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November 30th, 2015

Marx after Marx — An Interview with Harry Harootunian

Marx After Marx, Harry Harootunian

“The role Marxism plays today is the same critical vocation and practice Marx imagined at the start. It is still the best critical strategy we have available to understanding … and grasping what must be done.”—Harry Harootunian

The following is an interview with Harry Harootunian, author of Marx After Marx: History and Time in the Expansion of Capitalism:

Question: How does Marxism look different once it is taken out of the Western framework? What does it mean to “Deprovincialize Marx”?

Harry Harootunian: The question of how Marxism looked different once it was taken out of the Western framework, once it was deprovincialized and resituated in a context constituted of a different lived historico-cultural experience is, in many ways, the central problem of my book.

At one level it was obvious that the migration of Marxism acquired a different appearance when it landed in regions outside of Western Europe. In fact, its migration showed the multiple routes to the development of capitalism. Uno Kozo, the great Japanese political economist notedthat the development of capitalism in Japan was a local inflection of a global process similar to other late developing societies since it followed the same economic laws despite the mediating contaminations exercised by specific historical and cultural circumstances. However, it should be pointed out that this observation was made by a number of previous thinkers in Eastern Europe, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky and even Georg Lukacs, the putative founder of ‘Western Marxism.”

All of these thinkers recognized that the penetration of capital in Eastern Europe dramatically contrasted with economic practices derived from previous modes of production and in some cases were metabolized to serve capital’s quest for surplus value. Marx put it simply in Grundrisse when he remarked that capital takes what it finds useful at hand from prior forms of economic activity and subordinates it to capitalism’s production process. Lukacs sought to show how the visible disparity between co-existing different forms of practice, the then and the now, could be overcome through the agency of ideology. The bourgeois mind was made to see in these residual appropriations not practices derived from pre-capitalist presuppositions but rather from capital’s own presuppositions. With thinkers from the margins of industrial capital and the colonies, the determining factor was the moment of encounter, time and circumstances in which capital appeared in a society. What I’m suggesting is that the reason why capital looked different derived from the convergence of two different forms of historical intervention: the conditions accounting for the timing of capital’s entry and the reasons prompting its adoption and the subsequent collision with a received, lived history and cultural experience.

The movement of Marxism could only result in a deprovincialization that took on the appearance of local historical and cultural color. When Marx announced in his famous Preface of the first edition of Capital I that “the country that is more developed industrially shows, to the less developed, the image of its own future,” he was not proposing that it would look like England or even France. What he was offering was the promise of development, knowing, at the same time, that the operation of formal subsumption, as the rule and logic of capitalist development, would inevitably involve a process of appropriation of what was at hand. Imitation of a “classic” example would have been simply impossible to maintain under the rule of formal subsumption. So I propose that in terms of theory, Marxism and its general laws, will always be mediated by local historical and cultural circumstances.

Q: Building upon that how does the history of Marxism and Marxist movements look different when you begin to look beyond the Euro-American context?

This question might be answered by suggesting that much of the concerns of Marxism outside of Europe-America, beginning with Lenin, was an effort to return to some of the more fundamental considerations of the founders, namely wage labor and the production process. In Western Marxism, The Frankfurt school was preoccupied with the role played by culture, consumption and the culture industry in the domination of everyday life. This program reflected the privilege accorded to the commodity form and ultimately value was released from its relationship to labor, whose importance was diminished. In a sense, this move to the structuring force of the commodity—value theory—exemplified thinkers like H-G Backhaus and Antonio Negri and to some extent Moishe Postone. The trouble with this orientation is that it was premised on the presumption that value had invaded every pore of the social formation. In this regard, the efforts of thinkers to return to some of the principal perspectives of the founders were an attempt to return to history and politics rather than philosophy. The move to philosophy signified a withdrawal from historical considerations related to labor and production, as suchand its importance for forms of contemporary political intervention. The preoccupation with philosophy separated lived culture from politics and history by subsuming their identities instead of reuniting value and history. In this regard, one should recall Marx’s own repudiation of philosophy and rejection of the “concept” for the sensuousness of the concrete commodity. If value trumped history, culture and consumption replaced history to signal in the West capital’s completion, that is, the accomplishment of real subsumption.

