Tuesday, 20 January 2015

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The “Critique. Influence. Change.” series brings together pivotal texts by notable academics and activists from Zed Books’ publishing of the last thirty-five years, with new introductions by the authors and other leading scholars. These are books that have helped challenge contemporary discussions and shape radical politics aiming for a more just world.

Now you can win all 14 titles in the series, including Ecofeminism by Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale by Maria Mies and Reclaiming Development by Ha-Joon Chang and Ilene Grabel.

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Friday, 9 January 2015

Islamism - a eurocentric position?

Following the attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris this week, voices are once again rehashing old narratives of a "Clash of Civilizations" between Islam and 'the West'. But is this a particularly eurocentric view - or is Islamism itself a eurocentric position? We reprint here Hamid Dabashi's new foreword to the upcoming new edition of Bobby S. Sayyid's A Fundamental Fear: Eurocentrism and the Emergence of Islamism, published by Zed Books in February 2015, part of the Critique. Influence. Change series.

Though it was originally published before the iconic events of 9/11, now more than a decade ago, S. Sayyid’s A Fundamental Fear: Eurocentrism and the Emergence of Islamism (1997) has assumed even more timely significance since its first appearance. In this pioneering book, Sayyid provocatively suggests, and one can still see the logic of his proposition, that we must see political Islamism as a particular phase of decolonization of Muslim political cultures. Sayyid took the rise of Islamism as a challenge to ‘Western’ political hegemony, and particularly its self-congratulatory declaration of the End of History. That proposition still demands attention.

When exactly was the moment of ‘the rise’ of political Islamism? The Iranian revolution of 1979; or before it, back in the 1920s when Hassan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood; or even before
then, during the Tobacco Revolt in Iran in 1890, when a clerical fatwa triggered a major anti-colonial movement; or perhaps even earlier than that, when Jamal al-Din al-Afghani commenced a massive pan-Islamist movement in the 1860s; or perhaps in the 1850s, when the Babi movement shook the Qajar foundation to its roots? Or is it after all of these: in the 1980s, when the Taliban appeared in Afghanistan; or the 1990s, when Hezbollah and Hamas entered the political map of the Arab world in earnest; or was it after September 11, 2001 perhaps; or even later when the Muslim Brotherhood completely took over the Egyptian revolution of January 2011? All of these dates and events (and others) can be used to mark a particular phase of Islamism in one direction or another, some of them indeed as marking the decolonization of the Muslim mind, others in fact its opposite. Sayyid was spot on (as the British say) in noting that we had to see political Islamism as an integral part of decolonization. But there is a period of gestation right before that decolonization, which is actually the mark of a deeply colonized Muslim mind that defined its identity in terms decided by its colonizers. This much was known and understood from Albert Memmi to Ashis Nandy.

In his seminal book, Sayyid suggests that Muslims were now after offering a master signifier to counter and balance the one offered by ‘the West’. He also takes issue with those critical thinkers who had begun to speak of multiple Islams by way of opposing the Orientalist manufacturing of an essentialized Islam. By the time we read Sayyid’s take on postmodernism and post-structuralism, we know that he is after something more critical than just a reading of political Islam, namely, the modes of knowledge production about Islam. Those modes and moments of knowledge production about Islam, we can all concur, were contingent on two critical factors: (1) who was producing that knowledge and by what authority and purpose, and (2) what regional or global event, or set of events, had occasioned this new phase of knowledge production about Islam.

A decade and a half into Sayyid’s argument, this point in particular remains steadily critical – with a crucial twist. Since the publication of my Post-Orientalism: Knowledge and Power in Time of Terror (2006), I have been arguing that the fictive delusion of ‘the West’ is no longer a valid
or legitimate interlocutor for the post-colonial world. We (people hitherto at the mercy of this delusional phantasm of power and domination that calls itself ‘the West’) are no longer talking to ‘the West’. We have finally come to realize it for what it is: a mirage. It does not exist.

Upon this recognition, then, the world at large does not corroborate the work of Orientalists by producing a militant Islamism that reverses the angle on the selfsame object of curiosity. The particular intellectual developments trying to grapple with the end of modernity, or the crisis of the subject, are almost exclusively a European preoccupation (philosophical or moral), with little or no consequence to the rest of the world, unless and until the fact and phenomenon of coloniality and the passage through that epistemic challenge becomes the primary focal point of our dismantling the myth of ‘the West’.

