Quick Questions for Nigel Dodd, author of The Social Life of Money

Nigel Dodd  is a professor in the Sociology Department at the London School of Economics (LSE). Dodd’s  interest in the sociology of money has led him to author The Sociology of Money: Economics, reason, and contemporary society (1994) and Social Theory and Modernity (1999), but it is his new book, The Social Life of Money, that we will discuss today. Besides teaching courses in Classical, Modern, and Contemporary Social Thought at the LSE, Dodd is also editor-in-chief of the British Journal of Sociology, and he has made several appearances on BBC World Service to discuss “various aspects of the 2007-9 financial crisis.”

Referring often to George Simmel’s Philosophy of Money (1907), The Social Life of Money is Dodd’s attempt to better understand and define the rapid and ever changing field of “money.” By reexamining the nature of money in the aftermath of the global economic crisis and by including thinkers such as Nietzsche, Benjamin, Bataille, Deleuze and Guattari, Baudrillard, Derrida, and Hardt and Negri—all of whom  fall outside the field of monetary theory—Dodd lays down the framework for understanding money in a different way.

Now, on to the questions!

Why did you write The Social Life of Money?

In the first instance, I wrote the book because although I could see what a varied and energetic field ‘money’ had become outside of economics, there were too many scholars who were simply not engaging with each other, but limiting their engagements to their own niche within the field. I even found that there were disagreements about terminology – for example, what some scholars claimed was ‘money’, others said was merely ‘currency’, and sorting out a way through this conceptual thicket wasn’t easy. So I wanted to write a book that brought this field together into a more coherent shape – not by synthesizing everything into one basic approach, but by providing a framework in which different approaches can speak to each other, and their relative insights brought to bear on important questions. I would describe myself as a ‘monetary pluralist’ – not wedded to a single theory of money but convinced that different theories work well according to context. So I wanted to write a book that gave expression to this, which was in a way a ‘celebration’ of intellectual multiplicity in monetary scholarship. Then, as I started to write the book as the financial crisis unfolded, I began to see this pluralism in a more practical way – these were not just different ways of theorizing money, but different ways of organizing it too that could make a serious contribution to debates about how our monetary systems could (or should) be changed in response to the crisis. I found that whereas money was being ‘blamed’ for the crisis by many mainstream commentators, it is in fact an important opportunity, a focal point for rethinking its role in society. However, while most debates about this are concerned with finding a single set of solutions, I sense that the best way forward is pluralism – we need not one ‘improved’ monetary system, but rather a range of different monetary forms that can address the many different problems (about financial exclusion, the dominance of big banks, monetary freedom, debt etc.) that the financial crisis exposed. So what started out as conceptual pluralism took on an increasingly practical character.


“I would describe myself as a ‘monetary pluralist’ – not wedded to a single theory of money but convinced that different theories work well according to context.”


What was the most interesting thing you learned from writing this book?

I learned three key things. First, I learned about an extraordinary range of brilliant work that has been undertaken by scholars from right across the social sciences into the nature of money. Since I first worked in this field in the early 1990s, there has been a tremendous explosion of interest in money as a social, political and cultural – not just an economic – phenomenon. There are some fantastic scholars working on money, and I hope that my book reflects the energy of an ever-changing field. Second, I learned that perhaps the greatest shift in our perception of money has been that it is increasingly being regarded by scholars as a force for positive social transformation. Whereas classical scholars tended to see money as something negative that was likely to disturb societies and communities, contemporary scholars are keen to view money as something that can be organized in such a way as to make a positive contribution to social change. This intellectually challenging as well as empowering. Third, I encountered hugely interesting writing about money in some very unexpected places, which I have tried to bring to the book as much as I can. So while the book covers the ‘usual suspects’ in the monetary field, it also looks to less common sources for its ideas, such as Nietzsche, Benjamin, Derrida and Bataille. None of these is a ‘monetary theorist’, but if anything this makes what they say about money even more interesting and worth hearing.

What do you think is the book’s most important contribution?

