Elisabeth Schimpfössl: The Super-Rich of Russia

Following on from last week’s discussion of global povertyThe Provocateur turns its attention to the other end of the social scale: the super-rich, who have often been neglected in sociological studies of inequality. In Russia as in other post-Communist countries, capitalism is a relatively new phenomenon, creating in some cases a backlash from older Soviet-born generations against the burgeoning rise of mass consumption. Philanthropy is also becoming trendy among Russian multi-millionaires and billionaires, apparently in response to major disparities in income and wealth.

In this installment of The Provocateur I talk to Elisabeth Schimpfössl, a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at UCL, about her intriguing work researching the lives of Russia’s 0.1%. We discuss the historical context of Russian inequality in the Soviet and post-Soviet periods, before zooming in on the super-rich themselves. We investigate the gendered dynamics of Russian elites, their attitudes to the current regime and their motivations for charitable giving. Towards the end of the episode we also explore the future of Russian politics and the viability of comparisons with another highly oil-dependent country, Venezuela.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Domhnall Iain MacDonald: The Biology of Pain

Pain is arguably one of the most central features of human experience. Many of us routinely experience pain in our lives, from the smallest cut to the most traumatic injury. Chronic pain, too, poses a serious challenge to our public health institutions. Philosophers have even argued that pain is morally bad: John Stuart Mill, for one, famously described happiness as “pleasure and the absence of pain”; the purpose of government, Mill thought, was to maximise the former and minimise the latter. Yet some individuals spend their entire lives feeling absolutely no pain at all and scientists are hoping to discover a breakthrough painkiller through analysing the genetic mutations that make people unable to feel pain.

This week on The Provocateur I talk to Domnhall Iain MacDonald, a PhD student in neuroscience at UCL, to discuss the biology of pain. Among other things, we cover the biological usefulness of pain to humans; whether non-human animals feel pain and the ethics of testing painful sensations on animals; and the latest frontiers in clinical pain research.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Hiyasaki, E. (2017) ‘End Pain Forever: How a Single Gene Could Become a Volume Knob for Human Suffering‘, Wired, 18 April.

Kiesel, L. (2016) ‘All Pain is Not Equal‘, Relief, 28 June.

Sutherland, S. (2016) ‘Pain Research in Animals: Why Do It, and What Can It Tell Us?‘ Relief, 10 January.

____ (2017) ‘Taking Aim at New Pain Drugs‘, Relief, 19 January.

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

Kyle Lee-Crossett: The Politics of LGBT Inclusion in Public Collections

As LGBT History Month draws to a close, it seems like a good time to turn the spotlight onto the idea of LGBT history and in particular the politics of representing LGBT people in a public forum. Archaeology, anthropology, heritage studies, museum studies and historiography have all undergone a reflexive shift in recent years that pays attention to the practice of history, the people whom history is for and moreover the problem of whose history is represented. The place of LGBT people in these debates is particularly interesting because it involves histories that are often private, hidden and sexually explicit, which raises the question of whether LGBT heritage should be publicised at all and if so how it should be publicised. Cultural management of LGBT heritage often involves state intervention, which also implies state endorsement of progressive attitudes to sexuality which can rub up against certain objections (religious or otherwise) to the use of public money in this way.

In this fourth episode of The Provocateur‘s special miniseries for LGBT History Month, I talk to Kyle Lee-Crossett, a PhD candidate in Heritage Studies at University College London, to disentangle these complex issues. We discuss the problems of representing sexuality in museums and public collections, the question of whether diversity and inclusion practices empower LGBT people or oppress them, the institutionalisation of LGBT history and the consequences for the ways in which LGBT people view themselves, before finally looking ahead to prospects for the future of the museum and the position of LGBT people in it.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Key introductory articles:

Blackmore, C. (2011) ‘How to Queer the Past Without Sex: Queer Theory, Feminisms and the Archaeology of Identity’, Archaeologies 7, pp. 75–96.

