Sunday, April 26, 2015

"Beneath the Surface of White Supremacy"

New from Stanford University Press: Beneath the Surface of White Supremacy: Denaturalizing U.S. Racisms Past and Present by Moon-Kie Jung.

About the book, from the publisher:
Racism has never been simple. It wasn't more obvious in the past, and it isn't less potent now. From the birth of the United States to the contemporary police shooting death of an unarmed Black youth, Beneath the Surface of White Supremacy investigates ingrained practices of racism, as well as unquestioned assumptions in the study of racism, to upend and deepen our understanding.

In Moon-Kie Jung's unsettling book, Dred Scott v. Sandford, the notorious 1857 Supreme Court case, casts a shadow over current immigration debates and the "war on terror." The story of a 1924 massacre of Filipino sugar workers in Hawai'i pairs with statistical relentlessness of black economic suffering to shed light on hidden dimensions of mass ignorance and indifference. The histories of Asians, blacks, the Indigenous, and Latina/os relate in knotty ways. State violence and colonialism come to the fore in taking measure of the United States, past and present, while the undue importance of assimilation and colorblindness recedes. Ultimately, Jung challenges the dominant racial common sense and develops new concepts and theory for radically rethinking and resisting racisms.
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 25, 2015

"'No One Helped'"

New from Cornell University Press: "No One Helped": Kitty Genovese, New York City, and the Myth of Urban Apathy by Marcia M. Gallo.

About the book, from the publisher:
In "No One Helped" Marcia M. Gallo examines one of America's most infamous true-crime stories: the 1964 rape and murder of Catherine “Kitty” Genovese in a middle-class neighborhood of Queens, New York. Front-page reports in the New York Times incorrectly identified thirty-eight indifferent witnesses to the crime, fueling fears of apathy and urban decay. Genovese’s life, including her lesbian relationship, also was obscured in media accounts of the crime. Fifty years later, the story of Kitty Genovese continues to circulate in popular culture. Although it is now widely known that there were far fewer actual witnesses to the crime than was reported in 1964, the moral of the story continues to be urban apathy. “No One Helped” traces the Genovese story’s development and resilience while challenging the myth it created.

“No One Helped” places the conscious creation and promotion of the Genovese story within a changing urban environment. Gallo reviews New York’s shifting racial and economic demographics and explores post–World War II examinations of conscience regarding the horrors of Nazism. These were important factors in the uncritical acceptance of the story by most media, political leaders, and the public despite repeated protests from Genovese’s Kew Gardens neighbors at their inaccurate portrayal. The crime led to advances in criminal justice and psychology, such as the development of the 911 emergency system and numerous studies of bystander behaviors. Gallo emphasizes that the response to the crime also led to increased community organizing as well as feminist campaigns against sexual violence. Even though the particulars of the sad story of her death were distorted, Kitty Genovese left an enduring legacy of positive changes to the urban environment.
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 24, 2015

"Markets and Marketplaces in Medieval Italy"

New from Yale University Press: Markets and Marketplaces in Medieval Italy, c. 1100 to c. 1440 by Dennis Romano.

About the book, from the publisher:
Cathedrals and civic palaces stand to this day as symbols of the dynamism and creativity of the city-states that flourished in Italy during the Middle Ages. Markets and Marketplaces in Medieval Italy argues that the bustling yet impermanent sites of markets played an equally significant role, not only in the economic life of the Italian communes, but in their political, social, and cultural life as well. Drawing on a range of evidence from cities and towns across northern and central Italy, Dennis Romano explores the significance of the marketplace as the symbolic embodiment of the common good; its regulation and organization; the ethics of economic exchange; and how governments and guilds sought to promote market values. With a special focus on the spatial, architectural, and artistic elements of the marketplace, Romano adds new dimensions to our understanding of the evolution of the market economy and the origins of commercial capitalism and Renaissance individualism.
Dennis Romano is the Dr. Walter G. Montgomery and Marian Gruber Professor of History and a professor in the Department of Art and Music Histories at Syracuse University.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"The Consuming Temple"

New from Cornell University Press: The Consuming Temple: Jews, Department Stores, and the Consumer Revolution in Germany, 1880–1940 by Paul Lerner.

About the book, from the publisher:
Department stores in Germany, like their predecessors in France, Britain, and the United States, generated great excitement when they appeared at the end of the nineteenth century. Their sumptuous displays, abundant products, architectural innovations, and prodigious scale inspired widespread fascination and even awe; at the same time, however, many Germans also greeted the rise of the department store with considerable unease. In The Consuming Temple, Paul Lerner explores the complex German reaction to department stores and the widespread belief that they posed hidden dangers both to the individuals, especially women, who frequented them and to the nation as a whole.