In contrast, the world beyond Europe remains at an earlier stage, still dominated by the bricolage of formal subsumption, incomplete, undeveloped, a history in the making aimed at “catching up.” Hence, the stage theory of an earlier Marxism was stretched to distinguish the West from the world beyond it, even though they shared the same contemporary moment. What I’m suggesting is that the presumed stagist movement from formal to real subsumption (absolute surplus value to relative surplus value) was another way of representing the difference between the advanced West and the backwardness of underdevelopment, maintaining the trajectory of an earlier and vulgate version of Marxism evolved from the Second and Third Internationals that would explain where societies were located in the historical route to socialism. Yet, on closer examination, it is possible to discern in this evolutionary scheme how the underdeveloped society is cast into another temporal register to reveal the distance it must travel to reach the true contemporaneity of modern capitalism. It is precisely this stagism that mandates the reproduction or replication of a singular model of development that excludes other, plural possibilities.

Read the rest of this entry »

November 30th, 2015

Book Giveaway! After the American Century, by Brian Edwards

This week one of our featured books is After the American Century: The Ends of U.S. Culture in the Middle East by Brian T. Edwards.

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of After the American Century to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Wednesday, December 4th at 1:00 pm.

After the American Century offers a fascinating tour of the appropriation and deployment of American popular culture in a globalized, restless Middle East.” — Marc Lynch, author of The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East

After the American Century is a book of exquisite audacity.” — Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

November 25th, 2015

Forget the Turkey! Doughnuts!

Gastropolis, Thanksgiving in New York City

As many of us begin to prepare our turkeys and other fixings, we conclude our focus on Thanksgiving by turning to a surprising chapter in the holiday’s history when doughnuts made an appearance:

In his chapter, “The Food and Drink of New York from 1624 to 1898,” from Gastropolis: Food and New York City, Andrew Smith describes the role George Washington and doughnuts have played in how the holiday has been celebrated in New York City:

Although it had originated in New England, [Thanksgiving] was quickly adopted in communities throughout New York. Indeed, it was in New York City that President George Washington issued the first presiden­tial thanksgiving proclamation, which set aside Thursday, November 26, 1789, as a day of prayer and thanksgiving. New York was one of the first states outside New England to declare Thanksgiving an official holiday. In 1795, John Jay, the governor of New York, tried to establish a statewide thanksgiving day, and in 1817 it was finally recognized as a state holiday. Thanksgiving was celebrated with what is now considered the traditional meal of turkey, apple pie, mince pie, and cranberries; New Yorkers often added doughnuts and crullers to the menu. Thanksgiving holiday remained an important holiday throughout the nineteenth century. The Ladies Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church opened a mission in the gang-infested Five Points District, and on Thanksgiving Day, under the eyes of their bene­factors, the ladies paraded and fed hundreds of Sunday-school students.

November 24th, 2015

Choosing the Right Wine for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving wine

The following advice on choosing the right wine to go with your turkey and stuffing is from Natalie Berkowitz, author of The Winemaker’s Hand: Conversations on Talent, Technique, and Terroir:

The Pilgrims couldn’t have imagined how their fabled first Thanksgiving would morph into the glorious holiday all Americans treasure. New information redefines the myths surrounding that celebration, but whether fact or fiction, Thanksgiving is embedded, even sanctified, as America’s premier national holiday. Wherever we came from, we all have reason to celebrate the unifying holiday.

Variations of the iconic dinner are prepared in most kitchens across our country. While preparation of the meal may differ from culture to culture, from palate to palate, and from one culinary preference to another, a question often posed is which wine pairs the best with these elaborate meals.

Some good advice begins with the choice of wines with a lower alcohol level ranging from 10 to 12%. A light red wine is considered the best partner for the multicourse dinner, although my friend Michaela Rodeno, former CEO of St. Supéry Wines in Napa suggests champagne or sparkling wine as a perfect pairing. I agree wholeheartedly. There’s no question several other wines are a fine choice when our palates are challenged by an overabundance of holiday foods and we tend to recoil from wines with intense flavors.

