Author: Yale University Press

Angry Birds: Russian Censorship of the Arts

Janice Ross—

“Ballerinas dance anti-Putin Swan Lake in Odessa.”  The headline sounds like a set-up for a sketch comedy routine but it was deadly earnest. This past May, four Ukranian ballerinas donned tutus and pointe shoes and interlaced arms to dance the four little swans quartet from Swan Lake as an act of protest against Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“We are here to send a message that by unleashing aggression against Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has made a fatal mistake,” regional lawmaker Oleksiy Honcharenko told Ukrainian television cameras when introducing the Swan Lake excerpt. “Today Odessa, as a cultural capital, performs for him this portentous composition.”

Staged outdoors, and with a military tank as the backdrop, the choice of Swan Lake was a deliberately satiric nod by the Ukranians to the Soviet-era tradition of televising the ballet Swan Lake to signal a change in the country’s leadership. In 1982, 1984, 1985, and 1991 the announcement of the deaths of Leonid Brezhnev, then Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko, and, finally, the failed coup against Mikhail Gorbachev,were all heralded by official silence and a TV broadcast—Swan Lake in its full-length, four-act, three-hour expanse, preempting all regular programming.

This pairing of Russian ballet classicism with Soviet power shifts through TV broadcasts of Swan Lake at crisis points may seem puzzling to outsiders. However, those who experienced it within the Soviet system say it rapidly came to trigger just what it was supposedly intended to defuse—heightened anxiety about an imminent political shift and the awareness that someone (or something) had died:

When seasoned lawmaker Sergey Filatov, a leader of a group defending the Russian White House from the August 1991 anti-perestroika coup, turned on the TV while relaxing at the southern resort of Zheleznovodsk on August 19, 1991 he recounts his rising anxiety: “[I] saw the swans dancing. For five minutes, ten minutes, for an hour. Then I realized that something had happened because we learned to read between the lines in Soviet times,” he said.[i] Those looping Swans made Filatov jump on the next plane to Moscow where indeed an anti-perestroika coup by Communist Party hardliners was in progress.

Russian censorship may be considered a vestige of the Soviet years and its use of a ballet to portend traumatic events may be dated, but this summer, not too long after the Ukranian Swan Lake protest, these practices came roaring back.

Last year Putin had banned the use of curse words in Russian media—primarily words describing male and female reproductive organs, copulation, and “women of loose morals” according to the BBC. On July1, new prohibitions were signed into law by Putin, censoring the use of curse words in the arts and restricting the freedom of speech, artistic expression and criticism of the Russian government. These newest censorship laws, in targeting artists, carry a particular chill.

The prohibitions were conceived in the shadow of the 2012 arrest of the punk protest group, Pussy Riot, whose members were incarcerated after they performed a song in Moscow’s main cathedral that was considered offensive.  Affecting books, films, music, theatre productions among other art forms, the new law punishes any artist or cultural institution that uses curse words with fines of $70 and $1400 respectively.

Dating from the Russian Revolution, the political force of the arts in Russia has been viewed by leadership as both symbolic and deeply practical. Through the reign of Stalin and into the present moment the arts, and particularly time-based art like film, theatre and dance, were considered important mediums of ideological persuasion.

Swan Lake was used as hedge against saying anything in a time of political emergency, but to the astute dance observer, Swan Lake actually did offer an explanation. Through the medium of dance a vision of idealized nationalism can be performed – a trigger for sentiments of kinship at the inherent “Russianness” of these bodies on that stage, in those formations. There are few stronger visceral images of social harmony on stage than an ensemble of bodies rehearsed into that tight unison of the corps de ballet and few more seductive images for the spectator that prompt the illusion of vicarious participation, than the assembly and dispersing of circles/lines and diagonals of identically costumed women in swan feathers. It is like some primordial flock to which we all secretly yearn to belong.

This rising censorship against the arts in Russia however, suggests artists there may do well to revisit the strategies that enabled their artistic predecessors to survive and make art under totalitarian rule in the previous century as they ponder the growing shadows.


 

Janice Ross, Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies at Stanford University, is the  author of Like A Bomb Going Off: Leonid Yakobson and Ballet as Resistance in Soviet Russia, (January 2015), Yale University Press.


