Category Archives: Events

The Disconnect – 26th May 2021

On Wednesday 26th May, we will discuss The Disconnect: A Personal Journey Through the Internet, by Roisin Kiberd. Freely available written and audio-visual resources are linked below. Regular attendee Mar will introduce the book to place these pieces in context, and enable anyone attending to hear about the work. You are welcome to attend to listen to the discussion even if you have not read any of the texts or listened to the audio-visual material.

This is an online event, which will be held from 7.30-9.30pm via Zoom. For Zoom details, which we keep private to group members, please contact us. Stroud Radical Reading Group events are free to attend. Please contact us about any accessibility requirements. We aim to make the sessions a welcoming space for anyone interested in the topic, you do not need to have a university education or have ever been to a reading group before, and we welcome people who have not read the text but would like to listen! Please contact us if you have any questions.

For this session, if you do not read the book, or are interested in additional material, please take a look at one or more of the below:

This event is the third and final in a series on digital technology. You don’t need to come have to the previous sessions on TechGnosis or Surveillance Capitalism to attend – but you may like to catch up a little via our write-ups of the sessions for Amplify Stroud.

“We all live online now: the line between the internet and IRL has become porous to the point of being meaningless. Roisin Kiberd knows this better than anyone. She has worked for tech startups and as the online voice of a cheese brand; she’s witnessed the bloated excesses of tech conferences and explored the strangest communities on the web. She has traced the ripples these hidden worlds have sent through our culture and politics, and experienced the disorienting effects on her own life. In these interlinked essays, she illuminates the subject with fierce clarity, revealing the ways we are more connected than ever before, and the disconnect this breeds. From the lure of the endless scroll, to the glamour of self-optimisation; from the cult of Energy Drinks to the nostalgic world of Vaporwave music; and from silicon town centres to dating tech bros, Kiberd explores the strange worlds, habits and people that have grown with the internet. She asks what we have gained, what we have lost, and what we have given willingly away in exchange for this connected life.”

– Publisher information (Serpent’s Tail)

Surveillance Capitalism (and How to Destroy It)

On Wednesday 28th April we will discuss Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff and How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism by Cory Doctorow. There are links to freely-available pieces we will focus our discussion on below. As ever, it’s great if people are able to read more of the book than the focus texts. Two people with present short introductions to both pieces to place the focus texts in context, and enable anyone attending to hear about the work. You are welcome to attend to listen to the discussion even if you have not read any of the texts.

This is an online event, which will be held from 7.30-9.30pm via Zoom. For Zoom details, which we keep private to group members, please contact us. Stroud Radical Reading Group events are free to attend. Please contact us about any accessibility requirements. We aim to make the sessions a welcoming space for anyone interested in the topic, you do not need to have a university education or have ever been to a reading group before, and we welcome people who have not read the text but would like to listen! Please contact us if you have any questions.

For the discussion, please read either or both of:

The Introduction to Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff.

How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism by Cory Doctorow. This ha been published in full online, freely available, by OneZero. The word count means it is auto-described as an 109 minute read (roughly two hours) Paperback and e-reader editions of the book, each with an extra print-only chapter, are now available — you can get a copy here.

If you’d like to read more, the full text of Surveillance Capitalism is available online as a free pdf here.

If you prefer to engage through audio/visual material, there are some options below:

Watch an interview with Shoshana Zuboff on Democracy now, in two parts (transcripts are available):

Part 1: “We Thought We Were Searching Google, But Google Was Searching Us

Part 2: “Big Tech Stole Our Data While Democracy Slept

You can listen to an interview with Cory Doctorow on the Srsly Wrng podcast – episode 220 – Stop Techno Dystopia!

There is a 50-minute documentary from Dutch broadcaster VPRO below, where “Zuboff takes the lid off Google and Facebook and reveals a merciless form of capitalism in which no natural resources, but the citizen itself, serves as a raw material” and deals with the questions “What is surveillance capitalism? How can citizens regain control of their data?”

This event is the second in a series on digital technology. You don’t need to come have to the previous session on TechGnosis to attend. You may also be interested in attending the third and final session on the 26th May, Roisin Kiberd’s The Disconnect: A Personal Journey Through the Internet.

