What we are reading
The NSI team consists of avid readers. Here is a sample of what our team is reading:
Showdown at the Red Lion
"This enthralling saga of crime, passion, and betrayal is a compelling portrait of one of empire's great, unsung anti-heroes. The book is a scintillating achievement.' - Jean Comaroff, Harvard University Johannesburg was - and is - the Frontier of Money. Within months of its founding, the mining camp was host to organised crime: the African 'Regiment of the Hills' and 'Irish Brigade' bandits. Bars, brothels, boarding houses and hotels oozed testosterone and violence, and the use of fists and guns was commonplace. Beyond the chaos were clear signs of another struggle, one to maintain control, honour and order within the emerging male and mining dominated culture. In the underworld, the dictum of 'honour among thieves', as well as a hatred of informers, testified to attempts at self-regulation. A 'real man' did not take advantage of an opponent by employing underhand tactics. It had to be a 'fair fight' if a man was to be respected. This was the world that 'One-armed Jack' McLoughlin - brigand, soldier, sailor, mercenary, burglar, highwayman and safe-cracker - entered in the early 1890s to become Johannesburg's most infamous 'Irish' anti-hero and social bandit. McLoughlin's infatuation with George Stevenson prompted him to recruit the young Englishman into his gang of safe-crackers but 'Stevo' was a man with a past and primed for personal and professional betrayal. It was a deadly mixture. Honour could only be retrieved through a Showdown at the Red Lion."
The Candy House
“A beautiful exploration of loss, memory, and history” (San Francisco Chronicle), “this is minimalist maximalism. It’s as if Egan compressed a big 19th-century novel onto a flash drive” (The New York Times). "From one of the most celebrated writers of our time comes an “inventive, effervescent” (Oprah Daily) novel about the memory and quest for authenticity and human connection. The Candy House opens with the staggeringly brilliant Bix Bouton, whose company, Mandala, is so successful that he is “one of those tech demi-gods with whom we’re all on a first name basis.” Bix is forty, with four kids, restless, and desperate for a new idea, when he stumbles into a conversation group, mostly Columbia professors, one of whom is experimenting with downloading or “externalizing” memory. Within a decade, Bix’s new technology, “Own Your Unconscious”—which allows you access to every memory you’ve ever had, and to share your memories in exchange for access to the memories of others—has seduced multitudes. In the world of Egan’s spectacular imagination, there are “counters” who track and exploit desires and there are “eluders,” those who understand the price of taking a bite of the Candy House. Egan introduces these characters in an astonishing array of narrative styles—from omniscient to first person plural to a duet of voices, an epistolary chapter, and a chapter of tweets. Intellectually dazzling, The Candy House is also a moving testament to the tenacity and transcendence of human longing for connection, family, privacy, and love."
[Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2016] "A profound, startling, and beautifully crafted debut novel, The Sympathizer is the story of a man of two minds, someone whose political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties. It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today."
Migration, Free Movement, and Regional Integration
"This book brings together a host of well-known scholars to analyse, from a cross-disciplinary perspective, the different approaches to free movement used by some 30 regional organizations. It also presents a comparative review of the various measures taken and obstacles encountered by these organizations to highlight current and emerging trends. A dominant feature in regional arrangements, irrespective of the economic, ‘political-security’ and socio-cultural context, is the framing of free movement agreements around potential economic gains for citizens or a perceived shared regional identity. The latter is premised on common interests with regard to specific migration challenges and/or the mutual trust that is forged by a common past. Another important characteristic is the influence of domestic politics on the implementation of regional priorities. Concerns over border security and fears of political backlash in contexts marked by socio-economic inequalities may affect the commitment to arrangements seeking to further liberalize free movement and result in divergences from agreed regional standards. The aforementioned obstacles, the severity of which differs from region to region, have had significant consequences on the rights of migrants and most notably among the most disadvantaged. Against the backdrop of intensifying international efforts to reinforce migration-related commitments and relevant implementation frameworks, we hope that the findings presented in this publication will prove relevant beyond the research community, to decision-makers, policy-makers and civil society actors in Member States and organizations."
