Saturday, April 19, 2014

"Dealing with Darwin"

New from Johns Hopkins University Press: Dealing with Darwin: Place, Politics, and Rhetoric in Religious Engagements with Evolution by David N. Livingstone.

About the book, from the publisher:
Using place, politics, and rhetoric as analytical tools, historical geographer David N. Livingstone investigates how religious communities sharing a Scots Presbyterian heritage engaged with Darwin and Darwinism at the turn of the twentieth century. His findings, presented as the prestigious Gifford Lectures, transform our understandings of the relationship between science and religion.

The particulars of place—whether in Edinburgh, Belfast, Toronto, Princeton, or Columbia, South Carolina—shaped the response to Darwin’s theories. Were they tolerated, repudiated, or welcomed? Livingstone shows how Darwin was read in different ways, with meaning distilled from Darwin's texts depending on readers' own histories—their literary genealogies and cultural preoccupations. That the theory of evolution fared differently in different places, Livingstone writes, is "exactly what Darwin might have predicted. As the theory diffused, it diverged."

Dealing with Darwin shows the profound extent to which theological debates about evolution were rooted in such matters as anxieties over control of education, the politics of race relations, the nature of local scientific traditions, and challenges to traditional cultural identity. In some settings, conciliation with the new theory, even endorsement, was possible—demonstrating that attending to the specific nature of individual communities subverts an inclination to assume a single relationship between science and religion in general, evolution and Christianity in particular.

Livingstone concludes with contemporary examples to remind us that what scientists can say and what others can hear in different venues differ today just as much as they did in the past.
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 18, 2014

"Culling the Masses"

New from Harvard University Press: Culling the Masses: The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas by David Scott FitzGerald and David Cook-Martín.

About the book, from the publisher:
Culling the Masses questions the widely held view that in the long run democracy and racism cannot coexist. David Scott FitzGerald and David Cook-Martín show that democracies were the first countries in the Americas to select immigrants by race, and undemocratic states the first to outlaw discrimination. Through analysis of legal records from twenty-two countries between 1790 and 2010, the authors present a history of the rise and fall of racial selection in the Western Hemisphere.

The United States led the way in using legal means to exclude “inferior” ethnic groups. Starting in 1790, Congress began passing nationality and immigration laws that prevented Africans and Asians from becoming citizens, on the grounds that they were inherently incapable of self-government. Similar policies were soon adopted by the self-governing colonies and dominions of the British Empire, eventually spreading across Latin America as well.

Undemocratic regimes in Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Cuba reversed their discriminatory laws in the 1930s and 1940s, decades ahead of the United States and Canada. The conventional claim that racism and democracy are antithetical—because democracy depends on ideals of equality and fairness, which are incompatible with the notion of racial inferiority—cannot explain why liberal democracies were leaders in promoting racist policies and laggards in eliminating them. Ultimately, the authors argue, the changed racial geopolitics of World War II and the Cold War was necessary to convince North American countries to reform their immigration and citizenship laws.
The Page 99 Test: David Cook-Martín's The Scramble for Citizens.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"The Lost Art of Dress"

New from Basic Books: The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish by Linda Przybyszewski.

About the book, from the publisher:
A history of the women who taught Americans how to dress in the first half of the 20th century—and whose lessons we'd do well to remember today.

As a glance down any street in America quickly reveals, American women have forgotten how to dress. We chase fads, choose inappropriate materials and unattractive cuts, and waste energy tottering in heels when we could be moving gracefully. Quite simply, we lack the fashion know-how we need to dress professionally and flatteringly.