A Fundamental Fear: Eurocentrism and the Emergence of Islamism marked a critical stage in that transformative period. Eurocentrism is no longer an irksome reality. It has become positively blasé. Of course Europeans are eurocentric. Why should they not be? They asked Molla  Nasreddin where the centre of the universe was, and he said where he had nailed his donkey on the ground. The same is with eurocentrism. The question is no longer why are Europeans eurocentric, but why should anyone care? That euro- at the commencement of eurocentrism has, in fact, imploded; it is so deeply troubled and anxiogenic that it can no longer function as a colonial catalyst of thinking for any other regime of knowledge.

Sayyid was right when he traced the origin of Islamism to eurocentrism, though the origin of that binary could be traced back to a much earlier period than the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini – to
the intellectual forebears of Khomeini like Jamal al-Din al-Afghani or even Sheykh Ahmad Naraqi, who had originally formulated the notion of Velayat-e Faqih. But Sayyid had identified something else: the politics of identity, which has become particularly poignant for Muslim émigrés to Europe and the US, where in the face of rabid Islamophobia that particular politics of identity has become even more acerbic. There are an increasing (however limited) number of disenfranchised Muslim youths in Europe who are attracted to the murderous adventurism of ISIL, which seems to them to be the only way to combat the racist Islamophobia – from mass murderer Anders Breivik to the so-called new atheists like Bill Maher and Sam Harris – that engulfs Europe and the US. That politics of identity is today definitive to the European Union, or its spectre, to the degree that this ‘Europe’ only recognizes itself in so far as it can imagine its alterity in the bearded face or scarfed head of a Muslim person.

Sayyid correctly diagnosed the fact that the rise of Islamism was the end of the myth of ‘the West is the best’. But the same challenge had in fact corroborated the myth of ‘the West’ itself. In the aftermath of world-historic events in the Arab and Muslim world, marked by the Arab Spring and the Green Movement in Iran, the very relevance and authenticity of that delusion is now depleted.

Books like A Fundamental Fear are registers of where we are and how far or how little we have moved towards a geography of liberation that has left the self-centring focal point of ‘the West’ and the eurocentrism it entails behind and allowed them to become the local and nativist mythologies that the incoming anthropologists of a new worldliness might consider worthy of their ‘fieldwork’. Until then, every book that is written about ‘Islam’ is also a book about its doppelganger, ‘the West’.

Hamid Dabashi
Hagop Kevorkian professor of Iranian studies 
and comparative literature, Columbia University
New York, Doha, November 2014

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Michael Brown and Eric Garner: Peace and Violence in “American Democracy” | Arnold August

IMAGE: New Yorker / Ron Haviv/VII

When the grand jury rendered its non-indictment verdict on the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, protesters from the area converged on the local police department headquarters. They were there to express their outrage and demand that justice be done. The whole world witnessed the occupation of Ferguson by the fully militarized and armed police. It looked more like an invading army than anything else. These armed forces were the only barrier between the people and the police station. It is perfectly understandable that people express their anger against the police and judicial system. While the occupying force protected the police station, individuals were free to loot and burn small local businesses under very dubious circumstances: the jury decision was rendered late at night and no protection at all was offered to the local businesses. Was this done on purpose? The FBI had already sent “an extra 100 FBI agents to Ferguson just before the grand jury decision.”

The true story behind the arbitrary destruction is not known at this time. In any case, it is now history. These conveniently burned-out buildings and civilian vehicles have been easily converted by the media – and by the Obama administration down to the local authorities in Ferguson and other cities – into the stereotype of what is simply labelled as “violent demonstrations” in order to dampen the spirit of principled resistance. The widely propagated scenes of burning, looting and its aftermath instantly became the archetype of what is painted as typical of noble, militant and conscientious resistance. The anarchist scenario completely overshadows all the perfectly legitimate and courageous forms of action taken by the people against the occupying armed forces positioned in the Ferguson area to protect the police headquarters. The Ferguson protests spread to other cities across the U.S, where on many occasions people faced off with local police forces.

The Ferguson case may generate controversial discussion around the looting, destruction and burning. However, one cannot ignore the important question that it raises regarding protest and just resistance by the people in the face of the state’s use of force to deter people from fighting for their dignity and rights. It is not cut and dry. The U.S. state, in the broad sense of the term, from the federal government to its tentacles in the local state and city authorities, is the purveyor of violence in the U.S. Let us therefore place Ferguson in perspective. By so doing, we can keep in mind the most grotesque manifestation of this violence, as seen in Ferguson, in the form of the heavily militarized police. Its deadly military equipment is funnelled into the local areas by the U.S. federal government and the military. The Ferguson violent occupation was revealed for the world to witness, yet the dismantling of the militarization is not on Obama’s agenda. The goal, according to the President, is only to “to make sure that the program is transparent.”