Within the range of light wines, there are many to choose from. One of the best is Beaujolais Nouveau, a wine often referred to as “refreshment in a bottle.” Banners in wine shops announce the yearly arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau with fanfare in November, just in the nick of time for the holiday season. The wine is young and fresh, a step away from grape juice, hot off the wine press, bottled two months after fermentation and ready for immediate consumption. It’s meant to be drunk without intense examination. Think of them as adolescents in a glass, a middle ground between white and red wines. Best of all, these wines are accessible since their alcohol levels normally range between 10 and 10.5%, it is suitable for a range of guests from kiddies (diluted with water, of course!) right up to grandparents. It solves the problem of whether to pour red or white.

The Beaujolais region lies just to the south of its more famous neighbor, Burgundy, whose wines are ranked among the best in France. The region has been producing wine since the time of the Romans, and many of the vineyards were planted centuries ago, proof of its longevity and popularity. Unfortunately, these wines can sometimes be thin and lackluster, but finding a lovely version is a worthwhile venture. Reliable bottlers are Bouchard Aîné & Fils, George Du Boeuf, and Louis Jadot.

Wine lovers of a serious sort may turn their noses up at this wine, questioning whether a light wine is as enjoyable as its big, bolder siblings. Since these inexpensive wines are one step away from grape juice, their attractiveness lies in their reasonable prices, and qualities that make them as an easy quaff, light on the palate, yet flavorful enough to pair with this rich dinner. Beaujolais Villages, a step up in quality is produced in several areas in the eponymous region, are more sophisticated and relatively inexpensive. They range from $8.99 to about $15.

Read the rest of this entry »

November 24th, 2015

New Book Tuesday! New Literature from East Slope Publishing

The Crowd; Rongjun Yu

Books now currently available:

The Crowd
Rongjun Yu; Translated by Gigi Chang
(East Slope Publishing)

Datong: The Chinese Utopia
Evans Chan; Translated by Jane Lai
(East Slope Publishing)

Tort Law in Hong Kong: An Introductory Guide
Stephen D. Mau
(Hong Kong University Press)

November 23rd, 2015

The Science of Cooking Your Thanksgiving Turkey via Herve This (and a Dishwasher!)

Thanksgiving, Turkey

“Use the dishwasher! For the next holiday meal, I recommend that you prepare two turkeys. Cook one in the dishwasher, in a plastic bag, for several cycles of your machine.”—Herve This

With Thanksgiving just a couple of days away, we thought we provide some more practical (or somewhat practical) advice on cooking a turkey from none other than Hervé This, author of several books that explore the coming together of food and science to develop new ways of thinking about cooking, flavor, taste, and how we eat.

In an interview with Nature, This suggested the dishwasher as a possible cooking method:

Q: Another professional technique is to cook food for long periods at low temperatures in a vacuum-sealed bag. How might a home chef emulate this ‘sous-vide’ method?

Herve This: Use the dishwasher! For the next holiday meal, I recommend that you prepare two turkeys. Cook one in the dishwasher, in a plastic bag, for several cycles of your machine. In this way, you can get low temperatures. Butterfly the other turkey and cook it on the grill, creating the maximum expanse of delicious crispy skin. Then serve the moist, flavourful meat from the dishwasher turkey with the grilled skin. A good accompaniment would be foie gras, also cooked in the dishwasher at low temperature.

Now for those not comfortable with Maytag cuisine, here is an excerpt from Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking, also by Hervé This, on the science of roasting a turkey:

Since it is juicy, tender meat that we want, it is clear why there is no question of opening the oven while the meat is roasting. The water vapor that is released in a limited quantity could escape and then be replaced by the vaporization of a certain quantity of the juices. Opening the oven dries out the turkey. Neither, however, should one humidify the oven before putting the turkey in. In the presence of too much water, the surface water cannot evaporate, and the skin will not get crispy.

Having thus resolved the problem of the surface, the serious problem of tenderness within remains. We cannot disappoint our guests, who fear the pro­verbial dryness of the turkey.

