Seth Bernstein: Across the Iron Curtain: The Repatriation of Soviet Citizens After WWII

Though World War II looms large in both the North American and European popular imaginations, the complex history of the post-WWII settlement has largely been erased from public memory. Indeed, for millions of people the end of the war was only the beginning of an uncertain future. A refugee crisis was brewing on the Eastern Front, which became a key factor in the birth of modern-day international humanitarian law. Moreover, many of those who had been caught up in the horrors of Nazi control in Eastern Europe now faced the prospect of being sent back across the Iron Curtain. The task of repatriating Soviet citizens grew into an enormous challenge for the Allies in the aftermath of the war.

This week on The Provocateur I am joined by Seth Bernstein, assistant professor of history at the Higher School of Economics (Moscow), to discuss the repatriation of Soviet citizens after WWII. We begin by talking about the Cold War perception of repatriation among Soviet writers, before zooming in on the experience of Soviet people in German-occupied Europe and the refugee crisis that followed the war. We also look at the role of the Allied war dead in the story and how the Soviets allowed them to be removed from Soviet Germany in exchange for the Allies permitting Soviet repatriation missions to enter the Allied side of Germany. Towards the end of the programme, we talk about the legacies of repatriation in the later 20th century up to the present moment and the continuing need to rectify the injustices of the past.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Bernstein, S. (2017) ‘Burying the Alliance: Interment, Repatriation and the Politics of the Sacred in Occupied Germany’, Journal of Contemporary History 52(3), pp. 710-730.

Marcello Francioni: Masculinities and Sexuality in Contemporary Urban Japan (LGBT History Month Miniseries 2018)

In this final episode of The Provocateur‘s miniseries for LGBT History Month 2018, we move the spotlight to contemporary Japan, its attitudes to homosexuality and the ways in which sexuality and gender play out in its gay bar industry. Japan has historically had few laws criminalizing homosexual sex, though a ban on anal sodomy was briefly enforced between 1872 and 1880. In the postwar period, as Japan entered its economic miracle, the leisure industry gained greater prominence and with it came the emergence of the first gay bars in the 1950s and 1960s. Just as the Western world experienced the sexual revolution in the latter half of the twentieth century, Japan’s gay bar subculture can also arguably be seen as a marker of liberalizing attitudes to sexuality. At the same time, it combines Western-style norms of consumerism with a distinctly Japanese take on notions of leisure and service.

Today on The Provocateur I talk to Marcello Francioni, a PhD student in the department of anthropology and sociology at SOAS, University of London, to discuss masculinities and sexuality in contemporary urban Japan. We first talk about the norms of the service industry and what ‘service’ means in Japan, before going on to discuss the evolution of Marcello’s research, the history of homosexuality in Japan and the relationship between language and gender in Tokyo’s gay bars.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Allison, A. (1994) Nightwork: Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Christensen, P. (2014) Japan, Alcoholism, and masculinity: suffering sobriety in Tokyo. Lexington Books.

Graeber, D. (2001) Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hochschild, A. R. (2012) The managed heart. Commercialization of human feeling. University of California Press.

Ishida, H. (2006) ‘Interactive Practices in Shinjuku Ni-Chōme’s Male Homosexual Bars,’ Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context 12: 1–21.

Livia, A. and K. Hall (1997) Queerly Phrased: Language, Gender, and Sexuality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mackintosh, J. D. (2009) Homosexuality and Manliness in Postwar Japan. New York: Routledge.

Maree, C. (2013) Onee-Kotoba. Tokyo: Seidosha.

Pflugfelder, G. M. (1999) Cartographies of Desire: Male-Male Sexuality in Japanese Discourse, 1600-1950. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Robertson, James, and N. Suzuki, eds. (2005) Men and Masculinities in Contemporary Japan: Dislocating the Salaryman Doxa. Routledge.

Singleton, J. (1998) Learning in likely places. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Theo Gordon: Sex and Violence in the Art of the American AIDS Crisis (LGBT History Month Miniseries 2018)

In the second episode of our miniseries for LGBT History Month 2018 we turn our attention to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its artistic legacies. The AIDS outbreak in the 1970s and 1980s is often described as a moment of crisis and since we are arguably living through a moment of crisis in contemporary politics, the AIDS pandemic can be a useful way into thinking about the idea of ‘crisis’ and how art can respond to moments of political crisis. Moreover, if we want to take the idea of LGBT history seriously, we have to acknowledge the significance of HIV/AIDS in this history (although of course LGBT people were not the only ones affected by the disease).

Today on The Provocateur I talk to Theo Gordon, who has just finished his PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art, to discuss sex and violence in the art of the American AIDS crisis. We begin by the history of the AIDS pandemic and how the crisis is one of sexuality and aggression, before looking at the invisibility of women with AIDS and the significance of AIDS to cultural theory in the early 1990s. Towards the end of the programme we think about the recent upsurge of interest in the AIDS movement since 2010 and the relationship between siblinghood and AIDS activism/politics.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

ACT UP/NY Women & AIDS Book Group (1990) Women, AIDS & Activism, 2nd edn. Boston: South End Press.

Finklestein, A. (2017) After Silence: A History of AIDS Through Its Images. Oakland: University of California Press.

Schulman, S. and J. Hubbard (n.d.) The ACT UP Oral History Project (online).

White, E. (1997) The Farewell Symphony. London: Chatto & Windus.

