Skip over navigation

Director’s Book Forum

The aim of this forum is to provide opportunities for Princeton faculty working in international and regional studies to present their most recently published work to the Princeton community.

The series will be held at noon; lunch will be provided. Registration required. Contact Carole Frantzen, frantzen@princeton.edu or 609.258.7497.


Fall 2014


October 21, 2014
The Right Spouse: Preferential Marriages in Tamil Nadu

Isabelle Clark-Decès
Professor of Anthropology; Director of the Program in South Asian Studies

Clark-Decès presents readers with a focused anthropology of Tamil, a waning marriage system: its past, present and dwindling future. The book takes on the main pillars of Tamil social organization, considers the ways in which Tamil intermarriage establishes kinship and social rank and argues that past scholars have improperly defined “Dravidian” kinship. Within her critique of past scholarship, Clark-Decès recasts a powerful and vivid image of preferential marriage in Tamil Nadu and how those preferences and marital rules play out in lived reality.

About the Author
Isabelle Clark-Decès’s research interests are in South Asia, with a research focus on the Tamils of South India. Her first three books focus on Tamil ritual and the series of conceptual, existential, theoretical issues it opens up: Religion Against the Self: An Ethnography of Tamil Rituals (as Isabelle Nabokov); No One Cries for the Dead: Tamil Dirges, Rowdy Songs and Graveyard Petitions; and The Encounter Never Ends: a Return to the Field of Tamil Rituals. She has edited a volume of essays that explore how ongoing discussion about the nature and effects of modernity and globalization is reshaping the anthropological study of India (A Companion to the Anthropology of India). Her ethnography of marriages to close kin in Tamil Nadu seeks to make a contribution to the anthropological interpretation of kinship and social change (The "Right" Spouse: Preferential Marriages in Tamil Nadu). Currently she is looking at the processes of growing up in the Indian state of Karnataka as well as planning a new research on individual and social being in South India. She teaches courses on India, ritual, kinship, anthropological theory and ethnography and directs the Program in South Asian Studies.



November 11, 2014
Object of the Atlantic: Concrete Aesthetics in Cuba, Brazil, and Spain

Rachel Price
Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures

Rachel Price’s The Object of the Atlantic is a wide-ranging study of the transition from a concern with sovereignty to a concern with things in Iberian Atlantic literature and art produced between 1868 and 1968. She uncovers the surprising ways that concrete aesthetics from Cuba, Brazil, and Spain drew not only on global forms of constructivism but also on a history of empire, slavery and media technologies from the Atlantic world.

About the Author
Rachel Price (B.A., Yale; Ph.D., Duke U.), works on Latin American, circum-Atlantic and particularly Cuban literature and culture; media and literature; and empire. Her book entitled “The Object of the Atlantic: Concrete Aesthetics in Cuba, Brazil and Spain 1868-1968,” is forthcoming from Northwestern University Press. Her current manuscript on contemporary Cuban aesthetics, provisionally entitled Planet/Cuba, is under contract with Verso Books. Price is a member of the 2012-2015 PIIRS Research Community on Empire.



December 2, 2014
Stalin: Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928

Stephen Kotkin
John P. Birkelund ’52 Professor in History and International Affairs; Acting Director, Program in
Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies

In Stalin, Stephen Kotkin offers a biography that is equal to this shrewd, sociopathic, charismatic dictator in all his dimensions. The character of Stalin emerges as both astute and blinkered, cynical and true believing, people oriented and vicious, canny enough to see through people but prone to nonsensical beliefs. Kotkin describes a man inclined to despotism who could be utterly charming, a pragmatic ideologue, a leader who obsessed over slights, yet was a precocious geostrategic thinker and who also made egregious strategic blunders.

About the Author
Stephen Kotkin joined the Princeton faculty in 1989. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on modern authoritarian regimes, global history (1850-present), and Soviet-Eurasian history. His books include Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment (Random House Modern Library, 2009), with a contribution by Jan Gross; Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse 1970-2000 (Oxford, 2001; new edition 2008), Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization (1995); and Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the World, coauthored with others (W.W. Norton, 3rd edition 2010).

He directed Princeton's Russian and Eurasian Studies Program for thirteen years (1995-2008), and served as a member and then chairman of the Princeton University Press editorial board (2003-7). He has written reviews and essays for The New Republic, Times Literary Supplement, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, Financial Times and for a number of years was the regular book reviewer for the New York Times Sunday Business section. He serves as a consultant on emerging markets and global trends for the World Pension Forum, an association for institutional investors, and philanthropic institutions, such as George Soros' Open Society Foundations. Ph.D. University of California Berkeley (1988).



December 9, 2014
Acts of Union and Disunion

Linda Colley
Shelby M.C. Davis 1958 Professor of History

Political unions are under pressure. The Soviet Union has unraveled. The government of the United States appears dysfunctional. The European Union is increasingly unpopular. Now Linda Colley examines an older political union in growing difficulty – the United Kingdom. She analyzes the successive acts of union that linked England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. She also explores some projected unions that have failed, such as the repeated attempts to unite Britain and America. Drawing on art, literature, politics, music, architecture and landscape – and on international comparisons – she unpicks some of the identity stories deployed in the making of the UK

About the Author
Linda Colley, the Shelby M.C. Davis 1958 Professor of History, is an expert on Britain since 1700. She favors cross-disciplinary history, and in both her writing and her teaching, she examines Britain’s past in a broader European, imperial and global context. Born in Britain, she graduated from Bristol University with First Class Honors in history (1972) and completed her Ph.D. in history at Cambridge University (1977). The first female Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge, she moved to Yale University in 1982. Her first book, In Defiance of Oligarchy: The Tory Party 1714 1760 (1982), challenged the dominant view by arguing that the Tory party remained active and potent during its years out of power, exploring the wider consequences of this in regards to ideas, electoral and popular politics and political action.Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (1992), which won the Wolfson Prize for History and which has just been re-issued in a revised 5th paperback edition, investigated how - and how far - the inhabitants of England, Scotland and Wales came to see themselves as British over the course of the 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1998, Colley left Yale to accept a Senior Leverhulme Research Professorship in History at the London School of Economics. Colley is also the author of Namier (1989), a reappraisal of the Polish-born and Zionist historian Lewis Namier. Her work The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History was nominated one of the 10 best books of 2007 by the New York Times.