Byrne, D. (2005) ‘Excavating desire: queer heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region’, in: AsiaPacifiQueer Network. Available from: https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/8660

Eng, D., J. Halberstam and E. Muñoz (2005) ‘What’s Queer about Queer Studies Now?’ Social Text 23(3-4), pp 1-17. DOI: 10.1215/01642472-23-3-4_84-85-1

Mills, R. (2008) ‘Theorizing the Queer Museum’, Museums & Social Issues [online] 3(1). pp 41-52. DOI: 10.1179/msi.2008.3.1.41

Theoretical background:

Freeman, E. (2010) Time Binds: queer temporalities, queer histories. Durham: Duke University Press.

Love, H. (2007) Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Muñoz, J. (1996) ‘Ephemera as Evidence: Introductory Notes to Queer Acts’, Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 8(2), pp. 5-16. Accessed Aug. 8, 2012. doi:10.1080/07407709608571228.

Queering archives and museums:

Arondekar, A. (2015) ‘In the Absence of Reliable Ghosts: Sexuality, Historiography, South Asia’, differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, [online] 25 (5). pp. 98-112. DOI: 10.1215/10407391-2847964

Cvetkovitch, A. (2003) An Archive of Feeling: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Culture. Duke University Press: Durham and London

Manalansan, M. (2014) ‘The “Stuff” of Archives: Mess, Migration, and Queer Lives’, Radical History Review 120, pp. 94-106.

Morris, C., and Rawson, K. (2013) ‘Queer Archives/Archival Queers’, in Ballif, M., (ed.) 2013. Theorizing Histories of Rhetoric. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, p 74-89.

Nguyen, M.T. (2015) ‘Minor Threats’, Radical History Review 122, pp. 11–24. 10.1215/01636545-2849495

Sheffield, R. (2014) ‘The Bedside Table Archives: Archive Interventions and Lesbian Intimate Domestic Culture’, Radical History Review 120, pp. 108-129. DOI: 10.1215/01636545-2703751

Steorn, P. (2012) ‘Curating Queer Heritage: Queer Knowledge and Museum Practice’, Digital 55(3). pp 355-365. DOI: 10.1111/j.2151-6952.2012.00159.x

Queer memory and memory politics:

Blair, C., and N. Michel (2007) ‘The AIDS Memorial Quilt and the Contemporary Culture of Public Commemoration’, Rhetoric & Public Affairs 10(4), pp. 595-626. DOI: 10.1353/rap.2008.0024

Boyd, N. A. (2005) Wide-open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Crage, S. and E. Armstrong (2006) ‘Movements and Memory: The Making of the Stonewall Myth’, American Sociological Review 71(5), pp 724-751. DOI: 10.1177/000312240607100502

Drysdale, K. (2014) ‘When Scenes Fade: Methodological lessons from Sydney’s drag king culture’, Cultural Studies 29(3), pp 1-18. DOI: 10.1080/09502386.2014.937939

Dunn, T. (2011) ‘Remembering “A Great Fag”: Visualizing Public Queer Memory and the Construction of Queer Space’, Quarterly Journal of Speech 97(4), pp 435-460. DOI: 10.1080/00335630.2011.585168

Jones, C. (2007) ‘A Vision of the Quilt’, Rhetoric & Public Affairs 10(4). pp 575-579. DOI: 10.1353/rap.2008.0033

Lamble, S. (2008) ‘Retelling Racialized Violence, Remaking White Innocence: The Politics of Interlocking Oppressions in Transgender Day of Remembrance’, Sexuality Research & Social Policy 5(1), pp. 24-42. DOI: 10.1525/srsp.2008.5.1.24

Morris, C. (2007) ‘Introduction: The Mourning After’, Rhetoric and Public Affairs 10(4), pp. 557-574. DOI: 10.1353/rap.2008.0028

Rubin, G. (2004) ‘The Catacombs: A Temple of the Butthole’, in Thompson, M. (ed.) Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice. Los Angeles: Daedalus Publishing, pp. 119-141.