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Well into the new millennium, the analog cassette tape continues to claw its way back from obsolescence. New cassette labels emerge from hipster enclaves while the cassette’s likeness pops up on T-shirts, coffee mugs, belt buckles, and cell phone cases. In Unspooled: How the Cassette Made Music Shareable (Duke University Press, 2024), Dr. Rob Drew …
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Cyrus McCormick invented the revolutionary mechanical reaper in 1831...right? At least, that's how the story has been told for decades. In Harvesting History: McCormick's Reaper, Heritage Branding, and Historical Forgery (U Nebraska Press, 2023), National Park Service historian Daniel Ott argues that not only have textbooks and other sources of his…
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In his latest book, The Road to Freedom: Economics and the Good Society (W. W. Norton, 2024), Nobel laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz rethinks the nature of freedom and its relationship to capitalism. While many agree that freedom is good and we want more of it, we don’t agree about what it is, whose freedom we’re talking about, or what outcomes we desir…
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The Hollow Parties: The Many Pasts and Disordered Present of American Party Politics (Princeton UP, 2024) traces the political history of American political parties, not so much as historical institutions with different constituents—though it does that—but as living and breathing entities that have, over the course of more than 200 years, been, at …
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Global risks present formidable challenges to international law. Although they have long been identified in many other scientific disciplines, they are currently only considered on a sectoral basis in international law in the absence of a legal definition. The aim of Sarah Cassella's book Global Risks and International Law: The Case of Climate Chan…
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The Rise of English: Global Politics and the Power of Language, which has just been reissued in paperback by Oxford University Press, with a new preface. The Rise of English charts the spread of English as the dominant lingua franca worldwide. The book explores the wide-ranging economic and political effects of English. It examines both the good an…
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Ryan Reft is a historian in the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress, where he oversees collections pertaining to 20th and 21st century domestic politics and policies. He received his PhD in U.S. urban history from the University of California San Diego in 2014, and his writing has appeared all over the place, from edited volumes to acade…
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This time we talk with a fascinating sound artist and composer Mack met at a recent meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts. As his website puts it, “Brian House is an artist who explores the interdependent rhythms of the body, technology, and the environment. His background in both computer science and noise music informs his …
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In a broken world, in which even God Himself is in a state of deep crisis, what is required in order to mend the rupture? How can one heal God and His world? Moreover, what might allow our actions to be effective? These questions stand at the heart of the Lurianic Kabbalah, the apex of the Safedian intellectual and religious renaissance of the sixt…
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'A woman, a dog and a walnut tree, the more they are beaten, the better they’ll be.' So went the proverb quoted by a prominent MP in the Houses of Parliament in 1853. His words – intended ironically in a debate about a rise in attacks on women – summed up the prevailing attitude of the day, in which violence against women was waved away as a part a…
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Archaeology as a discipline has undergone significant changes over the past decades, in particular concerning best practices for how to handle the vast quantities of data that the discipline generates. As Shaping Archaeological Archives: Dialogues between Fieldwork, Museum Collections, and Private Archives (Brepols, 2023) uncovers, much of this dat…
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In Mooring the Global Archive: A Japanese Ship and Its Migrant Histories (Cambridge UP, 2023), Martin Dusinberre follows the Yamashiro-maru steamship across Asian and Pacific waters in an innovative history of Japan's engagement with the outside world in the late-nineteenth century. His compelling in-depth analysis reconstructs the lives of some of…
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The history of rock and roll music can be seen in a long arc of Western civilization's struggle for both greater individual expression and societal stability. In the 1960s, the West's relationship with authority ruptured, in part due to the rock revolution. The lessons and implications of this era have yet to be fully grasped. James A. Cosby's book…
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People experience and comprehend time in different fashions in response to events occurring around them. The experience of time and the speed at which change is perceived to occur may alter during eras of crisis. Time can feel compressed for some and broad or flat for others. These comprehensions of time in turn give form to political views and pro…
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The low-wage service industry is one of the fastest-growing employment sectors in the US economy. Its workers disproportionately tend to be low-income and minority women. Service sector work entails rigid forms of temporal discipline manifested in work requirements for flexible, last-minute, and round-the-clock availability, as well as limited to n…