[i] Bratersky, A. (2011). Yeltsin Ally Saw ‘Swan Lake’ as Call to Arms. Moscow Times. Moscow, August 19. P. 5

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.

What SUP From Your Favorite University Presses, August 15, 2014

sup-300x209Welcome to our weekly roundup of news from university presses! Once again, there is a lot to share this week from our fellow academic publishing houses and much to learn on What SUP at the social university presses. This week, we stop meddling, participate in citizen science, and evaluate research on inequality. What did you read this week?

Columbia University Press asks why Roberto Bolaño’s novels, especially The Savage Detectives and 2666, were so widely read and so well regarded in the United States. Chris Andrews, author of Roberto Bolaño’s Fiction, gives a brief history of the writer’s reception and lists seven possible reasons for his popularity.

New York University Press celebrates the end of summer with a giveaway of Books That Cook, a collection of American literature written about food and organized like a cookbook. It includes pieces by Maya Angelou, Sherman Alexie, and Nora Ephron, among many others.

Indiana University Press encourages everyone to mind their own business with the latest episode of the Press’s podcast. John Lachs discusses his book, Meddling, and distinguishes between helping people and intruding on their private lives and decisions.

Johns Hopkins University Press considers reactions to neoliberalism in Central America with a guest post by Paul Almeida. In his books, Waves of Protest and Mobilizing Democracy, he focuses on economic conflicts in El Salvador with attention to Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and other countries as well.

Temple University Press tells the life story of Albert M. Greenfield, a Jewish immigrant who shook up business practices in the 1920s and ’30s. In an interview, Dan Rottenberg discusses The Outsider, his book about Greenfield, and the challenge of separating fact from myth when writing about a man who described himself in many different ways at different times.

Oregon State University Press explores the new and interrelated ways policy makers, professional researchers, and enthusiastic amateurs engage with science. Sharman Apt Russell, author of Diary of a Citizen Scientist, shares her reflections on the first national conference for citizen science and mentions some of the ongoing projects in which she and others participate.

Oxford University Press argues that laughter and aggression might have more in common than we usually think with an excerpt from Comedy, Matthew Bevis’s contribution to their series of Very Short Introductions. Bevis shows how near oxymorons like “playful anger” and “outrageous outrage” capture key emotional realities.

Stanford University Press evaluates the success and importance of research on inequality with a post by David Grusky. He explains that questions about systemic change remain largely unanswered and calls for study in the field to continue. Grusky acknowledges that academics trends shift unpredictably, but hopes that inequality will remain a mainstream concern.

Are Sharks Really the Biggest Threat at the Beach?

Stephen P. Leatherman—

Beaches are the most popular recreational areas in the United States; more than 200 million Americans trek to the shore each year. Beaches help fulfill our desire to return to nature. While families reminisce, they often recall their beach vacations as being among the most memorable. Yet ocean beaches can also be hazardous, and few people understand or know how to recognize potential trouble.

Humans have a primordial fear of sharks—these great teethy predators. Although gruesome shark attacks do occur, sharks are statistically not a real danger for beachgoers. On average, only one person a year is killed by sharks in the United States, and most of these people are far offshore surfing or diving for abalone. Far more people are killed by bee stings, bathtub falls, and lightning strikes than by shark attacks. In fact, you have a better chance of winning the state lottery than being killed by a shark.

The real threat to swimmers and bathers at beaches are rip currents, often misnamed undertow or rip tides. These powerful, narrow currents originate close to shore as the water from breaking waves rushes offshore in particular locations along the beach. These nearly invisible currents are responsible for about 100 drownings and more than 50,000 rescues annually!

Graphics tell the tale—rips are the real killer.Weather and Marine Related Deaths

 

So what can you do to keep yourself safe from rip currents?

Look for signs of rips before entering the ocean

  • Change in water color from the surrounding water (either murkier from sediments, seaweed, and flotsam, or darker because of the depth of the underwater channel where the rip flows).
  • Gap in the breaking waves, where the rip is forcing its way seaward through the surf zone.
  • Agitated (choppy) surface that extends beyond the breaker zone.
  • Floating objects moving steadily seaward.
  • Temperature of water—water in the rip may be colder than the surrounding water.

