Episodes
How does the state support writers? In State Sponsored Literature: Britain and Cultural Diversity after 1945 (Oxford UP, 2020), Asha Rogers, Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Postcolonial Literature at the University of Birmingham, explores the history of authors, institutions, and governments approach to literature in a changing, imperial and post-imperial, Britain. The book uses a wealth of examples, from key organisations such as the British Council and the Arts Council of Great Britain,...
Published 10/06/22
A Critical Theory of Police Power: The Fabrication of Social Order (Verso, 2021) offers a critical look at policing and the power of the state, examining the relationship between our ideas of order and wider social and political issues. First published in 2000, this new edition of Mark Neocleous' influential book features a new introduction which helpfully situates this ever-relevant text in the context of contemporary struggles over police and policing. Neocleous argues for an expanded...
Published 10/05/22
As police racism unsettles Britain's tolerant self-image, Black Resistance to British Policing (Manchester UP, 2021) details the activism that made movements like Black Lives Matter possible. Adam Elliott-Cooper analyses racism beyond prejudice and the interpersonal - arguing that black resistance confronts a global system of racial classification, exploitation and violence. Imperial cultures and policies, as well as colonial war and policing highlight connections between these histories and...
Published 10/05/22
Published 10/05/22
Soham Sen talks about standpoint theory, a method of understanding the ways in which individual and collective experience influence public discourses. He begins from its origins in the civil rights movement and in the innovations of feminist thought, and follows it up with a discussion of its efficacy in understanding contemporary media. Soham Sen is pursuing his Masters in the Department of Communication Studies and is the Assistant Course Director of Public Speaking at the College of Media...
Published 10/04/22
Games are a unique art form. Games work in the medium of agency. Game designers tell us who to be and what to care about during the game. Game designers sculpt alternate agencies, and game players submerge themselves in those alternate agencies. Thus, the fact that we play games demonstrates the fluidity of our own agency. We can throw ourselves, for a little while, into a different and temporary motivations. This volume presents a new theory of games which insists on their unique value....
Published 10/04/22
In The Metabolic Museum (Hatje Cantz, 2020), Clémentine Deliss, a curator, researcher, and former director of the Frankfurt Weltkulturen Museum, explores possible functions for anthropological museums in a postcolonial culture. Anthropological museums in Europe, as products of imperialism, have been compelled to legitimate themselves because the very basis of their exhibitions, the history of their collections, came about all too often through colonial appropriation and outright theft. In...
Published 10/04/22
This episode proved remarkably popular, so we're reposting it as an NBN classic for those who missed it the first time. How are we to conceive of acts that suddenly expose the injustice of the current order? This is a question that has puzzled philosophers for centuries, and it’s the question that animates Dominik Finkelde’s book ​Excessive Subjectivity: Kant, Hegel, Lacan, and the Foundation of Ethics (Columbia University Press, 2017). The book looks at these three major thinkers, and the...
Published 10/02/22
This episode proved remarkably popular, so we're reposting it as an NBN classic for those who missed it the first time. Imagination is one of the most important elements of being human, but is most often assumed we know what it is, while rarely being analyzed. Here with me today is Jonathan Erickson to discuss his recent book Imagination in the Western Psyche: From Ancient Greece to Modern Neuroscience (Routledge, 2019). The book looks at various theories of imagination through history, and...
Published 10/01/22
In Breathing Aesthetics (Duke University Press (2022), Jean-Thomas Tremblay argues that difficult breathing indexes the uneven distribution of risk in a contemporary era marked by the increasing contamination, weaponization, and monetization of air. Tremblay shows how biopolitical and necropolitical forces tied to the continuation of extractive capitalism, imperialism, and structural racism are embodied and experienced through respiration. They identify responses to the crisis in breathing in...
Published 09/29/22
Today power is in the hands of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. How do we understand this transformation in power? And what can we do about it? We cannot change anything until we have a better understanding of how power works, who holds it, and why that matters. Through upgrading the concept of hegemony—understanding the importance of passive consent; the complexity of political interests; and the structural force of technology—Jeremy Gilbert and Alex Williams offer us an updated theory of...
Published 09/29/22
Black Communist women throughout the early to mid-twentieth century fought for and led mass campaigns in the service of building collective power in the fight for liberation. Through concrete materialist analysis of the conditions of Black workers, these women argued that racial and economic equality can only be achieved by overthrowing capitalism. The first collection of its kind, Organize, Fight, Win: Black Communist Women's Political Writing (Verso, 2022) brings together three decades of...
Published 09/28/22
Many Canadians think of their country as a paragon of liberal democratic values at home, and a moderating force on the world stage—not so, argues the compelling new edited collection from Fernwood Publishing, Capitalism and Dispossession: Corporate Canada at Home and Abroad. In this conversation with co-editors, Dr. David P Thomas and Dr. Veldon Coburn, we discuss the book’s numerous case studies of how the Canadian state, and the corporate actors to which it delegates authority, are central...
