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Science & Medicine
Social Sciences

New Books in Critical Theory

Updated 10 days ago

Science & Medicine
Social Sciences
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Interviews with Scholars of Critical Theory about their New Books

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Interviews with Scholars of Critical Theory about their New Books

iTunes Ratings

36 Ratings
Average Ratings
20
7
4
4
1

‘New...” Jewish/Indian/Gay “Books in Critical Theory”?

By JTR ROUND ROCK - May 22 2018
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Not a fair title for these pods if you’re going to let one or two ethnic groups dominate. Just a fan of truth in advertising.

Summaries into Critical Texts

By thom bjork - May 17 2018
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Each show is an interview into the scholar's/scholars' manuscript. By amplifying the author's voice, each text is given a larger footprint in an environment which at times seems at antipodes. Marxist, new left, on marginilization and the state. Support the network.

iTunes Ratings

36 Ratings
Average Ratings
20
7
4
4
1

‘New...” Jewish/Indian/Gay “Books in Critical Theory”?

By JTR ROUND ROCK - May 22 2018
Read more
Not a fair title for these pods if you’re going to let one or two ethnic groups dominate. Just a fan of truth in advertising.

Summaries into Critical Texts

By thom bjork - May 17 2018
Read more
Each show is an interview into the scholar's/scholars' manuscript. By amplifying the author's voice, each text is given a larger footprint in an environment which at times seems at antipodes. Marxist, new left, on marginilization and the state. Support the network.
Cover image of New Books in Critical Theory

New Books in Critical Theory

Updated 10 days ago

Read more

Interviews with Scholars of Critical Theory about their New Books

Rank #1: Todd McGowan, “Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Cost of Free Markets” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Todd McGowan‘s Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Cost of Free Markets (Columbia University Press, 2016) elegantly employs psychoanalytic thinking to unpack the lure of capitalism. He argues that we are drawn to capitalism because, under an overt promise to bring us what we want, it gives us what we need: lack.
Every commodity disappoints. And that’s the point.
Satisfaction, that moment when all is well and good, flutters rapidly, blessedly away. What is so great, so crucial, about lack? Though we pine for relief, nothing kills desire like abundance. (Spoiler alert: should there be an equitable redistribution of wealth, we would still suffer a hunger for the lost object which, according to McGowan, not employing Kleinian thinking, was never attainable in the first place.) If we did not experience ourselves as missing something we might never get out of bed–and, as clinicians know, why it can be purely ruinous to gratify a depressive patient.
You buy those boots, the ones you had to have, and within moments of wearing them, your heart sinks. That car you finally got your hands on? Driving it out of the lot you wonder, “should I have just leased it?” Desire is an engine best run on less than half a tank.
The paradox of capitalism, the way it lets us down, gets a full treatment here. Capitalism reclines on McGowan’s couch and he offers it a few interpretations that shake loose its obsessional and hysterical tendencies. He works with capitalism effectively, not arousing its defenses, because he understands it as caught in a trap of its own making. Embracing Beyond The Pleasure Principle and Lacanian thinking, he asks capitalism how come the ends are more important than the means, and doesn’t it miss the sublime? He also treats the reader, reminding us that we need to not have what we want in order to get what we need.
The interview sails along, if I say so myself, and, given the political surround, offers a good conversation to get into. The author would love to hear from us and has asked that I post his email right here, todd.mcgowan@uvm.edu.
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Mar 19 2017
59 mins
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Rank #2: Ivan Ascher, “Portfolio Society: A Capitalist Mode of Prediction” (Zone Books, 2016)

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Is Marx still relevant? Any social scientist will answer with a resounding yes! In what he refers to as a thought experiment, Ivan Ascher uses Marx to understand the financial market. In Portfolio Society: A Capitalist Mode of Prediction (Zone Books, 2016), Ascher focuses on the arc and narratives found in Capital, using them to analyze risk, credit, and the financial market downfall of 2008. Ascher encourages the reader to explore how we might be able to understand what is going on today by looking back at Marx’s understanding of capitalism. The reader will come across familiar characters, like moneybags and vampires, and familiar concepts from Marx, like fetishism and co-dependence within the market. The nice thing about this book is that you do not need prior knowledge of Marx or financial markets, though those who have knowledge of either or both will still find great pleasure in this thought experiment.
This book would be enjoyed by sociologists or political scientists in general, alongside those interested in financial markets. It would be especially useful in a theory course where students could make connections between Marx and Ascher’s narratives.

