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First Published: November 4, 2021

Forthcoming: November 2021

The Babel Message: A Love Letter to Language

A thrilling journey deep into the heart of language, from a rather unexpected starting point.

Keith Kahn-Harris is a man obsessed with something seemingly trivial – the warning message found inside Kinder Surprise eggs:

WARNING, read and keep: Toy not suitable for children under 3 years. Small parts might be swallowed or inhaled.

On a tiny sheet of paper, this message is translated into dozens of languages – the world boiled down to a multilingual essence. Inspired by this, the author asks: what makes ‘a language’? With the help of the international community of language geeks, he shows us what the message looks like in Ancient Sumerian, Zulu, Cornish, Klingon – and many more. Along the way he considers why Hungarian writing looks angry, why no one actually speaks Arabic, and the meaning of the heavy metal umlaut.

Overturning the Babel myth, he argues that the messy diversity of language shouldn’t be a source of conflict, but of collective wonder. This is a book about hope, a love letter to language.

Join in the adventure!

On the Additional Content pages you can find  a continually-updated list of translations and other material that I couldn’t fit into the book. Click here to see more and find out how you can help!

Quite simply, and quite ridiculously, one of the funniest and most illuminating books I have ever read. I thought I was obsessive, but Keith Kahn-Harris is playing a very different sport. He really has discovered the whole world in an egg.

Simon Garfield

First Published: June 11, 2019

Strange Hate: Antisemitism, Racism and the Limits of Diversity

How did antisemitism get so strange? How did hate become so clouded in controversy? And what does the strange hate of antisemitism tell us about racism and the politics of diversity today?

Life-long anti-racists accused of antisemitism, life-long Jew haters declaring their love of Israel… Today, antisemitism has become selective. Non-Jews celebrate the ”good Jews” and reject the ”bad Jews”. And its not just antisemitism that s becoming selective, racists and anti-racists alike are starting to choose the minorities they love and hate.

In this passionate yet closely-argued polemic from a writer with an intimate knowledge of the antisemitism controversy, Keith Kahn-Harris argues that the emergence of strange hatreds shows how far we are from understanding what living in diverse societies really means.

Strange Hate calls for us to abandon selective anti-racism and rethink how we view not just Jews and antisemitism, but the challenge of living with diversity.

"I try and read everything Keith Kahn-Harris writes on British Jews and this intelligent book, on how anti-racists have lost their way, and how they can find their way back, is no exception."

Ben Judah, author This Is London

First Published: August 2, 2018

Denial: The Unspeakable Truth

The Holocaust never happened. The planet isn’t warming. Vaccines cause autism. There is no such thing as AIDS. The Earth is flat.

Denialism comes in many forms, dressed in the garb of research proudly claiming to represent the best traditions of scholarship. Its influence is insidious, its techniques are pernicious. Climate change denialists have built well-funded institutions and lobbying groups to counter action against global warming. Holocaust deniers have harried historians and abused survivors. AIDS denialists have prevented treatment programmes in Africa.

All this is bad enough, but what if, as Keith Kahn-Harris asks, it actually cloaks much darker, unspeakable, desires? If denialists could speak from the heart, what would we hear?

Kahn-Harris sets out not just to unpick denialists’ arguments, but to investigate what lies behind them. The conclusions he reaches are disturbing and uncomfortable:

Denialism has paved the way for the recent emergence of what the author tems ‘post-denialism’; a key component of the ‘post-truth’ world. Donald Trump’s lack of concern with truth represents both denialism’s final victory and the final collapse of its claims to scholarly legitimacy.

How should we adapt to the post-denialist era? Keith Kahn-Harris argues that there is now no alternative to enabling denialists and post-denialists to openly express the dark desires that they have sought to hide. This is a horrifying prospect, but perhaps if we accept the fact of ‘moral diversity’ and air these differences in the open, we might be able to make new and better arguments against the denialists’ hidden agendas.

An elegant exploration of how frail certainties really are, and how fragile truth is. While Kahn-Harris offers no easy answers in how to deal with ‘post-truth’, he does inspire you to act

Peter Pomerantsev, Author - 'This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality'

First Published: March 3, 2014

Uncivil War: The Israel Conflict in the Jewish Community

Diaspora Jews are no longer unified in their support for Israel.

The author explores the causes of the conflicts and describes his own innovative efforts at conflict resolution. Analysing the various groupings –  left, right, secular and religious, pro and anti-Zionist – in Britain and the USA, Keith Kahn-Harris looks at the history of civility in society and examines the different methods used by international organisations and groups involved in developing dialogue within Jewish communities

He describes how using these techniques and with expert help, he brought together more than seventy prominent diverse British Jews for a series of encounters. He concludes that dialogue and civility is possible. But with no change in behaviour there will be serious consequences for the Jewish communities of the world.

"The relationship between Anglo-Jewry and Israel is perilous, complex terrain – and there are few better placed to navigate it than Keith Kahn-Harris."

