Speculative Fiction, 28th August 2019

August’s session will be on Speculative Fiction – it will be on a Wednesday 28th August, 7.30-9.30pm at Black Book Cafe.
We will focus on two short stories:
 
“Will the Circle be Unbroken?” by Henry Dumas and
“Bloodchild” by Octavia Butler.
Download both stories in this pdf (which also features a short afterword in the case of Butler’s story).
The stories have been selected by Ronnie McGrath, a former Creative Writing Director at the University of the Arts, who currently teaches speculative fiction at Imperial College London. Ronnie is also the author of two poetry collections, Gumbo Talk (2010) and Data Trace (2010), the novel On the Verge of Losing It (2005), and the chapbook, Poems from the Tired Lips of Newspapers (2003). He has work in IC3, The Penguin Book of New Black
Writing in Britain, Filigree (2018), and the anthology Black Lives Have Always Mattered (2017). Ronnie is also a painter, who has held a solo exhibition at Goldsmiths College and the Commonwealth Institute (2018), and spoken at Bristol University on the subject of “The Consciousness of Black Art”.
The stories are both from larger collections – which you may wish to read more of over the summer (though our discussion will remain focused on the two stories, which will be more than enough to discuss over 2 hours):
Dumas’ story is included in Dark Matter II: Reading the Bones (2004), which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology in 2005.
Butler’s is part of her own collection Bloodchild and other stories (1995 / 2005 edition with two additional stories). The title story won the Hugo Award and Nebula Award.
Stroud Radical Reading Group events are free to attend but we ask for a donation of £2-3 from anyone who can afford it to cover venue costs. 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.
Advertisements

Wangari Maathai, July 17th

Our series on Climate and Environmental Crises concludes with Wangari Maathai’s “The Challenge for Africa: a new vision”. We will meet to discuss two chapters from this book at Black Book Cafe on July 17th, 7.30-9.30pm.

Our discussion will focus on Chapters 8 and 12 – available as a pdf download via this link, though you are welcome to read the whole book. Chapter 8 (pages 160-183) is titled “Culture: The Missing Link”, in which Maathai investigates how her “personal recognition of the importance of culture led [her] to create the Civic and Environemental Education seminars as part of the Green Belt Movement’s work” . In Chapter 12 (239-259), “Environment and Development”, Maathai says she “argue[s] for the centrality of the environment in all discussions of, and approaches to, addressing the challenges Africa faces”.

Events are free to attend but we ask for a donation of £2-3 from anyone who can afford it to cover venue costs. 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! Facebook event – Wangari Maathai: The Challenge for Africa

Information about the book (from the cover of the 2009 William Heinemann edition): “In this urgent yet optimistic new work, Wangari Maathai – winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and founder of the Green Belt Movement – provides a unqiue perspective on the fate of Africa, and offers hope for a new way forward.

The challenges facing Africa are real and vast: terrible conflicts wrack the Darfur region of Sudan, southern Somalia, the Niger delta and eastern Congo; elections have been violently contested in Kenya and Zimbabwe; drought and floods are prevalent in both west and east; and HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis ravage the continent. Natural resources are drying up, and changing rainfall patterns – partly as a result of global warming – directly jeopardise the livelihood of the great majority of Africans who still rely on the land for their survival.

All too often, Africa’s problems are reduced to a series of tableaux vivants connoting dependency, desperation or savagery. What is needed is a different vision – one that comes out of Africa, from an African. Informed by the author’s three decades as an environmental activist and campaigner for democracy, The Challenge for Africa surveys what is really hampering the contintent’s development, and argues that the future of Africa lies not in international aid, but in the hands of Africans themselves.

Written in Wangari Maathai’s searingly decisive yet inspiring voice, and offering nothing less than a manifesto for twenty-first century Africa, The Challenge for Africa celebrates the enduing potential of the human spirit, and reminds us that change is always possible.”

A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things

We continue our series on the environmental and climate crises with a discussion of Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore’s “A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet”, at Black Book Cafe on June 19th, 7.30-9.30pm. Events are free to attend but we ask for a donation of £2-3 from anyone who can afford it to cover venue costs. 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!

Our discussion will focus on the Introduction – download a pdf: PatelMooreHistory7CheapThings (7.4Mb), though we encourage people to read the whole book if possible. Get in touch if you would like to be included in a bulk purchase with Stroud Bookshop.

“How has capitalism devastated the planet—and what can we do about it?

Nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives: these are the seven things that have made our world and will shape its future. In making these things cheap, modern commerce has transformed, governed, and devastated the Earth.

