6 months ago
43 Sanjay Krishnan on V. S. Naipaul: To make the Deformation the Formation (JP)
“My subject was not my inward self, but…the worlds within me.” Sanjay Krishnan, Boston University English professor and Conrad scholar, has written a marvelous new book about that grumpiest of Nobel laureates, V. S Naipaul’s Journeys. Krishnan sees the “Contrarian and unsentimental” Trinidad-born but globe-trotting novelist and essayist as early and brilliant at noticing the unevenness with which the blessings and curses of modernity were distributed in the era of decolonization. Centrally, Naipaul realized and reckoned with the always complex and messy question of the minority within postcolonial societies. He talks with John about Naipaul’s early focus on postcolonial governments, and how unusual it was in the late 1950’s for colonial intellectuals to focus on “the discomfiting aspects of postcolonial life….and uneven consequences of the global transition into modernity.” Most generatively of all, Sanjay insists that the “troublesome aspect is what gives rise to what’s most positive in Naipaul.” Photo of Sanjay Krishnan by Cydney Scott for Boston University Photography Discussed in the Episode Chinua Achebe, There Was a Country (2012) George Lamming, e.g. (In the Castle of My Skin, 1953) V. S. Naipaul, The Suffrage of Elvira (1957) Miguel Street (1959) Area of Darkness (1964) The Mimic Men (1967) A Bend in the River (1979) V. S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas (1961) V. S. Naipaul, In a Free State (1971) Aya Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (1968) Derek Walcott, “The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory” Nobel Acceptance Speech Richard Wright, Native Son (1940) Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back (1989 theoretical work on postcolonialism) Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger (2008) Marlon James (eg. The Book of Night Women, 2009) Beyonce, “Formation“ Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth (1961) Tayeb Salih, Season of Migration to the North (1966) Willa Cather “Two Friends” in Obscure Destinies Listen and Read Here: 43 Sanjay Krishnan on V. S. Naipaul: To make the Deformation the Formation
46 minutes | 6 months ago
42 Recall This Buck 2: Peter Brown on wealth, charity and managerial bishops in early Christianity (JP)
Our Recall This Buck series began by speaking with Christine Desan of Harvard Law School about how key ideas—and the actual currency, physical coins and bills— underlying the modern monetary system get “invisibilized” with that system’s success, so that seeing money clearly is both harder and more vital. Today, illustrious Princeton historian Peter Brown narrates the emergence, in the 3rd and 4th century AD, of striking new ideas about charity and how to include the poor inside a religious community. Our focus today is his fascinating observations, in Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD, on changing conceptions of wealth and treasure in late antiquity and the first centuries of Christianity Even the very categories of “the wealthy” and “the poor” had to be invented in late Antiquity. Hence the importance of civic euergetism in the Greek and Roman worldview–i.e. benefaction and charity strictly confined to the good of the city. In early Christianity, this was replaced by compensatory almsgiving by the rich to benefit the lowly poor, or beggars. That notion of the rich being “less likely to enter heaven than a camel going through the eye of a needle”–that, says Brown, “was Jesus at its wildest.” Augustine even preached about almsgiving as “like a traveller’s check” that let the rich bank up credit in heaven. Sandro Botticelli, “Augustine In His Study” (fresco, 1480) That new metaphor tells us something remarkable about how the fluidity of money in late Antiquity changed everything, even religious beliefs. (Who knew the Romans had the idea of a traveler’s check? Peter Brown, that’s who.) Brown also loves the idea of early Christianity as obsessed with the notion of ends of the earth–Church-planting felt to early practitioners like “a moon-shot.” And he has strong views about how new guiding metaphors emerged inside theological or economic imaginative models–and survive because of their metaphorical or poetic resonance. But most crucial of all to Brown’s argument about changed ideas of wealth is that Christianity initiated the world-transformational notion