Sarah E. Patterson is a postdoc at the University of Western Ontario. You can follow and tweet her at @spattersearch.
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Aug 12 2017
29 mins
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Rank #3: Timothy Morton, “Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World” (University of Minnesota Press, 2013)

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So much of Science Studies, of STS as a field or a point of engagement, is deeply concerned with objects. We create sociologies and networks of and with objects, we study them as actors or agents or actants, we worry about our relationships to them and their relationships to each other. We wonder if humans and their objects are really so different, or whether we are all octopuses shrinking behind our own ink.
In Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (University of Minnesota Press, 2013), Timothy Morton offers a way of thinking with and about hyperobjects, particular kinds of things of which we see only pieces at any given moment. (Though by the end of the book, Morton invites us to consider that perhaps every object is a hyperobject.) Hyperobjects have a number of qualities in common, and the first half of Morton’s book introduces and explores them: they stick to other beings, and they potentially transform our taken-for-granted notions of time, space, locality, causality, and the possibility of ever being “away.” How this all happens is explained in a wonderfully personal and engaging narrative voice that ranges from Heidegger to The Lord of the Rings to the Tardis to Op Art, and the second half of the book introduces some of the consequences of and opportunities created by thinking with hyperobjects. It is about global warming and intimacy and object-oriented ontology and modern art and the possibilities of a phenomenology after we get rid of any notion of “the world” as something out-there and beyond-us. For those who are interested in STS and its environs, it offers a very different and very thoughtful language for articulating narratives beyond a simple “object agency” frame or a human/object binary. It’s also a great pleasure to read.
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Feb 23 2014
1 hour 11 mins
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Rank #4: Alfie Bown, “The Playstation Dreamworld” (Polity, 2017)

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How can Lacan help us to understand the subversive potential of video games? In The Playstation Dreamworld (Polity, 2017), Alfie Bown, Assistant Professor of Literature at HSMC, Hong Kong, explores this and many other questions of the modern condition. The book offers an accessible overview of key psychoanalytic theories to understand the video game, in particular the video game experience and its impact on the social world. The book uses a plethora of gaming examples, drawing out the ambivalences and potentials in even the most seemingly un-revolutionary games. These range from the transformation of space and urban experience in Pokemon Go, through the more corporate or reactionary experiences of Uncharted, through to the subversive elements of Papers Please. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how we live, through video games, now.
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Dec 20 2017
43 mins
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Rank #5: Bill V. Mullen, “W.E.B. Du Bois: Revolutionary Across the Color Line,” (Pluto Press, 2016)

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Born just five years after the abolition of slavery, W. E. B. Du Bois died the night before Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his I Have a Dream speech at the March on Washington in 1963. In the many decades between, W. E. B. Du Bois contributed as much to the political and social advancement of African Americans as any other figure in history.
W. E. B. Du Bois: Revolutionary Across the Color Line (Pluto Press, 2016) offers an accessible and brief introduction to the life and times of W. E. B. Du Bois. It takes in his many achievements, such as being the first black man to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University and co-founding the NAACP, and sets them alongside the seismic political changes of the twentieth century many of which Du Bois weighed in on, including anti-imperialist and anti-colonial struggles across Asia and Africa.
The author reveals a Du Bois who was focused not just on the immediate question of African American rights, but also took up the question of socialism, the rise of communism, and the complicated interrelationship of capitalism, poverty, and racism. The picture that emerges here is of a powerfully original thinker, fiercely engaged with the political, economic, and social questions of his day never letting up in his struggle to change the world for the better.
Dr. Bill V. Mullen is a professor of American Studies at Purdue University, and teaches courses in African American Literature and Culture, American Studies, Working-Class Literature, Cultural Studies, and Postcolonial Literature. His previous written works include Afro-Orientalism, Popular Fronts: Chicago and African American Cultural Politics 1935-1946 and Un-American: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Century of World Revolution. In addition to his current tenure at Purdue University, Dr. Mullen also has been a Fulbright lecturer at Wuhan University in the Peoples Republic of China.