In A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things, Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore present a new approach to analysing today’s planetary emergencies. Bringing the latest ecological research together with histories of colonialism, indigenous struggles, slave revolts, and other rebellions and uprisings, Patel and Moore demonstrate that throughout history crises have always prompted fresh strategies to make the world cheap and safe for capitalism. At a time of crisis in all seven cheap things, innovative and systemic thinking is urgently required. This book proposes a radical new way of understanding—and reclaiming—the planet in the turbulent twenty-first century.” (from University of California Press page about the book)

Naomi Klein, author of No Is Not Enough and This Changes Everything, says “Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore have transformed ‘cheapness’ into a brilliant and original lens that helps us understand the most pressing crises of our time, from hyper-exploitation of labor to climate change. They demystify the systemic forces that have gotten us here, showing how our various struggles for justice are connected. As we come together to build a better world, this book could well become a defining framework to broaden and deepen our ambitions.”

The series on climate and environmental crises will continue with a discussion of Wangari Maathai’s A Challenge for Africa on July 17th, and this session follows Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime by Bruno Latour on May 15th.

Down to Earth by Bruno Latour – 15th May 2019

As part of our summer series on climate and environmental crises, we will discuss Bruno Latour’s Down To Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime on Wednesday 15th May, 7.30-9.30pm at Black Book Cafe. Facebook event: Down to Earth-Bruno Latour – SRRG discussion.

The book is available for £12.99 from Stroud Bookshop (we can negotiate a small discount through bulk purchase if enough people want a copy) but we will focus our discussion on chapters 1-5 and 20 of Latour’s book – excerpts available as a pdf here (pages 1-21, 99-106).

From the publisher’s page about the book: “The present ecological mutation has organized the whole political landscape for the last thirty years. This could explain the deadly cocktail of exploding inequalities, massive deregulation, and conversion of the dream of globalization into a nightmare for most people.

What holds these three phenomena together is the conviction, shared by some powerful people, that the ecological threat is real and that the only way for them to survive is to abandon any pretense at sharing a common future with the rest of the world. Hence their flight offshore and their massive investment in climate change denial.

The Left has been slow to turn its attention to this new situation. It is still organized along an axis that goes from investment in local values to the hope of globalization and just at the time when, everywhere, people dissatisfied with the ideal of modernity are turning back to the protection of national or even ethnic borders.

This is why it is urgent to shift sideways and to define politics as what leads toward the Earth and not toward the global or the national. Belonging to a territory is the phenomenon most in need of rethinking and careful redescription; learning new ways to inhabit the Earth is our biggest challenge. Bringing us down to earth is the task of politics today.”

Chapter titles of the sections forming our focus for discussion:

Chapter 1: “A hypothesis as political fiction: the explosion of inequalities and the denial of climate change are one and the same phenomenon.”

Chapter 2: Thanks to America’s abandonment of the climate agreement, we now know clearly what war has been declared

Chapter 3:  The question of migrations now concerns everyone, offering a new and very wicked universality: finding oneself deprived of ground

Chapter 4: One must take care not to confuse globalization-plus with globalization-minus

Chapter 5. How the globalist ruling classes have decided to abandon all the burdens of solidarity, little by little

Chapter 20: “A personal defence of the Old Continent”

 

New summer series – Climate and Environmental Crisis

Our next three events in 2019 form a summer series on Climate and Environmental Crises – see our upcoming events page for more details. We will discuss Down to Earth by Bruno Latour on 15th May, A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things by Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore on 19th June, and The Challenge for Africa by Wangari Maathai on 17th July (see below for more details).

SRRG2
Poster for Summer Series on Climate and Environmental Crises

Each event will take place at the Black Book Cafe, Nelson St, Stroud from 7.30-9.30pm. Events are free to attend but we ask for a donation of £2-3 from anyone who can afford it to cover venue costs. Please contact us about any accessibility requirements. A printable pdf of the poster above is available to print, if you would like to help us publicise the events.

#MeAndWhiteSupremacy Book Circle, based on Layla Saad’s anti-racism workbook

On Wednesday 17th April at Black Book Café, 7.30-9.30pm, members of Stroud Radical Reading Group are invited to join a #MeAndWhiteSupremacy Book Circle, based on Layla Saad’s workbook (Facebook event).

This session is not like our other reading group sessions, so it is important you read the text below before attending – this details how the session will work, who is welcome to attend, and a shared commitment to agreements about the purpose of the session and the responsibilities of those attending. Our plans for SRRG sessions from May – July, which cover different topics and will not involve the arrangements detailed below, will be shared on this website shortly.

As the final session of our series for the start of 2019, we will be working together as a group to take a clear look at the different multifaceted aspects of white supremacy and how they operate in both subtle and direct ways within ourselves, and within others.

This session is not like our other reading group sessions. Though sometimes we welcome people who have not read texts to listen and even contribute, in this case we are asking that only those who have read at least pages 1-72 of Layla Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy Workbook” attend (the workbook is availabe free online via this link). The session, like Layla Saad’s workbook, is for any person who holds white privilege – meaning persons who are visually identifiable as white, white-passing, or holding white privilege – which is a distinction we would not normally make. The group meeting will follow the structure outline in The Circle Way, as stipulated by Layla Saad (read pdf of The Circle Way guidelines here).

