Saturday, April 29, 2017

"Set in Stone"

New from Oxford University Press: Set in Stone: America's Embrace of the Ten Commandments by Jenna Weissman Joselit.

About the book, from the publisher:
When Cecil B. DeMille's epic, The Ten Commandments, came out in 1956, lines of people crowded into theaters across America to admire the movie's spectacular special effects. Thanks to DeMille, the commandments now had fans as well as adherents. But the country's fascination with the Ten Commandments goes well beyond the colossal scenes of this Hollywood classic.

In this vividly rendered narrative, Jenna Weissman Joselit situates the Ten Commandments within the fabric of American history. Her subjects range from the 1860 tale of the amateur who claimed to have discovered ancient holy stones inside a burial mound in Ohio to the San Francisco congregation of Sherith Israel, which commissioned a luminous piece of stained glass depicting Moses in Yosemite for its sanctuary; from the Kansas politician Charles Walter, who in the late nineteenth century proposed codifying each commandment into state law, to the radio commentator Laura Schlessinger, who popularized the Ten Commandments as a psychotherapeutic tool in the 1990s.

At once text and object, celestial and earthbound, Judaic and Christian, the Ten Commandments were not just a theological imperative in the New World; they also provoked heated discussions around key issues such as national identity, inclusion, and pluralism. In a country as diverse and heterogeneous as the United States, the Ten Commandments offered common ground and held out the promise of order and stability, becoming the lodestar of American identity. While archaeologists, theologians, and devotees across the world still wonder what became of the tablets that Moses received on Mount Sinai, Weissman Joselit offers a surprising answer: they landed in the United States.
Visit Jenna Weissman Joselit's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 28, 2017

"Visions of Empire"

New from Princeton University Press: Visions of Empire: How Five Imperial Regimes Shaped the World by Krishan Kumar.

About the book, from the publisher:
What the rulers of empire can teach us about navigating today's increasingly interconnected world

The empires of the past were far-flung experiments in multinationalism and multiculturalism, and have much to teach us about navigating our own increasingly globalized and interconnected world. Until now, most recent scholarship on empires has focused on their subject peoples. Visions of Empire looks at their rulers, shedding critical new light on who they were, how they justified their empires, how they viewed themselves, and the styles of rule they adopted toward their subjects.

Krishan Kumar provides panoramic and multifaceted portraits of five major European empires—Ottoman, Habsburg, Russian/Soviet, British, and French—showing how each, like ancient Rome, saw itself as the carrier of universal civilization to the rest of the world. Sometimes these aims were couched in religious terms, as with Islam for the Ottomans or Catholicism for the Habsburgs. Later, the imperial missions took more secular forms, as with British political traditions or the world communism of the Soviets.

Visions of Empire offers new insights into the interactions between rulers and ruled, revealing how empire was as much a shared enterprise as a clash of oppositional interests. It explores how these empires differed from nation-states, particularly in how the ruling peoples of empires were forced to downplay or suppress their own national or ethnic identities in the interests of the long-term preservation of their rule. This compelling and in-depth book demonstrates how the rulers of empire, in their quest for a universal world order, left behind a legacy of multiculturalism and diversity that is uniquely relevant for us today.
--Marshal Zeringue

"The Ring of Truth"

New from Oxford University Press: The Ring of Truth: And Other Myths of Sex and Jewelry by Wendy Doniger.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why are sex and jewelry, particularly rings, so often connected? Why do rings continually appear in stories about marriage and adultery, love and betrayal, loss and recovery, identity and masquerade? What is the mythology that makes finger rings symbols of true (or, as the case may be, untrue) love?

The cross-cultural distribution of the mythology of sexual rings is impressive--from ancient India and Greece through the Arab world to Shakespeare, Marie Antoinette, Wagner, nineteenth-century novels, Hollywood, and the De Beers advertising campaign that gave us the expression, "Diamonds Are Forever." Each chapter of The Ring of Truth, like a charm on a charm bracelet, considers a different constellation of stories: stories about rings lost and found in fish; forgetful husbands and clever wives; treacherous royal necklaces; fake jewelry and real women; modern women's revolt against the hegemony of jewelry; and the clash between common sense and conventional narratives about rings. Herein lie signet rings, betrothal rings, and magic rings of invisibility or memory. The stories are linked by a common set of meanings, such as love symbolized by the circular and unbroken shape of the ring: infinite, constant, eternal--a meaning that the stories often prove tragically false.

