Summary: Podularity is a regular online book programme. Join presenter George Miller in conversation with novelists, poets and writers of non-fiction in a wide variety of fields including history, politics, music, philosophy and science. Think of it as an ongoing literary festival online. What better way to discover great new things to read than to hear authors talking about them?
"I wanted to look for a politics for the stranger, and of the stranger, which didn't require of strangers to become friends with each other or with the host community. I felt that that kind of politics was just too narrow and impossible quite frankly in a very cosmopolitan age." My guest in this podcast is Ash Amin, who until last year was professor of geography at the University of Durham, and now holds the 1931 chair in geography at Cambridge. I met Ash Amin in Cambridge recently to talk about his latest book, Land of Strangers. Most modern Western societies are nothing more than a collection of strangers, Amin maintains; public and political awareness of the stranger has become acute: nobody wants the immigrant or the asylum seeker. The stranger has become a figure of fear and hate, to be contained and disciplined. Land of Strangers argues that humanist policies of inclusiveness are not up to the demands of our extraordinarily cosmopolitan age. The book instead calls for a different kind of politics of togetherness, one in which a certain kind of “civility of indifference to difference” can be cultivated. And it looks at how this attitude might play out in reality at the level of the state but also in our habits of daily living, through which we might become unperturbed by the presence of the stranger in our midst - in other words, ways in which a different politics of the stranger may be forged. To listen to the complete interview, click here. To listen to extracts, choose from the links below: 1. In the introduction, Ash Amin talks of the "urgency of the political moment". I began by asking him about the timeliness of Land of Strangers. To listen, click here. 2. "Aversion" is frequently cited in the book as a pervasive attitude to strangers. I asked Ash Amin to expand on this here. 3. The metaphor of the drawbridge also occurs more than once; keeping out those that society deems undesirable. How does it operate? Click here. 4. Land of Strangers is a work of analysis but also a polemic. I asked why. Click here. 5. Is "stranger" a rather shifting term? Click here 6. Was it 9/11 which marked the radical shift from the multicultural politics of the 1990s to the new era in which we find ourselves? Click here. 7. If the prevailing humanist discourse is inadequate to create a new kind of politics of integration, as Land of Strangers argues, what other options are available? Click here. 8. Does "phenotypical racism" as described in the book offer a highly pessimistic analysis of the human condition? Click here. 9. Is a return to economic stability a necessary condition for the kind of politics of integration that Ash Amin wishes to see? Click here. 10. How big an obstacle is the lack of a compelling counter-narrative to the neo-liberal/catastrophist one? Click here.
In this month's podcast for Le Monde diplomatique, I speak to Noëlle Burgi about the heavy toll that austerity measures are exacting in her homeland, Greece. Noëlle, who is a researcher at the Centre Européen de Sociologie et de Sciences Politique (CESSP), Sorbonne University, Paris, describes Athens and Thessaloniki as "dying cities", in which drug use, mental health problems, domestic violence and prostitution are all on the increase. Not least of the Greeks' problems is a feeling of powerlessness as their welfare state becomes hollowed out and their household incomes plummet. To listen to the interview, click here. And to read Noëlle Burgi's article, click here.
In September I met up with Carol Gilligan at Polity's offices in Cambridge to record this two-part interview in which she talked about her childhood, writing her landmark study In a Different Voice (1982), her most recent book Joining the Resistance, and her thoughts on what has been achieved in the three decades since In a Different Voice appeared. She also talks about what remains to be done to achieve a post-patriarchal world in which individuals' voices are both heard and respected. "I am a woman who listens," Carol writes in her new book. That is certainly true. She is also a woman who speaks eloquently and passionately about the ideas that animate her, often linking them in to her own life experiences. To listen to part 1 of the interview, click here. And for part 2, click here.
My daughters, Livi and Abby, interviewed Joanna Nadin (far right below, with fellow authors after the Queens of Teen event) before her talk at the Bath Children's Literature Festival last month. Click here to listen to the interview. [9:56]
In this month's podcast for Le Monde diplomatique I talk to Eric Alterman about his piece on Barack Obama in the October edition of the paper, entitled "The compromiser-in-chief". Eric's piece begins with a reminder of the Mario Cuomo quote: "campaign in poetry but govern in prose" and goes on to look at the ways in which Obama's record is looking decidedly prosaic. "Deal-maker not world-shaker" is Alterman's verdict, and the terms of the deals being made in Washington are increasingly being set by the Republicans. I began by asking Eric about the disappointment felt by those who elected a president who promised "bold and swift" action. To listen to the podcast, click here. Complete archive of LMD podcasts here. Eric Alterman is a Distinguished Professor of English and Journalism at Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, a columnist for The Nation, The Forward, and The Daily Beast, and a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, the Nation Institute and the World Policy Institute.