James Stancil is an independent scholar, freelance journalist, and the President and CEO of Intellect U Well, Inc. a Houston-area non-profit dedicated to increasing the joy of reading and media literacy in young people.
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Dec 17 2016
52 mins
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Rank #6: Stacy Alaimo, “Exposed: Environmental Politics and Pleasures in Posthuman Times” (U. Minnesota Press, 2016)

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Stacy Alaimo’s Exposed: Environmental Politics and Pleasures in Posthuman Times (University of Minnesota Press, 2016) is a provocative reflection on environmental ethics, politics, and forms of knowledge. Through a range of examples as broad as the theoretical scope of the book, Alaimo analyzes political responses to climate change, ocean acidification, deforestation, and plastic pollution, as well as the epistemologies that have shaped our understanding of these crises. Simultaneously, this series of essays also explores the intimacies and entanglements of human and non-human subjectivities in the Anthropocene, arguing for a new materialist engagement with the world. Despite the gravity of her subject matter, Alaimo’s examples and writing are often playful. This not only echoes the complexity and occasional contradictions of environmental politics but also makes Exposed a very enjoyable read.
Drawing on examples from film, fiction, poetry, scientific writing, art, and activism, Alaimo considers the role pleasure has played and could play in various environmentalisms and environmental engagements. Though it bridges and contributes to scholarly work in the fields of environmental studies, feminism, materialism, and posthumanism, this book is much more than a theoretical exploration; it calls on us to rethink what it means to be human and act accordingly. Alaimo demonstrates interconnections between queer animals, naked protesters, melting glaciers, and interested scholars while providing thoughtful guidance on how to understand and respond to the environmental predicaments to which we are all, to varying degrees, exposed.
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Feb 21 2017
36 mins
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Rank #7: Nazia Kazi, "Islamophobia, Race, and Global Politics (Rowman and Littlefield, 2018)

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Nazia Kazi’s Islamophobia, Race, and Global Politics (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018) is a brilliant and powerful meditation on the intersection and interaction of Islamophobia, racism, and U.S. imperial state power. This book seeks to reorient our understanding of Islamophobia from a phenomenon centered on individual attitudes and perceptions of hate, to one which is indelibly entrenched to the structural logics of modern state sovereignty, and to the long-running history of racism in the U.S. Another distinctive feature of this book lies in its sustained and nuanced analysis of liberal Islamophobia in varied social and political domains, that tethers the promise of being categorized as “good Muslim” to the endorsement and celebration of American exceptionalism. Combining methods and perspectives from anthropology, visual studies, race studies, and political studies, this thoroughly interdisciplinary book is also eminently accessible and written beautifully, rendering it particularly suitable for courses on modern Islam, Race and Religion, Islam in America, among many other topics.

SherAli Tareen is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin and Marshall College. His research focuses on Muslim intellectual traditions and debates in early modern and modern South Asia. His academic publications are available here. He can be reached at sherali.tareen@fandm.edu. Listener feedback is most welcome.

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Aug 09 2019
46 mins
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Rank #8: Nicholas De Villiers, “Opacity and the Closet: Queer Tactics in Foucault, Barthes, and Warhol” (University of Minnesota Press, 2012)

