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Archive for January, 2010

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Glenn Hubbard has tea with The Economist

R. Glenn Hubbard continues his discussion of The Aid Trap: Hard Truths About Ending Poverty. He was recently invited by The Economist to discuss ways in which a new Marshall Plan can help revitalize the economy of Africa and poor nations throughout the world. You can also read the chapter, Chase the Devil: Details for a Marshall Model.

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Jerelle Kraus interview

Jerelle Kraus, author of All the Art That’s Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn’t): Inside The New York Times Op-Ed Page, recently appeared on the legendary local cable show hosted by Harold Channer.

Below is the full interview and you can also browse inside the book.

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Islam in America — an interview with Jane Smith

Jane SmithRecently, Jane Smith, the author of the second edition of Islam in America sat down with Paul Harvey of Religion in American History to discuss the book.

The second edition explores some of the changes that have occurred since 9/11, including shifting views of Islam in America and “the many ways in which Muslims have moved from the private to the public arena in America as they have tried to show that Islam is not a religion of violence.” She also discusses how Muslims have adapted their religion to American life. Despite the majority of Muslims living peacefully as Americans, Smith does worry that “that America itself has become a breeding ground for certain kinds of violent expressions of Islam” and that is “a development that should not be ignored.”

One of the final questions, Paul Harvey asks is about the future of Islam in America. Smith responds:

Most indicators are that Islam will continue to grow in American soil, though not at the rate sometimes projected. Factors such as immigration, revitalization of urban communities, and conversion will certainly play a role. Demonization of Islam most probably will continue as a result of many different factors, including the politics of fear. But I don’t see that fear-mongering will threaten the continued existence, and growth, of the religion here. Efforts currently being put forth by many American Muslims to demonstrate their commitment to being full members of American society, with pride in their country, are paying off in terms of greater understanding and acceptance of the faith despite isolated threats. Americans in general struggle with what it means to be a multi-faith society, and Muslims struggle to define what a distinctive American Islam might really look like. But it seems clear that Islam is here to stay, and that “Blessed Ramadan” will probably come to sound as familiar as “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah.”

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Kelly Oliver on Rorotoko

Kelly Oliver

Kelly Oliver author of Animal Lessons: How They Teach Us to Be Human recently discussed her book on Rorotoko.

Oliver stresses the importance of animals in Western philosophy “to make the case that humans are special.” Oliver begins:

Philosophers have argued that humans are so unique that they have transcended their animality and become something entirely other. In this book, I show how the animals “bite back” and betray the very service into which they have been corralled in the name of humanity. Our concepts of the human, of kinship, of language, and even of human rights are borne on the backs of animals, whose importance to philosophy goes unacknowledged. Philosophers unthinkingly use animals to develop their theories of the human subject and human nature.

Later Oliver discusses how her book expands upon and moves beyond conventional discussions of animal rights and welfare:

I move away from the framework of animal rights because the history of this discourse and the notion of rights are bought at the expense of animals. We need to do more than merely expand our concept of rights to include some animals. Rather, we need to rethink what it means to be animal and what it means to be human. We need to acknowledge how our conception of ourselves as superior to animals is dependent upon those very animals that we disavow.


Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Mark C. Taylor in The Chronicle of Higher Ed

Mark C. Taylor

The Chronicle Review recently featured Mark C. Taylor highlighting his new philosophical memoir Field Notes from Elsewhere: Reflections on Dying and Living and his provocative views about academia’s status quo.

In his article Eric Banks, calls Taylor’s memoir of his near-death experience “earnest” and “at times painfully honest.” Banks writes:

“Much in Field Notes is an examination of how those [personal] roots unexpectedly inflect his reading and his teaching; it leads him to theologically and philosophically rich discussions on the meaning of place and placelessness, pleasure and money, survival, autoimmunity, cancer, and the body…. The book is a jigsaw of coincidences and late thoughts—a strategy on Taylor’s part to reach an audience he hadn’t attempted to write for previously but for whom he feels he has much to say about the relation between philosophy and theology to the everyday business of living. ‘The reason certain things are interesting to me is that they help me deal with life,’ he says. ‘In that sense, the pedagogical value of these ideas is to deal with life as it comes up. The issues in Field Notes are issues and questions everyone has to ask. The challenge to the writer and teacher is to give people resources to deal with those issues when they arise.’”

