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Abandoned books in Pripyat, Ukraine


Abandoned books in Pripyat, Ukraine. Photo by Magalie L'Abbé, 2011, via Flickr Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

By Phil Jones and Denise O'Dea

On Saturday, 23 April 2016, UNESCO celebrates books and literacy as part of the UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day. UNESCO’s idea that books should be seen as global symbols of social progress is one that resonates with us here at Sydney University Press. As scholarly publishers we aim to publish books that engage, inspire and stimulate debate. Books and the written word have the capacity to change the lives of individuals, and to change society.

If creating a book can change the world, what can taking away a book do? In 1996, the year of the first World Book and Copyright Day, UNESCO also compiled “Lost Memory”, a list of libraries and archives destroyed during the twentieth century. In a sombre counterpoint to the celebrations of World Book and Copyright Day, it documents libraries lost to war, vandalism, natural disaster and neglect. As Hans van der Hoeven notes in his introduction, “books, periodicals and manuscripts constitute the collective ‘Memory of the World’”; when we lose one, we forget a piece of our past. While celebrating World Book and Copyright Day, we took a moment to remember some of these “lost” books and libraries

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Stacks of paperback books


Photo by jvoves, 2009, via Flickr Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)


By Eisha Farrukh

“Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons.” – Malala Yousafzai

The twenty-third of April commemorates an eventful day for world literature. On this date in 1616, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega both died, leaving their final mark on the world. Since then, other notable authors such as Vladimir Nabokov, Maurice Druon, Manuel Mejía Vallejo, Josep Pla and Halldór K. Laxness were either born or passed away on the same date. As a tribute to the contribution of such creative greats to the social and cultural progress of humanity, UNESCO created World Book and Copyright Day.

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Image of Aborignal art

Image by esther1721, Pixabay, CC0 1.0 Universal

By Eisha Farrukh

In 2014 Ken Wyatt, Australia’s first Indigenous member of the House of Representatives, urged the public to not ‘lose momentum’ in the push for constitutional recognition as the referendum date was and is constantly delayed, an acknowledgement long overdue for the original inhabitants of Australia. But there is a greater issue, even beyond the question of legal recognition, that the Indigenous communities face in preserving their culture. The Indigenous cultures of Australia, rich with 65,000 years of tradition, are faced with the threat of being lost and forgotten due to our increasingly globalised environment, promoting the process of assimilation and cultural integration. Luckily, 21st-century media platforms have enabled the preservation of practices that were previously passed down intergenerationally through the oral tradition from elders.

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PUNCH.jpg
“For individuals who chose to break society’s most fundamental rules, the stakes could be very high indeed.” Image by George Henry Dancey (1864-1922), “The New Woman’s Ball” (detail), Punch, 11 April 1895.

An internet search on recent discussions of cross-dressing in the media reveals a myriad of articles, ranging from toddlers to be taught about sexuality and cross-dressing in a new Australian national program, to Newtown Performing Arts school being criticised for allowing cross-dressing, to traditional Indonesian cross-dressing performance art under threat from authorities who are denying them the ability to perform on television. It is clear that cross-dressing, sexual and gender identity remain highly contentious topics in wider society. Lucy Chesser’s Parting with my Sex frames cross-dressing as “disruptive of stable binaries – not just male and female, or heterosexual and homosexual, but across culture more generally. [It] intervenes the crisis of category itself.”

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Today, 8 March is International Women’s Day, a celebration of the social, cultural and other achievements of women. This year’s theme, ‘Pledge for Parity’, is encouraging people across the world to be aware of and take action to achieve gender parity.

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UNESCO has been celebrating Philosophy Day on the third Thursday of November since 2002. It is a day when UNESCO encourages philosophical reflection, with its objective “to share the philosophical heritage of the peoples of the world and to inspire public debate between intellectuals and civil society on the challenges that still confront our society.”

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Phonographs on display at the Musee Edison du Phonographe, Quebec


Photo by Regan Walsh, 2010, via Flickr Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)


In 2005, UNESCO declared 27 October the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’ve spent a decent portion of your life consuming audiovisual media, whether in the form of news broadcasts, podcasts, TV commercials or, yes, silly cat videos. Today, the sheer volume of audiovisual stuff, combined with the seemingly endless memory of the internet, might make us take its availability for granted. But audio and video recordings are notoriously vulnerable. Tapes are lost, damaged or re-used; technologies become obsolete; valuable recordings gather dust in forgotten cupboards, uncatalogued and inaccessible. The internet might be great at preserving ephemera, but there is a real danger of important cultural knowledge being lost.

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