We’re asking contributors to put together their own short collected observations like this one – and as always, if you’ve got an idea to pitch for The Interpreter, drop a line via the contact details on the About page.
Recently, I was driving from Sydney to Canberra and got stuck in traffic – a three-hour trip turned into five. It was a good opportunity to dive in and listen to the Statecraftiness podcast series hosted by Gordon Peake (author, development practitioner and globetrotter), produced by the University of Adelaide.
It is an excellent exploration of how states attempt (often unsuccessfully) to leverage government engagements to gain access and influence in the Pacific region. The podcasts cover a broad range of topics from strategic scholarships, defence partnerships, and aid alliances to “loan rangers”. There are insightful and often humorous anecdotes to illustrate how a country might get access, but not influence. The podcasts made an excruciatingly slow drive slip by quite enjoyably.
On the reading front, I like to curl up and lose myself in historical fiction and the best escape this year is The Bookbinder of Jericho by Pip Williams (same author as The Dictionary of Lost Words). It has absolutely nothing to do with the Pacific Islands nor foreign policy – and yet it does.
The inspiration for the story was a couple of photos of the women bookbinders during the First World War. Williams wanted to know more but found the record of lower-class women’s contribution during the war was missing from historical narratives. She tells a riveting story of different women’s experiences and their struggles to change the system that holds them back, interwoven with insights about war and human relationships. Makes you reflect on your own practice and the analytical gaps you may be leaving in your social and historical analyses.
Finally, I’m off to the movies to catch some of the Scandinavian film festival. Plenty to pique your social, historical and travel interests. Who can resist an escape to the northern reaches of Europe – ikke mig!