While most of the rings in the stories originally belonged to men, or were given to women by men, Wendy Doniger shows that it is the women who are important in these stories, as they are the ones who put the jewelry to work in the plots.
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 27, 2017

"Arab Patriotism"

New from Princeton University Press: Arab Patriotism: The Ideology and Culture of Power in Late Ottoman Egypt by Adam Mestyan.

About the book, from the publisher:
Arab Patriotism presents the essential backstory to the formation of the modern nation-state and mass nationalism in the Middle East. While standard histories claim that the roots of Arab nationalism emerged in opposition to the Ottoman milieu, Adam Mestyan points to the patriotic sentiment that grew in the Egyptian province of the Ottoman Empire during the nineteenth century, arguing that it served as a pivotal way station on the path to the birth of Arab nationhood.

Through extensive archival research, Mestyan examines the collusion of various Ottoman elites in creating this nascent sense of national belonging and finds that learned culture played a central role in this development. Mestyan investigates the experience of community during this period, engendered through participation in public rituals and being part of a theater audience. He describes the embodied and textual ways these experiences were produced through urban spaces, poetry, performances, and journals. From the Khedivial Opera House's staging of Verdi's Aida and the first Arabic magazine to the ‘Urabi revolution and the restoration of the authority of Ottoman viceroys under British occupation, Mestyan illuminates the cultural dynamics of a regime that served as the precondition for nation-building in the Middle East.

A wholly original exploration of Egypt in the context of the Ottoman Empire, Arab Patriotism sheds fresh light on the evolving sense of political belonging in the Arab world.
Visit Adam Mestyan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

"The Religion of Chiropractic"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: The Religion of Chiropractic: Populist Healing from the American Heartland by Holly Folk.

About the book, from the publisher:
Chiropractic is by far the most common form of alternative medicine in the United States today, but its fascinating origins stretch back to the battles between science and religion in the nineteenth century. At the center of the story are chiropractic's colorful founders, D. D. Palmer and his son, B. J. Palmer, of Davenport, Iowa, where in 1897 they established the Palmer College of Chiropractic. Holly Folk shows how the Palmers' system depicted chiropractic as a conduit for both material and spiritualized versions of a “vital principle,” reflecting popular contemporary therapies and nineteenth-century metaphysical beliefs, including the idea that the spine was home to occult forces.

The creation of chiropractic, and other Progressive-era versions of alternative medicine, happened at a time when the relationship between science and religion took on an urgent, increasingly competitive tinge. Many remarkable people, including the Palmers, undertook highly personal reinterpretations of their physical and spiritual worlds. In this context, Folk reframes alternative medicine and spirituality as a type of populist intellectual culture in which ideologies about the body comprise a highly appealing form of cultural resistance.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"Heartthrobs"

New from Oxford University Press: Heartthrobs: A History of Women and Desire by Carol Dyhouse.

About the book, from the publisher:
What can a cultural history of the heartthrob teach us about women, desire, and social change? From dreams of Prince Charming or dashing military heroes, to the lure of dark strangers and vampire lovers; from rock stars and rebels to soulmates, dependable family types or simply good companions, female fantasies about men tell us as much about the history of women as about masculine icons.

When girls were supposed to be shrinking violets, passionate females risked being seen as "unbridled," or dangerously out of control. Change came slowly, and young women remained trapped in double-binds. You may have needed a husband in order to survive, but you had to avoid looking like a gold-digger. Sexual desire could be dangerous: a rash guide to making choices. Show attraction too openly and you might be judged "fast" and undesirable.

Education and wage-earning brought independence and a widening of cultural horizons. Young women in the early twentieth century showed a sustained appetite for novel-reading, cinema-going, and the dancehall. They sighed over Rudolph Valentino's screen performances, as tango-dancer, Arab tribesman, or desert lover. Contemporary critics were sniffy about "shop-girl" taste in literature and in men, but as consumers, girls had new clout.

