Handle with Care: Representing Chinese Factory Workers

Penny Wang | June 11, 2018
Stories about the miseries of Chinese factory workers have been regarded in the West as welcome gestures against the dehumanising globalised market economy to which China has submitted itself. These expository accounts have been applauded as signs of critical reflections against the silence imposed by the Chinese government—a government the Western media label as authoritarian and indifferent to the lower-income populations victimised by its profit-oriented policies. Much as I appreciate the necessity of such exposés, either through reports or slightly fictionalised accounts, I usually find these narratives deeply problematic. Taking an event I recently attended as an example—a screening of the short film Before Christmas directed by Chuyao He on 11 May at Edinburgh Printmakers (part of the Edinburgh Short Film Festival), I would like to examine exactly what is wrong with these representations.

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Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America and the Recurring History

Sini Eikonsalo | May 31, 2018
Philip Roth, a canonical American writer, died recently at the age of 85, leaving behind a vast array of novels, the most popular probably being his Pulitzer-winning American Pastoral (1997). However, it is The Plot Against America (2004) that has been in the public interest for the past couple of years and now with the news of Roth’s death.

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Models of Capitalist Subversion: Hip Hop or Rock?

Tomas Vergara | May 30, 2018

On the 5th of May of 2018 Gibson, one of the most emblematic guitar manufacturers, announced bankruptcy. An interesting aspect of this event, beyond its economic repercussions on the music industry, is its cultural significance. It marks the decline of rock and guitar-based music, once the dominant musical genre. Gibson’s bankruptcy opens several symptomatic questions concerning the role of music in contemporary capitalist culture: What does this shift in musical taste reflect about the dynamics of capitalist culture? Does it signal the emergence of new ideological apparatuses no longer compatible with rock music? 

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Transcending Incidental Music: Musical Theatricality in Schumann’s Manfred Overture

Alexandra Huang | May 12, 2018
Robert Schumann (1810-1856) is a music composer in high Romanticism. His symphonic rearrangement of the dramatic poem Manfred by Lord Baron Byron (1788-1824) to this day shares the limelight with Byron’s original text. The Manfred Overture is the opening introduction set in the beginning of his Symphony Op.115, Manfred: Dramatic Poem with Music in Three Parts along with the Overture (1848). In terms of genre, the piece is the apotheosis of incidental music, music composed for atmospheric accompaniment for dramatic actions in a play. Originating from ancient Greece, incidental music is a musical practice that looms large in the nineteenth century (Oxford Companion to Music). Interestingly, Shumann’s Manfred Overture is also a critique of the genre in that the place of music is as important as the dramatic scenarios.

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A “Bittle” Love

Christa M. Burgin | May 1, 2018
For those of you who haven’t seen Love, Simon, there are numerous reasons why you should, most important of which is this: Simon, as we’re told early on, is just like you. He has a normal life with the exception of “one huge-ass secret.”1 In fact, this secret is so large that Simon doesn’t reveal he’s gay until he begins emailing “Blue,” a fellow student at his high school. Complications arise when another student reads Simon’s messages on one of the school computers. As a result, Simon is blackmailed into helping his classmate win over a girl in order to protect his identity.

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Cardboard Critics: The Language of Protest

Anna Kemball | April 30, 2018
A picture says a thousand words, they say. When it comes to how we take collective action, how much can be said through pictures and words, hastily scribbled on a scrap of cardboard? What impact do these transitory collections of text, image and object have in relation to more permanent messages associated with our universities?

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On Conferences as Political Spaces

Maria Elena Torres-Quevedo | April 13, 2018
When I began my academic career, as a student on a Masters degree by research, conferences seemed both exciting and daunting. They were exciting because, as an unexperienced researcher, the prospect of being in a space with people who had been doing research for years, exchanging ideas, and being treated seriously as a researcher, was extremely appealing. They were daunting because of the competitive aspect that they represented— an opportunity to share research and thoughts, and an opportunity for those with more knowledge and experience to point out the flaws therein. They would involve inherently awkward situations where you would be forced to make small talk with someone whom, in all likelihood, you shared nothing in common with, else you would stand in the corner of a crowded room, staring at your phone screen. Nevertheless, they were something to be endured because they were a necessity on the curriculum vitae of any aspiring academic, and a space to make contact with people who might be valuable to your professional network.

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