International Development Planning Review 39.2 Featured Article

Posted on June 09, 2017 by Megan Ainsworth

The editors of IDPR have selected “Compulsory land acquisition for urban expansion: livelihood reconstruction after land loss in Hue’s peri-urban areas, Central Vietnam” by Phuc Nguyen, August van Westen & Annelies Zoomers as the Featured Article for the latest issue. It will be free to access for a limited time. You can access the article here

When asked to describe the paper, and highlight its importance, August van Westen stated the following:

This study should be seen against the backdrop of the massive urban expansion taking place across the globe. Urbanisation may offer some opportunities for poverty alleviation and service access, but also imposes challenges, some of which receiving little attention. While recent years have seen something of a hype about ‘land grabbing’ in rural settings, when investors in agribusiness take over lands so far used by local smallholders and pastoralists, it is often overlooked that urban expansion is another major source of land loss by established populations that often dependent on the resource for their livelihoods. Vietnam is a case in point. Due to its socialist orientation, land is publicly owned, with the state as the guardian of the interests of the people. In principle this should facilitate fair and equitable compensation of land loss, but in fact state control over land may actually undermine compensation for smallholders loosing land to urban uses. This because compensation does not cover ‘property’, but is limited to an appraisal of use values. This being said, a considerable share of peri-urban households from whom land had been taken had quite successfully reconstructed livelihoods. This was possible thanks to the economic dynamism of the economy of Vietnam, and the locality of the study, Hué. However, moving into alternative livelihoods is a selective process favouring younger, better educated people and those with useful social networks – researched here in terms of livelihood assets. The downside is that older, less healthy people and those without poor in marketable skills and connections have become the victims of urban land conversion. The key policy problem, we conclude, is that compensation focuses on land loss, and not on what is the real issue: compensating for loss of livelihoods.

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How Battles Over Booze Shaped Modern Liverpool - In Conversation with David Beckingham

Posted on June 07, 2017 by Heather Gallagher

How did Liverpool transform its 19th century reputation for drunkenness? David Beckingham, author of The Licensed City explains the social impact of licensing laws in a city centred on drinking culture. 



What made you decide to study Liverpool and what did you focus on in your research?

For much of the nineteenth century, Liverpool enjoyed a terrible reputation for drunkenness. According to police statistics it was at various times the most drunken city in England. At its peak in the 1870s, there was something like 20,000 annual police proceedings for drunkenness. I was interested to find out more about why Liverpool looked so at odds with other cities. 

I began by considering the role of numbers in constructing municipal reputations. I was cautious of these numbers, aware that they were counting incidents of policing and not every act of consuming alcohol. But I wanted to know what that record said about Victorian Liverpool, a city whose civic ambitions betrayed a series of social anxieties. 

This meant asking why the authorities in Liverpool thought that the city had such a drink problem. Because policing reflecting anxieties about largely public behaviours, I started to consider the role that drink played in the social and street life of the city. This took me on a kind of archive tour of the docksides, the slums of north Liverpool, the mercantile heart around the Town Hall, and the theatre land of Williamson Square. I focus on the regulatory mechanism for controlling the sale of alcohol through pubs. This is the licensed city of my title, a city where regulators were keen to address the links between drink and a range of social problems.


How did you go about your research for this book? Were you surprised by any of your findings?

My book grew out of a PhD in Geography. Most of my research was done in Liverpool’s Central Library, where I read the minute books of the Council, Watch Committee (which was in charge of policing) and magistrates. Newspapers were also fantastically useful. I particularly liked reading old satirical papers like Porcupine. They provide a very different angle on the sometimes rather dry tone of official minute books and, even through their criticisms, revealed the sense of civic pride and identity so central to social reform. 

The archives also have some wonderful temperance material, produced by reformers campaigning against drink. This included an amazing set of maps of pubs in different parts of town, which are reprinted in the book. Being trained as a geographer, I was interested to think about what kind of political work was done by representing information in this way. They show us how tempting it can be to construct reductive moral arguments about people and places. 

