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Parables of Coercion
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Parables of Coercion: Conversion and Knowledge at the End of Islamic Spain, by Seth Kimmel (University of Chicago Press, 2015).

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, competing scholarly communities sought to define a Spain that was, at least officially, entirely Christian, even if many suspected that newer converts from Islam and Judaism were Christian in name only. Unlike previous books on conversion in early modern Spain, however, Parables of Coercion focuses not on the experience of the converts themselves, but rather on how questions surrounding conversion drove religious reform and scholarly innovation.

In its careful examination of how Spanish authors transformed the history of scholarship through debate about forced religious conversion, Parables of Coercion makes us rethink what we mean by tolerance and intolerance, and shows that debates about forced conversion and assimilation were also disputes over the methods and practices that demarcated one scholarly discipline from another.

Agents of Liberation
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Agents of Liberation: Holocaust Memory in Contemporary Art and Film Documentary, by Zoltán Kékesi (Central European University Press, 2015).

The book explores representations of the Holocaust in contemporary art practices. Through carefully selected art projects, the author illuminates the specific historical, cultural, and political circumstances that influence the way we speak—or do not speak—about the Holocaust. The book’s international focus brings into view film projects made by key artists reflecting critically upon forms of Holocaust memory in a variety of geographical contexts.

Kékesi connects the ethical implications of the memory of the Holocaust with a critical analysis of contemporary societies, focusing upon artists who are deeply engaged in doing both of the above within three regions: Eastern Europe (especially Poland), Germany, and Israel. The case studies apply current methods of contemporary art theory, unfolding their implications in terms of memory politics and social critique.

Picture Titles
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Picture Titles: How and Why Western Paintings Acquired Their Names, by Ruth Bernard Yeazell (Princeton University Press, 2015).

A picture’s title is often our first guide to understanding the image. Yet paintings didn’t always have titles, and many canvases acquired their names from curators, dealers, and printmakers—not the artists. Taking an original, historical look at how Western paintings were named, Picture Titles shows how the practice developed in response to the conditions of the modern art world and how titles have shaped the reception of artwork from the time of Bruegel and Rembrandt to the present.

Ruth Bernard Yeazell begins the story with the decline of patronage and the rise of the art market in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as the increasing circulation of pictures and the democratization of the viewing public generated the need for a shorthand by which to identify works at a far remove from their creation. The spread of literacy both encouraged the practice of titling pictures and aroused new anxieties about relations between word and image, including fears that reading was taking the place of looking. Yeazell demonstrates that most titles composed before the nineteenth century were the work of middlemen, and even today many artists rely on others to name their pictures. A painter who wants a title to stick, Yeazell argues, must engage in an act of aggressive authorship. She investigates prominent cases, such as David’s Oath of the Horatii and works by Turner, Courbet, Whistler, Magritte, and Jasper Johns.

Examining Western painting from the Renaissance to the present day, Picture Titles sheds new light on the ways that we interpret and appreciate visual art.

Islam and Secularity
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Islam and Secularity: The Future of Europe’s Public Sphere, by Nilüfer Göle (Duke University Press, 2015).

In Islam and Secularity Nilüfer Göle takes on two pressing issues: the transforming relationship between Islam and Western secular modernity and the impact of the Muslim presence in Europe. Göle shows how the visibility of Islamic practice in the European public sphere unsettles narratives of Western secularism.

As mutually constitutive, Islam and secularism permeate each other, the effects of which play out in embodied and aesthetic practices and are accompanied by fear, anxiety, and violence. In this timely book, Göle illuminates the recent rethinking of secularism and religion, of modernity and resistance to it, of the public significance of sexuality, and of the shifting terrain of identity in contemporary Europe.

London the Promised Land Revisited
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London the Promised Land Revisited: The Changing Face of the London Migrant Landscape in the Early 21st Century, edited by Anne J. Kershen (Ashgate, 2015).