What to do if caught in a rip current

  • Don’t panic, which wastes your energy and keeps you from thinking clearly.
  • Don’t attempt to swim against the current directly back to shore.
  • Swim parallel to shore until you are out of the current as the offshore flow is restricted to the narrow rip neck.
  • Float calmly out with the rip if you cannot break out by swimming perpendicular to the current. When it subsides, just beyond the surf zone, swim diagonally back to shore.
  • Wave your arms in the direction of the lifeguards.

Stephen P. Leatherman, popularly known as Dr. Beach, announces his “Top Beaches List” on national television every Memorial Day weekend. He is chair, professor, and director, International Hurricane Center and Laboratory for Coastal Research, Florida International University and the author or editor of fifteen books on coastal science, including Dr. Beach’s Survival Guide.

 

Featured image of great white shark in South Africa courtesy of travelbagltd / flickr

Yale Drama Series Still Accepting Submissions!

It’s not too late to submit your manuscript for the 2015 Yale Drama Series competition. You could be awarded the David Charles Horn Prize of $10,000, publication of your play, and a staged reading at Lincoln Center Theater. The 2015 and 2016 competitions will be judged by Nicholas Wright, who has written over 30 plays, libretti, and screenplays, including  Vincent in Brixton,  Mrs. Klein, and Traveling Light. Manuscripts for the 2015 competition must be submitted no later than August 15, 2014. You can find the full guidelines here.

yale-drama-series

The Yale Drama Series is an annual, international competition for emerging playwrights that attracts over a thousand submissions each year and boasts a remarkable list of previous winners. Most recently, Janine Nabers won for her play Serial Black Face. In Serial Black Face, it’s Atlanta 1979. A serial killer is on the loose and a single black mother’s relationship with her young daughter grows more hostile when a handsome stranger enters their lives. Yale University Press is hard at work preparing the manuscript for production and publication, and in the meantime you can get to know the playwright and the 2014 judge, Marsha Norman.

StillIn 2013, Norman selected Jen Silverman‘s play Still. It’s a darkly comic exploration of loss, intimacy, and motherhood centered around three women and a baby who never lived. Silverman has said that winning the prize had both personal and political meaning for her, as the play ventures into unsafe territory with its discussion of women’s bodies and the demands our culture feels entitled to make on them. It was an amazing year for Silverman, as one of her other plays was selected for the 2013 National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill CenterStill comes out September 9th and we can hardly wait.

Clarence Coo won the competition in 2012 with his play Beautiful Province. It’s the story of a fifteen-year-old boy who decides to accompany his severely depressed high school French teacher on a road trip to Quebec. The play mixes farce with tragedy, the wildly inventive with the heartbreakingly sad, and the lofty and the fantastic with the cold, the mundane, and the all too real. Clarence Coo and John Guare, the judge who selected Beautiful Province, comment on the marks of a good play and the power of a prestigious award here.

Guare chose New Light Shine by Shannon Murdoch as 2011′s prize winner. Murdoch focused her play on four characters trapped in an argument of memory that threatens to turn perception to truth. As they sort through years of silence and half-truths they raise provocative questions about female and child sexuality as well as the responsibilities of government and community in raising children. Guare called it “raw, haunting, richly poetic, [and] deeply emotional.”

Virginia Grise won the 2010 competition with her play blu. In the play, the myth-inspired character Soledad and her partner, Hailstorm, redefine family on their own terms after the death of their eldest son in Iraq. The play challenges us to imagine a time before war through a series of prayers, rituals, and dreams. Grise is, according to contest judge David Hare, “a blazingly talented writer.”

LidlessDavid Hare picked Lidless by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig as 2009′s winning play. Lidless addresses our national political amnesia with a stylishly written interrogation of guilt’s place in moral reckoning. Hare praised the tightly controlled blend of realism and metaphor, as well as the political urgency that can propel writers and audiences to the theater.