I really wanted to learn about the cultures of Liverpool’s pubs. We know what they looked like: plans formed part of the licensing process and there are plenty of street photographs that reflect changing branding and design. Liverpool still has some famous examples of pubs from the period. I tried to imagine what they would have sounded like as people talked over their beer about their daily concerns. The written records aren’t really set up for that, of course. Things were usually recorded when they went wrong, but by understanding this it is still possible to glimpse daily life. 

Most surprising, to me, was just how detailed these records could be. They show magistrates manipulating the layout of pubs, doing away with screens or doors to cosy corners where people could get up to mischief. My favourite examples come from cases where publicans were tasked with managing women who were reputed to be prostitutes. The law didn’t ban women from seeking liquid refreshment, but it asked that they stay no longer than was necessary for ‘reasonable refreshment’. Importantly, it didn’t spell out how long this was. One London Road publican was told that if he spotted a known prostitute she should not be allowed to stay on his premises for longer than four minutes. The obvious concern was to prevent pubs being used by prostitutes to solicit for sex. To me it conjures up an image of the pub’s staff lining up clocks along the bar. I can’t imagine the magistrates’ intention was to endorse speed drinking, but this tells us a lot about their priorities. It has been really instructive to see just how these gendered moral codes ran right the way down through the social life of the city.


Photograph courtesy of Colin Wilkinson at Blue Coat Press


Why did alcohol become such a pressing political issue in the nineteenth century?

In a way, that concern with prostitution helps explain something very important about drink. It intersected with such a broad range of social issues and policy arenas, right the way from labour productivity and criminality through to health and housing reform. 

It is clear to me that the problem of prostitution played a particular role in politicising the management of pubs in Liverpool, in no small part because of the political clout of some of the city’s brewers. This helped turn drink from a question of individual moral responsibility into a collective question about the city’s management to be challenged through the ballot box.

Nationally, the growth of the temperance movement also reflects a distinctive feature of drink: it made really very tangible an important and unresolved debate about the rights and reach of the state to govern individual behaviours. This is really what got me interested in drink in the first place. It is a great case study for understanding the developing governance of everyday life in Victorian Britain.


To what extent did you find that reforming licensing laws tackled the social issues that Liverpool was facing in the nineteenth century?

That’s a really important question. It is wrong to assume that the broader social changes I narrate were all down to licensing. Licensing has to be seen alongside other reforms such as slum clearance, as well as changes in prosperity and social attitudes to drink. But that’s the interesting thing about drink: it links to so many other features of urban life. The magistrates reduced the numbers of licences, particularly beerhouses in the working-class parts of town, and they really did try to address what went on in pubs. They also learnt how to use licensing to shape the world beyond the pub. In that, they showed that licensing was a useful tool of social governance, and the argument I make is that this was often directed at behaviours other than simply drinking. 

It would also be wrong to see any successes as all their own work, however: I place great emphasis on the campaigns of social reformers. They were central to the definition of particular behaviours as problems that required intervention. For me the most telling thing is that reformers thought that licensing was working. This fed into a really useful political narrative that their social action was helping transform how their city was run. That takes us full circle back to the idea of reputation.


For more information on The Licensed City please visit our website.
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'I Find His Letters Startling for Their Immediacy and Power' - Madeleine Callaghan Discusses the Life and Art of Percy Bysshe Shelley

Posted on June 06, 2017 by Heather Gallagher

To celebrate the release of Shelley's Living Artistry, author Madeleine Callaghan discusses the life of Percy Bysshe Shelley and the shifting relationship between the poet's art and life. 



Out of all of the Romantic poets, what was it about Shelley in particular that attracted you to writing a book on his life and work?

I chose to write about Shelley because the relationship between his life and his work intrigued me for the complex but compelling relationship between the two. This isn’t to say that other Romantic poets don’t have similar preoccupations, but I find Shelley’s poetry and drama to reveal a serious and self-conscious approach to the question of how the poet and the man co-exist in the work. Throughout Shelley’s career, moral judgements of his worth as a man (often owing to his atheism) had informed the way his work was treated, and continued after his death. When I began working on Shelley, I realised that as much as I wanted to ignore biographical fact in favour of some sort of pursuit of ‘pure’ art, I was doing the poetry a disservice. Shelley was profoundly interested in the ‘I’, the personal self and the poetic self, and this book is an attempt to think about the complexity of how the ‘I’ works in Shelley’s poetry, drama, and letters.


