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Games are a unique art form. Games work in the medium of agency. Game designers tell us who to be and what to care about during the game. Game designers sculpt alternate agencies, and game players submerge themselves in those alternate agencies. Thus, the fact that we play games demonstrates the fluidity of our own agency. We can throw ourselves, f…
 
What comes to mind when we think of swans? Likely their beauty in domestic settings, their preserved status, their association with royalty, and possibly even the phrase ‘swan song’. Dr. Natalie Goodison’s Introducing the Medieval Swan (University of Wales Press, 2022) explores the emergence of each of these ideas, starting with an examination of t…
 
Born to a powerful family and educated at the prominent Mindröling Monastery, the Tibetan Buddhist nun and teacher Mingyur Peldrön (1699–1769) leveraged her privileged status and overcame significant adversity, including exile during a civil war, to play a central role in the reconstruction of her religious community. In The Tibetan Nun Mingyur Pel…
 
Suicide has been on the rise in recent years, most frighteningly among young people. Suicide is second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 25-34. Gay, lesbian, and transgender youth are at particular risk. Every year in the U.S., more people die by suicide than in car accidents, and more suicide deaths occur than homicide and AIDS deat…
 
Muhtars, the lowest level elected political position in Turkey, hold an ambiguously defined place within the administrative hierarchy. They are public officials, but local citizens do not always associate them with the central government. Elise Massicard's Street-Level Governing: Negotiating the State in Urban Turkey (Stanford University Press, 202…
 
What makes a nasty woman? Is it her unwillingness to break to the stringent standards of patriarchy, her gameness to get rough, even abject? Or is it the way she reminds polite society that the sweet, gentle screen martyr (the nasty woman’s counterpart) is a fiction too, as much a trick and a dupe as an exploding housemaid on celluloid? And what a …
 
Celeste Ng is the author of three novels, Everything I Never Told You, Little Fires Everywhere, and Our Missing Hearts. Her first novel, Everything I Never Told You (2014), was a New York Times bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book of 2014, Amazon’s #1 Best Book of 2014, and named a best book of the year by over a dozen publications. Her second…
 
In this podcast episode, Greg Marchildon interviews the author of Corporate Cataclysm: Abitibi Power & Paper and the Collapse of the Newsprint Industry, 1912–1946 (U of Toronto P, 2020). This book documents the rise, decline and bankruptcy of one of the largest manufacturing firms in Canada before the Second World War. A detailed review of the busi…
 
Sarah Derbew’s new book Untangling Blackness in Greek Antiquity (Cambridge UP, 2022) asks how should articulations of blackness from the fifth century BCE to the twenty-first century be properly read and interpreted? This important and timely book is the first concerted treatment of black skin color in the Greek literature and visual culture of ant…
 
Great poetry or beautiful prose if often capable of challenging and delighting readers far more than dry, bland language. But why is that? Dalā’il al-Iʿjaz, or Indications of Inimitability, is a hugely influential Arabic text about exactly what it is that makes beautiful language beautiful. Its author, Abd al-Qāhir al-Jurjānī, used a theoretical, a…
 
In The Metabolic Museum (Hatje Cantz, 2020), Clémentine Deliss, a curator, researcher, and former director of the Frankfurt Weltkulturen Museum, explores possible functions for anthropological museums in a postcolonial culture. Anthropological museums in Europe, as products of imperialism, have been compelled to legitimate themselves because the ve…
 
Immigration problems, climate issues, dysfunctional families, road barricades, and the division between haves and have nots play a role in this dream-like novel. Set in Wisconsin’s stunning Northwoods, News of the Air (Black Lawrence Press, 2022) by Jill Stukenberg centers on a mother, father, and their teenage daughter, who voice the story from ea…
 
Say Thank You for Everything: The Secrets of Being a Great Manager (Harriman House, 2022) is a bullshit-free guide to management that shows you the right way to lead a business, inspired by Jim Edwards’s experience of helping to transform a small unread blog into a business with 200 million readers and hundreds of employees, which finally sold for …
 
