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Defoe and the Dutch
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Defoe and the Dutch: Places, Things, People, by Margaret J-M Sönmez (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015).

The novels of Daniel Defoe are set in years during which two Anglo-Dutch wars were fought, a Dutch king took over the English throne, and the primacy of the Dutch in Northern European commerce was in the process of being overtaken by the English. At the time of these novels’ publication, the geo-physical, political and cultural achievements of the United Provinces were still remarked upon as extraordinary, while so many people had travelled between the two countries that Dutch communities in England and English communities in the United Provinces were unremarkable. Defoe’s personal, professional and political interests lay parallel and very close to stereotypically Dutch affairs, such as tolerance of dissenting Christianity, the promotion of trade as the source of a country’s wealth, and Court Whig (specifically Williamite) interests. In spite of this, the many Dutch elements in his novels are not always evident, and the body of his fiction has not previously been examined from this perspective.

Defoe and the Dutch: Places, Things, People explores what English readers of seventeenth and early eighteenth century English fiction and non-fiction knew about the Dutch, what images of the Dutch they were exposed to, and what significance these images may have had. Against that background, it investigates how Dutch elements are used or referred to in nine novels attributed to Daniel Defoe. From the ubiquity of Dutch ships and the Dutch bill of exchange to the disallowing of Dutch martial heroism and the exchange of gifts in Dutch weddings, images and associations of Dutch places, things and people in Defoe’s novels are woven into the fabric of the narratives. The novels’ uses of these and many other Dutch motifs or images are shown to avoid crude or negative stereotypes, and to be complex, subtle, and sensitive to the real-life events and contexts of the fictions, while also participating in a mode of representation that is overridingly emblematic.

Muslim Fashion
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Muslim Fashion: Contemporary Style Cultures, by Reina Lewis (Duke University Press, 2015).

In the shops of London’s Oxford Street, girls wear patterned scarves over their hair as they cluster around makeup counters. Alongside them, hip twenty-somethings style their head-wraps in high black topknots to match their black boot-cut trousers. Participating in the world of popular mainstream fashion—often thought to be the domain of the West—these young Muslim women are part of an emergent cross-faith transnational youth subculture of modest fashion. In treating hijab and other forms of modest clothing as fashion, Reina Lewis counters the overuse of images of veiled women as “evidence” in the prevalent suggestion that Muslims and Islam are incompatible with Western modernity. Muslim Fashion contextualizes modest wardrobe styling within Islamic and global consumer cultures, interviewing key players including designers, bloggers, shoppers, store clerks, and shop owners. Focusing on Britain, North America, and Turkey, Lewis provides insights into the ways young Muslim women use multiple fashion systems to negotiate religion, identity, and ethnicity.

Forging a Multinational State
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Forging a Multinational State: State Making in Imperial Austria from the Enlightenment to the First World War, by John Deak (Stanford University Press, 2015).

The Habsburg Monarchy ruled over approximately one-third of Europe for almost 150 years. Previous books on the Habsburg Empire emphasize its slow decline in the face of the growth of neighboring nation-states. John Deak, instead, argues that the state was not in eternal decline, but actively sought not only to adapt, but also to modernize and build.

Deak has spent years mastering the structure and practices of the Austrian public administration and has immersed himself in the minutiae of its codes, reforms, political maneuverings, and culture. He demonstrates how an early modern empire made up of disparate lands connected solely by the feudal ties of a ruling family was transformed into a relatively unitary, modern, semi-centralized bureaucratic continental empire. This process was only derailed by the state of emergency that accompanied the First World War. Consequently, Deak provides the reader with a new appreciation for the evolving architecture of one of Europe’s Great Powers in the long nineteenth century.

Dance and the Body in Western Theatre
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Dance and the Body in Western Theatre: 1948 to the Present, by Sabine Sörgel (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

The mid to late twentieth century has been widely regarded as the century of the body, when philosophers, cultural critics, sociologists, and theatre historians spent a lot of time and energy locating, dissecting, and celebrating the body in performance. While the body appears in almost all cultural discourses, it is nowhere as visible or as exposed as in dance.

This book captures the resurgence of the dancing body since World War Two. Thought-provoking and easy to follow, the text provides students with several key phenomenological, kinaesthetic and psychological concepts relevant to both theatre and dance studies. Sabine Sörgel explores the work of major practitioners from the UK, US and Europe, supplementing her discussion with photographs to give students context and a deeper understanding of the performances. Study questions feature at the end of each chapter, providing a starting point for further research.

Heidegger in France
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Heidegger in France, by Dominique Janicaud (Indiana University Press, 2015).

Dominique Janicaud claimed that every French intellectual movement—from existentialism to psychoanalysis—was influenced by Martin Heidegger. This translation of Janicaud’s landmark work, Heidegger en France, details Heidegger’s reception in philosophy and other humanistic and social science disciplines. Interviews with key French thinkers such as Françoise Dastur, Jacques Derrida, Éliane Escoubas, Jean Greisch, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Jean-Luc Marion, and Jean-Luc Nancy are included and provide further reflection on Heidegger’s relationship to French philosophy. An intellectual undertaking of authoritative scope, this work furnishes a thorough history of the French reception of Heidegger’s thought.

Contagious Communities
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Contagious Communities: Medicine, Migration, and the NHS in Post War Britain, by Roberta Bivins (Oxford University Press, 2015).

It was only a coincidence that the NHS and the Empire Windrush (a ship carrying 492 migrants from Britain’s West Indian colonies) arrived together. On 22 June 1948, as the ship’s passengers disembarked, frantic preparations were already underway for 5 July, the Appointed Day when the nation’s new National Health Service would first open its doors. The relationship between immigration and the NHS rapidly attained – and has enduringly retained – notable political and cultural significance.

Both the Appointed Day and the post-war arrival of colonial and Commonwealth immigrants heralded transformative change. Together, they reshaped daily life in Britain and notions of ‘Britishness’ alike. Yet the reciprocal impacts of post-war immigration and medicine in post-war Britain have yet to be explored. Contagious Communities casts new light on a period which is beginning to attract significant historical interest. Roberta Bivins draws attention to the importance – but also the limitations – of medical knowledge, approaches, and professionals in mediating post-war British responses to race, ethnicity, and the emergence of new and distinctive ethnic communities. By presenting a wealth of newly available or previously ignored archival evidence, she interrogates and re-balances the political history of Britain’s response to New Commonwealth immigration. Contagious Communities uses a set of linked case-studies to map the persistence of ‘race’ in British culture and medicine alike; the limits of belonging in a multi-ethnic welfare state; and the emergence of new and resolutely ‘unimagined’ communities of patients, researchers, clinicians, policy-makers, and citizens within the medical state and its global contact zones.

The Shape of Spectatorship
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The Shape of Spectatorship: Art, Science, and Early Cinema in Germany, by Scott Curtis (Columbia University Press, 2015).

Scott Curtis draws our eye to the role of scientific, medical, educational, and aesthetic observation in shaping modern spectatorship. Focusing on the nontheatrical use of motion picture technology in Germany between the 1890s and World War I, he follows researchers, teachers, and intellectuals as they negotiated the fascinating, at times fraught relationship between technology, discipline, and expert vision. As these specialists struggled to come to terms with motion pictures, they advanced new ideas of mass spectatorship that continue to affect the way we make and experience film. Staging a brilliant collision between the moving image and scientific or medical observation, visual instruction, and aesthetic contemplation, The Shape of Spectatorship showcases early cinema’s revolutionary impact on society and culture and the challenges the new medium placed on ways of seeing and learning.

Open Wounds
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Open Wounds: Armenians, Turks and a Century of Genocide, by Vicken Cheterian (Oxford University Press, 2015).

The assassination of the author Hrant Dink in Istanbul in 2007, a high-profile advocate of Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, reignited the debate in Turkey on the annihilation of the Ottoman Armenians. Many Turks soon re-awakened to their Armenian heritage, reflecting on how their grandparents were forcibly Islamised and Turkified, and the suffering their families endured to keep their stories secret. There was public debate around Armenian property confiscated by the Turkish state and the extermination of the minorities. At last the silence had been broken.

Open Wounds explains how, after the First World War, the new Turkish Republic forcibly erased the memory of the atrocities, and traces of Armenians, from their historic lands — a process to which the international community turned a blind eye. The price for this amnesia was, Vicken Cheterian argues, “a century of genocide.” Turkish intellectuals acknowledge the price society must pay collectively to forget such traumatic events, and that Turkey cannot solve its recurrent conflicts with its minorities — like the Kurds today — nor have an open and democratic society without addressing the original sin on which the state was founded: the Armenian Genocide.

Becoming Bourgeois
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Becoming Bourgeois: Love, Kinship, and Power in Provincial France, 1670–1880, by Christopher H. Johnson (Cornell University Press, 2015).

Becoming Bourgeois traces the fortunes of three French families in the municipality of Vannes, in Brittany—Galles, Jollivet, and Le Ridant—who rose to prominence in publishing, law, the military, public administration, and intellectual pursuits over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Revisiting complex issues of bourgeois class formation from the perspective of the interior lives of families, Christopher H. Johnson argues that the most durable and socially advantageous links forging bourgeois ascent were those of kinship. Economic success, though certainly derived from the virtues of hard work and intelligent management, was always underpinned by marriage strategies and the diligent intervention of influential family members.

Johnson’s examination of hundreds of personal letters opens up a whole world: the vicissitudes of courtship; the centrality of marriage; the depths of conjugal love; the routines of pregnancy and the drama of childbirth; the practices of child rearing and education; the powerful place of siblings; the role of kin in advancing the next generation; tragedy and deaths; the enormous contributions of women in all aspects of becoming bourgeois; and the pleasures of gathering together in intimate soirées, grand balls, country houses, and civic and political organizations. Family love bound it all together, and this is ultimately what this book is about, as four generations of rather ordinary provincial people capture our hearts.

The Event of Charlie Hebdo
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The Event of Charlie Hebdo: The Imaginaries of Freedom and Control, edited by Alessandro Zagato (Berghahn Books, 2015).

The January 2015 shooting at the headquarters of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris and the subsequent attacks that took place in the Île-de-France region were staggeringly violent events. They sparked an enormous discussion among citizens and intellectuals from around Europe and beyond. By analyzing the effects the attacks have had in various spheres of social life, including the political, ideology, collective imaginaries, the media, and education, this collection of essays aims to serve as a contribution as well as a critical response to that discussion. The volume observes that the events being attributed to Charlie Hebdo go beyond sensationalist reports of the mainstream media, transcend the spatial confines of nation states, and lend themselves to an ever-expanding number of mutating discursive formations.

Imperial Gamble
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Imperial Gamble: Putin, Ukraine, and the New Cold War, by Marvin Kalb (Brookings Institution Press, 2015).

Marvin Kalb, a former journalist and Harvard professor, traces how the Crimea of Catherine the Great became a global tinder box. The world was stunned when Vladimir Putin invaded and seized Crimea in March 2014. Shortly thereafter, the Russians threw their support behind secessionist rebels in neighboring Ukraine, pitching the country into a brutal and continuing civil war. An ominous and sharp deterioration in East-West relations followed.

In Imperial Gamble: Putin, Ukraine, and the New Cold War, Marvin Kalb brings to life the geography, power politics, and history of Ukraine—once know as Kieven Rus’, or the “First Russia.”  He takes a critical look at the tortured history of post-Soviet Russia and Ukraine, and journeys deep into the Russian past to uncover the roots of Russian and Ukrainian nationalism.

Quest for Power
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Quest for Power: European Imperialism and the Making of Chinese Statecraft, by Stephen R. Halsey (Harvard University Press, 2015).

China’s history in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has often been framed as a long coda of imperial decline, played out during its last dynasty, the Qing. Quest for Power presents a sweeping reappraisal of this narrative. Stephen Halsey traces the origins of China’s great-power status in the twentieth century to this era of supposed decadence and decay. Threats from European and Japanese imperialism and the growing prospect of war triggered China’s most innovative state-building efforts since the Qing dynasty’s founding in the mid-1600s.