In 2008, Neil Wechsler‘s Grenadine won the competition with a fantastical story of a man’s quest for love in the company of three devoted friends. Edward Albee lauded the play’s originality, the provocative nature of the drama’s questions and answers, and the way Grenadine stretched the minds of its readers and audience.

The Yale Drama Series kicked off in 2007 when Albee selected The Boys from Siam by John Austin Connolly as the competition’s first winner. The play is the haunting and lyrical story of Pigg and Pegg, conjoined twins loosely based on Chang and Eng Bunker (the brothers who gave rise to the term “Siamese twins”). Albee described Connolly’s work as “a beautifully realized concentrated universe.”

Yale University Press is always pleased and proud to read such wonderful submissions and publish such talented new playwrights. We’re eager to see what this year’s competition will bring and to find out which highly-deserving play will win the prize. And remember, if you submit a manuscript by August 15th, it could be yours. Best of luck!

Celebrate Book Lovers Day with 10 Books about Books!

Unpacking My LibraryAugust 9th is Book Lovers Day! It’s a time to curl up with a book or three and read your heart out, and Yale University Press is here to help you celebrate. We know that choosing what to read next can be both sweetly intoxicating and totally overwhelming, so we’ve picked out some appropriate and entertaining titles for the holiday.

If you’re a book lover looking to read about other book lovers, we’d suggest Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books edited by Leah Price. The book spotlights the personal libraries of thirteen novelists with photographs, interviews, and top ten lists from each. The featured bibliophiles include Alison Bechdel, Junot Díaz, Lev Grossman and Sophie Gee, and Gary Shteyngart.

If the books in your home library are chock full of highlights, sticky notes, and scribbles, then Marginalia by H.J. Jackson might be the title for you. Jackson reflects on the cultural and historical value of writing in the margins, examines works that have invited passionate annotation, and presents examples of the most provocative marginalia. Jackson’s enthusiasm will be all too familiar to those who read with a pen or pencil in hand.

manguel_pbcoverIf you’re looking for some friendly and passionate encouragement to crack open a book, we’d recommend A Reader on Reading by Alberto Manguel. Manguel is a prize-winning writer and a well-decorated reader, and in this collection of essays he considers the ways reading defines our species. To Manguel, narrative is the underlying structure of consciousness, and books provide an intellectual home.

If you’ve wondered how books became so widely available, you might be interested in James Raven‘s The Business of Books. Raven traces the development of English literary commerce to explain how the book went from a luxury item to a mass market commodity. In a similar spirit, Andrew Pettegree reconstructs the first 150 years of the world of print in The Book in the Renaissance. He shows that the printed book had to straddle financial and religious imperatives from the very beginning.

If you’d like to know how the book in your hands came to be so comfortable to hold and pleasant to look at, then you should check out Richard Hendel‘s On Book Design. Hendel explains how he and other designers make decisions about size, shape, typeface, arrangement, and much more as they help transform a manuscript into a finished product.

If you want to understand not just books but Great Books, let How to Read Literature by Terry Eagleton and A Little History of Literature by John Sutherland be your guides. Eagleton poses and addresses questions of evaluation and interpretation while commenting on movements including classicism, Romanticism, modernism, and postmodernism. Sutherland introduces great classics with his own twist of humor and wit, and he includes plenty of digressions into less than canonical territory (everything from Anglo-Saxon runes to The Da Vinci Code).

SeverinaIf, at the end of the day, what you’re really looking for is a well-told story, we’d recommend Severina, written by Rodrigo Rey Rosa and translated by Chris Andrews. The gripping novel centers on a bookseller and the enigmatic thief who throws his world into disarray. It’s a must-read book by a contender for Guatemala’s most prominent literary figure.

If you are interested in the history of Yale University Press and the challenges of university press publishing in general, we’d point you to A World of Letters by Nicholas A. Basbanes. The book recounts the various successes and controversies of Yale University Press’s first one hundred years (1908-2008).

Regardless what you choose to page through next, we hope you have a great Book Lovers Day. And let us know what you’re currently reading in the comments section below!