Though The Circle Way has similarities with our usual approach, it will be slightly more formal than usual – more details below. A key aspect is that we will agree on the purpose of the session and how we conduct ourselves during it beforehand (these notes themselves have been agreed by three of us).

This session is for people who are ready to work on this: people who want to create change in the world by activating change within themselves first. It is not, as is often the case with our sessions, about whether we liked the content or style of the workbook, how it relates to other work, or our criticisms of it.

One agreement we will make is to share responsibility for the best possible outcome, with the best possible outcome being that as a result of doing this work, we will be better placed to, in Layla Saad’s words “question, challenge and dismantle the system of white supremacy”, and “show up better for Black people, Indigenous people and People of Colour”.

Like our usual sessions, this is a one-off, two-hour meeting (at Black Book Café, 7.30-9.30pm, Wednesday 17th April). This limits the extent to which we can cover the range of topics covered in the workbook. If, having completed the workbook and session, there are people who wish to continue to meet to work through further aspects, we are open to helping to arrange this.

Aims:

  1. to hold up a mirror to people who hold white privilege to look at white supremacy head on (instead of sideways, broadly or intellectually), and begin to tell the truth about how this system of oppression manifests within yourself on a personal level
  2. the loftier goal is to help us to become better ancestors for those who will come after us, given the opportunity to disrupt the systems that have kept so many people marginalised and oppressed

Principles:

  1. Leadership rotates among all circle members
  2. Responsibility is shared for the quality of experience: We are responsible for each others’ wellbeing and trust, as well as our learning. We need to be able to be vulnerable for this topic to work.
  3. Reliance is on wholeness, rather than on any personal agenda: We will succeed or fail as a group. If one person derails the conversation, everyone gets less out of it. If everyone is able to be open and honest, we all have the opportunity to learn.

Agreements:

  • We hold all stories or personal material in confidentiality
  • We listen to each other with compassion and curiosity
  • We ask for what we need and offer what we can
  • We agree to employ a group guardian to watch our timing and energy
  • We agree to pause at a signal when we feel the need to pause
  • We keep each other accountable and name white fragility and other defensive responses respectfully.
  • We hear this naming in the compassionate spirit it is given – we are all here to learn.
  • We avoid derailing of the conversation away from the aims above. We all share responsibility for keeping to these aims.

We will ask people to be honest and hope to create a space where they feel comfortable to do so. The meeting is not about blame or shame but about noticing behaviours and holding each other to account. We ask that everyone attending takes responsibility for observing when White Fragility, White Exceptionalism, or White Apathy appear. At certain points of the meeting there will be opportunities to reflect on this, and to respectfully challenge each other.

Practices:

  1. Speak with intention: noting what has relevance to the conversation in the moment
  2. Listen with attention: respectful of the learning process for all members of the group
  3. Tend to the well-being of the circle: remaining aware of the impact of our contributions

The meeting will take place as follows:

Arrival from 7.30pm (please do not be late, we will start promptly at 7.40pm)

7.40pm – Welcome and opening message, including a reminder of the intention and guidelines

7.45pm – Check-in: We will allow everyone a few minutes to say how much of the workbook they have already completed, and why they decided to attend – which could include a reflection on how they found doing the journaling. We will start with a volunteer and proceed around the circle. If an individual is not ready to speak, their turn is passed and another opportunity is offered after others have spoken

8.15pm – We will allow everyone a few minutes to talk about their response to a journaling question of their choice from the first six in the workbook, taking turns in a circle (What have you learned about You & White Privilege? What have you learned about You & White Fragility? What have you learned about You & Tone Policing? What have you learnt about You & White Silence? What have you learnt about You and White Superiority? What have you learnt about You & White Exceptionalism?). You are welcome to bring notes if you prefer.

8.45pm – We will open up the conversation – allowing each other to reflect on the comments others have made and respectfully keep each other accountable and name white fragility and other defensive responses.

9.15pm – Closing: We will allow a few minutes for each person to comment on what they learned, or what stays with them as they leave – which could include how they have found the session, and whether they would prefer to continue the work in a group or individually.

9.30pm – We will close the formal meeting. Before each new section we will have a few minutes silence to refocus.

Thank you for reading, we hope to see you on Wednesday,

“Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni-Eddo Lodge

We will be discussing Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book “Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race” – meeting at Black Book Cafe on Nelson St on Wednesday 20th March, 7.30-9.30pm. This event forms part of our mini-series: “Britain: Class, Race and Gender in past, present and future” – but you are welcome to attend this and the next event even if you have missed the earlier sessions.

