Monday, May 25, 2015

"Science in Wonderland"

New from Oxford University Press: Science in Wonderland: The scientific fairy tales of Victorian Britain by Melanie Keene.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Victorian Britain an array of writers captured the excitement of new scientific discoveries, and enticed young readers and listeners into learning their secrets, by converting introductory explanations into quirky, charming, and imaginative fairy-tales; forces could be fairies, dinosaurs could be dragons, and looking closely at a drop of water revealed a soup of monsters.

Science in Wonderland explores how these stories were presented and read. Melanie Keene introduces and analyses a range of Victorian scientific fairy-tales, from nursery classics such as The Water-Babies to the little-known Wonderland of Evolution, or the story of insect lecturer Fairy Know-a-Bit. In exploring the ways in which authors and translators - from Hans Christian Andersen and Edith Nesbit to the pseudonymous 'A.L.O.E.' and 'Acheta Domestica' - reconciled the differing demands of factual accuracy and fantastical narratives, Keene asks why the fairies and their tales were chosen as an appropriate new form for capturing and presenting scientific and technological knowledge to young audiences. Such stories, she argues, were an important way in which authors and audiences criticised, communicated, and celebrated contemporary scientific ideas, practices, and objects.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 24, 2015

"Baptists in America: A History"

New from Oxford University Press: Baptists in America: A History by Thomas S. Kidd and Barry Hankins.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Puritans called Baptists "the troublers of churches in all places" and hounded them out of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Four hundred years later, Baptists are the second-largest religious group in America, and their influence matches their numbers. They have built strong institutions, from megachurches to publishing houses to charities to mission organizations, and have firmly established themselves in the mainstream of American culture. Yet the historical legacy of outsider status lingers, and the inherently fractured nature of their faith makes Baptists ever wary of threats from within as well as without.

In Baptists in America, Thomas S. Kidd and Barry Hankins explore the long-running tensions between church, state, and culture that Baptists have shaped and navigated. Despite the moment of unity that their early persecution provided, their history has been marked by internal battles and schisms that were microcosms of national events, from the conflict over slavery that divided North from South to the conservative revolution of the 1970s and 80s. Baptists have made an indelible impact on American religious and cultural history, from their early insistence that America should have no established church to their place in the modern-day culture wars, where they frequently advocate greater religious involvement in politics. Yet the more mainstream they have become, the more they have been pressured to conform to the mainstream, a paradox that defines--and is essential to understanding--the Baptist experience in America.

Kidd and Hankins, both practicing Baptists, weave the threads of Baptist history alongside those of American history. Baptists in America is a remarkable story of how one religious denomination was transformed from persecuted minority into a leading actor on the national stage, with profound implications for American society and culture.
Learn more about the book at the Oxford University Press website.

Thomas Kidd is professor of history at Baylor University and resident scholar at Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion. His books include American Christians and Islam: Evangelical Culture and Muslims from the Colonial Period to the Age of Terrorism, The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America, and The Protestant Interest: New England after Puritanism.

Barry Hankins is Professor of History, graduate program director in the history department, and Resident Scholar at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University.

The Page 99 Test: American Christians and Islam.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 23, 2015

"Do Guns Make Us Free?"

New from Yale University Press: Do Guns Make Us Free?: Democracy and the Armed Society by Firmin DeBrabander.

About the book, from the publisher:
Possibly the most emotionally charged debate taking place in the United States today centers on the Second Amendment to the Constitution and the rights of citizens to bear arms. In the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre in Connecticut, the gun rights movement, headed by the National Rifle Association, appears more intractable than ever in its fight against gun control laws. The core argument of Second Amendment advocates is that the proliferation of firearms is essential to maintaining freedom in America, providing private citizens with a defense against possible government tyranny, and thus safeguarding all our other rights. But is this argument valid? Do guns indeed make us free?