31st March 2021: Techgnosis

On Wednesday 31st March we will discuss sections from TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information by Erik Davis. Download the chapters via the link below. As ever, it’s great if people are able to read more of the book than the focus text. Rupert Howe, a regular attendee who recommended the book, will introduce it for us and place the chapters we will discuss in context.

Download the focus chapters – the introduction and chapter 10 “Third Mind from the Sun” via the link below, or access the full book in pdf format.

This is an online event, which will be held from 7.30-9.30pm via Zoom. For Zoom details, which we keep private to group members, please contact us. Stroud Radical Reading Group events are free to attend. Please contact us about any accessibility requirements. We aim to make the sessions a welcoming space for anyone interested in the topic, you do not need to have a university education or have ever been to a reading group before, and we even welcome people who have not read the text but would like to listen! Please contact us if you have any questions.

You can buy second-hand copies from WorldOfBooks and Stroud Bookshop or the Yellow Lighted Bookshop will hopefully be able to order new copies in for you.

This event is the start of a series on digital technology. On the 28th April we will discuss Surveillance Capitalism (and How to Destroy It), and on the 26th May, Roisin Kiberd’s The Disconnect: A Personal Journey Through the Internet.

How does our fascination with technology intersect with the religious imagination? In TechGnosis—a cult classic now updated and reissued with a new afterword and a foreword by Eugene Thacker—Erik Davis argues that while the realms of the digital and the spiritual may seem worlds apart, esoteric and religious impulses have in fact always permeated (and sometimes inspired) technological communication. Davis uncovers startling connections between such seemingly disparate topics as electricity and alchemy; online roleplaying games and religious and occult practices; virtual reality and gnostic mythology; programming languages and Kabbalah. The final chapters address the apocalyptic dreams that haunt technology, providing vital historical context as well as new ways to think about a future defined by the mutant intermingling of mind and machine, nightmare and fantasy.

– From Erik Davis’ website

If you prefer to engage through audio, the author has a podcast, Expanding Mind, and though no episode is directly on TechGnosis or the focus chapters, there are several episodes that should be relevant:

24th February: Twilight of Democracy

On Wednesday 24th February, we will discuss “New Years Eve” and “How Demagogues Win” – the first two chapters of Anne Applebaum’s 2020 book “Twilight of Democracy”. Download the chapters via the link below. As ever, it’s great if people are able to read more of the book than the focus text, which we have picked primarily because it is freely available. Chas de Whalley, a regular attendee who recommended the book, will introduce it for us and place the chapters we will discuss in context.

This is an online event, which will be held from 7.30-9.30pm via Zoom. For Zoom details, which we keep private to group members, please contact us. Stroud Radical Reading Group events are free to attend. Please contact us about any accessibility requirements. We aim to make the sessions a welcoming space for anyone interested in the topic, you do not need to have a university education or have ever been to a reading group before, and we even welcome people who have not read the text but would like to listen! Please contact us if you have any questions.

Twilight of Democracy: The Failure of Politics and the Parting of Friends” (or, in the US “The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism“) discusses democratic decline and the rise of right-wing populist politics with authoritarian tendencies in Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States. You can buy Twilight of Democracy from Hive for £12.65 (reduced from £16.99) and Stroud Bookshop or the Yellow Lighted Bookshop will surely be able to order it in for you.

“When politics becomes polarized, which side do you back?

If you are a journalist, an intellectual, a civic leader, how do you deal with the re-emergence of authoritarian or nationalist ideas in your country?

When your leaders appropriate history, or pedal conspiracies, or eviscerate the media and the judiciary, do you go along with it?

Twilight of Democracy is an essay that combines the personal and the political in an original way and brings a fresh understanding to the dynamics of public life in Europe and America, both now and in the recent past.”

– From the Publisher’s webpage (Penguin Books)

If you prefer to engage through audio, you can listen to a 50 minute Talking Politics podcast with the author discussing the book. This looks at Poland, Trump and Brexit, Hungary and Spain – asking the questions “What explains the prevalence of conspiracy theories in contemporary politics? Why are so many conservatives drawn to the politics of despair? Is history really circular? And is democracy doomed?”

