Jason Barr: The Economics of Skyscrapers: Past, Present and Future

Skyscrapers are distinctly modern symbols of our urbanized planet. Their verticality represents not only the possibilities of technological progress and the limits of the human imagination, but also the challenges of city inequality. The idea of high-rise living first took hold in the 1880s in Chicago before the skyscraper was exported to New York, spread to the rest of the United States and eventually conquered the entire world. The first skyscraper on the planet is generally considered to be the Home Insurance Building in the Windy City; though, at a mere 11 stories, it would pale in comparison with the Petronas Towers or One World Trade Centre, it marked a turning point in the development of cities. As the experience of Chicago and later New York showed, skyscrapers are an answer to an economic problem of resource allocation: how to fit dozens, even hundreds, of people in a fairly small space. Yet going taller is not a perfect solution: even as they solve the conundrum of how to cope with urban population booms, skyscrapers also pose other problems such as congestion, overcrowding, rising land values and an intolerable cost of living.

This week on The Provocateur we are joined by Jason Barr, professor of economics at Rutgers University (Newark), to explore the economic history of skyscrapers. We begin by discussing skyscrapers as an economic problem, before moving onto talk about the history of the modern Manhattan skyline from the late nineteenth to the late twentieth centuries. We close with a brief discussion of newer players in the skyscraper game such as Dubai, Shanghai and Taipei and speculate on future directions in the evolution of skyscrapers.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Barr, J. (2016) Building the Skyline: The Birth and Growth of Manhattan’s Skyscrapers. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Clark. W. J. and J. L. Kingston (1930) The Skyscraper: A Study in the Economic Height of Modern Office Buildings. New York and Cleveland: American Institute of Steel Construction.

Gifford, R. (2007) ‘The Consequences of Living in High-Rise Buildings’, Architectural Science Review 50(1), pp. 2-17.

Glaeser, E. (2011) ‘How Skyscrapers Can Save the City’, The Atlantic, March 2011.

Hsu, J. and C. Chan (2014) ‘The Emergence of Asian Supertalls’, CTBUH Journal IV, pp. 28-33.

Landau, S. B. and C. W. Condit (1996) Rise of the New York Skyscraper: 1865-1913. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Nobel, P. et al. (2015) The Future of the Skyscraper. New York: Distributed Art Publishers.

Parker. D. and A. Wood (eds.) (2013) The Tall Buildings Reference Book. Abingdon and New York: Routledge.

Willis, C. (1995) Form Follows Finance: Skyscrapers and Skylines in New York and Chicago. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Arthur Dudney: Languages of Everywhere and Nowhere: Persian as Premodern Lingua Franca

Home to more than a billion people, modern India is at once a thriving tourist destination, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and a hive of social, religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity. Spend a few days in India and at various points you will probably encounter speakers of Hindi, English, Sanskrit, Bengali or perhaps even all of the above. Yet it would be practically unheard of to find a Persian speaker in India today, despite the rich cultural influence of Persian on the South Asian subcontinent. The forgotten story of Persianate India is part of a much bigger picture of the Persian-speaking world, which is far from being limited to just Iran. In its heyday, as the language of the Mughal Empire, Persian could be considered a lingua franca as much as Latin in the Renaissance or French in the 18th century. It united millions of people across a wide swathe of Central and South Asia, stretching from as far west as Turkey to as far east as the fringes of China.

On today’s episode of The Provocateur I talk to Arthur Dudney, a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge, to help me piece together the history of Persianate India. We start by talking about the idea of a ‘mother tongue’ and its relationship to the concept of a lingua franca, before exploring the context of Persian and its role in Mughal India. We also discuss the place of Persian in the wider history of lingua francas and the implications for the ways in which we might think about lingua francas and the politics of language today.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Dudney, A. (2015) ‘Introduction’ and ‘Chapter 1: Beginnings’, in Delhi: Pages from a Forgotten History. New Delhi: Hay House.

You can contact me for a PDF of the above; Indian listeners may wish to purchase a hard copy via Amazon.in or Flipkart.com.

