Sunday, February 28, 2010

"How the Economy Works"

New from Oxford University Press: How the Economy Works: Confidence, Crashes and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies by Roger E. A. Farmer.

About the book, from the publisher:
"Of all the economic bubbles that have been pricked," the editors of The Economist recently observed, "few have burst more spectacularly than the reputation of economics itself." Indeed, the financial crisis that crested in 2008 destroyed the credibility of the economic thinking that had guided policymakers for a generation. But what will take its place?

In How the Economy Works, one of our leading economists provides a jargon-free exploration of the current crisis, offering a powerful argument for how economics must change to get us out of it. Roger E. A. Farmer traces the swings between classical and Keynesian economics since the early twentieth century, gracefully explaining the elements of both theories. During the Great Depression, Keynes challenged the longstanding idea that an economy was a self-correcting mechanism; but his school gave way to a resurgence of classical economics in the 1970s-a rise that ended with the current crisis. Rather than simply allowing the pendulum to swing back, Farmer writes, we must synthesize the two. From classical economics, he takes the idea that a sound theory must explain how individuals behave-how our collective choices shape the economy. From Keynesian economics, he adopts the principle that markets do not always work well, that capitalism needs some guidance. The goal, he writes, is to correct the excesses of a free-market economy without stifling entrepreneurship and instituting central planning.

Recent events have shown that we cannot afford to treat economics as an ivory-tower abstraction. It has a direct impact on our lives by guiding regulators and policymakers as they make decisions with far-reaching practical consequences. Written in clear, accessible language, How the Economy Works makes an argument that no one should ignore.
Visit Roger Farmer's website.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Lighting Out for the Territory"

New from Simon & Schuster: Lighting Out for the Territory: How Samuel Clemens Headed West and Became Mark Twain by Roy Morris Jr.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the very last paragraph of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the title character gloomily reckons that it’s time “to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest.” Tom Sawyer’s Aunt Sally is trying to “sivilize” him, and Huck Finn can’t stand it—he’s been there before.

It’s a decision Huck’s creator already had made, albeit for somewhat different reasons, a quarter of a century earlier. He wasn’t even Mark Twain then, but as Huck might have said, “That ain’t no matter.” With the Civil War spreading across his native Missouri, twenty-five-year-old Samuel Clemens, suddenly out of work as a Mississippi riverboat pilot, gladly accepted his brother Orion’s offer to join him in Nevada Territory, far from the crimsoned battlefields of war.

A rollicking, hilarious stagecoach journey across the Great Plains and over the Rocky Mountains was just the beginning of a nearly six-year-long odyssey that took Samuel Clemens from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Hawaii, with lengthy stopovers in Virginia City, Nevada, and San Francisco. By the time it was over, he would find himself reborn as Mark Twain, America’s best-loved, most influential writer. The “trouble,” as he famously promised, had begun.

With a pitch-perfect blend of appreciative humor and critical authority, acclaimed literary biographer Roy Morris, Jr., sheds new light on this crucial but still largely unexamined period in Mark Twain’s life. Morris carefully sorts fact from fiction—never an easy task when dealing with Twain—to tell the story of a young genius finding his voice in the ramshackle mining camps, boomtowns, and newspaper offices of the wild and woolly West, while the Civil War rages half a continent away.

With the frequent help of Twain’s own words, Morris follows his subject on a winding journey of selfdiscovery filled with high adventure and low comedy, as Clemens/Twain dodges Indians and gunfighters, receives marriage advice from Brigham Young, burns down a mountain with a frying pan, gets claim-jumped by rival miners, narrowly avoids fighting a duel, hikes across the floor of an active volcano, becomes one of the first white men to try the ancient Hawaiian sport of surfing, and writes his first great literary success, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

Lighting Out for the Territory is a fascinating, even inspiring, account of how an unemployed riverboat pilot, would-be Confederate guerrilla, failed prospector, neophyte newspaper reporter, and parttime San Francisco aesthete reinvented himself as America’s most famous and beloved writer. It’s a good story, and mostly true—with some stretchers thrown in for good measure.

Friday, February 26, 2010

"The Good and Evil Serpent"

New from Yale University Press: The Good and Evil Serpent: How a Universal Symbol Became Christianized by James H. Charlesworth.

About the book, from the publisher:
In a perplexing passage from the Gospel of John, Jesus is likened to the most reviled creature in Christian symbology: the snake. Attempting to understand how the Fourth Evangelist could have made such a surprising analogy, James H. Charlesworth has spent nearly a decade combing through the vast array of references to serpents in the ancient world—from the Bible and other religious texts to ancient statuary and jewelry. Charlesworth has arrived at a surprising conclusion: not only was the serpent a widespread symbol throughout the world, but its meanings were both subtle and varied. In fact, the serpent of ancient times was more often associated with positive attributes like healing and eternal life than it was with negative meanings.

