Leiden International Studies Blog

Tips for the upcoming Winter break

Tips for the upcoming Winter break

What to read and watch this Winter holiday? According to good tradition, the International Studies Blog has collected tips from your lecturers.

While some of us would like to learn more about the dark times we are living, others mainly feel the need to soothe and nurture our souls. Every year, Judith Naeff collects recommendations from lecturers at the BA International Studies, to read, listen and watch over the holidays, catering to the diverse needs and interests of our students. Not enough tips in this list? You can find previous editions here, here, here and here.

*** Please consider ordering books at your local bookstore instead of webshops ***

McKenzie Wark, Capital Is Dead. Is This Something Worse? (London: Verzo, 2019)
Recommended by Frans Willem Korsten
This is already out for a couple of years but still too few people have read it. It is one of the best analyses of the current situation in which the laborer is no longer a central actor in the social forcefield, but all of us as, we are being mined by certain companies for the information they can sell. If this is production, what kind of production is it? And if we seem to be human, what kind of animal is that?

J.K. Rowling, The Christmas Pig, (Little Brown Books, 2021)
Recommended by Frans Willem Korsten
I come from Literary Studies where it is a no-go to cancel authors, for the simple reason that almost no-one would be left (for whatever reason from whatever side). And this is a wonderful so-called children's book (a silly qualification, but even silly qualifications have the right to exist). It takes us to a universe of things lost. I will not attempt to hint at the plot. Great read for the holidays, and an enormous reassurance for all those who have ever lost a valuable thing.

Geoffrey B. Robinson, The Killing Season: A History of the Indonesian Massacres, 1965-1966. (Princeton, 2018)
Recommended by Frans Willem Korsten
For those who have not seen Joshua Oppenheimer's film The Act of Killing this is the historical study that you are looking for to understand what happened in Indonesia in these horrific years. The silliest phrase that people can utter when they remember historical injustice is "So that we learn from what happened to avoid it happens again." People have never learned anything from history. It is better to look the beast in the eye, and remember those who were killed by it. Good medicin against Christmas's suffocating cosiness.


Louise Glück, Averno also translated into Dutch by Radna Fabias with the English original (De Arbeiderpers, 2021).
Recommended by Frans Willem Korsten
What would life be without poetry? Louise Glück died last October, got the Nobel Prize in 2020 (which does not say too much, many winners have been forgotten) and apart from these anecdotal reasons, she is a poet to familiarize yourself with. This is not poetry that wants to make an impression by its exuberant play with language. In fact, it does not want to make an impression at all. It's more like poetry you'd like to live with. Besides, for the young: this was a young poet once, now it is the voice of a dying generation. Or a generation that died. Perhaps read it together with grandma or granddad? Reading together is a joyful practice that is not practiced enough.

James Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name (Vintage, 1992).
Recommended by Frans Willem Korsten
One could read any book by Baldwin, I suppose, and perhaps some recently saw the movie If Beale Street Could Talk, based on a 1974 Baldwin novel. I read Baldwin as a teenager and student, and his voice and thoughts never left me. For those who believe in social change, Baldwin wrote about 50 years ago and presents analyses that could as well have been written today. For those who, with Christmas, adore the Little White God it is good exercise to converse during Christmas dinner about the loving Father White God and his role in the history of slavery and racism.


Yousef Srouji (dir.), Three promises (2023 - available via iTunes)
Recommended by Eftychia Mylona
The documentary provides us with insights on how a family experiences the second Indifada in the West Bank, Palestine. The son of the family, who is the director of the documentary, revisits the family's memories of that period, by following his mother's filming of their daily life. The documentary is very touching, funny, and heart-breaking at times, giving the experiences of the everyday under occupation.

Édouard Louis, Who killed my Father (New Directions, 2019)
Recommended by Eftychia Mylona
This is an autobiographical novel that at first might appear to be about the relationship of a father with his son and the family dramas around that, but there is more to that. Louis skillfully touches upon difficult issues in the French society, like homophobia, xenophobia and how the French government treats its working class. A well written and emotional account about France's contemporary society and its socioeconomic problems, linked to the aftermaths of its colonial past.

Justine Triet (dir.) Anatomy of a Fall (2023 – still screening in some Dutch cinemas, and available for streaming via Picl and Pathé Thuis)
Recommended by Hannah de Mulder
A man lies dead under the balcony of the family home. Did he commit suicide? Was he pushed by his wife? Interesting film about a disharmonious family which also nicely shows some of the issues that multilingual households face, as well as how important native speaker competence in the majority language is when you have to defend yourself in court…

Shahrnush Parsipur, Women without Men (trans. Faridoun Farrokh, Feminist Press, 2012) Adania Shibli, Minor Detail (trans. Elisabeth Jaquette, Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2023) or in Dutch: Een Klein Detail (trans. Djûke Poppinga, Jurgen Maas, 2023)
Recommended by Judith Naeff
The MENA reading group gathers informally on Zoom once or twice per semester. Last session we discussed the Persian classic Women without Men, first published in 1990. Written at a time when the promise of the 1979 revolution had been fully stifled, the book collects different stories on the female desire for liberation, an opening for change, and acquiescence in conformity. It was a book that surprised us in its form and plot, full of evocative imagery and the supernatural. For our next session, we will be reading Minor Detail, by the Palestinian author Adania Shibli. You can sign up by sending an email to j.a.naeff@hum.leidenuniv.nl and you will receive a doodle to set the date for our meeting in February.

Arthur Japin, The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi (London: Vintage, 2001) – Dutch original title: De Zwarte met het Witte Hart
Recommended by Nathaniël Linssen*
This book made a deep impression on me the first time I read it quite a few years ago. It’s the first novel by Arthur Japin and one of his most politically poignant works. Japin is generally easy to read, and his characters flawed and human. Main themes are enslavement of the mind and body, identity, racism & colonialism.

The women

Benjamin J.B. Lipscomb, The Women are up to Something: How Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch revolutionized ethics (Oxford UP, 2021)
Recommended by Nathaniël Linssen
This book is available digitally and in print in the library, and is on my reading list this winter. I’m familiar with some of these scholar’s individual work and am interested to read more about how they worked within such a male-dominated place (literally and figuratively). I expect to be inspired.

Thomas Mallon, Fellow Travellers (London: Vintage, 2008)
Recommended by Nathaniël Linssen
I’ve just started this novel by Thomas Mallon, and it will soon be available through the library as well. This is a political drama wherein the main characters have to navigate life and their relationship in a world controlled by McCarthyism, anti-lgtbtq+ ideology, and anticommunism, leading up to the enormous tragedy of the AIDS crisis. It has now been adapted into a television series of the same name.

Five podcasts on music and international politics

Judith Naeff collected five well researched and well narrated audio-documentaries at the intersection of music and international politics. Sit back with a warm blanket, or put on your headphones during a wholesome winter hike, and listen to these amazing stories (wherever you get your podcasts).

Dave Brubeck and the ambassadors of jazz – The Kitchen Sisters Present
In 1955, the United States sent its top musicians, including Louis Armstrong, overseas to promote democracy.

Mixtape Dakou

Mixtape: Dakou - Radiolab
Throughout the 1980s the vast majority of Chinese had never heard Western music. This podcast uncovers the story of scrap music cassettes that were illegally recovered from plastic recycling centres, transforming the musical landscape of China.

Lost Notes: 1980 - Ep. 5: Hugh Masekela & Miriam Makeba – Lost Notes
The revolutionary singer Miriam Makeba and musician Hugh Masekela were banned in South Africa. In 1980, they performed a legendary “Welcome Home” concert in Lesotho, a tiny land encircled by its border with South Africa.

Liberace and the Trinidad Tripoli Steelband – Lost and Found Sound & The Kitchen Sisters Present
This is the story of Trinidadian steel drum music’s rise to fame. The podcast also addresses the genre’s historical relation to oil companies in the region.

Soundtrack from the militant 70s: The revolutionary music of paredon records – Hope Dies Last with Ryan Harvey
The story of a grassroots record label that collected and distributed rare recordings of revolutionary songs from all over the world.

* Nathaniël Linssen is subject librarian for various programmes, including International Studies. Students and staff can approach him with library questions and acquisition requests (for the latter, fill in a request form).