The book examines a very wide range of theories about the nature and purpose of money, and therefore presents readers with a tremendous variety of ideas about how money can be used and organized. This is hugely important today because the era in which ‘money’ was mainly what was defined and organized by the state is coming to an end. Alternative currencies – from electronic currencies such as Bitcoin to local currencies such as the Bristol and Brixton pound to forms of social lending – are growing at an astonishing rate today, and we need a greater range of conceptual tools in order to understand them. We also need to understand – and the book argues very strongly for this – that there are myriad ways of organizing our money, not just one ‘correct’ way. Money can be organized differently – by small groups and communities, nations or groups of nations, private organizations, and so on – according to what it is needed for. Some forms of money are designed to counter forms of social (and, specifically, financial) exclusion, while others are designed to bring communities together – or, in the case of Bitcoin, to bypass the constraints associated with major institutions such as banks and the states. There isn’t one ‘money’ that can do all of these things. In the future, we will become more and more used to interacting with a variety of different monies.

What is your next project?

I am excited by the idea that money can be used to transform society in a positive way, so I am embarking on a project that looks into the links between money and utopian thought and practice. This builds on the final chapter of The Social Life of Money. Once you start examining different theories of money, it becomes clear that almost all of them have a utopian strain. What I mean by this is that money gets associated with idealized forms of social and economic existence. The Euro was a recent – albeit flawed – example of this, because it was conceived as a means of uniting Europe socially, politically and culturally. There are lots of problems with this, of course: the idea that something like money might be used to bring people closer together, to forge a common identity, is quite problematic. But there is nothing new about this, there is a fascinating history of ways in which money has been used to achieve – or at least try to achieve – political and social ideals. Even Bitcoin could be described as utopian, because it is premised on the ideal of a currency that does not need to be regulated, does not need a sovereign authority in order to be valued, and is not controlled by large banks. The image of society behind Bitcoin, which is broadly libertarian, is troubling for some, inspiring for others. But again, here is an instance where money is being allied to broader ideals about freedom, identity and justice. So that will be my next project, to understand these links between money and utopianism in more depth.

What was the biggest challenge involved with bringing this book to life?

There were two main challenges. The first challenge was controlling the material, I had a huge amount of literature to go through and it kept on growing. I tried a number of different ways of organizing the chapters, and as a result, the book’s structure took a very long time to stabilize, indeed it didn’t really take its final shape until the last few months of writing. This made the writing process exhausting and stressful, because I was never really sure about how much progress I was making. I’m sure this isn’t unique; many colleagues seem to have had similar experiences. But there were periods when I felt the project would never come together. As it stands, I really like the group of chapters, and the order of chapters, that I came up with. Having a strong theme for each chapter – such as ‘guilt’ and ‘waste’, for example – provides a great focus. The second main challenge was in dealing with a fast-moving world. I started the book just as the financial crisis was in full swing, and this had an effect on the writing process that was both exhilarating and unsettling. I was very easily distracted at first, and found myself framing the book too closely in accordance with themes that were emerging from discussion of the crisis. There was also a vast amount being written about various aspects of the monetary and financial system, so I had to keep up with that literature as I was writing. Finally, there were prevailing uncertainties to deal with: once the Euro crisis was in full swing, I was writing about a currency that many commentators were saying could collapse any time soon. So, money was very much a moving target. I coped with this challenge by taking the arguments back to their theoretical core as much as possible.

What is the most influential book you’ve read?

In the money field it would have to be Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money (1907), which is a vast text that is packed with ideas. I first read it in 1988, and have been consulting it regularly ever since and finding new things to think about every time that I do. Simmel’s book plays quite a big role in The Social Life of Money. This is partly because I use his description of money as a ‘claim upon society’ to organize a number of the key arguments of the book. Once we realize that Simmel did not mean ‘society’ in the sense of a nation-state society, but rather had more fluid and flexible understanding of social life in mind – he uses the term ‘sociation’ to describe this – then one starts to see how his arguments can be used to frame the idea that money gains its value not from states and big banks, but rather from the multi-faceted practices of its users. In this sense, Simmel’s book is very much of ‘our’ time, because it resonates with arguments about wresting control of money away from large unwieldy institutions and restoring it to the ‘ownership’ of the people who use it. This explains why I was keen in the book to portray Simmel in a different way. We have become used to thinking of him as a critic of money, as someone who portrayed money as largely damaging to society, because of its cold and anonymous qualities. While such ideas are undoubtedly present in Simmel’s book, there are plenty of other ideas too, where he portrays money as culturally rich. Simmel was also something of a utopian, as I argue in the book’s final chapter. So one of the things I hope people gain from reading The Social Life of Money is a whole new perspective on a book they may have thought they could categorize in just one way.