of corporate identity–before Oxford, before the East India Company, before IBM. The “managerial Bishop” (Brown’s brilliant coinage) is not wealthy in his own right, but as an agent of “impersonal continuity.” Greek cities were never as impersonal and hence as trans-generationally stable (especially in patronage and finance management) as the Christian Church became in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Brown thinks Foucault got this kind of “pastoralism” in Church leaders partially right. But Foucault–“an old fashioned Catholic in many ways” Brown remarks slyly–underestimated the desire of the Christian community to designate a “consumer-driven” church hierarchy in which they can invest. Michel Foucault, an unlikely but crucial interlocutor for Peter Brown on the question of the early Church’s “pastoralism.” Pressed on the question of resonance to our own day, Brown (as a “good semi-Durkheimian of the Mary Douglas variety”) stresses that “these are almost incommensurable societies.” And he does note an ominous Roman parallel in present-day “personalization of power”–understanding the odious Putin by reading Seneca. Nonetheless, Brown makes clear his enduring admiration for Late Antiquity–compared to classical Greece and perhaps to our own day–because of its “remarkable tolerance for anomaly.” Brown has that too, more power to him! Mentioned in the Episode Peter Brown, Body and Society (1968) Peter Brown,. Augustine of Hippo: A Biography (1968) Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints (1981) Peter Brown, The Ransom of the Soul (2015) Evelyne Patlagean, Pauvreté économique et pauvreté sociale à Byzance, 4e-7e siè (Economic Poverty and Social Poverty) Augustine, Confessions (c. 400 AD and many other works available here ) Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977–1978 (on priests and the importance of the pastoral or shepherding metaphor) George Lakoff and Michael Johnson, Metaphors We Live By Seneca, Letters from a Stoic Jerusalem Talmud Listen and Read Here: 42 Peter Brown on wealth, charity and managerial bishops in early Christianity Upcoming Episodes: After a highly eventful Spring season–editing weekly episodes of Books in Dark Times was, err, illuminating. So we are easing off a bit for the dog days of summer. Next week we will discuss Sanjay Krishnan‘s fascinating postcolonial take on controversial Nobel novelist, V. S. Naipaul. There are future episodes of Recall This Buck and Global Policing both waiting in the wings.
30 minutes | 6 months ago
41 RTB Books in Dark Times 13: Lorraine Daston, Historian of Science (JP)
In this final episode of Books in Dark Times, John chews the bibliographic fat with Lorraine Daston of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Her list of publications outstrips our capacity to mention here; John particularly admires her analysis of “epistemic virtues” such as truth to nature and objectivity in her 2007 Objectivity (coauthored with Peter Galison). Although she “came of age in an era of extreme contextualism” Daston is anything but time-bound. She starts things off in John’s wheelhouse with Henry James, before moving on to Pliny the Younger–no, not the scientist, the administrator! Then she makes a startling flanking maneuver to finish with contemporary Polish poetry. John puffs to keep up… Discussed in this episode: Henry James, Portrait of a Lady (Nicole Kidman as Isabel Archer, American abroad, in Jane Campion’s Portrait of a Lady) Pliny the Younger, Letters (“the very model of the good civil servant”) Lisa Ford, Settler Sovereignty Ovid, Tristia Zbigniew Herbert, e.g. Mr. Cogito Wislawa Szymborska View with a Grain of Sand D. H. Lawrence, “Snake” (and other animal poems) Peter Godfrey-Smith, Other Minds (“This [octopus encounter] is probably the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien.”) George Herbert, “The Rose“ Olga Tokarczuk, Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead Stanislaw Lem, Solaris (1961) and The Futurological Congress (1971) Listen and Read: 41 RTB Books in Dark Times 13: Lorraine Daston, Historian of Science Upcoming Episodes: Recall this Buck returns, with ancient historian Peter Brown speaking about how early Christianity changed Roman conceptions of wealth. And Sanjay Krishnan discusses his wonderful new book, a post-postcolonial look at controversial Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul. Fare you well, Books in Dark Times….