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In his book, Opacity and the Closet: Queer Tactics in Foucault, Barthes, and Warhol (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), Nicholas de Villiers takes up an examination of the work of the three titular authors as a way of understanding their queerness and more specifically, how each man subverted the “in-and-out of the closet” paradigm. De Villiers devotes ample time to each man, however I found his thoughts on Foucault and Barthes of particular importance as both have come to be so deeply associated with postmodernism, poststructuralism, and queer theory. It is safe to say that Foucault is in large part responsible for the theoretical and philosophical foundations of what we know of today as queer theory and queer studies. This fact makes Foucault’s own relationship with his “out” sexuality all the more fascinating and de Villiers does a great service to Foucault, showing that Foucault himself subverted the “in-and-out of the closet” paradigm and society’s need to ferret out and make known our sexualities. While many scholars, academics, and cultural critics have criticized Foucault for his “silence,” de Villiers’s work suggests that Foucault’s life was a practice in complicating and disrupting the immense societal desire to see homosexuality expressed in one sanctioned way. De Villiers work here is deep, insightful, and refreshing in its attempt to offer an alternative to “suspicious reading.” I do hope you enjoy our conversation.
Photo Credit: Lauren M. Jones
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Jan 11 2013
57 mins
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Rank #9: Martijn Konings, “Capital and Time: For a New Critique of Neoliberal Reason” (Stanford UP, 2018)

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Today I was joined by Martijn Konings from Australia where he is Associate Professor of Political Economy at the University of Sydney. We had a conversation on his most recent book Capital and Time: For a New Critique of Neoliberal Reason (Stanford University Press, 2018).
Its main contribution is to offer an original point of view on the issue of speculation. Critics of capitalist finance tend to focus on its speculative character. Our financial markets, they lament, encourage irresponsible bets on the future that reflect no real underlying value. Why is it, then, that opportunities for speculative investment continue to proliferate in the wake of major economic crises? To make sense of this, Capital and Time offers an understanding of economy as a process whereby patterns of order emerge out of the interaction of speculative investments. Speculation, he argues, is an essential intrinsic feature of capitalism and not just a negative spillover or a collateral behavior.
The book also provides an original view on the role of the State. Progressive critics have assumed that the state occupies a neutral, external position from which it can step in to constrain speculative behaviors. On the contrary, Konings argues, the state has always been deeply implicated in the speculative dynamics of economic life. Through these insights, he offers a new interpretation of both the economic problems that emerged during the 1970s and the way that neoliberalism responded to them. Neoliberalism’s strength derives from its intuition that there is no position that transcends the secular logic of risk, and from its insistence that individuals actively engage that logic.
The book concludes that the current critique of speculation is misleading and incapable of recognizing how American capitalism has come to embrace speculation and has thus been able to generate new kinds of order and governance. This is a very interesting book, written in an accessible way despite the complexity of the topic.

Andrea Bernardi is Senior Lecturer in Employment and Organization Studies at Oxford Brookes University in the UK. He holds a doctorate in Organization Theory from the University of Milan, Bicocca. He has held teaching and research positions in Italy, China and the UK. Among his research interests are the use of history in management studies, the co-operative sector, and Chinese co-operatives. His latest project is looking at health care in rural China. He is the co-convener of the EAEPE’s permanent track on Critical Management Studies.
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Mar 28 2018
41 mins
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Rank #10: Thomas Wheatland, “The Frankfurt School in Exile” (University of Minnesota Press, 2009)

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I have a friend who, as a young child, happened to meet Herbert Marcuse, by that time a rock-star intellectual and darling of the American student movement. Upon seeing the man, he exclaimed “Marcuse! Marcuse! You have such a beautiful head!” I don’t know how beautiful Herbert Marcuse’s head was, but I do know a lot of other interesting things about him and his Frankfurt School buddies now that I’ve read Thomas Wheatland’s wonderful The Frankfurt School in Exile (University of Minnesota Press, 2009). The story Tom tells casts the Frankfurt School in a new (and more correct) light. For one thing, Horkheimer, Adorno, and the rest really were hard-core empirical social scientists in the beginning, not “Critical Theorists” as we understand the term. They counted, measured, conducted surveys and did everything a positivist sociologist or economist would do. But, of course, that was not how they became idols of the New Left and the founders of “Critical Theory.” (Now that I think about it, almost no one ever achieves fame by doing empirical social science. See “Malcolm Gladwell” for more.) No, they–or rather Fromm, Marcuse and Habermas–got famous by telling young Americans that they were “repressed,” “alienated,” and “downtrodden” at exactly the moment they wanted to hear it, that is, the 1960s. You see, the “old” Marxism was dead; this was the “new and improved” version. In other words, they were in the right Critical-Theoretical place and at the right Critical-Theoretical time. And, as Tom points out, they were bewildered and even a bit disturbed by their fame. Despite what my friend said, Marcuse did not get a big head. Rather the opposite. He, much to his credit, told the students he didn’t want to be their guru, that he didn’t believe in gurus. But they didn’t care–they made him one anyway. Students love gurus. I loved Tom Wheatland’s book, and I encourage you to read it.
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Jun 12 2009
1 hour 14 mins
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Rank #11: John H. Summers, “Every Fury on Earth” (Davies Group, 2008)

