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Books for Christmas: Part 2

Still searching for that perfect book for Christmas? In the second part of our Books for Christmas feature the AHRC's Theme Leadership Fellows have gathered the books that they are looking forward to settling down with over the festive period.

Creative Economy Champion Professor Andrew Chitty

Professor Chitty is the first Creative Economy Champion. He will be working to foster new and exciting partnerships between academics and the rapidly growing creative industry, which is worth £84 billion to the UK economy.


The Silent Deep, Peter Hennessy
ISBN: 978-0241959480

A chronological history of the Royal Navy’s submarine service might sound like something only of relevance to military buffs and ex-mariners but in the hands of Peter Hennessy and James Jinks, The Silent Deep; The Royal Navy Submarine Service since 1945 serves as a metaphor for the UK’s post war challenges of delivering ongoing technological innovation within strategic industries without either the consistent investment of capital and skills or the policy frameworks to match. At a time when the UK apparently lacks the nuclear engineering skills to design and build its own future power stations it’s a timely reminder that we have had an evolving family of British designed and built mini-reactors continually in service for over 50 years. That an older generation of subs were used as emergency power stations to keep the lights on in Portsmouth in the energy crisis on 1947 is just one of many fascinating insights from this weighty and thought provoking book.


Curators of Cultural Enterprise, Philip Schlesinger
ISBN: 978-1137478887

Much lighter on the scales but not in terms of practical impact is Curators of Cultural Enterprise Philip Schlesinger, Melanie Selfe and Ealasaid Munro’s analysis of Glasgow’s Cultural Enterprise Office. This very accessible title foregrounds the ambiguous role of intermediary organisations in delivering what we’ve all come to think of as creative economy policy. The analysis here is alternately sharp, uncomfortable and sympathetic. The fragility of such intermediaries, their need to track the changes in strategy of their funders and the blurring and overlap this creates with the creative businesses they support is carefully drawn. Whether a creative economy policy maker, analyst or practitioner there is much here to both enjoy and provoke.


Translating Cultures Fellow, Professor Charles Forsdick

Professor Forsdick was appointed James Barrow Professor of French at the University of Liverpool in 2001. He is a strong advocate for the centrality of Modern Languages to arts and humanities research, and is a specialist in the cross-disciplinary fields of travel writing, slavery studies, postcolonial literature and colonial history.


The Invention of Monolingualism, David Gramling
ISBN: 978-1501318047

As links between language and identity continue to receive increased scrutiny, there is a pressing need to understand the functioning – and indeed, as David Gramling suggests – the ‘invention’ of monolingualism as an ideology. Drawing on material from history, literature and policy, this compelling book explores how multilingualism has been disciplined in monolingual ways, and develops the notion of the ‘linguacene’ to show how variability within individual languages increasingly conforms to criteria of translatability. This book is essential reading across Arts and Humanities disciplines, especially those traditionally limited to monolingual ways of thinking.

Notes on a Thesis, Tiphaine Rivière (trans. Francesca Barrie)
ISBN: 978-0199537358

Also recommended is Francesca Barrie’s translation of Notes on a Thesis. Tiphaine Rivière’s graphic novel will amuse and alarm, in equal measure, those facing – or who have faced – the pleasures and pains of doctoral research. As with best examples of this genre, it is acutely observed, and offers almost ethnographic insights for the uninitiated into French academic cultures.


AHRC/ESRC Conflict Theme Fellow, David Galbreath

Professor Galbreath is Professor of International Security, Director of the Centre for War and Technology, and Editor-in-Chief of both European Security (since 2009) and Defence Studies (since 2014). From finishing his PhD in 2004 at the University of Leeds, he has been consistently working on foreign and security policy, including contributing to the international and European security components of the MSc in Strategic Studies at the University of Aberdeen until 2010.

Rise of the Machines: A Cybernetic History, Thomas Rid
ISBN: 978-0393286007

The book looks at the nature of machines in relation to human development and places what some may see as a recent phenomenon (machines as networks, robots, cyber) into a historical context of industrialisation. The author, Thomas Rid, has made a name for himself talking about the risk of cyber war previously, in his well-regarded book, Cyber War Will Not Take Place. In this more recent book, Rid looks at the rise of the technology and language that we have used to think about how humans interact with and are directed by machines. With particular interest is the argument that machines are time limited in how much they are able to help shape our future. Rid argues that in the end, Machines will be unable to aid human development without disrupting it and thus suggests that our relationship with machines are specific to the current age; an age of cybernetics.

AHRC Heritage Theme Fellow, Professor Rodney Harrison

Professor Harrison, as well as being the Heritage Theme Fellow, is currently leading the Heritage Futures collaborative research project which explores different forms of heritage as distinctive future-making practices. He is a Professor of Heritage Studies at University College London.



Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice Across Andean Worlds, Marisol de la Cadena
ISBN: 978-0822359630


Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism, Elizabeth Povinelli
ISBN: 978-0822362333

Four Futures: Life After Capitalism, Peter Frase
ISBN: 978-1781688137

Constructing Destruction: Heritage Narratives in the Tsunami City, Trinidad Rico
ISBN: 978-1629584379

Curated Decay: Heritage Beyond Saving
ISBN: 978-0816694389

Current global social, ecological, economic and political crises call for a radical rethinking of the nature of the world and what it means to be human, as well as our relationships with the past, present and future. This Christmas I’ll be reading Marisol de la Cadena’s Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice Across Andean Worlds (Duke) for its sustained critique of the nature/culture divide; Elizabeth Povinelli’s Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism (Duke) for its contributions to, and qualifications of, Foucauldian analytics of biopower; Peter Frase’s Four Futures: Life After Capitalism (Verso) for its speculative exploration of futures for societies beyond capitalism; Trinidad Rico’s Constructing Destruction: Heritage Narratives in the Tsunami City (Routledge) for its alternative critical paradigm for post-destruction heritage planning and practice; and anticipating the new year’s arrival of Caitlin DeSilvey’s Curated Decay: Heritage Beyond Saving (University of Minnesota Press), which challenges conventional approaches to conservation by suggesting we might collaborate with, rather than feel the need to defend against, processes of entropy and decay.

AHRC Digital Transformations Theme Fellow, Andrew Prescott

Professor Prescott trained as a medieval historian and was formerly a curator of manuscripts at the British Library in London. He was the principal British Library contact for the Electronic Beowulf project which won the Library Association / Mecklermedia Award for Innovation through Library Technology in 1995.


BOOOOOK: The Life and Work of Bob Cobbing, edited by William Cobbing and Rosie Cooper
ISBN: 978-0992903954

Bob Cobbing (1920-2002) was an adventurous and charismatic poet whose sound poems ‘stretched language until it broke’. His powerful performances, incorporating grunts, shouts, coughs and sneezes, made him seem like an urban shaman. Cobbing exploited the possibilities of Gestetner duplicators, typewriters, letraset, photocopiers and computers to reconfigure text into visually provoking forms. He was unstinting in his support of other artists, and, particularly through the Writers’ Forum and his work as manager of Better Books in London, was a central figure in British experimental and counter-cultural literature and art for nearly fifty years. This is the first book devoted to Cobbing’s life and works and gives a compelling insight into his world. Reproducing many of Cobbing’s works, the book is a visual feast and is packed with ideas which point towards ways in which digital representations of text and poetry might become more experimental and transformative.


Privacy: A Short History, David Vincent
ISBN: 978-0745671130

Privacy seems under siege in modern society, with governments, corporations and retailers queuing up to use our data. In this engrossing study, the historian David Vincent shows how anxieties about privacy stretch back at least to the Middle Ages when London citizens used the Assize of Nuisance to protect the privacy of their houses and Margaret Paston fretted about whether her letters had been safely delivered. The introduction of the Penny Post was quickly followed in 1844 by the first modern privacy panic when the Home Office intercepted letters of exiles at the request of a foreign government. Modern debates about privacy often have a hysterical tone in which, according to Vincent, the future is misunderstood and the past forgotten. Vincent’s pioneering study is an exemplar of the way humanities research enables a more rounded view of modern controversies, and is essential reading for anyone concerned by the effect of digital technologies on privacy.


AHRC Science in Culture Theme Fellow, Barry C. Smith

Professor Smith is the Director of the Institute of Philosophy and co-director and founder of the Centre for the Study of the Senses, which pioneers collaborative research between philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists.


Serious Sweet, A.L. Kennedy
ISBN: 978-0224098441

The Voices Within: the history and science of how we talk to ourselves , Charles Fernyhough
ISBN: 978-1781252796

The two recently published books I would recommend that you make time for during the break are both written by novelists, although one is primarily a psychologist. The first is Serious Sweet by A.L.Kennedy (Jonathan Cape); a poignant tale of two individuals negotiating the line between the personal and the political in contemporary London. The second is The Voices Within: the history and science of how we talk to ourselves (Profile Books Wellcome Collection) by psychologist, and novelist, Charles Fernyhough; a deeply human book that deals with the science and cultural history of hearing inner voices.

Interestingly, both books open with a scene on the Tube. Fernyhough introduces his subject, the intimate relation each of us has to our inner lives, through an incident in the compartment where he blurts out a laugh because of something that just came to mind. From there, Fernyhough goes on to consider how we talk to ourselves and image others’ voices. We all do it, and yet for some this can become an uncontrollable intrusion of hectoring voices. As PI on the Wellcome Trust interdisciplinary project, Hearing the Voice, Fernyhough is well placed to bring us everything from the latest neuroscientific research on voice-hearing to accounts by medieval historians of Margery Kempe whose voices were interpreted as divine revelation. The book nicely illustrates the way cultural context affects our attitudes to voice hearing.

It is not lost on Fernyhough that novelists entertain a cast of inner voices and intriguingly this is reflected in Kennedy’s novel where she not only reports the conversations of her characters but in italics lets us ease drop on the chaotic internal monologue in which they confront the emotionally raw facts of their isolated lives to come to terms with their secrets and their circumstances. In our busy public lives it is good to be reminded of other people’s inner worlds an how much they can move us.

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