As for the protestors, what actions are they supposed to carry out to demand that justice be done, if not by resisting the forces that protect the local police? In American democracy, the right to resist is labelled “violent,” while defending the status quo is considered normal and non-violent.

This contradiction was intensified in the aftermath of the grand jury decision to clear police of the murder of Eric Garner. It proved to be the last straw: his murder, captured on film, was even more blatant than Michael Brown’s. The accumulation of injustice was combined with the fact that it took place in New York City – the centre of many, as the media admit, “icons” of U.S. wealth and the establishment. The New York City movement spread to other major cities in the U.S. The main goal was to paralyze and disrupt. The media placed emphasis on just (but relatively defensive) slogans such as “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” or “I Can’t Breathe” to overshadow the slogans “Shut It Down” and “No Justice, No Peace.” Others raised the slogan: “This Is What Democracy Looks Like.” This is an allusion, consciously or not, to the crying need for political power of the people in the face of a false American democracy representing the status quo through elections in a truncated “two-party system.” What was the purpose of blocking important highways and streets and invading icons of big business to disrupt normal commerce? One protester explained it well: “People who don’t already realize what is happening, maybe they will open their minds a little bit, or people that do realize and don’t care will realize that people are angry and it’s not OK.”

The mainstream media showered the New York police and city authorities with compliments on their “restraint.” Media had a field day with the New York police’s description of their particular tactic: allowing people “to blow off steam.” Do the police and media perhaps not realize how condescending and arrogant this sounds to the people who courageously demonstrate for hours on end in the street? Obama congratulated NYC authorities and police in their handling of the protests, which he termed peaceful. What was “peaceful” about the protests New York and Chicago? In both these cities, as well as in others, hundreds were arrested. In Chicago, a “standoff” in front of a police station that was protected by a wall of police was reported to be nonetheless “so far peaceful.” What does “so far peaceful” mean? The assertion is that as long as the people do not defy the police, the situation can be qualified as “peaceful.” The police forces, to the contrary, by their very nature are supposedly “peaceful” in protecting the state, abstracting the armed instrument of the state from the actual system it is meant to defend and protect. Any obvious exception to this rule of police acting “peacefully” is treated as merely an “abuse” that can be camouflaged through some superficial reform, such as “police training”, changing some individuals and faces in positions of authority or even remove some “bad apples”, all in an attempt to stem the people’s anger.

In New York City, several hundred people were arrested two nights in a row. Why? While the charges may be minor, what was their “crime”? Why were they carted off in police vans? In most cases, their “crime” was not obeying orders to refrain from marching in the streets and thus blocking the road and traffic. To strive to limit and forcefully contain demonstrations to the sidewalks, as do the police in New York, is in itself an act of violence even though it may go under the guise of keeping the peace. They are preventing those who try to draw the attention of – as stated by the demonstrator quoted above – first, the people who remain indifferent or aloof from the problem, and, second, those who are indeed conscious but have not yet physically joined the movement. These street activities are the only means at their disposal at this time: blocking main arteries, converging on the large, commercial monopolies and temporarily disrupting them. It is completely arbitrary to consider this as violent in any way or a violation of the law. This accusation of “violence” is based on American democracy and similar systems in other countries. It is meant to protect the status quo. Even if  people resist arrest and indeed actively confront authority, they are, in my view, entirely justified.

This warranted intransigence in the face of police arbitrariness was highlighted through an incident in New York on the night of December 4 that was not at all covered by the mainstream media. According to alternative news source AlterNet, about 100 protesters in Manhattan were on the streets at 1 a.m. The police ordered them to disperse, as they were supposedly disrupting “vehicular traffic.” A journalist reported that the demonstrators refused and instead threw glass bottles at the police, resulting in several violent arrests. The police responded by using a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) to disperse the demonstrators.

“One person who was present at the scene, Moth Dust, a photographer, said people became aggravated after the LRAD was used and began throwing trash and rocks in the direction of police. She said she was affected by the sound waves.

‘I thought I was fine until I realized I was getting dizzy and migraine was spreading to all over my face,’ she said.

LRADs were used in the first days of unrest in Ferguson Missouri, and have been used by police at protests throughout the world. They were developed by the US military after an insurgent attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, and were used by the NYPD [New York Police Department] against Occupy Wall Street protesters.

According to Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, ‘The LRAD can reach decibel levels as high as 162. For comparison, a normal conversation is usually 60 decibels, while a lawn mower can reach to 90 decibels. A level of 130 decibels is typically considered the average pain threshold for most humans.’

