5 New Cultural History Books to Watch Out For

A Walk Through Paris: A Radical Exploration by Eric Hazan (27 Mar 2018)
a walk through paris
Eric Hazan, author of the acclaimed The Invention of Paris, leads us by the hand in this walk from Ivry to Saint-Denis, roughly following the meridian that divides Paris into east and west, and passing such familiar landmarks as the Luxembourg Gardens, the Pompidou Centre, the Gare du Nord and Montmartre, as well as little-known alleyways and arcades. Filled with historical anecdotes, geographical observations and literary references, Hazan’s walk guides us through an unknown Paris. He shows us how, through planning and modernisation, the city’s revolutionary past has been erased in order to enforce a reactionary future; but by walking and observation, he shows us how we can regain our knowledge of the radical past of the city of Robespierre, the Commune, Sartre and the May ’68 uprising. And by drawing on his own life story, as surgeon, publisher and social critic, Hazan vividly illustrates a radical life lived in the city of revolution.

Work: The Last 1,000 Years by Andrea Komlosky (27 Mar 2018)
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By the end of the nineteenth century, the general Western conception of work had been reduced to simply gainful employment. But this limited perspective contrasted sharply with the personal experience of most people in the world-whether in colonies, developing countries or in the industrializing world. Moreover, from a feminist perspective, reducing work and the production of value to remunerated employment has never been convincing. Andrea Komlosy argues in this important intervention that, when we examine it closely, work changes its meanings according to different historical and regional contexts. Globalizing labour history from the thirteenth to the twenty-first centuries, she sheds light on the complex coexistence of multiple forms of labour (paid/unpaid, free/unfree, with various forms of legal regulation and social protection and so on) on the local and the world levels.Combining this global approach with a gender perspective opens our eyes to the varieties of work and labour and their combination in households and commodity chains across the planet-processes that enable capital accumulation not only by extracting surplus value from wage-labour, but also through other forms of value transfer, realized by tapping into households’ subsistence production, informal occupation and makeshift employment. As the debate about work and its supposed disappearance intensifies, Komlosy’s book provides a crucial shift in the angle of vision.

Highland Homespun by Margaret Leigh (12 Apr 2018) 
Highland_Homespun_by_Margaret_Leigh_grande
In May 1933 Margaret Leigh took over the tenancy of Achnabo farm, in a beautiful corner of the West Highlands overlooking the isle of Skye.
In, Highland Homespun – this unsentimental yet exquisitely written book – she recounts a year of farming life there, from the burning of the land and ploughing in March, through planting and sowing in April to haymaking and harvesting in September. Incidental details – such as a visit to the smithy, the arrival of some new bulls and the annual journey of the cows to the summer shielings – provide fascinating insights into farming life. Local characters and customs feature too, adding another rich dimension to this reflective and poignant memoir of a world now vanished forever.

Sex, Time and Place: Queer Histories of London, c.1850 to Present, edited by Simon Avery and Katherine M. Graham

Sex, Time and Place extensively widens the scope of what we might mean by queer London studies. Incorporating multidisciplinary perspectives including social history, cultural geography, visual culture, literary representation, ethnography and social studies this collection asks new questions, widens debates and opens new subject terrain. Featuring essays from an international range of established scholars and emergent voices, the collection is a timely contribution to this growing field. Its essays cover topics such as activist and radical communities and groups, AIDS and the city, art and literature, digital archives and technology, drag and performativity, lesbian Londons, notions of bohemianism and deviancy, sex reform and research and queer Black history. Going further than the existing literature on Queer London which focuses principally on the experiences of white gay men in a limited time frame, Sex, Time and Place reflects the current state of this growing and important field of study. It will be of great value to scholars, students and general readers who have an interest in queer history, London studies, cultural geography, visual cultures and literary criticism.

A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture by Shachar M Pinsker (15 May 2018) 
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A fascinating glimpse into the world of the coffeehouse and its role in shaping modern Jewish culture.

Unlike the synagogue, the house of study, the community center, or the Jewish deli, the café is rarely considered a Jewish space. Yet, coffeehouses profoundly influenced the creation of modern Jewish culture from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. With roots stemming from the Ottoman Empire, the coffeehouse and its drinks gained increasing popularity in Europe. The “otherness,” and the mix of the national and transnational characteristics of the coffeehouse perhaps explains why many of these cafés were owned by Jews, why Jews became their most devoted habitués, and how cafés acquired associations with Jewishness.  Examining the convergence of cafés, their urban milieu, and Jewish creativity, Shachar M. Pinsker argues that cafés anchored a silk road of modern Jewish culture. He uncovers a network of interconnected cafés that were central to the modern Jewish experience in a time of migration and urbanization, from Odessa, Warsaw, Vienna, and Berlin to New York City and Tel Aviv. A Rich Brew explores the Jewish culture created in these social spaces, drawing on a vivid collection of newspaper articles, memoirs, archival documents, photographs, caricatures, and artwork, as well as stories, novels, and poems in many languages set in cafés.   Pinsker shows how Jewish modernity was born in the café, nourished, and sent out into the world by way of print, politics, literature, art, and theater. What was experienced and created in the space of the coffeehouse touched thousands who read, saw, and imbibed a modern culture that redefined what it meant to be a Jew in the world.

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