Reflections on elections!

Posted by Sarah Stilwell, Senior Marketing Executive

Over the coming weeks you may find yourself musing over some of the UK’s electoral traditions: Why do we vote in schools? What is the social meaning of secret balloting? What is lost if we vote by mail or computers rather than on election day? What is the history and role of drinking and wagering in elections? How does the electoral cycle generate the theatre of election night and inaugurations?

Ritual and rhythm in electoral systemsGraeme Orr’s newly published book Ritual and Rhythm in Electoral Systems answers these, and many more questions, and reminds us that elections are key public events which, in a secular society, are the only real coming together of the social whole.

Elegantly written and meticulously researched, this book captures the way we experience voting and elections – as a ritualised and recurring event – not only in the UK, but also in the US and Australia.

Graeme Orr is Professor of Law at the University of Queensland, Australia and is the International Editor of the Election Law Journal.

His book is published as part of Ashgate’s series: Election Law, Politics, and Theory

A selection of reviews of Ritual and Rhythm in Electoral Systems:

‘This is a masterly book – imaginative in conception, brilliantly executed, and above all beautifully written. Professor Orr is not only one of our best election lawyers, but also one of our most elegant and accessible legal writers. His original and skilful account of the “ritual and rhythms” of election day is both a work of great scholarship and a compelling read.’   Keith Ewing, author of The Cost of Democracy

‘Graeme Orr has produced a brilliant and compelling account of the role of ritual in elections. This book should be required reading for constitutional lawyers and electoral administrators who will come to understand that the act of voting is but one moment in a far bigger cultural drama.’   Stephen Coleman, author of How Voters Feel

‘In this important book, Graeme Orr goes a long way to helping us understand why elections matter so much. Beyond the mere casting and counting of votes, they consist of practices and processes that are imbued with deep meaning. This account of how the law provides a canvas upon which that meaning may be painted is masterful.’   Andrew Geddis, author of Election Law in New Zealand

‘Departing from the usual demographic-quantitative accounts, Graeme Orr offers an engaging, thoroughly researched interpretation of the tenor and cadence of the rituals of electoral politics, rituals redolent with intriguing symbolism and meaning.’   Ron Hirschbein, author of Voting Rites

‘In a radical departure from the usual writing about elections, Graeme Orr offers a fascinating sociology of elections, unmasking them as important rituals with deep social and affective significance. He persuades us that elections are not just about rules and numbers, winners and losers; they also operate on a social-systems level as indispensable occasions for political communion and the renewal of democratic community.’   Lisa Hill, University of Adelaide, Australia and author of Compulsory Voting: For and Against

‘Ritual and Rhythm in Electoral Systems brings an eye-catching “High Church” flourish, and a near sacerdotal intensity, to the complex field of comparative electoral law, canvassing its rites and elaborate ceremonies with an eye that is as much anthropological as it is theological. The result is a profound study in what might be called the “jurispathology” of everyday electoral life. Judiciously combining theory and practice, as well as doctrine and context, Orr’s elegantly written and meticulously researched book is sure to attract a wide readership in law, politics, and government.’    William MacNeil, Griffith University, Australia and author of Lex Populi

Children and asceticism in Late Antiquity

Vuolanto Ville“He has children, he is not dead”

This is a guest post by Ville Vuolanto, author of Children and Asceticism in Late Antiquity. Continuity, Family Dynamics and the Rise of Christianity 

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In Late Antiquity, asceticism challenged the traditional norms and practices of family life. The resulting discussions of the right way to live a Christian life provide us with a variety of texts with information on both ideological statements and living experiences of Late Roman childhood and children. Children and Asceticism in Late Antiquity. Continuity, Family Dynamics and the Rise of Christianity is the first major book-length study of the interplay between children, family and asceticism in Christian ideology; it is also the first to scrutinise in depth the roles of children in family dynamics for any area of the Roman World.

“Better than to have children is childlessness with virtue, for in the memory of virtue is immortality”  (Wisdom of Salomo, 4.1)

Children and Asceticism in Late AntiquityWhy did parents want their children to become ascetics instead of contributing to their family lineage and, thus, their own continuity? By taking this question as its starting point, the study contributes to the discussions on family ideology, role of children and family dynamics in Late Roman world; to the study of Christian asceticism in Late Antiquity; and to modern theories on family strategies and continuity. Christian authors of the late fourth and early fifth centuries challenged the traditional Greco-Roman view that family was the central means by which the immortality in the continuity of the name, lineage and memory was assured, pointing to the superiority of asceticism in safeguarding meaningful life. “‘I will give you an eternal name’ … what more do you seek?” (Augustine, On Holy Virginity 25).

In the book, childhood and children are approached both from the ideological and social historical perspectives: first, what was the place reserved for children in the emerging Christian family ideology; second, what was the place for children in the actual family dynamics and life course; third, what were the limits of children’s own action? In analyzing the ideological side, the stress is on Christian family rhetoric: evading death and striving for continuity through family life is shown to have been conceived as a basic component for good life in the Late Roman world. “Each day we die, each day we change, and yet we are convinced that we are eternal” (Jerome, Letters 60.19)

Indeed, old ways of life were deeply embedded in the culture. It is shown in the book how asceticism fitted into the upper class culture and mentality, and how it was put into practice on the family level and in the lives of children, with some promised to God at their birth, some others driven to conflicts with their parents. These processes are informative in showing how the late Roman elite families worked, and what was the role of children in the contemporary culture.

“Thus, happy are those who leave behind children to succeed them and take over their possessions. He has children, he is not dead”  (Augustine, Expos. on the Psalm 48, 1.14)

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Ville Vuolanto is Research Fellow at the University of Oslo, Norway and Adjunct Professor of History at the University of Tampere, Finland. He has published a number of articles and book chapters on the history of family and childhood in Roman, late antique and early medieval contexts. He also maintains an extensive online bibliography Children in the Ancient World and the Early Middle Ages.

More information about Children and Asceticism in Late Antiquity.

Evidencing change: how do we measure social value?

This post is written by Carol Scott, author of Museums and Public Value. It originally appeared on her personal website. Carol Scott is speaking at this year’s American Alliance of Museums annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Evidencing change: how do we measure social value?

This is the title of the session that I am curating with Randi Korn (Founding Director, Randi Korn Associates) and Deborah Schwartz (President, Brooklyn Historical Society) at this year’s American Alliance of Museums annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

The conference theme is the social value of museums. Creating positive social change is forging new directions for 21st century museums. But evidence to prove that change occurs remains elusive and approaches to measuring it are a work in progress.

At the heart of the issue is the question: ‘do museums make a positive difference to society as a whole?’ If we want the answer to be a resounding ‘yes’, how do we translate museum activity into measurable evidence of social value- and- what are the implications for planning and evaluation?

Our session is going to look at these questions through three lenses. Passion is needed to effect social change. Our museums need to resonate with and be relevant to our communities. Deborah Schwartz heads one such museum- where passion and commitment to the community are paramount. But passion needs to be directed. It needs to work in tandem with results-based planning and evaluation measures to achieve its social goals, a subject which is at the heart of Randi Korn’s work.

At a national level, the sector as a whole is challenged to find a narrative to demonstrates that museums create value that makes a difference in the public domain. Do museums contribute to the well-being of populations, their connectedness to one another and to communities, to an active, engaged citizenship? Where is the evidence to prove this and how do we capture it? This is the subject of my presentation.

Our session is on Monday afternoon, the 27th April from 1:45-3:00 p.m. in Room B405 at the Georgia World Congress Center. We look forward to meeting you in Atlanta.

Carol Scott

Piotr Spyra speaks about his book The Epistemological Perspective of the Pearl-Poet

Posted by Beth Whalley, Marketing Executive

The body of work by the so-called ‘Pearl-Poet’ remains one of the most widely-read and well-known written in Middle English. Existing in a single surviving manuscript (Cotton Nero A.x) and written in the same dialect, internal evidence suggests that all four works were written by the same author, and many scholars have recognised that Pearl, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Patience and Cleanness should be read in relationship with one another. Author Piotr Spyra, in his 2014 book The Epistemological Perspective of the Pearl-Poet, takes this viewpoint a step further by viewing the Pearl texts as one literary unit with a continuous narrative. By applying the epistemological thought of Saint Augustine to the Pearl manuscript, Spyra reveals that the works of the Pearl-Poet, when read together, disclose what it means to be human.

In this video, Spyra reveals a little more about his choice of texts, methodology and insights.

The Ashgate Research Companion to Experimental Music: The Interviews

Posted by Maxine Cook, Marketing Assistant

This week, James Saunders has uploaded his interview with Jennifer Walshe

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Interview with Jennifer Walshe:

Objects and their sonic properties are central to Jennifer Walshe’s music. The terms of reference for her work are wide and draw in the world around her: everything has potential as material, whether it is found text from food packaging, old answer machine messages, skateboarding, or the texture of ribbons. There is a voracity to her collection of sounds and exploration of ways to elicit them from performers, exemplified by pieces such as Hostess-in-a-Jiffy® Brings You Cooking With Stone: 4 Five-Minute Dishes (2004) which presents instructions for sonic cooking, or elephant (2004) with its unique scoring of ‘harp, gun’. The manner in which sounds are made is perhaps every bit as important as their audible result. Instructions in her scores typically indicate the necessary attitude required to make sounds as a primary focus, or differing forms of documentation are used to enable performers to triangulate her intentions when working with objects. This consideration of the physical situation of performing is a constant in her work, drawing on her own experience as an improviser and a concern with what it feels like to make sounds. Often this involves recontextualizing her material, stripping away some of its inherent meaning so that it can be used as a building block to construct new identities, finding a natural extension in her recent installation, stage, and intermedia work. All of this was present in the first piece of hers that I heard at the Darmstadt Ferienkurse in 2000, her astonishing duo for violin and voice as mo chéann (2000), which she also performed. This piece helped me begin to expand the palette of my own work and its impact on an unsuspecting audience was startling, as was her follow-up lecture there two years later, which mostly used kick-boxing as a presentation medium.

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The interview was conducted by email between 10 May – 5 December 2004, and edited in September 2008.

The Ashgate Research Companion to Experimental MusicRead the full interview here.

All the interviews from James Saunders can be found in The Ashgate Research Companion to Experimental Music.

Writing Classification Made Simple – a long and winding road – a guest post from Eric Hunter

Posted by Corey Boudreau, Sales and Marketing Coordinator

To mark his book’s selection as an Editor’s Choice, in this guest post Eric Hunter discusses his experiences publishing Classification Made Simple and the resonance his work has had in the field.

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Writing Classification Made Simple – a long and winding road

In the mid-twentieth century, the main thrust of library classification was towards the traditional schemes of Dewey and Library of Congress. A catalyst for change arrived in 1951, when Palmer and Wells published The Fundamentals of Library Classification, based on the researches of Dr S.R. Ranganathan. I can recall vividly a lecturer at Manchester Library School gamely trying to teach this ‘new’ approach but without any great success, as he was only in the throes of coming to grips with it himself!

After Manchester, I was called up for two years national service. Upon my demobilisation, I gradually eased my way back into librarianship and one of the subsequent positions that I held was head of a cataloguing department. Wells had incorporated some aspects of Ranganathan’s concepts into the British National Bibliography. I became enamoured of chain indexing and began to introduce it into the procedures of my department. I suppose that this was when I really began to appreciate fully the enormous practical advantages of Ranganathan’s theories.

In the late nineteen sixties I transferred to teaching. This gave me more of an opportunity to write and to publish. At first, I tended to concentrate on cataloguing and, more specifically, on Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (as some readers will be aware). The sixties and seventies were a time when computerisation was gradually taking hold and I became a convert. I tried to introduce computer studies into the teaching curriculum but some colleagues were less than enthusiastic. I recall one fellow lecturer referring derogatively to ‘Eric and his toys’. However, I believed that computerisation had to be the way forward. I was granted a year’s sabbatical to work and train in the University’s Computer Services Department. In 1982, my ABC of BASIC : An Introduction to Programming for Librarians  was published and, in 1985, Computerised Cataloguing.

At this time some excellent books on classification were available. Sayers’ Manual of Classification for Librarians, revised by Arthur Maltby, being one and Tony Foskett’s The Subject Approach to Information another. All the same, the fact that facet analysis lends itself admirably to computerisation and my experiences with students convinced me that there was an additional need for a book that explained the basic principles of classification more concisely, in a way that was easy to understand, profusely illustrated by practical examples. Thus the idea for Classification Made Simple was born; Ashgate saw the possibilities and agreed to publish; a contract being signed in May 1987.

Classification made simpleWhat impact has the book made? When it appeared in 1988, it was gratifying to note that, in general, the work was well received. Reviewers (who came from a variety of countries and organisations) applauded its simplicity and practicality; they recommended it to anyone needing guidance in the application of classification to the organisation and retrieval of documents in any type of information unit. More than one reviewer regretted the fact that it had not been available when they were students. Others said that it would be invaluable for any IT department concerned with search and retrieval. All of these positive comments were music to my ears.

I like to think that it has helped many of the people working in library and information management, and in data processing, to understand the basic principles and practical applications of classification. There have been enormous changes in librarianship and information management since the work was first written but, hopefully, it is still of some relevance. It is now in a third edition and a translation into Korean is currently in progress.

My advice to anyone wanting to publish would be to choose a subject that you are passionate about and have sufficient knowledge of. Carry out a literature search in order to ascertain what is already available on the topic; look for a gap in the market. Produce one or two extracts and a synopsis to submit to appropriate prospective publishers, to see if there is interest. There is nothing worse than having a completed manuscript sitting on one’s shelf ignored and unwanted.

Remember that writing is a labour of love and self-satisfaction. Textbook authorship will not make you a fortune. There will be no flashy car on the driveway. Perhaps you will just be able to afford the petrol to go in it! Writing is also time consuming. If you are in a relationship, you need the support of your spouse or partner. I am fortunate in that my wife is always encouraging, patient and tolerant during the long hours when I am happily tapping away on a typewriter or computer keyboard.

When the finished product finally arrives on your doorstep, there is a wonderful sense of achievement. All of the effort expended seems worthwhile; writing is rewarding! Carpe diem!

Eric Hunter

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Full information about Classification Made Simple: An Introduction to Knowledge Organisation and Information Retrieval can be found on the Ashgate website.

The Ashgate Research Companion to Experimental Music: The Interviews

Posted by Maxine Cook, Marketing Assistant

This week, James Saunders has published his interview with Antoine Beuger.

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Interview with Antoine Beuger

Antoine Beuger’s suggestion that the subject of music is the pervasive noise of the world and that its form is cut out from this infinite diversity is perhaps surprising for a sounding result that is permanently on the verge of disappearing. The extreme dilution of sound in his work emphasises both its savoured value and the importance of space as its receptacle. Calm inaction is the norm, with sound and momentary action the exception. Listening to performances of his music, it is easy to forget what is being experienced: when sounds reappear after a long period of silence, they have an impact which is born only of necessity. Sounds also rarely appear together intentionally, almost always in isolation to further reinforce their identity: this is music of the utmost clarity. Yet within each sound Beuger suggests there are infinite possibilities, so that everything can be contained in the brief moments of activity which characterize his work. Structurally, his music from the 1990s is either rigorously ordered with a grid at its heart or very open, with the minimum necessary instructions as to how to project sounds. These approaches are linked: freedom out of precision, and precision out of freedom. More recently he has begun exploring the ontology of ensemble size in a series of pieces for specified numbers of players, such as dedekind duos (2003) in which two performers play specified pitches as long quiet tones, separated by enough time to breathe, or much longer, carefully listening to each other. From these pieces fundamental questions concerning the nature of separation and togetherness emerge, as does the serendipity of coincidence, focusing on how people interact with each other and project sound in performance. I was introduced to Beuger’s work by Manfred Werder, and we finally met up in Witten in April 2002 in a hotel breakfast room surrounded by most of the German contemporary music establishment, in town for the Neue Musiktage. Antoine showed me some scores, producing them from a beautiful well-used leather briefcase, and we had an interesting morning discussing each other’s work. I have been fascinated by his music ever since: for me it is a benchmark to which other music must be compared. The interplay of action and inaction, of sound and silence in carefully weighted and understated amounts continually makes me evaluate my own practice, and the ideas behind his work cut to the heart of the nature of music and making art.

The interview was conducted by email between 1 December 2003 – 12 March 2004.

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Read the full interview here.

The Ashgate Research Companion to Experimental MusicAll the interviews from James Saunders can be found in The Ashgate Research Companion to Experimental Music.