 

bookjacket

The Social Life of Money
Nigel Dodd

A tale of three cities…or the There Goes the Neighborhood? book tour so far

As anyone who works in publishing or who has authored a book can tell you–book tours are hit or miss. Fortunately, for one recently published author–Amin Ghaziani, author of There Goes the Gayborhood?–his book tour has landed firmly at the hit end of the spectrum. Here are some photos from the road and a list of forthcoming tour stops.

San Francisco! Where it all began with a standing-room only event at The Green Arcade.

san francisco

Chicago! Much of the research for There Goes the Gayborhood? was conducted in Chicago, so it was fitting for Amin to have an event at Unabridged Bookstore. The homecoming feel of this event was cemented by the appearance of a special guest of honor for the evening–Amin’s mother!

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Vancouver! University of British Columbia and the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies launched the Ideas Lunch & Wine Bar with a tip-toe standing-room only event for Amin.

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Amin has several more events planned in the coming months, so make sure you get these dates in your calendar:

  • October 2: New York (Special Event at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies). [Update, here is a photo from Amin’s event last week. CLAGS hosted a conversation between Amin and Christina Hanhardt, Lammy award winner for her book Safe Space.  There was a full house and the audience was deeply engaged with insightful observations and meaningful questions.]

Ghaziani CLAGS

  • October 23: Vancouver (Little Sisters bookstore, Vancouver)
  • December 12: Seattle (Eliott Bay Book Company, Seattle)

 


bookjacket

There Goes the Gayborhood?
Amin Ghaziani

The Annual American Sociological Association trailer (#ASA14)

Stop by our booth and say hi to our Sociology editor Eric Schwartz (the friendly fellow holding the Rice-a-Roni in the video above).

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Check out some of our new titles in the annual sociology catalog: http://press.princeton.edu/catalogs/socio14.pdf

bookjacket The Art of Social Theory
Richard Swedberg
bookjacket The Hero’s Fight:
African Americans in West Baltimore and the Shadow of the State
Patricia Fernández-Kelly
bookjacket Come Out Swinging:
The Changing World of Boxing in Gleason’s Gym
Lucia Trimbur
bookjacket A Social Strategy:
How We Profit from Social Media
Mikołaj Jan Piskorski
bookjacket There Goes the Gayborhood?
Amin Ghaziani

 

New sociology catalog!

Be among the first to browse and download our new sociology catalog!

Of particular interest is Mikołaj Piskorski’s A Social Strategy: How We Profit from Social Media. Groundbreaking and important, this book provides not only a story- and data-driven explanation for the explosion of social media but also an invaluable, concrete road map for any company that wants to tap the marketing potential of this remarkable phenomenon.

Also be sure to note Nigel Dodd’s The Social Life of Money. Questions about the nature of money have gained a new urgency in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Even as many people have less of it, there are more forms and systems of money, from local currencies and social lending to mobile money and Bitcoin. Yet our understanding of what money is—and what it might be—hasn’t kept pace. In The Social Life of Money, Dodd, one of today’s leading sociologists of money, reformulates the theory of the subject for a postcrisis world in which new kinds of money are proliferating.

And don’t miss out on Amin Ghaziani’s There Goes the Gayborhood? Gay neighborhoods, like the legendary Castro District in San Francisco and New York’s Greenwich Village, have long provided sexual minorities with safe havens in an often unsafe world. But as our society increasingly accepts gays and lesbians into the mainstream, are “gayborhoods” destined to disappear? Ghaziani provides an incisive look at the origins of these unique cultural enclaves, the reasons why they are changing today, and their prospects for the future.