Breaking Down Racial Barriers in Dance: Then and Now

The Dance Claimed Me by Peggy and Murray SchwartzAfrican-American ballet dancer Misty Copeland has been in the news a lot in recent months. From her now viral Under Armor commercial to the pages of Vogue, from network and cable talk shows to So You Think You Can Dance, from the New York Times bestseller list to Jacobs Pillow, Ms. Copeland seems to be everywhere. She has captured the public’s often fickle attention, and she is using her time in the spotlight to raise tough questions about race in dance and to defy ideas about what a ballerina looks like. Everywhere she goes, she speaks about the lack of racial diversity in ballet and about the particular challenges faced by black female dancers.

Misty’s moment in the spotlight brings to mind an earlier black dancer who leaped into public consciousness, shattering stereotypes about dancers’ bodies and challenging Americans to see and understand how race operated in her world. When Pearl Primus made her concert debut in New York 1943, she stunned the audience and critics. Here was a dancer who broke the rules, defying the boundaries of both expectation and gravity. Short, muscular, and dark-skinned, she challenged ideas about what a modern dancer looked like. With her incredible leaps, she seemed to transcend physics. In her works of racial protest, she danced the parts of men and women, white and black, conveying experiences that were both specifically African American and universally human.

In The Dance Claimed Me: A Biography of Pearl Primus, Peggy and Murray Schwartz show us a woman who ignored limits imposed by others throughout her life, breaking barriers in both dance and in academia, and using her visibility to speak loudly and often about racial injustice. It is hard to overstate Pearl Primus’s impact. She taught Maya Angelou, inspired Langston Hughes, performed with Paul Robeson, coached Judith Jamison, seeded the ground for Alvin Ailey, and provided opportunities and instruction for countless dancers, choreographers, percussionists, anthropologists, and educators. She studied traditional African dances and introduced many of these dances to America, establishing rich and enduring connections between African dance and American modern dance. Generations of dancers and teachers, and some of today’s most important choreographers, are connected by her web of influence.

Pearl Primus’s frank and insistent talk about racial inequality made many people uncomfortable. Some of Misty Copeland’s critics seem to wish she would stop making such a big deal about race. After all, she has one of the most coveted jobs in ballet, soloist with American Ballet Theatre. But barrier breakers with the biggest impact are often the ones who keep on speaking, who make injustice visible for those who have trouble seeing it.

When we say we don’t want to talk about race in dance, preferring instead to be “color blind”, we ignore the fact that race has already been a part of ballet’s story. White skin has been an explicit advantage for female ballet dancers, essentially a job requirement. Overturning a long established and specifically racial preference takes effort. That’s why Misty Copeland keeps talking about race. She’s joined of course by many other important voices—check out Virginia Johnson’s brilliant statement in the trailer for the new documentary Black Ballerina.

Japan: Then and Now

Japan: The Paradox of Harmony by Keiko Hirata and Mark Warschauer

Keiko Hirata—

Sixty-nine years ago today, Hiroshima suffered the first nuclear attack in world history. Three days later, Nagasaki was similarly attacked, and within another week, what Japan calls “the Pacific War” had ended.

Japan has changed enormously in the last seven decades, transforming itself from an impoverished and defeated militaristic nation to become one of the wealthiest and best educated nations on earth, admired for its social harmony and its scientific and cultural contributions.

Yet in spite of this transformation, the legacy of World War 2 weighs heavily on Japan, as seen in current debates in the country on three critical issues: the peace constitution, the role of nationalism, and nuclear power.

One of the major reforms in the postwar era was the adoption of a US-drafted constitution that renounced the use of force to settle international disputes and that prohibited the maintenance of armed forces. With strong public support in Japan, the peace constitution has remained intact without any revisions since its inception. But the world has changed dramatically since 1945, and Japanese leaders have sought ways to cope with new security challenges within the constitutional restrictions. A first step in this direction occurred in the 1950s, when Japanese leaders—with full support and even pressure from the US (which sought a militarized ally for the developing Cold War)—decided to reinterpret the constitution to allow for the creation of military forces, as long as they were limited to self-defense. The birth of Japan’s current military, the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), came soon thereafter. In the last twenty years, Japanese government stretched the constitutional interpretation again, this time to allow overseas deployments of the SDF, but only to engage in non-military actions in non-combatant zones abroad, for example, as part of international peace-keeping or reconstruction efforts.