Since tenderness results necessarily from the deterioration of the connec­tive tissue, let us consider this tissue. It principally contains three kinds of pro­teins: collagen, already discussed many times, reticulin, and elastin. Neither reticulin or elastin are notably altered by the heat of the oven, but the triple helixes of the collagen molecules can be broken up and form gelatin, which is soft when it is in water, as we all know.

Calculating the cooking time requires some skill, because the denaturation of the collagen and the coagulation of the muscle proteins (actin and myosin, mainly) take place at different temperatures and different speeds in the different parts of the turkey. It is necessary to know that the temperature of 70° (158°F) is essential for transforming the collagen into gelatin and tenderizing the mus­cles. But the longer the turkey remains at a high temperature, the more water it loses and the more its proteins risk coagulating. The optimal cooking time, consequently, is the minimum time it takes to attain the temperature of 70°C (158°F) at the center of the turkey.

Read the rest of this entry »

November 23rd, 2015

Announcing the Columbia University Press Spring 2016 Catalog

Columbia University Press Spring 2016 Catalog

We are proud to present the Columbia University Press Spring 2016 Catalog! As Press Director Jennifer Crewe says in her introductory letter, “[e]ach season we strive to publish outstanding books that expand our understanding of human concerns,” and we feel confident that this season’s book list is right in line with that goal. Look through the catalog below and get more information about any books you find interesting on our website.

November 20th, 2015

An interview with Sonja Arntzen

The Sarashina Diary

“[T]he advent in recent decades of ‘blogging’ makes Heian diaries and particularly The Sarashina Diary easier to appreciate as private texts directed toward a public audience. In the three years that our Sarashina Diary manuscript was experimentally shared in successive courses at the University of British Columbia, students kept mentioning that it had the feel of a blog. Although the content was personal and seemingly spontaneous as to choice of material, one could sense the author shaping her story to reach out to unspecified others who might choose to ‘tune in’ to her private world.” — Sonja Arntzen

The following is an interview with Sonja Arntzen who cotranslated and cowrote the introduction to The Sarashina Diary: A Woman’s Life in Eleventh-Century Japan, by Sugawara no Takasue no Musume.

Q. The jacket covers of both your translation of The Sarashina Diary and the 1971 translation by Ivan Morris use the same panel, Azumaya 1, from the mid-12th-Century Tale of Genji Scroll. Why is that?

Sonja Arntzen: That particular section of the scroll gestures to key elements of The Sarashina Diary. First of all, the diary bears witness to the author Sugawara Takasue no Musume’s lifelong fascination with fiction, which was centered on the great Tale of Genji. As the opening of the diary proclaims, “however it was that I first became enthralled with them, once I knew that such things as tales existed in the world, all I could think of…was how much I wanted to read them.” She goes on to relate how the oral retellings of tales by her sister and step-mother introduced her to fiction.

The scene in the Azumaya panel shows how monogatari “tales” were shared in a social context by women in the Heian period. It illustrates an episode in which Naka no Kimi, wife of Genji’s grandson Prince Niou, is meeting her half-sister Ukifune for the first time. Ukifune, having been raised in the distant Eastern province of Hitachi, has just come back to the capital seeking to make contact with distant kin. Naka no Kimi did not receive Ukifune immediately on her arrival because it turned out to be an auspicious day for Naka no Kimi to have her hair washed, a task of considerable effort when one’s hair was the length of one’s own height, the typical fashion for aristocratic women of the period. Naka no Kimi is shown in the lower left corner of the panel with a servant combing out her wet hair. While Ukifune was waiting to meet her sister, Prince Niou had happened upon this new woman in his wife’s apartment and immediately attempted to seduce her. (Prince Niou’s impetuous and lustful nature propels important plot-lines in the latter chapters of the Tale of Genji.) Ukifune is mortified; Naka no Kimi knows from her servants what has occurred, all of which makes this an awkward social moment. To smooth things over, Naka no Kimi has one of her attendants read from the text of a tale (see the figure immediately to Naka no Kimi’s right holding a book) while Ukifune (figure at the top right) peruses the illustrations. It was the 11th century equivalent of turning on the TV to defuse embarrassment. In short, this panel gives remarkable insight into the consumption of tale literature as part of women’s social interaction in the period and therefore why Takasue no Musume would choose addiction to fiction as one theme for her life. Read the rest of this entry »

