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Subject: Sociology

Showing and Telling: Film heritage institutes and their performance of public accountability

Nico de Klerk, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for History and Society, Austria

February 2017 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-203-6
Availability: In stock
$50 £38 €45

Showing and Telling is the first academic work to explore how publicly funded film heritage institutes account for their mandate in their public activities. It does that by inspecting and evaluating public presentations and visitor information about these presentations. The research was done by juxtaposing two complementary approaches. The first is grounded in the author’s experience as a collection researcher and curator and makes a case for the richness of archival objects usually ignored for their lack of aesthetic qualities. The second is a survey of the public activities of 24 institutes worldwide, based on their websites, in February 2014; the latter constitutes a unique source. This original work uncovers the disconnect between the curatorial activities of these institutes and their missions. A central finding is that publicly funded film heritage institutes give their public an inadequate sense of cinema history. By and large they offer a mainstream-oriented repertoire of presentations, overwhelmingly consisting of feature fiction; they show a disproportionate amount of recent and new works, often through commercial distribution; their screenings consist of an unexplained melee of technological formats (sometimes substandard); and their presentations monotonously frame film as art, although their professed aesthetics are mostly of a cinephile nature and rest on received opinion. Specific materials, early cinema in particular, and specialist knowledge, both historical and methodological, are largely restricted to their network of peer communities. Wholesome transfer of full knowledge, in word and image, to the public is not a major concern. Showing and Telling concludes with recommendations for curatorial activities. Firstly, with a conceptual apparatus that allows a more complete understanding of film heritage and its histories. Secondly, with a plea for rethinking the institutes’ gatekeeper function and for developing more varied, imaginative, and informative public presentations, both on site and online, that reflect the range of their collections and their histories.

Art Movements and The Discourse of Acknowledgements and Distinctions

Themba Tsotsi

February 2017 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-060-5
Availability: In stock
$30 £25 €28

This is a work of critical theory in the deconstructionist tradition. It investigates the impact and role of visual art practice in cultural dispensation. Its central argument is that conceptions of ‘leadership’ and of ‘being a subject’ (or subjugation) play a formative role in the manner with which cultural ideas are appropriated and spread out in organic interactions within the community. The arguments advanced in this work demonstrate that leadership conceptions are disseminated as ‘signs’ (a conceptual term for how ideas and their significance are understood in the context of cultural dispensation) and that signs have historical roots and connotations. Using deconstructionist techniques like différance, this work concretises the critical in the discourse which states that ‘signs’ in the cultural dispensation are in constant interaction with each other in terms of defining their historic, epistemic and contemporary ‘meaning’. The Discourse of Acknowledgements and Distinctions introduces three concepts that account for themselves through the infinite propensities of social contexts and the ‘signs’ that anchor them for referral. These are the notions of Cerebrinity, Hysteridence and Remembrance. The use of psychoanalysis – and of the perspectives of Kristeva, Jung and Freud - distinguishes this book from other works of critical theory that deal with art and art movements. The book aims to illuminate on the propensity of the community to participate in its own subjugation in the context of Modernity. It is concise and incorporates critical theory perspectives by writers like Baudrillard, Lyotard, Kristeva and Spivak. It can be appreciated by art students interested in the intersection between visual art, critical theory and psychoanalysis.

The Bottom Line: Unfortunate Side Effects of Capitalist Culture

Arthur McGovern, Nichols College

February 2017 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-159-6
Availability: In stock
$50 £38 €45

This monograph explores the role of culture in modern societies and the side effects that result when that role is distorted. The basic premise of this book is that many of the dominant cultural characteristics of modern life, like the ideologies and values associated with materialism and consumer capitalism, are cultural phenomena with influences that are in many ways problematic and in some ways downright detrimental to our sustained societal well-being. I argue in this book that the globalized capitalist economic system has become increasingly efficient in terms of scale and scope, but has also become less humane in many regards; less connected to human needs and concerns. Of particular concern is the encroachment of economic interests into areas of human society that traditionally have been free from profit motives, or at least only minimally influenced by them; areas such as scientific research, the justice system, and even family relationships. I suggest that there is a slow but steady intrusion into these areas of human life that were once considered off-limits to naked economic incentives and calculations. This intrusion puts the idea of America as a free and democratic society increasingly at risk when private economic stakeholders meddle in the political and cultural areas of society in ever more insidious ways to further their own enrichment at the expense of the public. Furthermore, the vast capitalist economic system is in many ways increasingly disconnected or disembedded from the contexts and regulations of traditional social relations as in the past.