This groundbreaking book explores in plentiful detail the symbol of the serpent from 40,000 BCE to the present, and from diverse regions in the world. In doing so it emphasizes the creativity of the biblical authors’ use of symbols and argues that we must today reexamine our own archetypal conceptions with comparable creativity.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"The Condemnation of Blackness"

New from Harvard University Press: The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America by Khalil Gibran Muhammad.

About the book, from the publisher:
Lynch mobs, chain gangs, and popular views of black southern criminals that defined the Jim Crow South are well known. We know less about the role of the urban North in shaping views of race and crime in American society.

Following the 1890 census, the first to measure the generation of African Americans born after slavery, crime statistics, new migration and immigration trends, and symbolic references to America as the promised land of opportunity were woven into a cautionary tale about the exceptional threat black people posed to modern urban society. Excessive arrest rates and overrepresentation in northern prisons were seen by many whites—liberals and conservatives, northerners and southerners—as indisputable proof of blacks’ inferiority. In the heyday of “separate but equal,” what else but pathology could explain black failure in the “land of opportunity”?

The idea of black criminality was crucial to the making of modern urban America, as were African Americans’ own ideas about race and crime. Chronicling the emergence of deeply embedded notions of black people as a dangerous race of criminals by explicit contrast to working-class whites and European immigrants, this fascinating book reveals the influence such ideas have had on urban development and social policies.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Untimely Ruins"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Untimely Ruins: An Archaeology of American Urban Modernity, 1819-1919 by Nick Yablon.

About the book, from the publisher:
American ruins have become increasingly prominent, whether in discussions of “urban blight” and home foreclosures, in commemorations of 9/11, or in postapocalyptic movies. In this highly original book, Nick Yablon argues that the association between American cities and ruins dates back to a much earlier period in the nation’s history. Recovering numerous scenes of urban desolation—from failed banks, abandoned towns, and dilapidated tenements to the crumbling skyscrapers and bridges envisioned in science fiction and cartoons—Untimely Ruins challenges the myth that ruins were absent or insignificant objects in nineteenth-century America.

The first book to document an American cult of the ruin, Untimely Ruins traces its deviations as well as derivations from European conventions. Unlike classical and Gothic ruins, which decayed gracefully over centuries and inspired philosophical meditations about the fate of civilizations, America’s ruins were often “untimely,” appearing unpredictably and disappearing before they could accrue an aura of age. As modern ruins of steel and iron, they stimulated critical reflections about contemporary cities, and the unfamiliar kinds of experience they enabled. Unearthing evocative sources everywhere from the archives of amateur photographers to the contents of time-capsules, Untimely Ruins exposes crucial debates about the economic, technological, and cultural transformations known as urban modernity. The result is a fascinating cultural history that uncovers fresh perspectives on the American city.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Brand Society"

New from Cambridge University Press: Brand Society: How Brands Transform Management and Lifestyle by Martin Kornberger.

About the book, from the publisher:
Brands are a fait accompli: they represent a mountain range of evidence in search of a theory. They are much exploited, but little explored. In this book, Martin Kornberger sets out to rectify the ratio between exploiting and exploring through sketching out a theory of the Brand Society. Most attempts to explain the role of brands focus on brands either as marketing and management tools (business perspective) or a symptoms of consumerism (sociological perspective). Brand Society combines these perspectives to show how brands have the power to transform both the organizations that develop them and the lifestyles of the individuals who consume them. This holistic approach shows how brands function as a medium between producers and consumers in a way that is rapidly transforming our economy and society. That's the bottom line of the Brand Society: brands are a new way of organizing production and managing consumption. Using an array of practical case studies from a diverse set of organizations, this book provides a fascinating account of the way in which brands influence the lives of individuals and the organizations they work in.

Monday, February 22, 2010

"Beyond: On Life after Death"

New from University Press of Kansas: Beyond: On Life after Death by Fred M. Frohock.

About the book, from the publisher:
Is death the final event in human life, or does another existence follow? What are the signs and possible proofs of such continuity? Such questions have sparked speculation in philosophy, religion, art, and science throughout human history and remain a familiar concern for even the most casual observer of the human condition. In his provocative new book, Fred Frohock explores the possibility that our existence is neither defined by nor limited to the purely physical—nor is it terminated at death.

Fearlessly pursuing such a sensitive subject, Frohock suggests that death’s domain may not be quite the “undiscovered country” lamented by Hamlet. He wades boldly into the debates between hardcore materialists and devout spiritualists; provides glimpses of recent findings in brain research, the so-called mind-body problem, and consciousness studies; and in general offers an idiosyncratic introduction to some of the most provocative and least understood aspects of what we call “conscious” life. In the process, he provides fresh insights into the narratives, claims, and conundrums associated with life after death, near-death and out-of-body experiences, reincarnation, and a host of psychic phenomena that continue to puzzle the experts.

