Tag: Europe


The arts of Ancient Ife and the royal arts of the Yoruba peoples

Discuss the significance of the form and meanings of the arts of Ancient Ife and the royal arts of the Yoruba peoples. Discuss the different types of historic interactions and power relationships with Europeans as expressed in Afro-Portuguese ivories and the royal arts of the Benin Kingdom.

In the exhibition titled Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria, we learn how Ife art tried to juxtapose misery and glory, deformity and beauty, master and slave, disease and health. Made of copper alloys and terra cottas, the royal arts of the Yoruba people were informed by the myth of Obatala, whose legend is the art of deformity or sin or illness. Royal personages were commonly immortalized through art. Ooni, the ruler of Ife, wore elaborate textiles in the fourteenth century. The buffalo horn filled with medicines is a symbol of his authority. The staff on his hand also signifies authority. He also wears a beaded collar which usually holds a pair of . . . Read More

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How coherent was the National government’s response to mass unemployment after 1931 in Britain?

The interwar years were some of the most turbulent in the history of Britain. Given the strong trade and diplomatic links between Britain and the rest of Europe and North America, the former’s economic stability depended on several external factors. The Great Depression that struck the United States in 1929 had repercussions across Europe. The mass unemployment witnessed in Britain during this period is not merely a coincidence.  On the political front the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany gave rise to distrust and apprehensions of war.  In this respect, the social history of interwar Britain is one highly influenced by unravelling economic and geo-political conditions.  To go with widespread unemployment there were also conflicts across class lines.  The General Strike and the hunger marches that were witnessed during this period were expressions of public frustration.  Although the national government was outwardly sympathetic to public angst, and on occasion participated . . . Read More

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Response to Theory Talk #12: Robert Jervis

(talk accessed via: http://www.theory-talks.org/2008/07/theory-talk-12.html)

Political Scientist Robert Jervis offers interesting perspectives in the area of International Relations.  In particular he talks about the nature of American dominance, the potential threats to its superpower status, the success and failure of the Treaty on Nuclear Non-Proliferation, etc.  Professor Jervis presents his views from a Realist point of view – a framework that takes a pragmatic account of geo-political situations as against idealistic or fundamentalist ones.  This is evident in Realists’ (including Jervis) open opposition to the war in Iraq. Even on the question of a possible intervention in Iran Jervis advices caution and suggests that Iran’s declaration of being a nuclear-enabled state could be no more than a strategic bluff.  Jervis sees both advantages and disadvantages in European economic integration.  On the positive side, he believes that a consolidated Europe would . . . Read More

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How do the themes, elements and issues found in Candide resonate with contemporary audiences?

There are many themes in Candide which resonate with a contemporary audience.  One of the recurrent attacks in the book has been against religious institutions and the politico-cultural power wielded by them.  Although Voltaire was a deist, he did not espouse the view of the Optimists who believed that we inhabit a perfect world in which all events happen for the good.  Voltaire found this precept highly problematic, especially viewed in light of major catastrophes to have hit Europe in the decade preceding the conception of Candide.  It is fair to claim that religious superstition is rife in many parts of the world even today.  Indeed, and ironically, much of conflict between groups of humans has religion at its base.  Currently, the ongoing War on Terror operation between the West and the Islamic fundamentalist groups can be studied as a continuation of the ancient Crusades.  To this extent the military-militant confrontation can be interpreted as a veiled . . . Read More

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What evidence is there in support of Khayr Al-Din’s reform agenda in 19th Century Tunisia? How does he try to harmonize Islam and Western ideas of liberty?

Khayr Al-Din Pasha is a pivotal reformist figure in Tunisian political history.  Indeed, he is such a polymath that he contributed reformist ideas in the areas of Tunisian military, socio-politics and beyond.  At a time when Tunisia was suffering the excesses of Ottoman imperialism, Khayr Al-Din galvanized the spirit of the whole nation through his reform agenda. Khayr Al-Din was a truly enlightened thinker and he aspired for the most ideal Tunisian society and polity.  He viewed the established conception and orthodox methods of governance as the major hindrances to real progress.