Jonathan Freedland

First Published: August 31, 2012

Judaism: All That Matters

For a group of people so limited in number, the Jewish community has had a huge impact on both global events and local politics. In this vibrant new look at Judaism, sociologist and cultural critic Keith Kahn-Harris provides a remarkably sharp insight into this history, and particularly the diverse Jewish communities (and diverse ideas of Jewishness) that exist today.

From back cover:

Can Judaism keep bouncing back?

Judaism: All That Matters is a fascinating new look at Judaism, in which sociologist and cultural critic Keith Kahn-Harris provides a remarkably sharp insight into this history of the Jewish people, and what it means to be Jewish today.

Kahn-Harris shows how and why the relatively small Jewish population has had such a huge impact on international events, local politics, economic development and global culture. He also looks at the fragmentary nature of Judaism today, and asks whether Judaism can continue to punch above its weight in the twenty-first century – and even if it should want to.

This accessible and concise book will appeal to both students and general readers, providing a fascinating introduction to Judaism – and what matters most about it.

This is a hugely enjoyable and often wise tour of the Jewish people and Judaism, in a very few pages, with some excellent observations. You can learn a lot, laugh a lot, and think a lot as a result of reading this book.

Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE

First Published: July 22, 2010

Co-authored with Ben Gidley

Turbulent Times: The British Jewish Community Today

The first book-length study of contemporary British Jewry , Turbulent Times: The British Jewish Community Today examines the changing nature of the British Jewish community and its leadership since 1990.

Keith Kahn-Harris and Ben Gidley contend that there has been a shift within Jewish communal discourse from a strategy of security, which emphasized Anglo-Jewry’s secure British belonging and citizenship, to a strategy of insecurity, which emphasizes the dangers and threats Jews face individually and communally. This shift is part of a process of renewal in the community that has led to something of a ‘Jewish renaissance’ in Britain.

Addressing key questions on the transitions in the history of Anglo-Jewish community and leadership, and tackling the concept of the ‘new antisemitism’, this important and timely study addresses the question: how has UK Jewry adapted from a shift from monoculturalism to multiculturalism?

Turbulent Times is probing and revelatory, offering exactly the kind of self-reflection any minority community needs in order to understand itself and consider its future…an important contribution to a much-needed debate

Jewish Quarterly

First Published: December 1, 2006

Extreme Metal: Music and Culture on the Edge

Extreme metal–one step beyond heavy metal–can appear bizarre or terrifying to the uninitiated. Extreme metal musicians have developed an often impenetrable sound that teeters on the edge of screaming, incomprehensible noise. Extreme metal circulates on the edge of mainstream culture within the confines of an obscure ’scene’, in which members explore dangerous themes such as death, war and the occult, sometimes embracing violence, neo-fascism and Satanism.

In the first book-length study of extreme metal, Keith Kahn-Harris draws on first-hand research to explore the global extreme metal scene. He shows how the scene is a space in which members creatively explore destructive themes, but also a space in which members experience the everyday pleasures of community and friendship.

Including interviews with band members and fans, from countries ranging from the UK and US to Israel and Sweden, Extreme Metal: Music and Culture on the Edge demonstrates the power and subtlety of an often surprising and misunderstood musical form.

Sharp, engaging, and comprehensive. Extreme Metal is a must-read for metal fans and anyone interested in the study of popular music and subcultural politics in a globalizing age

Sam Dunn, Banger Films

First Published: April 8, 2016

Co-edited with Andy R. Brown, Karl Spracklen and Niall Scott

Global Metal Music and Culture: Current Directions in Metal Studies

This book defines the key ideas, scholarly debates, and research activities that have contributed to the formation of the international and interdisciplinary field of Metal Studies. Drawing on insights from a wide range of disciplines including popular music, cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, and ethics, this volume offers new and innovative research on metal musicology, global/local scenes studies, fandom, gender and metal identity, metal media, and commerce. Offering a wide-ranging focus on bands, scenes, periods, and sounds, contributors explore topics such as the riff-based song writing of classic heavy metal bands and their modern equivalents, and the musical-aesthetics of Grindcore, Doom metal, Death metal, and Progressive metal. They interrogate production technologies, sound engineering, album artwork and band promotion, logos and merchandising, t-shirt and jewellery design, and fan communities that define the global metal music economy and subcultural scene. The volume explores how the new academic discipline of metal studies was formed, also looking forward to the future of metal music and its relationship to metal scholarship and fandom. With an international range of contributors, this volume will appeal to scholars of popular music, cultural studies, and sociology, as well as those interested in metal communities around the world.

First Published: April 1, 2013

Co-edited with Titus Hjelm and Mark LeVine

Heavy Metal: Controversies and Countercultures

Heavy metal is now over forty years old and has developed into a diverse and multi-faceted genre. Wherever it is found and however it is played, metal’s fascination with transgression has often meant it has been embroiled in controversy. Controversies surrounding the alleged connection between heavy metal and, variously, sexual promiscuity, occultism and Satanism, subliminal messages, suicide and violence have made heavy metal a target of moral panics over popular culture. Metal has variously embraced, rejected, played with and tried to ignore this controversy and it remains irrevocably marked by its controversial, transgressive tendencies.