Anne Applebaum is the author of the 2004 Pullitzer Prize-winning “Gulag: A History”, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe” (2012), “Between East and West: Across the Borderlands of Europe” (1994), and “Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine” (2017). She is a historian and journalist (at one time on the editorial board of the Washington Post, she now writes for The Atlantic). She was born in America and has been a Polish citizen since 2013 (she is married to Radosław Sikorski, who has been Poland’s Defence Minister, and Foreign Minister).

27th January 2021: Holocaust Memorial Day – Silent Starry Night by Alain Brossat and Sylvia Klingberg

This is an online event, which will be held from 7.30-9.30pm on Wednesday 27th January, via Zoom. For Zoom details, which we keep private to group members, please contact us.

27 January marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) is held each year on this date. The theme for HMD 2021is “Be the light in the darkness” and it encourages everyone to take action to ‘be the light’.

We will discuss “Silent Starry Night” – Chapter 4 of Alain Brossat and Sylvia Klingberg’s Revolutionary Yiddishland. The chapter addresses “the image of the Jew in the face of Nazism that history has retained”, one “not that of the Resistance fighter but that of the victim”. It asks, and answers the following questions:Was there really a Jewish Resistance?
How was the action of the Yiddishland revolutionaries continued – or interrupted – by the war?
Did the figure of the Jewish combatant acquire a sufficient profile to stand against that of the victim and martyr who accepts his lot as the blow of fate?

Find out more about Revolutionary Yiddishland at the Verso website, where you can buy the full text at £6.99 paperbook+ebook (30% off at the moment). You can download chapter 4 via the link below, but you are encouraged to read more of the book if you are able.

Revolutionary Yiddishland - a history of Jewish Radicalism

November 25th: (B)Ordering Britain – Nadine El-ENany

Please join us online on November 25th, 7.30-9.30pm, to discuss “(B)Ordering Britain: Law, race and empire” by Nadine El-Enany. Register to access the free event via Eventbrite.

(B)ordering Britain argues that Britain is the spoils of empire, its immigration law is colonial violence and irregular immigration is anti-colonial resistance. The British Empire, about which Britons know little, can be remembered fondly as a moment of past glory, as a gift once given to the world. Meanwhile immigration laws are justified on the basis that they keep the undeserving hordes out.

Bordering Britain argues that – no matter what the law, media and political discourse dictate – people with personal, ancestral or geographical links to colonialism, or those existing under the weight of its legacy of race and racism, should have every right to come to Britain and take back what is theirs.

We will focus our discussion on the introduction to Bordering Britain – available free online (pdf) as a sample chapter from the publishers. You are welcome and encouraged to read more. The book is currently available from the publishers for £12 for the hardcover book (reduced from £20). You can also listen to the author, Nadine El-Enany, discussing the content and themes of the book with the Surviving Society podcast hosts (53 minutes), or read her blogpost, “Britain as the spoils of empire“.

You will need to register for the event via Eventbrite in order to access details of the video calls (this is free, will prevent any ‘trolling’ of calls, and enable reminders).

As ever, Stroud Radical Reading Group events are free to attend. Please contact us about any accessibility requirements. We aim to make the sessions a welcoming space for anyone interested in the topics. You do not need to have a university education or have ever been to a reading group before, and we even welcome people who have not read the text but would like to listen to the discussion. Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to know more about how the sessions are run. If you are on Facebook, please also join our Facebook group.

This book concludes our “Geographies and Histories of Racial Capitalism” series – but people are welcome to join if they have not attended previous events.

October 28th – “The Black Jacobins”

On October 28th we will discuss “The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo revolution” by C.L.R. James. The discussion will take place on a Zoom video call – please register (free) to access the details and be sent a reminder on the day.

In Black Jacobins, CLR James provides the definitive account of the Haitian Revolution of 1794-1803 and the story of the French colony of San Domingo. It is also the story of Toussaint L’Ouverture, who led the black people of San Domingo in a successful struggle against successive invasions by overwhelming French, Spanish, and English forces – helping to form the first independent nation in the Caribbean, and inspiring anti-colonial movements around the world.