November 20th, 2015

A Psychopathology of Art

A Hedonist Manifesto

“Today’s consumer item plays a role previously held by primitive religions’ statues, church paintings, and portraits of monarchs in castles. We organize idol cults around them, and they rule us. We venerate the very things that make life impossible for us; we give thanks to the ironhanded masters that control our bodies and souls.” — Michel Onfray

This week, our second featured book is A Hedonist Manifesto: The Power to Exist, by Michel Onfray, translated by Joseph McClellan. In our final post of the feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from “A Psychopathology of Art,” the eleventh chapter of Onfray’s manifesto.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of A Hedonist Manifest!

November 19th, 2015

The Attacks in Paris Reveal the Strategic Limits of ISIS — Olivier Roy

Olivier Roy, author of Secularism Confronts Islam and Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah, is a professor at the European Union Institute in Florence. We share his recent article from the New York Times Opinion Pages in the wake of the Paris attacks.

The Attacks in Paris Reveal the Strategic Limits of ISIS
By Olivier Roy

As President François Hollande of France has declared, the country is at war with the Islamic State. France considers the Islamist group, also known as ISIS, to be its greatest enemy today. It fights it on the front lines alongside the Americans in the Middle East, and as the sole Western nation in the Sahel. It has committed to this battle, first started in Mali in 2013, a share of its armed forces much greater than has the United States.

On Friday night, France paid the price for this. Messages expressing solidarity have since poured in from all over the Western world. Yet France stands oddly alone: Until now, no other state has treated ISIS as the greatest strategic threat to the world today.

The main actors in the Middle East deem other enemies to be more important. Bashar al-Assad’s main adversary is the Syrian opposition — now also the main target of Russia, which supports him. Mr. Assad would indeed benefit from there being nothing between him and ISIS: That would allow him to cast himself as the last bastion against Islamist terrorism, and to reclaim in the eyes of the West the legitimacy he lost by so violently repressing his own people.

The Turkish government is very clear: Its main enemy is Kurdish separatism. And a victory of Syrian Kurds over ISIS might allow the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., to gain a sanctuary, and resume its armed struggle against Turkey.

The Kurds, be they Syrian or Iraqi, seek not to crush ISIS so much as to defend their newfound borders. They hope the Arab world will become more divided than ever. They want to seize Sinjar because it is in a Kurdish area. But they won’t attack Mosul, because that would be playing into Baghdad’s hands.

For the Kurds of Iraq, the main danger is seeing a strong central government emerge in Baghdad, for it could challenge the de facto independence of Iraqi Kurdistan today. ISIS stands in the way of the creation of any such power.

The Shiites of Iraq, no matter what pressure they face from America, do not seem ready to die to reclaim Falluja. They will defend sectarian borders, and will never let Baghdad fall. But they are in no hurry to bring the Sunni minority back into Iraq’s political mainstream; if they did, they would have to share power with it. Read the rest of this entry »

November 19th, 2015

A Philosophical Side Path

A Hedonist Manifesto

“Putting one thing into the light entails putting another into obscurity. Nevertheless, important, unexploited material is left in the shadows. The purpose of my course at the Université Populaire de Caen (see La Communauté philosophique) is to exhume that alternative historiography.” — Michel Onfray

This week, our second featured book is A Hedonist Manifesto: The Power to Exist, by Michel Onfray, translated by Joseph McClellan. In our first post, we are happy to present an excerpt from “A Philosophical Side Path,” the first chapter of Onfray’s manifesto.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of A Hedonist Manifest!

November 18th, 2015

́́́Étienne Balibar on the Paris attacks: “In War”

Étienne Balibar, author of Violence and Civility, is a visiting professor at Columbia University and emeritus professor of philosophy at Paris X Nanterre. We share his recent article for openDemocracy in the wake of the Paris attacks.

In War
By Étienne Balibar

Yes, we are at war. Or rather, henceforth, we are all in war. We deal blows, and we take blows in turn. We are in mourning, suffering the consequences of these terrible events, in the sad knowledge that others will occur. Each person killed is irreplaceable.