Furthermore, Informed Health Online [IHO] notes that a jet engine registers at about 140 decibels. Anything at or above this range, IHO explains, ‘is called acoustic trauma. Depending on how long the ears are exposed to the sound and how intense it is, it may damage the eardrum, the middle ear and/or the inner ear. Damage like this is usually temporary, but some hearing loss may remain.’

The head investor and media relations for the LRAD Corporation in San Diego, California, told Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty that the weapon is so precise that those ‘standing behind or next to’ the device can hardly hear it. However, the YouTube footage shows dozens of people scurrying away from the sound blasts, which can be heard clearly on film.”

In another episode, on the night of December 6–7, this one in Berkeley, California, a violent confrontation took place. The media in a chorus headlined that the demonstration by mainly University of California Berkeley campus students “turned violent.” What happened? A wall of armed police was deployed to confront the demonstrators protesting directly against the Berkeley police headquarters. The demonstrators on the street were blocked. The so-called peaceful police tried to disperse the crowd that resisted. This is one account, by an intern minister at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco, published in a local newspaper:

“The police began walking forward and in 2-3 seconds were pressed up against us with their batons held parallel between them and us. I shouted ‘Be calm, be calm, we’re peaceful!’ And they kept walking forward. I looked to the left and a police officer had begun jabbing a protester with the end of his baton. I turned around to retreat and passed a woman who had fallen and was being trampled. I bent down to pick her up under one armpit while another woman grabbed her other arm. As we were lifting her backwards I saw an officer raise his baton over my shoulder and was struck on the back of the head as I was bent forward. My vision momentarily blacked out and I saw stars. I put my hand to the back of my head and started running. I felt a welt rise immediately and blood ran down my neck and covered my hand.”

The situation and the reports from Berkeley are still ongoing at the time of writing. According to the established logic, the “turning violence” buzzwords are only applied when the people resist orders to disperse, but is not suitable for the orders to disperse backed by the armed police. In the same report quoted above, the slogans rhythmically chanted by the protesters consisted of, among others, “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “Hey cops, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.” In comments posted on the newspaper’s blog, some people raise the possibility that the looting that took place that night in Berkeley by a splinter anarchist group could well have been organized by the state’s infiltrators to discredit the demonstration.

Based on the New York and Berkeley reports, it may seem difficult at first glance to distinguish between peace and violence: who are the perpetrators of violence and who stands and acts in favour of peace? However, these articles accompanied by photos and videos bring to the fore two points.

The first is that the right, and indeed the obligation, to oppose injustice is an inalienable right that goes beyond the niceties of the superfluous trappings of democracy considered in the abstract. One either recognizes this or does not.

Second, behind the veneer of American democracy lies the real nature of a state that is based on extreme militarism and aggression. While the struggle to counter the injustices committed against Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and in favour of dignity for the people, was being played out in the streets of America, Obama swore in the new Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, on December 5, 2014. Obama said on that occasion that the U.S. military is “the greatest fighting force in the history of the world.” Ashton returned the compliment by saying that he will serve the “greatest fighting force the world has ever known.” This military is increasingly known on the world scale as an aggressive force leaving death, destruction and torture in the wake of its attempt to impose American democracy on a global scale. The military efforts of the U.S. abroad are an extension of the violence that pervades U.S. society domestically, from the widespread use of guns to the murder of blacks and suppression of demonstrators by police forces, as the New York and Berkeley examples above indicates.

Were these incidents in New York and Berkeley exceptions? As long as the resistance continues, people can expect more of the same. Thus, there is the need to deepen and extend defiance, while ensuring not to fall prey to the mainstream media misinformation and political pressures regarding peace and violence in American democracy.

Arnold August, a Canadian journalist and lecturer, is the author of Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 Elections and, more recently, Cuba and Its Neighbours:Democracy in Motion. Cuba’s neighbours under consideration are the U.S., Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. Arnold can be followed on Twitter @Arnold_August.

Friday, 5 December 2014

2014: Zed Books Christmas Gift Guide

For all you busy people who haven't had a spare moment to even think about Christmas, never mind consider braving the cold weather and busy high streets, here's Zed's top 10 picks for this years perfect book-shaped gift.

For your politically-aware and intellectually-minded nearest and dearest...

1. Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower by William Blum.