More of our leading titles in sociology can be found in the catalog. You may also sign up with ease to be notified of forthcoming titles at http://press.princeton.edu/subscribe/. (Your e-mail address will remain confidential!)

If you’re heading to the American Sociological Association annual meeting in San Francisco, CA August 16th-19th, come visit us at booth 412. Mikołaj Piskorski will be signing A Social Strategy: How We Profit from Social Media at 3:00 p.m. Monday, August 18th. Please also join Amin Ghaziani for a discussion of There Goes the Gayborhood? at the Green Arcade bookstore Sunday, August 17th at 6:00 p.m.

See you in San Francisco!

In the News: Ghaziani Goes Global with ‘There Goes the Gayborhood?’

8-6 AminGayborhoods. Rising Rents. De-Gaying. ‘Straightening.’

What does it all mean?

Princeton University Press author and associate professor of Sociology Amin Ghaziani has dedicated his life’s work to defining these terms and to bringing the study of sexuality to the forefront of sociology. Naturally, the intent of his latest book, There Goes the Gayborhood? is no different.

In many respects, the book is an ode to the enclaves which have historically acted as havens of support, providing community and allowing those with common sociopolitical goals to coalesce in their quest for equality, meanwhile striking rich friendships and developing culturally vibrant and economically robust neighborhoods.

Throughout the book, Ghaziani analyzes deep demographic data looking for trends of same-sex and straight households moving in and out of traditionally gay neighborhoods like San Francisco’s Castro district, Chicago’s Boystown, and New York’s Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen neighborhoods. His findings show that gay neighborhoods are becoming decidedly less “gay”—the number of gay men who live in gay neighborhoods has declined eight per cent while the number of lesbians has dropped 13 per cent in the last 10 years. He also found that other areas of the country are becoming more diverse with same-sex reported households in 93% of the counties in America.

The amount of media attention to Ghaziani’s book, and particularly to his unique sociological diagnosis of this issue, has been nearly as overwhelming as his findings. Mainstream media outlets like Time Magazine,  Yahoo! News, Chicago NPR’s “Morning Shift,” Huffington Post’s “Gay Voices” and Huffington Post: Live, and the Chicago Tribune, among others, have responded accordingly to the radical realization of “straightening.” Salon has also paid due diligence to the dilemma, asking, “[A]s demographics shift, is it a sign of acceptance of a community – or the dilution of it? Is it possible, as the New York Times so damningly put it, that “gay neighborhoods face the prospect of becoming passe?””


“Gay neighborhoods have been crucial to the struggle for freedom, and have produced globally important contributions, from politics to poetry to music and fashion,” Ghaziani says. “[I]t is critical that we continue to find meaningful ways to preserve these culturally important spaces.”


Fortunately, Ghaziani’s own commentary in the Advocate rejects the claim that ‘gayborhoods’ are growing increasingly obsolete, no longer a necessary comfort to the gay community. He says that, “[t]here is a fine line between acceptance and the closet, just as there is between integration into the mainstream and the cultural loss of what makes gay people unique.” Although LGBT individuals have become “incorporated into the societal mainstream,” there’s no reason to dismiss such an integral and distinctive feature of the gay community.

And that’s not all the coverage. Not even close. The book has received recognition from French and German news outlets as well, in addition to an array of exclusively gay media sites like Pink News (Europe’s largest gay news service), Towleroad, and Joe.My.God, and we’re sure that the buck won’t stop there.

Even with this blitz of interest, though, it’s important to bear in mind the essence of Ghaziani’s argument: he is fundamentally fighting for these communities and seeking ways to preserve them without naively denying the realities of urban change. All neighborhoods change, of course, and gayborhoods are no exception. But they are evolving in unique ways as the long arc of the moral universe bends toward justice.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Amin Ghaziani is the author of:

TGTG There Goes the Gayborhood? by Amin Ghaziani
Hardcover | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691158792 | 360 pp. | 6 x 9 | 5 halftones. 2 line illus. 15 tables. 6 maps.| eBook | ISBN: 9781400850174 | Reviews Table of Contents  Introduction[PDF]

Princeton University Press will be at #ASA14…

sociology

Photo credit Eric Schwartz

And these are just a few of the awesome books you might see at our booth. Stop by and say hi to our sociology editor Eric Schwartz!