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The vast majority of historians write history. Perhaps that’s good, as one should stick to what one knows. But there are historians who braves the waters of social and political criticism. One thinks of Arthur Schelsinger Jr., Richard Hofstadter, Christopher Lasch, Robert Conquest, Richard Pipes, Eric Hobsbawm, E. P. Thompson, and more recently Tony Judt, Sean Wilentz and Victor Davis Hanson. Today I had the good fortune to speak with a historian who is virtually sure to enter the top rank of historian-public intellectuals, John H. Summers. Indeed, he already has. He’s published numerous probing essays on academic life, anarchism, the Left, sex scandals, anti-Americanism, the fate of newspapers, and, of course, many of the great American public intellectuals (he’s at work on a biography of C. Wright Mills). Summers does what all critics worth their salt do: comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Just read his remarkably insightful “All the Priviledged Must Have Prizes” about his experience teaching at Harvard. (Also, read the comments attending article, where current Harvard students unwittingly prove Summers’ main points). We must be grateful, then, that the folks at the Davis Group Press have elected to publish a collection of Summers’ finely crafted essays in Every Fury on Earth (2008). The book is challenging, thought-provoking, and courageous. John H. Summers does not blink. You will agree with some of the things he says, and you will disagree with others. That, of course, is the fun of it.
BTW: If you have a relative or friend who is an academic, this book would make a perfect holiday gift. If you are an academic, indulge yourself and buy it.
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Dec 16 2008
1 hour 10 mins
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Rank #12: Shaun Scott, “Millennials and the Moments that Made Us: A Cultural History of the U.S. from 1982-Present” (Zero Books, 2018)

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In Millennials and the Moments that Made Us: A Cultural History of the U.S. from 1982-Present (Zero Books, 2018), Shaun Scott critiques the America millennials inherited and using a pop culture lens to explore how they navigate it. Starting in 1982 as the birth of millennials, Scott examines how millennials have been impacted by the economic and social changes of the 1980s and neoliberalism. Scott takes readers through defining moments and experiences such as latchkey parents, changing representations of masculinity, pop culture feminism, September 11th, and Hurricane Katrina. He uses popular culture examples to define these moments comparing September 11th to Jay-Z’s The Blueprint and using the career of LeBron James to critique corporate relocation and its effects on economic livelihoods. Scott’s well-research book presents readers with a challenge to rethink how millennials are defined and critiqued as he challenges millennials to learn from the mistakes of the past and work for lasting change.

Rebekah Buchanan is an Associate Professor of English at Western Illinois University. Her work examines the role of narrative in peoples lives. She researches zines, zine writers and the influence of music subcultures and fandom on writers and narratives. You can find more about her on her website, follow her on Twitter @rj_buchanan or email her at rj-buchanan@wiu.edu.
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Sep 18 2017
1 hour
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Rank #13: McKenzie Wark, “Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene” (Verso, 2015)

