Holiday books

Maybe it’s just me, but the excitement of going on holiday in part involves the decision about what books to take with you [always more than you will have time to actually read, because you have to anticipate the different moods you might be in, book-wise]. The challenge, in particular, is to not take academic books – holidays should generally not be thought of as opportunities to catch up with overdue work commitments. But holidays are certainly occasions for reading, amongst others – being on trains (good for theory papers), planes (whole academic books), in the bath (novels).

After much thought, and a little fruitless book browsing, I have sort of decided on the following (there is no reason to suppose I will read any of these, we are after all going on holiday with a four year old and five-month old teething baby, rather than leaving them behind with the cat). Stanley Cavell’s autobiographical Little Did I Know – which fails the test immediately, since he’s a philosopher and this is a book about being a professional philosopher, which I have been trying to read for a few months now. So, the first rule of holiday books has already been broken. On the other hand, it is fairly readable, and it’s not as difficult as The Claim of Reason, and it was this or a biography of Levi-Strauss.  Next, Stephen L. Carter’s Palace Council – crime-fiction, although, oops, Carter is of course an academic too, a constitutional expert at Yale Law School. But his novels – stories about the politics of race in the US – are shorter than the average law review paper, so that’s OK. Er, next, just because I found it cheap and it looks short, a Penguin Classics collection of Robert Musil stories – pretentious choice, not a lot of fun I expect, if I read this it will be indicative of how the holiday is going.

The fall back position is David Nicholls’ One Day, the only book I could find in the Asda in Huyton a couple of weeks ago that I could imagine wanting to read (I find myself compelled to try to buy a book whenever I get the chance these days, I have a sense that these are increasingly rare opportunities – and it’s not just living in Swindon that makes me think so). This one probably passes the holiday-book test perfectly.

Signs of the times

I was in Bristol yesterday for a meeting, and had a couple of hours in which to browse for books – except the bookshops all seemed to have disappeared. The Borders store, closed now for almost a couple of years, is about to re-open as a Wilkinsons, which is a little surprising; the University Waterstones  looked like it was being refurbished, hopefully to re-open though (?), and best of all, the Blackwell’s, long showing the signs of a chain in trouble and struggling to survive, is now a Jamie’s Italian.

In Swindon, meanwhile, there is actually a new stationery shop, Pen and Paper, which is also selling a few remaindered books. Which counts as a 50% increase in the number of book-selling outlets in town, as far as I can work out .

Oecumene Symposium: Citizenship after Orientalism

Am announcement about the first symposium of the Oecumene research programme, based in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the OU and headed-up by Engin Isin, is pasted below, and here are further details of the programme, a call for papers, and details of the associated PhD School:

The Oecumene project is pleased to announce its first Symposium
Citizenship after Orientalism
6-11 February 2012, The Open University, Milton Keynes

The Symposium will include:
A Conference ‘Opening the Boundaries of Citizenship’ [6-7 February],
An International PhD School ‘Tracing Colonialism and Orientalism in Social and Political Thought’ [8 February],
A series of workshops addressing specific topics on critical new ways of conceptualising citizenship [9-11 February].

Keynote speakers: Judith Butler (University of California, Berkeley), Paul Gilroy (LSE), Bryan Turner (CUNY), Engin Isin (The Open University).
PhD School Conveners: Ian Almond (Georgia State University), Roberto Dainotto (Duke University).

The first Symposium will explore what it means to open up the boundaries of citizenship. How can we give an account of other ways of being political? Which political practices have been rendered inarticulable as political by exclusionary ideas of citizenship? These questions seem most relevant today, in light of the contemporary re-articulation of orientalist and colonial projects, the increasing popular discontent towards renewed exclusionary logics, and the contested meanings of democratic politics across boundaries.

The call for papers and applications are now open.
For further details please see the files attached or visit our website:

Ray Pahl

I haven’t seen a full obituary for Ray Pahl yet, who died earlier this month. Pahl had an interesting status in geography, I think – as the one who got away, but then who lots of people ended up following. He wrote the ‘sociological models’ essay in Chorley and Haggett’s classic Models in Geography, the source text for geography’s ‘quantitative revolution’ in the 1960s, and moved from geography as an undergraduate to sociology – pioneering qualitative methods in the social sciences. It took a while for geographers to catch up. 

Once upon a time, for a few months, I tried to do PhD research modelled on the sort of detailed qualitative work on family dynamics that he and his wife Jan Pahl both excelled in – but I simply didn’t have the social skills to pull this off. I took refuge in ‘theory’, and the ‘archive’.

Pahl wrote a lenghty review of Mike Savage’s recent account of post-war sociology/social science in The Sociological Review, published earlier this year, in which he partly situates himself in relation to the growth of social science in the UK as theorised by Savage.

Workshop on Creating Publics

Details of a workshop on Creating Publics, to be held at Westminster on 21st and 22nd July – co-convened by the Publics Programme at the OU and the Governance and Sustainability Research Group at Westminster. Details of who to contact if you are interested in attending are in the link.