In this insightful and eye-opening analysis, the first philosophical examination of every aspect of the contentious and uniquely American debate over guns, Firmin DeBrabander examines the claims offered in favor of unchecked gun ownership. By exposing the contradictions and misinterpretations inherent in the case presented by gun rights supporters, this provocative volume demonstrates that an armed society is not a free society but one that actively hinders democratic participation.
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 22, 2015

"Blood and Water"

New from the University of California Press: Blood and Water: The Indus River Basin in Modern History by David Gilmartin.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Indus basin was once an arid pastoral watershed, but by the second half of the twentieth century, it had become one of the world’s most heavily irrigated and populated river basins. Launched under British colonial rule in the nineteenth century, this irrigation project spurred political, social, and environmental transformations that continued after the 1947 creation of the new states of India and Pakistan. In this first large-scale environmental history of the region, David Gilmartin focuses on the changes that occurred in the basin as a result of the implementation of the world’s largest modern integrated irrigation system. This masterful work of scholarship explores how environmental transformation is tied to the creation of communities and nations, focusing on the intersection of politics, statecraft, and the environment.
David Gilmartin is Distinguished Professor of History at North Carolina State University and the author of Empire and Islam: Punjab and the Making of Pakistan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 21, 2015

"The Size of Others' Burdens"

New from Stanford University Press: The Size of Others' Burdens: Barack Obama, Jane Addams, and the Politics of Helping Others by Erik Schneiderhan.

About the book, from the publisher:
Americans have a fierce spirit of individualism. We pride ourselves on self-reliance, on bootstrapping our way to success. Yet, we also believe in helping those in need, and we turn to our neighbors in times of crisis. The tension between these competing values is evident, and how we balance between these competing values holds real consequences for community health and well-being. In his new book, The Size of Others' Burdens, Erik Schneiderhan asks how people can act in the face of competing pressures, and explores the stories of two famous Americans to develop present-day lessons for improving our communities.

Although Jane Addams and Barack Obama are separated by roughly one hundred years, the parallels between their lives are remarkable: Chicago activists-turned-politicians, University of Chicago lecturers, gifted orators, crusaders against discrimination, winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. Addams was the founder of Hull-House, the celebrated American "settlement house" that became the foundation of modern social work. Obama's remarkable rise to the presidency is well known.

Through the stories of Addams's and Obama's early community work, Erik Schneiderhan challenges readers to think about how many of our own struggles are not simply personal challenges, but also social challenges. How do we help others when so much of our day-to-day life is geared toward looking out for ourselves, whether at work or at home? Not everyone can run for president or win a Nobel Prize, but we can help others without sacrificing their dignity or our principles. Great thinkers of the past and present can give us the motivation; Addams and Obama show us how. Schneiderhan highlights the value of combining today's state resources with the innovation and flexibility of Addams's time to encourage community building. Offering a call to action, this book inspires readers to address their own American dilemma and connect to community, starting within our own neighborhoods.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"Soft Force"

New from Princeton University Press: Soft Force: Women in Egypt's Islamic Awakening by Ellen Anne McLarney.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the decades leading up to the Arab Spring in 2011, when Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian regime was swept from power in Egypt, Muslim women took a leading role in developing a robust Islamist presence in the country’s public sphere. Soft Force examines the writings and activism of these women—including scholars, preachers, journalists, critics, actors, and public intellectuals—who envisioned an Islamic awakening in which women’s rights and the family, equality, and emancipation were at the center.

Challenging Western conceptions of Muslim women as being oppressed by Islam, Ellen McLarney shows how women used “soft force”—a women’s jihad characterized by nonviolent protest—to oppose secular dictatorship and articulate a public sphere that was both Islamic and democratic. McLarney draws on memoirs, political essays, sermons, newspaper articles, and other writings to explore how these women imagined the home and the family as sites of the free practice of religion in a climate where Islamists were under siege by the secular state. While they seem to reinforce women’s traditional roles in a male-dominated society, these Islamist writers also reoriented Islamist politics in domains coded as feminine, putting women at the very forefront in imagining an Islamic polity.

Bold and insightful, Soft Force transforms our understanding of women’s rights, women’s liberation, and women’s equality in Egypt’s Islamic revival.
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"Horse Nations"

New from Oxford University Press: Horse Nations: The Worldwide Impact of the Horse on Indigenous Societies Post-1492 by Peter Mitchell.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Native American on a horse is an archetypal Hollywood image, but though such equestrian-focused societies were a relatively short-lived consequence of European expansion overseas, they were not restricted to North America's Plains.

Horse Nations provides the first wide-ranging and up-to-date synthesis of the impact of the horse on the Indigenous societies of North and South America, southern Africa, and Australasia following its introduction as a result of European contact post-1492. Drawing on sources in a variety of languages and on the evidence of archaeology, anthropology, and history, the volume outlines the transformations that the acquisition of the horse wrought on a diverse range of groups within these four continents. It explores key topics such as changes in subsistence, technology, and belief systems, the horse's role in facilitating the emergence of more hierarchical social formations, and the interplay between ecology, climate, and human action in adopting the horse, as well as considering how far equestrian lifestyles were ultimately unsustainable.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 18, 2015

"Bread from Stones"

New from the University of California Press: Bread from Stones: The Middle East and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism by Keith David Watenpaugh.

