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Common Knowledge

Vol. 8 (2002) through current issue

Since 1992 Common Knowledge has opened lines of communication among schools of thought in the academy, as well as between the academy and the community of thoughtful people outside its walls. Common Knowledge has formed a new intellectual model, one based on conversation and cooperation rather than on metaphors (adopted from war and sports) of "sides" that one must "take." The pages of Common Knowledge regularly challenge the ways we think about scholarship and its relevance to humanity.

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Compassionate Stranger

Asenath Nicholson and the Great Irish Famine

by Maureen O'Rourke Murphy

The first biography of Asenath Nicholson, Compassionate Stranger recovers the largely forgotten history of an extraordinary woman. Trained as a schoolteacher, Nicholson was involved in the abolitionist, temperance, and diet reforms of the day before she left New York in 1844 “to personally investigate the condition of the Irish poor.” She walked alone throughout nearly every county in Ireland and reported on conditions in rural Ireland on the eve of the Great Irish Famine. She published Ireland’s Welcome to the Stranger, an account of her travels in 1847. She returned to Ireland in December 1846 to do what she could to relieve famine suffering—first in Dublin and then in the winter of 1847–48 in the west of Ireland where the suffering was greatest. Nicholson’s precise, detailed diaries and correspondence reveal haunting insights into the desperation of victims of the Famine and the negligence and greed of those who added to the suffering. Her account of the Great Irish Famine, Annals of the Famine in Ireland in 1847, 1848 and 1849, is both a record of her work and an indictment of official policies toward the poor: land, employment, famine relief. In addition to telling Nicholson’s story, from her early life in Vermont and upstate New York to her better-known work in Ireland, Murphy puts Nicholson’s own writings and other historical documents in conversation. This not only contextualizes Nicholson’s life and work, but it also supplements the impersonal official records with Nicholson’s more compassionate and impassioned accounts of the Irish poor.

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Consumers And Citizens

Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts

Nestor Garcia Canclini

In Consumers and Citizens, Néstor García Canclini, the best-known and most innovative cultural studies scholar in Latin America, maps the critical effects of urban sprawl and global media and commodity markets on citizens-and shows at the same time that the complex results mean not only a shrinkage of certain traditional rights (particularly those of the welfare or client state) but also new openings for expanding citizenship.

García Canclini focuses on the diverse ways in which democratic societies recognize markets of citizen opinions, however heterogeneous and dissonant, as in the fashion and entertainment industries. He shows how identity issues, brought to the fore by the aligning of citizenship and consumption, can no longer be understood strictly within the purview of territory or nation. Rather, the postmodern citizen-consumer inhabits a transterritorial and multilingual space, structured more along the lines of markets than states. Defining this space, García Canclini seeks to formulate a participatory and critical approach to consumption in which national culture, far from being extinguished, is reconstituted in transnational, cultural interactions.

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Contemporary African Cultural Productions

All over Africa, an explosion in cultural productions of various genres is in evidence. Whether in relation to music, song and dance, drama, poetry, film, documentaries, photography, cartoons, fine arts, novels and short stories, essays, and (auto)biography; the continent is experiencing a robust outpouring of creative power that is as remarkable for its originality as its all-round diversity. Beginning from the late 1970s and early 1980s, the African continent has experienced the longest and deepest economic crises than at any other time since the period after the Second World War. Interestingly however, while practically every indicator of economic development was declining in nominal and/ or real terms for most aspects of the continent, cultural productions were on the increase. Out of adversity, the creative genius of the African produced cultural forms that at once spoke to crises and sought to transcend them. The current climate of cultural pluralism that has been produced in no small part by globalization has not been accompanied by an adequate pluralism of ideas on what culture is, and/or should be; nor informed by an equal claim to the production of the cultural ñ packaged or not. Globalization has seen to movement and mixture, contact and linkage, interaction and exchange where cultural flows of capital, people, commodities, images and ideologies have meant that the globe has become a space, with new asymmetries, for an increasing intertwinement of the lives of people and, consequently, of a greater blurring of normative definitions as well as a place for re-definition, imagined and real. As this book ñ Contemporary African Cultural Productions ñ has done, researching into African culture and cultural productions that derive from it allows us, among other things, to enquire into definitions, explore historical dimensions, and interrogate the political dimensions to presentation and representation. The book therefore offers us an intervention that goes beyond the normative literary and cultural studiesí main foci of race, difference and identity; notions which, while important in themselves might, without the necessary historicizing and interrogating, result in a discourse that rather re-inscribes the very patterns that necessitate writing against. This book is an invaluable compendium to scholars, researchers, teachers, students and others who specialize on different aspects of African culture and cultural productions, as well as cultural centers and general readers.

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Conversations with William Gibson

Patrick A. Smith

"After reading Neuromancer for the first time," literary scholar Larry McCaffery wrote, "I knew I had seen the future of [science fiction] (and maybe of literature in general), and its name was William Gibson." McCaffery was right. Gibson's 1984 debut is one of the most celebrated SF novels of the last half century, and in a career spanning more than three decades, the American Canadian science fiction writer and reluctant futurist responsible for introducing "cyberspace" into the lexicon has published nine other novels.