Also, during the meeting, there will be a bookstore signing at Green Arcade Books for Amin Ghaziani’s book There Goes the Gayborhood? We hope yo will make some time to support a local bookstore and support one of your colleagues in one fell swoop. The event starts August 17th at 6 PM. Details here: http://www.thegreenarcade.com/assets/index/GayborhoodPoster.pdf

Quick Questions for Amin Ghaziani, author of There Goes the Gayborhood?

Amin Ghaziani is an associate professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia. His areas of study include sexualities, culture, urban life, and social movements. He is the author of The Dividends of Dissent: How Conflict and Culture Work in Lesbian and Gay Marches on Washington, which was a 2009 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award’s Best Book in LGBT Studies in 2009. In 2010, he was awarded the Sage Prize for Innovation and Excellence by the British Sociological Association.

Amin Ghaziani

Dr. Ghaziani received his B.A. from the University of Michigan and his M.S. and Ph.D. at Northwestern University. His new book, There Goes the Gayborhood? examines the future of gay neighborhoods in major American cities. Gayborhoods, from New York City’s Greenwich Village to Chicago’s Boystown, have provided gay and lesbians with safe places to live for decades, but could they become a thing of the past in today’s “post-gay” world of shifting cultural attitudes and civil rights milestones? Dr. Ghaziani takes up the question in large measure, drawing on census data, newspaper articles, opinion polls, and over a hundred interviews conducted with Chicago residents and argues that these urban communities will survive, even in the wake of radical social change.

Now, on to the questions!

What inspired you to become a sociologist?

The summer after my junior year in college, I signed up for a “San Francisco Field Studies” program at Northwestern. This was an internship-based practicum that taught undergraduate students how to conduct ethnographic research of an organization, and then connect their findings with a theoretically informed policy directive. I was placed at Positive Resource Center (PRC), which, at the time, was the first organization in the country dedicated to helping people living with HIV/AIDS return to work after having left on AIDS disability. Although many people once were getting sick, leaving work, and preparing themselves to die, medical advances in highly active antiretroviral therapies in the mid- to late-1990s gave them a chance to renew their lease on life. Many of these people wanted to go back to work, but they encountered numerous challenges along the way.

That summer changed my life. I was rabble rouser during my undergraduate days, deeply committed to issues of social justice. I learned that sociological research offered unique opportunities to create change. I often cite that course, that summer, and those poignant experiences in San Francisco as the reasons why I found my way to graduate school.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

I have benefited from so much sage advice over the years that I simply cannot offer just one piece. Here we go:

  • For those who are finishing grad school: “The best dissertation is a done dissertation.” And besides, why limit what we can learn?
  • For those who fear submitting their manuscripts for peer review: “It’s not the best draft, it’s the last draft.”
  • For those who venture into the precarious realm of public sociology: “Don’t read the comments!”
  • If you decide to risk it anyway, then let me console you with some words from Winston Churchill: “Criticism is easy; achievement is difficult.” Keep your chin up!
  • And finally, for those who choose to pursue a life of scholarship: Love what you do. The world appears and feels so much more effervescent when passion and pleasure accompany the pursuit of your craft.

Why did you write this book?

Sociologists have for a long time been captivated by questions of residential choice (where we choose to live) and urban forms (why neighborhoods look and feel the way they do). Although we know much about these matters in general, we still know surprisingly little about the everyday lives, social interactions, and spaces in which LGBTQ people live. This oversight, as far as I’m concerned, is part of a heterosexist project—one that sees the city through a myopic lens that erases the experiences of gender and sexual minorities. This book represents one of the ways in which I am trying to correct this scholarly bias.


“There are now more places in cities, suburbs, and rural areas that have distinct associations with same-sex sexuality than ever before.”