Some two decades since the publication of London the Promised Land?, which charted and investigated the successes and failures of the migrant experience in London over a period of three hundred years, this book re-examines the migrant landscape in London. While remaining a beacon for immigrants, the migrant face of the city has changed rapidly and dramatically from one which was heavily populated by semi-skilled and unskilled post-colonial incomers, to one which now embraces the EU Accession Countries, refugees from the Middle East and Africa, oligarchs from Russia, the new wealthy from China, economic migrants from Latin America and Ireland, and still, post-colonial immigrants – at the same time witnessing the exodus ‘home’ of incomers, or their descendants, who now see opportunities where there were none before.

The contributors, all leading academics and practitioners in their diverse fields, examine changes to the migrant landscape of contemporary London at the micro, meso and macro levels. London the Promised Land Revisited thus explores a range of experiences in the capital, including the presence and treatment of illness amongst migrants, the phenomenon of migrant ‘invisibility’ and asylum, the migrant marketplace and ethnic ‘clustering’, and interaction with local and national government – across a variety of migrant groups, both ‘new’ and ‘old’. As such, this book will appeal to scholars across the social sciences with interest in migration, migrant experiences and the contemporary ‘global’ city.

The Burdens of Brotherhood
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The Burdens of Brotherhood: Jews and Muslims from North Africa to France, by Ethan B. Katz (Harvard University Press, 2015).

Headlines from France suggest that Muslims have renewed an age-old struggle against Jews and that the two groups are once more inevitably at odds. But the past tells a different story. The Burdens of Brotherhood is a sweeping history of Jews and Muslims in France from World War I to the present. Here Ethan Katz introduces a richer and more complex world that offers fresh perspective for understanding the opportunities and challenges in France today.

Focusing on the experiences of ordinary people, Katz shows how Jewish–Muslim relations were shaped by everyday encounters and by perceptions of deeply rooted collective similarities or differences. We meet Jews and Muslims advocating common and divergent political visions, enjoying common culinary and musical traditions, and interacting on more intimate terms as neighbors, friends, enemies, and even lovers and family members. Drawing upon dozens of archives, newspapers, and interviews, Katz tackles controversial subjects like Muslim collaboration and resistance during World War II and the Holocaust, Jewish participation in French colonialism, the international impact of the Israeli–Arab conflict, and contemporary Muslim antisemitism in France.

We see how Jews and Muslims, as ethno-religious minorities, understood and related to one another through their respective relationships to the French state and society. Through their eyes, we see colonial France as a multiethnic, multireligious society more open to public displays of difference than its postcolonial successor. This book thus dramatically reconceives the meaning and history not only of Jewish–Muslim relations but ultimately of modern France itself.

Brazil through French Eyes
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Brazil through French Eyes: A Nineteenth-Century Artist in the Tropics, by Ana Lucia Araujo (The University of New Mexico Press, 2015).

In 1858 François-Auguste Biard, a well-known sixty-year-old French artist, arrived in Brazil to explore and depict its jungles and the people who lived there. What did he see and how did he see it? In this book historian Ana Lucia Araujo examines Biard’s Brazil with special attention to what she calls his “tropical romanticism”: a vision of the country with an emphasis on the exotic.

Biard was not only one of the first European artists to encounter and depict native Brazilians, but also one of the first travelers to photograph the rain forest and its inhabitants. His 1862 travelogue Deux années en Brésil includes 180 woodcuts that reveal Brazil’s reliance on slave labor as well as describe the landscape, flora, and fauna, with lively narratives of his adventures and misadventures in the rain forest. Thoroughly researched, Araujo places Biard’s work in the context of the European travel writing of the time and examines how representations of Brazil through French travelogues contributed and reinforced cultural stereotypes and ideas about race and race relations in Brazil. She further summarizes that similar representations continue and influence perspectives today.

European Products
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European Products: Making and Unmaking Heritage in Cyprus, by Gisela Welz (Berghahn, 2015).

On the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, rural villages, traditional artefacts, even atmospheres and experiences are considered heritage. Heritage making not only protects, but also produces, things, people, and places. Since the Republic of Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004, heritage making and Europeanization are increasingly intertwined in Greek-Cypriot society. Against the backdrop of a long-term ethnographic engagement, the author argues that heritage emerges as an increasingly standardized economic resource, a “European product.” Implemented in historic preservation, rural tourism, culinary traditions, nature protection, and urban restoration projects, heritage policy has become infused with transnational market regulations and neoliberal property regimes.

