Telling Tales Out of School: Impact, Literature and the Academy

by Duncan Wheeler

In ‘Why I Quit,’ an already infamous piece published in the London Review of Books in Autumn 2014, Marina Warner rallies against the increasingly top-heavy corporate style of modern British universities. I can perfectly understand her frustration, and I agree with many of her complaints about the higher education system – the willingness to take on under-par fee-paying graduate students, an exponential growth in administrators and philistinism – but I was somewhat less convinced by her portrait of my colleagues and me as sacrificial lambs to the slaughter. In my experience, the correspondent from the Daily Telegraph was closer to the mark: ‘Most professions harbour rivalry and backbiting, but academics make politicians look like fawning puppies.' [read full essay]

'Racism Had Taken a Beating'

Robin Bunce and Paul Field, Darcus Howe: A Political Biography

reviewed by David Renton

If one were to write a total history of racism and anti-racism in Britain since 1945 — taking in the arrival of the Empire Windrush, the 1958 Notting Hill riots, the deaths of Blair Peach, Cynthia Jarrett and Stephen Lawrence, the stunts of Martin Webster and the brief electoral success of Nick Griffin, shifting popular ideas of solidarity or exclusion, and the changing approaches of the British state — Darcus Howe would deserve inclusion at three points. First, in 1970-71 as a defender... [read more]

On the Crest of a Wave

Alex Niven, Definitely Maybe

reviewed by David Stubbs

Oasis were central to the Nineties not just as one of its most popular groups, among the top two or three immediately cited when the word Britpop is invoked, but also to the decade as experienced in the UK. They feel like a group whose success was willed into being by a generation of mainstream music lovers who, post-rave, had fallen in love with communalism again. The diversity and fragmentation that punk and post-punk had engendered during the 1980s and beyond left people feeling confused,... [read more]

‘Television Delivers People’

Chris Meigh-Andrews, A History of Video Art

reviewed by Hazel Dowling

‘You pay the money to allow someone else to make the choice, you are consumed, you are the product of television. Television delivers people’ - Richard Serra and Carlota Fay Shoolman, ‘Television Delivers People’, 1973 Emerging from the very particular set of social and political circumstances of 1960s America, the trajectory of the medium of video, traced by Chris Meigh-Andrews in his second edition of A History of Video Art, draws upon a multiplicity of events in the history of... [read more]

Social Unionism

Micah Uetricht, Strike for America: Chicago Teachers Against Austerity

reviewed by Jake Kinzey

Two separate areas sit side by side, separated by City Line Avenue. North of City Line is Lower Merion Township. It is part of the ‘Main Line’, one of the wealthiest areas in the country. Overbrook lies south. Some of the neighbourhood lives in relative affluence, but the rest are like many other Philadelphians, and live in a world of poverty and violence. One of the major differences between the two neighbourhoods is the state of their public high schools. In 2010, Lower Merion High... [read more]

No Parallel Sacrifice

Danny Dorling, All That Is Solid: The Great Housing Disaster

reviewed by Joseph Finlay

Listen to any debate about our housing crisis and within seconds you’ll hear someone proclaim that ‘we need to build more houses’. All political parties accept this as holy writ, vying with each other in their pledges to build the most homes. In All That Is Solid, Danny Dorling makes a powerful case against this assumption. There are 66 million bedrooms in England and Wales, for 55 million people. Many of these people, being married or cohabiting couples, share a room. Even in densely... [read more]

The Power of Pop

Christopher Partridge, The Lyre of Orpheus: Popular Music, The Sacred and The Profane

reviewed by Eugene Brennan

Despite – or perhaps because of – the ubiquity of online cultural studies commentary, popular music’s place in contemporary culture seems to be particularly susceptible to being fetishised as a space of purity, not to be contaminated by intellectual inquiry. The popular success of Slavoj Zizek’s documentaries comprising Lacanian demystifications of Hollywood films, for example, didn’t seem to meet with defensive reactions along the lines of ‘It’s just about the movies, man.’... [read more]

Alternative Heroes

Agata Pyzik, Poor But Sexy: Culture Clashes in Europe East and West

reviewed by Sebastian Truskolaski

Agata Pyzik’s Poor But Sexy is a timely and personal rumination on the explosive culture clashes between Eastern and Western Europe. Over the course of five thematically arranged chapters, the author discusses a wide range of examples from art and popular culture, prodding at the fault-lines on the European map left by the dismantling of the ‘iron curtain’. The overall sentiment of the book points in two directions: on the one hand, it expresses the pervasive sense that, after 1989, the... [read more]

On The Borderline

Branden Hookway, Interface

reviewed by Robert Barry

In Arthur C. Clarke’s Hugo Award-winning 1972 novel Rendezvous with Rama, scientists discover an alien spacecraft careening towards our solar system, just beyond the orbit of Jupiter. Upon entering the ship, however, they find it abandoned by its presumed masters and the astronauts are left to glean what information they can about the absentee extraterrestrials from the way they have designed their tools. Slowly, patiently, the human explorers construct an image of the alien others by... [read more]

The Promise of Common Sense

Monique Roelofs, The Cultural Promise of the Aesthetic

reviewed by Chris Law

The premise of Monique Roelofs’ The Cultural Promise of the Aesthetic is that notions of the promise, bound up with ideas of relationality and address, are central to the functioning and failures of the aesthetic. Roelofs proposes that ‘the aesthetic’ is enjoying a renaissance, following a period of disdain and critique. Contemporary invocations of ‘the aesthetic’, Roelofs tells us, span ‘academic disciplines, bodily regimes, commemorative projects, archival collections, methods of... [read more]

A New Social Contract

Andy Merrifield, The New Urban Question

reviewed by Daniel Whittall

If we are to believe the McKinsey Institute, ‘the growth of cities in emerging markets is driving the most significant economic transformation in history.’ A growing ‘consuming class’, especially to be found in the cities of China and India, are the drivers of future economic growth. Over the course of the next 15 years, cities in the USA alone will contribute fully 10% of global GDP growth, though that fact might be met with some disbelief by the people of Detroit in particular. 600... [read more]