More Lectures

I promised to try to keep a regular series of posts on lectures I find interesting. And I will (in this post! Which you're reading!). But first: lately I've been listening to audiobooks on Audible.com instead of lectures.

I recently finished the audio version of Lawrence Lessig's Republic, Lost. It's the sharpest work I've read on political corruption in the United States. I read it for insight into the way money "queers" (Lessig's term) the US political system. But the book really shines most when he delves into the nature of corruption. He gets so deep into the concept — corruption as an economy of influence, as something that can happen accidentally to "good souls", institutionally and structurally — that it becomes almost philosophical. An ingenious and deep work on the interplay between money, economies of political exchange and the political process itself, and a book with intellectual activism at its heart. 

(On Audible, it is read — surprisingly well! — by the author himself. I'm now also halfway through an audio re-read of Edward Said's magnum opus from 1978, Orientalism, which still is as mindblowing as it was the first time. The definitive work on the culture of colonialism, racism, islamophobia and relations between the "Occident" and "Orient". Remarkably clear-sighted. Still the book that goes the deepest into the way we talk about groups other than our own, and one of the few books which really helps to explain the post-9/11 world. But the reader on Audible is not very talented, and the style does not lend itself to reading aloud, so get the real-book version instead if you can.)


But I promised lectures and listening, so here are some suggestions: 

1. Kevin Slavin's "How Algorithms Shape Our World": 

A rhetorically well-turned short and sexy TED-talk on algorithms in the financial sector and other places. It's   sexier than it sounds, by which I don't mean that there's any actual sex in it, but it's about algorithms in a really interesting, fun and deep way.

2. This panel on the American Civil War was filled with new ways of seeing its object. All the panelists show us different facets of how the war created and shaped modern America and race relations in it, and by extension the Pax Americana world. Gripping and eye-opening, if you can skip past the introduction which takes about 24 years. I found it via Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog, which is required reading.

I'm also intending to have a look at moderator David Blight's lecture series or course on the civil war, which Coates recommends in the blog.

3. I had the honour of interviewing Ian McEwan a while back. We had an hour-long conversation on climate change, the Rushdie affair, the travails of his now dead friend Christopher Hitchens and how the culture wars of the 90s fed into Saturday. He was an easy and eloquent conversationalist, a well-structured interviewee, and he doesn't give the same answer twice, or at least very rarely. All this is just a way of saying 1. I have talked to Ian McEwan and you have not and 2. But I still like hearing interviews with him. So this hour-long interview with him, from The Guardian, should be enjoyable for anyone interested in his work or in the contemporary British literary scene.


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