Today the Abe government—again supported by the US—wishes to break out of these current restraints to allow “collective” self-defense, that is, to provide military assistance to its allies when they are under attack. Abe’s preference would be to actually revise the constitution to explicitly permit this as well as broader use of force. Given the difficulty of accomplishing constitutional revision, Abe is settling for now for more “re-interpretation.” Naturally, this is opposed not only by leftists in Japan, but also by Japan’s neighbors, especially China and South Korea, which fear a return of Japanese aggression. Their mistrust of Japan is largely due to Tokyo’s amnesia about its wartime brutality. Many Japanese have come to view their country as a victim of the allies’ attacks (e.g., Hiroshima and air raids in Tokyo), rather than as a victimizer in Asia. Some Japanese nationalists have even propagated views that Japan was engaged in a war of self-defense, not aggressive war; that “comfort women” were prostitutes, not sex slaves; and that the Nanjing massacre was a fabrication. Right-wing nationalists in Japan have always promoted these views, but previously they operated on the fringes of society. Today, nationalist groups are larger and better organized and their views are even echoed in the highest levels of government, as Shinzo Abe and his advisers flirt with nationalist positions.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Hiroshima Peace Memorial, via Wikimedia Commons.

Nationalism in Japan also affects the country’s attitude toward immigration. With a birthrate far below replacement level and a rapidly aging population, Japan faces a harrowing demographic challenge. One likely solution to this is increased immigration. However, Japan has even faced challenges integrating its large South Korean population, which has lived in the country for generations. Though nationalists in Japan are most hostile to immigrant groups, discomfort with foreigners is widespread in the country and this popular sentiment creates a major obstacle toward government easing of immigration restrictions.

A final legacy of World War II relates to nuclear power. Not surprisingly, there have always been strong anti-nuclear feelings in Japan. Nevertheless, ever since the 1960s, the government has been able to convince the public that nuclear energy is a separate issue from nuclear weapons, and that such power can contribute to safe economic development. By 2011, nuclear power met some 30 percent of Japan’s energy needs and was a major factor in the country’s low carbon footprint. The Fukushima disaster shattered the country’s trust in nuclear power and revived the anti-nuclear movement. Following the disaster, all fifty-four nuclear power reactors in Japan were shut down, and none are currently operating. Energy expenses have soared, complicating the country’s economic recovery and making it more difficult for the prime minister to implement his “Abenomics” package of reforms. Abe is committed to a nuclear future for Japan, but opposition remains strong. Though debate within Japan focuses mostly on issues of public safety and economic development, there are global consequences for efforts to control climate change. Japan’s carbon emissions fell 9.2 percent per year from 2008 to 2011, but then rose 3.9 percent from 2011 to 2012. If Japan is able to re-open nuclear plants with much greater safety controls, it could set a model for safe use of nuclear power as part of a strategy for combating global warming. On the other hand, the abandonment of nuclear power in Japan, or any further serious nuclear accidents, could make it much more difficult to control carbon emissions both in Japan and around the world.

Thus while the bombing of Hiroshima occurred nearly seven decades ago, the legacy of that bombing, and of the war that it devastatingly helped bring to an end, still lives on in Japan and in East Asia. How Japan faces the ongoing legacies of World War II will help shape the future, not only of Japan but potentially of the world.


Keiko Hirata is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science, California State University, Northridge. Her latest book, written with Mark Warschauer, is Japan: The Paradox of Harmony.

What SUP From Your Favorite University Presses, August 1, 2014

sup-300x209Welcome to our weekly roundup of news from university presses! Once again, there is a lot to share this week from our fellow academic publishing houses and much to learn on What SUP at the social university presses. This week, we wish Emily Brontë a happy birthday, study eighteenth century French smugglers, and examine race riots.

Columbia University Press responds to the ongoing strife in the Middle East by posting an episode of the podcast This is Hell! Joel Migdal, author of Shifting Sands: The United States in the Middle East, provides historical context and argues that neither new maps nor American presidents will resolve the conflict.

