The Indelible Mark of Exile

By Veronica Thompson

F. Elizabeth Dahab.  Voices of Exile in Contemporary Canadian Francophone Literature. Lexington Books, 2009. 246 pp.

In Voices of Exile in Contemporary Canadian Francophone Literature, Elizabeth Dahab introduces readers to a relatively unexamined field of Canadian literature – Québécois writers of Arabic origin – a field she describes as “weakly institutionalized and largely unknown to mainstream scholarship” (vii).
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Querying Transnationalism

By Emily Johansen

Inderpal Grewal. Transnational America: Feminisms, Diasporas, Neoliberalisms. Duke University Press, 2005. 296 pp.

Inderpal Grewal’s monograph Transnational America: Feminisms, Diasporas, Neoliberalisms invites its readers to consider the overlapping spheres of postcoloniality, American nationalism and transnationalism, and neoliberalism—and the impact they have on subject formation.
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War, Modernity, Critical Theory

By Rich Daniels

Nelson Maldonado-Torres. Against War: Views from the Underside of Modernity. Duke University Press, 2008. 360 pp. 

Initially this book seems very promising, for at least three reasons: 1) in our time of small, nasty imperial wars and other efforts by the West to police the global south and periphery, analysis of and argument against such war from a new or unusual perspective is most welcome; 2) to bring together the thought of Emmanuel Levinas, Frantz Fanon, and Enrique Dussel promises updating of serious ethical arguments and new application of aspects of critical theory and perhaps even of Marxist analysis of the present stage of global capitalism; 3) and from these three thinkers developing an emphasis on the role of the global south, especially indigenous, insurgent, and resistance movements in Latin America can help us see the directions of social change, not to mention helping it along.
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Power of the People?

By Justin Paulson

Mark Fenster. Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture (revised and updated edition).  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008. 400 pp.

Was 9/11 an inside job? Stickers declaring so can be found on stop signs and utility poles in urban centres throughout North America. And many of them are new: I recently watched a young, well-dressed gentleman plastering such stickers around downtown Montréal.
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Modernism’s Lost Causes

By Evan Mauro

Seth Moglen. Mourning Modernity: Literary Modernism and the Injuries of American Capitalism. Stanford University Press, 2007.

On its face a study of American literary modernism, Seth Moglen's Mourning Modernity opens onto an urgent question: how to remember and use histories of political radicalism. Moglen's book reanimates a turning point for American revolutionary movements in the 1920s and 1930s, tying that era's comprehensive state repression of the left into the development of a distinctly melancholic modernist sensibility.
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Rebuilding the Machine

By Matthew MacLellan

Gerald Raunig. A Thousand Machines: A Concise Philosophy of the Machine as a Social Movement. Trans. Aileen Derieg. Semiotext(e), 2010.

A follow-up to his Art and Revolution (2007), Gerald Raunig’s A Thousand Machines uses a combination of Marxian theory and Deleuzian philosophy to examine today’s radical social movements as they negotiate the post-fordist landscape.
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Marxism as Science Fiction

By Gerry Canavan

Mark Bould and China Miéville, eds. Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction. Wesleyan UP, 2009.

In 1972, Darko Suvin published “On the Poetics of the Science Fiction Genre”, where he announced science fiction’s importance as “the literature of cognitive estrangement” (372). “SF,” Suvin writes, “is then a literary genre whose necessary and sufficient conditions are the presence and interaction of estrangement and cognition, and whose main formal device is an imaginative framework alternative to the author's empirical environment” (375).
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The Depths of Design

By Melissa Aronczyk

Guy Julier and Liz Moor, eds. Design and Creativity: Policy, Management and Practice. Berg, 2009.

It must have been inconceivable to the audience at the 8th International Design Conference, held in 1958, why the sociologist C. Wright Mills was invited to give a lecture. Only a few sentences into his speech, Mills thrashed the design industry for pulling art and craftsmanship under the umbrella of the market, and for joining the ranks of ad men, PR flacks and market researchers to ally “the struggle of existence with the panic for status” (Mills, The Man in the Middle” 70):

The silly needs of salesmanship are thus met by the silly designing and redesigning of things.
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It’s The End of The World as They Know It, and They Feel Fine

By Michael Truscello

The Invisible Committee. The Coming Insurrection. Semiotext(e), 2009.

In their astute history of the anarchist tradition, Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt suggest that anarchists generally practice one of two broad strategies: insurrectionist anarchism or mass anarchism. The insurrectionist tradition "argues that reforms are illusory and organized mass movements are incompatible with anarchism, and emphasizes armed action—propaganda by the deed—against the ruling class and its institutions as the primary means of evoking a spontaneous revolutionary upsurge" (123).
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Adorno’s Non-Waking Life

By Ian Balfour

Theodor W. Adorno. Dream Notes. Trans. Rodney Livingstone. Polity, 2007.

When was the last time you dreamt of showing up at a party that Trotsky was at? And have you ever dreamt about Fritz Lang after having lunched with him earlier in the day?
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The Measures Taken

By Hunter Bivens

Benjamin Robinson. The Skin of the System: On Germany’s Socialist Modernity. Stanford University Press, 2009.

Twenty years after the opening of the Berlin Wall, a number of important thinkers (one thinks here, in differing registers, of Alain Badiou, Boris Groys, or Susan Buck-Morss’s 2000 Dreamworld and Catastrophe) have been reconsidering what to make of the twentieth century’s experience of really existing socialism.
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The Citizenry of Photography

By John M. Woolsey

Ariella Azoulay. The Civil Contract of Photography. Zone Books, 2008.

Ariella Azoulay’s The Civil Contract of Photography is, among other things, a political theory of photography that investigates and radically rethinks prevalent conceptualizations of citizenship. As a “political theory,” Azoulay’s argument poses a direct challenge to both modernist and postmodernist approaches to “photographs of horror” that depict injured populations.
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Back to the Slaughterhouse

By Tristan Sipley

Nicole Shukin. Animal Capital: Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times. University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

While it may seem redundant to assert the materiality of animal life, the emerging branch of cultural theory known as “animality studies” has in fact been riddled with philosophical idealism. On one hand, poststructuralist approaches have tended to reduce animals to linguistic and cultural signifiers, overlooking their historical role as actual bodies.
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Professor, Heal Thyself!

By Heather Zwicker

Frank Donoghue, The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities. Fordham University Press, 2008.

As soon as you spy the title’s keywords—professors, corporate, humanities—you suspect you’ve read this book before. But you haven’t. What sets Donoghue apart from the populous field of other hand-wringing institutional-critique narratives (Aronowitz, Bousquet, Giroux) is that he takes professors to task directly for our complicity in the dismal state of the twenty-first-century academy.
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The Trouble with Creativity

By Sarah Brouillette

Andrew Ross. Nice Work If You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times. New York University Press, 2009.

In the first dozen or so pages of his new book, Andrew Ross suggests that high-end creative industries (CI) work and low-level service or manufacturing labour have something in common. Both manifest the spread throughout the workforce of conditions of “precarity,” defined by the absence of social welfare, by “intermittent employment” and by “radical uncertainty about the future” (4).
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Something Ordinary

By Ben Highmore

Kathleen Stewart. Ordinary Affects. Duke University Press, 2007.

To name something as ordinary is not without risk. At once the founding act of all that is worthwhile in cultural studies, it also marks the source of all its troubles; the ambiguity of naming culture as ordinary is the stigmata of the burden that cultural studies (often unwittingly and unwillingly) carries.
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