front cover of Machseh Lajesoumim
Machseh Lajesoumim
A Jewish Orphanage in the City of Leiden, 1890-1943
Jaap Focke
Amsterdam University Press, 2021
The Jewish Orphanage in Leiden was the last one of 8 such care homes to open its doors in The Netherlands before the Second World War. After spending almost 39 years in an old and utterly inadequate building in Leiden’s city centre, the inauguration in 1929 of a brand-new building, shown on the front cover, was the start of a remarkably productive and prosperous period. The building still stands there, proudly but sadly, to this day: the relatively happy period lasted less than 14 years. On Wednesday evening, 17th March 1943, the Leiden Police, under German instructions, closed down the Orphanage and delivered 50 children and 9 staff to the Leiden railway station, from where they were brought to Transit Camp Westerbork in the Northeast of the country. Two boys were released from Westerbork thanks to tireless efforts of a neighbour in Leiden; one young woman survived Auschwitz, and one young girl escaped to Palestine via Bergen-Belsen. The 55 others were deported to Sobibor, not one of them survived. Some 168 children lived in the new building at one time or another between August 1929 and March 1943. This book reconstructs life in the orphanage based on the many stories and photographs which they left us. It is dedicated to the memory of those who perished in the holocaust, but also to those who survived. Without them this book could not have been written.
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Making an Urban Public
Popular Claims to the City in Mexico, 1879-1932
Christina Jimenez
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019
Winner, 2019 CHOICE Awards Outstanding Academic Title

Written as a social history of urbanization and popular politics, this book reinserts “the public” and “the city” into current debates about citizenship, urban development, state regulation, and modernity in the turn of the century Mexico. Rooted in thousands of pages of written correspondence between city residents and local authorities, mostly with the city council of Morelia, the rhetoric and arguments of resident and city council dialogues often highlighted a person’s or group’s contributions to the public good, effectively positioning petitioners as deserving and contributing members of the urban public. Making an Urban Publictells the story of how Morelia’s residents—particular those from popular groups and poor circumstances—claimed (and often gained) Making basic rights to the city, including the right to both participate in and benefit from the city’s public spaces; its consumer and popular cultures; its modernized infrastructure and services; its rhetorical promises around good government and effective policing; its dense networks of community; and its countless opportunities for negotiating to forward one’s agenda, and its urban promise for a better life.
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Making Music in Music City
Conversations with Nashville Music Industry Professionals
John Markert
University of Tennessee Press, 2021

At least since the rise of the “Nashville sound” in the 1950s, Tennessee’s capital city has attracted numerous books and articles offering insight into the celebrity machine known as Music City. But behind the artist in the limelight are a host of support personnel and contributors who shape the artist’s music. Of these myriad occupations within the music industry, only two have received significant attention: executives at the major labels and elite songwriters who have forged a path to the top of the charts. In Making Music in Music City, sociologist John Markert compiles and assesses more than one hundred interviews with industry professionals whose roles have been less often examined: producers, publishers, songwriters, management, studio musicians, and more.

The book naturally pivots around the country music industry but also discusses Nashville’s role in other forms of modern music, such as rock, Christian, and rap. Markert’s in-depth interviews with key music professionals provide a fresh perspective on the roles of critical players in Nashville’s music industry. This book sheds light not only on the complexities of the industry and the occupational changes taking place but on the critical role of those who work behind the scenes to shape the music that ultimately reaches the public.

Through firsthand accounts, Making Music in Music City analyzes just what it takes to create, produce, and disseminate the Nashville sound.

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Master Plans and Minor Acts
Repairing the City in Post-Genocide Rwanda
Shakirah E. Hudani
University of Chicago Press, 2024
An examination of planning, place, and the politics of repair in post-genocide Rwanda.

Master Plans and Minor Acts examines a “material politics of repair” in post-genocide Rwanda, where in a country saturated with deep historical memory, spatial master planning aims to drastically redesign urban spaces. How is the post-conflict city reconstituted through the work of such planning, and with what effects for material repair and social conciliation?

Through extended ethnographic and qualitative research in Rwanda in the decades after the genocide of 1994, this book questions how repair after conflict is realized amidst large-scale urban transformation. Bridging African studies, urban studies, and human geography in its scope, this work ties Rwanda’s transformation to contexts of urban change in other post-conflict spaces, bringing to the fore critical questions about the ethics of planning in such complex geographies. 
 
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Mediators
Aesthetics, Politics, and the City
Reinhold Martin
University of Minnesota Press, 2014
Reinhold Martin’s Mediators is a series of linked meditations on the globalized city. Focusing on infrastructural, technical, and social systems, Martin explores how the aesthetics and the political economy of cities overlap and interact. He discusses a range of subjects, including the architecture of finance written into urban policy, regimes of enumeration that remix city and country, fictional ecologies that rewrite biopolitics, the ruins of socialism strewn amid the transnational commons, and memories of revolution stored in everyday urban hardware. For Martin, these mediators—the objects, processes, and imaginaries from which these phenomena emerge—serve to explain disparate fragments of a global urbanity.

Forerunners: Ideas First is a thought-in-process series of breakthrough digital publications. Written between fresh ideas and finished books, Forerunners draws on scholarly work initiated in notable blogs, social media, conference plenaries, journal articles, and the synergy of academic exchange. This is gray literature publishing: where intense thinking, change, and speculation take place in scholarship.
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The Message of the City
Dawn Powell’s New York Novels, 1925–1962
Patricia E. Palermo
Ohio University Press, 2016

Dawn Powell was a gifted satirist who moved in the same circles as Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway, renowned editor Maxwell Perkins, and other midcentury New York luminaries. Her many novels are typically divided into two groups: those dealing with her native Ohio and those set in New York. “From the moment she left behind her harsh upbringing in Mount Gilead, Ohio, and arrived in Manhattan, in 1918, she dove into city life with an outlander’s anthropological zeal,” reads a recent New Yorker piece about Powell, and it is those New York novels that built her reputation for scouring wit and social observation.

In this critical biography and study of the New York novels, Patricia Palermo reminds us how Powell earned a place in the national literary establishment and East Coast social scene. Though Powell’s prolific output has been out of print for most of the past few decades, a revival is under way: the Library of America, touting her as a “rediscovered American comic genius,” released her collected novels, and in 2015 she was posthumously inducted into the New York State Writer’s Hall of Fame.

Engaging and erudite, The Message of the City fills a major gap in in the story of a long-overlooked literary great. Palermo places Powell in cultural and historical context and, drawing on her diaries, reveals the real-life inspirations for some of her most delicious satire.

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Metamorphoses of the City
Pierre Manent
Harvard University Press, 2013

What is the best way to govern ourselves? The history of the West has been shaped by the struggle to answer this question, according to Pierre Manent. A major achievement by one of Europe's most influential political philosophers, Metamorphoses of the City is a sweeping interpretation of Europe's ambition since ancient times to generate ever better forms of collective self-government, and a reflection on what it means to be modern.

Manent's genealogy of the nation-state begins with the Greek city-state, the polis. With its creation, humans ceased to organize themselves solely by family and kinship systems and instead began to live politically. Eventually, as the polis exhausted its possibilities in warfare and civil strife, cities evolved into empires, epitomized by Rome, and empires in turn gave way to the universal Catholic Church and finally the nation-state. Through readings of Aristotle, Augustine, Montaigne, and others, Manent charts an intellectual history of these political forms, allowing us to see that the dynamic of competition among them is a central force in the evolution of Western civilization.

Scarred by the legacy of world wars, submerged in an increasingly technical transnational bureaucracy, indecisive in the face of proliferating crises of representative democracy, the European nation-state, Manent says, is nearing the end of its line. What new metamorphosis of the city will supplant it remains to be seen.

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Modern Melbourne
City and Site of Nature and Culture
Rod Giblett
Intellect Books, 2020
Melbourne, founded in 1835 among marshes and beside a sluggish stream, grew from wetlands into a world-class modern city. Drawing on a wide range of historical, literary, and artistic sources, this book explores the cultural and environmental history of the city and its site. Tracing the city from its swampy beginnings in a squatter’s settlement nestled in the marshy delta of the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers, Rod Giblett illuminates Melbourne through its visible structures and the invisible history of its site.
 
It places Melbourne within an international context by comparing and contrasting it to other cities built on or beside wetlands, including London, New York, Paris, Los Angeles, and Toronto. Further, it is the first book to apply the work of European thinkers and writers on modernity and the modern city—such as Walter Benjamin and Peter Sloterdijk—to an analysis of Melbourne. Giblett considers the intertwining of nature and culture, people and place, and cities and wetlands in this bioregional and ecocultural analysis. Placing the city in its proper bioregional and international contexts, Modern Melbourne provides a rich historical analysis of the cultural capital of Australia.
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My Kind of City
Collected Essays of Hank Dittmar
Hank Dittmar
Island Press, 2019
"Hank lived by the credo 'first listen, then design.'"
—Scott Bernstein, Founder and Chief Strategy + Innovation Officer, Center for Neighborhood Technology
 
Hank Dittmar was a globally recognized urban planner, advocate, and policy advisor. He wrote extensively on a wide range of topics, including architectural criticism, community planning, and transportation policy over his long and storied career.
 
In My Kind of City, Dittmar has organized his selected writings into ten sections with original introductions. His observations range on scale from local ("My Favorite Street: Seven Dials, Covent Garden, London") to national ("Post Truth Architecture in the Age of Trump") and global ("Architects are Critical to Adapting our Cities to Climate Change"). Andrés Duany writes of Hank in the book foreword, "He has continued to search for ways to engage place, community and history in order to avoid the tempting formalism of plans."
 
The range of topics covered in My Kind of City reflects the breadth of Dittmar's experience in working for better cities for people. Common themes emerge in the engaging prose including Dittmar's belief that improving our cities should not be left to the "experts"; his appreciation for the beautiful and the messy; and his rare combination of deep expertise and modesty. As Lynn Richards, CEO of Congress for the New Urbanism expresses in the preface, "Hank's writing is smart without being elitist, witty and poetic, succinct and often surprising."

My Kind of City captures a visionary planner's spirit, eye for beauty, and love for the places where we live.
 
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