Drawing on fiction, political propaganda, commercial archives, visual culture, and economic writings, Lerner provides multiple perspectives on the department store, placing it in architectural, gender-historical, commercial, and psychiatric contexts. Noting that Jewish entrepreneurs founded most German department stores, he argues that Jews and “Jewishness” stood at the center of the consumer culture debate from the 1880s, when the stores first appeared, through the latter 1930s, when they were “Aryanized” by the Nazis. German responses to consumer culture and the Jewish question were deeply interwoven, and the “Jewish department store,” framed as an alternative and threatening secular temple, a shrine to commerce and greed, was held responsible for fundamental changes that transformed urban experience and challenged national traditions in Germany’s turbulent twentieth century.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"Community at Risk"

New from Stanford University Press: Community at Risk: Biodefense and the Collective Search for Security by Thomas Beamish.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 2001, following the events of September 11 and the Anthrax attacks, the United States government began an aggressive campaign to secure the nation against biological catastrophe. Its agenda included building National Biocontainment Laboratories (NBLs), secure facilities intended for research on biodefense applications, at participating universities around the country. In Community at Risk, Thomas D. Beamish examines the civic response to local universities' plans to develop NBLs in three communities: Roxbury, MA; Davis, CA; and Galveston, TX. At a time when the country's anxiety over its security had peaked, reactions to the biolabs ranged from vocal public opposition to acceptance and embrace. He argues that these divergent responses can be accounted for by the civic conventions, relations, and virtues specific to each locale. Together, these elements clustered, providing a foundation for public dialogue. In contrast to conventional micro- and macro-level accounts of how risk is perceived and managed, Beamish's analysis of each case reveals the pivotal role played by meso-level contexts and political dynamics. Community at Risk provides a new framework for understanding risk disputes and their prevalence in American civic life.
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Human Nature & Jewish Thought"

New from Princeton University Press: Human Nature & Jewish Thought: Judaism's Case for Why Persons Matter by Alan L. Mittleman.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book explores one of the great questions of our time: How can we preserve our sense of what it means to be a person while at the same time accepting what science tells us to be true—namely, that human nature is continuous with the rest of nature? What, in other words, does it mean to be a person in a world of things? Alan Mittleman shows how the Jewish tradition provides rich ways of understanding human nature and personhood that preserve human dignity and distinction in a world of neuroscience, evolutionary biology, biotechnology, and pervasive scientism. These ancient resources can speak to Jewish, non-Jewish, and secular readers alike.

Science may tell us what we are, Mittleman says, but it cannot tell us who we are, how we should live, or why we matter. Traditional Jewish thought, in open-minded dialogue with contemporary scientific perspectives, can help us answer these questions. Mittleman shows how, using sources ranging across the Jewish tradition, from the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud to more than a millennium of Jewish philosophy. Among the many subjects the book addresses are sexuality, birth and death, violence and evil, moral agency, and politics and economics. Throughout, Mittleman demonstrates how Jewish tradition brings new perspectives to—and challenges many current assumptions about—these central aspects of human nature.

A study of human nature in Jewish thought and an original contribution to Jewish philosophy, this is a book for anyone interested in what it means to be human in a scientific age.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 20, 2015

"Dissent: The History of an American Idea"

New from New York University Press: Dissent: The History of an American Idea by Ralph Young.

About the book, from the publisher:
Dissent: The History of an American Idea examines the key role dissent has played in shaping the United States. It focuses on those who, from colonial days to the present, dissented against the ruling paradigm of their time: from the Puritan Anne Hutchinson and Native American chief Powhatan in the seventeenth century, to the Occupy and Tea Party movements in the twenty-first century. The emphasis is on the way Americans, celebrated figures and anonymous ordinary citizens, responded to what they saw as the injustices that prevented them from fully experiencing their vision of America.

At its founding the United States committed itself to lofty ideals. When the promise of those ideals was not fully realized by all Americans, many protested and demanded that the United States live up to its promise. Women fought for equal rights; abolitionists sought to destroy slavery; workers organized unions; Indians resisted white encroachment on their land; radicals angrily demanded an end to the dominance of the moneyed interests; civil rights protestors marched to end segregation; antiwar activists took to the streets to protest the nation’s wars; and reactionaries, conservatives, and traditionalists in each decade struggled to turn back the clock to a simpler, more secure time. Some dissenters are celebrated heroes of American history, while others are ordinary people: frequently overlooked, but whose stories show that change is often accomplished through grassroots activism.

The United States is a nation founded on the promise and power of dissent. In this stunningly comprehensive volume, Ralph Young shows us its history.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 19, 2015

"The Religion of Democracy"

New from Penguin Press: The Religion of Democracy: Seven Liberals and the American Moral Tradition by Amy Kittelstrom.

