“The ideal of social cooperation has come to be treated as high-sounding flabbiness,” Pat Bateson writes, “while individual selfishness is regarded as the natural and sole basis for a realistic approach to life. Competition is now widely seen as the mainspring of human activity. The process can be reversed if we work actively against a style of thought that places all the emphasis on confrontation. If we don’t, the building up of enormous arsenals of weapons will lead inexorably to the use of those arms in some moment of blind irrationality.”
While some might celebrate the decline of hard physical labour across “post-industrial” service-based economies, one of the prices we have paid has been greater uncertainty and anxiety about the ultimate worth of the work we do. Tom Barker questions the assumptions underlying talk of “non-jobs” and “bullshit jobs”, and in doing so asks us to interrogate our own definitions of what constitutes “real” work.
The bulk of most nutritional science is methodologically flawed and yet continues to cause many unnecessary anxieties about our food consumption. Tobias Haeusermann argues that it is time that we shift our attention to the socioeconomic conditions that give rise to different food habits, and the privilege required to “eat well”.
We find the sight of female body hair to be shocking, as it seems to fly in the face of the ‘acceptable’ norm. Drawing on her own research into self-defining feminist women and body hair, Melisa Trujillo argues that, when we attempt to police women’s bodies, we are overstepping a line, involving ourselves in a false, and sometimes violent form of intimacy.
The hope for a cure, a renewed absence of disease, is still one of the central legitimizing forces in the project of medicine. The promise of a cure inspires hope in patients and motivates doctors and researchers. But is it really a useful concept for guiding medical research and assessing the success of medical treatment? Konrad Laker argues that with the emergence of modern medical practice, the term may do a great deal more harm than good, unless fundamentally rethought.
Norman Finkelstein gives an unconventional critique of really-existing ‘academic freedom’, recounts the bizarre story of Bertrand Russell’s 1940 dismissal from the College of the City of New York, and examines authors from Marx to Chomsky in his defense of the academic’s right to “break free of the shackles imposed by polite discourse… to speak the impolite and impolitic truth.”
Between Rhetoric and Practice: The UK’s Response to Domestic Violence Against Women with Insecure Immigration Status
Halliki Voolma argues that, if we want to take seriously the issue of violence against women, this means also taking seriously the importance of specialist support services in the case of immigration.
Ten years after Helmut Newton’s death, a double exhibition celebrates his work in Berlin’s Museum of Photography. Exciting juxtapositions and breaks characterise both ‘Us and Them’ and ‘Sex and Landscapes’, inviting viewers to reflect on understandings of intimacy, the body, power, and desire. Works by Alice Springs complement his depictions of strong femmes fatales with more refined characters. Their works, as well as their portraits of each other, reveal important issues of representation and authenticity, perhaps particularly relevant for an age marked by proliferating images of naked (female) bodies, argues Jan Bock.
Is porn making us dumber? More aggressive? More gender-conservative? Or does it liberate the erotic imagination? Porn inhabits an uncanny space between real and pretend, shaping preferences and behaviours beyond the screen. While high-speed internet transforms the production, distribution and regulation of porn, the public discussion about its merits, and its potential for harm, is mired in a decades-old impasse over the value of different forms of evidence. Katrina Zaat asks who sets the terms of the porn debate, and whether it is possible to reframe it.
Certain species devote time to maintaining a relationship with their mate, often at great expense and in ways that seem to transcend basic reproduction. In exploring the wondrous world of animal mating systems, Alison Greggor explains the many parallels, as well as striking discrepancies, that emerge between humans and other species. These comparisons lead to a tantalizing question: are we alone in our capacity for intimacy and love?
Although Scotland and England have been tumultuous neighbours, not least in the constitutional question Scotland has asked itself on September 18, their divergent residential architectures pose similar challenges and strengths. Andrew Hoolachan argues that our housing problem today is severe, but that we can create sustainable and affordable places to live without turning our backs on the intimacy of urban living.