I also think that queer spatial patterns are worthy of study in their own right, rather than for what they can teach us about other groups and enclaves, such racial/ethnic areas or class-based stratification in the city. Sexuality scholars are accustomed to translating their findings for “broader” audiences as a way to convince them that they, too, should in fact care. I try hard in this book to invert the power dynamics. Let us think about gayborhoods on their own terms—and unapologetically—rather than see them as supporting characters, districts whose intellectual value lies principally in what they can teach us about other kinds of urban spaces.

What was the most interesting thing you learned from writing this book?

There are two sets of surprising findings. Each is startling on its own—but even more so when we position one next to the other.

First, demographers express the extent to which groups of people like gays and straights are segregated in the city through what they call an “index of dissimilarity.” This is a statistic that represents the proportion of a minority group within a census tract that would need to be replaced by a member of the majority in order to reflect the composition of the city overall in terms of sexual orientation.

When we run the numbers, we see that zip codes associated with traditional gay neighborhoods are “de-concentrating.” When we compare the one hundred most populous places in the US during the 2000 census with how those same places looked in the 2010 collection, we realize that average segregation scores for male same-sex partner households decreased by 8.1 percent and a whopping 13.6 percent for female same-sex partners. If we zoom out even further, we see that same-sex partner households in general reside in 93 percent of all counties in the country.

If we just look at the most visible gayborhoods, places like the Castro in San Francisco or West Hollywood or Boystown in Chicago, then we might be tempted to conclude that these areas are diluting and de-gaying. But I also found evidence that new settlements are emerging. To see them, we have to ask follow-up questions: where are they going next and why?


“…it’s a mistake to see the urban landscape as a binary between gayborhoods and all other, undifferentiated straight spaces.”


The answers point to something quite counter-intuitive. Gayborhoods are not passé and thus disappearing—on the contrary, queer spaces are becoming more diverse and thus plural. There are now more places in cities, suburbs, and rural areas that have distinct associations with same-sex sexuality than ever before.

For me, the bottom line is that it’s a mistake to see the urban landscape as a binary between gayborhoods and all other, undifferentiated straight spaces. Or to reduce the spatial expressions of sexuality to those most visible gay districts that capture our popular imagination.

How did you come up with the book jacket?

Ghaziani_ThereGoestheGayborhoodI had a vision for the cover that, unfortunately, did not materialize. Some years ago, the RedEye, a free daily paper in Chicago, ran a cover story about changes in the local gayborhood. The image on the cover of the paper haunts me to this day: it was an artistic rendering of one of the rainbow-colored pylons that adorn North Halsted Street and mark it as the city’s main queer artery. The colors, however, were bleeding off the pylon. I thought it was the perfect visual representation for a book about the de-gaying of gayborhoods.

Although I was not able to obtain copyright clearance to reproduce the image, what the design team at Princeton came up with is no less brilliant. I love the concept. Notice two aspects of it. First, the title resembles spray paint, and the colors of the paint are bleeding. This design aesthetic, with its gorgeous urban motif, is consistent with what drew me to the RedEye. You might also notice that there are no images or photographs. The cover of my book plays off negative space. From an artistic perspective, we can imagine that the title and my name embody the generative potential of negative space. This is unexpected—and that surprise itself animates the themes of the book. Fears about the negating of queer space interact in subtle and sometimes surprising ways with new areas that are emerging.

What is your next project?

I began this book at Princeton University during my days as a postdoctoral fellow in the Society of Fellows, and I completed it during my assistant professor years at the University of British Columbia. This major move in my life inspired new types of questions. How do gay neighborhoods in the United States compare with those in Canada? More generally, how does national context affect the spatial expressions of sexuality? I would like to move my work to a cross-national, comparative perspective.

In the meantime, however, I am writing my first textbook. This short volume (200 printed and bound pages) will review research on sexualities from a uniquely cultural perspective.

Never a dull moment!

