International and Comparative Librarianship

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Burning Books and Leveling Libraries by Prof. Rebecca Knuth

The topics is this book include (based on the Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication):
Libraries -- Destruction and pillage -- History -- 20th century; Libraries -- Destruction and pillage -- History -- 21st century; Book burning -- History -- 20th century; book burning -- History -- 21st century; Radicalism -- History -- 20th century; Radicalism -- History -- 21st century; cultural property


Being a recent history of library/cultural-heritage's destruction that is so meticulously document, this book by Prof Knuth, is another best buy. Library historians, historians of book, and with cultural heritage preservationists worldwide, will find this book very thought provoking and a great scholarly work. 
Burning Books and Leveling Libraries: Extremist Violence and Cultural Destruction Rebecca Knuth
Extract:  "In Libricide my focus was on intentional, systematic, and large-scale destruction that was driven by ideological mandates. But for the book that would follow, I had an intuition that a more complex set of motivations would subsume my explanations of libricide, and that this framework would also embrace local and contained incidents. When I began probing the impulses behind high-profile bonfires of Harry Potter books, staged in 2001 and 2003 by church groups in Pennsylvania, Maine, New Mexico, and Michigan, I stumbled upon a pattern of extremism, renunciation, and affirmation that quickly gained significance. In these relatively isolated, localized cases of destruction, fundamentalist congregations burned books, videos, and other pop-cultural items in protests against offensive values that, they said, had increasingly pushed their Christian faith and influence to the margins of American life. Pastors declared that burning Harry Potter books was a means for Christians to build community, affirm their allegiance to God, and separate themselves from a pop culture they believed to be detrimental to society. Although this chapter was eventually dropped because the ceremonies did not match in scale and seriousness the other cases under study, my observations about the fundamentalists’ motivation and mindsets became key to identifying dynamics of book destruction that, I believe, play out worldwide." Preface, p. X.
 "In other, more turbulent environments, such as post- colonial India, Kashmir, and Sri Lanka, biblioclasm has tended to be more personal in nature, more passionate, and more violent, the product of social flashpoint as well as political calculation" (Chapter 4, Ethnic Biblioclasm 1980-2005), p. 71
Book Description:
Whether the product of passion or of a cool-headed decision to use ideas to rationalize excess, the decimation of the world's libraries occurred throughout the 20th century, and there is no end in sight. Cultural destruction is, therefore, of increasing concern.
In her previous book Libricide, Rebecca Knuth focused on book destruction by authoritarian regimes: Nazis, Serbs in Bosnia, Iraqis in Kuwait, Maoists during the Cultural Revolution in China, and the Chinese Communists in Tibet. But authoritarian governments are not the only perpetrators. Extremists of all stripes—through terrorism, war, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and other forms of mass violence—are also responsible for widespread cultural destruction, as she demonstrates in this new book.
Burning Books and Leveling LibrarieS≪/i> is structured in three parts. Part I is devoted to struggles by extremists over voice and power at the local level, where destruction of books and libraries is employed as a tactic of political or ethnic protest. Part II discusses the aftermath of power struggles in Germany, Afghanistan, and Cambodia, where the winners were utopians who purged libraries in efforts to purify their societies and maintain power. Part III examines the fate of libraries when there is war and a resulting power vacuum.
The book concludes with a discussion of the events in Iraq in 2003, and the responsibility of American war strategists for the widespread pillaging that ensued after the toppling of Saddam Hussein. This case poignantly demonstrates the ease with which an oppressed people, given the collapse of civil restraints, may claim freedom as license for anarchy, construing it as the right to prevail, while ignoring its implicit mandate of social responsibility. Using military might to enforce ideals (in this case democracy and freedom) is futile, Knuth argues, if insufficient consideration is given to humanitarian, security, and cultural concerns.

"Strongly recommended for academic library and larger public library collections." -- Journal of Access Services
- "Each chapter has significant bibliographic citations that reflect excellent research in the author's preparation for this book….Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above."- Choice

CONTENTS
Preface
1. Introducing Modern Biblioclasm
2. Tracing the Path of Extremism Ffrom Robespierre to Milosevic
PART 1 GRAPPLING FOR VOICE AND POWER
3. Political Protestors and Amsterdam¿s South African Institute, 1984
4. Ethnic Biblioclasm, 1980¿2005
PART 2 ABSOLUTE POWER AND THE DRIVE TO PURIFY SOCIETY 135
5. National Socialism and the Destruction of Berlin¿s Institute for Sexual Knowledge, 1933 136
6. Secular Fanaticism and the Auto-Genocide of Cambodia, 1975¿1979
7. Fundamentalism and the Destruction of Afghanistan¿s Cultural Heritage, 1994¿2001 186
PART 3 WAR, POWER VACUUM, AND ANARCHY
8. Dueling Ideologies and Total War, 1939¿1945
9. Anarchy and Acquisitive Vandalism, 1967¿2003
10. Errors of Omission and Cultural Destruction in Iraq, 2003
Index

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