As historian and expert dressmaker Linda Przybyszewski reveals in The Lost Art of Dress, it wasn't always like this. In the first half of the twentieth century, a remarkable group of women—the so-called Dress Doctors—taught American women how to stretch each yard of fabric and dress well on a budget. Knowledge not money, they insisted, is the key to timeless fashion. Based in Home Economics departments across the country, the Dress Doctors offered advice on radio shows, at women's clubs, and in magazines. Millions of young girls read their books in school and at 4-H clothing clubs. As Przybyszewski shows, the Dress Doctors' concerns weren't purely superficial: they prized practicality, and empowered women to design and make clothing for both the workplace and the home. They championed skirts that would allow women to move about freely and campaigned against impractical and painful shoes. Armed with the Dress Doctors' simple design principles—harmony, proportion, balance, rhythm, emphasis—modern American women from all classes could learn to dress for all occasions in a way that made them confident, engaged members of society.

A captivating and beautifully-illustrated look at the world of the Dress Doctors, The Lost Art of Dress introduces a new audience to their timeless rules of fashion and beauty—rules which, with a little help, we can certainly learn again.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"The Witch-Hunt Narrative"

New from Oxford University Press: The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology and the Sexual Abuse of Children by Ross E. Cheit.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the 1980s, a series of child sex abuse cases rocked the United States. The most famous case was the 1984 McMartin preschool case, but there were a number of others as well. By the latter part of the decade, the assumption was widespread that child sex abuse had become a serious problem in America. Yet within a few years, the concern about it died down considerably. The failure to convict anyone in the McMartin case and a widely publicized appellate decision in New Jersey that freed an accused molester had turned the dominant narrative on its head. In the early 1990s, a new narrative with remarkable staying power emerged: the child sex abuse cases were symptomatic of a 'moral panic' that had produced a witch hunt. A central claim in this new witch hunt narrative was that the children who testified were not reliable and easily swayed by prosecutorial suggestion. In time, the notion that child sex abuse was a product of sensationalized over-reporting and far less endemic than originally thought became the new common sense.

But did the new witch hunt narrative accurately represent reality? As Ross Cheit demonstrates in his exhaustive account of child sex abuse cases in the past two and a half decades, purveyors of the witch hunt narrative never did the hard work of examining court records in the many cases that reached the courts throughout the nation. Instead, they treated a couple of cases as representative and concluded that the issue was blown far out of proportion. Drawing on years of research into cases in a number of states, Cheit shows that the issue had not been blown out of proportion at all. In fact, child sex abuse convictions were regular occurrences, and the crime occurred far more frequently than conventional wisdom would have us believe. Cheit's aim is not to simply prove the narrative wrong, however. He also shows how a narrative based on empirically thin evidence became a theory with real social force, and how that theory stood at odds with a far more grim reality. The belief that the charge of child sex abuse was typically a hoax also left us unprepared to deal with the far greater scandal of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church, which, incidentally, has served to substantiate Cheit's thesis about the pervasiveness of the problem. In sum, The Witch-Hunt Narrative is a magisterial and empirically powerful account of the social dynamics that led to the denial of widespread human tragedy.
Learn more about The Witch-Hunt Narrative at the official website/blog WitchhuntNarrative.org and the book's Facebook fan page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"The Age of Evangelicalism"

New from Oxford University Press: The Age of Evangelicalism: America's Born-Again Years by Steven P. Miller.

About the book, from the publisher:
At the start of the twenty-first century, America was awash in a sea of evangelical talk. The Purpose Driven Life. Joel Osteen. The Left Behind novels. George W. Bush. Evangelicalism had become so powerful and pervasive that political scientist Alan Wolfe wrote of "a sense in which we are all evangelicals now."

Steven P. Miller offers a dramatically different perspective: the Bush years, he argues, did not mark the pinnacle of evangelical influence, but rather the beginning of its decline. The Age of Evangelicalism chronicles the place and meaning of evangelical Christianity in America since 1970, a period Miller defines as America's "born-again years." This was a time of evangelical scares, born-again spectacles, and battles over faith in the public square. From the Jesus chic of the 1970s to the satanism panic of the 1980s, the culture wars of the 1990s, and the faith-based vogue of the early 2000s, evangelicalism expanded beyond churches and entered the mainstream in ways both subtly and obviously influential.