Through a combination of imitation and experimentation, a new form of political organization took root in China between 1850 and 1949 that shared features with modern European governments. Like them, China created a military-fiscal state to ensure security in a hostile international arena. The Qing Empire extended its administrative reach by expanding the bureaucracy and creating a modern police force. It poured funds into the military, commissioning ironclad warships, reorganizing the army, and promoting the development of an armaments industry. State-built telegraph and steamship networks transformed China’s communication and transportation infrastructure. Increasingly, Qing officials described their reformist policies through a new vocabulary of sovereignty—a Western concept that has been a cornerstone of Chinese statecraft ever since. As Halsey shows, the success of the Chinese military-fiscal state after 1850 enabled China to avoid wholesale colonization at the hands of Europe and Japan and laid the foundation for its emergence as a global power in the twentieth century.

Antanas Smetona and His Lithuania
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Antanas Smetona and His Lithuania: From the National Liberation Movement to an Authoritarian Regime (1893-1940), by Alfonsas Eidintas (Brill | Rodopi, 2015).

This biographical overview of the life of Antanas Smetona (1874-1944), his importance in the Lithuanian national movement, his central role in the emergence of modern Lithuania (1918-1920), and the development of the various groups of nationalists in Lithuania, offers a picture of the creation of a national state in XXth century Europe. Twice the president of Lithuania (1919-20 and 1926-40), the authoritarian ruler of the state from 1926-1940, Smetona established his role as a capable and needed politician in Lithuania’s political life, a middle person between the political left and right. The study characterizes Smetona’s closest and most important associates, who helped him to formulate legislation for his model of presidential regime, the nationalistic ideology, and the development of national economy. Despite its authoritarian tendencies Smetona’s rule surprisingly continued to be for many Lithuanians a symbol of Lithuanian independence and national freedom through the years of Soviet occupation.

Camus, Philosophe
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Camus, Philosophe: To Return to our Beginnings, by Matthew Sharpe (Brill Academic Publishers, 2015).

Camus, Philosophe: To Return to our Beginnings is the first book on Camus to read Camus in light of, and critical dialogue with, subsequent French and European philosophy. It argues that, while not an academic philosopher, Albert Camus was a philosophe in more profound senses looking back to classical precedents, and the engaged French lumières of the 18th century. Aiming his essays and literary writings at the wider reading public, Camus’ criticism of the forms of ‘political theology’ enshrined in fascist and Stalinist regimes singles him out markedly from more recent theological and messianic turns in French thought. His defense of classical thought, turning around the notions of natural beauty, a limit, and mesure makes him a singularly relevant figure given today’s continuing debates about climate change, as well as the way forward for the post-Marxian Left.

Selling Paris
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Selling Paris: Property and Commercial Culture in the Fin-de-siècle Capital, by Alexia M. Yates (Harvard University Press, 2015).

In 1871 Paris was a city in crisis. Besieged during the Franco–Prussian War, its buildings and boulevards were damaged, its finances mired in debt, and its new government untested. But if Parisian authorities balked at the challenges facing them, entrepreneurs and businessmen did not. Selling Paris chronicles the people, practices, and politics that spurred the largest building boom of the nineteenth century, turning city-making into big business in the French capital.

Alexia Yates traces the emergence of a commercial Parisian housing market, as private property owners, architects, speculative developers, and credit-lending institutions combined to finance, build, and sell apartments and buildings. Real estate agents and their innovative advertising strategies fed these new residential spaces into a burgeoning marketplace. Corporations built empires with tens of thousands of apartments under management for the benefit of shareholders. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Parisian housing market caught the attention of the wider public as newspapers began reporting its ups and downs.

The forces that underwrote Paris’s creation as the quintessentially modern metropolis were not only state-centered or state-directed but also grew out of the uncoordinated efforts of private actors and networks. Revealing the ways housing and property became commodities during a crucial period of urbanization, Selling Paris is an urban history of business and a business history of a city that transforms our understanding of both.