Available in paperback for £9.99

2. America's Deadliest Export: Democracy - The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else by William Blum

Available in paperback for £8.99

Available in paperback for £16.99

Available in paperback for £8.99

5. Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur

Available in paperback for £8.99

6. Confessions of a Terrorist: A Novel by Richard Jackson

Available in paperback for £16.99

7. Feminism and Men by Nikki van der Gaag

Available in paperback for £14.99

8. Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power: Capitalism, Creativity and the Commons by Max Haiven

Available in paperback for £14.99

9. Women at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi

Available in paperback in £8.99

10. North Korea: State of Paranoia by Paul French

Available in paperback for £12.99

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Assata: An Autobiography and the Ferguson Verdict

“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.”
Assata: An Autobiography

Assata: An Autobiography is perhaps the most important book we can read in the wake of the Ferguson grand jury verdict announced on Monday 25th November.

'Shakur's recently published autobiography is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how black liberation and police brutality against blacks is an enduring legacy of injustice.' 


Following the grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson over the shooting and consequent death of unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, protests and riots have broken out in Ferguson and are spreading across the States and worldwide.

The decision has brought to the forefront the ever present racial divide in America and other countries.  This divide still rings true for Assata Shakur, ex member of the Black Panther Party (BPP) and Black Liberation Army (BLA).  In 1973, Assata was involved in a shoot out and accused of, among other crimes, killing a New Jersey State Trooper.  She was incarcerated in various prisons throughout the 70's until she escaped in 1979 and was given political asylum in Cuba.

In 2013, Assata was moved to the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist list, with a $2 million reward for assistance in her capture.

Assata and the Ferguson verdict both remind us of how strongly the civil rights era resonates with us still today and expose the white patriarchal criminal system which remains in America, "All you have to do is ask yourselves, who controls the government?  And who are the victims of that control?"

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Zed Book Banned in Thailand as a threat to "stability, order and good morality"

Andrew MacGregor Marshall's A Kingdom in Crisis has been banned in Thailand and carries with it a potential jail sentence of up to 15 years and a fine of 60,000 baht (£1,160).  Thailand's National Police General Somyot Poompanmoug, commented that the book contains anti-monarchist sentiments and that it "will affect the kingdom's stability, order or the good morality of the people."

The book gives a comprehensive analysis of the current crisis in Thailand, noting that Freedom of Speech is routinely denied, democracy is looking increasingly distant, and many Thais fear that the death of current King, Bhumibol Adulyadej, will unleash even greater instability.

A Kingdom in Crisis was launched 12th November at London's Frontline Club. The panel consisted of author Andrew MacGregor Marshall along with two academics, Eugénie Mérieau and Claudio Soppranzetti, and labour rights activist Junya 'Lek' Yimptasert.  Mérieau argued that he is not committed to the survival of the institution, whilst Soppranzetti noted that A Kingdom in Crisis is "saying out loud what we are all thinking."  Yimprasert, who joined the panel via Skype also argued that 'the monarch contradicts with democracy.'  Watch and listen to more of the discussion below:

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

BOOK LAUNCH 28/10/14: Bread, Freedom and Social Justice | Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, London

Anne Alexander and Mostafa Bassiouny launch their new book, Bread, Freedom, Social Justice, with guests Prof. Gilbert Achcar and journalist Alain Gresh. 

Tuesday 28 October, 7pm, Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS 

This is a free event but you must register to secure your place here

Bread, Freedom and Social Justice, accounts of the Arab Spring often focus on the role of youth coalitions, the use of social media, and the tactics of the Tahrir Square occupation. This authoritative and original book argues that collective action by organised workers played a fundamental role in the Egyptian revolution, which erupted after years of strikes and social protests. Drawing on the authors' decade-long experience of reporting on and researching the Egyptian labour movement, the book provides the first in-depth account of the emergence of independent trade unions and workers' militancy during Mubarak's last years in power, and and their destabilising impact on the post-revolutionary regimes. 

Rabab El Mahdi of The American University in Cairo praised the work as "'one of the best accounts on the Egyptian revolution, its underlying causes and its aftermath." 

Dr Anne Alexander is a research fellow at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge. She has published widely on Middle Eastern politics, social movements and digital media, and is the author of a biography of Gamal Abdel-Nasser (Haus, 2005).

Mostafa Bassiouny has more than a decade's experience as a reporter and editor in the Egyptian and regional press. He was industrial correspondent for Al-Dustour newspaper between 2005 and 2010, reporting on the mass strikes by textile workers in Mahalla al-Kubra in 2006 and 2007, and the uprising which rocked the town in 2008. He reported on the overthrow of Ben Ali in Tunisia in January 2011 before returning to Egypt to participate in the uprising against Mubarak. Between 2011 and 2014 he was Head of News for liberal daily Al-Tahrir, overseeing the front-page publication of shocking pictures of army officers dragging a woman protester through Tahrir Square in December 2011.

