Chris Foye: Housing and Happiness

There is rarely a moment when house prices are not in the news and many working people can relate to the experience of buying that first house. Housing can be incredibly personal because it reflects to some extent your lifestyle and life choices, but it also serves as a marker of social status. The difference between living in a council flat and living in a semi-detached house with a garden and a garage tells you many things about differences in income, wealth and class. But the differences in size of living space between the council flat and the semi-detached could also be important because they impact on your sense of subjective happiness. This clearly has implications for urban planning but also for other areas of public policy such as health, education and social care.

This week on The Provocateur I talk to Chris Foye, who has just completed his PhD in Real Estate and Planning at Henley Business School at the University of Reading, to explore the relationship between housing and happiness. Among other things, we discuss the reasons why it is important to examine the relationship in the first place, the difficulty of measuring people’s happiness or subjective well-being and why home ownership is so popular in the UK.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Foye, C. (2017) ‘The Relationship Between Size of Living Space and Subjective Well-Being‘, Journal of Happiness Studies 18(2), pp. 427-461.

Frank, R. H. (2007) Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Layard, R. (2011) Happiness: Lessons from a new science. London: Penguin.

Nakazato, N., U. Schimmack and S. Oishi (2011) ‘Effect of changes in living conditions on well-being: A prospective top–down bottom–up model’, Social Indicators Research 100(1), pp. 115-135.

Jennifer Rushworth: Bringing Proust’s Imaginary Music to Life

Many of you will doubtless have heard of Marcel Proust and his monumental masterpiece À la recherche du temps perdu (often translated as In Search of Lost Time or much more loosely as Remembrance of Things Past). A substantial part of the novel is given over to an imaginary sonata by the fictional composer Vinteuil, which figures prominently in the relationship between the central characters Swann and Odette. Various attempts have been made in film versions to reconstruct what the sonata might have sounded like, but the piece has never before been imagined as a standalone composition, without a surrounding cinema or stage adaptation. Moreover, the ways in which composers of such a sonata might read the novel differently from literary critics have yet to be fully investigated.

This week on The Provocateur I talk to Jennifer Rushworth, a Junior Research Fellow in Modern Languages at the University of Oxford, about her groundbreaking project bringing together undergraduate translators, composers and musicians at the university. One group of students were given extracts from the novel to translate into English, before feeding the results to a second group of students who used the translations as inspirations for new work. I discuss with Jennifer the challenges and rewards of this highly interdisciplinary exercise. Among other things, we explore issues of French-English translation, the specificity of the Anglophone context and what this research might suggest more generally about the relationship between music and literature in Proust.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

To learn more about the project, visit proustandmusic.wordpress.com, which hopefully will be updated soon with recordings of the finished pieces!

Further Reading:

Coeuroy, A. (1923) ‘La musique dans l’œuvre de Marcel Proust’, Revue musicale 3, pp. 193-212. Reprinted in Coeuroy, A. (1938) Musique et littérature. Paris: Gallimard.

Costil, P. (1958) ‘La Construction musicale de la Recherche du temps perdu (I)’, Bulletin de la Société des Amis de Marcel Proust et des Amis de Combray 8, pp. 469-489.

____ (1959) ‘La Construction musicale de la Recherche du temps perdu (II)’, Bulletin de la Société des Amis de Marcel Proust et des Amis de Combray 9, pp. 83-110.

Dayan, P. (2006) ‘How Music Enables Proust to Write Paradise Lost’, in Music Writing Literature: from Sand via Debussy to Derrida. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Goodkin, R. E. (1991) ‘Proust and Wagner: The Climb to the Octave Above, or, the Scale of Love (and Death)’, in Around Proust. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Labarthe, P. (2001) ‘Vinteuil ou le paradoxe de l’individuel en art’, Revue d’Histoire littéraire de la France 101(1), pp. 105-122.

Kaltenecker, M. (2010) ‘L’Écoute selon Proust’, in L’Oreille divisée: Les discours sur l’écoute musicale au XVIIIe et XIXe siecles. Paris: Editions MF.

Nattiez, J-J. (1989) Proust as Musician, trans. D. Puffett. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Newark, C. and I. Wassenaar (1997) ‘Proust and Music: The Anxiety of Competence’, Cambridge Opera Journal 9(2), pp. 163-183.

Piroue, G. (1960) Proust et la musique du devenir. Paris: Editions Denoël.

Ross, A. (2009) ‘Imaginary Concerts‘, The New Yorker, 24 August.

Rushworth, J. (2014) ‘The Textuality of Music in Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu‘, Romance Studies 32(2), pp. 75-87.

This episode is dedicated to the memory of Benjamin Frederick Pedley (1991-2017).

Ross Keller: Fighting the War on Cancer

It is difficult to find someone whose life has not been touched in some way by cancer and indeed ‘the big C’ is probably one of the most well-known public health concerns. Ever since American scientists officially declared war on cancer in the 1970s, millions of lives have been saved through increased awareness, early detection and vast amounts of investment into research and development. But it seems we are no closer to the original target of eradicating cancer by the 2020s. According to the National Cancer Research Institute, the disease continues to kill more than eight million people worldwide every year, with 60 per cent of new cases occurring in the Global South. Overall cancer deaths are expected to increase by 60 per cent by 2030, largely due to an ageing global population. There is some hope however, as researchers around the world are racing to find the Holy Grail of cancer biology: a completely foolproof cure.