The Europeanization of Politics
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The Europeanization of Politics: The Formation of a European Electorate and Party System in Historical Perspective, by Daniele Caramani (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

In a broadly comparative, historical and quantitative analysis, this study reveals the unity of European electorates and party systems. Investigating thirty countries in Western and Central-Eastern Europe over 150 years of electoral history, the author shows the existence of common alignments and parallel waves of electoral change across the continent. Europeanization appears through an array of indicators including cross-country deviation measures, uniform swings of votes, the correspondence between national arenas and European Parliament, as well as in the ideological convergence among parties of the same families. Based on a painstaking analysis of a large wealth of data, the study identifies the supra-national, domestic and diffusion factors at the origin of Europeanization. Building on previous work on the nationalization of politics, this new study makes the case for Europeanization in historical and electoral perspective, and points to the role of left-right in structuring the European party system along ideological rather than territorial lines. In the classical tradition of electoral and party literature, this book sheds a new light on Europe’s democracy.

Clean Bombs and Dirty Wars
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Clean Bombs and Dirty Wars: Air Power in Kosovo and Libya, by Robert H. Gregory Jr. (University of Nebraska Press, 2015).
After the United States, along with NATO allies, bombed the Serbian forces of Slobodan Milosevic for seventy-eight days in 1999, Milosevic withdrew his army from Kosovo. With no troops on the ground, political and military leaders congratulated themselves on the success of Operation Allied Force, considered to be the first military victory won through the use of strategic air power alone. This apparent triumph motivated military and political leaders to embrace a policy of using “clean bombs” (precision munitions and air strikes)—without a dirty ground war—as the preferred choice for answering military aggression. Ten years later it inspired a similar air campaign against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces in Libya as a groundswell of protests erupted into revolution.

Clean Bombs and Dirty Wars offers a fresh perspective on the role, relevance, and effectiveness of air power in contemporary warfare, including an exploration of the political motivations for its use as well as a candid examination of air-to-ground targeting processes. Using recently declassified materials from the William J. Clinton Presidential Library along with primary evidence culled from social media posted during the Arab Spring, Robert H. Gregory Jr. shows that the argument that air power eliminates the necessity for boots on the ground is an artificial and illusory claim.

Hidden Lives, Public Personae
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Hidden Lives, Public Personae: Women and Civic Life in the Roman West, by Emily Hemelrijk (Oxford University Press, 2015).

Roman cities have rarely been studied from the perspective of women, and studies of Roman women mainly focus on the city of Rome. Studying the civic participation of women in the towns of Italy outside Rome and in the numerous cities of the Latin-speaking provinces of the Roman Empire, this books offers a new view on Roman women and urban society in the Roman Principate. Drawing on epigraphy and archaeology, and to a lesser extent on legal and literary texts, women’s civic roles as priestesses, benefactresses and patronesses or ‘mothers’ of cities and associations (collegia and the Augustales) are brought to the fore. In contrast to the city of Rome, which was dominated by the imperial family, wealthy women in the local Italian and provincial towns had ample opportunity to leave their mark on the city. Their motives to spend their money, time and energy for the benefit of their cities and the rewards their contributions earned them take centre stage. Assessing the meaning and significance of their contributions for themselves and their families and for the cities that enjoyed them, the book presents a new and detailed view of the role of women and gender in Roman urban life.

Jewish Youth and Identity in Postwar France
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Jewish Youth and Identity in Postwar France: Rebuilding Family and Nation, by Daniella Doron (Indiana University Press, 2015).

At the end of World War II, French Jews faced a devastating demographic reality: thousands of orphaned children, large numbers of single-parent households, and families in emotional and financial distress. Daniella Doron suggests that after years of occupation and collaboration, French Jews and non-Jews held contrary opinions about the future of the nation and the institution of the family. At the center of the disagreement was what was to become of the children. Doron traces emerging notions about the postwar family and its role in strengthening Jewish ethnicity and French republicanism in the shadow of Vichy and the Holocaust.

