“The one things happen to”: Robert Launay & Noura Erakat

June 9th, 2019


At the top of this episode, poet and translator Peter Filkins describes the Seminary Co-op as a Borgesian labyrinth, in reference to Jorge Luis Borges' purposefully disorienting literary landscapes. Borges' Labyrinths comes up again in conversation with the Co-op's Mark Loeffler and Northwestern University Professor of Anthropology Robert Launay, whose most recent book,
Savages, Romans, and Despots: Thinking about Others from Montaigne to Herder helps situate historically how early modern Europeans saw themselves in relation to the ancient world. Launay helps us find our way as we approach the past as interlocutor in the pages of his Selected Bibliography.

Palestinian American human rights attorney and Assistant Professor at George Mason University Noura Erakat discusses Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine, with Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago, Darryl Li, May 14, 2019 at the Co-op, offering a new approach to understanding the Palestinian struggle for freedom, told through the power and control of international law. And the midst of this recording, we hear from peace activist and a founding member of the joint Israeli-Palestininian movement Ta'ayush, David Shulman, whose book Freedom and Despair offers vivid firsthand reports from the occupied West Bank in Palestine and who we’ll hear from in the midst of this recording, live from the Co-op this spring.

All this talk of labyrinths got us in the mood to lose and find ourselves (or at least a new book) in the stacks of the Co-op. Hear booksellers share their serendipitous discoveries while wandering (i.e., shelving) on this episode, including Co-op Manager Adam Sonderberg, who recalls eying the above edition of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow on his father's shelf. The blurb, says Sonderberg, "is a tasty piece of hyperbole that would/could/should make any kid curious." Let us know what books you've happened upon of late by writing to us at podcast@semcoop.com.

And speaking of boundlessness, “we know that the most important things in the world are beyond measure,” writes Co-op Director Jeff Deutsch in this year's annual letter to the Co-op community, “On Measure.” But in our over-quantified age, the urge to justify with numbers is all around us, literally. Co-op Assistant Manager Alena Jones and Colin measure up to the Front Table for a look at new releases that help put us on the map. And Bookseller Mark suggests a return to classics on the emergence of temporal measurements, such as David S. Landes's Revolution in Time and Jacques Le Goff's Time, Work, and Culture in the Middle Ages.

Open Stacks will be taking a brief summer break and invite you to revisit past episodes of the podcast wherever you might wander this summer. Booksellers Bryce and Thulasi recommend episode #11 with biologist Lee Alan Dugatkin on How to Tame a Fox and, more recently, classicist Edith Hall on Aristotle’s Way, respectively. And special, heartfelt thanks to our longtime producer Imani Jackson (above), who we said goodbye to this month, but not before gently coercing her to step up to the microphone and share her thoughts on her favorite episode of the past season, with Marcia Bjornerud on Timefulness.

Still curious yourself? Subscribe to our weekly email newsletter and find each week's Front Table at semcoop.com/blog