Sybil Oldfield ‘Thinking Against the Current’: Literature and Political Resistance – Book Review

Lincoln Green

Image © Adam Jones, Ph D

Sybil Oldfield’s collection of twenty one essays is wide-ranging in scope.  She discusses the work and activities of such diverse figures as Thomas Paine, Charles Dickens, Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, Simone Weil, Virginia Woolf, Sophie Scholl and Helen Keller.  What ties these figures together is their concern for emancipation – social, economic and political.  In their different ways and times they all acted to liberate human potential from the control of a dominant state or a socially endemic mind-set which inhibited the development of what we might be as people and as a society.  Another theme which runs through these essays is the kindness which her subjects demonstrate to others, to those dispossessed from those conditions which promote well-being.  The word ‘kindness’ has perhaps rather meek and passive associations, but Oldfield’s subjects often worked in terrifying circumstances, facing terror and a horrendous death whilst they sought to apply such gentle concerns to their dealings with fellow human beings.   Read more of this post

Unsafe God`s book promotion@LeftCentral

Book promotion@LeftCentral 

This book makes the compelling argument that religion can be complicit in conflict and that a new secularism is vital to foster security. Using insights from complexity science, it shows how dynamic secularism can be used to accommodate diverse faiths and beliefs within worldly politics.

Exploration of the interplay of religion and education in the context of security and notions of safe schools offers new understandings of how religions learn – or instead remain frozen accidents that hinder societies from adapting to change. The book shows how turbulence and amplification underscore the necessity for an education that is critical even of patriarchal religious texts and that recognizes the power of satire and humour.

Lynn Davies follows her groundbreaking work on education and extremism to draw on work in mentoring those at risk of radicalization and consider how the radicalized learn and unlearn their behaviours. She presents international examples to show how a foundation in secular rights and freedoms can enable young people to develop the skills and networks to create change without turning to violence.

Author: Lynn Davies

See more at: http://ioepress.co.uk/books/social-justice-equality-and-human-rights/unsafe-gods/#sthash.IlOKIRHi.dpuf

Sending out Ireland`s Poor – book promotion@LeftCentral

Sending out Ireland`s Poor 

Between 1800 and 1914 over eight million people emigrated from Ireland. While the majority paid their own passage or had the fares paid by relations and friends in North America, there was a sizeable group who could not afford to leave. This book looks at the 300,000 emigrants who went to North America from nineteenth-century Ireland and who had their fares paid by the British government, landlords, poor law unions and philanthropists. Most of these emigrants were among the poorest people in Ireland: workhouse paupers, landless labourers, single women or those living in the congested board areas where they encountered perennial destitution and near famine conditions.  Read more of this post

The Lost World of Rhodes by Nathan Shachar book review

Mike Guilfoyle

Image © Mstyslav Chernov

I was immediately drawn towards Nathan Shachar’s evocative and moving book on the formative historic influences that have he notes contributed so much to the diverse and richly textured socio -cultural inheritance of the Greek Island of Rhodes, the largest of the twelve Dodecanese islands situated near to South-Eastern Turkey (remarkably it only became a part of Greece in 1948!).  An Island that has been so memorably shaped and contoured by the confluence of epochal storied events ably detailed in this deeply humane and insightful narrative.   Read more of this post

In Search of the City on a Hill book promotion@LeftCentral

In Search of the City on a Hill 

In Search of the City on a Hill reconstructs the complete story of ‘the city on a hill’ from its Puritan origins to the present day for the first time. From John Winthrop’s 1630 ‘Model of Christian Charity’ and the history books of the nineteenth century to the metaphor’s sudden prominence in the 1960s and Reagan’s skilful incorporation of it into his rhetoric in the 80s, ‘the city on a hill’ has had a complex history: this history reveals much about received notions of American exceptionalism, America’s identity as a Christian nation, and the impact of America’s civil religion. Through this history, the book challenges the widespread assumption that Americans have always used this potent metaphor to define their national identity. It demonstrates that America’s ‘redeemer myth’ owes more to nineteenth- and twentieth-century reinventions of the Puritans than to the colonists’ own conceptions of divine election. The conclusion considers the current status of ‘the city on a hill’ and summarizes what this story of national myth eclipsing biblical metaphor teaches us about the evolution of America’s identity.

Published by Bloomsbury Academic

Author: Richard M. Gamble

This book will be reviewed at the Central soon.

Darcus Howe: A Political Biography book promotion@LeftCentral

Darcus Howe: A Political Biography

Darcus Howe: a Political Biography examines the struggle for racial justice in Britain through the lens of one of Britain’s most prominent and controversial black journalists and campaigners.