To what extent did the events in Shelley’s life influence his work?

One of the things that became increasingly clear to me was that there was no cause and effect, no simple correlation to be drawn, when considering the poetry and drama. ‘The poet & the man’, Shelley wrote to the Gisbornes in July 1821, ‘are two different natures: though they exist together they may be unconscious of each other, & incapable of deciding upon each other’s powers & effects by any reflex act’ (Letters: PBS II, p. 310). Shelley’s subtlety was such that he did not create any protagonists that would operate only as proxies for the poet, but he never feigned complete distance, forcing his readers to think hard about how to understand the relationship between biographical events and the imaginative work in a more universal than specific way: to think about the Shelleyan ‘I’ opens up avenues for thinking about the operations of the self in poetry. Epipsychidion is one of the best examples of this, where what can seem like personal joy and pain is raised into a far more literary and distanced form of expression by his allusions to Dante. But the personal is absolutely significant to the poetry, and what Shelley’s work shows us is the complexity of how life influences art. His work offers no simple model of how life and art interact that we can extrapolate. Instead, we are forced to think anew about how the poet and the man are connected.


Do you believe poetry needs biographical context to be fully understood?

That’s a difficult question, as every poem, or indeed any literary work is unique. I don’t think I can agree because I don’t believe any work can be ‘fully understood’ (as Shelley’s Defence of Poetry insists). I’m also loath to prescribe a single way of reading poetry that pretends as if it were true for every artist. Shakespeare’s work is not damaged by our scant knowledge of his life, and one of the speakers in Yeats’s  ‘Ego Dominus Tuus’ says of Keats that ‘His art is happy, but who knows his mind?’ Biographical context and its importance vary from poet to poet. This is why I chose to consider Shelley’s life through the lens of his letters. By setting letters side by side with cognate poems, as one weaves backwards and forwards between the two, I try to reveal Shelley's characteristic ways of ‘writing the self’, and to arrive at a more considered judgement about his achievement in both forms of expression.


Was there anything that you discovered in the letters that was particularly surprising or shocking?

The most striking things were the quality of the letters, the depth of Shelley’s friendships, and the change of how he treated letters from his early to his later years. Shelley’s early letters to Elizabeth Hitchener are wonderfully alive, where his intellect and emotions seem to combine almost to overwhelm a reader. After their connection failed, though, he never seemed to write letters with the same intensity. Keats’s luminous letters are born out of necessity. His surviving brother moved to America; his sister lived too far away to see with any regularity; Fanny Brawne and Keats never lived together. These factors forced Keats to become a letter-writer of such distinction. But Shelley lived with Mary, was in regular communication with stimulating friends, and had long lost contact with his family by the time of his death. His letters do not and cannot reveal the same range simply because they did not need to do so. Yet Shelley’s letters are intimately connected with his poetry, and I find his letters startling for their immediacy and power, and the insights they give into the way he thinks about his art.


As well as the poet’s life influencing their work, do you believe that poetry and art shape the writer?

Absolutely. I have always admired Paul de Man’s insight in ‘Autobiography as Defacement’ that this is the case, and I think the interaction between life and art is deeply enigmatic, for poet as well as critic. Poets are never tied to what is, as art always slips beyond the grasp of any neat critical summary of its power. Auden calls poetry ‘a way of happening, a mouth’, and perhaps that’s the closest we can come to understanding the possibilities of poetry.  


What is meant by the poet participating in the ‘eternal, the infinite and the one’?

In an early letter to Elizabeth Hitchener, Shelley wrote: ‘I have considered it in every possible light & reason tells me that death is the boundary of the life of man. Yet I feel, I believe the direct contrary. The senses are the only inlets of knowledge, & there is an inward sense that has persuaded me of this’ (Letters: PBS I. p. 150). Afterlife and eternity were a career-long fascination for Shelley, and he was keen not to be consigned to mortal, ephemeral life, but to write for futurity with an eye to eternity. For Shelley, as for Plato, eternity is defined as far different from the everlastingness of the sempiternal. It is an elsewhere unknowable to mortals, but one that remains vital to humanity, and Shelley, though unable to experience it, would not simply ignore it. This is part of the challenge of Shelley’s poetry, not only to the reader, but also to himself.