Modernity, Civilization and the Return to History

Anthony F. Shaker, McGill University, Canada

January 2017 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-184-8
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$80 £68 €77

The modern concept and study of civilization have their roots, not in western Europe, but in the spirit of scientific investigation associated with a self-conscious Islamicate civilization. What we call modernity cannot be fathomed without this historical connection. We owe every major branch of science known today to the broad tradition of systematic inquiry that belongs to a “region of being”—as Heidegger would say—whose theoretical, practical and institutional dimensions the philosophy of that civilization played an unprecedented role in creating. This book focuses primarily on the philosophical underpinnings of questions relating to civilization, personhood and identity. Contemporary society and thinking in western Europe introduced new elements to these questions that have altered how collective and personal identities are conceived and experienced. In the age of “globalization,” expressions of identity (individual, social and cultural) survive precariously outside their former boundaries, just when humanity faces perhaps its greatest challenges—environmental degradation, policy inertia, interstate bellicosity, and a growing culture of tribalism. Yet, the world has been globalized for at least a millennium, a fact dimmed by the threadbare but still widespread belief that modernity is a product of something called the West. One is thus justified in asking, as many people do today, if humanity has not lost its initiative. This is more a philosophical than an empirical question. There can be no initiative without the human agency that flows from identity and personhood—i.e., the way we, the acting subject, live and deliberate about our affairs. Given the heavy scrutiny under which the modern concept of identity has come, Dr. Shaker has dug deeper, bringing to bear a wealth of original sources from both German thought and Ḥikmah (Islamicate philosophy), the latter based on material previously unavailable to scholars. Posing the age-old question of identity anew in the light of these two traditions, whose special historical roles are assured, may help clear the confusion surrounding modernity and, hopefully, our place in human civilization. Proximity to Scholasticism, and therefore Islamicate philosophy, lent German thought up to Heidegger a unique ability to dialogue with other thought traditions. Two fecund elements common to Heidegger, Qūnawī and Mullā Ṣadrā are of special importance: Logos (utterance, speech) as the structural embodiment at once of the primary meaning (essential reality) of a thing and of divine manifestation; and the idea of unity-in-difference, which Ṣadrā finally formulated as the substantial movement of existence. But behind this complexity is the abiding question of who Man is, which cannot be answered by theory alone. Heidegger, who occupies a good portion of this study, questioned the modern ontology at a time of social collapse and deep spiritual crisis not unlike ours. Yet, that period also saw the greatest breakthroughs in modern physics and social science. The concluding chapters take up, more specifically, identity renewal in Western literature and Muslim “reformism.” The renewal theme reflects a point of convergence between the Eurocentric worldview, in which modernism has its secular aesthetics roots, and a current originating in Ibn Taymiyyah’s reductionist epistemology and skeptical fundamentalism. It expresses a hopeless longing for origin in a historically pristine “golden age,” an obvious deformation of philosophy’s millennial concern with the commanding, creative oneness of the Being of beings.

Thinking Through Badgers

Researching the controversy over bovine tuberculosis and the culling of badgers

Stephan Price, University of Exeter

January 2017 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-187-9
Availability: In stock
$60 £48 €55

Bovine tuberculosis is seriously damaging the UK dairy and beef industry. Many farmers believe culling badgers must be part of the solution, but in 2013 a record 300,000 people signed a Downing Street petition asking the government to stop planned culls of badgers in Somerset and Gloucestershire, fuelling media controversy and signalling the beginning of a social conflict that was acted out in studios, streets, fields and village halls across England. The four-year trial culls, which began that year, aimed to establish that culling was a viable way of tackling the disease, but the widely divergent experiences and values of policy-makers, farming, conservation and animal welfare supporters means that decades of science on the disease in badgers and the effects of culling has not helped resolve the dispute. Reporting on original, UK research council-funded social science, this book takes on the challenge of understanding the contrasting views involved. Listening carefully to what the different protagonists have to say, the book unpicks the way science is interpreted to sustain differing conclusions, and considers how social science thinking could contribute. The book develops a critical perspective on the increasingly important literature influenced by new materialism, the social science response to the Science Wars, and explores the extent to which a social movement around opposition to the culls is emerging. In approachable prose, this access-all-areas account describes the struggle to develop understanding through the messy process of research and the difficulties of scientific analysis and philosophical thought. As such, it provides a valuable resource for both research practitioners and teachers within the social sciences, as well as an accessible way for biological scientists, conservationists and farmers to reflect on the issues around the management of disease in livestock and wildlife.