Bookbeat: October 2010

Everyday Ethics and Social Change: The Education of DesireEveryday Ethics and Social Change: The Education of Desire

by Anna Peterson
Department of Religion
(Columbia University Press, September 2009)
Available through Amazon

Americans increasingly cite moral values as a factor in how they vote, but when we define morality simply in terms of a voter's position on gay marriage and abortion, we lose sight of the ethical decisions that guide our everyday lives. In our encounters with friends, family members, nature, and nonhuman creatures, we practice a nonutilitarian morality that makes sacrifice a rational and reasonable choice. Recognizing these everyday ethics, Anna L. Peterson argues, helps us move past the seemingly irreconcilable conflicts of culture and refocus on issues that affect real social change.

Peterson begins by divining a "second language" for personal and political values, a vocabulary derived from the loving and mutually beneficial relationships of daily life. Even if our interactions with others are fleeting and fragmentary, they provide a viable alternative to the contractual and atomistic attitudes of mainstream culture. Everyday ethics point toward a more just, humane, and sustainable society, and to acknowledge moments of grace in our daily encounters is to realize a different way of relating to people and nonhuman nature& mdash;an alternative ethic to cynicism and rank consumerism. In redefining the parameters of morality, Peterson enables us to make fundamental problems such as the distribution of wealth, the use of public land and natural resources, labor and employment policy, and the character of political institutions the preferred focus of debate and action.

- Publisher

Book Interviews

Languages of Urban AfricaLanguages of Urban Africa

by Fiona McLaughlin
Departments of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures and Linguistics
(Continuum, 2009)
Available through Amazon

‘McLaughlin’s edited volume, at long last, provides us an opportunity to comprehend the multilingual complexity of Africa’s growing urban communities.’

- David Dwyer, Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University, USA

The Languages of Urban Africa, which appears in Continuum’s series Studies in Sociolinguistics, consists of a series of case studies that address four main themes.  The first is the history of African urban languages. The second set focus on theoretical issues in the study of African urban languages, exploring the outcomes of intense multilingualism and also the ways in which urban dwellers form their speech communities.  The volume then moves on to explore the relationship between language and identity in the urban setting.  The final two case studies in the volume address the evolution of urban languages in Africa.

This rich set of chapters examines languages and speech communities in ten geographically diverse African urban centres, covering almost all regions of the continent.  Half involve cities in so-called Francophone Africa, the other half, Anglophone.  This exciting volume shows us what the study of urban African languages can tell us about language and about African societies in general.  

It is essential reading for upper level undergraduates, postgraduates and researchers in sociolinguistics, especially those interested in the language of Africa.


- Publisher

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