Les Back

is professor of sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London. His numerous publications on the sociology of racism and ethnicity, popular culture and music, urban life, and social divisions and class include Out of Whiteness: Color, Politics and Culture (2002). His latest book is The Art of Listening, (Berg 2007).


Les Back learns a few lessons about the importance of paying attention from the examples of Primo Levi, radioman Studs Terkel and literary traveller Flemming Røgilds. They animate an alternative way to live, achieved through two people hearing each other. This active listening can create another set of social relations and ultimately a new kind of society.

Xenophobia is not contained to Europe’s extremist fringes but part of the political mainstream, writes the Forum of Concerned Citizens of Europe in an open letter to Europe’s leaders. Quick-fix political solutions appealing to a mythical Europe of homogenous communities must be replaced by a politics of hospitality, fairness and solidarity.

Beaches and graveyards

Europe's haunted borders

“It is more arduous to honour the memory of the nameless than the renowned.” The epigram on Walter Benjamin’s memorial in Portbou, Catalonia, leads Les Back to reflect on the fate of the African migrants found dead on the coasts of Spain today.


London and the War on Terror

The wail of police sirens has become the keynote sound of post-7/7 London, said Les Back at the Eurozine conference “Friend and foe. Shared space, divided society”. The “phobocity” is created not by the suicide bombers alone, but also by politicians and journalists who are concerned with the thought of the terrorists and who trade on people’s fears. The answer to this “politics of misrecognition” – which undermines not just our ability to coexist and share the public space, but also inhibits the ability to identify risk and danger – must be a political language that is against racism and terror with equal commitment and vigilance.

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