But which war are we talking about? It is not an easy war to define because it is formed of various types which have been pushed together over time and which today appear inextricable. Wars between states (even a pseudo state like ‘ISIS’). National and international civil wars. Wars of ‘civilisation’ (or something that sees itself as such). Wars of interest and of imperialist patronage. Wars of religions and sects (or justified as such). This is the great stasis or ‘split city’ of the twenty first century, which we will one day compare to its distant parallels (if indeed we escape intact): the Peloponnesian War; the Thirty Years War; or, more recently, the “European civil war” that raged from 1914 to 1945…

In part an outcome of the US offensive in the Middle East (both before and after 9/11), the war has intensified following the offensives in which Russia and France are now playing a major role, each with their own objectives. The war is also rooted in the ferocious rivalry between those states who all aspire to regional hegemony: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, even Egypt, and in some ways Israel – the only nuclear power of the group at the moment. In a violent collective abreaction, it speeds up all the unsettled affairs of colonisation and empire: oppressed minorities, the creation of arbitrary borders, expropriated mineral resources, disputed areas of influence, gigantic arms contracts. As we just saw, the war seeks, and occasionally finds, support among populations of the ‘other side’. Read the rest of this entry »

November 18th, 2015

Book Giveaway! A Hedonist Manifesto: The Power to Exist, by Michel Onfray

A Hedonist Manifesto

“The strength of this book, along with its moving personal style, can be found in its reassertion of philosophy as an art of living and not just written doctrine. Whether or not you agree with Onfray’s brand of Enlightenment hedonism, this book will stimulate parts of your mind that may have lain fallow for awhile.” — Graham Harman

This week, our second featured book is A Hedonist Manifesto: The Power to Exist, by Michel Onfray, translated by Joseph McClellan. Throughout the rest of the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its authors on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of A Hedonist Manifesto. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, November 20th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

November 17th, 2015

Videos: Celebrating “Between Men” and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

Between Men, Eve Sedgwick

The Center for the Humanities at CUNY has very graciously put up videos from the four different panels that convened around the publication of the Thirtieth Anniversary Edition of Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Click on this link and scroll down to the bottom where you can view the videos from the event.

Highlights of papers include, “The Eve Effect,” Wayne Koestenbaum; “Between Men’s Bodies,” Michael Moon; Beyond Between Men: Eve Sedgwick’s The Warm Decembers,” Carolyn Williams; “Between Men in 30 Years,” Cathy Davidson; “Gen/Ten,” Sharon Marcus; and a special panel on publishing Eve Sedgwick.

November 17th, 2015

New Book Tuesday: Chomsky, Psychedelics and Religious Experiences, The Best American Magazine Writing, and More!

What Kind of Creatures Are We?

What Kind of Creatures Are We?
Noam Chomsky

Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences
William A. Richards

The Best American Magazine Writing 2015
Edited by Sid Holt for the American Society of Magazine Editors. Introduction by Evan Ratliff, editor of The Atavist

With Dogs at the Edge of Life
Colin Dayan

Adult Sibling Relationships
Geoffrey L. Greif and Michael E. Woolley

Deathpower: Buddhism’s Ritual Imagination in Cambodia
Erik W. Davis

Governing Access to Essential Resources
Edited by Katharina Pistor and Olivier De Schutter

Luxuriant Gems of the Spring and Autumn
Attributed to Dong Zhongshu. Edited and Translated by Sarah A. Queen and John S. Major

Mormonism and American Politics
Edited by Randall Balmer and Jana Riess

The Silent Qur’an and the Speaking Qur’an: Scriptural Sources of Islam Between History and Fervor
Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi. Translated by Eric Ormsby

Archival Resources of Republican China in North America
Chengzhi Wang and Su Chen Read the rest of this entry »

November 16th, 2015

Book Giveaway! “Between Men,” by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

This week one of our featured books is the Thirtieth Anniversary edition of Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick with a foreword by Wayne Koestenbaum.

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Between Men to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Wednesday, November 18 at 1:00 pm.