Demonstrating a keen grasp of subjects ranging from neurochemistry to popular culture, Frohock is a sure-footed tour guide through a richly diverse field of research. He considers what past life regression therapy suggests about reincarnation, assessing the credibility of pioneering research by Brian Weiss and Ian Stevenson. He introduces readers to the work of the University of Virginia’s Near Death Experience Project, with reports stretching back 35 years, and the Human Consciousness Project’s study of 1,500 survivors of cardiac arrest. And he contemplates whether people in permanent vegetative states, like Terri Schiavo and Sunny von B├╝low, are alive or not—and what these transitional states tell us about death.

Leavened with humor and a Renaissance-style intellect that draws in Tolstoy and Hemingway along with films like Solaris and Blade Runner, Frohock’s deep meditations are deftly interposed with brief fictional interludes that humanize his book’s more abstract dimensions while exploring claims about the supernatural. Approaching the world’s most baffling subjects with a critical eye, an open mind, and an agnostic’s heart, Beyond looks beyond the last threshold and points the way toward a better understanding of human existence.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

"The Promise of Preschool"

New from Oxford University Press: The Promise of Preschool: From Head Start to Universal Pre-Kindergarten by Elizabeth Rose.

About the book, from the publisher:
The past 45 years have seen the emergence of education for young children as a national issue, spurred by the initiation of the Head Start program in the 1960s, efforts to create a child care system in the 1970s, and the campaign to reform K-12 schooling in the 1980s. Today, the push to make preschool the beginning of public education for all children has gained support in many parts of the country and promises to put early education policy on the national agenda. Yet questions still remain about the best ways to shape policy that will fulfill the promise of preschool.

In The Promise of Preschool, Elizabeth Rose traces the history of decisions on early education made by presidents from Lyndon Johnson to George W. Bush, by other lawmakers, and by experts, advocates, activists, and others. Using this historical context as a lens, the book shows how the past shapes today's preschool debate and provides meaningful perspective on the policy questions that need to be addressed as we move forward: Should we provide preschool to all children, or just to the neediest? Should it be run by public schools, or incorporate private child care providers? How do we most effectively ensure educational quality and success?

The Promise of Preschool is a balanced, in-depth investigation into these and other important questions and demonstrates how an understanding of the past can stimulate valuable debate about the care and education of young children today.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"How Enemies Become Friends"

New from Princeton University Press: How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace by Charles A. Kupchan.

About the book, from the publisher:
Is the world destined to suffer endless cycles of conflict and war? Can rival nations become partners and establish a lasting and stable peace? How Enemies Become Friends provides a bold and innovative account of how nations escape geopolitical competition and replace hostility with friendship. Through compelling analysis and rich historical examples that span the globe and range from the thirteenth century through the present, foreign policy expert Charles Kupchan explores how adversaries can transform enmity into amity--and he exposes prevalent myths about the causes of peace.

Kupchan contends that diplomatic engagement with rivals, far from being appeasement, is critical to rapprochement between adversaries. Diplomacy, not economic interdependence, is the currency of peace; concessions and strategic accommodation promote the mutual trust needed to build an international society. The nature of regimes matters much less than commonly thought: countries, including the United States, should deal with other states based on their foreign policy behavior rather than on whether they are democracies. Kupchan demonstrates that similar social orders and similar ethnicities, races, or religions help nations achieve stable peace. He considers many historical successes and failures, including the onset of friendship between the United States and Great Britain in the early twentieth century, the Concert of Europe, which preserved peace after 1815 but collapsed following revolutions in 1848, and the remarkably close partnership of the Soviet Union and China in the 1950s, which descended into open rivalry by the 1960s.

In a world where conflict among nations seems inescapable, How Enemies Become Friends offers critical insights for building lasting peace.

Friday, February 19, 2010

"Enlightened Sexism"

New from Times Books: Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism's Work Is Done by Susan J. Douglas.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the author of Where the Girls Are, a sharp and irreverent critique of how women are portrayed in today’s popular culture

Women today are inundated with conflicting messages from the mass media: they must either be strong leaders in complete command or sex kittens obsessed with finding and pleasing a man. In Enlightened Sexism, Susan J. Douglas, one of America’s most entertaining and insightful cultural critics, takes readers on a spirited journey through the television programs, popular songs, movies, and news coverage of recent years, telling a story that is nothing less than the cultural biography of a new generation of American women.

Revisiting cultural touchstones from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Survivor to Desperate Housewives, Douglas uses wit and wisdom to expose these images of women as mere fantasies of female power, assuring women and girls that the battle for equality has been won, so there’s nothing wrong with resurrecting sexist stereotypes—all in good fun, of course. She shows that these portrayals not only distract us from the real-world challenges facing women today but also drive a wedge between baby-boom women and their “millennial” daughters.