The article also examines some of the controversial positions Taylor has taken in regards to tenure, disciplinary structures, peer review and other cornerstones of academia. In his much-discussed and much-debated New York Times op-ed, Taylor called graduate education “the Detroit of higher learning.” Banks writes:

“Arts and humanities are in great trouble, [Taylor] argues, because the patronage system is breaking down and programs will have no way of paying their own way. Rather than call for a new system of patronage, though, Taylor turns cavalier about the future of scholarship. ‘Knowledge for knowledge’s sake’ is fine if somebody else is paying the bills,’ he says, while claiming that 80 percent ‘of ‘so-called scholarship’ is a drag on a system that has become a bubble waiting to pop. ‘You have graduate students finishing their education $100,000, $150,000 in debt, with no prospects for a job. Debt is a problem on the institutional level, the student level, and the parental level.”

Monday, January 25th, 2010

My Life with the Taliban — Events and Reviews

My Life with the TalibanInterest and discussion has already begun about the just-released memoir My Life with the Taliban, by Abdul Salam Zaeef. In the book, Zaeef recounts his early life in Afghanistan, joining the Jihad against the Soviet Union in 1983, helping to form the Taliban in 1994, and his time with the organization, which included serving as the ambassador to Pakistan.

In his article in the New York Review of Books, Ahmed Rashid writes, that “we have a book that for the first time places readers at the heart of the Taliban’s way of thinking.”

The book was also just reviewed in the Telegraph which writes:

[Zaeef] has written a fascinating account of his own remarkable life which gives real insight into why the Taliban was formed, what motivates it, and what it is now trying to achieve. It is what he has to say about hopes of ending the current war, however, that will be of most interest to the spooks and diplomats in Kabul, Washington and London; they will have been hoping that Mullah Zaeef would point the way towards a negotiated end to the fighting. But he does not, and what he has to say suggests that ending the bloodshed could prove extremely difficult, if possible at all.

Finally, the editors of the book Felix Kuehn and Alex Strick van Linschoten will be touring the UK and the US in the coming weeks. Click here for a schedule of upcoming events.

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Go Jets!

Joe Namath

This Sunday the New York Jets have a chance to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1969. On the other hand, they can also add another loss to a series of disappointments in their long history.

Here are some highlights and lowlights from the Jets 50-year history as adapted from the recently published The Greater New York Sports Chronology, by Jeffrey Kroessler:

1960: Wearing blue-and-gold uniforms, the Titans [as the Jets were originally called] took the field on a rainy September 11 before 10,200 at the Polo Grounds and beat the Buffalo Bills, 27-3.

1963: On March 28, Sonny Werblin [and others] … bought the Titans for $1 million. On April 15, they renamed the team the Jets and hired Weeb Ewbank as general manager and head coach. The new green-and-white uniforms matched the colors of Hess’s gas stations.

1966: Jets quarterback Joe Namath passed for 2,200 yards and 18 touchdowns and was voted the AFL’s Rookie of the Year.

1968: On November 17, the Jets were leading the Raiders 32-29, with 1 minute, 5 seconds remaining when NBC-TV cut away from the game to broadcast Heidi, as scheduled at 7:00 pm. Oakland proceeded to score 14 points for a 43-32 victory, but none of the viewing public saw the finish. Fans’ complaints flooded the NBC switchboard until the circuits blew.

1969: On January 12, after brashly guaranteeing victory—”We’re going to win Sunday. I guarantee it” — quarterback Joe Namath led the underdog Jets to a 16-7 win over the powerhouse Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.


Thursday, January 21st, 2010

A Ricci Resurgence: On Friendship and Maps

RicciAs reported in yesterday’s New York Times, the Italian-born Jesuit priest, Matteo Ricci, who died in 1610 is once again back in the news.