Laura Madokoro: The History of Humanitarianism in Canada (Canada 150 Miniseries)

This episode of The Provocateur kicks off a special month-long miniseries to coincide with Canada 150: a series of celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. While it is frequently derided as the backyard of the United States, Canada possesses a rich, complex and colourful history; today it is rightly celebrated as an outward-looking and multicultural nation. Yet its spirit of progressive pluralism belies the stinging legacies of both indigenous dispossession and the oppression of racial and ethnic minorities. Some of the darkest episodes of Canada’s recent past can be found in the Chinese Exclusion Act, as well as Japanese internment during WWII. Though Canada sought to establish itself as a humanitarian power in the postwar period, it continues to be haunted by the injustices of history.

To discuss the history of humanitarianism and immigration in Canada, The Provocateur is joined today by Laura Madokoro, who is assistant professor in the department of History and Classical Studies at McGill University. We explore the history of anti-Chinese and anti-Japanese sentiment in nineteenth and early twentieth century Canada, the relationship between humanitarianism and settler colonialism, the significance of the Indochinese refugee crisis for Canadian foreign policy and the amazing story of the first official refugees from China to Canada in 1962. Finally we bring our discussion up to the contemporary moment, with the provocative question of whether Islamophobia is the new yellow peril.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Correction: The episode is mentioned as being the second in the Canada 150 miniseries, as it was still scheduled as such at the time of recording. However due to unforeseen circumstances, it will now be broadcast as the first episode. Apologies for the oversight.

Further Reading:

Gatrell, P. (2013) The Making of the Modern Refugee. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Madokoro, L., F. McKenzie and D. Meren (eds.) (2017) Dominion of Race: Rethinking Canada’s International History. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Mar, L. (2010) Brokering Belonging: Chinese in Canada’s Exclusion Era, 1885-1945. New York: Oxford University Press.

Roy, P. (2010) The Triumph of Citizenship: The Japanese and Chinese in Canada. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Yu, H. (2015) ‘Conceptualizing a Pacific Canada Within and Without Nations’, in Dubinsky, K. et al. (eds.) Within and Without the Nation: Canada’s History as Transnational History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Loubna El Amine: Hierarchy, Status and Order in Classical Confucian Political Thought

China remains one of the world’s oldest, richest and most enduring civilisations, stretching back thousands of years. Among its many contributions to the world history of ideas is the Confucian school of thought, which could arguably be said to be the cornerstone of Chinese culture. Even as Mao strenuously repudiated Confucian ideals in the 20th century, the legacies of Confucius and his followers can still be found in Chinese society today: for example, the emphasis on filial piety, harmony and social stability. Confucianism has even been claimed to be the bedrock of a ‘pan-Asian’ identity, as part of the debate on Asian values. These currents might suggest that if we want to understand the Chinese mindset both then and now, we should try to examine Confucianism more closely.

This week on The Provocateur I talk to Loubna El Amine, assistant professor of political science at Northwestern University, to discuss her take on Classical Confucian political thought. We start by thinking about why Confucianism matters in the context of studying non-Western thought, before going on to discuss more specifically the work of Confucius, Mencius and Xunzi. Then we talk about Loubna’s radical new interpretation of Confucianism, which stresses the importance of hierarchy, status and order in the Confucian worldview, as opposed to the standard account which argues for the centrality of virtue. We also touch on the complexities of defining Confucianism and what it means to Chinese society today.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Primary texts:

Confucius (1979) The Analects, translated by D. C. Lau. London: Penguin.

——— (2003) Confucius: Analects with Selections from Traditional Commentaries. Translated by Edward Slingerland. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Ivanhoe, Philip and Bryan Van Norden (eds.) (2005) Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy, second edition. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Mencius (1970) Mencius. Translated by D. C. Lau. London: Penguin.

——— (2008) Mengzi: With Selections from Traditional Commentaries. Translated by Bryan Van Norden. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Xunzi (1988-1994) Xunzi: A Translation and Study of the Complete Works, 3 vols. Translated by John Knoblock. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

——— (2014) Xunzi: The Complete Text. Translated by Eric Hutton. Princeton University Press.

Secondary readings:

Angle, Stephen C. (2017) “Social and Political Thought in Chinese Philosophy”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2017/entries/chinese-social-political/>.