Nick Mayhew: Russia’s Queer History (LGBT History Month Miniseries 2018)

In the first episode of The Provocateur‘s miniseries for LGBT History Month 2018, we travel to Russia to explore the country’s hidden history of sexuality. In contemporary Russia, the church and state have conspired to suggest that LGBT identities are not part of Russia’s supposedly ‘traditional’ culture. At best, they are seen as subversive and non-traditional; at worst, they are perceived as damaging Western imports, where progressive views on homosexuality are a form of moral neo-imperialism. These attitudes are most clearly expressed in the 2014 law forbidding the promotion of ‘gay propaganda’. However, new research is challenging the ‘otherness’ of Russian homosexuality, arguing that an undercurrent of same-sex desire has long been embedded in Russian culture.

To discuss the history of sexuality in medieval Russia, I’m joined today by Nick Mayhew, who has just finished his PhD in Slavonic Studies at the University of Cambridge. We open by talking about Nick’s initial interest in the subject, before moving on to discuss the kinds of same-sex relationships and identities that existed in pre-modern Russia and the medieval period in particular. We also touch on the difficulties Nick has faced in doing this kind of research in a society rife with state-sponsored homophobia.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Jason Rudy: Imagined Homelands: Australian Poetry in the 19th Century

Australia is a vast and diverse country, with a culture to match, but its literature has traditionally been underrepresented in academic institutions and it remains marginal to the literary canon. When Australian literature is studied, it typically tends to date from the mid-20th century onwards, not from before the country’s federation in 1901. However, in order to get a fuller sense of the modern Australian condition, it may be valuable – or indeed necessary – to turn to the culture of the pre-federation era, such as early Australian poetry. In the writings of Eliza Hamilton Dunlop, Henry Kendall and their contemporaries, we can trace themes which continue to preoccupy Australian writers and artists today, such as the tension between civilisation and wilderness, the horrors of colonialism and the dispossession of Indigenous peoples, and the search for a uniquely Australian mode of cultural expression.

This week, The Provocateur is joined by Jason Rudy, associate professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park, to discuss the history of Australian poetry in the 19th century. We pick up some of the themes of his book Imagined Homelands, discuss a selection of the major writers of the pre-federation period and uncover what 19th-century Australian literature can offer to readers of contemporary writing.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Primary texts:

Eliza Hamilton Dunlop, “The Aboriginal Woman

Adam Lindsay Gordon, “From the Wreck

Charles Harpur, various poems

Henry Kendall, “The Wail in the Native Oak

Henry Lawson, various poems

Banjo Paterson, various poems

Secondary reading:

Ackland, M. (1994) That Shining Band: A Study of Australian Colonial Verse Tradition. Brisbane: University of Queensland Press.

Belich, J. (2009) Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-World, 1783-1939. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  

Huggan, G. (2007) Australian Literature: Postcolonialism, Racism, Transnationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McQueen, H. (1976) A New Britannia: An argument concerning the social origins of Australian radicalism and nationalism, rev. ed. Sydney and Melbourne: Penguin.

Rudy, J. R. (2017) Imagined Homelands: British Poetry in the Colonies. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Wright, J. (1965) Preoccupations in Australian Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jason Hickel: Bridging the Divide: Ending Poverty on a Finite Planet

It is widely recognised that global inequality is a serious problem. For instance, according to a Credit Suisse report in 2015, half the world’s wealth is owned by the top 1% of the world’s population. More than 60% of humanity, or 4.3 billion people, live below the realistic minimum standard of a decent life. And yet it is also widely recognised that there are ecological limits to material prosperity. In 2017, Earth Overshoot Day – the date when human resource consumption for the year exceeds the Earth’s biocapacity for the same year – occurred on 2 August, compared with 19 December when the concept was first introduced 30 years ago. With Trump vowing to exit the Paris agreement on carbon emissions, it looks like the picture of our planet’s ecological health is also getting worse and not better. How to reconcile the objectives of development with the objectives of sound environmental policy is a complex and pressing matter. How did we get here? And what can we do about it?

On this episode of The Provocateur I talk to Jason Hickel, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at LSE, to discuss how we can bridge the gap between rich and poor on a finite planet. We first talk about Jason’s interest in the subject as an anthropologist before moving on to Jason’s case for his argument that global poverty is getting worse not better. We explore the history of development politics in the era of the Washington Consensus, the limitations of GDP as a measure of growth and new strategies for development in an age of both economic and ecological crisis.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Chang, H-J. (2007) Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism. London: Bloomsbury.

Easterly, W. (2006) The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Escobar, A. (1995) Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

George, S. (1976) How the Other Half Dies. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Harvey, D. (2005) A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hickel, J. (2017) ‘Aid in reverse: how poor countries develop rich countries’, The Guardian, 14 January.

Klein, N. (2007) The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Toronto: Knopf Canada.

_____ (2014) This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. Toronto: Knopf Canada.

Pearce, F. (2012) The Landgrabbers: The New Fight Over Who Owns the Earth. London: Eden Project Books.

Perkins, J. (2004) Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Pollin, R. (2005) Contours of Descent: US Economic Fractures and the Landscape of Global Austerity, updated edition. London: Verso.

Shaxson, N. (2012) Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World. London: Vintage.

Stiglitz, J. (2002) Globalization and its Discontents. New York: W. W. Norton.

Tandon, Y. (2015) Trade is War: The West’s War Against the World. New York and London: OR Books.

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.