The book obviously contains considerable references to the brutality of enslavement, and to racist ideas and commentary.

The full text of The Black Jacobins is available online for free in different formats. We encourage people to read the whole book, and as much as possible if not.

For those who know they will only have time for a section, our introducer Jeremy Green recommends Chapter 2 – The Owners. Click below to download Chaper 2 and introductory pages.

Black Jacobins as full text .pdf or .mobi files via link

This is the third session in our Geographies and Histories of Racial Capitalism series – but readers are welcome to join if they have not attended previous events.

September 30th 2020 – The Many-Headed Hydra

As part of our series of discussions exploring Geographies and Histories of Racial Capitalism (monthly online events till November 2020), on September 30th 2020 we discussed “The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, slaves, commoners, and the hidden history of the revolutionary Atlantic” by Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker.

Read a summary of The Many-Headed Hydra and our discussion on Amplify Stroud.

The full text of The Many-Headed Hydra is available online as a pdf, and as ever we encourage people to read as much of the book as possible.

We focussed our discussion on the Introduction and Chapter 6 – “The Outcasts of The Nations of The Earth” – download this section as a .doc text file.

Marshaling an impressive range of original research from archives in the Americas and Europe, the authors of The Many Headed Hydra explore the foundations of our modern global economy, and show how ordinary working people led dozens of rebellions on both sides of the North Atlantic. The rulers of the day called the multiethnic rebels a ‘hydra’ and brutally suppressed their risings, yet some of their ideas fueled the age of revolution. Others, hidden from history and recovered here, have much to teach us about our common humanity.

Chapter 6 explores the the “structure of New York’s commerce”, at a time of slavery and imperialism – part of what the authors call their recovery of a “lost history of the multiethnic class that was essential to the rise of capitalism and the modern, global economy”. As Sukhdev Sandhu writes in his 2001 review of the book for The Guardian: “A central chapter of the book is concerned with what came to be known as the New York Conspiracy. In March 1741, radicals set fire to New York. Fort George, the prime military fortification in British America, was reduced to ashes. Soon, other metropolitan landmarks were torched. These were no random conflagrations. Lying on the west side of Manhattan, Fort George was a site of huge strategic importance for the Atlantic trade and a nodal point of the Britain-Africa-Americas triangle. Slaves and slave products were imported there. It was also populated by a swarm of people whose labours underwrote the city’s wealth, but who themselves were wholly despised.”

The chapter places the events of 1741 in context of a cycle of “multiracial conspiracies” and rebellions of the 1730s and 1740s, and notes how repression of these led to the promotion of “a white identity” in order to “produce new discipline and a different solidarity”.

Content warning: this chapter includes an image of a painting entitled “The hanging of an African in New York”. The book as a whole features other images of this nature, as well as some graphic descriptions of (racist and/or sexual) violence, and quotes historical racist texts.

This event will be followed by two further discussions exploring Geographies and Histories of Racial Capitalism:

October 28th – “The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo revolution” by C.L.R. James

November 25th – “(B)Ordering Britain: Law, race and empire” by Nadine El-Enany.

Summer Fiction Reading: Flights by Olga Tokarczuk

Our Summer Fiction reading for 2020 is Flights by Olga Tokarczuk. The discussion will be held online on Wednesday 26th August.

We will meet to discuss the text from 7.30-9.30pm. Please register to access details of the video call via Eventbrite.

A member of our group, Dawid Majer, has selected Tokarczuk’s book Flights for us to read – and will introduce it. The book was originally published in Polish in 2007 – and, in English translation by Jennifer Croft, won the Man Booker International prize in 2018. For a brief introduction, this article covers Tokarczuk’s work. This article also covers the awarding of the 2019 Nobel prize for literature to Tokarczuk.