Earlier this year, just before Oxford University Press's flagship medical title, the Oxford Textbook of Medicine, went online for the first time, I met all three editors of the book and interviewed them about it. The book attempts no less than a full digest of the current state of medical knowledge, and is therefore a huge - and hugely ambitious - undertaking. I was keen to find out more about the values which underpinned the book and also the practical side - how is it possible to stay on top of such a vast and ever-changing field, what does the future hold for the book now that it has gone online, and what are the pleasures of working on such a long-term project? Though the book is intended primarily for professionals, it also finds its way into other contexts; it's often cited in courts of law, for example. So I hope that this interview will be of interest to medics and non-medics alike. After all, it's far from unlikely that at some point in your life a medic will refer to this book with reference to your own health care... Key to speakers' initials: DAW - David A. Warrell, Emeritus Professor of Tropical Medicine and Honorary Fellow of St Cross College, University of Oxford TMC - Timothy M. Cox, Professor of Medicine, University of Cambridge; Honorary Consultant Physician, Addenbrooke's Hospital. Cambridge JDF - John D. Firth, Consultant Physician and Nephrologist, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge 1. First I asked about the origins of the book and the principles on which it was founded (DAW). Click here to listen to David Warrell's answer. 2. What is the audience for the book and how is that reflected in its content? (JDF, DAW) Click here 3. What sort of contributors have the editors recruited to the project? (JDF, TMC) Click here 4. What brief do the contributors get before they write their chapters? (JDF, DAW) Click here 5. What does the move online mean for the Oxford Textbook of Medicine and how will the book maintain its relevance? (JDF, DAW) Click here 6. Do the editors need to be constantly aware of the need to balance the theory and practice of medicine in their presentation of it in the textbook? (JDF, DAW, TMC) Click here 7. Medicine is practiced in very different economic, political and cultural contexts around the globe. How does the Textbook cope with that fact? (JDF, DAW) Click here 8. Does complementary medicine belong in a book on evidence-based medicine? (TMC) Click here 9. The chapter on psychiatry says explicitly that some readers may find it an unnecessary add-on. Clearly this is not a view shared by the book's editors. (TMC, DAW) Click here 10. I remarked that successive editions of the book must have reflected the changing role of the physician over the past decades... (TMC) Click here 11. ... and also of course changes in human behaviour. (TMC) Click here 12. I wondered whether in a sense the whole book was a reflection of the editors' view of what the ideal physician would be like. (JDF, DAW) Click here 13. How will updates happen now that the book is available online? (JDF) Click here 14. Is there a danger that, with all the advances in contemporary medicine, the Textbook may cease to be able to keep up with progress? (JDF, DAW) Click here 15. Finally I asked all three editors for their personal impressions of being an editor of this flagship publication. (TMC, JDF, DAW) Click here
Next month, renowned art historian Martin Kemp publishes Christ to Coke, a richly ilustrated exploration of how eleven images, from the face to Christ to the Coke bottle, have become icons. Along the way, he also investigates the stories of the cross, the Mona Lisa, the double helix and Che Guevara, inter al. 1. When I interviewed Martin about the book, I began by asking him to define what he meant by an icon. [Click here to listen to extract.] 2. Next I asked him to sketch out the process by which an image turned into an icon. [Click here] 3. How, I wondered, did he select the eleven images that he features in the book? [Click here] 4. Why was Christ the first image he selected? Did that mean the ancient world didn't produce other icons with staying power? [Click here] 5. The image of Christ had to overcome obstacles in order to become an icon. Martin Kemp explains these here. [Click here] 6. In many instances, the icon draws some of its power from its backstory. How does this work? [Click here] 7. What part do chance and accidents play in an image becoming an icon? [Click here] 8. Martin Kemp reflects on the great emotional power invested in the Stars and Stripes as an icon. [Click here] 9. All the icons in the book share at least one common characteristic: their ability to retain power. [Click here] 10. In our image-saturated visual culture today, does Martin Kemp think it has become harder for an image to make the transition to icon? [Click here] 11. In terms of subject matter, this book marks something of a departure for Martin as a writer. He explains this here. [Click here] 12. From the world of modern science, Martin Kemp chose two icons: the double helix and 'e = mc2'. Does the great complexity of science mean that it is much harder for it to generate icons? [Click here]
“If they [far-right parties] can actually get their act together and leave specific ideological questions behind them, they can form a bloc in the European Union, get access to public money, and take advantage of a growing anti-elite and growing anti-European Union sentiment that's felt by vast sections of European populaces.” - K. Biswas In this month's podcast for Le Monde diplomatique, I talk to journalist and author K. Biswas about the fortunes of Europe's far-right populist parties, many of which have entered mainstream politics in ways unthinkable a decade ago. We discuss the role of the media and of leadership in their rise, and also how to interpret July's tragic events in Norway in the context of far-right politics. To listen to the podcast, click here.