How much was Shelley influenced by the society around him?

I’m not sure I’d use the phrase ‘influenced by’. I’d prefer to call it ‘responsive to’. Like everyone, Shelley was a product of the society in which he lived, but what is striking is how far he attempted to behave as more than simply that. Shelley wasn’t content to think only of the present tense in which he lived, but he desperately wanted to improve it in his eyes by trying to inspire people to reject the conditions in which they lived. The Mask of Anarchy, Queen Mab, and so many other great poems are clearly attempting to speak to an audience, but they are more than reactive. For Shelley, the poet moved between being a prophet and a legislator, or to rephrase, between having their eyes trained on the world beyond or an improved version of this one and working to change society. The privilege, for anyone reading Shelley, is to see a poet deeply invested in the world even as he aims to get beyond it, because this tension is what creates some of his most magnificent poetry.


For more information on Shelley's Living Artistry, please visit our website.

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The Significance of the IRA in Britain, in conversation with Gerard Patrick Noonan

Posted on May 31, 2017 by Anthony Cond

To celebrate the release of The IRA in Britain 1919-1923, Gerard Patrick Noonan discusses the significance of the IRA’s terrorist campaign in Britain and the importance of this research as the first book to uncover the topic. 



What contribution did IRA gunrunning in Britain make to the success of the IRA in Ireland?

I think IRA gunrunning in Britain was a significant factor in the success of the IRA’s campaign in Ireland in the War of Independence. The IRA in Ireland was perennially short of munitions or the right sort of munitions at any rate: rifles, handguns, machine guns, explosives and ammunition. It did not have enough of these munitions to arm all its members. It was forced to turn abroad to augment its arsenal. Irish Republicans had been gunrunning in Britain from the 1860s, at least. So the IRA tapped these sources and developed others. Sometimes the munitions were bought – on the black market or from soldiers recently returned from fighting in the First World War. Other times the weapons were stolen from British Army barracks or Territorial Army drill halls. They were then smuggled to Ireland. By my calculations, around 330 firearms, 27,000 rounds of ammunition and 470 kg of explosives were smuggled to Ireland from 1919 to 1921. (These figures are based on surviving evidence; more may have been smuggled for which evidence does not survive.) These munitions allowed the IRA in Ireland to put up as good a fight as it did, forcing the British Government to agree to a truce and peace talks in the summer of 1921. ‘I always have it before me that we have got to help supply an army …’ one gunrunner in Liverpool said. And that is what he and his comrades did.

During the Civil War, the anti-Treaty IRA worked to acquire weapons and smuggle them to Ireland. However, their former comrades now in the National Army, aware of their modus operandi, liaised with the police to frustrate them.


How significant was the IRA’s terrorist campaign in Britain?

Militarily, it was not terribly significant, apart from the first incident. However, it garnered a good deal of press attention and may have put British politicians under pressure. The main aim of the campaign was to revenge the violence of the police in Ireland, especially their newly recruited British members known popularly as the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries. The campaign started off spectacularly in November 1920, with warehouses being set alight on Merseyside and causing over £600,000 worth of damage. However, from then until the campaign was halted in July 1921, largely because of police countermeasures, the attacks were on a much smaller scale and involved the burning of crops, timber yards, railway and telephone infrastructure etc. The families of men in the Irish police were targeted as well. Overall, two civilians were killed and about £669,000 worth of damage was caused to property. A coda in June 1922 saw two London IRA men assassinate Sir Henry Wilson, a Conservative MP from an Anglo-Irish family. This was a significant event, in that it contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War in Ireland later that month.


How successful were the authorities in tackling the IRA?

During the War of Independence, the police had a mixed record in tackling the IRA. They did not make any serious inroads into the IRA’s gunrunning activities, probably because they lacked actionable intelligence. The commencement of the terrorist campaign, however, seems to have jolted them and the political establishment into action. By arresting a number of significant figures, mounting patrols and protecting property, they hampered the IRA’s campaign. Overall, the IRA mounted 239 terrorist incidents between November 1920 and July 1921; convictions were secured for only 64. During the Civil War, the police worked with the newly installed government in the Irish Free State to successfully monitor and frustrate the activities of Republicans in Britain.


