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Sixteenth-century Spain was small, poor, disunited and sparsely populated. Yet the Spaniards and their allies built the largest empire the world had ever seen. How did they achieve this? In How the Spanish Empire Was Built: a 400-year History (Reaktion, 2024) Dr. Felipe Fernández-Armesto and Dr. Manuel Lucena Giraldo argue that Spain’s engineers we…
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In Greg Sarris' book The Forgetters (Heyday Books, 2024), Answer Woman, a crow, cannot come up with a story until she is asked by Question Woman, her sister. But they both want to remember those who forgot the stories – because only by retelling the stories can they learn lessons of the past. From the time before creation to the near future, Answer…
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Most of us appreciate the importance of the immune system yet have very little knowledge about how it actually works. If you fall into this camp and are curious to learn more about this intricate system, Bobby Cherayil's book is an excellent resource. The Logic of Immunity: Deciphering an Enigma was published in January 2024 by John Hopkins Univers…
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For every lover of food culture, A History of the World in 10 Dinners: 2,000 Years, 100 Recipes (Rizzoli, 2023) by Victoria Flexner and Jay Reifel presents scrupulously researched and accessible cookbook presents one-of-a-kind dinner parties inspired by seminal moments in culinary history. In ten chapters—each an important moment in food history, f…
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Over three years have passed since a military coup of February 2021 in Myanmar precipitated a popular uprising that has since transformed into a revolutionary situation. While researchers and writers have cobbled together edited books trying to come to terms with all that has happened and how we might interpret it in relation to Myanmar’s recent pa…
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Through an original framework of literary sensory studies, Sensing the Sinophone: Urban Memoryscapes in Contemporary Fiction (Cambria, 2022) provides a comparative analysis of how six contemporary works of Sinophone fiction reimagine the links between the self and the city, the past and the present, as well as the physical and the imaginary. It exp…
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Graphic artist, illustrator, painter, and cartoonist Rahel Szalit (1888-1942) was among the best-known Jewish women artists in Weimar Berlin. But after she was arrested by the French police and then murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz, she was all but lost to history, and most of her paintings have been destroyed or gone missing. Drawing on a range …
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Enormous ecological losses and profound planetary transformations mean that ours is a time to grieve beyond the human. Yet, Joshua Trey Barnett argues in this eloquent and urgent book, our capacity to grieve for more-than-human others is neither natural nor inevitable. Weaving together personal narratives, theoretical meditations, and insightful re…
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Over thirty years, from 1890 to 1921, 2.5 million Jews, fleeing discrimination and violence in their homelands of Eastern Europe, arrived in the United States. Many sailed on steamships from Hamburg. This mass exodus was facilitated by three businessmen whose involvement in the Jewish-American narrative has been largely forgotten: Jacob Schiff, the…
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In 1845 an expedition led by Sir John Franklin vanished in the Canadian Arctic. The enduring obsession with the Franklin mystery, and in particular Inuit information about its fate, is partly due to the ways in which information was circulated in these imperial spaces. Arctic Circles and Imperial Knowledge: The Franklin Family, Indigenous Intermedi…
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Analyzed by Lacan: A Personal Account (Bloomsbury, 2023) brings together the first English translations of Why Lacan, Betty Milan's memoir of her analysis with Lacan in the 1970s, and her play, Goodbye Doctor, inspired by her experience. Why Lacan provides a unique and valuable perspective on how Lacan worked as psychoanalyst as well as his approac…
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Everyone loves gut-busting belly-laughs in a film. But sometimes, big laughs slow things down. There’s something to be said for films that amuse us for their duration. Join us for a conversation about a film that makes us smile from its first moment to its last: The Ladykillers, Alexander Mackendrick’s 1955 dark comedy starring Alec Guinness as the…
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What did historical evolutionists such as Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer have to say about music? What role did music play in their evolutionary theories? What were the values and limits of these evolutionist turns of thought, and in what ways have they endured in present-day music research? Theorizing Music Evolution: Darwin, Spencer, and the …
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The stereotype of the solitary mathematician is widespread, but practicing users and producers of mathematics know well that our work depends heavily on our historical and contemporary fellow travelers. Yet we may not appreciate how our work also extends beyond us into our physical and societal environments. Kevin Lambert takes what might be a firs…
