New and noteworthy – 18 May 2017

The legacy of imperialism, premonitory terror in France, bringing things back home, the wisdom of Freud, and the ethics of face transplants

May 18, 2017
Source: iStock

Face/On: Face Transplants and the Ethics of the Other
Sharrona Pearl
Chicago University Press

Although only about 30 face transplants have been performed, Sharrona Pearl believes that the procedure – and the ways it has been represented in films and television – touches on crucial “questions of the self, the relationship between mind and body [and] cultural negotiations of self-presentation and manipulation”. It may also lead us to think again about the design of digital avatars and how “faces in advertising and other media [are manipulated] to elicit behaviour from viewers”. This book charts the strange territory that has been opened up by the advent of face transplants and claims it may be “time to come up with a new ethics of the face”.

Ecology and Power in the Age of Empire: Europe and the Transformation of the Tropical World
Corey Ross
Oxford University Press

“The spread of European power”, argues Corey Ross, was also “a central feature of global environmental history”. His book is said to offer the first overview of the heyday of European empire from the late 19th century to the end of colonialism. With chapters exploring the impact of cocoa, copper, cotton, oil, rubber and tin, it gives detailed attention to territories controlled by Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Great Britain. By stressing “the indelible mark that imperialism has left on the world in which we live”, the author hopes to “provide a historical perspective on the vital nexus of social, political and environmental issues we currently face”.

Terror in France: The Rise of Jihad in the West
Gilles Kepel
Princeton University Press

A series of terror attacks in Paris and Nice formed a backdrop to the recent French presidential election. Kepel’s book, a bestseller in France, identifies the riots of 2005 and “the matchless incubation chamber of the French prison system, where incarcerated jihadists became mentors of petty delinquents” as among the contributory causes to the horrific wave of violence. Yet what has happened in France, he suggests in this updated English edition, is “exemplary and premonitory” for the whole of Europe; only in-depth academic understanding can help us develop the kinds of “national debate” and “public policies” we so desperately need.

From Global to Local: The Making of Things and the End of Globalisation
Finbarr Livesey
Profile Books

“Globalisation is an irreversible process, not an option,” declared United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan in 2009. But what if this common assumption is quite wrong, the process of “hyper-globalisation” has already gone into reverse and many companies are starting to move their production closer to home? Today, according to Finbarr Livesey, a Cambridge academic who also consults for national governments and multinational corporations, we risk going to the other extreme and moving into an era of populist nationalism and protectionism. We may not like such developments, but effective planning for the future demands that we go beyond the rhetoric of globalisation and acknowledge the forces working in the opposite direction.

The Late Sigmund Freud: Or, The Last Word on Psychoanalysis, Society, and All the Riddles of Life
Todd Dufresne
Cambridge University Press

Freud ended his career with three exceptionally bold works on “cultural” themes: The Future of an Illusion , Civilization and Its Discontents and Moses and Monotheism . Although some critics dismiss them as wildly speculative, “general readers and students”, reports Todd Dufresne, often feel it is here that Freud “tackles the biggest questions of life and society. Nothing in Freud seems so accessible and relevant to our lives even today.” The Late Sigmund Freud is dedicated to putting these “brilliantly mistaken” books into their historical and biographical contexts. It also makes clear why Freud “still teaches us to speculate and dream big”.

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