This week on The Provocateur I am joined by Ross Keller, a PhD candidate in Biomedical Sciences at Penn State College of Medicine, to discuss the ways in which he and other cancer biologists are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the fight against cancer. We first briefly talk about what cancer is before going on to cover the traditional weapons used to tackle cancer, the ways in which cancer can outwit us and the startling new frontiers in cancer treatment. Ross has also written an excellent blog series covering the War on Cancer: the first part can be read here.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

To donate to Cancer Research UK, click here.

Further Reading:

Journalistic articles:

Begley, S. (2017) ‘Most Cancer Cases Arise from “Bad Luck”‘, Scientific American: STAT, 24 March.

Keller, R. (2015) ‘Why is Tanning Dangerous?’ Lions Talk Science, 13 April.

____ (2016) ‘Immunotherapy: Awakening the Immune System to Fight Cancer’, Lions Talk Science, 13 September.

____ (2017) ‘What is Radon? And How Does It Impact Health?’ Lions Talk Science, 15 February.

Scientific reading (assumes graduate level biology):

Hanahan, D. and R. A. Weinberg (2011) ‘Hallmarks of Cancer: The Next Generation’, Cell 144(5), pp. 646-674.

McGranahan, N. and C. Swanton (2017) ‘Clonal Heterogeneity and Tumor Evolution: Past, Present and the Future’, Cell 168(4), pp. 613-628. 

Max Price: Pork, Prohibitions and Power: A Short Cultural History of the Pig in the Ancient Near East

As with many other animals in society, pigs have occupied an ambiguous status throughout human history. On the one hand, we are highly dependent on them because of their importance as both a domesticated creature and a source of food; on the other, they are reviled even to the extent that in the Abrahamic religions it is considered sacrilegious to eat pork. The pork taboo as expressed in Leviticus has been a constant source of fascination to anthropologists, as well as scholars of religion, and various explanations have been put forward for how and why this taboo came into existence in early Mesopotamian civilisations.

This week on The Provocateur I talk to Max Price, a postdoctoral fellow at Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel in Germany, to discuss the pork taboo in the context of the cultural history of the pig in the ancient Near East. We explore the uniqueness of the pig as a domesticated animal; the reasons for pig domestication; and the origins of and reasons for the pig taboo. Towards the end of the programme, we also touch on the continuing significance of pigs in Middle Eastern societies today. Max is also contracted with Oxford University Press to write a book dealing with these issues from 1 million years ago to the present, which will certainly be worth looking out for in the near future!

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Albarella, U., K. Dobney, A. Ervynck, and P. Rowley-Conwy (eds.) (2007) Pigs and Humans: 10,000 Years of Interaction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Diener, P. and E.E. Robkin (1978) ‘Ecology, Evolution, and the Search for Cultural Origins: The Question of Islamic Pig Prohibition’, Current Anthropology 19: 493-540.

Essig, M. (2015) Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig. New York: Basic Books.

Hessler, P. (2014) ‘Letters from Cairo: Tales of the Trash’, The New Yorker October 13, 2014.

Ottoni, C. et al. (2012) ‘Pig Domestication and Human-Mediated Dispersal in Western Eurasia Revealed through Ancient DNA and Geometric Morphometrics’, Molecular biology and evolution: mss261.

Suwita Hani Randhawa: The Idea of Genocide as an International Crime

In the Shakespeare episode of The Provocateur about a week and a half ago, we touched on the Holocaust as a canonical but nevertheless extreme example of the way in which the victims of atrocities and their victimisers are often both dehumanised. The Holocaust is also considered to be a classical instance of a genocide: the systematic destruction of a group of human beings.  Genocide is widely thought to be a type of international crime, but it is often taken for granted that this is so. Indeed the concepts of genocide and international crimes are arguably very recent entries into the vocabulary of world politics, as their origins can be traced to the post-1945 political climate.

This week on The Provocateur, I talk to Suwita Hani Randhawa, who is currently a teaching fellow at University College London and is completing her doctorate at the University of Oxford, about the idea of genocide as an international crime. We briefly discuss the definitions of genocide and international crime, before going on to explore the history of genocide as a concept, how and why genocide came to be classed as an international crime and the contemporary political significance of designating genocide with the status of an international crime. A recurring theme throughout is the concept of cultural genocide, which was not included in the original legal definition of the term, and whether it should be considered a distinct form of genocide. Towards the end of the programme, we also touch on the possibility of other international crimes coming into existence in the future, such as terrorism or environmental damage.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Books:

Bloxham, D. and A. Dirk Moses (2010) The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cooper, J. (2008) Raphael Lemkin and The Struggle for the Genocide Convention. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Irvin-Erickson, D. (2016) Raphael Lemkin and The Concept of Genocide. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Lemkin, R. (1944) Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for Redress. Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Sands, P. (2006) East West Street: On The Origins of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Schabas, W. (2009) Genocide in International Law: The Crime of Crimes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Journals:

Special Issue of the Journal of Genocide Research on Raphael Lemkin (Raphael Lemkin: the “founder of the United Nations’s Genocide Convention” as a historian of mass violence) (2005, Volume 7: Issue 4)

International treaties:

Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention)

Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court