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McKenzie Wark’s new book begins and ends with a playful call: “Workings of the world untie! You have a win to world!” Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene (Verso, 2015) creates a conversation between work from two very different Soviet and American contexts. After guiding readers through the work and theories of Alexander Bogdanov, whose focus on the importance of labor in organizing knowledge forms a central thread through the book as a whole, Wark traces some of those notions in the writing of novelist and utopian Andrey Platonov. The second half of the book extends the conversation into science studies, beginning in a chapter that considers the work of Feyerabend, Haraway, Barad, and Edwards in light of Bogdanov and Platonov’s approaches to labor and knowledge, and continuing into a chapter devoted to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy. The result is a fascinating treatment of the centrality of labor and the importance of the not-necessarily-human to understanding and theorizing the Anthropocene. (As Wark reminds us, Labor is the mingling of many things, most of them not human.) The entire book is highly recommended, and for the STS-minded among us the third chapter of the book would make an especially useful assignment in a discussion group or seminar devoted to contemporary theory and/in STS.
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Oct 10 2016
1 hour 2 mins
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Rank #14: Alison Gerber, “The Work of Art: Value in Creative Careers” (Stanford UP, 2017)

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Is making art a job? This question is central to The Work of Art: Value in Creative Careers (Stanford University Press, 2017), the new book by Alison Gerber, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Sociology at Lund University. The book explores the working lives of artists by thinking through the idea of value in their work. At the heart of this exploration are four accounts of being an artist; four accounts of value; and four accounts of the occupation. These four accounts—pecuniary, credentialising, vocational, and relational—connect and conflict with each other to explain the place of both art and the artist in contemporary society. Using rich and detailed interview and ethnographic data, the book is essential reading for its contribution to contemporary sociology of culture and its insights into the art world.
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Jan 19 2018
52 mins
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Rank #15: Sarah Jaffe, “Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt” (Nation Books, 2016)

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Sarah Jaffe has written Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt (Nation Books, 2016). Jaffe is a Nation Institute fellow and an independent journalist. Over the last few years, several authors on the podcast have discussed the growth of the Tea Party, BlackLivesMatter, and Occupy Wall Street. Jaffe’s new book returns to the heart of these movements, explaining what has made ordinary Americans become activists. Jaffe argues that the financial crisis in 2008 sparked activism in many forms. In order to make this case, Jaffe travelled the country, interviewing people about what made them angry. She attended a people’s assembly in a church gymnasium in Ferguson, Missouri; walked a picket line at an Atlanta Burger King; rode a bus from New York to Ohio with student organizers; and went door-to-door in Queens days after Hurricane Sandy.
Find her on twitter @sarahljaffe.
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Dec 07 2016
22 mins
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Rank #16: Andre Carrington, “Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction” (U. Minnesota Press, 2016)

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Have you ever watched a futuristic movie and wondered if there will actually be any black people in the future? Have you ever been surprised, disappointed, or concerned with the lack of diversity demonstrated in many science fiction stories? In Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction (University of Minnesota Press, 2016) the author analyzes the highly racialized genre of speculative fiction including science fiction, fantasy, and utopian works, along with their fan culture to illustrate the relationship between genre conventions in media and the meanings ascribed to blackness in the popular imagination. Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science reveals new understandings of the significance of blackness in twentieth-century American literature and culture and interrogates the meanings of race and genre through studies of science fiction, fanzines, comics, film and television, and other speculative fiction texts.
Author and professor Andre Carrington earned his bachelors degree in African American Studies from Macalester College and a Ph.D. in American Studies from New York University. He is now an assistant professor of English at Drexel University, where he teaches courses on African American Literature, Comics & Graphic Novels, LGBT Literature and Culture, Global Black Literature and Literary Theory. His research focuses on the cultural politics of race, gender, and genre in 20th century Black and American literature and the arts. Carrington has devoted particular attention to considerations of cultural production and identity, especially those articulated in feminist criticism, critical race theory, performance studies and Marxism.
In addition to his book Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction, Dr. Carringtons writings have appeared in the journals Present Tense, Sounding Out!, Callaloo, and African & Black Diaspora. In 2015, he organized the first international Queers & Comics conference through CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies in New York. His current research project, “Audiofuturism,” explores literary adaptation and sound studies through the analysis of science fiction radio plays based on the work of black authors.