Why do you think this is the first book-length study of the topic?

It is curious that mine is the first book to tackle the subject. I suppose this has got to do with the fact that the topic is not terribly well known, even in academic circles. While many people have heard of the Fenians’ activities in Britain in the 1860s and the 1880s, the bombing campaign in 1939–1940 and the attacks mounted by the Provisional IRA from the 1970s to the 1990s, the IRA’s activities there during the Revolutionary period, 1916–1923, are relatively unknown. Perhaps this was because they were overshadowed by events in Ireland itself.


For more information on The IRA in Britain 1919-1923 and further Irish Studies titles please visit our website.


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'A Handful of Blue Earth' Marilyn Hacker on her translation of the poems of Vénus Khoury-Ghata

Posted on May 26, 2017 by Heather Gallagher

Marilyn Hacker has translated several of the works of Vénus Khoury-Ghata. Here to celebrate her latest translation A Handful of Blue Earth, Marilyn discusses the translation process and what inspires her about Vénus Khoury-Ghata. Read on for a poem from A Handful of Blue Earth.


A Handful of Blue Earth


A Handful of Blue Earth is your translation of the poems written by Vénus Khoury-Ghata. When did you first read these poems and what initially drew you to them?

 This is the sixth book of Vénus Khoury-Ghata’s that I have translated since 2000. I had read collections of her poetry in French, and been intrigued by how much implied history there was – history in the macro-historical and in the tale-telling sense –informing them. I was asked, back in 2000,  by an editor to give a reader’s report on an anthology of French and Francophone women’s poetry scheduled for publication. There were a couple of poems of Vénus’ that were so full of howlers of mistranslation – which I signalled to the editor – that I was impelled to re-translate them. Some months later, I met Vénus through a mutual writer friend, and knowing her, knowing the person and the personality behind the work, was another impetus to engage with it.


Throughout the collection, there are a range of poetic forms and styles. Is there any particular form that you would say presents a particular challenge as a translator?

There are no actual metrical /rhymed/stanzaic ” fixed poetic forms”  -- either coming from the French (or Arabic) literary canon or invented by the poet – in this book, or in any of Vénus Khoury-Ghata’s poetry, though there is a difference between the short-lined verse of the “Lady of Syros” and the more surreal prose-poem-like paragraph-stanzas from the “Book of Petitions” , while the long “Mothers and the Mediterranean” poem partakes of both.   The rhythms and the breath of the short-lined poems are quite different from the marvellously meandering sentences of that border on prose. It’s not hard to keep them apart.

There are not as many formal  - in the sense of metrical/syllabic , etc. forms – virtuosos working currently in French poetry as there are in contemporary poetry in English  -- thinking of George Szirtes, Mimi Khalvati, Derek Mahon, Patience Agbabe , for example , though Jacques Roubaud is an exception. I once translated a series of (also surreal ) sequences in decasyllabic dixains  - ten-line stanzas of ten syllables each – by another poet, Marie Etienne, which was surprisingly easy, given how much iambic pentameter I had written myself – and even led me to write something using the same form.


Do you have a particular process when translating poetry? 

No…I often find myself reading a poem in French and “recreating” it in English, and that’s the impulse to translate it. If there’s a book of translations to complete, the process is less meandering than that.


This poetry collection deals with a variety of themes such as exile, warfare and female relationships. Is there any motif in particular that stands out to you as the defining theme of the collection?

Oddly, the only relationship between women I noticed in this collection was that of the daughter who “becomes” the pre-Cycladic statue to her mother. It’s a subject that has been primary in my own work, and an intense ,conflicted mother/ daughter relationship is central to another book of Vénus Khoury-Ghata’s that I translated , Nettles, published by Graywolf Press in the U.S. in 2008.  Exile and expatriation, though, are themes that run through all this poet’s work  - quoting from “The Book of Petitions”:

How can you weep in a language no longer your own

what can you call walls not imbued with your sweat  

In both the “Lady of Syros” and “The Book of Petitions,” death itself is seen as a kind of exile or expatriation  - which, paradoxically, makes it seem less final and inexorable: exiles sometimes return.  Whereas the state of war evoked in “The Mothers and the Mediterranean” seems almost more permanent than death – and I think it was the persistent murderous state of war now in Syria, in Iraq, that brought the civil war in Lebanon so urgently back to the poet’s imagination…as well as the city of Beirut, where she grew up, very specifically evoked in that sequence.


