Lost World of Rhodes book promotion@LeftCentral

Lost World of Rhodes  

Four peoples, each with its own culture, language and faith, shared a small Mediterranean town and experienced, each in its own way, the upheavals of war, modernity, emigration and occupation. With the German takeover in 1943, the Holocaust in 1944 and the beginning of Greek rule in 1947, this multiethnic world perished forever. At the centre of this book stands the Sephardi community — Spanish-speaking Jews who arrived in Rhodes sometime after the Spanish expulsion edict of 1492 and who remained the largest single group within the old city walls until Italy adopted German racial legislation in 1938. When sultan Abdulhamit II ascended to the Ottoman throne in 1876, the Jews of Rhodes were among his most loyal and traditional, not to say hidebound, subjects. But within the course of a few decades, this bastion of piety and rabbinical tradition was thoroughly transformed by French rationalism, Italian secularism and the pressures of economic globalisation. Many unlikely characters come alive in this spirited account of the vibrant and irretrievably lost world of Rhodes: The French monks who impart universal values to provincial Turks, Greeks and Jews; the Rhodian schoolboy lost in a Congolese jungle; the Italian general who brings sanitation to the medieval town; the Greek shepherd who knows the history of Rhodes better than any scholar; the Turkish diplomat whose wife was murdered by the Nazis and then risked his life to save Jews from the SS. These are just some of the stories related directly to the author, who combines journalism with scholarship in the recreation of a unique cultural microcosm.

Sussex Academic Press (UK) – April   2013  Author: Nathan Shachar

We are delighted to announce that Mike Guilfoyle will be reviewing this text at the Central.

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.
Read more of this post

Pedagogy of Hope, Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire – Book Review

Lincoln Green 

Image © Slobodan Dimitrov

Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of Hope, first published in 1992, was written “in rage and love”, passionate in its denunciation of social wrongs and in its assertion of the power of education to release the truth.  The book works at both inspirational and practical levels, Freire believing that hope must be secured in practice, in action.  In his own life, Freire embodied this integration of love and need for securing social change.  His thinking and commitment to the best in humanity informed his engagement in the world.  Pedagogy of Hope illuminates Freire’s earlier publications including Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968) which with sales of over one million copies has had extraordinary impact throughout the world in its analysis of socially and personally transformative education.  Read more of this post

What Price Justice – The demise of Probation?

Mike Guilfoyle 

Image©Mummelgrummel

It was a piquant moment for me, reading that the prominent Human Rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC had been broached to consider instigating legal action.  This in response to the ill-considered and mean spirited move by the ‘ Hard line’ Justice Secretary Chris Grayling MP, prohibiting the sending into prisons of books by families and friends under recently imposed restrictions introduced last November via a Ministry of Justice edict, with the Orwellian prefix PSI 30/2013 (Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme). This policy recalled for me, the redoubtable prison reformer Sir Alexander Paterson, who coined the famous adage `that men (sic) come to prison as a punishment, not for punishment’.  Read more of this post

Wadjda – a Film Review

Lincoln Green 

Image © Arria Belli

[The review contains plot details.]

The child’s perspective provides the film director with an opportunity to observe and implicitly comment on a situation with an unencultured and potentially critical eye.  This device has been used in films such as Offside (2006, dir. Jafar Panahi ) where an Iranian girl attempts to watch a World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Bahrain, Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, dir. Guillermo del Toro) where fantasy plays alongside the horrors of war in 1944 fascist Spain, and numerous others.

In Wadjda (2012) the female writer and director Haifaa Al Mansour employs this technique to comment on cultural norms, particularly those affecting women, in present day Saudi Arabia.  The film is the first official Saudi Arabian submission to the Oscars and the first feature length film made by a Saudi female.  To avoid problems when filming with mixed genders Al Mansour had to direct some outdoor scenes via radio when concealed in the back of a van.   Read more of this post

In Defence of the War Poets

Katherine Edwards

Should the First World War be seen principally as a European and world catastrophe or as a British triumph? As we mark the centenary of the Great War, the debate on its commemoration has intensified, with the Education Secretary recently lambasting senior academics for their lack of patriotism.  Attacks on the influence of Blackadder are fast becoming just as much a cliché of the ‘revisionist’ school as the clichés the revisionists claim to be dispelling.  And where Blackadder is mentioned we can be sure the war poets – and Wilfred Owen in particular – will be the target of the next sneer. Hew Strachan is intent on demonstrating that ‘there was something more between 1914 and 1918 than futility and poems’.   Michael Morpurgo came under fire in the Moral Maze for citing Wilfred Owen.  More recently John Blake painted a scornful picture of teachers ‘sonorously intoning’ Owen’s poetry, placing much of the blame for what he considers to be the ‘myths’ taught about World War One on the excessive influence of Owen and Sassoon, who he claims, are misleadingly ‘sold as the authentic voice of the front-line soldier’. Read more of this post

Days of Hope (1916: Joining Up – Episode 1): Directed by Ken Loach (1975)

LeftCentral Review 

This outstanding four part drama begins in 1916; it initially concentrates on Phillip Hargreaves (Nikolas Simmonds) and his wife Sarah Hargreaves (Pamela Brighton).  The opening scene takes us to the Matthews homestead, where Ben Matthews (Paul Copley) meets a soldier and neighbour (Peter Russell) on leave from Flanders; he is carrying a gun and wearing khaki. The soldier in a passing reference to the Matthews family points out “bet their making a right packet, what with the war and the price of beef and all”.  Thus the stage is set for the paradox of the Great War on the home front, as Ben warns his sister that the Police have arrived on the farm to arrest Philip, a socialist and conscientious objector. This prompts Philip and Sarah to organise their departure, while Tom Matthews (Cliff Kershaw) provides the couple with money to make good their escape to London. Sarah’s father does this, even though he is an advocate of war (later attending a pro-war meeting).  Prior to leaving Phillip and Tom debate the issue around the dinner table, allowing Philip to forward a developing socialist analysis.  Despite the views articulated by Tom in opposition, his position is clearly an ambiguous one; he is reluctant to sanction his son’s premature army call up and refuses to view his son-in-law as a coward.  Read more of this post

The Intellectual Life Of The British Working Classes by Jonathan Rose, Book Review

Left Central Book Review

Jonathan Rose has provided a service to the working class, an increasingly ignored and demonised section of UK society; clearly there is more to this maligned group than the sobriquet, Chav. Although such hostility is not new; as the working class portrayal by EM Foster in Howard`s End indicates, the caricature of Leonard Bast, soundly critiqued in this text. Rose compares Leonard Bast with Manchester clerk Neville Cardus, he and a companion we are informed, “talked and talked…not to air our economic grievances, not to spout politics and discontent, but to relieve the ferment of our minds, our emotions after the impact of Man and Superman, Elektra, Riders to the Sea, Pelleas and Melisande, Scheherazade, Prince Igor”. Cardus a brilliant autodidactic represents a highly prevalent though largely forgotten feature of our industrial past. Today readers assimilate classical literature by first buying a`Beginners Guide`, it can only be imagined what the Scottish weavers of the Industrial Revolution would have thought of this. Mill workers carrying out intricate and tough manual labour, while next to them perched on a reading stand was a copy of the Iliad or the Odyssey. They read an entire canon of classical literature this way, an army of working class autodidacts, learning at their work station. Jonathan Rose like the Scottish weavers he so eloquently describes has seamlessly woven a vast collection of working class memoirs into a compelling piece of prose with an essence of John Clare. Read more of this post

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