Download selected chapters of “…AboutRace” PDF: Chapter 5 – The Feminism Question, Chapter 6 – Race and Class, and Chapter 7 – There’s No Justice, There’s Just Us (pages 81-118 in this version).

The book followed a ‘viral’ blogpost that Reni authored, with the same title as the book. This is short and I recommend reading it first, then the chapters.

Should you wish to read the whole book, it is available in paperback RRP: £8.99. At least one copy is available from Gloucestershire Libraries. A pdf of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is also available online.

You may be interested in listening to some or all of the nine 40-minute episodes that form the “About Race with Reni” podcast – these cover similar ground to the book, as well as Reni’s reflections on the popularity of the blogpost and book. As ever we will try to focus discussion on the night on the focus chapters, but wider reading (and listening) is welcome. Below is a video featuring Reni Eddo-Lodge speaking about her book with Emma Watson, as part of the latter’s “Our Shared Shelf” Feminist Book Club project.

(if you use Facebook, please share and invite friends to the event).

“Natives: race and class in the ruins of Empire” by Akala

Our second reading of 2019 will be on Wednesday 20th February, 7.30-9.30pm at Black Book Cafe at the bottom of Nelson St: “Natives: race and class in the ruins of Empire” by Akala. We ask for a donation of £1-3 to cover the costs of the venue, and – though anyone is welcome to listen – we request that the discussion is focused on and mainly involves those who have read the text.

The reading forms a part of our mini-series: “Britain: Class, Race and Gender in past, present and future”.

In Natives, Akala takes his own experiences – with education, the police, identity and everything in between – and uses them to look at the social, historical and political factors that have left us where we are today. From the first time he was stopped and searched as a child, to the day he realised his mum was white, to his first encounters with racist teachers; race and class have shaped Akala’s life and outlook.

We will focus on Chapters 5 and 6 (“Empire and Slavery in the British Memory (pdf)” and “Scotland and Jamaica (pdf)”, pages 123-168) of this best-selling book by BAFTA and MOBO award-winning hip hop artist, writer and social entrepreneur Akala.

A PDF of the full text of Natives can be read and downloaded online.

Facebook event page: Natives by Akala.

There is a wealth of material from Akala online, including his music and a number of lectures, in the video below, Akala presents Natives at the Edinburgh International Book Festival:

Britannia Unchained?

The first sessions of Stroud Radical Reading Group in 2019 will form a mini-series: “Britain: Class, Race and Gender in past, present and future.” We’ll meet at the Black Book Cafe at the bottom of Nelson St (next to the Laundrette), 7.30-9.30pm, usually the third Wednesday of the month.

Our first session will focus on “Britannia Unchained: Global Lessons for Growth and Prosperity”, written by several British Conservative Party right-wing MPs (Chris Skidmore, Kwasi Kwarteng, Dominic Raab, and Priti Patel). It was released in September 2012, arguing that Britain should adopt a different and radical approach to business and economics or risk “an inevitable slide into mediocrity”. We will focus on the title chapter “Britannia Unchained” and the conclusion, pages 100-116.

To offer insight and alternative perspectives, we have also selected
* Molly Scott Cato’s BadBoysOfBrexit website, and
* Paul Kingsnorth’s “Brexit & the culture of Progress”.

Readers may elect to focus on one of the three, or dip into each.

Additional notes:

Molly Scott Cato is Green Party MEP for the South West (including Stroud). Readers may also like to browse the section of Molly’s website devoted to Brexit.

Paul Kingsnorth’s views were also covered in “The lie of the land: does environmentalism have a future in the age of Trump?” published in the Guardian in March 2017.

The following events in the series – Britain: Class, Race and Gender in past, present and future are:

Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala – 20th February
Why I’m No Longer Talking (To White People) About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge – 20th March
“Me And White Supremacy Workbook” – Layla Saad – 17th April

Welcome to Stroud Radical Reading Group!

Beginning in January 2016, a group of people living in Stroud have been meeting up once a month to discuss a ‘radical’ text.

We don’t stick to books or essays – as well as academic journal articles on complex concepts like the Anthropocene, Capitolocene, Governmentality, Social reproduction and Liberation Ecology, we’ve also looked at historical trade union badges, Chartist poems, and political Haiku. Those who attend make suggestions and decide which texts we’ll read, and we take it in turns to ‘introduce’ each session.

You can find out more about past and future events here, find links to the texts we’re reading and have read, and get in touch with us with recommendations or other enquiries. A piece about the group and some of the texts we read in our first year was published by Good on Paper.

Picture of several books on a shelf, with Capitalist Realism by Mark Fisher, Capital by Karl Marx, Communal Luxury by Kristin Ross, and No is Not Enough by Naomi Klein clearly visible
Some of the titles we read in 2017/18

Stroud Radical Reading Group meets once a month. Here you can find details of sessions, links, and further information

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started