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Books

Peter Sloterdijk is a German philosopher notorious for his public spat with Jurgen Habermas, his proclamation that critical theory died in the 1990’s (much to the chagrin of Axel Honneth and other contemporary custodians of the tradition), and his gigantic three-volume Spheres trilogy, in which he presents a polemical and holistic philosophy of being, space and nature. The recent English translation of the trilogy has piqued the interest of theorists working on the interdisciplinary problems of culture, ecology and technology. His philosophical anthropology charting of the history of humanity’s self-organisation, specifically his account of “society as foam,” provides an intriguing challenge to the methodological assumptions that underpins much contemporary political theory. In the third and final volume, Sloterdijk offers a …

We interviewed Raphaël Lefèvre about his new book Jihad in the City: Militant Islamism and Contentious Politics in Tripoli, available now. OxPol: What motivated you write your book? Raphaël Lefèvre: I wanted to shed light on a little-known historical event with large contemporary echo: the creation by a militant Islamist movement of an “Islamic Emirate” on the city of Tripoli, Lebanon in 1982-1985. This movement has modern parallels​ with the “Islamic Caliphate” created by ISIS in parts of Iraq and Syria after 2014 and with similar attempts by Al-Qaeda to create “Islamic Emirates” on the territories it has sporadically controlled recently, from Southern Yemen and Northern Mali to Northern Syria. I am not suggesting that the 1982-1985 “Islamic Emirate” in Tripoli …

COVID-19 has hit European citizens dramatically, not only creating a general risk-driven environment with a wide array of economic vulnerabilities but also exposing them to pervasive digital risks, such as biosurveillance, misinformation, and e-democracy algorithmic threats. Over the course of the pandemic, a debate has emerged about the appropriate techno-political response when governments use disease surveillance technologies to tackle the spread of COVID-19. Citizens have pointed out the dichotomy between state-Leviathan cybercontrol and civil liberties. Moreover, the giant technological flagship firms of surveillance capitalism, such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook, have already assumed many functions previously associated with the nation-state, from cartography to the disease surveillance of citizens. But particularly, amidst the AI-driven algorithmic disruption and surveillance capitalism, Smart City Citizenship sheds light on the way citizens …

In Measuring Peace, Professor Richard Caplan of the University of Oxford has written an insightful guide for students and practitioners of peace. The book will help those who want to understand the fundamental principles and existing practices of how to assess peace while at the same time outlining some critical political constraints. Caplan provides a succinct and clear analysis of key approaches to peace measurements, their weaknesses and ways to move forward. Due to its accessibility and policy relevance, the book also stands out among other publications that have sought to evaluate and grapple with the question of how to judge the quality of existing peace.  The key aim of the book is to give peacebuilders a ‘compass’ to navigate the post-war peace …

My new book Cultural Citizenship in India: Politics, Power, and Media (Oxford University Press, 2016) analyses the role which cultural participation, understood in terms of media representation, plays for citizenship. Drawing on the hypothesis of Mitra (2012), that citizenship is a two-dimensional concept, comprising of a legal right to the soil and a moral affiliation to it, the book explores the question of the ways in which people ‘belong’ to a nation as citizens. Based on the assumption that the nation is an imagined community created through discourse (Anderson, 1983), the moral side of citizenship is understood in cultural terms, and in analogy to the two-dimensional model noted above, is explored in terms of the rights and duties granted to groups …

Dr Tristen Naylor, Oxford’s Lecturer in Diplomatic Studies, chatted with Tom Fletcher, the former British Ambassador and Downing Street foreign policy advisor, about his new book, Naked Diplomacy.  In this three-part series their discussion explores everything from diplomacy in the digital era to the divide between academics and policy makers — with a nod to the intertextuality of W.H. Auden and Black Sabbath along the way. For Part I, see here, and Part II, see here.    TN: I want to talk about your style of writing and your approach to it. I spend most of my waking hours reading works on diplomacy and I spend much of that time asking myself why I self-inflict such torture because so much of it – too much …

Democracy in Africa: Successes, Failure and the Struggle for Political Reform testifies to the ability of African states to democratize against the odds. It effectively introduces a framework for understanding how leaders choose to respond to the pressure to liberalise their political systems, covering the recent history of African politics and providing great detail on the return of multiparty politics in Africa since the early 1990s. In this Q&A, Ian Cooper of the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) at the University of Cambridge interviews Professor Nic Cheeseman, Associate Professor of African Politics, Jesus College, University of Oxford, on his recent publication.

In March, Uday Chandra of the Max Planck Institute reviewed ‘Patronage in Politics in South Asia’ for our Migration and Citizenship. In this post, I want to respond with my own analysis of the book’s arguments. It is true, as Anastasia Piliavsky points out in her superb introduction, that patronage has long been treated as a distasteful element of developing societies.  Personalised exchange between social unequals has been viewed as either a perversion of liberalism’s central tenets of equality and freedom of choice or as a screen concealing exploitation. Quid pro quo electoral exchanges, in which votes are bartered for particular services rendered, are considered ‘bad’ democratic practice. And of course, the use of public power for private gain is unequivocally condemned as corruption. It …