Event details:

Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, 
Thornhaugh St, 
Russell Square, 
020 7898 4915

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

WATCH: Assata launch event at Black Cultural Archives

The Assata: An Autobiography book launch not only a beautiful evening of music, readings and spoken word, but opened up a powerful debate between  Zena Edwards, Daniel Maitlin and Esther Stanford-Xosei in a panel chaired by Akala. They passionately voiced their opinions on black struggle, the undesirability of being a revolutionary, concepts of democracy and on physical resistance. 

One of the poignant questions asked by the panel regarding Assata's influence was "how many of us are willing to sacrifice our lives for something we believe in?"

Writer and poet, Zena Edwards commented on the unification of different struggles saying, "we have realise that black and white are constructs. At the end of the day we are all part of a diaspora of some sort." 

On the question of whether physical confrontation is the best action,n artist, Akala pleaded that although he was "not against physical resistance as a last resort", he felt that  "people in comfortable positions" and who "advocate that kind of behaviour" should be very careful to advocate it towards "young people who don't have the same political education" as they will react to what we're saying and will "suffer for it". 

Reparationist and advocate, Stanford-Xosei encouraged "us to not just read the book but be involved. Get involved with the movement for reparations; get involved with the campaigns to free all political prisoners. It's because of her why we're here."

Topically, she made a call for an end to the sanitisation of black history. She questioned "why is it in Black History Month we don''t have her as one of the key 'sheroes' that gets put up there as someone to emulate, and this is the example we should never let die."

Overall, the audience and panel all contributed to an enlightening evening, that would have made our "warrior queen", Assata Shakur very proud. 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

A DIFFERENT CLASS: The Alt-Reading List for Undergraduates

"The world has changed, the syllabus hasn't - is it time to something about it?"

The tagline of the Post-Crash Economics Society - disillusioned Economics students at the University of Manchester who believe that "the content of the economics syllabus and teaching methods could and should be seriously rethought". They recently published a 57-page report and look to revolutionise economics education.

And in that spirit, we present our Alt-Reading List for undergraduates of the humanities, social sciences, politics, and of course, economics. 

The seven different topics included are: Development, Africa, Gender Studies, Asia, Latin America, Economics and Environment. 


Culture, Development and Social Theory places culture back at the centre of debates in development studies. It introduces new ways of conceptualizing culture in relation to development by linking development studies to cultural studies, studies of social movements, religion and the notion of 'social suffering'.  Any conception of post-capitalist society, he argues, requires cultural, as well as economic and political, dimensions.

The History of Development by Gilbert Rist
A classic development text, which has both defined and changed its field. Gilbert Rist provides a complete and powerful overview of what the idea of development has meant throughout history. He traces it from its origins in the Western view of history, through the early stages of the world system, the rise of US hegemony, and the supposed triumph of Third-Worldism, through to new concerns about the environment and globalization.

Decolonizing Methodologies by Linda Tuhiwai Smith
This essential volume explores intersections of imperialism and research - specifically, the ways in which imperialism is embedded in disciplines of knowledge and tradition as 'regimes of truth.' Concepts such as 'discovery' and 'claiming' are discussed and an argument presented on how the decolonization of research methods will help to reclaim control over indigenous ways of knowing and being.

Thinking about Development by Bjorn Hettne
This book is a concise and accessible introduction to development thinking, contemporary development theory and practice and - a critical analysis of the values that lie behind them.

The Development Dictionary ed. by Wolfgang Sachs
In this classic collection, some of the world's most eminent critics of development review the key concepts of the development discourse. Each essay examines one concept from a historical and anthropological point of view, highlights its particular bias, and exposes its historical obsolescence and intellectual sterility. The combined result forms a must-read invitation to experts, grassroots movements and students of development to recognize the tainted glasses they put on whenever they participate in the development discourse.


Africa’s Urban Revolution ed. by Susan Parnell and Edgar Pieterse
By 2030 African cities will have grown by more than 350 million people and over half the continent's population will be urban. Yet in the minds of many, Africa remains a quintessentially rural place.  Africa's Urban Revolution provides a comprehensive insight into the key issues - demographic, cultural, political, technical, environmental and economic - surrounding African urbanisation.

Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War? by Maria Eriksson Baaz and Maria Stern
All too often in conflict situations, rape is referred to as a 'weapon of war', a term presented as self-explanatory through its implied storyline of gender and warring. In this provocative but much-needed book, Eriksson Baaz and Stern challenge the dominant understandings of sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict settings.