Published 09/28/22
Since the global financial crash of 2008, artists have become increasingly engaged in a wide range of cultural activism targeted against capitalism, political authoritarianism, colonial legacies, gentrification, but also in opposition to their own exploitation. They have also absorbed and reflected forms of protest within their art practice itself. The Art of Activism and the Activism of Art (Lund Humphries, 2021) maps, critiques, and celebrates activist art, exploring its current urgency...
Published 09/27/22
Enjoyment appears as purely private matter, but this is by far not the case. Ever since Aristotle the philosophical social critique is tormented by the question, whether the libidinal tendencies of human subjects allow the construction of a just political-economic order. It seemed at first that in modernity this problem had been overcome. Economic liberalism and utilitarianism argued that egoistic private interests and social justice were directly linked and that capitalism united libidinal...
Published 09/27/22
In this episode of High Theory, Tung-Hui Hu talks with Júlia Irion Martins about Digital Lethargy, as part of our High Theory in STEM series. As a modern ailment, digital lethargy is a societal pathology, like earlier forms of acedia, otium, and neurasthenia, but also a disease of performing selfhood within the disposable identities of contemporary, digital service work. In this episode, Tung-Hui Hu makes the argument that digital lethargy helps us turn away from the demand to constantly “be...
Published 09/27/22
The intricacies of imperialism and colonialism within the context of the Bible are nuanced and varied. Understanding the legacy of European Imperialism requires careful reflection of the Bible’s affinity with the empire and concentration of power. In this episode of Humanities Matter, Dr. Steed Vernyl Davidson, author of Writing/Reading the Bible in Postcolonial Perspective (Brill, 2017) elaborates on the ambiguities of the Bible as an anti-imperial tool and his work in tracing the evolution...
Published 09/27/22
How do metrics and quantification shape social science? In The Quantified Scholar: How Research Evaluations Transformed the British Social Sciences (Columbia UP, 2022), Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra, an Associate Professor in sociology at the University of California, San Diego, explores this question using a case study of British academia. The book combines a rich array of quantitative and qualitative analysis, demonstrating the transformation of working conditions, institutional contexts, and...
Published 09/26/22
This episode proved remarkably popular, so we're reposting it as an NBN classic for those who missed it the first time. 70 years ago, the philosopher Theodore Adorno and a team of scholars released a massive book titled The Authoritarian Personality (Verso, 2019), which attempted to map the psychological and emotional dynamics of those who might find themselves seduced by authoritarianism. The book synthesized both empirical psychology and sociology, relying on massive sets of data, with...
Published 09/25/22
This episode proved remarkably popular, so we're reposting it as an NBN classic for those who missed it the first time. The Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek’s prolific quips on various cultural and political issues around race and related issues, found either in short YouTube clips or lengthy books have gained a lot of attention, much of it admittedly confused and occasionally offended and frustrated. Part of this is likely due to Žižek’s style, which tends to jump...
Published 09/25/22
This episode proved remarkably popular, so we're reposting it as an NBN classic for those who missed it the first time. In 2012, the world-renowned philosopher, psychoanalyst and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek released his 1000-page tome ​Less Than Nothing​, following it up afterwards with its shorter reformulation ​Absolute Recoil​ in 2014. The works contained his usual use of movie-references, historical and political events and jokes to engage in some substantial philosophical formulations,...
Published 09/24/22
This episode proved remarkably popular, so we're reposting it as an NBN classic for those who missed it the first time. How does the world of book reviews work? In Inside the Critics’ Circle: Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times (Princeton University Press, 2020), Phillipa Chong, assistant professor in sociology at McMaster University, provides a unique sociological analysis of how critics confront the different types of uncertainty associated with their practice. The book explores how reviewers...
Published 09/24/22
1848 was the Year of Revolutions in Europe. It was also the year that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto, proposing a new, classless society. As revolutions erupted across the globe, many turned to the ideals of Communism to replace old and fast-crumbling feudal systems. But Communism didn’t take off everywhere. Harvard professor Louis Menand explains the successes and failures of Marx & Engels’ vision since the publication of the manifesto. Louis Menand is...
Published 09/23/22
Throughout his career, the internationally renowned Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot unsettled key concepts in anthropology, history, postcolonial studies, Black studies, Caribbean studies, and beyond. From his early critique of the West to the ongoing challenges he leveled at disciplinary and intellectual boundaries and formations, Trouillot centered the Caribbean as a site both foundational to the development of Western thought and critical to its undoing.  Trouillot Remixed:...
Published 09/23/22
The Democratic Socialists of America have exploded in the last few years, going from just a couple thousand members to close to a hundred thousand. This was from a combination of factors; two insurgent presidential campaigns by Bernie Sanders, a proto-fascistic movement coalescing around Donald Trump, the specter of climate change, a worldwide pandemic, general increasing economic inequality and a general sense that this world is bad but a better one might be possible. But what exactly is the...
Published 09/23/22