Brindley, Erica (2009) “‘Why Use an Ox-Cleaver to Carve a Chicken?’ The Sociology of the Junzi Ideal in the Lunyu.” Philosophy East and West 59 (1): 47–70.

Hsiao, Kung-Chuan (1979) History of Chinese Political Thought. Translated by Frederick Mote. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Fingarette, Herbert (1972) Confucius: The Secular as Sacred. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Pines, Yuri (2009) Envisioning Eternal Empire: Chinese Political Thought of the Warring States Era. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Salkever, Stephen G and Michael Nylan (1994) “Comparative Political Philosophy and Liberal Education: “Looking for Friends in History,” Political Science and Politics 27:2, pp. 238-247.

Schwartz, Benjamin (1985) The World of Thought in Ancient China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Joshua Black: Male Homosexuality in Contemporary Vietnamese Literature

Vietnam is probably best known to listeners from its complex and tangled relationship with foreign powers, especially France and the United States. As well as being a popular backpacking destination, it also now has a burgeoning LGBT subculture. The LGBT rights movement has exploded in the country in recent years, even as wider Vietnamese society struggles to move past colonial-era negative stereotypes of homosexuality.

On today’s episode of The Provocateur — a holdover from LGBT History Month — I talk to Joshua Black, who has just completed his PhD at SOAS (London) on representations of male homosexuality in contemporary Vietnamese literature. We discuss French colonial attitudes towards homosexuality, compare them to gay male identities in 21st century Vietnamese writing and explore the implications for our understanding of changing attitudes to homosexuality in Vietnamese culture.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Colonial era Vietnamese attitudes towards homosexuality:

Proschan, Frank (2002) ‘Eunuch Mandarins, Soldats Mamzelles, Effeminate Boys, and Graceless Women: French Colonial Constructions of Vietnamese Genders’, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 8(4), pp. 435-467.

Proschan, Frank (2002b) ‘Syphilis, Opiomania and Pederasty: Colonial Constructions of Vietnamese (and French) Social Diseases’, Journal of the History of Sexuality 11(4), pp. 610-636.

On HIV/AIDS:

Colby, D. J. (2003) ‘HIV Knowledge and Risk Factors Among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’, JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes 32, pp. 80-85

Blanc, Marie-Eve (2005) Social Construction of Male Homosexualities in Vietnam. Some Keys to Understanding Discrimination and Implications for HIV Prevention Strategy. UNESCO, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Modern social context:

Nguyễn Quốc Vinh (2015) ‘Cultural Ambiguity in Contemporary Vietnamese Representations of Homosexuality: A New Historicist Reading of Bùi Anh Tấn’s Fiction’, Journal of Vietnamese Studies 10(3), pp. 48-86.

Lại Nguyên Ân and Alec Holcombe (2010) ‘The Heart and Mind of the Poet Xuân Diệu: 1054-1958’, Journal of Vietnamese Studies 5(2), pp. 1-90.

Philip Freestone: Discourses of Marriage and Sexuality among Gay and Bisexual Men in Contemporary China

In the second of a short run of episodes focusing on LGBT topics for LGBT History Month, The Provocateur talks to Philip Freestone, a PhD candidate in Linguistics at the University of Reading, about discourses of marriage and sexuality among men who have sex with men (MSMs) in contemporary mainland China. In particular, we focus on Philip’s interest in the recent explosion of matchmaking websites that set up marriages of convenience between non-heterosexual men and women and the ways in which this phenomenon reflects culturally ingrained understandings of homosexuality. Among other things, we discuss Confucian ideals of marriage and how they restrict non-normative sexual expression; the tension between public indifference towards homosexuality and private shame; the consequences of the one-child policy for the marriage market; and the potential for homosexual and bisexual men to exploit the traditional archetype of the effeminate scholar in Chinese conceptions of masculinity in order to contest heteronormativity.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

If you are interested in getting in touch with Phil, feel free to email him at: P.J.Freestone@pgr.reading.ac.uk.

Further Reading:

Altman, D. (1997) ‘Global Gaze/Global Gays’, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 3(4), pp. 417-436.