The Trouble with Aid by Jonathan Glennie
Africa is poor. If we send it money it will be less poor. It seems perfectly simple, doesn't it? But it isn't. In this book, Jonathan Glennie argues that, along with its many benefits, government aid to Africa has often caused more poverty and damage. Rather than doubling aid to Africa, it is time to reduce aid dependency. Through an honest assessment of both the positive and negative consequences of aid, this book will show you why. 

China in Africa by Chris Alden
Nowhere in the world is China’s rapid rise to power more evident than in Africa. This book investigates the emerging relationship between China and Africa to determine whether this engagement will be that of a development partner, economic competitor or new hegemony.

Britain in Africa by Tom Porteous
In Britain in Africa Tom Porteous seeks to answer numerous questions about Britain's role in Africa since 1997, highlighting the key players, the policies they constructed and the future of Britain's engagement with the continent. This book sets out the balance sheet of what Britain has achieved, and where and why it failed in Africa.  A compelling read, whose importance for international politics reaches far beyond Britain or Africa.

Gender Studies

Ecofeminism by Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva
This groundbreaking work remains as relevant today as when it was when first published in the early 90s. Two of Zed's best-known authors argue that ecological destruction and industrial catastrophes constitute a direct threat to everyday life, the maintenance of which has been made the particular responsibility of women.

Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale by Maria Mies
First published in 1986, Maria Mies's progressive book was hailed as a major paradigm shift for feminist theory, and it remains a major contribution to development theory and practice today. Tracing the social origins of the sexual division of labour, it offers a history of the related processes of colonization and 'housewifization' and extends this analysis to the contemporary new international division of labour.

Changing Narratives of Sexuality ed. by Charmaine Pereira
Changing Narratives of Sexuality examines the tensions and contradictions in constructions of gender, sexuality and women's empowerment in the various narrations of sexuality told by and about women. The authors analyse what scope exists for women to subvert repressive norms and conceptions of heterosexuality, interweaving rich, contextual detail with theoretical concerns.

Feminism is Queer by Mimi Marinucci
Feminism is Queer is an introduction to the intimately related disciplines of gender and queer theory. An essential guide to anyone with an interest in gender or sexuality, this accessible and comprehensive textbook carefully explains nuanced theoretical terminology and provides extensive suggested further reading to provide the reader with full and thorough understanding of both disciplines.

Sexuality in Muslim Contexts ed. by Anissa Hélie and Homa Hoodfar
This groundbreaking book explores resistance against the harsh policing of sexuality in some Muslim societies. Many Muslim majority countries still use religious discourse to enforce stigmatization and repression of those, especially women, who do not conform to sexual norms promoted either by the state or by non-state actors. In this context, Islam is often stigmatized in Western discourse for being intrinsically restrictive with respect to women's rights and sexuality.


Leftover Women by Leta Hong Fincher
After the 1949 revolution in China, Chairman Mao famously proclaimed that "women hold up half the sky." In the early years of the People’s Republic, the Communist Party sought to transform gender relations with expansive initiatives. Yet those gains are being eroded in China’s post-socialist era. A provocative exposé about how state-perpetuated myths about 'leftover' women are part of the Chinese government's efforts to promote marriage and social stability in the midst of widespread discontent.

North Korea by Paul French
North Korea continues to make headlines, arousing curiosity and fear in equal measure. As an already unstable country grows ever more unpredictable, antagonizing enemies and allies alike, North Korea: State of Paranoia delivers a provocative and frightening account of a potentially explosive nuclear tripwire.

China’s Urban Billion by Tom Miller
By 2030, China's cities will be home to 1 billion people - one in every eight people on earth. What kind of lives will China's urban billion lead? And what will China's cities be like? Combining on-the-ground reportage and up-to-date research, this pivotal book explains why China has failed to reap many of the economic and social benefits of urbanization, and suggests how these problems can be resolved.

Spoiling Tibet by Gabriel Lafitte
China's plans to expand exponentially its exploitation of Tibet's natural resources will have terrifying consequences for land and people. This book is an entirely unique, authoritative guide through the torrent of online posts, official propaganda and exile speculation.

Ballot Box China by Kerry Brown
This book looks at the recent history of local government elections in China, how they arose, what they have achieved and where they might be going, exploring the specific experience of elections by those who have taken part in them - the villagers in some of the most deprived areas of China.

Latin America

Land and Freedom by Leandro Vergara-Camus
The Zapatistas of Chiapas and the Landless Rural Workers' Movement (MST) of Brazil are often celebrated as shining examples in the global struggle against neoliberalism. But what have these movements achieved for their members in more than two decades of resistance and can any of these achievements realistically contribute to the rise of a viable alternative?

