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This week’s editor

Alex Sakalis, Editor

Alex Sakalis is associate editor of openDemocracy and co-edits the Can Europe Make It? page.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

From individual experience to emergent identities, we measure the pulse of life and change, from the ground up. This theme is a place for memorable, exemplary, innovative and intriguing individuals.

Edwin Ardener: the life-force of ideas

The work of the social anthropologist Edwin Ardener (1927-87) remains a fertile source of insight and influence, says his former student and editor of a collection of his essays, Malcolm Chapman.

(This article was first published on 21 September 2007)

Bob Dylan: revolution in the head, revisited

The most influential and original musician of the 1960s generation remains a figure of protean creativity half a century on. The wealth of attention still devoted to Bob Dylan is testament to a career of astonishing range. It also reflects the complex legacy of a formative decade which Dylan’s songs and persona helped to define, says David Hayes.

(This article was first published on 24 May 2011)

Bob Dylan: a conversation

Many celebrations of the great American musician Bob Dylan involve a personal journey through the archives of memory. Here, David Hayes recalls a thrilling series of concerts Dylan performed in 1981...and a late-night encounter.

(This article was first published on 24 May 2011)

Anti-deportation campaigns: ‘What kind of country do you want this to be?’

A new musical, Glasgow Girls, showcases the power of anti-deportation campaigns as both an expression of human solidarity and an essential device for holding states to account. But their key role, argues Jennifer Allsopp, is to build support for an asylum system that upholds the rights of all.

Togo: a country of strangers?

Making peace in Togo is not a numbers game. Nor is it about searching to find out who was wrong in the past. As the next election approaches it is time to recreate our country’s history and invest in unity and peace, says Mawusse Domefaa  Atimasso.

Togo : un pays d’étrangers?

Pour établir la paix au Togo, il ne faut pas faire de bilan ni chercher à savoir qui a eu tort dans le passé. A l’approche des élections il convient de réécrire l’histoire de notre pays et d’investir dans l’unité et dans la paix, dit Mawusse Domefaa Atimasso.

In memoriam Valery Abramkin, Russia's prison reformer

Celebrated Russian activist Valery Abramkin has died aged 66. Here we republish extracts from a lecture delivered in 2006, which contains many fascinating insights into the rules of behaviour, hierarchies and relationships within Soviet and Russian prisons. (With a foreword by Mary
McAuley.) 

To live so as not to feel ashamed: remembering lawyer Yury Schmidt

Tributes are flooding in to the renowned Russian human rights lawyer Yury Schmidt, who has died aged 75. Schmidt devoted much of his career to defending critics of the Russian government and others accused of political crimes, from environmental whistleblowers to oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Kristina Gorelik celebrates his life.  

Stateless in Burma: Rohingya word wars

In order to understand how the ‘Rohingya crisis’ has come to pass we need to consider the narrative built by three groupings of international actors - the Burmese government, host countries for Rohingya who have fled and the international community at large.

Britain and the problem of living in the past

As Jubilee celebrations die down in the short period of calm before the Olympics, questions arise about what all this means, what Britain and Britishness is, and what the future might be for both.

A tableau for Václav Havel

Vaclav Havel

Tjebbe van Tijen presents a montage of graffiti and photographs in honour of Václav Havel

Ronald Reagan and America: the real legacy

The posthumous inflation of Ronald Reagan’s political achievement is also a covert critique of George W Bush’s foreign-policy failures. But there are deep continuities between the two administrations, says Godfrey Hodgson.

(This article was first published on 9 June 2004)

People power and the new global ferment

People power does not lend itself to the geo-strategic interests of empires or warlords, since it is based on collective action and civic unity, as well as the refusal to comply with existing power-holders. Any movement that opts for civil resistance has to encompass and attempt to represent diverse social groups.

Charles de Gaulle remembered

A London radio broadcast on 18 June 1940 by an unknown French officer altered history’s course. It was also the first act in Charles de Gaulle’s extraordinary thirty-year role as national-political leader and embodiment of “a certain idea of France”. Neal Ascherson traverses a landscape of memory - from Greenock to Paris, Algiers to Warsaw - to recall his encounters with a colossus of French and European history.

Cambodia: surviving the Khmer Rouge

On 17 April 1975, the Khmer Rouge began a terrible political experiment in Cambodia. It was to last for four years. Var Hong Ashe tells the epic story of how she survived it.

(This article was first published on 15 April 2005)   

Islands of Solitude: a conversation with Hala Al Faysal

“Hala defied the social order – living on her own, without the approval of the family. This meant sacrificing her social class and privileges. It meant losing social guarantees and financial means. It meant living on the outskirts of society. It was choosing the unthinkable – a fall from grace.” A portrait of a proud, independent and brave Syrian artist, by Dana Omari Berg.