 

Amin Ghaziani is the author of:

Ghaziani_ThereGoestheGayborhood There Goes the Gayborhood? by Amin Ghaziani
Hardcover | August 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691158792
360 pp. | 6 x 9 | 2 line illus. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400850174 |   Reviews Table of Contents Introduction (PDF)

Sexuality and the City–presenting the book trailer for There Goes the Gayborhood? by Amin Ghaziani

In There Goes the Gayborhood?, sociologist Amin Ghaziani shows why the rumors of the demise of gay neighborhoods like Boystown, Chelsea, the Castro District, and Dupont Circle are premature. Publishers Weekly says his “findings are not to be missed,” while Library Journal says the book represents, “a fascinating, rich view that is supported by up-to-date statistics.” This video gives a quick overview of what the book covers.

You can sample a free chapter here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i10211.pdf

Princeton at Hay Festival


Hay on Monday evening
Blackburn at Hay
Simon Blackburn talks to Rosie Boycott
Mitton at Hay
Jacqueline Mitton broadens our knowledge of the solar system
Bethencourt at Hay
Francisco Bethencourt discusses “Racisms”

Last week was an important week in the British literary calendar–the week of Hay Festival! Set in beautiful Hay-on-Wye on the Welsh Borders, and running since 1988, the festival attracts thousands of book and culture enthusiasts from around the world every year. This year’s line-up was as strong as ever: with names such as Toni Morrison, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry, Mervin King, Jeremy Paxman, Simon Schama, Sebastian Faulks, William Dalrymple, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bear Grylls, Max Hastings, Rob Brydon, Bill Bailey and Dame Judi Dench (to name but a few to catch my eye in the jam-packed programme), 2014’s Festival could not fail to enthrall and delight anyone who walked its muddy paths.

And of course, Princeton University Press authors have been gracing the Hay stages this year, with a variety of wonderful events. From Diane Coyle, explaining GDP to us in plain English (and lo0king very stylish in her Hay wellies) to Michael Wood (translator of Dictionary of Untranslatables) discussing words that defy easy–or any–translation from one language and culture to another, to Ian Goldin’s talk about globalization and risk (The Butterfly Defect), last weekend got off to a great start.

Then, earlier in the week, Jacqueline Mitton (author of From Dust to Life) took a gripped audience on a journey through the history of our solar system in her “John Maddox Lecture”.  On Tuesday, Rosie Boycott spoke to Simon Blackburn about his book Mirror, Mirror–a fascinating conversation which covered everything from psychopathic tendencies displayed in senior management to whether Facebook is really that damaging to the young. Francisco Bethencourt, meanwhile, managed to squeeze a history of racisms into an hour and gave us lots to ponder.

If all this leaves you wishing you’d been there, there is still more to envy! Later in the week, Roger Scruton, Will Gompertz and others discussed the value of a Fine Art degree – does contemporary art celebrate concept without skill? On a parallel stage, renowned historian Averil Cameron (author of Byzantine Matters) convinced us that an understanding of the Byzantine era is just as important as studying, say, Rome or Greece. Finally, Michael Scott (author of Delphi), whom it is almost impossible to miss on the BBC these days, delivered a talk about Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World on Friday.

Whether you swoon for science are potty for poetry, whether you want to dance the night away in a frenzy of jazz or are hoping to meet your favourite on-screen star, Hay Festival offers something new and exciting every year.

Watch Peter Schuck discuss his new book WHY GOVERNMENT FAILS SO OFTEN on The Daily Show — Extended Interview Part 1

Untranslatable Tuesdays – Gender

Cassin gender image

To mark the publication of Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon, we are delighted to share a series of playful graphics by our design team which illustrate some of the most interesting terms from the Dictionary. For week five in the “Untranslatable Tuesdays” series we present Gender:

FRENCH différence des sexes, identité sexuelle, genre

GERMAN Geschlecht

ITALIAN genere

SPANISH género

Jacqueline Bhaba on Child Migration and Human Rights in a Global Age [VIDEO]

Why have our governments and societies been unable to effectively address the human rights and legal problems around the growing number of children who cross borders alone every year? How do we (and how should we) apply laws and policies designed for adult migrants to children and adolescents?

Distinguished human rights and legal scholar Jacqueline Bhabha has been studying complex ethical and legal questions such as these around immigration and children’s rights for over a decade and the results of her research may surprise you. Faculti Media recently posted this video of Bhabha discussing her work and her new book Child Migration and Human Rights in a Global Age: