Category Archives: General

Guest Blog from Barbara Larson, editor of our new Series: Science and the Arts since 1750

It could be argued (and has been) that in the modern period science and “art,” whether this be dance, painting, or theater, have been culturally understood within the context of the many binaries that form a western perspective (as in active/passive, objective/subjective, etc.). In recent decades, whether we refer to C.P. Snow’s “The Two Cultures” (science and the humanities) or The Science Wars of the 1990s (scientists and the value of objectivity versus science as a social construction, with its reach into the arts) or the validity of the support of STEM versus STEAM (science, technology, engineering, ART, and math) in academe today we are engaging in a discussion regarding separation and difference.

Have science and the arts always been considered as opposing realms? Historians of science and art have pointed out that in the west well into the Victorian period science and art were, more or less, one intellectual culture and not until the natural sciences became specialized into specific fields at the end of the nineteenth century was there a division into two spheres. It has also been argued that in the early modern period art, then categorized as craft (whose practitioners were thought of as artisans), was itself responsible for the shift in bringing science into focus as practical, empirical observation by the seventeenth century. Recent publications have raised the possibility of some sort of resolution between “the two cultures” (E. O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge; Jay Labinger and Harry Collins, eds., The One Culture? A Conversation about Science, and Gillian Beer, Open Fields: Science in Cultural Encounter). And knowledge production from varying geographical areas beyond the west promises to add further complexity to the relationship between science and the arts.

Just what science has been understood to be has shifted the discussion of how we talk about science and the arts. For example, historians of art in past decades tended to think of science as it related to art in terms of perspective, color, and mathematics. But invaluable early work such as that of literary historian Sander Gilman on medicine and representation in the arts, both grounded in cultural and political history, has done much to transform what we need to be aware of in terms of science and visual culture. What one finds in greater number today are historians of the arts and science pursuing questions of meaning and representation specific to place, politics, and moments in time or transformations in knowledge that feed directions in the arts (as in wave theories of energy and early abstraction).

Occasional collaborative projects between science and humanities historians, such as Caroline Jones and Peter Galison’s Picturing Science and Producing Art (on broad systems of representation linking science and art) have borne fruit, and even the hard science of neurology suggests promising directions either through brain imaging (as in musical performance) or the historical perspective on the mind in light of brain work today (neurologist Eric Kandel’s The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present). There have also been periods in which the connections between technology, science, and the arts are less oblique as in the contemporary period in which many artists are pursuing work that clearly integrates technology and science such as in the digital arts. More speculative yet compelling, are discussions regarding the proposed epoch of the Anthropocene (by definition an interaction between humans and global natural systems) and ecoart.

The series Science and the Arts since 1750 wades into the many intersections between science and the arts. These include the cultural conditioning of visual perception and aesthetics where artists and scientists are concerned, sites of representation that effect visual culture as in images of the body, how objects may function in society as art or science, changing scientific perspectives that inform the arts, among others. Camilla Skovbjerg Paldam and Jacob Wamberg’s recently published edited volume Art, Technology, and Nature: Renaissance to Postmodernity initiates the series and argues that science, technology, and art are drawing more closely together in the post-modern period and the relationship of observer and object is disintegrating. This they contend is akin to ancient and medieval periods in which art and technology both produced cultural products dependent on the triad of their title; and makers of these objects were often engaged in imitating nature’s creative forces. The editors discuss the history of the project as follows:

9781472411723Art, Technology and Nature arose out of activities in the research group “Art, Nature and Technology”, which was established at Aarhus University in 2005 with Jacob Wamberg as coordinator. The group, gathering historians of literature, art and medicine, was triggered by a frustration that C.P. Snow’s “two cultures”, although diagnosed half a century ago, still govern most academic practice: the humanistic and techno-scientific domains thrive in their segregated worlds.

Our observation, however, was that in our postmodern age barriers between natural and cultural agencies have long been porous. Where should we insert the boundary between natural and technological agency in a ‘cultural’ domain like biotechnology? Or in a ‘natural’ one like climate change? Likewise, art has long broken with the distant contemplation of nature in picturesque form, founded on a simultaneous displacement of technology to the fringes of artworks. In avant-garde art practices nature and technology alike are activated and integrated to the point where they lose their status as foreign and segregate domains. If art and technology are still a long way from the fusion into the re-actualized neo-ancient techné that Heidegger hoped for, at least their boundaries have become much more negotiable.

In order to illuminate these and other related themes in the triad art/technology/nature, the research group arranged two public events, from which much, although not all, of the book’s material derives: a session at the Association of Art Historians’ annual meeting in Manchester in 2009, and, especially, an international conference at the National Gallery in Copenhagen in 2010 (The Artwork between Technology and Nature).

Isabelle Wünsche, whose volume The Organic School of the Russian Avant-Garde: Nature’s Creative Principles is the second book in the series, examines ways in which certain Russian modernists on the eve of the Russian Revolution modeled their approach on the creative forces of nature in order to produce biocentric work. Below she details how she came to write her book:

9781472432698It was a spring day in Berlin in 1989 – the momentous opening of the border was still six months in the future – I was browsing the stacks of the State Art Collections library on Museum Island and came across a small, but dense exhibition catalog from the West Berlin Academy of Fine Arts: Sieg über die Sonne. Victory over the Sun was a Cubo-futurist opera written by Aleksei Kruchenykh with music by Mikhail Matiushin and stage designs by Kazimir Malevich. The last name meant something to me, but I was unfamiliar with Matiushin. The catalog included his reminiscences on Cubo-futurist events in St. Petersburg, an essay on sound and color, and another one on quartertone music. My curiosity about Matiushin’s work led to a thesis, and then a dissertation, and finally, The Organic School.

The book is important to me because for too long the avant-garde in St. Petersburg has been overshadowed by the better-known Moscow avant-garde. Moscow always somehow seemed more Russian, more exotic, and then after the Revolution, of course, it became the capital and the center of Constructivism. The “Organic School” refers to a group of artists within the Russian avant-garde, largely based in St. Petersburg, whose approaches to artistic creation were more nature-centric and less technologically driven. Artists such as Nikolai Kulbin, Elena Guro, and Matiushin found inspiration as well as a model for artistic growth in the creative principles of nature. In the book, I focus on the artists’ holistic worldviews and organic approaches to art and analyze the artistic influences, intellectual foundations, and scientific publications that shaped the formation of their art works. (Isabelle Wünsche)

The series Science and the Arts since 1750 will include both edited volumes and monographs that explore the arts—painting and sculpture, drama, dance, architecture, design, photography, and popular culture materials–as they intersect with emergent scientific theories, agendas, and technologies, from any geographical area after 1750.

Barbara Larson Professor on Modern Art History, University of West Florida


What is the most popular activity in the UK? The answer may surprise you…

Going to church? Going to the cinema? Watching the football?

Visiting Libraries is the most popular activity in the UK

It is probably safe to say that Libraries have been in the news constantly over the last couple of years, but for all the wrong reasons… funding cuts, closures etc. So it is great to see some positive news coming from one of my favourite bloggers Ned Potter.

When someone tells you libraries are no longer relevant in the digital age, think again, and keep these stats in mind, that’s 536 visits per minute, just while you were reading this post.

At Ashgate we have always believed that libraries have a strong healthy future, which is one of the reasons why we are so proud of the library and information management books we publish. Here are some recent highlights or view our latest catalogue here.

PPCspine22mmDeveloping Community-Led Public Libraries by John Pateman and Ken Williment

‘If the Minister for Libraries seeks clarification on what exactly constitutes a comprehensive and efficient service he need look no further than this excellent book’ CILIP Update

View an extract here.

Pateman & Vincent casePublic Libraries and Social Justice by John Pateman and John Vincent

a well-researched and compelling account which should play an important role in the ongoing debate about the role and contribution of the public library service.’ CILIP Update

Pick up a copy here.

PPCspine22mmReading Groups, Libraries and Social Inclusion by Eileen Hyder

‘a welcome contribution to the growing body of qualitative and quantitative knowledge about blind people’s reading habits’

Publishing History

Look inside the book.

Linking Literacy PPC_AsselinLinking Literacy and Libraries in Global Communities by Marlene Asselin and Ray Doiron

‘a positive and inspiring contribution to the promotion of the value of libraries in building globally literate communities.’ Australian Library Journal

Purchase a copy

Sensible Religion? A Reflection by Dan Cohn-Sherbok

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Over the years, Ashgate has  been proud to publish important titles by celebrated authors and editors in the field of Theology. Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, editor of Sensible Religion alongside the Very Revd. Christopher Lewis, here reflects on what is required from Religion in order for it to hold personal significance. 

Several months ago I attended a retirement party for my co-editor, Christopher Lewis at Christ Church, Oxford. Christopher had been the Dean of the College, and a dinner was held in his honour. The former Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History was on our table. After dessert I told him about the book Christopher and I just published with Ashgate. ‘It’s called “Sensible Religion”‘, I said.

He leaned back in his chair and chortled. ‘That’s certainly an oxymoron.’

‘An oxymoron..?’

‘Religion isn’t sensible,’ he said. ‘It transcends ordinary experience. It’s about the supernatural. The stories in the Bible aren’t sensible. Moses parting the Red Sea; Jonah being swallowed by a whale; Jesus ascending into heaven. The 3rd century Church Father Tertullian said he believed in the resurrection because it is impossible.’

That was the end of an otherwise agreeable evening. But the Regius Professor was on the wrong track. What is needed today is not magic or fantasy or the irrational. Religion needs to make sense if it is to be relevant. It must appeal to the mind as well as the heart if it is to have significance in people’s lives.

Our book, which contains contributions from leading religious thinkers from across the world’s major traditions, explores the ways in which religion can enrich the lives of believers. The book is based on the conviction that rational, sensible and sensitive religious belief can be a major force for good in the modern world.

Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok is Professor Emeritus of Judaism at the University of Wales. His co-editor Christopher Lewis is Dean of Christ Church at the University of Oxford. Sensible Religion was published by Ashgate in September 2014.

Ashgate acquired by Informa


We announce that Ashgate Publishing has been acquired by Informa, owners of the academic publishing group Taylor & Francis. Over the last 48 years Ashgate has grown to become one of the leading publishers of academic monographs and reference works under the Ashgate imprint, and Gower continues to be a highly respected brand name in business and management books. Taylor & Francis, through its Routledge imprint, is a long established publisher with an excellent reputation and a strong commitment to the academic and professional fields in which Ashgate and Gower publish. Together, Taylor & Francis with Ashgate and Gower are now the largest academic book publisher worldwide in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

With its combined resources and expertise we see this as a positive move for all our authors and the academic and professional communities we serve.

Please continue to direct enquiries to your usual Ashgate and Gower contacts. A full list of contacts can be found on the Contact Us page.

About Informa: Informa is one of the world’s leading business intelligence, academic publishing, knowledge and events businesses, creating unique content and connectivity for customers all over the world. Taylor & Francis Group, the academic publishing division of Informa, publishes specialist academic books and journals. Taylor & Francis produce unique, trusted content by expert authors, spreading knowledge and promoting discovery globally. We aim to broaden thinking and advance understanding, providing academics and professionals with a platform to share ideas and realise their individual potential.

Sex, Gender and Society – A guest post from Ann Oakley

International Women’s Day is 104 years old, and my book, Sex, Gender and Society, is 43 years old. Both remind us that social definitions of what women can do remain restricted and oppressive; such definitions perpetuate the idea that human capabilities are always inherently limited by biology.

In 1972, when I wrote Sex, Gender and Society, there was little awareness of women’s rights, feminism had scarcely arrived (again, it had been here before!) and the term ‘gender’ in its modern usage hadn’t been invented. My modest little book went through the evidence about how societies variously define femininity and masculinity, and concluded that there’s enormous scope for all sorts of behaviours. The main limiting factor is how we think about the sexes, and how we impose on them expectations of gender. Doing the research for and writing that book was life-changing for me; I was a young academic in a field (sociology) which was intensely male-dominated and which mostly ignored women’s interests and activities. The anthropology, and psychology and medical science I scoured for the book opened my eyes to a much more inclusive world.

To my great surprise the book has enjoyed a long career on readings lists of many kinds. It is dated, of course: we know much more about sex and gender than we did then. But many of the old arguments still hang around – women are more emotional and less rational than men, they are less capable than men of physically and intellectually demanding jobs, they are more necessary in the home as child-rearers, and so on and so forth. We still need the evidence to oppose these ideas. Sex gender and society

This new edition has the original text tidied up and properly referenced, but it has not been substantially rewritten, because that would have meant a new book altogether. Sex, Gender and Society was a child of its time, a time that is not altogether in the past. A long new introduction looks at how some of the research has moved on, at some of the omissions in the original book (there was too much about heterosexuality, not enough about domestic violence). It’s still a modest little book, but the plight of women globally requires many like these to be written, read, and, most importantly, used as a basis for action.

Ann Oakley is Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the Social Science Research Unit at the Institute of Education, UK. The new revised edition of Ann Oakley’s Sex, Gender and Society is available in paperback, hardback and ebook formats from 5th March 2015.

Enhancing the Doctoral Experience: A Guide for Supervisors and Their International Students. Steve Hutchinson, Helen Lawrence, and Dave Filipović-Carter

This an excellent, thoughtfully-produced pragmatic guide to the very fine and complicated art of doctoral supervision across cultures, writes Casey Brienza.

This review originally appeared on the LSE Review of Books blog, and is reproduced here with permission. You can read the original post here.

Enhancing the doctoral experienceIt was with tremendous anticipation that I received Enhancing the Doctoral Experience: A Guide for Supervisors and Their International Students for review. My interests, personal and professional, in the subject are twofold: Firstly, I used to be an international student myself, and the first time I ever left my home country to study for a degree abroad was as an American undertaking a PhD at the University of Cambridge (which, my fellow Americans, is in England, not Massachusetts). Now, though, the shoe is on the other foot, and I hold a permanent academic post at a doctoral-granting institution in the United Kingdom, so supervising PhD students is a part of the job description. Would this book reflect truthfully upon my own experiences while shining an illuminating light upon an area of teaching for which, I am not afraid to admit, I feel woefully under-prepared for, in a system of higher education I still do not fully understand?

On the face of things, the authors of this book, Steve Hutchinson, Helen Lawrence, and Dave Filipović-Carter, do not seem to be the most ideally positioned to be writing anything authoritative on this topic. Although all three hold PhDs (in zoology, sociolinguistics, and international law, respectively), none of them supervise PhD students. However, they assert, in their careers as freelance development consultants to academics and other researchers, each has met thousands of international research students, many of whose studies were troubled by various aspects of their relationships with their doctoral supervisors. A book on the subject ought to be useful, they concluded. It would be difficult to disagree.

In fact, a modicum of distance from the day-to-day practice of doctoral supervision may have been an asset. Often, the things closest to us are the hardest to see with clarity. Drawing upon cognitive and managements theories and a diverse range of empirical data, including survey questionnaires, interviews with researchers at a range of career stages, and even, at times, just ‘asking a roomful of international research students to write a piece of advice on a sticky note for a new doctoral student from their own country,’ Enhancing the Doctoral Experience painstakingly deconstructs every conceivable aspect of interpersonal interaction between supervisor and supervisee likely to occur in the context of a British doctoral education. Applicable frameworks for relationship development and pragmatic advice for making it all work across cultures and potentially language barriers are then provided in abundance throughout.

The book is organized, roughly speaking, into thirteen chapters which can be further divided into five parts. The first introduces the UK doctorate and what makes it distinctive. The second explores international students’ motivations for wanting to do a doctorate in the UK and what they are likely to expect as a consequence. The third focuses on how to start off right and build an effective relationship with one’s student. The fourth consists of six chapters, one for each of the so-called ‘Dublin Descriptors’ of competencies that students who have completed a PhD must demonstrate at the end of their course. These chapters range widely, from advice about how to guide students through a review of the existing literature to working on public outreach and impact. The fifth and final section provides advice for preparing for the viva.

There are so many suggestions, visualizations, and practical exercises presented here about every conceivable angle of interaction between supervisor and student, at every stage of the relationship, that reading this book in one go to learn how to be a good (or better) supervisor, as I did, is probably not advisable. The amount of information might easily become overwhelming. Instead, the book’s greatest utility, in my view, is as a targeted how-to manual, to be consulted when running into trouble or, ideally, before one begins to tinker and fiddle with unfamiliar parts of the proverbial machine. The onus of effective doctoral education rests far more heavily on the shoulders of an individual supervisor in the British system than it does in some others, such as that of the United States, where it’s generally assumed to take a village—or an entire department of academic staff—to raise a PhD. There were all too many potential issues which, despite having been a UK PhD student myself, I probably would not have considered on my own as part of a supervisor’s remit.

In fact, the book’s greatest strength, its level of detail, is also its greatest weakness. Although the title does not make it explicit, it must be made absolutely clear: Enhancing the Doctoral Experience is about enhancing the doctoral experience in the UK,where doing a PhD is, with some exceptions, narrowly equated to doing an 80,000-word thesis. Thus, in spite of a wealth of material about advising international students in their writing and research, there was little, say, about advising international students about preparing for the next stage of their careers or applying for academic jobs. Not a word, even, on how to write good reference letters! I was also saddened by the authors’ seemingly unquestioned acceptance of the premise that the student would be paying hugely, either in actual cash terms, or through indirect opportunity costs, for their degree certificate and that part of the raison d’être for improving supervisory provision was providing better value for money. The authors’ default assumption seemed to be that these international students would come to the UK and then, upon receipt of their PhD, they would head back home. I speak from personal experience here: That ain’t always true.

Nevertheless, this an excellent, thoughtfully-produced pragmatic guide to the very fine and complicated art of doctoral supervision across cultures. Its focus on each and every conceivable aspect of the production of a thesis, in particular, is invaluable. I am sure that I will be returning to Enhancing the Doctoral Experience frequently in years to come for advice and tips on making the PhD process a successful and mutually beneficial endeavour. Recommended.

Casey Brienza is a sociologist and Lecturer in Publishing and Digital Media at City University London’s Department of Culture and Creative Industries. She holds a first degree from Mount Holyoke College, an MA in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University, and a PhD in Sociology from the University of Cambridge. Her doctoral thesis, titled ‘Domesticating Manga: Japanese Comics, American Publishing, and the Transnational Production of Culture,’ and is currently being revised into a book manuscript. Casey also has refereed articles in print or forthcoming in International Journal of Cultural Policy, Journal of Popular Culture, Studies in Comics, and more. She may be reached through her website.