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Archive for July, 2012

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Interview with Stanley Aronowitz

“If [Mills] were alive today, in 2012, he would be very skeptical of, if not oppositional to, people like Obama and the Democratic Party.”—Stanley Aronowitz

Stanley Aronowitz, Taking it BigIn a recent interview with The Brooklyn Rail Stanley Aronowitz discussed his new book on C. Wright Mills, Taking It Big: C. Wright Mills and the Making of Political Intellectuals.

In the interview, Aronowitz talks about what made Mills one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century as well as one of the most controversial radical social theorists. Aronowitz cites Mills’s profound influence on the New Left of the 1960s as well as his ability to develop new ways of thinking about society and politics that avoided the ideological rigidity that took hold among mainstream liberals and Marxists. In describing what kind of political program Mills envisioned, Aronowitz comments:

A new American left would seek to ground its politics on the American radical traditions. [Mills] was a model both for academic and nonacademic intellectuals of courage and forthrightness. He refused to submit to the vagaries of the Cold War. Although anti-Communist, he was not willing to embrace American foreign policy. If he were alive today, in 2012, he would be very skeptical of, if not oppositional to, people like Obama and the Democratic Party.

For Aronowitz, Mills was also one of the few thinkers who understood or even attempted to understand the way in which power operates in the United States. Mills believed that an elite comprised of corporate, military, and political interests maintained power in the United States. Mills’s legacy however, was not only in analyzing American society but becoming a public intellectual, who put ideas into action. Mills faulted his colleagues for not “taking it big” and failing to examine the major issues of the day. His example, Aronowitz claims, is one that has sadly been ignored:

I think he is significant today because he is a model that we should be not only appreciative of, but should try to emulate. We should not only speak out publicly, as he did, about specific issues like war, poverty, and exploitation. Those are important questions, but we ought to be following his example by trying to identify the current forces of power. Mills insisted on studying “up.” He thought—and I can tell you that this is also true today—that almost nobody in the social sciences deals with the question of power. The question of power is, more or less, carefully avoided.

(more…)

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

New Book Tuesday: Revolt in Syria, Factory Towns in China, and Anna May Wong

Revolt in Syria, Stephen Starr

Revolt in Syria: Eye-witness to the Uprising
Stephen Starr

Anna May Wong: From Laundryman’s Daughter to Hollywood Legend
Graham Russell Gao Hodges

Factory Towns of South China: An Illustrated Guidebook
Edited by Stefan Al

Nonviolence in Political Theory
Iain Attack

Shari’ah Governance in Islamic Banks
Zulkifli Hasan

Hong Kong Region 1850-1911The Institutions and Leadership in Town and Countryside
James Hayes

Singapore: A Biography
Mark Ravinder Frost and Yu-Mei Balasingamchow

(more…)

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Book Giveaway: Taking it Big: C. Wright Mills and the Making of Political Intellectuals, by Stanley Aronowitz

Taking it Big: C. Wright Mills and the Making of Political Intellectuals

“C. Wright Mills defies classification in the neat compartments of scholarly disciplines and ideology,” so begins Stanley Aronowitz in our featured book this week Taking It Big: C. Wright Mills and the Making of Political Intellectuals, by Stanley Aronowitz.

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of the book and its coverage. We are also offering a FREE copy of Taking It Big: C. Wright Mills and the Making of Political Intellectuals to one winner.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address (U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only, unfortunately). We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!

For more on the book, you can browse Taking It Big: C. Wright Mills and the Making of Political Intellectuals in Google Preview; read the introduction, the Table of Contents, or an interview with Stanley Aronowitz on C. Wright Mills.

Here’s what Cornel West, wrote about Taking It Big: C. Wright Mills and the Making of Political Intellectuals:

Stanley Aronowitz—himself a towering public intellectual—has written the definitive book on one of the towering public intellectuals of twentieth-century America. Don’t miss it.

Friday, July 27th, 2012

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

Interested in being a University Press Director? At Fordham ImPRESSions, the Fordham University Press blog, FUP Director Fredric Nachbaur has a detailed and annotated recap of the “So You Want to Be a Director?” panel from the AAUP Annual Meeting 2012 in June.

Maybe you would prefer writing or editing to management. The Harvard University Press Blog has you covered this week, with an excerpt from Helen Sword’s Stylish Academic Writing, in which Sword explains just how much an author can say in a title.

Over at the JHU Press Blog, Peter Filkins reveals his experiences writing poetry. Filkins takes issue with explanations of poetry writing that seem to imbue poets with “special powers of vision or inner knowledge denied the common person,” instead preferring explanations that emphasize finding the right words in the right context.

The Penn State football program has, of course, been in the news a great deal over the course of the last year. At the UPNE (University Press of New England) blog, law professor Roger Abrams claims that the punishments handed down by the NCAA earlier this week were fully justified and appropriate. However, Abrams does not think that the punishments given to Penn State will seriously change the place of athletics in higher education.

On a happier note, the Olympics begin today, and a number of presses featured pieces about the games this week. London Mayor Boris Johnson commissioned an ode in the style of Greek poet Pindar in honor of the games, and the OUPblog has an excerpt from Stephen Instone’s introduction to their collection of Pindar’s actual odes in which he explains the role of poetry in the four panhellenic games in ancient Greece. The Yale Press Log keeps the focus on the ancient Greek games with an excerpt from Neil Faulkner’s A Visitor’s Guide to the Ancient Olympics in which Faulkner explains the brutal Greek version of boxing: “the bloodiest, cruellest and most violent of the Greek sports.”
(more…)

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Poetry of the Taliban — “Waiting for Freedom”

Poetry of the Taliban

We conclude our week-long feature on Poetry of the Taliban with one of the final poems in the collection, “Waiting for Freedom” (2007), by Lutfullah. (For more on Poetry of the Taliban: watch a interview with the book’s editors; browse the book in Google Preview, links to reviews and features, read quatrains by Nasrat, read the poem How long?, or win a FREE copy of the book).

Waiting for Freedom

I was burned in the caravan of darkness,
I was burned in the pain and grief of the country.
I wait for the freedom of my homeland.
For that I was burned in the flames of migration.
Nobody has expressed their condolences to me,
I was burned out of anxiety alone.
There is happiness all around the world;
I was always burned in the dark nights of grief

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Stephen Starr – Syria can find peace if its minorities seek common ground

“Animosity between the largely Sunni protest movement and the minorities who stood by and watched Assad’s forces slaughter them will have to be ironed out and discussed on a countrywide scale. There will be many more deaths, even after the regime is ousted. Syrians will have to partake on one key activity: to listen to each other. For the country’s minorities and for those fearing a conservative government replacing Assad they must consider themselves Syrian first, and Alawite, Christian, Kurd, second.” — Stephen Starr

On Monday, the Guardian ran “Syria can find peace if its minorities seek common ground,” an article on the dangers posed by animosity between the minority groups in Syria written by Stephen Starr. Starr is a freelance journalist who has lived in and reported from Syria since 2007, and the author of the forthcoming Revolt in Syria: Eye-witness to the Uprising. Starr has written about the Syrian uprising for the Washington Post, Financial Times, the London Times and the London Sunday Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Irish Times.

Starr begins his article by explaining how well-to-do Syrians avoided discussing politics before the recent uprising:

“You can write about anything you want,” friends and acquaintances regularly told me during my five-year stay in Syria. “But do not touch politics or religion.” For Syrians, the open discussion of politics was something on few people’s minds. Before the current revolt took hold, managing to secure a good job in spite of crippling graft and sparse opportunities was a far more pressing concern.

Pre-March 2011, the vast majority of Syrians I know kept their heads down and enjoyed life as they could. In wealthy areas of the country, politics and open discussion were gladly sacrificed for economic security and streets where their children could play in peace.

(more…)

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

VIDEO: The Editors of “Poetry of the Taliban” Discuss the Book & The Controversy Over Its Publication

Earlier this summer, Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn discussed their edited book Poetry of the Taliban on CNN.

In the interview the editor of Poetry of the Taliban discussed their experience in Afghanistan and interacting with members of the Taliban. They also read from the book and respond to critics who argue that the book glorifies the Taliban. (For more: browse the book in Google Preview, links to reviews and features, read quatrains by Nasrat, read the poem How long?, or win a FREE copy of the book).

Here’s the video of the CNN interview with Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn:

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Hannah Gurman Discusses “The Dissent Papers” and Dissenting Diplomats

Earlier this month, Hannah Gurman spoke to the American Foreign Service Association about her new book The Dissent Papers: The Voices of Diplomats in the Cold War and Beyond.

In The Dissent Papers, Hannah Gurman explores the overlooked opposition of U.S. diplomats to American foreign policy in the latter half of the twentieth century. During America’s reign as a dominant world power, U.S. presidents and senior foreign policy officials largely ignored or rejected their diplomats’ reports, memos, and telegrams, especially when they challenged key policies relating to the Cold War, China, and the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. The Dissent Papers recovers these diplomats’ invaluable perspective and their commitment to the transformative power of diplomatic writing.

Here’s the video of her talk:

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Poetry of the Taliban — “How long?”

Poetry of the Taliban

The works in Poetry of the Taliban give voice to the Afghans’ view of their country in the wake of the U.S. occupation and the U.S.-backed Karzai government. In this 2007 poem M.A. expresses frustration with Afghanistan’s current state and the growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots. (For more: browse the book in Google Preview, links to reviews and features, read quatrains by Nasrat, and win a FREE copy of the book):

How long?

How long will people wander in disappointment?
How long will they wander thirsty, hungry, and insecure in
    the deserts?
Most people are jobless wandering around.
How long? You wander hungrily in deserts.
The wrecked economy deprives you of education.
How long? You pass the time waiting patiently.
Pretending to carry out reconstruction; they established
   personal businesses,
They enjoy life, and you? How long will you wander in the
   rubbish heap?
They voice hollow slogans of equality;
The salaries of a hundred men are given to one; how long will
    the poor wander?
They observe well what is going on with oppressed people;
How long will you wander unauthorised?
Every day, our nation suffers from the fire of the enemy,
How long will the shameless puppets walk without being taken
   to account?
M.A. is astounded by such a life;
How long will they stay drunk and happy?

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Stephen Starr on the complicated situation in Syria

“[I]t is activists’ videos appearing on television stations around the world that have shaped our thinking and opinions on Syria. The conflict becomes black and white when viewed through such a lens: Assad’s regime is wrong and the rebels are right. The truth, of course, is more complicated than that.”
–Stephen Starr

Monday, Foreign Policy posted “The Fog of Civil War,” an article on the complex and frequently misrepresented civil war in Syria by Stephen Starr. Starr is a freelance journalist who has lived in and reported from Syria since 2007, and the author of the forthcoming Revolt in Syria: Eye-witness to the Uprising. Starr has written about the Syrian uprising for the Washington Post, Financial Times, the London Times and the London Sunday Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Irish Times.

Starr begins his article with the story of protests in Jdaydieh Artouz, a story that he believes has been distorted in the public imagination:

In Jdaydieh Artouz, a town 11 miles southwest of Damascus that is home to a mix of Sunnis, Christians, and Alawites, protests have been taking place almost daily for well over a year. Yet the security forces, centered at a police station a few hundred yards up the street from where the protesters regularly gather, have largely ignored them. One wet, cold January night while out to pick up some sharwama sandwiches, I watched cars with Bashar al-Assad’s face emblazoned across the rear window pass within inches of the indomitable demonstrators. Neither side appeared perturbed. With the exception of isolated incidents in which several protesters were killed, the town remained peaceful throughout the uprising — that is until Thursday, July 19, when rebel fighters fired RPGs at the police station, killing five officers.

Living in this town for the first 11 months of the uprising, I tried, and failed, to get articles published questioning why the regime tolerated protests or allowed free assembly in some areas, but not others. These incidents didn’t fit the narrative that all protests were being violently quashed. The majority, of course, were — and often brutally — but the full picture was unnervingly complex.
(more…)

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Faisal Devji and Alex Strick van Linschoten on Poetry of the Taliban

In the past few days Alex Strick van Linschoten, the co-editor of Poetry of the Taliban was interviewed in the Christian Science Monitor, and Faisal Devji, who wrote the book’s preface, spoke with NPR (you can listen to his interview below):

In both interviews, van Linschoten and Devji spoke about how Taliban poetry addresses a variety of issues from the Soviet and American invasions to the beauty of the Afghan landscape. The poetry, as both suggest, should not be seen as merely Taliban propaganda, as Devji says, “this is the kind of verse that not only tries to put the Taliban view, if you will, across to other people and other situations of life, situations other than militancy, but also in doing so makes itself vulnerable, opens itself up to other ways of conceiving life, religion, and politics as well.”

(more…)

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Poetry of the Taliban — An Excerpt from Quatrains

Poetry of the TalibanAs part of our week-long feature on Poetry of the Taliban, each day we will post a poem in its entirety or an excerpt. For more on Poetry of the Taliban, you can browse the book in Google Preview or read reviews and features about the book. Finally, don’t forget that you can win a FREE copy of the book.

In “Quatrains,” Nasrat, a female poet, draws upon the traditions of Persian and Urdu verse as well as Afghan history and the natural beauty of the country. Here is an excerpt from the poem:

Let’s hug each other;
Let’s unite ourselves
It is the time of love and brotherhood;
The time of hate has passed.

My competitor cut my heart;
Tears streamed from my eyes.
O relentless one, your heart is harder than stone;
I weep for you and you laugh at me.

We love these dusty and muddy houses;
We love the dusty deserts of this country.
But the enemy has stolen their light;
We love these wounded black mountains.

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

New Book Tuesday: Terrorism and Counterintelligence

Terrorism and Counterintelligence, Blake W. MobleyTerrorism and Counterintelligence: How Terrorist Groups Elude Detection
Blake W. Mobley

Craving Earth: Understanding Pica–the Urge to Eat Clay, Starch, Ice, and Chalk (Now available in paper)
Sera Young

Ourselves and Others: Scotland 1832-1914 (2nd Edition)
Graeme Morton

Hungary Through the Centuries: Studies in Honor of Professors Steven Béla Várdy and Ágnes Huszár Várdy
Edited by Richard P. Mulcahy, János Angi, and Tibor Glant

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Frederick Douglass Opie on Sylvia Woods and Sylvia’s in a Changing Harlem

Fred Opie, Hog and HominyOn the occasion of Sylvia Woods’s death last week, Frederick Douglass Opie, author of Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America, looked back on her life and the important role her restaurant Sylvia’s played in the life of Harlem.

Writing for his blog Food as a Lens, Opie outlines the history of Sylvia’s from its beginnings in 1962 when Sylvia Woods started the restaurant as a distinctively soul restaurant based on South Carolina cookery. Around the corner from the Apollo theater, it became popular with entertainers and then later with such stalwart Harlem politicians as Charles Rangel, Percy Sutton, and David Dinkins.

An iconic institution of Black Harlem, it continues to thrive despite the many changes and gentrification in the neighborhood. Opie writes:

In the 1970s, Sylvia’s became a stop on tourist junkets full with foreigners who toured the streets of Harlem. This was before white elites living in New York City would consider dining there. I started noticing a lot more white faces on the streets of Harlem and in Sylvia’s shortly after President Bill Clinton opened an office there. After he arrived, gentrification in Harlem started in full force signaled by the arrival of a new Starbucks just around the corner from Sylvia’s. The hard-working Woods and her family built a successful restaurant business that included the branding of her own products, such as collard greens, seasonings, and sauces. Today the restaurant continues under the leadership of Ms. Woods’ children and it’s still a destination for politicians seeking to identify with black voters. Can you imagine the food at the repast of Ms. Woods’ home going service?

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Book Giveaway! Poetry of the Taliban

Poetry of the TalibanOur featured book this week is the much-discussed and debated new poetry collection Poetry of the Taliban, Edited by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn; Preface by Faisal Devji.

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of the book and its coverage. We are also offering a FREE copy of Poetry of the Taliban to one winner.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address (U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only, unfortunately). We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!

For more on the book, you can browse Poetry of the Taliban in Google Preview or check out interviews with the editors, reviews and more on the book.

Here’s what Jon Lee Anderson, author of The Lion’s Grave: Dispatches from Afghanistan, wrote about Poetry of the Taliban:

A remarkable and important work. In Poetry of the Taliban, we see that within the movement there are warriors with wounded hearts, lyrical souls, and a passionate love for language and ideas.

Friday, July 20th, 2012

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

The weather has been on everyone’s mind quite a bit here at the Press so far this summer. At This Side of the Pond, the Cambridge University Press Blog, Stephen Burt (also author of a number of books with Columbia, most recently The Forms of Youth) argues that obsession with weather is even more common in America than in Britain.

The hot summer has also made many people increasingly aware of water supply, as much of the US is threatened by potential droughts. At the OUPblog, William deBuys delves into the “water problem” and explains how water conservation in the US isn’t as useful as we might think it is. His rather chilling opening sentence: “The dirty little secret about water in the West is that water conservation is a hoax.”

On a more hopeful note, at Beacon Broadside, Philip Warburg comes to the defense of wind power as an economically viable way to make the US more environmentally sustainable. In particular, Warburg takes issue with the fact that Mitt Romney recently dismissed windmills as not being “real energy.”

Mitt Romney has been fundraising at a record-breaking rate so far; in June, he raised over $100 million for his campaign. As Elizabeth Currid-Halkett points out in the Princeton University Press blog’s Election 101 series, Romney and Obama appeal to “two different groups of donors—the very, very rich and the rich and famous” respectively. In her post, Currid-Halkett discusses whether either of these groups is more politically useful than the other.
(more…)

Friday, July 20th, 2012

The Evolution of a Cover — Julia Kushnirsky on “Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City”

Earlier this week we featured the cover for Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City. In the following post, Julia Kushnirsky, the book’s designer, describes the thinking behind this beautifully evocative cover:

Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City is translated from Chinese and is an imagined literary history of Hong Kong.