Born-again Christianity permeated nearly every area of American life. It was broad enough to encompass Hal Lindsey's doomsday prophecies and Marabel Morgan's sex advice, Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Carter. It made an unlikely convert of Bob Dylan and an unlikely president of a divorced Hollywood actor. As Miller shows, evangelicalism influenced not only its devotees but its many detractors: religious conservatives, secular liberals, and just about everyone in between. The Age of Evangelicalism contained multitudes: it was the age of Christian hippies and the "silent majority," of Footloose and The Passion of the Christ, of Tammy Faye Bakker the disgraced televangelist and Tammy Faye Messner the gay icon. Barack Obama was as much a part of it as Billy Graham.

The Age of Evangelicalism tells the captivating story of how born-again Christianity shaped the cultural and political climate in which millions of Americans came to terms with their times.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 14, 2014

"The Cultivation of Taste"

New from Oxford University Press: The Cultivation of Taste: Chefs and the Organization of Fine Dining by Christel Lane.

About the book, from the publisher:
After many decades, if not centuries, of neglect of fine food and high-level restaurants in Britain, we are seeing a massive explosion of interest in food, cooking, and dining out. Christel Lane's book charts the process of this transformation and examines top contemporary restaurants and their chefs.

The Cultivation of Taste presents a comparative study of Michelin-starred restaurants in Britain and Germany, focusing on two countries without an indigenous haute cuisine but which nevertheless have developed internationally reputed fine-dining sectors. It compares their development to the fine-dining culture in France, as well as offering contrasts with that of the US, Spain, and the Nordic Countries. Written from a sociological perspective, chefs are portrayed as part of a complex network, in their relationships with their employees, their customers, gastronomic critics, suppliers of food, and even their financiers. It will appeal to academics in the areas of economic and cultural sociology, and those with an interest in small entrepreneurial firms and their work relations, but also to all those who have an interest in fine-dining restaurants and the chef patrons at the centre of them.

The book draws on a large number of interviews with renowned chefs, diners, and Michelin inspectors to provide an unprecedented insight into what goes on in Michelin-starred restaurants—what makes their chefs tick, intrigues their critics, and beguiles or annoys their customers. Restaurants are viewed not simply as businesses but as cultural enterprises that shape our taste in food, ambience, and sociality.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 13, 2014

"A Public Empire"

New from Princeton University Press: A Public Empire: Property and the Quest for the Common Good in Imperial Russia by Ekaterina Pravilova.

About the book, from the publisher:
"Property rights" and "Russia" do not usually belong in the same sentence. Rather, our general image of the nation is of insecurity of private ownership and defenselessness in the face of the state. Many scholars have attributed Russia's long-term development problems to a failure to advance property rights for the modern age and blamed Russian intellectuals for their indifference to the issues of ownership. A Public Empire refutes this widely shared conventional wisdom and analyzes the emergence of Russian property regimes from the time of Catherine the Great through World War I and the revolutions of 1917. Most importantly, A Public Empire shows the emergence of the new practices of owning "public things" in imperial Russia and the attempts of Russian intellectuals to reconcile the security of property with the ideals of the common good.

The book analyzes how the belief that certain objects--rivers, forests, minerals, historical monuments, icons, and Russian literary classics--should accede to some kind of public status developed in Russia in the mid-nineteenth century. Professional experts and liberal politicians advocated for a property reform that aimed at exempting public things from private ownership, while the tsars and the imperial government employed the rhetoric of protecting the sanctity of private property and resisted attempts at its limitation.

Exploring the Russian ways of thinking about property, A Public Empire looks at problems of state reform and the formation of civil society, which, as the book argues, should be rethought as a process of constructing "the public" through the reform of property rights.
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Outside the Gates of Eden"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Outside the Gates of Eden: The Dream of America from Hiroshima to Now by Peter Bacon Hales.