Sex matters: we tend to agree and yet are squeamish about making it matter in the Sex Ed classroom, especially when it comes to acknowledging sexual and gender diversity. A limited focus on danger and disease shows that school curricula are held back by an indecisive attitude towards the positive values of intimate and sexual relations. Ina Linge suggests a wish list for an ethics of intimacy that could inform not only Sex Ed classes but a whole range of human relationships that rely on intimate encounters.
In summer 2014, London’s Southbank Centre hosts the Festival of Love. Visitors can play games and dance, attend exhibitions, or watch performances: they are encouraged to engage with the structures of meaning around exhibitions of intimacy. Anna Blair reflects on the Festival’s nostalgic aesthetic, and on the ways in which engagement with others can be shaped and formed by place.
The 8-metre-high glass-walled space is cocooned in aperture-like darkness; the film is projected on a loop, and we find ourselves at sea in Caribbean sunlight. Ashes is not a film about death. Though its title might evoke cremation, ultimately it celebrates life. We enter the installation, and Ashes’ life, in medias res, with no context to his earlier life or subsequent misfortune: only his buoyancy.
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Democracy in crisis
End of life
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How to care
Insecure security states
Literature and Philosophy
Possibilities for Our Grandchildren
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The spread of mental illness
The BlogNov 19
Eric Lybeck sympathizes with the thousands of students who are going to be on the streets of London today protesting for ‘Free Education’. While declining public funding for universities and student debt are serious problems, Lybeck argues that the root of the injustice is not that wealth defines who can go to university or that working class students suffer over proportionately from paying back the debt. For him, the problem is that future generations will have to pay for what we think is a collective good.Oct 27
Clément Mouhot and Lorna Finlayson reflect on the enduring crisis in Palestine and respond to critics who say that singling out Israel is “misguided”, “myopic”, or “immoral”.Sep 24
Kara Walker’s installation at the Domino Sugar Refinery has received a lot of attention, much of it problematic. It is Walker’s ironic enlistment of racist stereotypes that gives her work its power, but this can also lead to inappropriate laughter and racist reactions. Kyle Stoneman explores how we tackle race and female bodies in a museum setting, looking at the installation and its impact.Sep 19
The Indian state has made significant headway in both welfare policies and neo-liberal economic development. They are well on the way to creating citizens out of the masses of people. In the column ‘Terra Nullius’, Nikita Simpson questions the narrative government officials spin particularly with regards to women and how in everyday life women are often not the empowered ‘nexus of rights’ the officials imagine.Sep 16
In the Flummox-column, Johannes Lenhard narrates Michael’s story begging, scoring and shooting heroin on the streets of London. Michael is an addict who cares for his drug, but he has reasons for this: on the stainless steel plane of the spoon, the drug cares back – something that he was denied all his life.Sep 13
The Last Night of the Proms rests in prime position in the British cultural calendar, but in many ways it is a betrayal of everything The Promenade Concerts stand for, argues Anita Data in the Sound World column.Aug 24
A subset of radical feminists argue that trans people’s claims about their gender are invalid, but these radical feminists need to take a harder look at the epistemological basis of their worldview.Aug 22
William Morris is celebrated as a British hero, a craftsman who fought for equality. Jeremy Deller’s ‘We Sit Starving Amidst Our Gold’ celebrates and queries this legacy, summoning Morris to throw Roman Abramovich’s yacht into the Venetian lagoon. Kim Clayton-Greene looks at Morris’s biography and popular image, and the ways in which his intent and impact have at times conflicted.Aug 17
The phantasm of the illegal asylum seeker has haunted Australian politics for the past fifty years. The measures successive governments have taken to tame the beast encroach increasingly on their human dignity. As the Abbott government introduces ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’, Nikita Simpson questions what happens when the exception becomes the norm.Aug 10
If practice makes perfect, and nothing’s ever perfect, why practise? This piece considers the various different kinds of practice that go into making an adept and talented musician. Thinking through the problem from a range of viewpoints, from that of neurology to that of a six-year-old child, Anita Datta reflects on attitudes towards practice and considers the array of possible results.