What are you reading?

July 22, 2010

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

Robert Eaglestone is professor of contemporary literature and thought, Royal Holloway, University of London. "I've been rereading Hannah Arendt's essays. She is still controversial and often misunderstood, but her essays combine philosophical analysis, heightened political nous and a deeply thought and felt response to her times. In the collection Responsibility and Judgment (Schocken, 2003) she writes that in the Nazi takeover of Germany 'what disturbed us was the behaviour not of our enemies' - the anti-Semites, the Right, the criminals - 'but of our friends'."

Laleh Khalili is senior lecturer in Middle East politics, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. "Radhika Singha's A Despotism of Law: Crime and Justice in Early Colonial India is shamefully out of print. The book combines conscientious archival research with thoughtful theory, tells us much about how the East India Company consolidated its rule via a set of legal instruments, and includes such gems as Warren Hastings arguing for more punitive laws because Islamic law, then prevalent in India, was 'founded on the most lenient principles and on an abhorrence of bloodshed'."

George McKay is director of the Communication, Cultural and Media Studies Research Centre, University of Salford. "With MediaCity UK rising up at Salford Quays and five departments of the BBC relocating here, I'm reading Scott McQuire's The Media City: Media, Architecture and Urban Space (SAGE, 2008). It is a wide-ranging, sophisticated study of urban mediations through technologies, artefacts, buildings and theory, from photographs of the Haussmannisation of Paris in the 19th century to electric street lighting, and from the introduction of large public television screens to the digital superhighway."

Jon Nixon, honorary professor in the School of Education, University of Sheffield, is reading Tony Judt's Ill Fares the Land (Allen Lane, 2010). "Judt is eloquently and blazingly angry - at the glaring inequalities within society and at our failure to recognise what has been lost by way of the post-Second World War social democratic settlement. As a great historian, he reminds us that memory is a matter of moral concern: we must rethink the state - and with it, the idea of welfare."

Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature, Nottingham Trent University, has just finished Reginald Reynolds' My Life and Crimes (Jarrolds, 1956). "This is the autobiography of the Quaker, peace activist, poet, journalist and political firebrand whom Mahatma Gandhi described as 'a gift from God'. Reynolds' outlook is at once humorous (informing the detective following him of his whereabouts), indulgent (he pleaded on behalf of a thief who burgled his house) and deeply generous (smuggling food and clothes to German civilians just after the war). A noble counter-example to the ways we live now."

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