About the book, from the publisher:
Exhilaration and anxiety, the yearning for community and the quest for identity: these shared, contradictory feelings course through Outside the Gates of Eden, Peter Bacon Hales’s ambitious and intoxicating new history of America from the atomic age to the virtual age.

Born under the shadow of the bomb, with little security but the cold comfort of duck-and-cover, the postwar generations lived through—and led—some of the most momentous changes in all of American history. Hales explores those decades through perceptive accounts of a succession of resonant moments, spaces, and artifacts of everyday life—drawing unexpected connections and tracing the intertwined undercurrents of promise and peril. From sharp analyses of newsreels of the first atomic bomb tests and the invention of a new ideal American life in Levittown; from the music emerging from the Brill Building and the Beach Boys, and a brilliant account of Bob Dylan’s transformations; from the painful failures of communes and the breathtaking utopian potential of the early days of the digital age, Hales reveals a nation, and a dream, in transition, as a new generation began to make its mark on the world it was inheriting.

Full of richly drawn set-pieces and countless stories of unforgettable moments, Outside the Gates of Eden is the most comprehensive account yet of the baby boomers, their parents, and their children, as seen through the places they built, the music and movies and shows they loved, and the battles they fought to define their nation, their culture, and their place in what remains a fragile and dangerous world.
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 11, 2014

"Making Noise, Making News"

New from Oxford University Press: Making Noise, Making News: Suffrage Print Culture and U.S. Modernism by Mary Chapman.

About the book, from the publisher:
For most people, the U.S. suffrage campaign is encapsulated by images of iconic nineteenth-century orators like the tightly coifed Susan B. Anthony or the wimpled Elizabeth Cady Stanton. However, as Mary Chapman shows, the campaign to secure the vote for U.S. women was also a modern and print-cultural phenomenon, waged with humor, creativity, and style.

Making Noise, Making News also understands modern suffragist print culture as a demonstrable link between the Progressive Era's political campaign for a voice in the public sphere and Modernism's aesthetic efforts to re-imagine literary voice. Chapman charts a relationship between modern suffragist print cultural "noise" and what literary modernists understood by "making it new," asserting that the experimental tactics of U.S. suffrage print culture contributed to, and even anticipated, the formal innovations of U.S. literary modernism. Drawing on little-known archives and featuring over twenty illustrations, Making Noise, Making News provides startling documentation of Marianne Moore's closeted career as a suffrage propagandist, the persuasive effects of Alice Duer Miller's popular poetry column, Asian-American author Sui Sin Far's challenge to the racism and classism of modern suffragism, and Gertrude Stein's midcentury acknowledgement of intersections between suffrage discourse and literary modernism.
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"Common Threads"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: Common Threads: A Cultural History of Clothing in American Catholicism by Sally Dwyer-McNulty.

About the book, from the publisher:
A well-illustrated cultural history of the apparel worn by American Catholics, Sally Dwyer-McNulty's Common Threads reveals the transnational origins and homegrown significance of clothing in developing identity, unity, and a sense of respectability for a major religious group that had long struggled for its footing in a Protestant-dominated society often openly hostile to Catholics. Focusing on those who wore the most visually distinct clothes--priests, women religious, and schoolchildren--the story begins in the 1830s, when most American priests were foreign born and wore a variety of clerical styles. Dwyer-McNulty tracks and analyzes changes in Catholic clothing all the way through the twentieth century and into the present, which finds the new Pope Francis choosing to wear plain black shoes rather than ornate red ones.

Drawing on insights from the study of material culture and of lived religion, Dwyer-McNulty demonstrates how the visual lexicon of clothing in Catholicism can indicate gender ideology, age, and class. Indeed, clothing itself has become a kind of Catholic language, whether expressing shared devotional experiences or entwined with debates about education, authority, and the place of religion in American society.
--Marshal Zeringue