Duke University Press celebrates the birthday of Emily Brontë with two journal articles about her work. Tiffany Tsao analyzes Brontë’s treatment of colonization while Kevin A. Morrison attends to her portrayal of male suffering.

New York University Press explores the meanings attached to diamonds with a guest post by Susan Falls, the author of Clarity, Cut, and Culture. She focuses on ways people come to associate the precious gems with the deaths of loved ones.

Harvard University Press considers the origins of global capitalism by telling the story of Louis Mandrin, a French smuggler. In doing so, Michael Kwass, author of Contraband, draws comparisons between eighteenth and twenty-first century wars on drugs.

Oregon State University Press shares Justin Wadland’s reflections on his search for the location of Home, Washington’s famous tree house. Wadland is the author of Trying Home: The Rise and Fall of an Anarchist Utopia on Puget Sound.

Oxford University Press offers a behind the score listen to 1987′s Bond film The Living Daylights with an excerpt from John Burlingame’s The Music of James Bond. Burlingame reveals that the female lead took cello lessons and that the composer appeared in the film as a conductor.

The University of Pennsylvania Press kicks off a new series of Q&A’s with an interview with Cathy Lisa Schneider, author of Police, Power, and Race Riots. Schneider studies a 1964 riot in New York City and a 2005 riot in Paris in order to illustrate their common factors.

The University of California Press sheds light on the child victims of America’s border disaster with two short narratives recounted by Susan Terrio. Terrio is the author of Whose Child Am I? which will be released May 2015.

July Theme: Where is the Money?

Everyone from Liza Minnelli to R. Kelly knows that money makes the world go round. This month, Yale University Press authors are expanding on that observation to explore the fields of economics and global finance under the banner Where is the Money? It might seem like a simple question, but to really understand where the money is, why it’s going where it’s going, and what to do about it takes a considerable amount of study and research. Or at least a good book.

In Europe’s Deadlock, David Marsh explains how the Eurozone’s crisis management has actually made things worse. Countries with weak economies come to resent creditor nations, and creditor nations fear they will have to subsidize weaker countries indefinitely. Stephen D. King, author of When the Money Runs Out, finds fault not in the structure of the European Union but in a deficient understanding of economic history. As King explains in an interview with CNBC, sustained economic growth is an anomaly, but leaders have planned for the future as though it were a given.

Jennifer Taub traces the origins of 2008′s financial meltdown in Other People’s Houses. She points to decisions in the 1980s as the underlying problem, and argues that the U.S. is not currently doing enough to prevent another crisis. Tom Clark focuses on the effects of economic crises in his book Hard TimesHe examines the social consequences of Great Recession and the Great Depression, and a great interactive infographic made by Kiln illustrates the outsize negative effects on the poor.

Where is the Money Cover Photo 2

Straits seem dire, but Yale Press authors are hard at work on creative solutions to problems big and small. In Why Nudge? Cass R. Sunstein pushes back against John Stuart Mill’s Harm Principle, and argues for a form of paternalism rooted in behavioral economics. The government, his argument runs, should create structures that encourage people to make better decisions, financial and otherwise, in their daily lives. Joseph R. Blasi, author of The Citizen’s Share, writes that the government ought to create tax incentives for companies to share profits and ownership with their employees as a way of alleviating inequality. The book is now out in paperback, and the first chapter is available as an excerpt.

Orly Lobel writes about a different way to shake up companies in her book, Talent Wants to be Free. Lobel says that corporations that aggressively restrict their talent and secrets do more to stifle innovation than to protect revenue. In Austerity, Florian Schui presents another counter-intuitive idea: arguments for austerity are not rooted in economics. Schui explains that austerity—the notion that abstinence from consumption brings benefits to states, societies, or individuals—lingers on in today’s debates because of the moral and political sentiments that have long been associated with it.

Two Yale University Press authors address the economic position of the United States by considering its alliances. Richard Rosecrance writes in The Resurgence of the West that the U.S. should join forces with the European Union in order to unblock arteries of trade and investment. The alliance could also help both parties face East Asian challengers. In a partial echo of Rosecrance’s concerns, Stephen Roach highlights the dangerous ways in which the U.S. and China depend on one another. A pair of interviews about Unbalanced make the situation frighteningly clear.