In seeking to bridge this generation gap, Douglas makes the case for casting aside these retrograde messages, showing us how to decode the mixed messages that restrict the ambitions of women of all ages. And what makes Enlightened Sexism such a pleasure to read is Douglas’s unique voice, as she blends humor with insight and offers an empathetic and sisterly guide to the images so many women love and hate with equal measure.
Visit the official Susan J. Douglas website.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Enlightened Pleasures"

New from Yale University Press: Enlightened Pleasures: Eighteenth-Century France and the New Epicureanism by Thomas M. Kavanagh.

About the book, from the publisher:
Novelists, artists, and philosophers of the eighteenth century understood pleasure as a virtue—a gift to be shared with one’s companion, with a reader, or with the public. In this daring new book, Thomas Kavanagh overturns the prevailing scholarly tradition that views eighteenth-century France primarily as the incubator of the Revolution. Instead, Kavanagh demonstrates how the art and literature of the era put the experience of pleasure at the center of the cultural agenda, leading to advances in both ethics and aesthetics.

Kavanagh shows that pleasure is not necessarily hedonistic or opposed to Enlightenment ideals in general; rather, he argues that the pleasure of individuals is necessary for the welfare of their community.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"A Neighborhood That Never Changes"

New from the University of Chicago Press: A Neighborhood That Never Changes: Gentrification, Social Preservation, and the Search for Authenticity by Japonica Brown-Saracino.

About the book, from the publisher:
Newcomers to older neighborhoods are usually perceived as destructive, tearing down everything that made the place special and attractive. But as A Neighborhood That Never Changes demonstrates, many gentrifiers seek to preserve the authentic local flavor of their new homes, rather than ruthlessly remake them. Drawing on ethnographic research in four distinct communities—the Chicago neighborhoods of Andersonville and Argyle and the New England towns of Provincetown and Dresden—Japonica Brown-Saracino paints a colorful portrait of how residents new and old, from wealthy gay homeowners to Portuguese fishermen, think about gentrification.

The new breed of gentrifiers, Brown-Saracino finds, exhibits an acute self-consciousness about their role in the process and works to minimize gentrification’s risks for certain longtime residents. In an era of rapid change, they cherish the unique and fragile, whether a dilapidated house, a two-hundred-year-old landscape, or the presence of people deeply rooted in the place they live. Contesting many long-standing assumptions about gentrification, Brown-Saracino’s absorbing study reveals the unexpected ways beliefs about authenticity, place, and change play out in the social, political, and economic lives of very different neighborhoods.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"The Secret History of the Mongol Queens"

New from Crown: The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire by Jack Weatherford.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Mongol queens of the thirteenth century ruled the largest empire the world has ever known. Yet sometime near the end of the century, censors cut a section from The Secret History of the Mongols, leaving a single tantalizing quote from Genghis Khan: “Let us reward our female offspring.” Only this hint of a father’s legacy for his daughters remained of a much larger story.

The queens of the Silk Route turned their father’s conquests into the world’s first truly international empire, fostering trade, education, and religion throughout their territories and creating an economic system that stretched from the Pacific to the Mediterranean. Outlandish stories of these powerful queens trickled out of the Empire, shocking the citizens of Europe and and the Islamic world.

After Genghis Khan’s death in 1227, conflicts erupted between his daughters and his daughters-in-law; what began as a war between powerful women soon became a war against women in power as brother turned against sister, son against mother. At the end of this epic struggle, the dynasty of the Mongol queens had seemingly been extinguished forever, as even their names were erased from the historical record.

One of the most unusual and important warrior queens of history arose to avenge the wrongs, rescue the tattered shreds of the Mongol Empire, and restore order to a shattered world. Putting on her quiver and picking up her bow, Queen Mandhuhai led her soldiers through victory after victory. In her thirties she married a seventeen-year-old prince, and she bore eight children in the midst of a career spent fighting the Ming Dynasty of China on one side and a series of Muslim warlords on the other. Her unprecedented success on the battlefield provoked the Chinese into the most frantic and expensive phase of wall building in history. Charging into battle even while pregnant, she fought to reassemble the Mongol Nation of Genghis Khan and to preserve it for her own children to rule in peace.

At the conclusion of his magnificently researched and ground-breaking narrative, Weatherford notes that, despite their mystery and the efforts to erase them from our collective memory, the deeds of these Mongol queens inspired great artists from Chaucer and Milton to Goethe and Puccini, and so their stories live on today. With The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, Jack Weatherford restores the queens’ missing chapter to the annals of history.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"Claiming Diaspora"

New from Oxford University Press: Claiming Diaspora: Music, Transnationalism, and Cultural Politics in Asian/Chinese America by Su Zheng.