In Heartthrobs, social and cultural historian Carole Dyhouse draws upon literature, cinema, and popular romance to show how the changing position of women has shaped their dreams about men, from Lord Byron in the early nineteenth century to boy-bands in the early twenty-first. Reflecting on the history of women as consumers and on the nature of fantasy, escapism, and "fandom," she takes us deep into the world of gender and the imagination. A great deal of feminist literature has shown women as objects of the "male gaze": this book looks at men through the eyes of women.
--Marshal Zeringue

"Dangerous Grounds"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: Dangerous Grounds: Antiwar Coffeehouses and Military Dissent in the Vietnam Era by David L. Parsons.

About the book, from the publisher:
As the Vietnam War divided the nation, a network of antiwar coffeehouses appeared in the towns and cities outside American military bases. Owned and operated by civilian activists, GI coffeehouses served as off-base refuges for the growing number of active-duty soldiers resisting the war. In the first history of this network, David L. Parsons shows how antiwar GIs and civilians united to battle local authorities, vigilante groups, and the military establishment itself by building a dynamic peace movement within the armed forces.

Peopled with lively characters and set in the tense environs of base towns around the country, this book complicates the often misunderstood relationship between the civilian antiwar movement, U.S. soldiers, and military officials during the Vietnam era. Using a broad set of primary and secondary sources, Parsons shows us a critical moment in the history of the Vietnam-era antiwar movement, when a chain of counterculture coffeehouses brought the war's turbulent politics directly to the American military's doorstep.
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"Reviewing the South"

New from Cambridge University Press: Reviewing the South: The Literary Marketplace and the Southern Renaissance, 1920-1941 by Sarah Gardner.

About the book, from the publisher:
The American South received increased attention from national commentators during the interwar era. Beginning in the 1920s, the proliferation of daily book columns and Sunday book supplements in newspapers reflected a growing audience of educated readers and its demand for books and book reviews. This period of intensified scrutiny coincided with a boom in the publishing industry, which, in turn, encouraged newspapers to pay greater attention to the world of books. Reviewing the South shows how northern critics were as much involved in the Southern Literary Renaissance as Southern authors and critics. Southern writing, Gardner argues, served as a litmus to gauge Southern exceptionalism. For critics and their readers, nothing less than the region's ability to contribute to the vibrancy and growth of the nation was at stake.
--Marshal Zeringue

"Building an American Empire"

New from Princeton University Press: Building an American Empire: The Era of Territorial and Political Expansion by Paul Frymer.

About the book, from the publisher:
How American westward expansion was governmentally engineered to promote the formation of a white settler nation

Westward expansion of the United States is most conventionally remembered for rugged individualism, geographic isolationism, and a fair amount of luck. Yet the establishment of the forty-eight contiguous states was hardly a foregone conclusion, and the federal government played a critical role in its success. This book examines the politics of American expansion, showing how the government's regulation of population movements on the frontier, both settlement and removal, advanced national aspirations for empire and promoted the formation of a white settler nation.

Building an American Empire details how a government that struggled to exercise plenary power used federal land policy to assert authority over the direction of expansion by engineering the pace and patterns of settlement and to control the movement of populations. At times, the government mobilized populations for compact settlement in strategically important areas of the frontier; at other times, policies were designed to actively restrain settler populations in order to prevent violence, international conflict, and breakaway states. Paul Frymer examines how these settlement patterns helped construct a dominant racial vision for America by incentivizing and directing the movement of white European settlers onto indigenous and diversely populated lands. These efforts were hardly seamless, and Frymer pays close attention to the failures as well, from the lack of further expansion into Latin America to the defeat of the black colonization movement.

Building an American Empire reveals the lasting and profound significance government settlement policies had for the nation, both for establishing America as dominantly white and for restricting broader aspirations for empire in lands that could not be so racially engineered.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 24, 2017

"Islam: An American Religion"

New from Columbia University Press: Islam: An American Religion by Nadia Marzouki.

About the book, from the publisher:
Islam: An American Religion demonstrates how Islam as formed in the United States has become an American religion in a double sense—first through the strategies of recognition adopted by Muslims and second through the performance of Islam as a faith.

Nadia Marzouki investigates how Islam has become so contentious in American politics. Focusing on the period from 2008 to 2013, she revisits the uproar over the construction of mosques, legal disputes around the prohibition of Islamic law, and the overseas promotion of religious freedom. She argues that public controversies over Islam in the United States primarily reflect the American public's profound divisions and ambivalence toward freedom of speech and the legitimacy of liberal secular democracy.
Nadia Marzouki is a research fellow at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) in Paris.

--Marshal Zeringue