Khayr Al-Din understood the importance of the principles outlined in Aqwam al-Masalik. The work outlined how to bring about the co-operation between statesmen and theologicians and how to make them work toward a common reform agenda.  Not only did Khayr Al-Din devise ingenious ways of achieving this cooperative atmosphere, but he also worked toward creating a fresh and forward-looking . . . Read More

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Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

The book in question is insightful, thought-provoking and controversial.  One of the positive aspects of the book is its elaborateness.  Having taken up a challenging thesis, the author goes about proving it with a rigorous scholarly approach. But as with all theses there are problems of omission and commission.

The book presents an interesting view on the European dominance of global politics in modern history.  Questioning any inherent genetic superiority or innate industriousness of the European race, Diamond states that it was conditions of favorable geography and climate that accounts for this dominance.  The vast East-West orientation of the Eurasian landmass offered a degree of uniformity of climate along the same latitudes.  This allowed exchange of applicable agricultural technology across various parts of the continent.  Eurasia also had the good fortune of tameable animals which they could employ in agricultural production and also for animal farming.  . . . Read More

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The Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente

Geopolitical equations toward the end of the 19th century were as complex as it was fragile.  The two broad groupings were the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance. These two distinct groupings came into existence in 1882 and lasted till the First World War.  But even among alliance partners, there were conflicts of interest and opposition, creating a sense of propensity for military conflict.  The Triple Alliance consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy.  The Triple Entente consisted of Great Britain, France and Russia.  Taken in unity, the two groups had formidable economic and military power at their disposal.

During the time of the Triple Entente, Great Britain was the most powerful empire in the world.  British colonies existed in every corner of the world and there was no other empire which could boast of the proficiency and reach of the British Navy.  The British economy was flourishing during the late 19th century and it had . . . Read More

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Highlights from the Corporation Documentary

  1. Applying the 14th amendment to business corporations meant that they were given legal personhood.  This is problematic as corporations have gone on to gain more rights and privileges than human citizens have gained.  This makes it difficult to make corporations accountable and act responsibly.
  2. As Eisenhower famously mentioned, the existence of Military-Industrial complex is undeniable.  This means that public policy, especially the decision to go to war, is dictated by corporate interests.  It is a well known fact that companies allied to the energy industry (Halliburton, Chevron-Texaco, etc) and weapons industry (Lockheed-martin, Boeing, etc) greatly benefited from American invasion of Iraq in 2003.
  3. The purpose of any business corporation is to make regular profits. But sadly, this single-minded objective often leads to the neglect of the environment and other external costs – (both social and economic).
  4. An externality is the . . . Read More

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Comparing how Marjane and the young monk deal with their coming of age in ‘Persepolis’ and ‘Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and…Spring’ respectively

The two films in discussion – ‘Persepolis’ and ‘Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and …Spring’ are very dissimilar in terms of techniques employed, but share common themes.  Persepolis tells the story of Marjane from her childhood through adulthood in the backdrop of hostile political atmosphere in Iran. It is one of a kind movie, for it is rare that politico-historical subjects are treated in an animation format.  This cinematic experiment has worked out well, as symbolism and abstract depictions are well suited to socio-political drama.  Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and…Spring is a masterpiece in its own right.  This film treats such difficult subjects as nature v nurture, religion, meaning of life, human tendencies for sin, methods for salvation, etc.  Broad and yet profound in its interpretative scope, the director conveys his musings mainly through visuals set amongst brilliant natural scenery.  Dialogues playing second fiddle as a narrative device but . . . Read More

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America and the Great War

There are many causes that led to the First World War, but the assassination of the monarch of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Archduke Franz Ferdinand) acted as a trigger in destabilizing what was then a delicate state of European political balance.  A combination of unfortunate timing of the assassination alongside the growing internal tension among European powers gave vent in the form of a war on a massive scale.  Alongside these factors, the rise of nationalistic fervor in some European nations, with the attendant tendencies toward imperialism and militarism had made the outbreak of the war inevitable. (Stubbs, 2002)

The rise of Pan-Slavism, which is a form of ethno-nationalism, in Eastern European countries had also precipitated the war.  The strong diplomatic, economic and strategic interests in neighboring countries induced a cascade effect in terms of drawing reluctant participants to the war.  The Great War was characterized by the long periods spent by the armed . . . Read More

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