 

Understanding Italian Opera
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Understanding Italian Opera, by Tim Carter (Oxford University Press, 2015).

Ever since its invention in Florence around 1600, opera has exerted a peculiar fascination for creative artists and audiences alike. A “Western” genre with a global reach, it is often regarded as the pinnacle of high art, where music and drama come together in unique ways, supported by stellar singers and spectacular staging. Yet it is also patently absurd–why should anyone sing on the stage?–and shrouded in mystique. In this engaging and entertaining guide, renowned music scholar Tim Carter unravels its many layers to offer a thorough introduction to Italian opera from the seventeenth to the early-twentieth century.

Eschewing the technical music detail that all too often dominates writing on opera, Carter begins instead where the composers themselves did: with the text. Walking readers through the relationship between music and words that lies at the heart of any opera, Carter then offers explorations of five of the most enduring, emblematic, and often performed Italian operas: Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppaea; Handel’s Julius Caesar in Egypt; Mozart’sThe Marriage of Figaro; Verdi’s Rigoletto; and Pucini’s La Bohème. Shedding light on the creative collusions and collisions involved in bringing opera to the stage, the various, and varying, demands of its text and music, and the nature of its musical drama, Carter shows how Italian opera has developed over the course of music history. Complete with synopses, cast lists, and suggested further reading for each opera discussed, Understanding Italian Opera is a must-read for anyone with an interest in and love for opera.

London Fog
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London Fog: The Biography, by Christine L. Corton (Harvard University Press, 2015).

In popular imagination, London is a city of fog. The classic London fogs, the thick yellow “pea-soupers,” were born in the industrial age of the early nineteenth century. The first globally notorious instance of air pollution, they remained a constant feature of cold, windless winter days until clean air legislation in the 1960s brought about their demise. Christine L. Corton tells the story of these epic London fogs, their dangers and beauty, and their lasting effects on our culture and imagination.

As the city grew, smoke from millions of domestic fires, combined with industrial emissions and naturally occurring mists, seeped into homes, shops, and public buildings in dark yellow clouds of water droplets, soot, and sulphur dioxide. The fogs were sometimes so thick that people could not see their own feet. By the time London’s fogs lifted in the second half of the twentieth century, they had changed urban life. Fogs had created worlds of anonymity that shaped social relations, providing a cover for crime, and blurring moral and social boundaries. They had been a gift to writers, appearing famously in the works of Charles Dickens, Henry James, Oscar Wilde, Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Conrad, and T. S. Eliot. Whistler and Monet painted London fogs with a fascination other artists reserved for the clear light of the Mediterranean.

Corton combines historical and literary sensitivity with an eye for visual drama—generously illustrated here—to reveal London fog as one of the great urban spectacles of the industrial age.

Recycling and Extended Producer Responsibility
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Recycling and Extended Producer Responsibility: The European Experience, by Rui Cunha Marques and Nuno Ferreira da Cruz (Ashgate, 2015).

An overriding value of European legislation on waste management is the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) principle. For example, all economic operators placing packaging onto the EU market are responsible for its proper management and recovery. However, in general, the collection and treatment of urban waste is the responsibility of local authorities. It has therefore been necessary to establish a system of financial compensations between producers and waste management operators.

Analysing the legal and institutional schemes of several member states and accounting for all the costs and benefits to their local authorities due to selective collection and sorting, this book provides an accurate illustration of how the EPR principle has be translated into practice. Firstly the authors examine whether the industry is paying for the net financial cost of ‘preparation for recycling’ activities or if the extra-costs of recycling are being recovered via the sale of sorted materials, by the consumer through higher prices or by citizens in general through higher taxes. Secondly, by monetizing the net environmental benefits attained with the recycling system, the book discusses the success and Value-for-Money (VfM) of the EU’s recycling policy. In other words: what is the economic rate of return of the enhanced environmental protection achieved due to the fulfilment of recovery and recycling targets?