Neo-conservatism: Irving Kristol’s living legacy

The pioneer of one of the United States’s most potent intellectual-political currents has died. But it is far too early for an obituary of the neo-conservative movement or its ideas

A world of dignity

The death of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the United Nations special representative in Iraq, robs the world of a calm voice of reason, humanity, and deep intelligence precisely when these qualities are most needed. In tribute, openDemocracy publishes his 11 November 2002 lecture on the universal character of human dignity.

(This article was first published on 24 August 2003)

Arthur C Helton: a tribute

Arthur C Helton, director of peace and conflict studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a columnist for openDemocracy, was killed in the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad on 19 August 2003. His colleague and co-columnist, Gil Loescher, was critically injured. Caspar Henderson & David Hayes pay tribute on behalf of openDemocracy.

(This article was first published on 21 August 2003)

Leszek Kolakowski: thinker for our time

The Polish philosopher’s intellectual journey was marked by a lengthy, careful demolition of Marxism. The stifling influence of this ideology and its outgrowths and variants in the western academy make Leszek Kolakowski’s achievement all the greater - and more surprising, says Roger Scruton.   

(This article was first published on 28 July 2009)

The moon landing: an openDemocracy symposium

When the Apollo 11 rocket landed on the moon on 20 July 1969, openDemocracy asked some of its contributors to offer their thoughts. At the time, we were still publishing on vellum. David Hayes tracks down the archives - now buried deep in a vault at a secret location somewhere in England - and transcribes a selection of our material from this landmark in history.

(This article was first publshed on 21 July 2009)

Leszek Kolakowski, 1927-2009: a master figure

The great Polish intellectual was a voice for reason, truth and decency amid the deceits of the communist era, says Adam Szostkiewicz.

Conor Cruise O'Brien, the irascible angel

A fearless Irish intellectual who embraced the risks of commitment has died at the age of 91. Neal Ascherson recalls some of the high wires and sharp edges of an epic life.

Conor Cruise O’Brien, a protean figure

An internationalist Irishman whose union of passion and reason made an indelible mark on the worlds of diplomacy, politics and journalism has died at the age of 91. John Horgan pays tribute.

Claude Lévi-Strauss at 100: echo of the future

The ideas of the pioneering anthropologist still inform contemporary understandings of the human mind and its cultures, says Dan Sperber.

Edward Carpenter: a pioneering open democrat

A neglected radical of the 19th-20th centuries in Britain sought to enlarge liberty and enrich democracy in ways that make him a contemporary, says the renowned feminist scholar Sheila Rowbotham.

Dakar, once again

Senegal's capital, second home to our African columnist John Matshikiza, resounds with historical echoes and political signals.

(This article was first published on 18 March 2003)

Georgi Markov: the truth that killed

The assassination in London of the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov with a poisoned umbrella remains part of the cold war's unfinished business. Thirty years after Markov's death on 11 September 1978, Irina Novakova identifies the missing pieces of the jigsaw.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn: the line within

The prophetic message of Alexander Solzhenitsyn transcends the circumstances that gave rise to it, says Roger Scruton.


A world split apart

The novels and essays of the Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) eviscerated the moral foundations of Soviet rule. But his Harvard address of June 1978 confirmed that the core of his intellectual project was a spiritual rather than political one - and that the west's failures were just as much in his sights

Youssef Chahine, the life-world of film

A great filmmaker of Alexandria and Egypt portrayed his country with a singular, passionate vision that remained constant in face of criticism and adulation alike. Tarek Osman pays tribute to Youssef Chahine

Nelson Mandela: assessing the icon

The former political prisoner who led South Africa beyond apartheid remains a figure of undiminished global renown. But what of the revisionist case which highlights his flaws? On Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday, Tom Lodge assesses how far the record of his political career and judgment sustains his reputation

(This article was first published on 18 July 2008)

Chinese migrant workers: lives in shadow

The unregulated work of Chinese immigrants on the margins of a rich western society puts them in a trap with many locked doors, finds Hsiao-Hung Pai.

Hoang Minh Chinh: the honourable dissident

Vietnam's official commemoration of the Tet offensive of 1968 and the country's unification in 1975 is shadowed by the influential example of a courageous critic of the country's ruling system, says Sophie Quinn-Judge.

Christopher Hurst: a publisher in the world

A small publisher fired by learning, enthusiasm and commitment to authors can still find a respected place in an industry dominated by corporate giants. Michael Dwyer of C Hurst & Co remembers the company's founder, Christopher Hurst.
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