About the book, from the publisher:
Claiming Diaspora explores the thriving contemporary musical culture of Asian/Chinese America. Ranging from traditional operas to modern instrumental music, from ethnic media networks to popular music, from Asian American jazz to the work of recent avant-garde composers, author Su Zheng reveals the rich and diverse musical activities among Chinese Americans and tells of the struggles and creative searches by Chinese Americans to gain a foothold in the American cultural terrain. In doing so, she not only tells their stories, but also examines the transnational and racialized experiences of this musical culture, challenging us to take a fresh look at the increasingly plural and complex nature of American cultural identity.

Until recently, two intersected models have dominated studies of Asian American cultural expressions. The notion of "claiming America" has been a fundamental political strategy for the Asian American movement; while the Americanization model for European immigrants has minimized the impact of the "old country" on immigrant life and cultural expression. In Claiming Diaspora, Zheng critically analyzes the controversies surrounding these two models. She unveils the fluid and evolving nature of music in Chinese America, discussing current cultural struggles, while acknowledging an unavoidable connection to a history of Asian exclusion in the U.S. Furthermore, Zheng breaks from traditional approaches which have portrayed the music of non-Western people as rooted and immobile to examine the concept of "diaspora" in the context of Asian American experiences and cultural theories of space, place, and displacement. She calls into question the contested meaning of "Asian American" and "Asian American cultural identity" in cultural productions, and builds a comprehensive picture of community and cultural transformation in Chinese and Asian America.

Zheng taps unpublished historical sources of immigrant narrative songs, extensive fieldwork in New York City and China, in-depth interviews in which musicians narrate their life stories and music experiences, and her own longstanding involvement as community member, musician, presenter, and cultural broker. The book delineates the introduction of each music genre from its homeland and its subsequent development in New York, and explains how Chinese Americans express their cultural longings and belongings. Ultimately, Zheng reveals how Chinese American musical activities both reflect and contribute to local, national, and transnational cultural politics.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Taiwanese Pilgrimage to China"

New from Palgrave Macmillan: Taiwanese Pilgrimage to China: Ritual, Complicity, Community by DJ W. Hatfield.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book examines the pilgrimages to China from Taiwan in the late 1980s and early 1990s and offers a wide-ranging account of urban planning statements, arguments about ritual propriety, and the material culture of pilgrimage. Taiwanese Pilgrimage to China argues that as Taiwanese pilgrims and their Chinese hosts translated values produced in ritual contexts into the terms of economic and political reform, they became complicit in a shared project of composing historical truth. With its attention to pilgrimages at a possible center of geopolitical conflict, Taiwanese Pilgrimage to China provides an account of how shared frameworks for action grow and advances anthropological understandings of conflict resolution.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

"Nothing Less than Victory"

New from Princeton University Press: Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History by John David Lewis.

About the book, from the publisher:
The goal of war is to defeat the enemy's will to fight. But how this can be accomplished is a thorny issue. Nothing Less than Victory provocatively shows that aggressive, strategic military offenses can win wars and establish lasting peace, while defensive maneuvers have often led to prolonged carnage, indecision, and stalemate. Taking an ambitious and sweeping look at six major wars, from antiquity to World War II, John David Lewis shows how victorious military commanders have achieved long-term peace by identifying the core of the enemy's ideological, political, and social support for a war, fiercely striking at this objective, and demanding that the enemy acknowledges its defeat.

Lewis examines the Greco-Persian and Theban wars, the Second Punic War, Aurelian's wars to reunify Rome, the American Civil War, and the Second World War. He considers successful examples of overwhelming force, such as the Greek mutilation of Xerxes' army and navy, the Theban-led invasion of the Spartan homeland, and Hannibal's attack against Italy--as well as failed tactics of defense, including Fabius's policy of delay, McClellan's retreat from Richmond, and Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler. Lewis shows that a war's endurance rests in each side's reasoning, moral purpose, and commitment to fight, and why an effectively aimed, well-planned, and quickly executed offense can end a conflict and create the conditions needed for long-term peace.

Recognizing the human motivations behind military conflicts, Nothing Less than Victory makes a powerful case for offensive actions in pursuit of peace.

Friday, February 12, 2010

"Cosmopolitan Patriots"

New from the University of Virginia Press: Cosmopolitan Patriots: Americans in Paris in the Age of Revolution by Philipp Ziesche.