Regional Integration and Migration Governance
"This topical volume deals with the major challenges of migration in the Global South and their governance, which are traditionally much less considered than migration to industrialized countries and its consequences. It is written in view of the intergovernmental agreement of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations in 2016, and one of the major recent events in international migration governance. Written by authors with a sound academic background and professional involvement in policy relevant research, this volume focuses on priorities in implementation of the Global Compact in the Global South. It is addressed to a broad readership interested or involved in international migration governance, development studies, and regional studies, from a research as well as a policy perspective."
Global Capitalism, and the Crisis of Humanity
"This exciting new study provides an original and provocative exposé of the crisis of global capitalism in its multiple dimensions - economic, political, social, ecological, military, and cultural. Building on his earlier works on globalization, William I. Robinson discusses the nature of the new global capitalism, the rise of a globalized production and financial system, a transnational capitalist class, and a transnational state and warns of the rise of a global police state to contain the explosive contradictions of a global capitalist system that is crisis-ridden and out of control. Robinson concludes with an exploration of how diverse social and political forces are responding to the crisis and alternative scenarios for the future."
"In the recent aftermath of colonialism, civil wars, and the AIDS crisis, a new day finally seems to be shining on the African continent. Africa has once again become a site of creative potential and a vibrant centre of economic growth and production. No longer stigmatized by stereotypes or encumbered by the traumas of the past—yet unsure of the future—Africa has other options than simply to follow paths already carved out by the global economy. Instead, the philosopher Felwine Sarr urges the continent to set out on its own renewal and self-discovery—an active utopia that requires a deep historical reflection on the continent’s vast mythological universe and ancient traditions, nourishes a cultural reinvention, and embraces green technologies for tackling climate change and demographic challenges."
Welcome to the Desert of Postsocialism
"This volume offers a profound analysis of post-socialist economic and political transformation in the Balkans, involving deeply unequal societies and oligarchical “democracies.” The contributions deconstruct the persistent imaginary of the Balkans, pervasive among outsiders to the region, who see it as no more than a repository of ethnic conflict, corruption and violence. Providing a much needed critical examination of the Yugoslav socialist experience, the volume sheds light on the recent rebirth of radical politics in the Balkans, where new groups and movements struggle for a radically democratic vision of society."
The Russia Anxiety: and How History can Resolve it
"A history of Russophobia and its living legacy in world affairs With proof of election-meddling and the relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin an ongoing conundrum, little wonder many Americans are experiencing what historian Mark B. Smith calls "the Russia Anxiety." This is no new phenomenon. Time and time again, the West has judged Russia on assumptions of its inherent cunning, malevolence, and brutality. Yet for much of its history, Russia functioned no differently-or at least no more dysfunctional than other absolutist, war-mongering European states. So what is it about this country that so often provokes such excessive responses? And why is this so dangerous? Russian history can indeed be viewed as a catalogue of brutal violence, in which a rotation of secret police-from Ivan the Terrible's Oprichina to Andropov's KGB and Putin's FSB-hold absolute sway. However, as Smith shows, there are nevertheless deeper political and cultural factors that could lead to democratic outcomes. Violence is not an innate element of Russian culture, and Russia is not unknowable. From foreign interference and cyber-attacks to mega-corruption and nuclear weapons, Smith uses Russia's sprawling history to throw light on contemporary concerns. Smith reveals how the past has created today's Russia and how this past offers hints about its future place in the world-one that reaches beyond crisis and confrontation."
Socialism Goes Global: The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the Age of Decolonization
"This collectively written monograph is the first work to provide a broad history of the relationship between Eastern Europe and the decolonising world. It ranges from the late nineteenth to the late twentieth century, but at its core is the dynamic of the post-1945 period, when socialism's importance as a globalising force accelerated and drew together what contemporaries called the 'Second' and 'Third Worlds'. At the centre of this history is the encounter between the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe on one hand, and a wider world casting off European empires or struggling against western imperialism on the other. The origins of these connections are traced back to new forms of internationalism enabled by the Russian Revolution; the interplay between the first 'decolonisation' of the twentieth century in Eastern Europe and rising anti-colonial movements; and the global rise of fascism, which created new connections between East and South. The heart of the study, however, lies in the Cold War, when these contacts and relationships dramatically intensified. A common embrace of socialist modernisation and anti-imperial culture opened up possibilities for a new and meaningful exchange between the peripheries of Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Such linkages are examined across many different fields - from health to archaeology, economic development to the arts - and through many people - from students to experts to labour migrants - who all helped to shape a different form and meaning of globalisation."