The New York Times article reviews the current exhibition at the Library of Congress of Matteo Ricci’s map of the world commissioned in 1602 by the court of Emperor Wanli. Ricci, who was the first Westerner admitted to Peking, created a map which was, according to the Times, “the first to have combined information from both eastern and western cartography. It is also the oldest surviving map to have given the Chinese a larger vision of the earth.”

In addition to the display of this historic map, Ricci’s resurgence continues with the recent publication of On Friendship: One Hundred Maxims for a Chinese Prince, translated by Timothy Billings. The book, which was a late Ming best seller and is now translated into English for the first time, distills the best ideas on friendship from Renaissance Latin texts into one hundred pure and provocative Chinese maxims.

You can browse the book but here is just a small sampling of maxims from On Friendship:

“Before making friends, we should scrutinize. After making friends, we should trust.”

“The value of a friendship lies in the intentions of those who make it. In this day and age, how many have befriended one another strictly for their virtue?”

“If we tolerate the vices of a friend, then those vices become our own vices.”

“If one has many intimate friends, then one has no intimate friends.”

“The honorable man makes friends with difficulty; the petty man makes friends with ease. What comes together with difficulty comes apart with difficulty; what comes together with ease comes apart with ease.”

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Interview with Dorothy N. Gamble and Marie Weil, authors of Community Practice Skills: Local to Global Perspectives

The following is an interview with Dorothy N. Gamble, Clinical Associate Professor Emerita at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Social Work and Marie Weil, Berg-Beach Distinguished Professor of Community Practice at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Social Work. They are the authors of Community Practice Skills: Local to Global Perspectives

Question: What is “community practice” and who actually does it?

Dorothy N. Gamble and Marie Weil: Community practice is the work of building the capacities of community members and community institutions to help them collectively take action to improve their quality of life.  The community may be a local geographic place, part of an extended region, a local or national interest group, or even a global group working for improved social, economic, and environmental conditions.  People who do community practice can be local community leaders, social workers, public health workers, agricultural and home extension workers, community educators, people working in microfinance and village banking, or a variety of other positions. Community practice involves a variety of facilitative activities to help community members and community institutions in their efforts to improve their social, economic and environmental well-being.

There are examples of efforts to build community capacity all over the world.  Building community capacity and community networks in Kenya, for example, has resulted in the planting of thirty million trees. Wangari Maathai who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 started this community work in Kenya more than thirty years ago. She used the need to replant trees as the entry point for community work that would focus people on self-determination, equity, environmental conservation, justice, and poverty education. Her Greenbelt Movement was so successful that community networks now care for six thousand tree nurseries across Kenya and have begun to organize community groups with the same focus in neighboring countries.

Village banking and microcredit are examples of organizing local groups, mostly women, to increase household income. Members of those groups who generally start small businesses have no collateral and therefore no access to credit in traditional banks. Village banking, which started decades ago in Bangladesh through Grameen Bank and BRAC and in Peru through FINCA, has assisted many low-wealth families on every continent in the world to increase their household income. These programs, which organize small groups of borrowers based on trust, usually provide guidance for small businesses, help the groups to learn good planning and management practices, and sometimes engage with groups as they build community infrastructure such as schools, health clinics, knitting cooperatives, cheese-making cooperatives, bakeries, roof tile factories, and other institutions that contribute to community well-being.


Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Terry Castle on Susan Sontag and “Notes on Camp”

Terry CastleOn Sunday, Terry Castle, editor of The Literature of Lesbianism: A Historical Anthology from Ariosto to Stonewall, was featured in always-entertaining Q & A included in the Sunday New York Times Magazine.

In addition to being the author of several other books, Castle is also a contributor to the recently published The Scandal of Susan Sontag (mentioned in our last blog post as well).

In her essay, “Some Notes on ‘Notes on Camp,’” Castle recounts an incident in which Sontag eviscerates someone for praising “Notes on Camp” at a Stanford cocktail party in 1995. Castle describes how Sontag reacted to this praise:

Nostrils flaring, Sontag instantly fixes him with a basilisk stare. How can he say such a dumb thing? She has no interest in discussing this essay and never will. He should never have brought it up. He is behind the times, intellectually dead. Hasn’t he read any of her other works? Doesn’t he keep up? As she slips down a dark tunnel or rage … the rest of us watch, horrified and transfixed.

Castle goes on to suggest that Sontag came to resent being seen as obsessed with camp and that she might have felt that it revealed too much about her own erotic orientation and its “symbolic registration of fierce emotions.” Castle concludes the essay, writing:

[Sontag] resented being seen as obsessed with camp—fixed in people’s mind as camp’s philosopher—because her essay was in the end more about exorcism than endorsement. Like the lifelong pleasure she took in chastising other people for what she saw as their moral and intellectual defects, the contempt she felt for the essay later in life grew, I think, out of a great well of self-critical feeling. Something was unbearable and at the deepest level she blamed herself.

Friday, January 15th, 2010

“Susan Sontag, my prose’s prime mover, ate the world.” — Wayne Koestenbaum

The quote from Wayne Koestenbaum comes from his essay in the recently published volume The Scandal of Susan Sontag. Tomorrow, January 16th would have been Sontag’s 77th birthday, so we thought it appropriate to highlight the book and Sontag herself.

Later in his essay Koestenbaum writes:

Transference: in the early 1990s, the night before I gave a lecture on Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor, I dreamed that she reclined, wearing a pink miniskirt, on her living-room couch. I’ve had dozens of Sontag dreams, in which she represents intellectuality’s phantasmagoria, prose’s succulence, quality’s fearsomeness, and aphorism’s bite.

It is hard to imagine another intellectual or novelist inspiring such a dream and it speaks to the distinctive hold that Sontag has on her readers. This kind of fascination is reflected in the other essays in the book, including those by Terry Castle, E. Ann Kaplan, Jay Prosser, and Nancy K. Miller.

For more on Sontag here are clips from her appearances on “Charlie Rose”:

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Steven Cohen on Haiti and the Obama Administration

“This is a critical moment for the United States and the Obama administration to demonstrate that the lessons of our government’s shameful response to Katrina have truly been learned.”—Steven Cohen, “Haiti Is a Critical Test for the Obama Administration.”

Steven Cohen, author of Understanding Environmental Policy and executive director of The Earth Institute, recently contributed to Huffington Post on the responsibility of the United States and the Obama administration to help in Haiti in wake of the earthquake.

Cohen argues that the United States and the military should take the lead in relief efforts to help the people of Haiti and to demonstrate “American ideals, values, confidence, and capacity.” Obama himself, Cohen suggests, should visit Haiti as soon it safe enough to do so.

Natural disasters are going to be more common in the future and it is imperative for nations to work together in the future. Cohen writes:

There is a broader lesson to be taken from this disaster for both the United States and what we sometimes optimistically call the “community of nations.” As the world becomes more crowded and urbanized, the impact of natural disasters will only grow. It is not that we are seeing more hurricanes, earthquakes and floods than we used to, but rather that more people are in harm’s way than ever before. The lesson here is that we must build a global network of emergency response capacity that is far greater than the one we have now. When there are half a dozen major natural disasters in a year, they should no longer be defined as emergencies, but as periodic and almost predictable events. A larger amount of resources must be devoted to this critical governmental function, both here and throughout the world.

To find out how to help Haiti you can visit the Red Cross or the Web sites of other charities.

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Teens in Crisis

ReamerFrederic Reamer, co-author of Teens In Crisis: How the Industry Serving Struggling Teens Helps and Hurts Our Kids was tapped to be the blogger on adolescent issues for the recently aired PBS TV series This Emotional Life.

The series aired in January in three parts that explored improving our social relationships, learning to cope with depression and anxiety, and becoming more positive, resilient individuals. Each episode weaves together the compelling personal stories of ordinary people and the latest scientific research

In his last post Reamer discusses the seven most common mistakes to avoid when selecting a program or school.

1. Picking a Program Quickly and Impulsively
2. Selecting a Program Primarily on the Basis of Cost
3. Selecting a Program That is Not Designed to Meet the Teenager’s Needs
4. Selecting a Program Whose Methods Are Not Grounded in Sound Research
5. Sending a Child to a Residential Program for the Wrong Reasons
6. Avoiding Out-of-Home Placement When It Is the Right Option
7. Selecting a Program because It Is Close to Home

For the full blog posting and an explanation of these seven mistakes click here.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Cixous to go!

With the recent publication of The Portable Cixous, we are re-posting an interview with Cixous in which she discusses how the concept of intellectual has been masculinized, the idea of universalism, and more (see below).

For those interested in a distillation of her work and a collection of her most important writings, The Portable Cixous includes essays on the feminine, Algeria and Germany, love and the other, the animal, Derrida, and the theater. (Click here for the table of contents and here for more works by Cixous.)

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Darwin & Poetry? An interview with John Holmes

Darwin's BardsThe following is an interview with John Holmes the author of the recently published Darwin’s Bards: British and American Poetry in the Age of Evolution.

Question: There has been a lot written and said about Darwin recently, but Darwin’s Bards is the only book about Darwin and poetry. It is not an obvious conjunction — what is the link?

John Holmes: Poets have been responding to Darwin and his ideas ever since The Origin of Species was first published a hundred and fifty years ago. If you look back to the 1860s, you’ll find powerful poems responding to Darwin by some of the best poets of the time—Tennyson, Browning, Hardy, George Meredith too, although he is less well-known today.

Q: So your book is a study of how these Victorian poets responded to Darwin?

JH: Only partly. I look at many more recent poets too, both Brits like Ted Hughes and Thom Gunn and Americans like Robert Frost, Robinson Jeffers and Edna St Vincent Millay. Many of the poets I write about are still alive and writing today.

Q: Do you work through, then, looking at how each of these poets responded to Darwinism in their own generation?

JH: No. I am interested in the historical development of Darwinism and the poetry that goes alongside it, but I am mainly concerned with how that poetry can help us to come to terms with Darwinism today.


Monday, January 11th, 2010

Stephen Burt, Randall Jarrell, W. H. Auden and the best of the aughts.

Stephen BurtHere are a couple of interesting news items relating to the always-active Stephen Burt, author of The Forms of Youth: Twentieth Century Poetry and Adolescence and the editor of Randall Jarrell on W. H. Auden, which was recently selected by The Mark, a popular Canadian blog, as one of the best 10 books of the aughts.

Other authors on the list include such notables as David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, Alice Munro, and Jared Diamond, so it is great to see someone also looking beyond some of the more familiar names. Here’s what Michael Lista, who made the selections had to say about the book:

Randall Jarrell was the most brilliant and eloquent reader of poetry that the twentieth century ever saw, and his chief obsession – and influence – was W.H. Auden. He had written so extensively on Auden that when it came time to assemble his collected critical prose, Jarrell thought the inclusion of his Auden essays would unbalance his landmark Poetry and the Age. Thanks to Stephen Burt, these conflicted, obsessive essays are finally available to us, and they’re some of the finest pieces ever written about poetry. When asked about Jarrell’s amorous attacks on him, Auden shrugged and said (in perfect iambic pentameter): “I think Jarrell must be in love with me.”

After writing about poetry and adolescence (The Forms of Youth), it is perhaps not too much of a stretch that Burt now turns his attention to motherhood. In the current issue of the Boston Review, he offers an overview of poetry from the last 40 years or so on motherhood.

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Big Think interview with R. Glenn Hubbard

With many experts seeing the question of aid as one of the key issues of the next decade, R. Glenn Hubbard’s interview with Big Think about his new book The Aid Trap: Hard Truths About Ending Poverty is particularly timely.

In the interview Hubbard talks about the need for a new Marshall Plan for Africa and the ways in which it can help stimulate local businesses, prevent corruption, and build upon George W. Bush’s initiative, the Millennium Challenge Account.

Hubbard also talks about the ambiguous role of China in Africa and later in the interview fields questions on a variety of issues ranging from whether business schools contributed to the economic meltdown to whether governments should encourage home ownership.

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Jacqueline Stevens on the ruse and sometimes illegal operations of immigration agents

Jacqueline Stevens
Jacqueline Stevens, author of States Without Nations: Citizenship for Mortals, has been a frequent guest on various programs in connection to her recent article in The Nation exposing the detention of longtime U.S. residents in unlisted buildings by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE).

Stevens reveals that ICE is holding people in 186 unlisted and unmarked spaces known as sub-field offices. Many of the offices are hidden in suburban office parks or commercial spaces revealing no information about their ICE tenants. The Nation is also reporting that ICE agents regularly impersonate civilians and rely on other illegal tricks to arrest longtime US residents who have no criminal history. According the report in The Nation, they are mainly used to house individuals in transfer and are not subject to the basic standards applied to ICE detainees.

Here is her interview with Leonard Lopate:

Stevens also appeared on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. (Click here to watch the video.)

Below is Stevens’s answer about ICE agents impersonating Mormon missionaries and insurance agent edited from the transcript of the interview with Democracy Now!:

JACQUELINE STEVENS: One consequence of the detention operations and the removal operations moving away from these big workplace raids—that is something that the Obama administration has dedicated itself to—has been more surreptitious operations. These had been going on under the Bush administration, as well, but there’s an impression that there’s been a shift to these more surreptitious operations for targeting people.

And among the operations that I encountered, and ICE calls these “ruse operations”—and just to be clear, under our law, ruse operations, for the most part, are legal. It is legal for federal agents to impersonate civilians for the purpose of tricking people who they suspect have arrest warrants and so forth in obtaining their custody.


Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

There’s Nothing I Can Do When I Think of You Late at Night named to the fiction longlist for the 2010 Best Translated Book

Cao NaiqianApologies for the long title to the blog post but the title to Cao Naiqian’s novel requires such length.

The reason for the headline is thatThere’s Nothing I Can Do When I Think of You Late at Night was named to the fiction longlist for the Best Translated Book of 2010. The finalists for the award will be named on February 16th.

As with last year’s list, the selections for 2010 represent works written in a wide variety of languages. For those looking for new fiction to read this year could do far worse than working through the books from the list.

Cao’s novel was the only book translated from Chinese to be represented this year on the longlist. This is not surprising given the paltry number of books translated into English from Chinese this past year. In a post entitled 1.4 billion Chinese. 300 million Americans. 10 measly books, published on Paper Republic, Cindy Carter laments the lack of new translations. Based on a translation database compiled by Three Percent, the post reveals that there were “7 contemporary Chinese novels translated into English for the American literary marketplace in 2009. Seven. Books. From China. To America.”

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Connecting the dots — James Walsh on the recent attempted terrorist attack

James WalshOn his blog, Back Channels, James Walsh, author of The International Politics of Intelligence Sharing, examines the blame game that resulted in the aftermath of the failed terrorist attack on Christmas.

While newspapers and former government officials have pointed to the failures of bad judgment or technology, James Walsh believes politics is to blame. He writes:

Neither people or technology are the root cause of the difficulties in sharing intelligence. Politics is. Government agencies all want to contribute to stopping terrorist attacks, but bring to the table different specific skills and priorities. These differences can make them reluctant to share intelligence with their counterparts. Some fear that their counterparts will reveal methods of intelligence collection that need to be kept secret or will expose information that the terrorist can use to plan their next attack. Others are reluctant to share intelligence that casts a shadow on their efforts or undermines their skills and priorities. On the flip side, some agencies are unwilling to make decisions based on information they did not collect and cannot themselves verify.

Walsh believes that a culture that prizes intelligence sharing might help the situation but he also expresses some skepticism:

One solution might be to foster an intelligence culture that rewards sharing. The military has had some success in promoting inter-service cooperation by, for example, rewarding officers that serve in other areas of the military or government. But this is not an overnight cure. At best, it might create a culture of greater sharing in the next generation of intelligence professionals. Politics can be tamed, but it won’t go away.

For more on the book, you can also read Walsh’s recent post about the attack on the CIA base in Afghanistan or read an excerpt from the book.