This is a version of a paper I presented at a seminar held by the Parkes Institute at the University of Southampton on 30 June 2020. It is a draft that will possibly form the basis of a longer article. Comments and suggestions would be welcome.

In this short paper, I am interested less in antisemitism per se, so much as its salience as an object of attention in political debates.

One of the contributions that the social sciences can make to the study of politics is in distinguishing the everyday and unnoticed, from the exceptional and discussed. Sociologists such…

What an offhand celebrity comment can tell us about the legacy of empire

Anthea Turner perkily stands in front of a dungeon in a Ghanian slave fort. She points her thumb at the sign about the door -‘Male Slaves’- then, grinning at the camera, she quips:

‘I can think of a few fellas I wouldn’t mind putting in there!’

My wife didn’t want me to write this article. Her view is that to investigate an offhand comment that Anthea Turner made in 1999 would be…somewhat creepy. But I am not a stalker and I have very little interest in Anthea…

A constantly updated list of conlang translations

I’ve written elsewhere of my project of translating the Kinder Egg warning message into as many languages as possible. The message reads, in English:

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

This Medium post used to feature my ever-expanding collection of conlang translations of the Kinder Surprise warning message. These translations now feature in my book about language that takes the translation of the warning messages as its starting point.

The book is called The Babel Message: A Love Letter to Language and will be published by Icon…

The global effort to map the world of Kinder Egg warning messages continues…

This page used to feature my ever-expanding collection of translations of the Kinder Surprise warning message. This reads, in English, as follows:

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

The message is found on a sheet of paper inside the egg that looks like this:

On the wistful pleasure of turning a chance encounter into a minor obsession

There was no reason why we should have chosen him. It could have been anyone really. I don’t even understand why we found it funny, why simply mentioning a person’s name could make us laugh. Nevertheless it happened…

In the summer of 1992, my friend Russell spent 3 weeks backpacking in Israel. We slept for a few nights in a dingy hostel in King George Street in Jerusalem. At some point during our stay, a tall Dutch guy entered the dorm, dropped his bag and left. I…

One of the my consuming childhood passions was discovering obscure sports. My passion was kindled by this mammoth book, that I consumed chunks of every morning over breakfast.

When all this is over, years into the future, I will reminisce to my grandchildren about what it was like to be locked down during the Covid-19 pandemic. I will tell them about how odd it all felt for the world to shutdown. I will speak of the incessant worrying about family and friends, the daily walk, the endless fear that the government made the wrong call.

But I will only be telling part of the story.

For my life in lockdown, while it is all those things, is also a life spent trying to find distraction. It is a…

Whatever the next few weeks and months hold, we are all going to have to think about how we support each other. Some of that support can be provided on a hyper-local level, simply by being in touch with neighbours. But if you are like me and have shamefully limited relations in your local neighbourhood, then it’s worth thinking proactively about how to deepen them. Last week, my wife and I posted the following letter through the doors of about 30 neighbouring houses. We have only had 4 positive responses yet and it remains to be seen whether we can…

A coronavirus-fuelled attempt at understanding the self-destructiveness of the privileged

There is a strange kind of comfort to be had in materialist explanations of politics.

Take climate change: Why is it that there is such an organised, well-funded attempt to prevent action against climate change and deny it is even occurring? The comforting, materialist explanation is that action against climate change would threaten the interests of those who benefit from the capitalist system (the oil industry in particular). Why is this comforting? …

Or: Why choose Richard Burgon when you could have Mark Francois?

In my recent article for the Guardian, I argued that the ‘laughable’ nature of many of the ‘anti-woke’ brigade was precisely the point. Shamelessness, abuse and lack of restraint is becoming a key component of right-wing politics. This raises the question: but what about the left? Isn’t the left also full of ridiculous figures shamelessly engaged in abuse?

Laughable pomposity and shameless abuse is certainly prevalent throughout contemporary political culture. But the political right have been much more successful in wielding shamelessness as a political strategy.

One of the reasons for this is that left-wing projects are often projects of…

Keith Kahn-Harris

Professionally curious writer and sociologist. Expert on Jews and on heavy metal — interested in much more. For more about me go to

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