Alexander Kirshner’s book Legitimate Opposition (Yale UP, 2022) can be seen as a reaction to the politics of Donald Trump and the questions he has raised about the nature of modern democracy. Advocates of western democracy have traditionally pointed to the role of the opposition in holding government to account. The deal has been that oppositions c…
 
Soham Sen talks about standpoint theory, a method of understanding the ways in which individual and collective experience influence public discourses. He begins from its origins in the civil rights movement and in the innovations of feminist thought, and follows it up with a discussion of its efficacy in understanding contemporary media. Soham Sen …
 
In 1930, about 750,000 Jews called Romania home. At the end of World War II, approximately half of them survived. Only recently, after the fall of Communism, are details of the history of the Holocaust in Romania coming to light. In The Romanian Orthodox Church and the Holocaust (Indiana UP, 2017), Ion Popa explores this history by scrutinizing the…
 
It is often thought that the story of Tutankhamun ended when the thousands of items discovered by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon were transported to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and put on display. But there is far more to Tutankhamun's story. Tutankhamun and the Tomb that Changed the World (Oxford UP, 2022) explores the 100 years of research on …
 
A standard way of proceeding in political philosophy is to start with some form of conceptual inquiry: we first try to figure out what justice, equality, and freedom are and only then we may eventually begin thinking about how these goods might be pursued and achieved. On this approach, although social activism is perhaps necessary to counteract th…
 
Today’s guest is Jenny Mann, who has a new book titled The Trials of Orpheus: Poetry, Science, and the Early Modern Sublime (Princeton University Press, 2021). Jenny is Professor in both New York University’s English Department and the Gallatin School, and her work has been supported by the Mellon Foundation and the Folger Shakespeare Library. She …
 
In this podcast episode, Greg Marchildon interviews Erika Dyck on the book she co-authored with Jesse Donaldson on an unusual chapter in Canada’s medical history. Entitled The Acid Room: The Psychedelic Trials and Tribulations of Hollywood Hospital, this book was published by Vancouver’s Anvil Press in 2021. This is a history of a private hospital …
 
Technocracy is the idea that experts should govern. For the common good, presumably. In fact, it's an idea as old as politics itself, and it emerges just about everywhere across the ideological spectrum. Technocracy is seductive. In fact, it's an idea as old as politics itself. This episode is the first in a three-part series telling stories of tec…
 
Shadowland: The Story of Germany Told by Its Prisoners (Reaktion Books, 2022) is a history of modern Germany told not through the lives of its leaders, but its lawbreakers. As Nelson Mandela said, “a nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” Shadowland tells the sometimes inspiring, often painful stori…
 
In the 1770s, the American colonies were working up to a revolution. But while the colonists were increasingly dissatisfied with British rule, there was no general consensus on what to do about it. Thomas Paine saw a clear solution. In 1776, he published Common Sense. Caroline Winterer discusses Common Sense, a pamphlet that uses the language of th…
 
For nearly two decades, the United States devoted more than $2 billion towards democracy promotion in the Middle East with seemingly little impact. To understand the limited impact of this aid and the decision of authoritarian regimes to allow democracy programs whose ultimate aim is to challenge the power of such regimes, Marketing Democracy: The …
 
In this 2008 episode from the Vault we hear from fashion historian Anne Hollander, a longtime member of the Institute, and former president of the PEN American Center. Hollander was the author of Seeing Through Clothes, Moving Pictures, and Sex and Suits: The Evolution of Modern Dress. At the time of her death, in 2014, she was working on a book ab…
 
The Vietnamese victory over the French forces at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, which ended almost a century of French colonial rule in Indochina, is one of the most famous events in the history of anticolonialism. How were the Vietnamese communists able to achieve this remarkable victory over a much more powerful colonial force? This is the question Chris…
 
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