“One of the most influential texts in gender studies, men’s studies and gay studies.”— Catharine R. Stimpson, New York Times Book Review

November 13th, 2015

A Chronology of State Making and Capitalist Development in China

The China Boom

This week, our featured book is The China Boom: Why China Will Not Rule the World, by Ho-fung Hung. Today, for the final post of the feature, we are happy to present Hung’s chronology of the development of both capitalism and the state in China from the 16th to the 21st centuries. Hung believes that a deep understanding of the historical development of these two institutions in China is crucial for making any kind of accurate prediction about China’s future.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The China Boom!

November 13th, 2015

The Russian Library Series: A #UPWeek 2015 Blog Tour Post


It’s the final day of University Press Week 2015! All week long university presses have been participating in the UP Week Blog Tour. As always, we are thrilled to participate, and excited about our take on today’s blog post theme. Rather than interviewing an author about a book, we are interviewing Christine Dunbar about an exciting new venture for Columbia University Press: the Russian Library. While you may have read about the Russian Library in articles in the New York Times and elsewhere, we are happy for a chance to explain a bit more about what the project means for Columbia UP.

Make sure you check out the other presses posting today: Temple University Press, University of Virginia Press, Beacon Press, University of Illinois Press, Southern Illinois University Press, Oregon State University Press, Liverpool University Press, University of Toronto Press Journals, and Manchester University Press!

The Russian Library Series
An Interview with Christine Dunbar

What is the Russian Library?

Christine Dunbar: The Russian Library is a new series at Columbia University Press, which will publish ten books of Russian literature a year in English translation. While a few will be republications of excellent translations that have sadly gone out of print, most will be new translations—either of works that have never been translated or works that need updated translations. Publishing ten books a year allows the series to highlight the scope of Russian literature, both in terms of genre and time period. My academic background is in the study of Russian poetry, so I am particularly excited about the prospect of publishing poetry translations, but we are also looking at drama, short stories, novels, and the creative, literary non-fiction that Russians do so well. The bulk of the translations will be of 20th works, which are currently underrepresented in translation, with some slots reserved for books from the 19th century and earlier and some for contemporary literature. The series will not replicate existing excellent translations: publishing another Anna Karenina when in 2014 Yale University Press published Marion Schwartz’s translation and Oxford University Press published Rosamund Bartlett’s (both of which are superb) would be just plain silly. But there are some classics that deserve updates, and there are many, many books that Anglophone audiences don’t know at all. One of the particularly fun things about the selection process has been finding some treasures that are not well-known in Russia either. This is often the case with émigré literature, which may have been published in France or Germany or the States but never made it back to the land of the mother tongue.

How are the books being chosen?

CD: It’s a process, as you can imagine. The series has an advisory board of eminent scholars from the US, Great Britain, and Russia. Picking the first books is a particular challenge, because you want to be able to signal all of the things the series will be able to do. There’s a temptation to make a game out of it. If you have one little known modernist adventure story, do you have to balance it out with a 19th century serious novel? But the biggest problem, of course, is that when you are planning a publishing program, ten seems like a huge number of books. And when you are choosing titles from the vast expanse of the Russian literary past and present, it seems—and rightly so—like a minuscule speck. So, we have lists. I keep a spreadsheet, shared with the board members, of all of the authors and titles that are under consideration. Not surprisingly, some of the most exciting ideas have come from translators.

Speaking of translators, won’t this be expensive?

CD:Yes! The series receives funding from the Institute of Literary Translation in Moscow, and CUP will work closely with Read Russia to promote the books. New York City readers should be on the lookout for Read Russia events during Russian Literature Week; I’m definitely looking forward to Eugene Vodolazkin’s visit.

November 12th, 2015

University Press Week 2015 Blog Tour Roundup, Day 4


The 2015 University Press Week blog tour is off to a great start, with more presses participating than ever before! As in previous years, a theme is selected for each weekday and various university presses sign up to post on the theme of their choice (catch up with our earlier roundups: days one and two and day three). Today’s theme is one that has been popular each year on the UP Week blog tour: #TBT (Throwback Thursday)!

Over at the University of Chicago blog, we get a punctuated history of publishing from UChicago Press, starting with its days as a printer in 1890 and leaping to its digital revolution in 1991, the year the PDF was established!

