If the search for self was a game, migrants would be more than a few chips down. Having to overcome physical and cultural displacement in addition to psychological uncertainty makes the search, for those who are transient, a complicated quest. Below, in an excerpt from the Introduction of Being Human, Being Migrant: Senses of Self and Well-Being, published in October, editor Anne Sigfrid Grønseth addresses the difficulties of migration and asserts that these hardships are of larger breadth than simply issues of movement.
This volume is as much about being human as it is about being a migrant. It takes as its starting point from the proposition that migrant experiences tell us about the human condition, on the basis that senses of well-being, self, other and humanity are challenged when people move between shifting social and cultural contexts. Our contemporary world is characterised by an increasing degree of movement that highlights how societies and cultural units are never separate but overlapping, rapid changing and engaged in repeated processes of fission and fusion.
Celebrities today can perform political functions by sponsoring causes, supporting or opposing governments and shaping opinion. In Fascist Italy, celebrities also played an important role and the regime was well aware of the possible uses and dangers of their popularity. This important connection has been overlooked by scholars of both film and of Italian political history. Focusing on a period from the 1920s through 1945, Mussolini’s Dream Factory: Film Stardom in Fascist Italy, to be published this month, looks at the star power of these often-overlooked celebrities and the fate of their careers after WWII. Author Stephen Gundle expands on these ideas and shares his thoughts on the subject, below.
Berghahn Books: What drew you to the study of film and film stardom in Fascist Italy?
Stephen Gundle: There are lots of books written about fascist Italy and it seems to be a topic that endlessly fascinates. In the last few years books have appeared on topics such as the police force, diplomacy, road-building, women’s fashions and everyday life. Yet there are few books on fascist cinema – which is largely ignored by historians and neglected by film scholars who tend to concentrate on neorealism or other aspects of postwar cinema.
Achievement is commonly defined as a successful completion of a given undertaking, but what it means to “achieve” is not a static idea the world over. Contributors to The Social Life of Achievement, published last month, examine meanings of achievement in countries and cultures throughout the world. Below, co-editor Nicholas J. Long addresses the term and provides insight into the background of the volume, from its inception to its subjects to its methodology.
Berghahn Books: What drew you to the study of achievement? And what inspired you to research and write about it?
Nicholas J. Long: Fieldwork! In the Riau Islands – the region of Indonesia where I’ve conducted most my research – people talk and think about achievement all the time. It’s become an integral component of the citizenship syllabus: students are taught that a good Indonesian should try to seize any opportunities for ‘achievement’ that they can. And it’s an incredibly widespread trope in public culture. I quickly realised that I wasn’t going to be able to write a good ethnography of the region without engaging in some way with this achievement discourse and how it was shaping people’s lives.
Who migrates, when they migrate, where they migrate, and why they migrate has a huge effect on cultural identity, acceptance and belonging. This is a hot current topic on news cycles worldwide, but it is certainly not a new phenomenon. Looking from a European perspective, editors Steven King and Anne Winter add an important contribution to this discussion with Migration, Settlement and Belonging in Europe, 1500-1930s: Comparative Perspectives, to be published this month. Below, the editors discuss the volume and their aim to make sense of these experiences across borders of place and time.
The British print and online media has for the last year been awash with compelling stories about abuses of the welfare system: the mother who has 11 children and feels the state should fund her life choices; the recent immigrants who are entitled to welfare benefits notwithstanding a lack of accumulated contribution; the ‘disabled’ welfare claimants who are exposed as professional dancers or scuba divers.
If there is extra-terrestrial life in the Universe, how might it communicate? In Science, SETI, and Mathematics, to be published this month, author Carl DeVito seeks to answer this question in a conversational way, explaining the role of mathematics in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). DeVito explores the science and history behind the search, and shares the many questions associated with it, especially those regarding language and communication.
The early workers in the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence were concerned with the technical problems of sending and receiving radio signals across inter-stellar distances.
Slowly, however, the deeper questions inherent in this endeavor rose to prominence: questions about the nature of intelligence, the nature of language, and the philosophical/psychological motivation behind this search.
In 1986, Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography was published, and it changed the perception of ethnographic study from then on. Little more than 20 years later, Olaf Zenker and Karsten Kumoll took its reach further with Beyond Writing Culture: Current Intersections of Epistemologies and Representational Practices, published originally in 2010 and published as a paperback last month. Below, the editors share how their work engages with the inspiration piece, how they came to publish the collection, and the ways in which their work corresponds to and challenges the original.
Berghahn Books: Tell us about the original Writing Culture? How does your volume expound on the principles set forth in this groundbreaking work, and how does your volume differ?
Olaf Zenker: The publication in 1986 of Writing Culture by James Clifford and George Marcus was crucial for the discipline of anthropology as a whole. Continue reading
The parallels between the political environment of the “Arab Spring” countries and Cold War Germany can be striking, according to Alexander Clarkson, author of Fragmented Fatherland: Immigration and Cold War Conflict in the Federal Republic of Germany, 1945-1980. In these cases, when diaspora communities returned to their countries of origin, there was an energy for activism and a flurry of political activity. Following, Clarkson notes that taking a page from West German history could prove useful in modern Libyan, Syrian and Tunisian politics.
In the chaotic days after the Ghadaffi regime lost control of the city of Benghazi in February 2011, hundreds of exiled Libyans returned to the liberated parts of their country to help play a role in the transformation of a state that had been under authoritarian rule for more than forty years.
Obesity is a worldwide problem, and affecting more people all the time. In their timely collection, editors Jessica Hardin and Megan McCullough examine this growing epidemic in their soon-to-be-released book, Reconstructing Obesity: The Meaning of Measures and the Measure of Meanings.The editors analyze the cultural causes and effects to open a new discussion about fatness and obesity.
I asked my students, fresh off a lively discussion about dieting and religious fasting, if any of them would consider taking a new course I was designing called,“Fatness and Obesities.” Only one student raised her hand. What if I change the course’s title – but not its content – to “The Politics of Body Size”? At this suggestion, they all raised their hands. What is the difference?
Is the spread of Western, specifically European, thought truly a gift to the rest of the world, or is this dissemination simply a way of exerting cultural power? Vassos Argyrou seeks an answer to this question in his newly released volume The Gift of European Thought and the Cost of Living. Below, the author explains his inspiration for—and the challenges and rewards of—writing the book, published September 2013.
Berghahn Books: What drew you to the study of “European Thought” and what are some examples of this?
Vassos Argyrou: “European thought” is a term that in a certain sense was imposed on me as it was used to make the highly contentious claim that it’s a gift to the rest of the world. It refers not only to an intellectual tradition but also to a way of life or culture—European or, more broadly, Western culture.
Hannah Arendt was a German-Jewish political theorist; Ernst Cassirer was a German-Jewish philosopher. The ‘liberal Jewish ethics’ of the two come together in Ned Curthoys’ The Legacy of Liberal Judaism: Ernst Cassirer and Hannah Arendt’s Hidden Conversation, to be published this month. The author explains below his fascination of and engagement with the scholars.
Berghahn Books: What exactly do you mean by the term ‘liberal Judaism’?
Ned Curthoys: Well it’s a diasporic phenomenon, a very interesting response to the twin challenges of secular modernization and inveterate Christian inspired anti-Judaism.