Sylvia Walby is Professor of Sociology and UNESCO Chair in Gender Relations at Lancaster University. Her publications include Theorizing Patriarchy, Globalization and Inequalities, and Gender Transformations. I interviewed her recently about her latest book, The Future of Feminism, described by a reviewer as "[a] balanced and thoughtful assessment of the changes feminism has wrought and the challenges it faces". 1. I began by asking her if she could understand the forces and pressures that created the widespread assumption that we are living in a post-feminist age. [Click here] 2. In her book, Sylvia Walby discusses how feminism has changed form from its early days. I asked her to give me a tour d'horizon of those variant forms here. [Click here] 3. Sylvia Walby contends that the "depth" of a democracy is critical to determining how successfully a feminist agenda can be pursued within it. I asked her to expand on this notion here. [Click here] 4. Despite progress, violence against women remains a problem in many different contexts. Given the range of different interventions - global human rights, international co-ordination, local grassroots - I asked Sylvia Walby if it was possible to assess their relative effectiveness. [Click here] 5. If Sylvia Walby had been asked twenty years ago about where she thought the feminist agenda would be today, how accurate would her assessment have been? [Click here] 6. "Promising start, but major challenges ahead" is the heading of one of the final sections of the book. How optimistic is Sylvia Walby that those challenges can be met? [Click here] To listen to the complete interview, click here. To watch a short video about the book, click here.
John Urry is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University. His many publications include Sociology Beyond Society and After the Car. I met him recently in Lancaster to talk to him about his latest book, Climate Change and Society, which explores the significance of human behaviour for understanding the causes and impacts of changing climates and responding to those impacts. 1. I began by asking him about his central thesis, that sociology ought to replace economics as the main discourse for understanding anthropogenic climate change. [Click here] 2. Next I asked about whether understanding how complex systems functioned in the past and present can provide any guidance to the future. [Click here] "Sociology can bring out the enduring social and economic conflicts which inhibit change..." 3. John Urry reflects on how sociology can sharpen our understanding the vested interests of the "carbon military-industrial complex" and how those interests constrain responses to climate change. [Click here] 4. In Climate Change and Society, John Urry writes that we shall all have to become futurologists by necessity. I asked him about the difficulty of this, given that we are dealing with two highly complex systems: the climate and human societies. [Click here] "There is a very good reason why no future is good..." 5. John Urry on the "narrowed range of possibilities" that the twentieth century bequeathed the twenty-first. [Click here] To watch a short video about the book, click here. To listen to the complete interview, click here.
In the August edition of Le Monde diplomatique, George Miller talks to John R MacArthur, publisher of Harper’s Magazine and author of books including The Selling of ‘Free Trade’: NAFTA, Washington and the Subversion of American Democracy,about the impact Nafta has had on American jobs and communities since it came into effect in 1994. To date an estimated two and a half million US workers are unemployed as a result of it. To listen to the podcast, click here.
"International law should certainly be an important strand in any debate about going to war, but it should not dominate and crowd out discussions about morality, about prudence, about efficacy, and most of all about consequences." In the July edition of Le Monde diplomatique, New York-based civil rights lawyer Chase Madar writes about how far we have drifted from the post-war vision of international law as an instrument for regulating and upholding a peaceful world order. In his analysis, international law has in fact become what he calls "a supple instrument for war", as evinced most recently in the case of international intervention in Libya. In this interview for Le Monde diplomatique he explains his reasoning to George Miller. To listen, click here.
In this month's podcast for Le Monde diplomatique, George Miller interviews Tony Wood, deputy editor of the New Left Review, about the wave of protests sparked by the UK coalition government's planned £80bn public spending cuts. As public anger grows, are we on the brink of the biggest public engagement with politics since the miners' strike of the mid-1980s? To listen to the interview, click here.
In this month's podcast for Le Monde diplomatique, George Miller speaks to journalist and Middle East specialist Patrick Seale about the current unrest in Syria and the chances of survival for the Assad dynasty, which has ruled the country for four decades. To listen to the interview, click here.
Daniel Miller is professor of material culture at University College London. His new book, Tales from Facebook (Polity, 2011) looks at the impacts of being a Facebook user on people's everyday lives. Drawing his examples from an in-depth study of Facebook users in Trinidad, the book is in part a sequence of detailed pen-portraits of a dozen individuals whose habits he examined. What emerges is a picture more fascinating and more complex than the easy media generalizations about Facebook's impact on society. To listen to my complete interview with Daniel Miller click here. To listen to shorter sections of the interview, click on the links which interest you below. 1. Why did you focus on Trinidadian Facebook users, rather than users in London, New York or Sydney? Click here. 2. You describe Facebook as being uncannily well-suited to Trinidadian culture. In what ways? Click here. 3. How did you go about researching something as personal as how people use Facebook? Click here. 4. What do you make of the charge that Facebook is just a waste of time? Click here. 5. Much of the book concerns Facebook's effect on relations between men and women. So is there an erotics of Facebook? Click here. 6. You suggest that Facebook may in fact be a conservative force. Can you explain what you mean by this? Click here. 7. Finally, do you have any predictions as to how Facebook will develop in the future? Click here.