Editor Patrick A. Smith draws the twenty-three interviews in this collection from a variety of media and sources--print and online journals and fanzines, academic journals, newspapers, blogs, and podcasts. Myriad topics include Gibson's childhood in the American South and his early adulthood in Canada, with travel in Europe; his chafing against the traditional SF mold, the origins of "cyberspace," and the unintended consequences (for both the author and society) of changing the way we think about technology; the writing process and the reader's role in a new kind of fiction. Gibson (b. 1948) takes on branding and fashion, celebrity culture, social networking, the post-9/11 world, future uses of technology, and the isolation and alienation engendered by new ways of solving old problems. The conversations also provide overviews of his novels, short fiction, and nonfiction.

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How Air Conditioning Changed Everything

Salvatore Basile

It’s a contraption that makes the lists of “Greatest Inventions Ever”; at the same time it's accused of causing global disaster. It has changed everything from architecture to people’s food habits to their voting patterns, even the way big business washes its windows. It has saved countless lives . . . while causing countless deaths. Most of us are glad it's there. But we don't know how, or when, it got there._x000B__x000B_It's air conditioning._x000B__x000B_For thousands of years, humankind attempted to do something about the slow torture of hot weather. Everything was tried: water power, slave power, electric power, ice made from steam engines and cold air made from deadly chemicals, “zephyrifers,” refrigerated beds, ventilation amateurs and professional air-sniffers. It wasn't until 1902 when an engineer barely out of college developed the “Apparatus for Treating Air”—a machine that could actually cool the indoors—and everyone assumed it would instantly change the world. _x000B__x000B_That wasn't the case. There was a time when people “ignored” hot weather while reading each day's list of heat-related deaths, women wore furs in the summertime, heatstroke victims were treated with bloodletting . . . and the notion of a machine to cool the air was considered preposterous, even sinful. _x000B__x000B_The story of air conditioning is actually two stories: the struggle to perfect a cooling device, and the effort to convince people that they actually needed such a thing. With a cast of characters ranging from Leonardo da Vinci and Richard Nixon to Felix the Cat, Cool showcases the myriad reactions to air conditioning—some of them dramatic, many others comical and wonderfully inconsistent—as it was developed and presented to the world. Here is a unique perspective on air conditioning's fascinating history: how we rely so completely on it today, and how it might change radically tomorrow._x000B_

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Counsel for the Situation

Shaping the Law to Realize America's Promise

with Donald T. Bliss. William T. Coleman

"Bill Coleman's story is one that younger generations should mark and inwardly digest, lest they forget the pioneers who helped to make a better America possible." —From the Foreword by Stephen G. Breyer

William Coleman has spent a lifetime opening doors and breaking down barriers. He has been an eyewitness to history; moreover, he has made history. This is his inspiring story, in his own words.

Americans of color faced daunting barriers in the 1940s. Despite graduating first in his class at Harvard Law and clerking for Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, Coleman was shut out of major East Coast law firms. But as the Philadelphia native writes, "The times, they were a'changing." He not only benefited from that change —he helped propel it, by way of dogged determination, undeniable intellect, and stellar accomplishment.

Coleman's legal work with Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund helped jumpstart the civil rights movement in the 1950s. He was the first American of color to clerk for the Supreme Court, and later served as senior counsel to the Warren Commission, investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In 1975 he was appointed secretary of transportation by President Gerald Ford —the first American of color to serve in a Republican cabinet —and in 1995 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Bill Clinton.

At his core, Bill Coleman is a lawyer. He strives to be a "counsel for the situation" —an advocate able to take on major matters in a variety of legal disciplines while upholding the highest traditions of justice and the public interest. He is fiercely proud of the legal profession's role in a democratic society and free economy, and he is grateful for the opportunities that profession has afforded him in the court room, the board room, and the corridors of power. It is through this prism that he relates his own story —his life and the law.

The results speak for themselves, and in this immensely entertaining chronicle, the Counsel for the Situation speaks for himself.

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Countering MTV Influence in Indonesia and Malaysia

Kalinga Seneviratne

This book discusses three major elements - MTV, the Music of Malaysia, and the Music of Indonesia - and how these three interact in the modern cultural setting. The research objective behind the book was to study the impact of globalization, in the form of the MTV onslaught on the youth musical culture and identities of Indonesia and Malaysia, and to determine what theoretical basis could explain the new cultural products which have risen in response to this process. The book goes on to examine whether the nasyid and irama Malaysia music genres in Malaysia and dangdut in Indonesia are part of this process and how it is achieved

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CR: The New Centennial Review

Vol. 1 (2001) through current issue

CR: The New Centennial Review is devoted to comparative studies of the Americas that suggest possibilities for a different future. Centennial Review is published three times a year under the editorship of Scott Michaelsen (Department of English, Michigan State University) and David E. Johnson (Department of Comparative Literature, SUNY at Buffalo).

The journal recognizes that the language of the Americas is translation, and that questions of translation, dialogue, and border crossings (linguistic, cultural, national, and the like) are necessary for rethinking the foundations and limits of the Americas. Journal articles address philosophically inflected interventions, provocations, and insurgencies that question the existing configuration of the Americas, as well as global and theoretical work with implications for the hemisphere.

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Crime and Media in Contemporary France

by Deborah Streifford Reisinger

This book examines contemporary French society's relationship with violence in an era of increased media dominance.

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