About the book, from the publisher:
This truly transnational history reveals the important role of Americans abroad in the Age of Revolution, as well as providing an early example of the limits of American influence on other nations. From the beginning of the French Revolution to its end at the hands of Napoleon, American cosmopolitans like Thomas Jefferson, Gouverneur Morris, Thomas Paine, Joel Barlow, and James Monroe drafted constitutions, argued over violent means and noble ends, confronted sudden regime changes, and negotiated diplomatic crises such as the XYZ Affair and the Louisiana Purchase. Eager to report on what they regarded as universal political ideals and practices, Americans again and again confronted the particular circumstances of a foreign nation in turmoil. In turn, what they witnessed in Paris caused these prominent Americans to reflect on the condition and prospects of their own republic. Thus, their individual stories highlight overlooked parallels between the nation-building process in both France and America, and the two countries' common struggle to reconcile the rights of man with their own national identities.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Segregating Sound"

New from Duke University Press: Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow by Karl Hagstrom Miller.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Segregating Sound, Karl Hagstrom Miller argues that the categories that we have inherited to think and talk about southern music bear little relation to the ways that southerners long played and heard music. Focusing on the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth, Miller chronicles how southern music—a fluid complex of sounds and styles in practice—was reduced to a series of distinct genres linked to particular racial and ethnic identities. The blues were African American. Rural white southerners played country music. By the 1920s, these depictions were touted in folk song collections and the catalogs of “race” and “hillbilly” records produced by the phonograph industry. Such links among race, region, and music were new. Black and white artists alike had played not only blues, ballads, ragtime, and string band music, but also nationally popular sentimental ballads, minstrel songs, Tin Pan Alley tunes, and Broadway hits.

In a cultural history filled with musicians, listeners, scholars, and business people, Miller describes how folklore studies and the music industry helped to create a “musical color line,” a cultural parallel to the physical color line that came to define the Jim Crow South. Segregated sound emerged slowly through the interactions of southern and northern musicians, record companies that sought to penetrate new markets across the South and the globe, and academic folklorists who attempted to tap southern music for evidence about the history of human civilization. Contending that people’s musical worlds were defined less by who they were than by the music that they heard, Miller challenges assumptions about the relation of race, music, and the market.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"War and the Health of Nations"

New from Stanford University Press: War and the Health of Nations by Zaryab Iqbal.

About the book, from the publisher:
Assessments of the costs of war generally focus on the financial, political, military, and territorial risks associated with involvement in violent conflict. Often overlooked are the human costs of war, particularly their effects on population well-being. In War and the Health of Nations, Zaryab Iqbal explores these human costs by offering the first large-scale empirical study of the relationship between armed conflict and population health. Working within the influential "human security" paradigm—which emphasizes the security of populations rather than states as the central object of global security—Iqbal analyzes the direct and indirect mechanisms through which violent conflict degrades population health. In addition to battlefield casualties, these include war's detrimental economic effects, its role in the creation of refugees and forced migration, and the destruction of societies' infrastructure. In doing so, she provides a comprehensive picture of the processes through which war and violent conflict affect public health and the well-being of societies in a cross-national context.

War and the Health of Nations provides a conceptual and theoretical framework for understanding the influence of violent interstate and intrastate conflict on the quality of life of populations and empirically analyzes the war-and-health relationship through statistical models using a universal sample of states. The analyses provide strong evidence for the direct as well as the indirect effects of war on public health and offer important insights into key socio-economic determinants of health achievement. The book thus demonstrates the significance of population health as an important consequence of armed conflict and highlights the role of societal vulnerabilities in studies of global security.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"Juries and the Transformation of Criminal Justice in France in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: Juries and the Transformation of Criminal Justice in France in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries by James Donovan.

About the book, from the publisher:
James Donovan takes a comprehensive approach to the history of the jury in modern France by investigating the legal, political, sociocultural, and intellectual aspects of jury trial from the Revolution through the twentieth century. He demonstrates that these juries, through their decisions, helped shape reform of the nation's criminal justice system.

From their introduction in 1791 as an expression of the sovereignty of the people through the early 1900s, argues Donovan, juries often acted against the wishes of the political and judicial authorities, despite repeated governmental attempts to manipulate their composition. High acquittal rates for both political and nonpolitical crimes were in part due to juror resistance to the harsh and rigid punishments imposed by the Napoleonic Penal Code, Donovan explains.

In response, legislators gradually enacted laws to lower penalties for certain crimes and to give jurors legal means to offer nuanced verdicts and to ameliorate punishments. Faced with persistently high acquittal rates, however, governments eventually took powers away from juries by withdrawing many cases from their purview and ultimately destroying the panels' independence in 1941.

Monday, February 8, 2010

"What's Wrong with the British Constitution?"

New from Oxford University Press: What's Wrong with the British Constitution? by Iain McLean.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this provocative new study, Iain McLean argues that the traditional story of the British constitution does not make sense. It purports to be both positive and normative: that is, to describe both how people actually behave and how they ought to behave. In fact, it fails to do either; it is not a correct description and it has no persuasive force. The book goes on to offer a reasoned alternative.