The University of Manitoba Press grounds its #tbt in place, that is the Canadian prairies north of the Dakotas. Their office searched through file cabinets and cupboards to produce snapshots of first books published in their series–Iceland, Native History, Studies in Immigration and Culture, among others. They also uncovered an unsearchable title, from their Publications of the Algonquian Text Society series: wâskahikaniwiyiniw-âcimowina Stories of the House People, edited and translated by Freda Ahenakew.

How have academic journal covers evolved through the years? University of Toronto gives us something old and something new.

Duke University Press blog similarly highlights its most surprising journal issue covers from the past several years. Highlights include Social Atlantic Quarterly’s “Racial Americana” issue as well as Transgender Studies Quarterly’s “Tranimalities” issue.

University of Texas Press spotlights photographer Mark Cohen’s street images on their blog, harkening to a time before Instagram. Author of Frame, Cohen shares six short written pieces about his iconic street photographs taken and developed in 1970s Pennsylvania.

University of Minnesota Press features a massive, detailed timeline of Publishers and their founding dates in infographic form. Fun fact: We, Columbia University Press, share our birth year of 1893 with University of California and Northwestern.

Project Muse, founded in 1995, includes a year by year roundup of university press digital content on its blog. Useful for gaining a quick view of significant journal articles and books.

The University Press of Kansas blog checks in to the significance of this day in 1999 when “President Bill Clinton signed a sweeping measure knocking down Depression-era barriers and allowing banks, investment firms and insurance companies to sell each other’s product.” They tie it to a forthcoming UPK book by Patrick Maney Bill Clinton: New Gilded Age President.

Lastly, Fordham University Press shares a fascinating post on subway history by Joseph Raskin, author of The Routes Not Taken, on New York City’s unbuilt subway system. Were there ever plans for an uptown crosstown subway or more subway lines in Brooklyn? Look at the post to find out. Raskin gives an erudite overview of why subway plans were ended–the reasons range from budgetary issues, the Great Depression, to political factors. Also, did you know? The G line was originally proposed as an elevated line in the 1870s!

November 12th, 2015

Political Uncertainties in Post-miracle China

The China Boom

“With the economic boom times gone, the perpetuation of such socio-political peace, as well as what the Communist Party would do to contain any imminent unrest becomes uncertain. Political and legal reforms might help institutionalize conflict resolution, smoothen power transition, and hence promote stability. But the Party leaders are more likely to worry that any opening will fuel rising expectations, ultimately threatening one-party rule.” — Ho-fung Hung

This week, our featured book is The China Boom: Why China Will Not Rule the World, by Ho-fung Hung. Today, we are happy to present a crosspost of “Political Uncertainties in Post-miracle China,” an article by Ho-fung Hung originally published on the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute Blog, in which he explains the political implications for China’s recent economic growth slowdown.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The China Boom!

Political Uncertainties in Post-miracle China
By Ho-fung Hung

The latest economic data from China shows that its GDP grew 7.4 percent in 2014. It was the slowest growth since 1990 (amidst global sanctions post- Tiananmen) and missed its growth target for the first time since 1998 (in the aftermath of the Asian Financial Crisis). It is another indication that the era of double-digit hyper growth has ended. To be sure, a 7.4 percent growth rate is still enviable for many developing countries. Domestic consumption now constitutes 51.2 percent of GDP, suggesting that the Chinese economy is more balanced and less dependent on fixed-asset investment and exports.

Slower, more balanced growth is good for China in the long run. But such slowdowns will also bring immediate headaches for Chinese leaders. After the outbreak of the global financial crisis in 2008, the Chinese government unleashed a huge stimulus to aggressively flood local governments and enterprises with state bank loans, trying to shield the economy from the global headwinds with a wave of debt-driven construction. China’s total debt to GDP ratio jumped from 147 percent at the end of 2008 to over 250 percent in mid-2014 according to a Standard Charter report. It has reached 282 percent by February 2015 according to a McKinsey report. This figure is dangerously high compared to other emerging economies, and it is set to keep soaring when the economy continues to slow. Read the rest of this entry »