Reading Pile

1. Loretta Napoleoni. 2015. The Islamist Phoenix: The Islamic State and the Redrawing of the Middle East. New York: Seven Stories Press. PhD supervisor Luke Howie and I have discussed me including a section on ISIS in my study of terrorist organisations as strategic subcultures. Napoleoni contends that ISIS engages in a new form of nation-building in order to re-establish the Caliphate. One of several quickly written books to emerge as ISIS has gained military power projection in Iraq.


2. Richard Seymour. 2014. Against Austerity: How We Can Fix The Crisis They Made. New York: Pluto Press. A left-wing polemic that anticipated current political events in Greece, the Queensland state election, and in Australian federal politics. Seymour describes austerity as neoliberal crisis management, and as an elite strategy to change socio-economic foundations. An angry and insightful analysis of the conditions that might lead to oligarchical collectivism (George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four).


3. Luke Howie and Peter Kelly. 2015. ‘Sociologies of Terrorism: Holographic Metaphors for Terrorism Research’, Journal of Sociology, 1-15 (online first). The authors propose a ‘holographic theorising’ framework and ‘holographic social scientific imagination‘ [emphasis original] (p. 2) for how terrorism studies researchers can explore, interrogate, and re-evaluate data. A central challenge the authors identify is that terrorism events ‘develop, shift, and change‘ [emphasis original] (p. 3) whilst interview transcripts and other research data can remain ‘forever frozen in time‘ [emphasis original] (p. 3). The article includes insights from an on-going interview research project, theorist Donna Haraway, and popular media including Star Trek: Voyager, and I, Robot.

Lessons from MacArthur Genius Yitang Zhang

Some lessons from The New Yorker‘s profile of MacArthur Fellow and mathematician Yitang Zhang:


1. Immerse yourself in the research literature of your discipline. Zhang spent years reading mathematics journals about alegebraic geometry number theory at the University of Kentucky, and keeping a low profile: he had published only one paper, in 2001.

2. Choose a focal point or meta-question for your research program that will have a significant impact. Zhang focused on ‘bound gaps’ about prime numbers.

3. Organise your life’s tasks in order to pursue your individual research program. Zhang worked at a Subway and in New Hampshire in order to have more time to write and pursue his research program on his own terms.

4. Streamline your publication track record to focus on publications in high-ranked journals. Zhang submitted “Bounded Gaps Between Primes” in late 2012 to Annals of Mathematics after years of work.

5. Understand how the referee process works for journal articles. Zhang benefited from reviewers Henryk Iwaniec (Rutgers) and John Friedlander (University of Toronto) who were critical yet sympathetic to Zhang’s study, and Annals of Mathematics editor Nicholas Katz.