The Blog March 11, 2021

What We're Reading This Week

Credit: Travancore Information, Nov-Dec 1941 via Bindu Menon

Mahdi Chowdhury

Bindu Menon, “Miasmic screens: Contagion and control in early 20th century cinema halls,” Ala

This article by Bindu Menon considers the emergence of cinema halls in South India as public spheres that stirred social anxieties about “touch, space, and sociability.” At the same time the cinema hall came to be deemed a 'miasmic' space—housing a “violent, amoral, contagious, and sensate” assemblage of bodies, where caste and class stratifications could not be regulated—cinema itself was (quite literally) mobilized by the philanthropic, the missionary, and the state to promote public health through documentaries on diseases, sanitation, and hygiene. 

Maya Salam, “‘Like a warm hug from an angel’,” The New York Times

The “ethnic blanket” or the “immigrant blanket”—the common meme-terminologies for these mass-produced “hypersoft polyester” covers—is the subject of Maya Salam’s article. Colourfully adorned by Farah Al Qasimi’s photographs, Salam’s article is an attempt to name a globalized material and a cultural presence that, in some sense, “surpasses geography.” The many responses to the article are as compelling as the text itself—particularly from those who have been able to include their personal histories, such as Laleh Khalili.

Anish Vanaik, “Shelter as capital: Housing and commodification: Lessons from the Global South,” Borderlines

The fourth and latest essay in Borderlines’ book forum on Yahia Shawkat’s Egypt’s housing crisis opens with the question of Friedrich Engels' The housing question: “How to provide decent and dignified shelter to every human”? Considering this question in locus of the Global South—and drawing upon his own work on the history of housing in Delhi—Anish Vanaik argues that “the battle to provide shelter as a right [will need to be] first about building a constituency that can fight and win a broad decommodification of everyday life.”

 

Joel van de Sande

Marina Rustow, “Islamic law and the documentary record before 1500: Unsolved problems and untried solutions,” Islamic Law Blog

Marina Rustow studies "trade letters, accounts, personal letters and legal and administrative documents in Hebrew script from the Cairo Geniza . . .  and Arabic state documents."

Agnes Korn and Maryam Nourzaei, “Notes on the speech of the Afro-Baloch of the southern coast of Iran,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

Agnes Korn and Maryam Nourzaei “describe the morphosyntactic properties of Iranian Coastal Balochi as spoken by the Afro-Balochi community.”

Judith Surkis, “Judith Surkis, sex, law, and sovereignty in French Algeria, 1830-1930 (New Texts Out Now),” Jadaliyya

Judith Surkis discusses Sex, law, and sovereignty in French Algeria, 1830–1930, accompanied by an excerpt from the book.

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