Category Archives: Volume 10, no. 1 (2015)

An interview with Kristján Jóhannsson

NM. When thinking about Italy, one cannot avoid recalling one of its most characteristic contributions to the world’s culture and arts in particular, that is to say, Opera. And when thinking about Iceland and Opera, one cannot avoid recalling Iceland’s most celebrated tenor, Kristján Jóhannsson, who has recently returned to his native country after 30 years in Italy…

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A personal memoir by Róbert R. Spanó

I was born in 1972, my father being from Naples and my mother from Reykjavík. My childhood and adolescence were heavily influenced by the international nature of my family life. My parents spoke mainly English together, as well as Icelandic being spoken with my mother and Italian also sometimes in the mix, creating a linguistic melting pot which was my home. I have benefitted immensely from this linguistic heritage as I am quite adept at learning languages and speak several fluently.

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What is true? What is false?

In 1958, Harold Pinter wrote: “There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.” Upon receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005, he added: “I believe that these assertions still make sense […] As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?”

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Icelandic Journalists & the Question of Professionalism

The question whether journalism constitutes a profession or not has been widely discussed in the literature in recent decades without a definite conclusion. Indeed some suggest that much of the contradictory views on professionalism and the professionalization of journalism may be traced to the unclear meaning of the very term “professionalism” or “professionalization” (Nolan 2008). Thus it is possible to put simultaneously forth plausible arguments suggesting de-professionalization of journalism on the one hand, and further professionalization of journalism on the other, based on different interpretations of the term “professionalism”. The terms “professional” and “professionalism” can refer to different social phenomena in different contexts. Thus an ongoing professionalization of journalism can be taking place in one sense at the same time as de-professionalization in a different sense, and of course, these different trends can also be taking place simultaneously in different parts of the media environment (Nolan, 2008; Hallin&Mancini, 2004; Witschge&Nygren, 2009; Schudson, 2001). In determining an approach to the concept of a profession it is helpful to establish some general criteria, against which journalistic practice may be measured. In finding these criteria, guidelines are given by the discussion of traditional professions – doctors, lawyers – and on that basis some characteristics can been said to signify a profession. To what extent is the work of Icelandic journalists characterised by professionalism, and to what extent do they, as an occupational group, exhibit the features normally associated with professions? The following analysis suggests that Icelandic journalists fulfil many of the key conditions associated with professions and their development in recent decades has been one of increased professionalism. 

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Freedom of the Press – two concepts

In 1644 the debate for freedom of expression started in modern times thanks to John Milton’s Areopagitica, where he still argued about God in order to justify his quest for freedom. With the enlightenment God lost his unifying role for society and could no longer serve as justification. Two arguments were brought then forward to justify freedom of the press: One by the continental movement of the enlightenment; the other from within the movement of utilitarianism, and most influentially by John Stuart Mill. Both underlined the importance of truth; however, they differed in their understanding on what truth was good for. This difference in their arguments had a lasting impact on the debate on the limits of freedom of the press. 

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Free Speech, Freedom of the Press, and the Tapestry of Lies

This paper comprises the text of the invited lecture presented at the international conference, “Tjáningarfrelsi og félagsleg ábyrgð – Kenningar og útfærsla” (Freedom of Expression and Social Responsibility – Theory and Practice), held at the University of Akureyri on 29 September 2014 and arranged by the Media Studies program and the Faculty of Social Sciences. 

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Tamyko Ysa, Joan Colom, Adrià Albareda, Anna Ramon, Marina Carrión, & Lidia Segura, Governance of Addictions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014)

Humans have always used psychotropic substances and share a co-evolutionary bond with the plants that supply them. This is a delicate relationship and requires only a small shift in power for the harm to outweigh the possible benefits of use. In contemporary society such changes can stem from our innate addictive tendencies as well as from the profit-seeking of others.

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Monika Djerf-Pierre & Mats Ekström, A history of Swedish Broadcasting – Communicative ethos, genres and institutional change (Göteborg: Nordicom, 2013)

To write a book on the history of Swedish Broadcasting is an ambitious undertaking and many complicated questions arise as to which approach suits best the project and indeed how to define the subject matter itself. The editors of this volume, Ekström and Djer-Pierre, seem to have approached the task fully aware of its complications and argue convincingly in support for their chosen path.

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Zbigniew Wozniak, The Elderly in Social Policy. Towards a New Architecture of Gerontological Programmes (Development in Humanities, Volume 4, Lit Verlag, 2013)

This book seeks to lay out the issues surrounding ageing and care of the elderly in society, to examine the challenges this presents for future funding and to propose a new three-layered structural model for planning social policy relating to the elderly.

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Suzie Navot, The Constitution of Israel. A Contextual Analysis (Oxford and Portland, Oregon: Hart, 2014)

The central theme of Suzie Navot’s book, The Constitution of Israel. A Contextual Analysis, published by Hart Publishing, is the “work-in-progress” feature of the constitutional framework of the Israeli state. This is true in so far as the Knesset (one-chamber parliament having both constitutional and legislative power) has not yet established any unitary form to “basic laws” (pieces of fundamental laws ratified with a regular legislative procedure and called “basic” by the Parliament itself). 

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Stephen Hastings-King, Looking for the Proletariat: Socialisme ou Barbarie and the Problem of Worker Writing (Leiden: Brill, 2014)

As it is written in the acknowledgments, Looking for the Proletariat is based on a doctoral dissertation, which was discussed at Cornell University in 1999, fifteen years before the publication of the book. Then the author decided to deepen his research and make order, giving birth to a very interesting book. Stephen Hastings-King spent some years in Paris, where he had the privilege of meeting Cornelius Castoriadis, one of the most important representatives of the Socialisme ou Barbarie movement.

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Iván Siklósi, A nemlétez?, érvénytelen és hatálytalan jogügyletek elméleti és dogmatikai kérdései a római jogban és a modern jogokban, (Budapest: ELTE Eötvös Kiadó, 2014; with detailed summary in English)

The recently published book of Dr. Iván Siklósi, PhD, assistant professor of the Faculty of Law of the University “Eötvös Loránd”, is a precious contribution to the disputed dogmatical and terminological questions of inexistence, invalidity, and ineffectiveness of juridical acts (in this regard the terms “act in law”, “act in the law”, “juristic act”, “legal act”, and “legal transaction” are also used in English terminology) – in German: Rechtsgeschäft – in Roman law and in modern legal systems.

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Pia Guldager Bilde & Mark L. Lawall (eds.), Pottery, Peoples and Places. Study and Interpretation of Late Hellenistic Pottery (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2014)

Getting to know the past is never easy and the challenge is even more arduous when one faces prehistory or, as in this case, antiquity. Lack of material evidence, unevenness in its distribution, absence of or conflicting written sources are just some of the obstacles that historians and archaeologists must face.

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Pieter Bevelander & Bo Petersson (eds.), Crisis and Migration. Implications of the Eurozone Crisis for Perceptions, Politics, and Policies on Migration (Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2014)

Nordicum-Mediterraneum has been dealing extensively and repeatedly with the international economic crisis that still engulfs much of the world. It is therefore consistent with the editorial choices of the journal to include this review, which tackles a recent volume published by the Nordic Academic Press (NAP) dealing with both Nordic and Mediterranean scenarios and originating from a two-day conference organised in 2012 by Malmö University in cooperation with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for European History and Public Spheres.

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Sven-Olof Olsson (ed.), Managing Crises and De-globalization. Nordic foreign trade and exchange 1919-39 (New York: Routledge, 2014 pbk.)

Almost twenty years before the end of a remarkably long life and an extremely productive career, the Canadian-born economist John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) argued that one the of the decisive factors engendering severe financial crises, and a fortiori the economic crises resulting thereof, is “the shortness of public memory, especially when it contends with a euphoric desire to forget.” (“The 1929 Parallel“, The Atlantic Monthly, 1987) 

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Gaetano Roberto Buccola, Forme del centro. Percorsi analitici dal “Viaggio al centro della Terra” al nucleo dell’uomo (Palermo: Nuova Ipsa, 2013)

“The human being, whatever her creed or culture, tends toward individualisation or, in other words, differentiation from her fellow beings in order to retrieve her own exclusive place in the world, via an incessant process of movement towards the centre allowing her to approach more and more closely her own soul’s nucleus. The tendency to move towards the Self corresponds, especially in certain stages of human existence, to a lesser investment of psychic energy into the closest components of consciousness and a partial renunciation of the most superficial psychic parts.” (185)

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Lucy Grig & Gavin Kelly (eds.), Two Romes: Rome and Constantinople in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012)

The discovery of late antiquity – as a distinctive period and a cultural matrix of later developments – is one of the most important breakthroughs of recent historical scholarship. It seems justified to speak of a discovery rather than a rediscovery: although there are considerably older precedents for the identification of late antique phenomena, especially in art history, no holistic understanding of the period as a cultural world was achieved before the late twentieth century.

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David Emmanuel Singh (ed.), Jesus and the Resurrection: Reflections of Christians from Islamic Contexts (Oxford: Regnum Studies in Global Christianity, 2014)

Jesus and the Resurrection is part of a trilogy of books about Christian thought about the relationship between Christianity and Islam from the point of view of Christians in a Muslim context. The previous two volumes are not reviewed here and have not been read by this reader.

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Francesca Bregoli, Mediterranean Enlightenment. Livornese Jews, Tuscan Culture, and Eighteenth-Century Reform (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014)

Tuscany has a long history of Semitic presence within its territory. Phoenicians during the Etruscan times, Jews and Arabs as of the Middle Ages: they all have played a key-role in the political, economic and cultural history of Tuscany.

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Kári á Rógvi, West-Nordic Constitutional Judicial Review: A Comparative Study of Scandinavian Judicial Review and Judicial Reasoning (Copenhagen: Djøf Publishing, 2013)

West-Nordic Constitutional Judicial Review is based on Kári á Rógvi’s doctoral dissertation, defended in 2009 at the University of Iceland with the esteemed Eivind Smith and Guðmundur Alfreðsson as thesis opponents. It provides an excellent account of judicial review in the West-Nordic tradition (Norway, Denmark, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland) based on a selection of ‘leading cases, reminiscent of the common law approach to legal studies. As such, it is something of a novelty in the Nordic legal literature and a long overdue supplement to what Kári laments as the staid legal treatises that form the basis of Nordic legal educations (323-335).

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Marlene Laruelle, Russia’s Arctic Strategies and the Future of the Far North (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2014).

Of all the World‘s land that sits above the Arctic Circle, 40% is Russian territory. Half of the Arctic coastline is Russia. Three quarters of the Arctic‘s 4 million residents live in Russia, which hosts the two largest population centres, Murmansk and Norilsk (xxxi). The Russian Arctic produces 2/3 of all Arctic GDP (Arctic Human Development Report 2004, 75-76).

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Francesco Giacomantonio, Sociologia dell’agire politico (Rome: Studium, 2014)

One of the haunting themes of our time is the crisis of democratic politics in Western societies, marked by the decline of traditional political parties, the fading role of trade unions and workers’ organizations in the context of a globalized economy, the difficulty of grassroot movements to influence public institutions, and citizens’ increasing political apathy and disaffection for the electoral modes of democratic politics.

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Per Eliasson, KG Hammarlund, Erik Lund & Carsten Tage Nielson (eds.), Historie didatik i Norden: del 1, historiemetvetanda – historiebruk (Malmö & Halmstad: Malmö högskola and Högskolan i Halmstad, 2012)

The book is the product of a conference on the actual challenges for the discipline of history in Nordic classrooms entitled “Historisk kunnskap – ett begreb i forandring” [Historical knowledge – a concept in a change] at the 27th meeting of nordic historians in Tromsö, August 2011.

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Beyond the Cold-War Reprise of the Arctic Super-Powers. Decoding the Structural Meaning of the Ukrainian Crisis

The “Ukraine crisis” repeats a script as old as the Cold War, of which the Arctic was one of its main theatres and that, as suggested by Irina Zhilina in her 2013 study about NATO in the far north for issue 8(1) of Nordicum-Mediterraneum, could regain such a role, were frictions between East and West to resurface. And they have resurfaced. The ongoing Cold-War-like narrative vis-à-vis Ukraine features rising attacks by corporate states and media on the traditional whipping boy of Russia. As usual, “escalating the crisis” is the other Arctic super-power: the US. As usual, alarm about “increasing lawless aggression” is projection of US policy itself.

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The Unconscious and the Island: Fragments of Research on the Self

The churches began to rise high into the heaven. / In them the priests look towards the eternal light. / They preach the word of God, but many men are not able to understand it. / The heart is no longer heated. The wounds fail to heal. / Loneliness remains. There is no longer a priestess transmitting the sacred fire. / It became cold in the house of God. Men seek in vain for the fire / in order to warm up. / In individual despair begins.

[Brigitte Jacobs, Transformations and symbols of the great Cypride, in VV.AA., Agathodaimon, La Biblioteca di Vivarium, Italia 2002, p.51]

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A note on the forthcoming volume “Romanian – Moroccan Forms of Manifestation in the European Space”

The International Conference “Romanian – Moroccan Forms of Manifestation in the European Space”, was hosted by the Institute for Political Sciences and International Relations (as a project started under the patronage of the UNESCO European Federation for Associations, Centers and Clubs and the ALUMNUS UNESCO Club, whose President and Vice-President – Daniela Popescu and Mihaela Varga – honored the conference with their effective participation) on April 9th and 10th, 2014.

 

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