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Our stress response system is magnificent - it operates beneath our awareness, like an orchestra of organs playing a hidden symphony. When we are healthy, the orchestra plays effortlessly, but what happens when our bodies face chronic stress, and the music slips out of tune? The alarming rise of stress-related conditions, such as heart disease, dia…
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From the theatre mask and masquerade to the masked criminal and the rise of facial recognition software, masks have long performed as an instrument for the protection and concealment of identity. Even as they conceal and protect, masks – as faces – are an extension of the self. At the same time, they are a part of material culture: what are masks m…
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In The Atlantic Slave Trade in World History (Routledge, 2015), Jeremy Black presents a compact yet comprehensive survey of slavery and its impact on the world, primarily centered on the Atlantic trade. Opening with a clear discussion of the problems of defining slavery, the book goes on to investigate the Atlantic slave trade from its origins to a…
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Why and how local coffee bars in Italy--those distinctively Italian social and cultural spaces--have been increasingly managed by Chinese baristas since the Great Recession of 2008? Italians regard espresso as a quintessentially Italian cultural product--so much so that Italy has applied to add Italian espresso to UNESCO's official list of intangib…
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A hybrid lab functions in the space between institutions and infrastructure, creating new opportunities for understanding their interconnection. However, their legitimacy remains fuzzy without formal and methodological critique. The Lab Book: Situated Practices in Media Studies (U of Minnesota Press, 2021) proposes the "extended lab model" to descr…
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State-Building as Lawfare: Custom, Sharia, and State Law in Postwar Chechnya (Cambridge University Press, 2023) by Dr. Egor Lazarev explores the use of state and non-state legal systems by both politicians and ordinary people in postwar Chechnya. The book addresses two interrelated puzzles: why do local rulers tolerate and even promote non-state le…
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How did Psalm 110:1 become so widely used as a messianic prooftext in the New Testament and early Christianity? Part of the explanation may be related to the first century’s Greco-Roman political and religious context. Tune in as we speak with Clint Burnett about his recent book Christ’s Enthronement at God’s Right Hand and its Greco-Roman Cultural…
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In her new book, When Left Moves Right: The Decline of the Left and the Rise of the Populist Right in Postcommunist Europe (Oxford University Press, 2024), Maria Snegovaya argues that, contrary to the view that emphasizes the sociocultural aspects (xenophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, etc.) of the rise of the populist right, especially in postcomm…
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This book analyses the way that changes in the comics industry, book trade and webcomics distribution have shaped the publication of long-form comics. The US Graphic Novel (Edinburgh UP, 2022) pays particular attention to how the concept of the graphic novel developed through the twentieth century. Art historians, journalists, and reviewers debated…
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In this deep and incisive study, General David Petraeus, who commanded the US-led coalitions in both Iraq, during the Surge, and Afghanistan and former CIA director, and the prize-winning historian Andrew Roberts, explore over 70 years of conflict, drawing significant lessons and insights from their fresh analysis of the past. Drawing on their diff…
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What does the Miss Tibet beauty pageant tell us about what it means to be Tibetan in a globalized world? And what understandings of Tibetan culture does it convey? In this episode, Kenneth Bo Nielsen talks to Pema Choedon about representations of Tibet and Tibetan culture on the global stage from the vantage point of the Miss Tibet beauty pageant. …
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Dani Rodrik (Harvard Kennedy School Economics Professor) joins the podcast to discuss his career, the best case for industrial policy, the labor market effects of globalization, and his vision of an ideal economic policy paradigm. Rodrik is the Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Gover…
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The Middle East remains one of the world’s most complicated, thorny—and, uncharitably, unstable—parts of the world, as countless headlines make clear. Internal strife, regional competition and external interventions have been the region’s history for the past several decades. Robert Kaplan—author, foreign policy thinker, longtime writer on internat…
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"What's life for if there's no time to play and explore?" In The Weirdness of the World (Princeton UP, 2024), Eric Schwitzgebel invites the reader to a walk on the wilder side of philosophical speculation about the cosmos and consciousness. Is consciousness entirely a material phenomenon? How much credence should we have in the existence of a world…
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