While analysts like Roach predict that China will be the world’s next superpower, Timothy Beardson expresses his reservations in Stumbling Giant. Beardson makes the case that problems with stability, prosperity, identity, and honor may thwart the country’s ambition. Michael Reid discusses the trajectory of another potential global power in Brazil. The world’s fourth most populous democracy has enjoyed some effective reformist leadership but still has a raft of social problems to address going forward.

Anupam Chander and Edward Castronova focus less on who the major economic powers will be and more on how they will wield economic power in a digital age. In The Electronic Silk Road, Chander reveals the legal complications that have arisen alongside global Internet commerce. Cases like Facebook and the Pirate Bay demonstrate the need for countries to dismantle some barriers while still protecting consumer interests. Castronova’s book, Wildcat Currency, discusses everything from medieval banking to Bitcoin while making a case for the legitimacy of virtual money. He argues that leaders must seriously consider the legal, political, and economic effects of private currencies.

We hope you enjoy these economic titles, and if you want to save money and still read great books you can enter our Goodreads Giveaways for Brazil and Wildcat Currency. Make sure to enter by July 31st!

Austerity: Reading between the lines of the economic debate

In his sweeping new book, Austerity: the Great Failure, historian Florian Schui tackles the central economic debate sprung from the Great Recession: whether decreasing government spending will renew economic growth. To this debate, Schui brings vital historical perspective – a look at the dismal track record of austerity policies over the course of their long history. Examining the arguments of key theorists of consumption, ranging from Aristotle to Margaret Thatcher, Schui demonstrates that no argument against spending has ever successfully refuted the Keynesian logic of anti-cyclical government stimulus.

What Schui reveals instead is that austerity’s long life is thanks to its moral and political underpinnings – not any economic justification. The moral authority of abstinence over greed, coupled with political maneuverings against labor and the Left, has kept austerity alive in public discourse despite its empirical shortcomings. This confusion of arguments, which Shui ably parses, is as alive in the media today as it has ever been.

Now in their fourth year, the austerity measures placed on debtor nations of the Eurozone by the International Monetary Fund and creditor-state Germany continue to return mixed results. Unemployment in Europe still hangs above 10%, and the situation in the hardest pressed nations remains bleak. In Greece, households burn furniture for heat, and the health care system is a shambles.

Yet Europe’s economic leaders continue to insist on austerity before aid. Their reasoning? Lately, the supporters of austerity have been eager to point to the apparent successes of the policy in the Baltics, particularly Latvia and Estonia.

With Schui’s argument in mind, consider some of the reports on the state of these Baltic nations from local political leaders and major media outlets. Are their arguments purely economic, or might there be moral or political traces in their statements?

  • On Estonia’s adherence to austerity, despite a GDP drop of 14% in 2009: “[Estonian president Toomas Hendrik] Ilves divides Europe into countries that follow the rules and countries that don’t… Estonians, in their own eyes, have always followed the rules, and in 2009 took their lumps to do so.”
  • Swedish economist Anders Aslund responds to Nobel laureate Paul Krugman’s critique of the Baltic ‘triumph’: “[Krugman] praises the fiscally irresponsible and scolds the virtuous, denigrating the Baltic achievements while trying to explain away miserable failures, such as Greece.”
  • On Latvia’s ‘high pain threshold’: “In Greece and Spain, cuts in salaries, jobs and state services have pushed tempers beyond the boiling point, with angry citizens staging frequent protests and strikes… But in Latvia, where the government laid off a third of its civil servants, slashed wages for the rest and sharply reduced support for hospitals, people mostly accepted the bitter medicine.”
  • And anecdotally: “When a credit-fueled economic boom turned to bust in this tiny Baltic nation in 2008, Didzis Krumins, who ran a small architectural company, fired his staff one by one and then shut down the business… But instead of taking to the streets to protest the cuts, Mr. Krumins, whose newborn child, in the meantime, needed major surgery, bought a tractor and began hauling wood to heating plants that needed fuel.”

For more close readings of the austerity debate – from the Commercial Revolution to the modern day – be sure to check out Austerity, in stores now.