The Good University: Errata in first printing

On pp. 40 and 127, the Times Higher Education is mentioned as part of the Murdoch group. This is out of date: it was sold to a private equity group. It continued to cooperate with parts of the Murdoch group.

On pp. 119 and 126, Gaye Tuchman is erroneously called "Barbara". Apologies to Gaye! We got it right in the bibliography. Thanks to reviewer John Holford for catching this error.

Intellectuals & world society; and Gender in world perspective

I'm pleased to announce the publication of my booklet Intellectuals and World Society. This is No. 15 in the Dissenting Knowledges Pamphlet Series, published in Penang by Multiversity and Citizens International, and edited by Vinay Lal.

Intellectuals and World Society is an attempt to decolonize the discussion about the knowledge economy, intellectual work, and intellectuals as a 'new class'. I highlight the way intelligentsias were formed in the context of global imperialism, and have taken different positions in struggles over knowledge. I also point to new possibilities now appearing, a theme I have also taken up in my book The Good University.

This pamphlet series is an initiative in popular education, hoping to take sustained argument about key issues to a wider audience than academic work usually reaches. So it's done in a low-cost print format, in booklets that are nicely designed and easy to read. They could be used by NGOs, in adult education classes, in self-help reading groups, or in secondary schools or colleges.

There are now fifteen of these pamphlets. They cover issues ranging from the Zapatista movement to economics, organ trafficking, terrorism, indigenous knowledge, the Palestinian struggle, Afrocentricity, and more. Authors include Ashis Nandy, Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Claude Alvares.

The publishers of the pamphlet series can be contacted at, or Citizens International, 10 Jalan Masjid Negeri, 11600 Penang, Malaysia.

And in further news:

I'm also pleased to report the publication of the Spanish translation of Raewyn Connell and Rebecca Pearse, Gender: In World Perspective, 3rd edition.

Género desde una perspectiva global, published by Publicacions de la Universitat de València, 2018, is a careful translation by Arantxa Grau i Muñoz and Almudena A. Navas Saurin, to whom much thanks!

The book offers readers a contemporary picture of gender as a social reality. We explore the gender dimensions in the economy, government, and human relationships with the environment, as well as in personal life and intimate relationships. When they tell you "gender doesn't matter any more", this is the book for you!

Poetry in Spanish Translation

It's a great honour that someone would think my poetry worth translating into another language. This involves a lot of work and needs subtle thought. I read quite a lot of poetry in translation, and have often thought about the problems involved.

The translations are by Fernando Cuevas Ulitzsch, from Colombia, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Bogotá, when he gave me these texts. Fernando has been, for more than 20 years, a creator, artist and professional scholar of the relationships between art, communication and aesthetics, with emphasis on the possibilities and capabilities of the Image, drawing and speech, associated with its digital and / or analog nature. I am deeply grateful to him for this remarkable gift.

The translations have been revised with the expert help of Jacqueline Buswell and Penny O'Donnell, working through a series of memorable poetry lunches. My heartfelt thanks to them for teaching me a great deal about Spanish, and about poetry.

The translations are in the "Free Papers" file on this blog, and can also be accessed directly, under the heading TRADUCCIÓN, here : 

Here is the first in the series:

Un lunes si, un lunes no, el municipio recoge residuos verdes
de los contenedores en el callejón.

Raramente recuerdo cual semana nos toca,
y mi basura es principalmente cucaracha marrón
o el gris de las ramitas muertas, así que agrego rápidamente, para alentarlos,
una capa de malas hierbas suaves, todavía fresca.

Verde, sí, pero ¿desperdicio? ¿Puedo confiar que este municipio de constantes recortes
apunte su camión basurero a un montón de compost?

Quiero que mis riquezas alimenten el verde nuevo, y no
el negro derroche de petróleo, el rojo desperdicio de la guerra.


Each second Monday the council collects Green Waste
from bins in the back lane.

I rarely remember which week is the one,
and my Waste’s mostly cockroach brown
or the grey of dead twigs, so I quickly add – to encourage them –
a layer of soft weeds, still fresh.

Green, yes, but waste? Can I trust this cost-cutting council
to aim its dump truck at a compost heap?

I want my wealth to feed new green, and not
the black waste of oil, the red waste of war.

Unwomanly war

I have just finished reading Svetlana Alexievich's The Unwomanly Face of War, in the Penguin translation from 2017. I had heard of it before but came across it by chance in the municipal library, in the section devoted to Nobel Prize winners. (Well, some of them: I haven't seen Rabindranath Tagore or Gabriela Mistral there.) I'm glad I did find it.
            Not that it's a light read. In fact it's one of the grimmest books I know. Alexievich interviewed women who had fought in the Second World War, in the Red Army - the organization which actually did stop Hitler. Hundreds of thousands of women were mobilized or volunteered, from 1941 on, and they were not just nurses and cooks and drivers but also machine-gunners, artillerists, snipers, guerrilla fighters, combat medics, tank crew and frontline pilots. They were combatants in the most murderous combat in history, the four years of slaughter and genocide that the Germans called the Eastern Front.
            But after the Victory, their story was not just forgotten, it was repressed. The Stalinist regime conducted a loud celebration of triumphant masculine heroism.  The women - apart from a few officially-designated heroines - were expected to swallow their trauma and fade back into private life as wives-and-mothers-and-workers. Which most tried to do, only to find other women suspicious and many men rejecting. The longed-for gender normalization in peace became a second war for some.
            Alexievich began to collect their stories around 1978 and went on for seven years, tape-recording some interviews and making notes of others, from what we sociologists would call a large snowball sample. Alexievich wasn't a sociologist or a historian, and in writing this, wasn't acting as a journalist either. She was a novelist, and the interviews became the raw material of a great literary work giving a multi-voiced collective portrait of the experience of women in war. It's not like Life and Fate or War and Peace, or for that matter All Quiet on the Western Front, which have central characters and a story line. It's a quilt of hundreds of episodes and different voices and emotions. But it does have an implied narrative, I think, which is Alexievich's reading of the changes brought about by mass violence.
            The distinction between journalism and literature became a legal issue when Alexievich was sued over a later book, Boys in Zinc, and forced to defend herself as a writer in court. (The lawsuit seems to have been a political manoeuvre by the resurgent authoritarian forces in Belarus.) But The Unwomanly Face of War is even more complicated. The author's project, and the speakers' act of telling, become a running commentary on the story itself. For me the most moving thing in the book is not the description of horrors but the short chapter about the women who found it impossible to speak. The cataclysm of the 1940s was still working in their lives.
            Alexievich couldn't get the manuscript published at first, but perestroika made it possible and a censored version came out in 1985. I presume this translation is the uncensored version; it pulls no punches. Penguin have put on the cover a contemporary picture of one of the officially-recognized heroines, who commanded a squadron in the Red Air Force. She's in dress uniform with all her medals, which include the Soviet equivalent of the VC.  She looks about seventeen. She is looking over her shoulder, with an absolutely unreadable expression.
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