James Stancil is an independent scholar, freelance journalist, and the President and CEO of Intellect U Well, Inc. a Houston-area non-profit dedicated to increasing the joy of reading and media literacy in young people.
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Mar 03 2017
1 hour 5 mins
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Rank #17: Lars Rensmann, “The Politics of Unreason: The Frankfurt School and the Origins of Modern Antisemitism” (SUNY Press, 2017)

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In his new book, The Politics of Unreason: The Frankfurt School and the Origins of Modern Antisemitism (SUNY Press, 2017) , Lars Rensmann, Professor of European Politics and Society at the University of Groningen, argues that even scholars of the Frankfurt school have often treated the theme of antisemitism with scant attention. However, as Rensmann argues, the problem of antisemitism had been a central motivating dynamic for their interdisciplinary research, from the very early years of the Institute.
In this episode, we begin by discussing the general silence surrounding the Holocaust that presided in Germany into the 1990s, and how this can be understood as part of a phenomenon that Critical Theory called “secondary antisemitism.” We then circle back to explore how the Critical Theorists explained the “primary” phenomenon of antisemitism as an interplay of psychological, social-historical, and economic dynamics. As we learn from this book’s rich analyses, the insights developed by the Frankfurt School on the authoritarian disposition, on hatred and racism, and on the pathologies of modernity retain deep relevance and applicability for the further understanding of today’s politics of unreason.

Daveeda Goldberg is a PhD candidate at York University in Toronto, Canada.
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Dec 11 2017
1 hour
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Rank #18: Ibram X. Kendi, “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” (Nation Books, 2016)

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Ibram X. Kendi is an assistant professor of African American history at the University of Florida. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (Nation Books, 2016) offers a fast moving narrative of racist ideas beginning with the Puritan theologian and preacher Cotton Mather to the post-racial color-blind arguments in the age of Barack Obama. Through American history, racism has been justified by appeals to God’s word, science, nature, or common sense. He demonstrates how good intentioned efforts to overcome racism have often helped to cement racist ideas. The ideas of segregation and assimilation have rationalized racism and have reproduced and spread in the face of challenge by antiracist arguments. Americans have unsuccessfully attempted to root out racism through notions of self-sacrifice, “uplift suasion,” and educational persuasion. Kendi argues that overcoming racism, which hides classism and sexism, will require intelligent self-interest, not altruism. Americans, regardless of color, need to realize that when Black people are free of racism all will be free.

Lilian Calles Barger, www.lilianbarger.com, is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her current book project is entitled The World Come of Age: Religion, Intellectuals and the Challenge of Human Liberation.
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Sep 08 2016
57 mins
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Rank #19: Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, “Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment” (U. of Minnesota Press, 2016)

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How did the preeminent theorist and philosopher Michel Foucault experience and observe the Iranian revolution? How did he find the revolution disruptive of a teleological notion of history? And how did the Iranian revolution impact and shape Foucault’s thought? These are among the questions addressed by Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi in his exciting new book Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment (University of Minnesota Press, 2016). This book presents an intimate portrait of the events and conditions that led to the revolution, coupled with a fascinating account of Foucault’s engagement with that moment. Historically rich and theoretically nuanced, Foucault in Iran advances a scathing critique of previous works on this subject that charged Foucault with having endorsed Islamist violence by supporting the revolution. This book offers a more complicated reading of Foucault’s views on the revolution that disrupts binaries like secular/Islamist while also providing a riveting analysis on questions of time, history, and revolution.
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Nov 06 2016
38 mins
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Rank #20: Tom Mills, “The BBC: Myth of a Public Service” (Verso, 2016)

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The BBC is often thought to be a great, impartial, defender of British values and society. In The BBC: Myth of a Public Service (Verso, 2016), Tom Mills, a lecturer in Sociology at Aston University, re-reads the history of the BBC to offer a more problematic status for the corporation, as an adjunct of British state power. The book uses examples from the General Strike in Britain, through war and economics reporting, to the vetting of left wing political attitudes within the Corporation, to tell the story of an institution that has been misunderstood by both left and right wing critics. Moreover, the book provides a critique of the management and organisation reforms to the BBC, coupled with a class analysis, demonstrating the need for transformation to this important part of British society. At a time when the media is under intense scrutiny for its perceived failures in reporting and representing politics and economics, Mills’ analysis and prescriptions for reform make for essential reading.
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Dec 02 2016
42 mins
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