28 minutes | 6 months ago
40 Global Policing 1: Hayal Akarsu on Turkish Community Policing (EF, JP)
The Black Lives Matter movement and the policing-related deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others have struck a nerve worldwide. Our “Global Policing” series aims to capture the protests over systemic racism and policing in their various national forms. Picture taken from journalist Zeynep Kuray’s Twitter account. In Turkey, for example, a June 19 article in the English edition of DuvaR. news magazine reported thatFootage of the detentions of five individuals detained at pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) press conference in Istanbul reveal shouts from the civilians begging the police to stop pressing on their backs and telling them that their chest hurts…reminiscent of the recent police killing of black Minneapolis resident George Floyd, remembered with his words “I can’t breathe! Hayal Akarsu Today, Elizabeth and John discuss Turkish policing with Hayal Akarsu, Junior Research Fellow at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis. Hayal is an anthropologist specializing in police reforms in Turkey in the context of authoritarian governance. Our conversation focused on what police reforms succeed in doing, even if they do not frequently succeed in reducing police violence, and on how police relate to state and military objectives in Turkey, Brazil and the United States. Our recallable “books” included City of Walls (2001), the acclaimed television show The Wire and Franz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth. Listen and Read Here: 40 Global Policing 1: Hayal Akarsu on Turkish Community Policing Upcoming episodes: Next week is our final episode of Books in Dark Times, with historian of science Lorraine Daston. Down the pike: more Global Policing episodes, Recall this Buck 2 with ancient historian Peter Brown, and Sanjay Krishnan‘s post-postcolonial look at controversial Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul.
22 minutes | 7 months ago
39 RTB Books in Dark Times 12: Carlo Rotella (JP)
Carlo Rotella of Boston College is author of six books, among them the amazing Good With Their Hands: Boxers, Bluesmen, and Other Characters from the Rust Belt (University of California Press, 2002) and most recently The World Is Always Coming to an End: Pulling Together and Apart in a Chicago Neighborhood (University of Chicago Press, 2019). What is he reading in the darkness? He starts by praising sagas, makes a case for stories of disagreeableness and plugs a remarkable book about preaching, deception, and the urge to belong. Tacitus, Germania Njal’s Saga (this image from Möðruvallabók , c. 1350) Egil’s Saga, from 1240 or before (this ms. 17th century) Prose Edda Poetic Edda Haldor Laxness, Iceland’s Bell Mitch Weiss, Broken Faith Lawrence Wright, Going Clear (2013) P. G. Wodehouse My Man Jeeves (indeed, 1919) The Wizard of Id Robert E. Howard, Conan (first appearance 1932) Listen and Read here: 39 RTB Books in Dark Times 12: Carlo Rotella Upcoming Episodes: Our Global Policing Series shifts to Turkey with Hayal Akarsu. Historian of Science Lorraine Daston’s “Books in Dark Times” is waiting in the wings. It looks to be the series finale.
26 minutes | 7 months ago
38 Beth Blum on Self-Help from Carnegie to Today (JP)
Beth Blum, Assistant Professor of English at Harvard, is the author of The Self-Help Compulsion (Columbia University Press 2019). Learn how self-help went from its Victorian roots (worship greatness!) to the ingratiating unctuous style prescribed by the other-directed Dale Carnegie (everyone loves the sound of their own name) before arriving at the “neo-stoical” self-help gurus of today, who preach male and female versions of “stop apologizing!” You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll either help yourself or learn how to stop caring. Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) Rachel Hollis, Girl, Stop Apologizing (2019) Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k (2016) Richard Carlson, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…. (1997) Alain de Botton, How Proust Can Change Your Life (2012) New Thought (philosophy? religious movement?) Samuel Smiles, Self-Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859) Orison Swett Marden, How to Succeed (1896) David Riesman et al. The Lonely Crowd (1950) Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (1945) Helen Gurley Brown, Having It All (1982) Micki McGee, Self-Help Inc. (2007; concept of”self-belabourment”) Tiffany Dufu, Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less Jenny Odell, How to Do Nothing (2019) Sarah Knight, The Life-Changing Magic Art of Not Giving a Fuck (2015) Recallable books Epictetus, Handbook (125 C.E.) Sheil Heti, How Should a Person Be (2012) Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) Joseph Conrad Nostromo (1904) Listen and Read Here: 38 Beth Blum on Self-Help from Carnegie to Today Upcoming episodes: Books in Dark Times conversations with Carlo Rotella and Lorraine Daston. Hayal Akarsu speaks with us for the Turkey-focused second episode of Global Policing.
28 minutes | 7 months ago
37 RTB Books In Dark Times 11: Elizabeth Bradfield (JP)
Elizabeth Bradfied is editor of Broadsided Press, professor of creative writing at Brandeis, naturalist, photographer–and most of all an amazing poet (“Touchy” for example just appeared in The Atlantic). Her books include Interpretive Work, Approaching Ice, Once Removed, and Toward Antarctica. She lives on Cape Cod, travels north every summer to guide people into Arctic climes, birdwatches. She is in and of and for our whole natural world. So, is it poetry sustaining her now? Or does she (she does!) have other sources of inspiration? Mentioned in the episode: Eavand Boland, “Quarantine” (from Against Love Poetry; read her NY Times obituary here) Maeve Binchy, “Circle of Friends“ Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology Louise Gluck Averno and Wild Iris Brian Teare, Doomstead Days Derek Walcott, “Omeros“ W. S. Merwin, “The Folding Cliffs” Natasha Trethewey, “Belloqc’s Ophelia“ Yeats, “We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.” Nest, Eggs and Nestlings of North American Birds (Princeton Field Guides)Thomas Eisner, “For Love Of Insects“Robert Louis Stevenson, “A Child’s Garden of Verse“ Trixie Belden Shel Silverstein Lois Lowry, “The Giver“ Liz equates poetry and Tetris Leanne Simpson, “This Accident of Being Lost“ Elizabeth Bradfield, “We all want to see a mammal“ Listen and Read Here: 37 RTB Books In Dark Times 11: Elizabeth Bradfield Upcoming episodes: Beth Blum guides us through the wilds of self-help, and we fire a concluding salvo of Books in Dark Times, including writer Carlo Rotella and historian of science Lorraine Daston.
34 minutes | 7 months ago
36 Policing and White Power: (EF, JP) Global Policing Series
Black lives matter. Yet for decades or centuries in America that basic truth has been ignored, denied, violently suppressed. Many of the mechanisms that create an oppressed and subordinated American community of color can seem subtle and indirect, despite the insidious ways they pervade housing law (The Color of Law), education (Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together, Savage Inequalities) and the carceral state (The Condemnation of Blackness, The New Jim Crow, Locking Up Our Own). Although there is plenty of subtle racism in policing as well, there can be a brutally frontal quality to white-power policing: just look at the racial disparity in the stubbornly astronomically number of fatal shootings by police. In this episode, we join other public discussions (including Brandeis University’s “America’s Racial Reckoning: Black Lives and Black Futures in Historical, Political and Legal Context“ and Democracy Now’s interview with Angela Davis on abolition) of police brutality, systemic and personal racism and Black Lives Matter. We are lucky to be joined by Daniel Kryder and David Cunningham, two scholars who have worked on these questions for decades. We focus special attention on white supremacy and its relationship to various mechanisms of law and order. Its effects and its victims (even if we only say the names of the dead, thousands and thousands of them over the years,) are getting harder to overlook, though many white people and institutions have tried to over the years. How much of the current system of racial and class disparity can be traced back to slavery or to subsequent 19th century racial logic? How much arises from the confluence of other forces? The conversation notes the widespread white participation in recent protests–did we ever expect to hear Mitt Romney chanting “Black Lives Matter”?– and what this might suggest about the possibilities for actual change. It also touches on the roles of the media and institutions such as police unions and the erosion of federal oversight of local police departments. Daniel Kryder is Professor of Politics at Brandeis, and an expert on the racial politics of policing in America. His publications include Divided Arsenal: Race and the American State During World War II. Daniel Kryder David Cunningham David Cunningham chair of Sociology at Washington University in St Louis, has ongoing research on (1) the organization and enforcement of segregation under Jim Crow, (2) the enduring legacies of racist violence, (3) the policing of organized white supremacy, and (4) the recent wave of conflicts around Confederate monuments and other sites of contested memory. Mentioned in this episode: Klansville, USA (cf. the PBS show of the same name that drew heavily on the book; and an interview David did on the topic of today’s Klan) Kerner Commission Report (1968) Ethical Society of Police (cf. this compelling local post-Ferguson PBS documentary that speaks with St. Louis African-American police officers) Recallable Books Walter Johnson, “The Broken Heart of America” (2020) James Baldwin, “The Fire Next Time” (1963) Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Between the World and Me” (2015) Listen and Read Here: 36 Policing and White Power: Global Policing Series Upcoming Episodes: Books in Dark Times returns with poet Elizabeth Bradfield and historian of science Lorraine Daston. Global Policing episodes on Turkey and Australia loom on the horizon.
19 minutes | 8 months ago
35 RTB Books In Dark Times 10: Martin Puchner
RTB listeners already know the inimitable Martin Puchner from that fabulous RTB episode about his “deep history” of literature and literacy, The Written World. You may even know he has a family memoir coming out soon, The Language of Thieves. But it took Books in Dark Times to uncover his secret hankering for tales of the British aristocracy, and for off-kilter modernist texts. Boccaccio, The Decameron (c. 1370) The Thousand and One Nights (1704) Daniel Defoe, Journal of the Plague Year (1722) P. G. Wodehouse, The Jeeves books and beyond Thomas Mann, “Death in Venice” (1912) Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game (1943) Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast (1964) Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and other diaries (1933) Ancient Egyptian Literature Epic of Gilgamesh (the brilliant David Ferry translation…) Peter Brown, Through the Eye of a Needle (2012) Listen and Read Here: 35 RTB Books In Dark Times 10: Martin Puchner Upcoming Episodes: Books in Dark Times will soon continue with Elizabeth Bradfield, poet, naturalist, Arctic voyager. In upcoming weeks, we also pivot towards another present darkness. David Cunningham and Daniel Kryder (both experts on American white supremacism and police) join Elizabeth and John to inaugurate a short series on race and inequity in policing. That conversation starts by comparing the George Floyd protests to past moments of organized upheaval and transformation.
42 minutes | 8 months ago
34 The Caribbean and Vectors of Warfare: Vincent Brown (EF, JP)
Simon’s March, September 1760, “Slave Revolt in Jamaica, 1760-1761, A Cartographic Narrative” The largest slave uprising in the 18th century British Caribbean was also a node of the global conflict called the Seven Year’s War, though it isn’t usually thought of that way. In the first few days of the quarantine and our current geopolitical and epidemiological shitshow, John and Elizabeth spoke with Vincent Brown, who recently published Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War (Belknap, 2019), centered on a group of enslaved West Africans, known under the term “Coromantees” who were the chief protagonists in this war. Tracing the vectors of this war within the Caribbean, the North Atlantic, and West Africa, Vince shows us how these particular enslaved Africans, who are caught in the gears of one of human history’s most dehumanizing institutions, constrained by repressive institutions, social-inscribed categories of differences and brutal force, operate tactically within and across space in complex and cosmopolitan ways. Vince locates his interest in warfare (as an object of study) in emergence of new world order and disorder through the Gulf Wars. His attention to routes and mobilities he credits to an epidemiological turn of mind–perhaps inherited from his father Willie Brown, a medical microbiologist now retired from UCSD. The idea of the vector shaped his first book as well. Vince’s “cartographic narrative” “A Slave Revolt in Jamaica: 1760-1761” and the film he produced with director Llewellyn Smith, Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness (which traces African studies and anthropology’s understanding of cultural movements from between Africa and the Americas) also explore these burning questions. Along the way, Vince discusses C.L.R. James’ notion of conflict, war and global connectedness in The Black Jacobins and the ways that categories of social difference both are constituted by global capital (reminding us of our conversation on caste, class and whiteness with Ajantha Subramanian) and those bumper stickers from the early 1980s in which the Taliban were the good guys. Mentioned in this episode: Rambo III (1988) The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, written by himself (1789) Aphra Behn, Oroonoko (1688) Catherine Hall, Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination, 1830-1867 (2002) C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938) John Thornton, Africa and Africans in the making of the Atlantic World-1400-1800 (1992) Derrick ‘Black X’ Robinson on his advocacy to make Tacky a national hero in Jamaica Black X walks barefoot across Jamaica to make Tacky a national hero Recallable Books: Marlon James, The Book of Night Women (2009) John Tutino, Making a New World (2011) Angel Palerm, The First Economic World-System (1980) Listen and Reda Here: 34 The Caribbean and Vectors of Warfare: Vincent Brown Upcoming Episodes: Books in Dark Times returns, featuring conversations with book historian Martin Puchner and poet Elizabeth Bradfield; and John talks with Beth Blum about the Self-Help Compulsion.
23 minutes | 8 months ago
33 RTB Books in Dark Times 9: Ben Fountain (JP)
Ben Fountain is far more than just the author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which won RTB hearts and minds (and the National Book Award) long before it became a weird Ang Lee movie. What is consoling and engaging the author of the best novel about America’s dismal experience in Iraq? American novels, especially those about Americans abroad (Joan Didion. say) have always done something special for him. Marilynne Robinson’s and James Baldwin’s work make us confront the reality that’s happening around us all the time, “a freaking massacre.” He carried the the (fictional but genuine) facts of Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk in his head for forty years. Allen Tate, Fugitive poet (and author most famously of the tricky post-Eliotic 1928 “Ode to the Confederate Dead“) Joan Didion, The Last Thing He Wanted (1996; “a masterpiece of tone and mood and character and profound interiority”; the movie, not so much) Joan Didion, Democracy (1984; she goes “straight after the heart of that mystery, what is America?“) Marilynne Robinson. Listeners, do you prefer her incisive nonfiction (“Poetry of Puritanism“) or the deep, torqued interiority of her first novel, Housekeeping ? Zadie Smith on the amazing, terrifying Americanness of Kara Walker Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety” (also referenced in our Silvia Bottinelli episode on food art!) The Sugar Sphinx (photo from The New Yorker) James Baldwin, A Letter to My Nephew (1962) James Baldwin, e.g. If Beale Street Could Talk (Ben loves those Library of America volumes…) Another Country (1962) Giovanni’s Room (1956) Sewanee Review, The Corona Correspondence Chronicles of Now George Saunders “A Letter to My Students….“ Listen and Read Here: 33 RTB Books in Dark Times 9: Ben Fountain Upcoming Books In Dark Times Episodes: Martin Puchner from Harvard’s Department of Comparative Literature, poet Elizabeth Bradfield, and Boston College’s Carlo Rotella.
34 minutes | 8 months ago
32 RTB Books in Dark Times 8: Paul Saint-Amour (JP 5/20)
Who better to talk about Dark Times than the author of an unforgettable scholarly book about the grimness of the interwar years, Tense Future? Paul Saint-Amour, Professor of English at University of Pennsylvania and author of various prizewinning books and brilliant articles, joins John to talk about realism, escapism and the glories of science fiction. Paul wonders if immersive reading is even possible during this terrible imminence. Can we really gaze at the dental work of the pandemical lion as its jaws open upon us? He goes on to praise “recursive” plots as glimpsed in time-travel narratives, which produce not interactivity with a text, but interpassivity; the immersion into a form that has its ending always waiting for readers from their very beginning. Throughout he manages to be pessimistic but hopeful. Mentioned in this episode: Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker (1980) Boccaccio, “The Decameron“ Patrick White, “The Eye of the Storm” (1973) Daniel Defoe, “Journal of the Plague Year” Laurence Wright, “End of October“ Contagion (2011) The Lady Eve (1941) Henry James “Wings of the Dove” (1902) Ted Chiang “Story of Your Life“ Arrival (an octopus-friendly movie based on Chiang’s story) Kurt Vonnegut, “Slaughterhouse Five” (1969) Martin Amis, “Time’s Arrow” (1991) Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History” ( 1940; on the Jetzzeit, the strait-gate through which the Messiah can enter-The Messiah just hates empty homogeneous time.) Interstellar (2014) Charlotte Bronte Villette (1853) Naomi Mitchison, “Memoirs of a Space Woman” (1962) Doris Lessing, “Canopus in Argos” Doris Lessing, “Making of the Representatives for Planet 8” (1982) Tempest (John’s only arcade game…) Tempest: not the one by Shakespeare…. Ludonarrative dissonance (e.g. the problem of the “canon route”in such games as “Tales from the Borderlands“) Thomas Hardy, “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” (1891) Gillian Beer, “Darwin’s Plots” (1983; on “ghost plots”) Thomas Hardy “Jude the Obscure” (1895) Vera Brittain, “Testament of Youth” (although it is ostensibly about her youth in the Great War, it is very much a 1930’s book in its grimness, its pacifisim, its vision of an inevitable second Great War coming…) It Happened One Night (auto-gyros bad, straight lines to use the shower, good…) Philip Roth, Plot Against America (and this recent adaptation) Philip K Dick “Man in the High Castle” (“a way of backlighting the 1930’s without actually looking very hard at them…”) James Agee and Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941, but far more successful when reissued in 1960) Ursula Le Guin “The Earthsea Trilogy“ Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas“ Dodie Smith, “I Capture the Castle“(1949) Stella Gibbons, “Cold Comfort Farm” (1932) Andrew Miller, “Lives Unled in Realist Fiction” ( 2007; on the optative and choice-function with fiction) Listen to the episode here: Read the transcript here: Transcript BDT8 Saint-AmourDownload Upcoming episodes: Our next BDT guest is Ben Fountain, author of the amazing Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, now a (not-quite-so-amazing) Ang Lee film. Followed by a return to regular Recall This Book programming: Harvard historian Vince Brown joins us to discuss Caribbean modernity and his recent book, Tacky’s Revolt.
