‘As a regular reader of NME I feel insulted by the way you write about Yugoslavia in your issues of May 3 and May 17′, wrote a New Musical Express reader from Zagreb in 1975.
In your ‘Teazers’ column you worry about »How will the Communist Bloc take to British pub rock when Kilburn And The High Roads tour Yugoslavia and Poland in August.« Now try to get this: Yugoslavia does not belong to any bloc, so you better don’t try to make jokes about something that may be irrelevant to you, but is of principal meaning for Yugoslav people […] This is not fair toward your Yugoslav readers and many other rock fans in our country. The same singles, albums, groups and singers that top the Pop Polls in Britain are very popular in Yugoslavia, too.
Similarly a Tomaz Domicelj from Ljubljana complained in a 1978 issue of Melody Maker that he was ‘fed up with reading again and again about Yugoslavia being behind the Iron Curtain. We are, if anything, on the border of that Curtain, which MM staff and other British people involved in the music business should know by now. Remember 1948, when we told Stalin off? If not, ask some historians about that.’ Two years later, Melody Maker columnist Chris Bohn visited Yugoslavia, a visit that he summarised in a two-page article entitled ‘Non-aligned punk’.
What does it mean to belong to the human race? Does this belonging bring with it particular rights as well as responsibilities? What does it mean to act with humanity? These are some of the big questions lying at the heart of a new edited collection from Fabian Klose and Mirjam Thulin, Humanity: A History of European Concepts in Practice From the Sixteenth Century to the Present (2016). Based on a 2015 conference at the Leibniz Institute in Mainz, the book, as the title suggests, is not a purely conceptual history of the term ‘humanity’. Rather it looks to discover ‘the concrete implications of theoretical discourses on the concept of humanity’ [page 18]. In other words, how did ideas of ‘humanity’ guide European practices in areas like humanism, imperialism, international law, humanitarianism, and human rights? The editors argue that despite the implied timeless, universal nature of the term, humanity is both a changing, dynamic concept, and has been prone to create divisions as much as it promotes commonality. Although the volume is a study of European conceptions of humanity, the contributions are transnational, displaying how conceptions of humanity were practiced in Europe and in the continent’s interactions with the wider world over the course of five-hundred years. Continue reading “What Does it Mean to Act with Humanity?”→
Labour historians have been particularly attuned to the global turn. Over the last decade labour historians have become not only more global in their outlook, but they have also begun to pay greater attention to subjects that speak to contemporary concerns associated with globalization. This has given rise to a number of studies considering a diverse array of subjects, including ‘global’ occupations, forms of free and unfree labour migration, and the global dimensions of working-class formation. The benefits of this global approach are immeasurable. Among other things it has highlighted the importance of studying labour in globalized sectors over the longue durée; it has brought into question the teleological assumption that labour movements inevitably develop a national character; and it has underscored the point that working-class formation was driven by processes that occurred across territorial borders.
The danger with global approaches, however, is that they can flatten and homogenize the experience of labour, emphasizing connection over disconnection, and privileging subaltern agency, co-operation, and mobility over class-, gender-, and race-based hierarchies of power. These issues are particularly pertinent to colonial contexts. Racialised labour recruitment practices, punitive and draconian labour legislation, and the deployment of state violence in response to worker protest all served to accentuate differences and inhibit collective action. Put simply, the task for labour historians is to focus not only the ‘free’ movement of labour and the associated flow of ideas, discourses, and practices across territorial borders but to investigate the role of coercion and state regulation in facilitating and restricting such movements.
In the vein of its rich history in Central Asia, China’s quest for economic development has seen it return to the region that was once spanned by the Silk Route. While Central Asia has served as the cross roads between Eastern and Western civilisation for centuries, it also once provided the chessboard upon which the Great Powers of the past had battled each other for land and influence. In sum it is one of the most strategic regions of the world, whether it be the Great Game of the nineteenth century or the superpower conflict of the 1980s.
In line with the power politics of the past, the region has seen a new Great Game where today’s strongest nations compete for the region’s natural resources. With the close of the twentieth century, Central Asia re-entered the spotlight as a result of the War on Terror and, more recently, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (一带一路). In light of these developments, the imperial struggles of the past two centuries take on a new importance, as they continue to influence the perceptions of China’s return to the region. These perceptions, real or imagined, have fuelled the struggles of the Great Powers in the region and China’s involvement is simply the latest chapter in a centuries long struggle. Continue reading “China’s New Silk Road: Central Asia and the Imperial Legacy of the Great Game”→