Another article covers Flights specifically, summarising: “In Flights, she meditates on travel and human anatomy, moving between stories including the Dutch anatomist who discovered the Achilles tendon when dissecting his own amputated leg, and the tale of Chopin’s heart as his sister transported it from Paris to Warsaw”.

decorative - cover of book

Geographies and Histories of Racial Capitalism. SRRG 2020 series 3

Between July 29th and November 25th, Stroud Radical Reading Group will host a series of discussions exploring Racial Capitalism. Each of these events will be held on the last Wednesday of the month, 7.30-9.30pm – online via video call (we will continue to assess when it may be appropriate to host indoor events). You will need to register for the events via Eventbrite in order to access details of the video calls (this is free, will prevent any ‘trolling’ of calls, and enable reminders).

As ever, Stroud Radical Reading Group events are free to attend. Please contact us about any accessibility requirements. We aim to make the sessions a welcoming space for anyone interested in the topics. You do not need to have a university education or have ever been to a reading group before, and we even welcome people who have not read the text but would like to listen to the discussion. Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to know more about how the sessions are run. If you are on Facebook, please also join our Facebook group.

July 29th – Geographies of Racial Capitalism with Ruth Wilson Gilmore

We will start this series by focussing our discussion not on a text but on a 17 minute Antipode Foundation film – “Geographies of Racial Capitalism with Ruth Wilson Gilmore”.

For those who wish to read a short text to accompany this video, we recommend “Black matters are spatial matters: Black geographies for the twenty-first century (pdf)” by Camilla Hawthorne. Referencing the work of Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and the Black Radical tradition, this paper explores how “scholars of Black Geographies insist that racism and capitalism are fundamentally intertwined and that this relationship is both structured by and structuring of space”.

September 30th – “The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, slaves, commoners, and the hidden history of the revolutionary Atlantic” by Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker

The expansion of trade and colonization in the early seventeenth century launched the first global economy, a vast, diverse, and landless workforce was born. These workers crossed national, ethnic, and racial boundaries, as they circulated around the Atlantic world on trade ships and slave ships, from England to Virginia, from Africa to Barbados, and from the Americas back to Europe.

Marshalling an impressive range of original research from archives in the Americas and Europe, the authors show how ordinary working people led dozens of rebellions on both sides of the North Atlantic. The rulers of the day called the multiethnic rebels a ‘hydra’ and brutally suppressed their risings, yet some of their ideas fuelled the age of revolution. The full text of The Many-Headed Hydra is available online as a pdf. We will focus our discussion on the Introduction and Chapter 6 – “The Outcasts of The Nations of The Earth”, but please read as much of the book beyond this as you are able to. For more details of the event: Many Headed Hydra.

October 28th – “The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo revolution” by C.L.R. James

CLR James provides the definitive account of the Haitian Revolution of 1794-1803 and the story of the French colony of San Domingo. It is also the story of Toussaint L’Ouverture, who led the black people of San Domingo in a successful struggle against successive invasions by overwhelming French, Spanish, and English forces – helping to form the first independent nation in the Caribbean, and inspiring anti-colonial movements around the world.

The full text of The Black Jacobins is available online as a “.mobi” ebook file. We encourage people to read the whole book, and as much as possible if not. More details of this event: The Black Jacobins. Download the intro and Chapter 2 as a pdf via the link below:

November 25th – “(B)Ordering Britain: Law, race and empire” by Nadine El-Enany.

(B)ordering Britain argues that Britain is the spoils of empire, its immigration law is colonial violence and irregular immigration is anti-colonial resistance. The British Empire, about which Britons know little, can be remembered fondly as a moment of past glory, as a gift once given to the world. Meanwhile immigration laws are justified on the basis that they keep the undeserving hordes out.

Bordering Britain argues that – no matter what the law, media and political discourse dictate – people with personal, ancestral or geographical links to colonialism, or those existing under the weight of its legacy of race and racism, should have every right to come to Britain and take back what is theirs.

We will focus our discussion on the introduction to Bordering Britain – available free online (pdf) as a sample chapter from the publishers. You are welcome and encouraged to read more, but we appreciate that the £20 price tag for the hardcover book (and sadly the e-book version as well) may be unaffordable – which is why the focus of our discussion will be on the freely available text.