About the book, from the publisher:
Bread from Stones, a highly anticipated book from historian Keith David Watenpaugh, breaks new ground in analyzing the theory and practice of modern humanitarianism. Genocide and mass violence, human trafficking, and the forced displacement of millions in the early twentieth century Eastern Mediterranean form the background for this exploration of humanitarianism’s role in the history of human rights.

Watenpaugh’s unique and provocative examination of humanitarian thought and action from a non-Western perspective goes beyond canonical descriptions of relief work and development projects. Employing a wide range of source materials—literary and artistic responses to violence, memoirs, and first-person accounts from victims, perpetrators, relief workers, and diplomats—Watenpaugh argues that the international answer to the inhumanity of World War I in the Middle East laid the foundation for modern humanitarianism and the specific ways humanitarian groups and international organizations help victims of war, care for trafficked children, and aid refugees.

Bread from Stones is required reading for those interested in humanitarianism and its ideological, institutional, and legal origins, as well as the evolution of the movement following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the advent of late colonialism in the Middle East.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 17, 2015

"Talking to Our Selves"

New from Oxford University Press: Talking to Our Selves: Reflection, Ignorance, and Agency by John M. Doris.

About the book, from the publisher:
The unconscious, according to contemporary psychology, determines much of our lives: very often, we don't know why we do what we do, or even exactly what we are doing. This realization undermines the philosophical-and common sense-picture of human beings as rational, responsible, agents whose behavior is ordered by their deliberations and decisions. Drawing on the latest scientific psychology and philosophical ethics, Talking to Our Selves develops a philosophically viable theory of agency and moral responsibility that fully accounts for the unsettling challenges posed by the sciences of mind.
John Doris is Professor in the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program and Philosophy Department, Washington University in St. Louis. He works at the intersection of cognitive science, moral psychology, and philosophical ethics, and has published in many leading journals. Doris has been awarded fellowships from Michigan's Institute for the Humanities, Princeton's University Center for Human Values, the National Humanities Center, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the National Endowment for the Humanities (three times), and is a winner of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology's Stanton Prize. He authored Lack of Character: Personality and Moral Behavior (Cambridge, 2002) and, with his colleagues in the Moral Psychology Research Group, edited The Moral Psychology Handbook (Oxford, 2010).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 16, 2015

"Islam in Saudi Arabia"

New from Cornell University Press: Islam in Saudi Arabia by David Commins.

About the book, from the publisher:
“Royal power, oil, and puritanical Islam are primary elements in Saudi Arabia’s rise to global influence. Oil is the reason for Western interest in the kingdom and the foundation for commercial, diplomatic, and strategic relations. Were it not for oil, the government of Saudi Arabia would lack the resources to construct a modern economy and infrastructure, and to thrust the kingdom into regional prominence. Were it not for oil, Saudi Arabia would not be able to fund institutions that spread its religious doctrine to Muslim and non-Muslim countries. That doctrine, commonly known as Wahhabism, is a puritanical form of Islam that is distinctive in a number of ways, most visibly for how it makes public observance of religious norms a matter of government enforcement rather than individual disposition and social conformity, as it is in other Muslim countries.”—from the Introduction

Saudi Arabia is often portrayed as a country where religious rules dictate every detail of daily life: where women may not drive; where unrelated men and women may not interact; where women veil their faces; and where banks, restaurants, and caf├ęs have dual facilities: one for families, another for men. Yet everyday life in the kingdom does not entirely conform to dogma. David Commins challenges the stereotype of Saudi Arabia as a country immune to change by highlighting the ways that urbanization, education, consumerism, global communications, and technological innovation have exerted pressure against rules issued by the religious establishment.

Commins places the Wahhabi movement in the wider context of Islamic history, showing how state-appointed clerics built on dynastic backing to fashion a model society of Sharia observance and moral virtue. Beneath a surface appearance of obedience to Islamic authority, however, he detects reflections of Arabia’s heritage of diversity (where Shi’ite and Sufi tendencies predating the Saudi era survive in the face of discrimination) and the effects of its exposure to Western mores.
--Marshal Zeringue