The position that still dominates the field of constitutional law is that of parliamentary sovereignty (or supremacy). According to this view, the supreme lawgiver in the United Kingdom is Parliament. Some writers in this tradition go on to insist that Parliament in turn derives its authority from the people, because the people elect Parliament. An obvious problem with this view is that Parliament, to a lawyer, comprises three houses: monarch, Lords, and Commons. The people elect only one of those three houses.

This book aims to show, contrary to the prevailing view, that the UK exists by virtue of a constitutional contract between two previously independent states. Professor McLean argues that the work of the influential constitutional theorist A.V. Dicey has little to offer those who really want to understand the nature of the constitution. Instead, greater understanding can be gleaned from considering the 'veto plays' and 'credible threats' available to politicians since 1707. He suggests that the idea that the people are sovereign dates back to the 17th century (maybe the 14th in Scotland), but has gone underground in English constitutional writing. He goes on to show that devolution and the UK's relationship with the rest of Europe have taken the UK along a constitutionalist road since 1972, and perhaps since 1920. He concludes that no intellectually defensible case can be made for retaining an unelected house of Parliament, an unelected head of state, or an established church.

The book will be essential reading for political scientists, constitutional lawyers, historians, and politicians alike.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

"The New Chinese America"

New from Rutgers University Press: The New Chinese America: Class, Economy, and Social Hierarchy by Xiaojian Zhao.

About the book, from the publisher:
The 1965 Immigration Act altered the lives and outlook of Chinese Americans in fundamental ways. The New Chinese America explores the historical, economic, and social foundations of the Chinese American community, in order to reveal the emergence of a new social hierarchy after 1965.

In this detailed and comprehensive study of contemporary Chinese America, Xiaojian Zhao uses class analysis to illuminate the difficulties of everyday survival for poor and undocumented immigrants and analyzes the process through which social mobility occurs. Through ethnic ties, Chinese Americans have built an economy of their own in which entrepreneurs can maintain a competitive edge given their access to low-cost labor; workers who are shut out of the mainstream job market can find work and make a living; and consumers can enjoy high quality services at a great bargain. While the growth of the ethnic economy enhances ethnic bonds by increasing mutual dependencies among different groups of Chinese Americans, it also determines the limits of possibility for various individuals depending on their socioeconomic and immigration status.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

"The Brain and the Meaning of Life"

New from Princeton University Press: The Brain and the Meaning of Life by Paul Thagard.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why is life worth living? What makes actions right or wrong? What is reality and how do we know it? The Brain and the Meaning of Life draws on research in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience to answer some of the most pressing questions about life's nature and value. Paul Thagard argues that evidence requires the abandonment of many traditional ideas about the soul, free will, and immortality, and shows how brain science matters for fundamental issues about reality, morality, and the meaning of life. The ongoing Brain Revolution reveals how love, work, and play provide good reasons for living.

Defending the superiority of evidence-based reasoning over religious faith and philosophical thought experiments, Thagard argues that minds are brains and that reality is what science can discover. Brains come to know reality through a combination of perception and reasoning. Just as important, our brains evaluate aspects of reality through emotions that can produce both good and bad decisions. Our cognitive and emotional abilities allow us to understand reality, decide effectively, act morally, and pursue the vital needs of love, work, and play. Wisdom consists of knowing what matters, why it matters, and how to achieve it.

The Brain and the Meaning of Life shows how brain science helps to answer questions about the nature of mind and reality, while alleviating anxiety about the difficulty of life in a vast universe. The book integrates decades of multidisciplinary research, but its clear explanations and humor make it accessible to the general reader.

Friday, February 5, 2010

"Justifying Ballistic Missile Defence"

New from Cambridge University Press: Justifying Ballistic Missile Defence: Technology, Security and Culture by Columba Peoples.

About the book, from the publisher:
Technology is championed as the solution to modern security problems, but also blamed as their cause. This book assesses the way in which these two views collide in the debate over ballistic missile defense: a complex, costly and controversial system intended to defend the United States from nuclear missile attacks. Columba Peoples shows how, in the face of strong scientific and strategic critique, advocates of missile defense seek to justify its development by reference to broader culturally embedded perceptions of the promises and perils of technological development. Unpacking the assumptions behind the justification of missile defense initiatives, both past and present, this book illustrates how common-sense understandings of technology are combined and used to legitimate this controversial and costly defense program. In doing so it engages fundamental debates over understandings of technological development, human agency and the relationship between technology and security.
Read an excerpt from Justifying Ballistic Missile Defence.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"The History of the Medieval World"

New from W.W. Norton: The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade by Susan Wise Bauer.

About the book, from the publisher:
A masterful narrative of the Middle Ages, when religion became a weapon for kings all over the world.

From the schism between Rome and Constantinople to the rise of the T’ang Dynasty, from the birth of Muhammad to the crowning of Charlemagne, this erudite book tells the fascinating, often violent story of kings, generals, and the peoples they ruled.