This anthology provides a thorough investigation of how and why metal becomes controversial, how metal ‘scenes’ are formed. It examines the relationship between metal and society, including how fans, musicians and the media create the culture of heavy metal.

 

A powerful addition to the metal studies literature, this book is overflowing with insights into the cultural politics of heavy metal music. With lively writing, interdisciplinary approaches, and a global perspective, these chapters offer ideas that have broad implications for the study of popular music scenes and their dynamics, media scandals, the relationship between music and affect, and the role of culture in social life

Harris M. Berger, author of 'Metal, Rock and Jazz'

First Published: February 23, 2012

Co-edited with Dougald Hine

Despatches from the Invisible Revolution

The book began as an invitation to reflect on the events of 2011: to make sense of the changes going on in the world and in our own lives, and to voice the questions the year had left us with.

From Wikileaks to the UK riots, Tahrir Square to Zuccotti Park, the headline events of the year all make their appearance, often from the perspective of those involved in or touched by them. Smári McCarthy writes about his experience as a Telecomix activist providing tech support to revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria. Keri Facer examines her responses after riots come to the street she has just moved into. But these images sit alongside the less dramatic events that make up the fabric of our lives, and between the two a pattern begins to emerge.

The idea of ‘The Invisible Revolution’ comes from Pamela McLean’s account of her work with ICT and community learning in the UK and Africa. The thing about the transforming power of networks, she says, is how hard it is to make people see it unless they have experienced it first hand. In the Industrial Revolution, you could point to a steam engine; pointing to a laptop or the Twitter home page doesn’t convey an equivalent sense of the power and strangeness of the forces at work.

In this and other senses, the book becomes a picture of life in the middle of an invisible revolution, interwoven with the hopes and bitter experiences of those visible revolutions left unfinished at the end of 2011. Some of its contributors see themselves as actively engaged on the frontlines; others are closer to the role Noah Raford proposes, as ‘system-repairing non-combatants and psycho-social medics, providing shelter for the shell-shocked around us.’

From this non-combatant role, another significant path runs through the book, concerning time and place, belonging, identity and the experience of being ‘at home’. In one sense, these concerns map the negotiation between our physical, embodied existence and the virtual qualities of the network. ‘We live in an age,’ write Jeppe Graugaard and Morten Svenstrup, ‘where it has become a life skill to balance the power and advantages of virtual time against embodied temporalities.’ But they are also markers of an emergent intellectual project, a kind of applied postmodernism which does not have the luxury of dancing with nihilism as its academic counterparts have done for decades. These are not polished pieces of academic theory, but there is thinking in progress here, and a style of thinking which does not hold itself above doing, or feeling.

 

First Published: June 24, 2011

Co-edited with Thomas Bossius and Andreas Hager

Religion and Popular Music in Europe: New Expressions of Sacred and Secular Identity

Music and religion have, throughout history, walked hand in hand. In the rites and rituals of small tribal religions, great world religions, and more recent New-Age and neo-heathen movements, different kinds of music have been used to celebrate the gods, express belief and help believers get in contact with the divine. This innovative book focuses on how mainstream and counter-cultural groups use religion and music to negotiate the challenges of modernisation and globalisation in the European context: a region under-explored by existing literature on the subject. With its internal ethnic diversity, ever-expanding borders and increasing differentiation, Europe has undergone massive dislocation in recent years. The authors show that, in the midst of such change, rock, pop and dance music may in their various forms be used by their practitioners as resources for new kinds of spiritual and religious identification, even as these forms are used as symbols of the deficiencies of secular society.

Focusing on Christianity, Judaism, Islam and New Religious Movements, the book explores such topics as Norwegian Black Metal and Neo-paganism, contemporary Jewish Music in the UK, the French hip hop scene, the musical thinking of Muslim convert Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam and European dance music culture. It offers an ideal introduction to leading-edge thinking at the exciting interface of ‘music and religion’.

 

First Published: May 5, 2004

Co-edited with Andrew Bennett

After Subculture: Critical Studies in Contemporary Youth Culture

The concept of ‘subculture’ has long been of significant importance in research on youth, style, deviance and popular culture. Although in more recent years subculture has been the subject of sustained critique, it still provides a valuable point of reference for study and research. This text offers students an up-to-date and wide-ranging account of new developments in youth culture research that reject, refine or reinvent the concept of subculture. Bringing together key theoretical statements with illuminating analyzes of particular aspects of youth culture – popular music, clubbing, body modification, the internet, etc. – this is an ideal introduction to a diverse and wide-ranging field.

 

First Published: November 1, 1999

Edited under the name Keith Harris

New Voices in Jewish Thought: Volume Two

This was the second collection of essays on topics in Jewish thought by British doctoral students.  As with the first volume, the collection was intended to stimulate critical thinking on the relationship between the Jewish world and the wider culture.