About the book, from the publisher:
A history of religion’s role in the American liberal tradition through the eyes of seven transformative thinkers

Today we associate liberal thought and politics with secularism. When we argue over whether the nation’s founders meant to keep religion out of politics, the godless side is said to be liberal. But the role of religion in American politics has always been far more nuanced and complex than today’s debates would suggest and closer to the heart of American intellectual life than is commonly understood. American democracy was intended by its creators to be more than just a political system, and in The Religion of Democracy, historian Amy Kittelstrom shows how religion and democracy have worked together as universal ideals in American culture—and as guides to moral action and the social practice of treating one another as equals who deserve to be free.

The first people in the world to call themselves “liberals” were New England Christians in the early republic, for whom being liberal meant being receptive to a range of beliefs and values. The story begins in the mid-eighteenth century, when the first Boston liberals brought the Enlightenment into Reformation Christianity, tying equality and liberty to the human soul at the same moment these root concepts were being tied to democracy. The nineteenth century saw the development of a robust liberal intellectual culture in America, built on open-minded pursuit of truth and acceptance of human diversity. By the twentieth century, what had begun in Boston as a narrow, patrician democracy transformed into a religion of democracy in which the new liberals of modern America believed that where different viewpoints overlap, common truth is revealed. The core American principles of liberty and equality were never free from religion but full of religion.

The Religion of Democracy re-creates the liberal conversation from the eighteenth century to the twentieth by tracing the lived connections among seven thinkers through whom they knew, what they read and wrote, where they went, and how they expressed their opinions—from John Adams to William James to Jane Addams; from Boston to Chicago to Berkeley. Sweeping and ambitious, The Religion of Democracy is a lively narrative of quintessentially American ideas as they were forged, debated, and remade across our history.
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 18, 2015

"Empire Films and the Crisis of Colonialism, 1946--1959"

New from the Johns Hopkins University Press: Empire Films and the Crisis of Colonialism, 1946--1959 by Jon Cowans.

About the book, from the publisher:
Using popular cinema from the United States, Britain, and France, Empire Films and the Crisis of Colonialism, 1946– 1959, examines postwar Western attitudes toward colonialism and race relations. Historians have written much about the high politics of decolonization but little about what ordinary citizens thought about losing their empires. Popular cinema provided the main source of images of the colonies, and, according to Jon Cowans in this far-reaching book, films depicting the excesses of empire helped Westerners come to terms with decolonization and even promoted the dismantling of colonialism around the globe.

Examining more than one hundred British, French, and American films from the post–World War II era, Cowans concentrates on movies that depict interactions between white colonizers and nonwhite colonial subjects, including sexual and romantic relations. Although certain conservative films eagerly supported colonialism, Cowans argues that the more numerous "liberal colonialist" productions undermined support for key aspects of colonial rule, while a few more provocative films openly favored anticolonial movements and urged "internal decolonization" for people of color in Britain, France, and the United States.

Combining new archival research on the films’ production with sharp analysis of their imagery and political messages, the book also assesses their reception through box-office figures and newspaper reviews. It examines both high-profile and lesser-known films on overseas colonialism, including The King and I, Bhowani Junction, and Island in the Sun, and tackles treatments of miscegenation and "internal colonialism" that appeared in Westerns and American films like Pinky and Giant. The first truly transnational history of cinema’s role in decolonization, this powerful book weaves a unified historical narrative out of the experiences of three colonial powers in diverse geographic settings.
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 17, 2015

"The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America's Liberties"

New from Simon & Schuster: The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America's Liberties by Carol Berkin.

About the book, from the publisher:
The real story of how the Bill of Rights came to be: a concise, vivid history of political strategy, big egos, and partisan interest that set the terms of the ongoing contest between the federal government and the states.

Revered today for articulating America’s founding principles, the first ten amendments—the Bill of Rights—was in fact a political stratagem executed by James Madison to preserve the Constitution, the Federal government, and the latter’s authority over the states. In the skilled hands of award-winning historian Carol Berkin, the story of the Founders’ fight over the Bill of Rights comes alive in a gripping drama of partisan politics, acrimonious debate, and manipulated procedure. From this familiar story of a Congress at loggerheads, an important truth emerges.

In 1789, the young nation faced a great ideological divide around a question still unanswered today: should broad power and authority reside in the federal government or should it reside in state governments? The Bill of Rights, from protecting religious freedom and the people’s right to bear arms to reserving unenumerated rights to the states, was a political ploy first, and matter of principle second. How and why Madison came to devise this plan, the divisive debates it fostered in the Congress, and its ultimate success in defeating antifederalist counterplans to severely restrict the powers of the federal government is more engrossing than any of the myths that shroud our national beginnings.

The debate over the founding fathers’ original intent still continues through myriad Supreme Court decisions. By pulling back the curtain on the political, short-sighted, and self-interested intentions of the founding fathers in passing the Bill of Rights, Berkin reveals the inherent weakness in these arguments and what it means for our country today.
My Book, The Movie: Wondrous Beauty.

Writers Read: Carol Berkin.

--Marshal Zeringue