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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Word Origins And How We Know Them

Monthly etymology gleanings for February 2015

One month is unlike another. Sometimes I receive many letters and many comments; then lean months may follow. February produced a good harvest (“February fill the dyke,” as they used to say), and I can glean a bagful. Perhaps I should choose a special title for my gleanings: “I Am All Ears” or something like it.

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9780195301731

Wilberforce University: a pioneering institution in African American education

What do opera singer Leontyne Price, activist Victoria Gray Adams, civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin, and Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson have in common? They all attended or graduated from Wilberforce University. Located outside of Dayton, Ohio, Wilberforce was the first institution of higher education to be owned and operated by African Americans.

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9780199374571

The important role of palatable food in eating disorders

When we hear the term “eating disorder,” we often think of the woman at our gym who looks unhealthily thin or maybe a friend who meticulously monitors each calorie he or she consumes. Though anorexia nervosa (marked by low weight and a strong fear of weight gain) is a serious and harmful mental illness with one of the highest mortality rates of any psychiatric illness, the reality is that the most common eating disorders are bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, both of which involve (and in fact, require for their diagnosis) binge eating.

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Inequality in democracies: interest groups and redistribution

We are by now more or less aware that income inequality in the US and in most of the rich OECD world is higher today than it was some 30 to 40 years ago. Despite varying interpretations of what led to this increase, the fact remains that inequality is exhibiting a persistent increase, which is robust to both expansionary and contractionary economic times. One might even say that it became a stylized fact of the developed world (amid some worthy exceptions). The question on everyone’s lips is how can a democracy result in rising inequality?

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Questions about India’s environment and economic growth

Must economic growth be privileged over ecological security? Jairam Ramesh argues that this is the wrong question to ask; the two work in concert, not in opposition, and a bright economic and political future requires a safe, protected environment. As India grows as a global power, the nation has become a leader in progressive environmental policies.

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Human Rights and European Law

Surrogacy: how the law develops in response to social change

In its recent decision in Mennesson v. France (App no. 65192/11), the Fifth Section of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that surrogate children—in this case, born in the US and having US citizenship—should not be prevented from registering as French citizens, as this would be a violation of their right to respect for their private life. The Strasbourg court’s view, which is very understandable, is that nationality is an important part of a person’s identity.

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Republicans 9780199936625

Andrew Johnson: a little man in a big job

If it were not for his impeachment on 24 February 1868, and the subsequent trial in the Senate that led to his acquittal, Andrew Johnson would probably reside among the faded nineteenth century presidents that only historical specialists now remember. Succeeding to the White House after the murder of Abraham Lincoln in April 1865, Johnson proved to be a presidential failure […]

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9780195301731

Mississippi hurting: lynching, murder, and the judge

Last week marked two important events in the unfinished story of southern racial violence. On February 10, the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative released Lynching in America, an unflinching report that documents 3,959 black victims of mob violence in twelve southern states between 1877 and 1950.

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The art of musical arrangements

‘I write arrangements, I’m sort of a wannabe composer’ – consciously or otherwise, these words from violinist Joshua Bell seem to give voice to the tension between these two interlocking musical activities. For arrangement and composition are interlocked, as composers throughout the ages have arranged, adapted, revised, and generally played free with musical compositions of all kinds (their own and other people’s) for reasons artistic, practical, or downright commercial.

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9780199686940

International copyright: What the public doesn’t know

Copyright these days is very high up on the agenda of politicians and the public at large. Some see copyright as a stumbling stone for the development of digital services and think it is outdated. They want to make consumers believe that copyright protection is to be blamed, when music or other ‘content’ is not available online, preferably for free. From Brussels we hear that ‘national copyright silos’ should be broken up, that the EU Internal Market is fragmented when it comes to copyright.

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Preparing for IBA and ICSID’s 18th Annual International Arbitration Day

The 18th Annual International Arbitration Day will take place 26-27 February 2015 at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC. A joint conference presented by the International Bar Association (IBA) Arbitration Committee and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), International Arbitration Day will gather lawyers and academics to look back on investment arbitration and discuss its future, a theme that coincides with ICSID’s 50th anniversary.

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9780198728573

Why has France banned surrogate motherhood?

Shortly after it emerged in the 1980s, surrogate motherhood was dealt a severe blow in France by a decision of the Cour de Cassation, its highest civil court: in 1991, it ruled that an agreement entered into by a woman to conceive, bear a child, and relinquish it at birth, albeit for altruistic reasons, was contrary to the public policy principle of unavailability of both the human body and civil status. This prohibition was confirmed in the Bioethics Act of 1994 and enshrined in the Civil Code as a regulation which is “a matter of public policy,” i.e. belonging to a category of mandatory rules created by the state to protect fundamental values of society and from which citizens have no freedom to derogate.

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Policing

Is Broadchurch a classic crime drama?

January saw the critically acclaimed and award winning Broadchurch return to our TV screens for a second series. There was a publicity blackout in an attempt to prevent spoilers or leaks; TV critics were not sent the usual preview DVDs. The opening episode sees Joe Miller plead not guilty to the murder of Danny Latimer, a shock as the previous season’s finale ended with his admission of guilt. The change of plea means that the programme shifts from police procedural to courtroom drama – both staples of the TV schedules. Witnesses have to give evidence, new information is revealed through cross-examination, and old scores settled by witnesses and barristers.

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Tetralogue

Trains of thought: Sarah

Four people with radically different outlooks on the world meet on a train and start talking about what they believe. Their conversation varies from cool logical reasoning to heated personal confrontation. Each starts off convinced that he or she is right, but then doubts creep in. During February, we will be posting a series of extracts that cover the viewpoints of all four characters in Tetralogue. What follows is an extract exploring Sarah’s perspective.

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9780190211561

The audience screams; people duck

Millions of Americans are eagerly anticipating this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. For over a century, motion pictures have been a dominant cultural and leisure medium. There are, however, two aspects worth highlighting: the sheer novelty of motion pictures and the medium’s initial democratic nature. Twenty-first century Americans have difficulty imagining the wonder and awe motion pictures inspired in the early 1900s.

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9780199982875

The neuroscience of cinema

Why do we flinch when Rocky takes a punch in Sylvester Stallone’s movies, duck when the jet careens towards the tower in Airplane, and tap our toes to the dance numbers in Chicago or Moulin Rouge? With this year’s Academy Awards upon us, we want to know what happens between your ears when you sit down in the theatre and the lights go out. Take a look at some of the ways our brains work when watching a movie—you may just find some of them to be all too familiar.

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