This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

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Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From the nationalization of global history to globalizing classical music, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

History Contra Global

John Raimo
Journal of the History of Ideas Blog

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that everyone feels strongly about global history. It may even prove more contentious so far as intellectual history goes. Yet what goes comparatively little discussed would be how today’s global history has redefined, institutionalized, and finally nationalized itself. This makes for a fascinating intellectual terrain as all three processes blur into one another, a line of criticism growing among global history’s critics (appropriately enough scattered across the world). Put another way, just how global is global history? The question admits more concrete reflections than perhaps its advocates or skeptics imagine.

Global history begins as a project of definitions. That is, the field defines ‘the global’ rather than the nation as its subject. What this might prove remains contestable, however. ‘Global’ more largely entails the phenomenon of transnational networks (perhaps the subject of inordinate focus), global as an actor’s or a native category—one which may be sharply contested as a colonial product—or a framework of historiographical comparison, as Samuel Moyn and Andrew Sartori have eloquently pointed out (in part echoing such anthropologists as Marcel Detienne). This is very much a revisionary project as the nation falls away as a primary unit of analysis. [continue reading]

Kim Jong-il and the Great Movie-Star Kidnap

Paul Fischer

Pulgasari-posterSeveral years ago, at the bottom of a newspaper article about the North Korean dictator Kim Jong‑il, I read a footnote that sounded, at first, so unreal it had to be apocryphal. The Dear Leader, the article said, who was famous for his expensive tastes, harem of dancing teenage girls and seemingly insatiable thirst for Hennessy cognac, was also such a film buff that, during his early years in power, he had kidnapped a foreign film director and coerced him into making propaganda films supporting his regime.

The little coda captured my imagination immediately. What kind of films had Kim Jong-il liked? How was it possible I hadn’t heard this story before? Kim began his career in the North Korean leadership in 1968 as the head of the state’s propaganda and agitation department, the main organ of which was the film studios. He amassed arguably the world’s largest personal film collection: over 20,000 bootlegged 35mm screening copies from all around the world that, due to the DPRK’s stringent information-control policies, he was the only person in the country authorised to watch. [continue reading]

Down Under, Transnational, Global

Toynbee Prize Foundation

The Black Sea is in the news for all of the wrong reasons these days. Whether it’s the Russian annexation of Crimea, uncertainty surrounding the outcome of parliamentary elections in Moldova, or the breakdown of Moscow’s plans to conduct a natural gas pipeline to Europe via the Balkans, these former Tsarist borderlands (and shores) have become an object of geopolitical intrigue that few would have predicted only a year or two ago.

Lost among fears of a revived Cold War is another ongoing crisis in the region: namely, sex trafficking, or what earlier generations would have known as “the traffic in women.” Even as countries like Russia are some of the largest destination for immigrants from other parts of the former Soviet Union, Moscow’s former western borderlands–Ukraine and especially Moldova–constitute some of the largest “exporters” of women into the international sex trade. Sold into criminal gangs as “white” women, women from these countries may find themselves trafficked to brothels in Russia, Turkey, Israel, the UAE, or other destinations. For countries like Ukraine and Moldova, where per-capita income is the same as in Sudan, human traffickers find ideal conditions, helping make human trafficking the third most lucrative criminal enterprise in the world, according to the United Nations. [continue reading]

Global Classical Music

Petroc Trelawny
BBC World

Petroc Trelawny’s three part series looking at the extraordinary surge in performance of Western Classical Music over the last twenty or thirty years turns his attention to the mechanics of the new orchestras. Building dramatic and iconic concert halls will count for nothing if they’re not filled by both visiting and local artists. That puts a great deal of pressure on relatively young orchestras who need to develop audiences unfamiliar with the classical music repertoire.

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Concentrating on the Guangzhou Symphony, the Qatar Philharmonic, the Hong Kong Philharmonic and the Sao Paolo Symphony orchestras, Petroc talks to performers, audience members, organisers and government officials about the long term ambitions for their respective bands. Will the current funding levels sustain? Are the audience numbers really growing and will the Western repertoire come to dominate or are they delivering something entirely new to their respective cities and ultimately to the rest of the world?

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