Cho, J. (2009) ‘The Wedding Banquet Revisited: “Contract Marriages” Between Korean Gays and Lesbians‘, Anthropological Quarterly 82(2), pp. 401-422.

Chou, W. S. (2000) Tongzhi: Politics of Same-Sex Eroticism in Chinese Societies. Binghamton: Haworth Press.

Gee, J. P. (2015) Social Linguistics and Literacies: Ideology in Discourses, fifth edition. London: Routledge.

Hinsch, B. (1990) Passions of the Cut Sleeve: The Male Homosexual Tradition in China. Oxford: University of California Press.

Ho, L. W. W. (2010) Gay and Lesbian Subculture in Urban China. Abingdon: Routledge.

Jones, R. H. (2012) Discourse Analysis. Oxford and New York: Routledge.

Louie, K. (2002) Theorising Chinese Masculinity: Society and Gender in China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kong, T. S. (2011) Chinese Male Homosexualities: Memba, Tongzhi and Golden Boy. Oxford: Routledge.

Lau, H. et al. (2017) ‘Assessing the Tongzhi Label: Self-Identification and Public Opinion‘, Journal of Homosexuality 64(4), pp. 509-522.

Leap, W. and T. Boellstorff (2004) Speaking in Queer Tongues: Globalization and Gay Language. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Li, Y. (2006) ‘Regulating male same-sex relationships in the People’s Republic of China’, in Jeffreys, E. (ed.) Sex and Sexuality in China. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 82-101.

Miège, P. (2009) ‘“In my Opinion, most Tongzhi are Dutiful Sons!” Community, social norms, and construction of identity among young homosexuals in Hefei, Anhui Province‘, China Perspectives 1, pp. 40-53.

Rofel, L. (2007) Desiring China: Experiments in Neoliberalism, Sexuality, and Public Culture. Durham: Duke University Press.

Scollon, R. and S. W. Scollon (2004) Nexus Analysis: Discourse and the Emerging Internet. London: Routledge.

Scollon, R. et al. (2012) Intercultural Communication: A Discourse Approach. Oxford: Wiley & Sons.

Wei, W. (2016) ‘Good Gay Buddies for Lifetime: Homosexually Themed Discourse and the Construction of Heteromasculinity Among Chinese Urban Youth’, Journal of Homosexuality (pre-print publication)

Robert Williams: Snake Bites as a Global Health Priority

Today, The Provocateur turns its attention to one of the planet’s most neglected global health issues: snake bites. According to the Global Snakebite Initiative, every year around the world 2.7 million people are seriously injured by snakes and 125,000 people are killed. The problem is particularly acute in rural communities in India and sub-Saharan Africa, where a lack of education surrounding snake hazards compounds the issue of chronic underinvestment into anti-venom treatments.

In this episode I talk to Robert Williams, an MSc candidate in Global Health at Brighton & Sussex Medical School, about the global snakebite crisis. We explore his interest in the subject, his fieldwork in Uganda and the implications of taking snake bites seriously as a global health priority. Robert also gives some tips on what to do if you or a friend is bitten by a snake.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Avau, B. et al. (2016) ‘The Treatment of Snake Bites in a First Aid Setting: A Systematic Review‘, PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 10(10), e0005079.

Gutierrez, J. M. et al. (2006) ‘Confronting the Neglected Problem of Snake Bite Envenoming: The Need for a Global Partnership‘, PLOS Medicine 3(6), e150.

Harrison, R. A. et al. (2009) ‘Snake Envenoming: A Disease of Poverty’PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 3(12), e569.

Kasturiratne, A. et al. (2008) ‘The Global Burden of Snakebite: A Literature Analysis and Modelling Based on Regional Estimates of Envenoming and Deaths‘, PLOS Medicine 5(11), e218.

Medicins Sans Frontières (2015) ‘Snakebite: How a Public Health Emergency Went Under the Radar‘. Accessed 24 January 2017.

Williams, D. et al. (2010) ‘The Global Snake Bite Initiative: an antidote for snake bite‘, The Lancet 375(9708), pp. 89-91.

Correction: It was stated in the programme that snake bites are a top ten cause of death in the world. The correct statistic is that snake bites kill more people than all other neglected tropical diseases combined.