African Modernism

by William Harris

Still, modernism’s ideological vagueness was lent structure by the rise of the welfare state, with big public projects taking up much of its focus. And while the welfare state rose, colonialism fell, leading anxious colonial powers at times to bestow public institutions on colonised populations as gifts of appeasement. Protests shook Ghana after British officials jailed a young Kwame Nkrumah and colonial authorities responded by building more schools; a decade later trade boycotts led to a new community center in Accra. On the eve of independence African states prepared to inherit universities, libraries, housing blocks, garden cities – the patchy and underfunded skeletons of state infrastructure, much of it designed by modernists. [read full essay]

What is the Rent Trap?

Rosie Walker & Samir Jeraj, The Rent Trap: How We Fell into It and How We Get Out of It

reviewed by Tom Gann

In The Housing Question (1872), Friedrich Engels distinguished between the permanent condition of capitalist housing in which ‘the working class generally lives in bad, overcrowded and unhealthy dwellings’ and its periodic conjunctural intensification. In the late 1860s the ‘sudden rush of population to the big towns’ was the spark for the intensification of the crisis, but there are a range of possible factors that can intensify a chronic housing crisis. These intensifications have two... [read more]

Setting the Record Straight

Richard Seymour, Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics

reviewed by Elliot Murphy

Richard Seymour’s latest book, Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics, is a damning account of some of the most virulent media attacks on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party. His main intention here is to chart the rise of Corbyn; or rather, the rise of the institutional and popular forces which allowed him to win the Labour leadership campaign so decisively. This is ‘the first time in Labour’s history that it has a radical socialist for a leader.' Corbyn was... [read more]

The Senator from Wall Street

Doug Henwood, My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency

reviewed by Tom Reifer

2016 has been a US Presidential primary season unlike any other, with the rise of self-declared democratic Socialist, though really just an honest New Dealer, US Senator Bernie Sanders, running as a Democrat and a series of right wing ideologues, notably New York billionaire Donald Trump, now the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee, having secured the required delegates for the Republicans, a party that Noam Chomsky recently called the most dangerous organisation in world history, what... [read more]

Beyond Discourse

David J. Getsy (ed.), Queer

reviewed by Kristian Vistrup Madsen

‘I will not agree to be tolerated. This damages my love of love and of liberty.’ David Getsy came across this line in Jean Coteau’s The White Book (1989) as a teenager and it is one that has remained central to his understanding of what it means to be queer. Getsy is the editor of a new anthology just published by the Whitechapel Gallery and MIT Press in their Documents of Contemporary Art series. Queer gathers 80 documents around this theme as it relates to contemporary art practices and... [read more]

‘A bunch of hoops to jump through'

Juliet Jacques, Trans: A Memoir

reviewed by Claire Potter

‘I decided my name should be Juliet when I was ten,’ Juliet Jacques confessed in her inaugural blog post for the Guardian that inspired Trans: A Memoir. She then ‘swiftly buried’ this thought, one that lurked in the back of her mind and returned forcefully at 17. By day, Jacques didn’t stick out in her London suburb. She was an avid football fan and a good student as she privately explored who Juliet might be. On festive occasions when the rules of masculinity relaxed, an evolving... [read more]

First as Farce, Then as Tragedy

Owen Hatherley, The Chaplin Machine: Slapstick, Fordism and the Communist Avant-Garde

reviewed by Benjamin Noys

There are two things you might not associate with the communist avant-garde of the 1920s: a taste for comedy and a taste for all things American. You would be wrong. Owen Hatherley’s The Chaplin Machine is an exploration of this seemingly unlikely conjunction, of a world where Henry Ford, Charlie Chaplin, and Lenin are all being thought and brought together. Hatherley aims to recover this strange utopian moment, in which constructing socialism involved a turn to the potentials of comedy to... [read more]

'So many times I was called bitch'

Linda McDowell, Migrant Women's Voices: Talking About Life and Work in the UK Since 1945

reviewed by Lucy Popescu

Since 6 April 2016 all skilled workers from outside the EU who have been living in Britain for less than 10 years need to earn at least £35,000 a year to settle permanently here, even if they have lived here for years contributing to the UK culture and economy. Some jobs, such as nurses, are exempt. Under the new rules those who have come to work in Britain from outside the EU will be deported after five years if they fail to show they are earning more than £35,000. According to the... [read more]

Lights of Life

JH Prynne, The White Stones

reviewed by Jeremy Noel-Tod

The White Stones (1969) is, for me, a daily book. That is not to say that I read it over breakfast. But I think of some words from this great work of philosophical lyricism every day, as I go about my business in a provincial English city sixty miles from the one in which they were written: waking to ‘the sky cloudy / and the day packed into the crystal’; going to work with ‘a set rhythm of / the very slight hopefulness’; noticing ‘a thickening in the words / as the coins themselves... [read more]

‘Isso é minha casa’: At Home with Grief

Yann Martel, The High Mountains of Portugal

reviewed by Katie Da Cunha Lewin

The thread that runs through Yann Martel’s new novel is surprising and enigmatic: the Iberian rhinoceros. The rhinoceros, or the concept of a real-life rhinoceros living in Portugal, appears throughout the novel’s three parts. It is linked with mystery, religion and that most Portuguese of words, saudade. Martel’s first of three sad and widowed men, Tomás, first notes of the sad disappearance of the rhinoceros: Despite its ungraceful appearance, he has always lamented the fate of the... [read more]

‘All other possibilities’

Tara Forrest, Realism as Protest: Kluge, Schlingensief, Haneke

reviewed by Alex Fletcher

A maxim routinely asserted by politicians when confronted with a future that does not simply perpetuate the present state of things is that one must be realistic. As the German filmmaker and writer Alexander Kluge observes: ‘Public opinion is very strongly determined by people who … furnish themselves in reality as if in a tank or knight’s armour.’ This realistic predisposition to the status quo is reinforced by a mainstream media that blocks any capacity to conceive of how reality... [read more]