The author sent us a cover of the Chinese edition that was published in Hong Kong. We felt that the significance of the bird may not be familiar to American readers, and we wanted a bolder, literary look.

Atlas, Chinese Hong Kong

I liked the concept of showing a map with the section of Hong Kong missing since it gave the reader a sense of wanting to discover the lost city. I decided to choose historic images to show the archaeological aspect of the book. I had found an antique map of Hong Kong that was created in 1841 by Captain Edward Belcher, which added to the sense of discovery and adventure felt by the explorers of the 18th century.

Atlas, Hong Kong Map

To “age” the black and white image I gave it a sepia tone. I wanted to fill the “missing” section of the map with a nostalgic image of the “vanished” city. I found an original hand tinted photograph of Hong Kong harbor circa 1900. It was beautifully naturally faded with sepia tones that worked really well with the map.

Atlas-Print

Finally for the title type I wanted it have movement and handwritten quality as if someone wrote across the map with a quill pen. For the final jacket design I added ragged yellowed edges to the flaps and splotches of ink on the spine and back flap.

Our printer, Coral Graphics did a beautiful job picking up the colors and adding dimension with matte and gloss effect.

Atlas, Dung Kai-cheung

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Aaron Belkin — Gay Marines, but No Gay Scouts

Aaron Belkin, Bring Me Men

“Gay troops can fight for the country and be maimed or killed, but they can’t be scouts?”—Aaron Belkin

In a recent contribution to the New York Times‘s Room for Debate, Aaron Belkin, author of Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Façade of American Empire, 1898-2001, weighs in on the recent controversy regarding the Boy Scouts’ decision to affirm it policy of excluding gays.

In light of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” in the military, Belkin finds the Boy Scouts’ policy “shocking”. The Scouts’ exclusionary tradition toward gays is sustained, Belkin argues, by the fantasy of militarized masculinity. In part, the creation of the Scouts was motivated by fears that the United States was becoming too feminine. It was believed that the Scouts would help prepare boys for military service. Aaron Belkin suggests that military values continue to shape the organization:

The Boy Scouts of America has always taken pride in its promotion of military values like hierarchy, conformity and bravery to prepare boys for manhood, and its Web site exalts that, “Boy Scouts prove themselves in an environment that challenges their courage and tests their nerve.” Understood from this perspective, the intimate, longstanding partnership between the military and scouting is not just about recruiting, but reflects a more profound effort to inculcate boys with martial priorities.

(more…)

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

New inquiry into the 1961 death of Dag Hammarskjöld

On September 18, 1961, Swedish Secretary-General of the UN Dag Hammarskjöld was killed when his airplane crashed in Northern Rhodesia (modern-day Zambia) as he was on a mission to negotiate peace agreements in the Congo. While the official explanation was that the crash was caused by pilot error, there have been a number of questions about the Rhodesian government investigation, and a number of theories about what really might have caused the crash. Recently, the investigation has come under more scrutiny, as in her book Who Killed Hammarskjöld?, Susan Williams claims that the Rhodesian investigation “investigation suppressed and dismissed critical evidence.” An investigation by British newspaper the Guardian helped to bring the matter of Hammarskjöld’s death back to the public’s attention.

Now, over fifty years after Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane went down, an international inquiry has been commissioned to look into the possibility that the plane was shot down and that the incident was subsequently covered up by local colonial authorities. According to a recent story in the Guardian, this commission “will include a retired British appeal court judge, Sir Stephen Sedley, as well as Richard Goldstone, a South African judge who was formerly chief prosecutor at The Hague war crimes tribunal. The panel will also include a retired Swedish ambassador, Hans Corell, and a Dutch judge, Wilhelmina Thomassen.” The Independent and the Huffington Post have also picked up the story.

The inquiry has no official legal power, but will report their findings to the UN. The jurists hope to complete their investigation within a year.

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

VIDEO: Herve This on Science and the Future of Cuisine

As part of the Euroscience Open Forum 2012, held recently in Dublin, Herve This, whose book The Science of the Oven is now out in paperback, was on a panel to discuss Science and the Future of Cuisine.

Herve This was joined by President Obama’s Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, and Mark Post (Maastricht University) who has developed a process for growing meat in vitro. Here’s the video of the panel: