The sub-title says it all. This is a book about the elites of Belle Epoque Paris, primarily about the cultural elites, but also about their patrons, high society, industrialists and fashion designers, and all those who made the headline contributions to that Paris which sticks in the popular imagination.
Harlem and the photograph share a long, closely entangled history. Photographic images of the riots that erupted in the neighbourhood in 1935 and 1943 helped to puncture the image of Harlem as a playground for white urban adventurers, and to raise in its place the spectre of a ‘no-go’ area, a district of Manhattan sealed off from direct encounter by whites.
In 2009, when Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ ‘Empire State of Mind’ dominated the charts and the airwaves, the chorus phrase ‘concrete jungle where dreams are made up, there’s nothing you can’t do’ conjured images of New York’s iconic skyline as well as its promise, embodying the sentiment that no other American – if not world - city captures the imagination quite like New York.
A stigma around the ill-defined genre of popular history lingers in the academy.
Towards the end of this fascinating study, Heather Shore reflects on the difficulty of ‘trying to uncover or reconstruct something that does not exist in a concrete form’ (p. 192). For Shore, the ‘underworld’ is a ‘cipher’, through which the press, the police, the government, and the wider society represents, and tries to understand, crime as a social problem.
Eli Rubin has written a wonderful book that does not just tell a fascinating story about an important but much neglected subject, but also manages to link this story to much broader historiographical, and indeed ontological, questions about the intersections between space, on one hand, and power, time and lived experience on the other.
The age of lesbian and gay, in which those were the dominant terms for homoeroticism and other things that seemed (sometimes arbitrarily) to be related to it, appears to be over.
Although most Americans take pride in being ‘a nation of immigrants’ (a slogan apparently popularized by John F. Kennedy), the process of immigration causes perennial controversy in the United States. That is true even in New York City, which would not exist without it, and which stars in many historical narratives of it.
‘Risen from the ruins and facing the future’ affirmed Johannes Becher’s emphatic opening strophe to the national anthem of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), composed in that state’s birthyear of 1949. It was a stirring message, and one that amply reflected the political imperative that had come to suffuse the material task of reconstruction after six years of devastating war.