Born in Trinidad during the dying days of British colonialism, Howe has become an uncompromising champion of racial justice. The book examines how Howe’s unique political outlook was inspired by the example of his friend and mentor C.L.R. James, and forged in the heat of the American civil rights movement, as well as Trinidad’s Black Power Revolution. Read more of this post

Reconstructing Spain book promotion@LeftCentral

Reconstructing Spain 

This book explores the role of cultural heritage in post-conflict reconstruction, whether as a motor for the prolongation of violence or as a resource for building reconciliation. The research was driven by two main goals: first, to understand the post-conflict reconstruction process in terms of cultural heritage, and second, to identify how this process evolves in the medium term and the impact it has on society. The Spanish Civil War (1936–39) and its subsequent phases of reconstruction provides the primary material for this exploration. In pursuit of the first goal, the book centres on the material practices and rhetorical strategies developed around cultural heritage in post-civil war Spain and the victorious Franco regime’s reconstruction. The analysis seeks to capture a discursively complex set of practices that made up the reconstruction and in which a variety of Spanish heritage sites were claimed, rebuilt or restored and represented in various ways as signs of historical narratives, political legitimacy and group identity. The reconstruction of the town of Gernika is a particularly emblematic instance of destruction and a significant symbol within the Basque regions of Spain as well as internationally. By examining Gernika it is possible to identify some of the trends common to the reconstruction as a whole along with those aspects that pertain to its singular symbolic resonance. In order to achieve the second goal, the processes of selection, value change and exclusionary dynamics of reconstruction and the responses it elicits are examined. Exploring the possible impact of post-civil war reconstruction in the medium term is conducted in two time frames: the period of political transition that followed General Franco’s death in 1975; and the period 2004–2008, when Rodríguez Zapatero’s government undertook initiatives to ‘recover the historic memory’ of the war and dictatorship. Finally, the observations made of the Spanish reconstruction are analysed in terms of how they might reveal general trends in post-conflict reconstruction processes in relation to cultural heritage. These insights are pertinent to the situations in Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Published: Sussex Academic Press (UK) - March   2014 – Author: Dacia Viejo-Rose

We are delighted to announce that Dr Alan Sennett will review this book at the Central, his own text Revolutionary Marxism in Spain 1930-1937 is out in June.

Aristocrats, Adventurers and Ambulances book promotion@LeftCentral

Aristocrats, Adventurers and Ambulances 

When a military coup provoked civil war in Spain in July 1936, many thousands of people around the world rallied to provide humanitarian aid. Britons were no exception. Collective efforts in Britain to provide aid for the Spanish Republic were vast in both scope and effect. Whilst such enterprise has formed the focus of a few previous studies, some of the most dramatic stories of the Spanish war have yet to be uncovered. This book seeks to shed light on the activities of two separate ventures that played important roles in British medical and humanitarian aid to Spain — the Scottish Ambulance Unit and Sir George Young’s Ambulance Unit. The volunteer members of these teams (those who went out to Spain and those who supported them in Britain) earned the unstinting praise of the Spanish government for their selfless commitment to the cause, as well as winning the respect and gratitude of the citizens whose welfare they strove so selflessly to protect. Recently discovered documentation reveals previously undisclosed details of these remarkably altruistic and, indeed, heroic enterprises, clarifying the reasoning behind their creation and documenting their endeavours in Spain — endeavours of key relevance to the wider history of the conflict. In Spain, the volunteers of the Scottish Ambulance Unit and the George Young Ambulance Unit offered a heartening and inspiring antithesis to the suffering they sought to relieve. They deserve to be remembered for what they embodied during those days of untold cruelty and destruction — outstanding examples of man’s humanity to man.

Sussex Academic Press (UK) - December   2013 author: Linda Palfreeman

We are delighted to announce that Dr Alan Sennett will review this book at the Central, his own text Revolutionary Marxism in Spain, 1930-1937`is due out in June.

The Muslim Struggle For Civil Rights in Spain book promotion@LeftCentral

The Muslim Struggle for Civil Rights in Spain

This book argues that secular and devout Muslims have fortified rather than compromised, as popular sentiment would have it, Spain’s fragile democracy since the end of dictatorship in 1975. Despite a broad diversity and often conflicting agendas, Spain’s Muslims have mobilised as an effective force and thrust themselves into the public arena. In demanding civil rights as immigrants and citizens on par with native-born Spaniards, they have struggled to fill gaps in immigration policy and legislation on religious pluralism, have called into question prevailing Christian interpretations of Spanish history, and have employed such concepts as convivencia (peaceful coexistence) and arraigo (rootedness) to argue their case, forcing Spanish society to open up a space for them and the government to expand legal protections to the levels of other developed nations. The struggle began in the city of Melilla, North Africa, in 1985 when the enclave’s Muslim residents demanded access to Spanish citizenship and challenged what they perceived to be a privileging of Christian Spaniards. In 1989, the movement spread to mainland Spain, where Muslims formed independent organisations, proposed modification to unfair immigration laws, and pushed for the regularisation of undocumented residents. A major focus is how practising Muslims, both migrants and native converts, have worked to institutionalise Islam in Spain, have constructed mosques despite opposition, and have accommodated the state’s secular vision of women’s rights. Another focus examines the ways Muslims have interrogated the iconic image of the Moor in Spanish history and in festivities such as the Festivals of Moors and Christians, and how this has aroused tensions in areas with strong regional nationalist traditions, especially Catalonia. The study concludes with a survey of writings, in Spanish and Catalan, by Muslim immigrants, and how these works have helped to publicise the everyday experience of migration in Spain and to redefine what it means to be Muslim and Spanish. Read more of this post

The last ‘respectable’ forms of racism

Kate D’Arcy 

Image © I, mattwj2002

I worry that there’s still no official education policy on race equality, discrimination and exclusion. I am anxious about the children who have intersecting inequalities which the system allows to wreck their educational opportunities. I am troubled that so few people even give such matters thought. Maybe it is because equality policies and procedures are in place that people assume issues of race and racism have been addressed?

It sharpens perception to focus on one community, so here’s information about the educational inequality faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils.
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