Cultural Studies Approaches in the Study of Eastern European Cinema: Spaces, Bodies, Memories reviewed in latest edition of Contact Zones

Andrea Virginás’ edited book Cultural Studies Approaches in the Study of Eastern European Cinema: Spaces, Bodies, Memories has been reviewed in the online journal Contact Zones: Studies in Central and Eastern European Film and Literature. The full review is available open access below. Continue reading


Bangladeshi newspaper The Daily Star reviews Nature and Life: Essays on Deep Ecology and Applied Ethics

The Bangladeshi daily The Daily Star has published a superb open access review of Md. Munir Hossain Talukder’s book Nature and Life: Essays on Deep Ecology and Applied EthicsThe review is available open access here, and an indicative excerpt is below:

“How is a philosophical worldview of nature and life (in the sense of its totality) possible? The answer to this question can be found in the philosophical approach of Md. Munir Hossain Talukder who invites us to take the universe in its totality as a way of correcting the metaphysics of ‘self’ and its relation with the nature.Of all the far reaching insights, the one most relevant of Professor Talukder’s book is his engagement in exploring the issues of values, virtues and attitude towards life and nature through a common lens of culture in which the “quality of life” is emphasized not only as a logical outcome of “Self-realization” but also as a common denominator of (bio)ethical choice. This way of thinking as such would contribute profoundly to the ongoing dialogue about deep ecology and applied ethics, generated from the renewed interests in transforming the metaphysic of self into a philosophical worldview of life and nature.”

Muhammad A Sayeed, Jahangirnagar University, The Daily Star

The book is out now, and can be purchased directly from Cambridge Scholars by clicking here.

Book review: Heinz-Uwe Haus on Culture and Politics

In this book, Heinz-Uwe Haus charts the development of the unification and democratization processes, providing a unique narrative of the context before German unification, unification itself, and the aftermath of unification across the decades since. Furthermore, he widens the context from post-unification Germany to encompass issues of broader current relevance, such as Europe, America and Islam.  Theater provides the conceptual framework for this wide-ranging debate, and the selected texts document the interference of a theater maker with questions of politics and society.  In selecting the texts, he recalls how shortly before the decisive events of the peaceful revolution in autumn 1989, intellectual impulses from the West enriched the discussions and visions. Actually, Haus, as director, was professionally in the advantageous position of having to address the most conflicting opinions and interests of the spectators of a production.  This demands reflection in order to find the use value of representation for here and today. Haus’ wise and keen observation of the political scenarios and cultural development in recent decades would arouse great passion and the interests of a global readership.

All educated persons have gone through a process of education which has included a certain amount of historical thinking. But this does not qualify them to give an opinion about the nature, object, method, and value of historical thinking. So, we need a wise gray-haired thinker to guide the readers to grasp a better understanding of the historical thinking. In fact, German unification is also the basis of the peculiar importance of history. Whether something is successful or not not only determines the significance of a single event and is responsible for its producing a lasting effect or passing unnoticed, but success or failure causes a whole series of actions and events to be meaningful or meaningless.  The ontological structure of history itself, then, is teleological, although without a telos.  The concept of the event that is truly part of world history is defined by this. It is such if it ‘makes history,’ i.e. if it has an effect that lends it a continuing historical importance. German unification, for all thinkers, is a history making as well as a milestone in world history for generations to come.

Actually, if the thinkers engage in a temporal reflection of German unification, they can figure out “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens: …A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;…A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 ) The German unification will certainly make an everlasting and substantial contribution to world history, which has been predestined and arranged under the Absolute Supreme Spirit, Who controls the world situation. The rise and fall of a nation, in a teleological perspective, used to be vanity, though. Vanity of life is also a cyclical repetition.  Instead of being meaningful and progressive, the repetitious movement of human beings and phenomena across the face of the world is entirely without purpose—an endless striving without any goal.  As the order of things is always the same, neither humanity’s nor nature’s efforts accomplish anything. Without agape (divine brotherly love), the rise and fall of a nation means nothing.

Furthermore, the complete surrender to the contemplation of things, the epic attitude of a man who is seeking to tell ‘the tale of world history’ may in fact be called poetic, in that for the historian God is present in all things, not as a concept but as an ‘outward objectification.’ As W.B. Yeats said in “The Coming of Wisdom with Time” “Though leaves are many, the root is one;/Through all the lying days of my youth/I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun;/Now I may wither into the truth.” Time may wither into the truth, and compassion and love is actually the truth, for love is everlasting and love conquers all.  And love heals the historical wounds. Also, as Du Fu (杜甫), a well-known poet in the Tang dynasty in China said in “A Spring View,” (春望) “As ever are hills and rills while my country crumbles;/When springtime comes over the Capital the grass scrambles./Blossoms invite my tears as in wild times they bloom;/the flitting birds stir my heart as I’m parted from home.”  (國破山河在/城春草木深/感時花濺淚/恨別鳥驚心)

From the standpoint of a Taiwanese professor, I would like to share the story of this area. A win by Taiwan’s pro-independence DPP will alter China relationship. After the 2016 presidential election, the China-friendly Kuomintang party lost power to the pro-independence opposition amid concerns that the island’s economy is under threat from China and broad opposition to Beijing’s demands for political unification. And a win for the DPP will introduce new uncertainty in the complicated relationship between Taiwan and mainland China, which claims the island as its own territory and threatens to use force if it declares formal independence. Tsia Ing-wen, the new president, has pledged to maintain the status quo of de-facto independence for the island of 23 million, although she has refused to endorse the principle that Taiwan and China are parts of a single nation to be unified eventually. Beijing has made that its baseline for continuing negotiations that have produced a series of pacts on trade, transport and exchanges. Observers say China is likely to adopt a wait-and-see approach to Tsai’s presidency, but might use diplomatic and economy pressure if she is seen as straying too far from its unification agenda.

In addition, in observing Taiwan’s political situation, February 28 Massacre, also known as 228 Incident should be understood. It was an anti-government uprising in Taiwan. Taking its name from the date of the incident, it began on February 27, 1947, and was violently suppressed by the Kumintang-led Republic of China government, which killed thousands of civilians beginning on February 28. Estimates of the number of deaths vary from 10,000 to 30,000 or more. The massacre marked the beginning of the Kuomintang’s White Terror period in Taiwan, in which thousands more inhabitants vanished, died, or were imprisoned. This incident is one of the most important events in Taiwan’s modern history, and is a critical impetus for the Taiwan independence movement. Like the changing situation of Germany, the struggle between China and Taiwan needs a spring, which is near when winter comes.

Actually, life is a walking shadow. It is full of sound and fury. However, the changing world situation deserves our prayers and understanding. Finally,  I am glad and honored to sincerely recommend this book to the whole globe, especially the Asian readers, who have been concerned about regional peace and the recent tension across the Taiwan Strait.

Reviewed by Paul Tseng, Adjunct Assistant Professor at Taipei University of Nursing and Healthy Sciences and Taipei University of Technology

Heinz-Uwe Haus on Culture and Politics can be purchased directly from Cambridge Scholars by clicking here.

Book Review: ‘And there’ll be NO dancing’: Perspectives on Policies Impacting Indigenous Australia since 2007

‘And there’ll be NO dancing’: Perspectives on Policies Impacting Indigenous Australia since 2007 has been reviewed in the the Pacific Journalism Review by Dr Bonita Mason of Curtin University, Perth. A sharp and incisive review, it is available here (requires subscription), and an indicative excerpt is below:

“The 14 chapters present a well-structured, readable and compre­hensive collection of case studies fo­cused on the Intervention or the forces and conditions that helped to create it. They are written for an interna­tional readership, and present a range of disciplines and fields—history, land rights, law, human rights, journalism, literature, film, art, sport, education, post-colonial studies and disability. The book shows how past interventions have consistently failed to meet their objectives and made the circumstances of the Indigenous peoples subjected to them worse.”

