Olivier Assayas's film on the aftermath of May 1968 is infantile ultra-leftism
JOE GLENTON explains his need to respond to a world that is unsustainably divided
These two books fall under the umbrella of ethnographical studies in that both are the result of on-the-ground observation and research in particular locations from which it is deemed the wider world can extrapolated.
Why so many academic researchers and their publishers feel that the general public will be interested in such detailed microcosmic observations is questionable. Border Watch, the more interesting and rewarding of the two, suffers from the obligations of researchers to use the jargon and extensive referencing which only irritate the general reader.
David M Ryfe's book on journalism in the US, apart from being based solely on his observations in a small number of regional newspaper newsrooms there, is the least satisfactory of the two, not least because his conclusion that the expansion of the internet and digital media are killing paper journalism is hardly original thinking or illuminating.
His blaming journalists for their own demise only compounds the banality of the exercise but the gaping lacuna in his work is the failure to address ownership and political issues or to relate news-gathering and newspaper publishing to the capitalist superstructure.
Alexandra Hall's book does provide insight into how our immigration services work, particularly the detention centres which are twilight zones, kept out of the public eye.
She says that most of the staff are ex-army and of the 13 centres in Britain, only four are run by HM Prison Service - the others are for private profit.
Working in a detention centre, one of the staff says, is "like baby-sitting" compared with real prison work.
Hardly surprising, as most of the detainees are not criminals but ordinary law-abiding citizens from elsewhere, escaping persecution and/or economic hardship.
It is often said that you can judge the state of civilisation of a nation by examining how it treats its prisoners. Hall shows that detainees in Britain are treated like anonymous ciphers, without individual personalities, transported around the country and denied basic dignity. Although not criminals, they are treated as such.
She shows how these unfortunates are at the mercy of shifting policies coloured and framed in terms of security, particularly in the wake of the "war on terror" and immigration fears.
For those working or researching in these fields these books are perhaps of interest but for the general reader they are too burdened by the exigencies of academia to make the effort of reading them rewarding.
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