In her earlier work, The History of the Ancient World, Susan Wise Bauer wrote of the rise of kingship based on might. But in the years between the fourth and the twelfth centuries, rulers had to find new justification for their power, and they turned to divine truth or grace to justify political and military action. Right thus replaces might as the engine of empire.

Not just Christianity and Islam but the religions of the Persians and the Germans, and even Buddhism, are pressed into the service of the state. This phenomenon—stretching from the Americas all the way to Japan—changes religion, but it also changes the state.
Visit Susan Wise Bauer's blog.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Dangerous Pregnancies"

New from the University of California Press: Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities, and Abortion in Modern America by Leslie J. Reagan.

About the book, from the publisher:
Dangerous Pregnancies tells the largely forgotten story of the German measles epidemic of the early 1960s and how it created national anxiety about dying, disabled, and "dangerous" babies. This epidemic would ultimately transform abortion politics, produce new science, and help build two of the most enduring social movements of the late twentieth century--the reproductive rights and the disability rights movements. At most a minor rash and fever for women, German measles (also known as rubella), if contracted during pregnancy, could result in miscarriages, infant deaths, and serious birth defects in the newborn. Award-winning writer Leslie J. Reagan chronicles for the first time the discoveries and dilemmas of this disease in a book full of intimate stories--including riveting courtroom testimony, secret investigations of women and doctors for abortion, and startling media portraits of children with disabilities. In exploring a disease that changed America, Dangerous Pregnancies powerfully illuminates social movements and the changes that still shape individual lives, pregnancy, medicine, law, and politics.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"To Serve the Living"

New from Harvard University Press: To Serve the Living: Funeral Directors and the African American Way of Death by Suzanne E. Smith.

About the book, from the publisher:
From antebellum slavery to the twenty-first century, African American funeral directors have orchestrated funerals or “homegoing” ceremonies with dignity and pageantry. As entrepreneurs in a largely segregated trade, they were among the few black individuals in any community who were economically independent and not beholden to the local white power structure. Most important, their financial freedom gave them the ability to support the struggle for civil rights and, indeed, to serve the living as well as bury the dead.

During the Jim Crow era, black funeral directors relied on racial segregation to secure their foothold in America’s capitalist marketplace. With the dawning of the civil rights age, these entrepreneurs were drawn into the movement to integrate American society, but were also uncertain how racial integration would affect their business success. From the beginning, this tension between personal gain and community service shaped the history of African American funeral directing.

For African Americans, death was never simply the end of life, and funerals were not just places to mourn. In the “hush harbors” of the slave quarters, African Americans first used funerals to bury their dead and to plan a path to freedom. Similarly, throughout the long—and often violent—struggle for racial equality in the twentieth century, funeral directors aided the cause by honoring the dead while supporting the living. To Serve the Living offers a fascinating history of how African American funeral directors have been integral to the fight for freedom.
Read an excerpt from To Serve the Living.

Monday, February 1, 2010

"China: The Pessoptimist Nation"

New from Oxford University Press: China: The Pessoptimist Nation by William A. Callahan.

About the book, from the publisher:
The rise of China presents a long-term challenge to the world not only economically, but politically and culturally. Callahan meets this challenge in China: The Pessoptimist Nation by using new Chinese sources and innovative analysis to see how Chinese people understand their new place in the world. The heart of Chinese foreign policy is not a security dilemma, but an identity dilemma. Chinese identity emerges through the interplay of positive and negative feelings: China thus is the pessoptimist nation. This positive/negative dynamic intertwines China's domestic and international politics because national security is closely linked to nationalist insecurities.

To chart the trajectory of its rise, the book shifts from examining China's national interests to exploring its national aesthetic. Rather than answering the standard social science question "what is China?" with statistics of economic and military power, this book asks "when, where, and who is China?" to explore the soft power dynamics of China's identity politics.

China: The Pessoptimist Nation examines Beijing's propaganda system and its patriotic education policy to see how Chinese identity is formed through a celebration of ancient civilization and a commemoration of humiliation suffered in modern history. It shows how China's relationship with itself and the world takes shape in the pessoptimist dynamics of patriotic education policy and the national humiliation curriculum, national days and national humiliation days, national maps and national humiliation maps, foreign brothers and domestic strangers, and Chinese patriots and foreign devils. Together the chapters demonstrate how the identity politics of Chinese nationalism produce the security politics of Chinese foreign policy. They show how the pessoptimist link between China's dream of civilization and its nightmare of humiliation is not fading away. It provides the template of China's foreign relations that inflames popular feelings for future demonstrations, and primes the indignant youth for explosive protests.

Callahan concludes that Chinese identity grows out of a dynamic of reciprocal influence that integrates official policy and popular culture. This interactive view of China's pessoptimist identity means that we need to rethink the role of the state and public opinion in Beijing's foreign policy-making.