New and noteworthy – 1 February 2018

Cultural forces written on the body; rules for living; the big impact of small thefts; an insight into Edwardian archaeology in Egypt; Michael Sandel in China

February 1, 2018
Body modification
Source: iStock

Talking Bodies: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Embodiment, Gender and Identity
Edited by Emma Rees

Palgrave Macmillan

Arising out of the inaugural 2013 Talking Bodies conference at the University of Chester, this wide-ranging collection is premised on the claim that “it is on and in the body that the major questions about human beings being human are asked and answered: questions of death, sex, community, cruelty, or religion. Dominant cultural forces inscribe meanings – multiple, fluid meanings – onto and into the body.” Contributors draw on this perspective to consider sexual radicalism in the novels of Edith Wharton; different meanings attached to tattoos; “body modification, girls and identity”; and the disturbing representations of sexual violence online.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
Jordan B. Peterson

Allen Lane

It is a bold academic who tries to tell us how to lead a meaningful life. But that is exactly what Jordan B. Peterson, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, has attempted here. It is up to us all, he argues, to “tell the truth and repair what is in disrepair and break down and recreate what is old and outdated”. While acknowledging that this is “asking a lot”, he distils his vision into 12 central rules, ranging from “Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world” to “Do not bother children when they are skateboarding”.

Cheating: Ethics in Everyday Life
Deborah L. Rhode

Oxford University Press

Cheating, according to Deborah L. Rhode, Ernest W. McFarland professor of law at Stanford University, is “deeply embedded in everyday life”. Yet “costs attributable to its most common forms total close to a trillion dollars annually in the United States alone”. So while people may try to rationalise pinching office stationery, inflating expenses claims or overcharging clients on the (plausible) grounds that “everybody does it”, the price we pay is very real. This books offers “the only recent comprehensive account of cheating in everyday life” – in sport and academia, mortgages and marriages – and how we can best put a stop to it.

Aristocrats and Archaeologists: An Edwardian Journey on the Nile
Toby Wilkinson and Julian Platt

I. B. Tauris

Julian Platt inherited the letters of his great-uncle “Ferdy” Platt describing a trip down the Nile in 1907-8 as the personal physician to the Duke of Devonshire. When he showed them to Toby Wilkinson, professor of Egyptology at the University of Lincoln, the latter instantly recognised their historical interest. The elder Platt was a keen amateur Egyptologist, so his correspondence includes vivid encounters with most of the leading Edwardian Egyptologists (as well as with Winston Churchill, then on his way home from Uganda). He is equally entertaining about his aristocratic patrons who, even in Egypt, kept up their customary lifestyle of “shooting game, dressing for dinner, drinking champagne, and playing bridge”.

Encountering China: Michael Sandel and Chinese Philosophy
Edited by Michael Sandel and Paul J. D’Ambrosio

Harvard University Press

Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel is famous everywhere for the filmed version of his introductory course on “Justice”, but in China, as China Daily put it, he has attained a level of fame “usually reserved for Hollywood movie stars and NBA [National Basketball Association] players”. Students in particular are fascinated by his discussions of the limits of the free market and by his invitation to think moral questions through for themselves. In Encountering China , scholars from both China and the West explore the tensions and connections created when Sandel’s ideas meet the Confucian and Daoist traditions. Sandel himself concludes the book with his reflections on “learning from Chinese philosophy”.

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