20 minutes | 8 months ago
31 RTB Books in Dark Times 7: Vanessa Smith (JP)
U. Sydney professor Vanessa Smith–author of Intimate Strangers, and also of this lovely short piece about Marion Milner–joins John to discuss her pandemic reading. She praises a Milner (quasi)travel book, but she also makes the case for M F K Fisher and a book about the glories of hypochondria. Tasmanian selfie: John, Vanessa, mysterious mathematician (r to l) Then the old friends share their newfound love for spiky Australian novelist Helen Garner, doyenne of share-house feminism. The indomitably introspective Marion Milner Marion Milner, Eternity’s Sunrise (1987, at the age of 87) Brian Dillon, “Tormented Hope: Nine Hypochondriac Lives“ Lytton Strachey, “Eminent Victorians” (about Florence Nightingale’s hypochondria and agoraphobia) Jane Austen takes on hypochondria in Emma (think of gruel-eating Mr. Woodhouse) and in Sanditon M. F. K. Fisher, “How to Cook a Wolf” Helen Garner, “The Spare Room” (2008; rigorously honest about impending mortality) Helen Garner, “The Childrens Bach” (1984; John and Vanessa planned a seminar on this one) Helen Garner, “Monkey Grip” (1977; heroin, be the death of me….) Listen to the episode here: Read the Transcript here: BDT Smith transcriptDownload Upcoming Episodes: Next week, Paul Saint-Amour, Modernist to the stars (and the lucky students of U Penn) rhapsodizes about science fiction’s time travel metaphysics.
29 minutes | 9 months ago
30 In Focus: Nir Eyal on (the deontology of) “challenge testing” a Covid vaccine
On April 27, David D. Kirkpatrick reported in the N. Y. Times that Oxford’s Jenner Center is close to starting human trials on a potential Covid-19 vaccine. According to Kirkpatrick, “ethics rules, as a general principle, forbid seeking to infect human test participants with a serious disease. That means the only way to prove that a vaccine works is to inoculate people in a place where the virus spreading naturally around them.” It ain’t necessarily so, says Nir Eyal, Henry Rutgers Professor of Ethics and Director of Center for Population-Level Bioethics, Rutgers University. Eyal is lead author (along with Harvard’s Marc Lipsitch and Peter Smith) of a striking March article in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, “Human Challenge Studies to Accelerate Coronavirus Vaccine Licensure.” A recent interview with Nir in Nature has a more revealing title: “Should scientists infect healthy people with the coronavirus to test vaccines?” So, John sat down with Nir to discuss the idea of deliberately exposing healthy young volunteers to corona virus in order to accelerate the efficacy phase of vaccine testing. Prior to this pandemic, many felt challenge testing with a deadly disease was beyond the ethical pale. Eyal et. al propose that despite its checkered history (think coerced deadly medical procedures), there is an interesting philosophical case to be made in its favor. Want to read more coverage of challenge testing? Start with this Washington Post article, or this one. Listen to the episode here: Read a transcript here: EP 30: In Focus – Nir Eyal TranscriptDownload Upcoming Episodes: Books in Dark Times returns next week with Australian scholar Vanessa Smith singing the praises of the uncategorizable Marion Milner–as well as one of John’s favorite novelists from Down Under. The following week, Modernist Paul Saint-Amour wins John’s heart by unpacking the metaphysics of time travel in such SF born-classics as Arrival, perhaps the most octopus/Heptapod-loving film of recent years.
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