New and noteworthy – 15 June 2017

Turkey’s American dreams; reels and reels of suspense; continental contracts; and Putin’s backyard

June 15, 2017
Woman at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul
Source: iStock

The Limits of Westernization: A Cultural History of America in Turkey
Perin Güril

Columbia University Press

A recent Turkish blockbuster called The Mild West tells the story of two Ottomans dressed as cowboys in late 19th-century America. Sent by the sultan to present a diamond to the president as a gesture of friendship, the pair are attacked by bandits. One decides that he “need[s] to reevaluate [his] infatuation with West” – although his head is soon turned by a glamorous female sharpshooter. The film, argues Perin Güril, captures something of the complex ambiguities of Turkey’s relationship with the US. Her book explores how America has treated Turkey as “a good pupil for US-led modernization” or “a moderate ally in the War on Terror”, and how Turks in turn have seen “westernization” as both “desirable and damaging”.

The Lost Jungle: Cliffhanger Action and Hollywood Serials 
of the 1930s and 1940s
Guy Barefoot

University of Exeter Press

Cinemagoers of the 1930s would often enjoy films such as The Lost Jungle, in which Captain Robinson takes his daughter away on a journey to the South Seas because lion-tamer Clyde Beatty won’t marry her. When they are shipwrecked, Beatty bravely ventures out to save them. Although many would have seen the feature film, the studio also released it as a 12-chapter weekly serial with a rather different plot. Guy Barefoot’s book provides the first serious overview of the origins, techniques and appeal of these popular but under-studied works.

European Union Law: A Very Short Introduction
Anthony Arnull

Oxford University Press

European Union law has been credited with promoting democracy and human rights and has also been dismissed as a straitjacket that has led to continental crises related to the eurozone and mass migration. Issues of autonomy and sovereignty were constantly invoked in the UK’s EU referendum campaigns, yet most arguments were based on a superficial understanding. Anthony Arnull sets out to explain why the EU “arouse[s] such strong passions”, what its law is about and why it has “become part of the legal DNA of its Member States so much more effectively than other treaty-based regimes”. This incisive analysis will prove a boon for commentators (and perhaps even negotiators) on both sides of the Channel.

A Short History of the Phoenicians
Mark Woolmer

I. B. Tauris

Although known in antiquity as the people who transmitted the alphabet to the West, the Phoenicians left virtually no written records. Most of what we know about them comes from classical and biblical authors, and their material culture has seldom attracted the same enthusiasm as the royal tombs of Egypt or the pottery of ancient Greece. Thus, argues Mark Woolmer, the Phoenicians have “largely remained an enigma outside of academic circles”. Drawing together the latest archaeological research and often inaccessible scholarly work, he provides a synthesis covering c.1550BC to c.300BC, taking in government, religion, overseas expansion and art.

Near Abroad: Putin, the West and the Contest over Ukraine and the Caucasus
Gerard Toal

Oxford University Press

Russia’s “near abroad” – the recently independent states that were once part of the Soviet Union – is at the heart of major geopolitical tensions today. The Russia-Georgia war of 2008 set a precedent for conflict with Ukraine. Drawing on fieldwork as well as conversations with Washington insiders, Gerard Toal explores the impact of the 2008 Bucharest Declaration (which sought to extend Nato membership to Georgia and Ukraine), Vladimir Putin’s strategic framework for his dealings with “post-Soviet space” and the often emotional forces at play in geopolitics. The result should make illuminating reading for those who think the only important question is, “Why does Russia invade its neighbours?”

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