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Black Networked Resistance: Strategic Rearticulations in the Digital Age (U California Press, 2024)​ explores the creative range of Black digital users and their responses to varying forms of oppression, utilizing cultural, communicative, political, and technological threads both on and offline. Raven Maragh-Lloyd demonstrates how Black users strat…
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Today I talked to Stuart Reid about his new book The Lumumba Plot: The Secret History of the CIA and a Cold War Assassination (Knopf, 2023). It was supposed to be a moment of great optimism, a cause for jubilation. The Congo was at last being set free from Belgium—one of seventeen countries to gain independence in 1960 from ruling European powers. …
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Apart from an opening survey of modern study of ancient Jewish history, which emphasizes the foundational role of German-Jewish scholars, the studies united in Ancient Jewish Historians and the German Reich: Seven Studies (de Gruyter, 2024) apply philological methods to the writings of four of them: Heinrich Graetz, Isaak Heinemann, Elias Bickerman…
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We have increasingly sophisticated ways of acquiring and communicating knowledge, but efforts to spread this knowledge often encounter resistance to evidence. The phenomenon of resistance to evidence, while subject to thorough investigation in social psychology, is acutely under-theorised in the philosophical literature. Mona Simion's Resistance to…
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Indoctrinating the Youth: Secondary Education in Wartime China and Postwar Taiwan, 1937-1960 (U Hawaii Press, 2024) examines how the Guomindang (GMD or Nationalists) sought to maintain control of middle-school students and cultivate their political loyalty over the trajectory of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Chinese Civil War, and postwar Taiwan. D…
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In this episode of International Horizons, Professor Dana Fisher, Director of the Center for Environment, Community, & Equity (CECE) and Professor in the School of International Service at American University, discusses with RBI Director John Torpey her approach to dealing with the climate crisis. Fisher explains how the climate crisis is really a …
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Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Yaroslav Trofimov has spent months on end at the heart of the conflict, very often on its front lines. In Our Enemies Will Vanish: The Russian Invasion and Ukraine's War of Independence (Penguin, 2024), he traces the war’s decisive moments—from the battle for Kyiv to more recently the gruelling and blo…
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Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994), the Lubavitcher Rebbe, took an insular Chasidic group that was almost decimated by the Holocaust and transformed it into one of the most influential and controversial forces in world Jewry. Join us as we speak with Rabbi Chaim Miller about his biography of the Rebbe, Turning Judaism Outward (Kol Menache…
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From the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, the industrial revolution transformed Britain from an agricultural and artisanal economy to one dominated by industry, ushering in unprecedented growth in technology and trade and putting the country at the center of the global economy. But the commonly accepted story of the industrial revolution, anc…
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When suffragette Emily Wilding Davison hid overnight in the Houses of Parliament in 1911 to have her name recorded in the census there, she may not have known that there were sixty-seven other women also resident in Parliament that night: housekeepers, kitchen maids, domestic servants, and wives and daughters living in households. Necessary Women: …
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What are the histories, constraints, and possibilities of language in relation to bodies, origins, land, colonialism, gender, war, displacement, desire, and migration? Moving across genres, memories, belongings, and borders, River in an Ocean: Essays on Translation (Trace Press, 2023) invites readers to consider translation as a form of ethical and…
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James Shapiro spoke at the Institute in 2014 about Shakespeare in America, the anthology he edited for the Library of America. He is the Larry Miller Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Professor Shapiro is the author of many books on Shakespeare, including Shakespeare in a Divided America, which was a finalist f…
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The left views alienation as something to be resisted or overcome, but could it actually form the basis of our emancipation? We often think of our existential and political projects as attempts to overcome or eradicate alienation: therapists imagine that they help patients to attain self-identity; political revolutionaries strive for a society in w…
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Through a skillful combination of economic and cultural history, this book describes the impact on Moldavia and Wallachia of steam navigation on the Danube. The Danube route integrated the two principalities into a dense network of European roads and waterways. From the 1830s to the 1860s, steamboat transport transformed time and space for the area…
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