Leadership in the Cuban Revolution by Antoni Kapcia
Most conventional readings of the Cuban Revolution have seemed mesmerised by the personality and role of Fidel Castro, often missing a deeper political understanding. In this ground-breaking work, Antoni Kapcia focuses instead on a wider cast of characters. Essential reading for anyone interested in Cuba's history and its future.

Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions by Roger Burbach, Michael Fox and Federico Fuentes
Latin America's Turbulent Transitions investigates the recent rise of radical left governments in many Latin American countries, exploring why this profound shift has taken place and how this new, so-called 'Twenty-First Century Socialism' actually manifests itself.

Civil Society and the State in Left-led Latin America by Barry Cannon and Peadar Kirby
Featuring a broad range of case studies from across the region, this timely and innovative volume provides a critical examination of the role of civil society and its relation to the state throughout left-led Latin America, and the extent to which these new initiatives are redefining state-civil society relations.

Latin America in the 21st Century by Gian Luca Gardini
In this fascinating and insightful analysis, Gardini looks at contemporary developments in Latin America at the state, regional and global level, arguing that despite the numerous challenges to be faced, the region is now more wealthy, autonomous and better-placed in global geopolitics than at any time in its recent history.


Europe on the Brink ed. by Tony Phillips
Europe is suffering from a bipolar economic disorder. Financial journalists divide the continent into two groups of nations - centre and periphery - not by geography but by credit rating. Europe on the Brink is a critical investigation of the root causes of this sovereign debt crisis, and the often misguided policy choices made to resolve it.

Debunking Economics by Steve Keen
In this radically updated and greatly expanded new edition of Debunking Economics, Keen builds on his scathing critique of conventional economic theory whilst explaining what mainstream economists cannot: why the crisis occurred, why it is proving to be intractable, and what needs to be done to end it.

The Economics Anti-Textbook by Rod Hill and Tony Myatt
Mainstream textbooks present economics as an objective science free from value judgements. This is a myth - one which is not only dangerously misleading but also bland and boring. The Economics Anti-Textbook is the students' guide to decoding the textbooks and shows how real economics is much more interesting than most economists are willing to let on.

Gross Domestic Problem by Lorenzo Fioramonti
In this startling insight into the politics of a number that has come to dominate our everyday lives, Lorenzo Fioramonti takes apart the 'content' of GDP - what it measures, what it doesn't and why - and reveals the powerful political interests that have allowed it to dominate today's economies, while also demonstrating how GDP has little relevance to moral principles such as equity, social justice and redistribution.

How Capitalism Failed the Arab World by Richard Javad Heydarian
Economic liberalization has failed in the Arab world. In How Capitalism Failed the Arab World, Richard Javad Heydarian shows how years of economic mismanagement, political autocracy and corruption have encouraged people to revolt. A unique and provocative analysis of some of the key social and political events of the last decade.


Introducing Just Sustainabilities by Julian Agyeman
Introducing Just Sustainabilities discusses key topics, such as food justice, sovereignty and urban agriculture; community, space,; the democratization of our streets and public spaces; how to create culturally inclusive spaces;; and alternative economic models, such as co-production. This unique and insightful text offers an exploration of the origins and subsequent development of the concept of just sustainability.

The Environmental Responsibility Reader ed. by Martin Reynolds, Chris Blackmore and Mark J. Smith
A collection of works on the field of environmental responsibility. It is suitable for those involved with managing environmental decisions making. It promotes various ways of understanding and taking responsibility for actions in the context of our 'natural' world through a selection of edited readings accompanied with an editorial narrative.

Soil Not Oil by Vandana Shiva
In Soil Not Oil, bestselling author Vandana Shiva connects the food crisis, peak oil, and climate change to show that a world beyond a dependence on fossil fuel and globalization is both possible and necessary. Bold and visionary, Shiva reveals how three crises are inherently linked and that any attempt to solve one without addressing the others will get us nowhere.

Energy Justice in a Changing Climate ed. by Karen Bickerstaff, Gordon Walker, Harriet Bulkeley
This is an essential new work for anyone with a focus on the human dimensions of energy transitions and policy, climate change and sustainable development.  It offers new thinking on how interactions between climate change, energy policy and equity and social justice can be understood.

Negotiating Climate Change by Amanda Machin
Climate change is the greatest challenge of the age, and yet fierce disagreement still exists over the best way to tackle the problem - if at all. Amanda Machin draws on radical democratic theory to show that such disagreement does not have to hinder collective action; rather, democratic differences are necessary if we are to have any hope of acting against climate change. This is an important read for researchers, students, policy makers and anyone concerned about the current (lack of) politics in climate change.