Would you say that reading and translating Vénus’ poems has influenced your own poetry? 

I’ve translated extensively from the work of about ten French or Francophone poets in the last going-on-twenty years, and there has been, intentionally or inadvertently, dialogue with several of them in my own work.  Here is a glosa, a Spanish form in which the poet takes 4 lines from a poem by another poet, and composes 4 ten line stanzas, each ending with one of those four lines in turn  -- this was written elaborating on four lines of the poem by Vénus Khoury-Ghata that is given in its entirety, following.



 The death of a sparrow has blackened the snow

But  nothing consoled her

Who is the night among all nights ? she asked the owl

But the owl doesn’t think, the owl knows

Vénus Khoury-Ghata : “Borderland”


Dumb heat, not snow, sheathes Paris in July

and sheathes suburban Washington.

Planes rip through the fabric of a frayed

afternoon torn open

by words no afterwards will clarify.

Knowing what happened, no one will know.

We had a friend ;  she had a young  son.

There was exile, its weight on a day.

There was the heart’s ice, its insistent glow.

The death of a sparrow has blackened the snow.


Trope upon silvered trope, of what might a mirror

remind her : copper, black silk , the eloquence

intelligence gives eyes ?  Reflected terror

that conscripted all intelligence.

I am a great way off and cannot come nearer.

I do not know what the night or the mirror told her

or the sense of the words she wrote when nothing made sense,

or if they made a sense that seemed clearer and clearer.

The child raised his arms to be lifted, to be held, to hold her,

but nothing consoled her.


Put the morning away in the murk of myth :

not the unthinkable, but Radha’s dance

breaking her bangles, imploring the dark god with

metered and musical lamentations,

repeated measures meant to distance death

suggest a redemptive spiral for the soul

(child, child bleeding to death, no second chance)

 in the containment of despair and wrath

within the peopled descent of the ritual.


(Who is the night of all nights she asked the owl.)


No dark god was there, and no god of light .

There are women and men, cruel or fallible.

No mild friend picked up the telephone at the right

moment ; some Someone was unavailable.

The morning which paled from an uneventful night

would have been ordinary, except that she chose.

Interrogate the hours, invent some oracle

flying overhead , read fate into its flight.

We think the snow was blackened by dead sparrows,

but the owl doesn’t think; the owl knows.

 Vénus Khoury-Ghata


From “Nettles

 it should have been beautiful and it was merely sad

gardens departed this life more slowly than men

we would eat our sorrow down to the last drop then

belch it in splinters in the face of the cold

the sun’s spirit kept the sun from warming us

a sun that eventually ran dry        from so much concentration

It was elsewhere

it was a very long time ago

tired of calling us the mother left the earth to enter the earth

seen from above she looked like a pebble

seen from below she looked like a flaking pine-cone

sometimes she wept    in sobs that made the foliage tremble

life, we cried out to her, is a straight line of noises

death an empty circle

outside there is winter

the death of a sparrow has blackened the snow

But     nothing consoled her

who is the night among all nights? she asked the owl

but the owl doesn’t think

the owl knows

 Translated by Marilyn Hacker

(from Names, W.W. Norton and Co., 2010)


Marilyn Hacker is the author of thirteen books of poems, including A Stranger’s Mirror (Norton, 2015), Names (Norton, 2010), Essays on Departure (Carcanet, 2006), an essay collection, Unauthorized Voices (Michigan, 2010), and fourteen collections of translations of French and Francophone poets including Emmanuel Moses, Marie Etienne, Vénus Khoury-Ghata, Habib Tengour and Rachida Madani. DiaspoRenga, a collaborative sequence written with the Palestinian-American poet Deema Shehabi, was published by Holland Park Press in 2014. She lives in Paris.


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