For this month only, we are offering a huge 50% discount on this book and three of our other latest titles in indigenous studies. Please click here to find out more, and to access the discount code to receive the half-price reduction.

Book Review: Illicit Sex within the Justice System: Using Weak Power to Legislate, Regulate and Enforce Morality

We are happy to share news that Carmen M. Cusack’s book Illicit Sex within the Justice System: Using Weak Power to Legislate, Regulate and Enforce Morality has been reviewed in the 2018 issue of the Journal of Law and Social Deviance by Jessica T. Bracho. The full review is available open access here, and an indicative excerpt from the conclusion is below:

“Cusack’s book is not for the faint of heart or the close-minded. It is a book begging for change; change that is necessary to appreciate each other’s individuality without fear, for government to regain society’s trust, and for our moral compass to be reset. Cusack, so wisely, proposes interaction between the justice system’s members with authoritative power (e.g., officials and agents) and the civilian world to understand each other, identify, and come to terms with the new norm.”

The book is available now directly from Cambridge Scholars, please click here to see more and to place your order.

Book review: Traditional Songs and Music of the Korçë Region of Albania

When I visited Albania for the first time, I was surprised when I heard wonderful Greek bouzouki rebetiko songs renowned in Greece, from a pair of heavy loudspeakers  in the central square  of Korce – an Albanian  street seller  had put them on. It was only after reading Eno Koço’s book that I realised how far back the Albanian people’s love  of the Greek bouzouki went.  In one of my later journeys to Albania in around 2000 and afterwards, I was  struck by the way Albanian people in the little towns of  Southern Albania enjoyed a waltz and tango dance inside local restaurants or at family feasts. A thriving cosmopolitan social life from the past unfolded before my eyes. This small-scale cosmopolitanism was apparently uninterrupted by the years of political isolation – or, rather, the persistence of this cosmopolitanism lasted through political isolation.

The little town of Korçë, or the legendary “Korytsa” in Greek, or “Kortšauă” for the Vlachs, a place where the mutual affiliation of the Greek Epirots with the Southern Albanian people affirmed their common past, was a thriving small city where cosmopolitanism, tradition and education met each other in the way unfolded in the narrative of this book. Korçë is a town that, despite the contradictions of the final formation of the Albanian borders in the Balkan Wars and World War I, embraced its Greek Epirot communities and welcomed the Greek Army in World War II. They did so with a shared enthusiasm, honoring the triumphs against Mussolini’s fascist attacks in the Balkans.

After many years of no formal relations between Greece and Albania due to the dictatorship that governed the country, this book reveals the musical culture of a place that used to be a great cultural center in Southern Albania. In the pages of the book a small-scale cosmopolitanism is described that does not deny tradition, but which simultaneously keeps an eye on new trends and adapts what is familiar, personal and characteristic to form new ideas. The people of Korçë experienced their own shared community life and time. It is a small town that keeps its provincial traditions while adopting new music and this was a characteristic of many towns of the 20th century, or many towns of the Ottoman Empire. These towns continued to thrive and develop a long-lasting small-scale cosmopolitanism from their Byzantine past, sometimes in difficult circumstances.

In order to reveal this process of small-scale musical cosmopolitanism in such a provincial urban center, Koço uses three different methodologies. The first is a methodology performed in ethnomusicology including fieldwork and interviews with the families of distinguished personalities that contributed to the musical life of the town of Korçë in Albania or abroad. The second is historical musicological research, looking at different historical sources including bibliographies, archives, newspapers and other data such as musical scores, early recordings or photographic material. All this data is found in the chapters of this book.

Last but not least is musical analysis. Koço reveals the different transformations of musical characteristics hidden in the different stages of the musical life of the little town, showing the ways historical processes are depicted inside musical form. While dipping into the historical past of the town of Korçë and its musical life as well as the musical compositions found in scores or recordings, Koço classifies the urban musical creation of the town of Korçë into three main categories:

The first is what he calls “The Urban Song Tradition of Korçë”. This is an urban tradition that is based, on the one hand, on the pentatonic provincial Epirot tradition which in some cases becomes bilingual (both Albanian and Greek), while on the other hand it assimilates maqam traditions that derive from the Ottoman Courts (in Jannina for example). But as Koço notes, these urban songs, which in many cases are love songs and are widespread in many towns or present similarities from town to town, are not direct products of Middle Eastern influences. Most of them have commonalities with Eastern elements, although in an Epirotic singing tradition, some Western elements are also found due to the influence of Greek Kefallonian songs. The local carriers of traditions assimilated the Eastern maqam to make a personal musical mood which is at once local and cosmopolitan.

Another important contribution to the formation of the Korçë urban tradition and 20th century urban music in Albania was the instrumental bands called Saze. This might refer to the kind of instruments involved, but essentially it meant the semi-professional wandering musicians who were flexible and could experience and transfer different styles to the areas they moved to and from. At the same time they kept the polyphonic tradition of the provinces in a more urban way. These instrumental groups developed the pure provincial vocal experiential style in a semi-professional way. A similar phenomenon in Greece was the instrumental Koumpaneia.

The third category is the “Urban Lyric Song”.  The main characteristic of this category is the training of musicians and singers in notated music. The “Urban Lyric Song” is part of an educational musical song style which intervenes in small towns, inspiring their experiential powers. It keeps some traditional Eastern or local Epirot characteristics but it orientates simultaneously to Europeanization.

These three urban traditions along with the Kefallonitika and the Kantadha of the Greek Ionian islands are major factors in the creation of what is called “Korçare distinctive song”. These last two styles (Kefallonitika and Kantadha) affect the Korçë song because of the affiliation of the local Albanian population with the Greek musical styles developed in the Ionian Islands. These traditions brought the mantolinata to Korçë and later bouzouki style instruments. They were blended again with local traditions, and due to the experiential cultural and social life in the sokaks (the stone made pedestrian routes of the town) of Korçë  and the Pareas (“company” in Greek) they developed as a special local musical style.

The next chapter of the book is dedicated to the distinguished though neglected personality of Thoma Nassi and his contribution to the popularization of the Korçare distinctive song with his Vatra band: his compositions were widespread in both Albania and America. His music again pays tribute to the local pentatonic style or to the Eastern style as well as to Western traditions freely elaborated with various harmonies and orchestration.

Finally, Koço refers to the personality of Neço Muko, an extraordinary musician, and his contribution to the elaboration of the local polyphonic style of the Himara region. Professionalism as a kind of urbanisation of these styles was part of their popularity and rewarded them with even more popularity by means of certain personalities of the musical life of the provincial towns of Southern Albania. The main texts of the chapters are accompanied by 39 (thirty nine) notated examples representative of the different categories of the musical repertory.

In summary, Eno Koço’s book is a space-specific ethnomusicological and historical musicological approach, a work that clarifies the process of an experiential musical creativity over time, in an historical long-lived urban center of the Southern Balkans.

Reviewed by Athina Katsanevaki

Traditional Songs and Music of the Korçë Region of Albania is available to purchase directly from Cambridge Scholars by clicking here.

Book review: Travelling around Cultures: Collected Essays on Literature and Art

Zsolt Győri and Gabriella Moise’s book, Travelling around Cultures: Collected Essays on Literature and Art, has been reviewed in the latest issue of Pro&Contra by Eszter Krakkó. Eszter’s review is extremely positive, and can be read in full here. Please see below for an indicative excerpt.

“Although the subtitle humbly suggests that this volume is a “mere” collection of essays, on reading the book, one immediately notices that it undertakes a challenge of thematic coherence that exceeds the usual aims and scope of “regular” conference proceedings – and meets this self-imposed requirement perfectly. […] the compilation aptly fulfils the role it was destined for and “illustrates the diversity of cultural products and phenomena while bringing to view the way texts emerge, engage with real life, and become consumed” and at times also “commodified” (10). Perhaps the editors agree with the hope that this excellently edited volume of cutting-edge scholarship will be consumed by many but never commodified.”

Please click here to purchase the book directly from Cambridge Scholars.