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  • Key Issues in Global Studies
  • Diana Brydon (bio)
Bales, Kevin, and Becky Cornell. Slavery Today. Toronto: Groundwood/Anansi, 1998. 144 pp. $11.00 pb. ISBN 978-0-88899-773-9. Print. Groundwork Guides.
Caplan, Gerald. The Betrayal of Africa. Toronto: Groundwood/Anansi, 2008. 144 pp. $11.00 pb. ISBN 978-0-88899-825-5. Print. Groundwork Guides.
Laxer, James . Democracy. Toronto: Groundwood/ Anansi. 2009. 144 pp. $11.00 pb. ISBN 978-0-88899-913-9. Print. Groundwork Guides.
Laxer, James . Empire. Toronto: Groundwood/Anansi, 2006. 144 pp. $11.00 pb. ISBN 978-0-88899-707-8. Print. Groundwork Guides.
Lorinc, John . Cities. Toronto: Groundwood/Anansi, 2008. 144 pp. $11.00 pb. ISBN 978-0-88899-819-4. Print. Groundwork Guides.
Siddiqui, Haroun . Being Muslim. Toronto: Groundwood/Anansi, 2006. 144 pp. $11.00 pb. ISBN 978-0-88899-887-3. Print. Groundwork Guides. [End Page 144]

These guides are part of a larger series, Groundwork Guides, designed to provide an overview of key contemporary political and social issues in an informative and accessible format. The mandate is to provide both a lively introduction to the subject and a strong point of view. These books achieve that goal, and in a manner that encourages readers to think more deeply about the issues they raise. Their inclusion of Canada in the wide range and historical sweep of their subject matter is a special virtue for Canadian readers.

With globalization, Nancy Fraser argues, "it is not only the substance of justice, but also the frame, which is in dispute" (170). The Groundwork Guides consider some of the key frames through which aspects of globalization are understood today: through concepts such as democracy and empire, through practices as varied as slavery and being Muslim, through the continentalist perspective provided by Africa, and through the local view provided by cities. As the series shows, each perspective reveals different facets of global history and global practices today, and each introduces a territory in which both the substance and the frames of justice are in dispute.

The disciplinary frames through which these authors work are also interesting for the views they offer, and fail to offer. They are written from a range of positions: by academics, activists, a journalist, and a government advisor. In this diversity, they may reflect the fragmentation of authority that accompanies globalization, with other knowledge producers now challenging the authority of the academic voice. The proliferation of private think-tanks and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) after the end of the Second World War, the rise of the Internet in the last decades of the twentieth century, and the increasing legitimacy granted indigenous knowledges in roughly the same period have meant that people now have alternative sources to consult for data and analysis. These books are based on research and each includes an index, a modest grouping of endnotes, and a brief page or so of suggested further reading. These arrangements make the books reliable introductory guides, suitable for a wide range of readers. The primary target audiences include high-school students and the general public; however, the books are sufficiently engaging and informative to prove useful for university students entering a new field and for professors whose specialities have directed their reading elsewhere.

While there seems to be considerable room for individualized approaches, certain features remain common to all. In addition to a narrative of approximately six chapters, the books include graphs, maps, timelines, and short embedded testimonies, case studies, or illustrative histories that break up the text and present useful information in a variety of memorable formats.

Based on my personal interests, I chose the [End Page 145] selection above from a wider list of titles; I have been regretting that I did not ask for the book on oil as well, since I would have been interested to see the synergies developed between that topic and some of the books in my selection. Although none of these volumes explicitly references the others, numerous concerns link them into a wider project, that of showing the continuities within Western capitalism between imperialist policies and global presents. If there is a common theme connecting these volumes it is a concern with how to achieve equality...


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