Monday, September 30, 2013

"Refrigeration Nation"

New from the Johns Hopkins University Press: Refrigeration Nation: A History of Ice, Appliances, and Enterprise in America by Jonathan Rees.

About the book, from the publisher:
Only when the power goes off and food spoils do we truly appreciate how much we rely on refrigerators and freezers. In Refrigeration Nation, Jonathan Rees explores the innovative methods and gadgets that Americans have invented to keep perishable food cold—from cutting river and lake ice and shipping it to consumers for use in their iceboxes to the development of electrically powered equipment that ushered in a new age of convenience and health.

As much a history of successful business practices as a history of technology, this book illustrates how refrigeration has changed the everyday lives of Americans and why it remains so important today. Beginning with the natural ice industry in 1806, Rees considers a variety of factors that drove the industry, including the point and product of consumption, issues of transportation, and technological advances. Rees also shows that how we obtain and preserve perishable food is related to our changing relationship with the natural world. He compares how people have used the "cold chain" in America to its use in other countries, offering insight into more than just what we eat. Refrigeration Nation helps explain one small part of who we are as a people.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 29, 2013

"The Tie That Bound Us"

New from Cornell University Press: The Tie That Bound Us: The Women of John Brown's Family and the Legacy of Radical Abolitionism by Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz.

About the book, from the publisher:
John Brown was fiercely committed to the militant abolitionist cause, a crusade that culminated in Brown’s raid on the Federal armory at Harpers Ferry in 1859 and his subsequent execution. Less well known is his devotion to his family, and they to him. Two of Brown’s sons were killed at Harpers Ferry, but the commitment of his wife and daughters often goes unacknowledged. In The Tie That Bound Us, Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz reveals for the first time the depth of the Brown women’s involvement in his cause and their crucial roles in preserving and transforming his legacy after his death.

As detailed by Laughlin-Schultz, Brown’s second wife Mary Ann Day Brown and his daughters Ruth Brown Thompson, Annie Brown Adams, Sarah Brown, and Ellen Brown Fablinger were in many ways the most ordinary of women, contending with chronic poverty and lives that were quite typical for poor, rural nineteenth-century women. However, they also lived extraordinary lives, crossing paths with such figures as Frederick Douglass and Lydia Maria Child and embracing an abolitionist moral code that sanctioned antislavery violence in place of the more typical female world of petitioning and pamphleteering.

In the aftermath of John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry, the women of his family experienced a particular kind of celebrity among abolitionists and the American public. In their roles as what daughter Annie called “relics” of Brown’s raid, they tested the limits of American memory of the Civil War, especially the war’s most radical aim: securing racial equality. Because of their longevity (Annie, the last of Brown’s daughters, died in 1926) and their position as symbols of the most radical form of abolitionist agitation, the story of the Brown women illuminates the changing nature of how Americans remembered Brown’s raid, radical antislavery, and the causes and consequences of the Civil War.
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"Seeing Things"

New from Oxford University Press: Seeing Things: The Philosophy of Reliable Observation by Robert Hudson.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Seeing Things, Robert Hudson assesses a common way of arguing about observation reports called "robustness reasoning." Robustness reasoning claims that an observation report is more likely to be true if the report is produced by multiple, independent sources. Seeing Things argues that robustness reasoning lacks the special value it is often claimed to have. Hudson exposes key flaws in various popular philosophical defenses of robustness reasoning. This philosophical critique of robustness is extended by recounting five episodes in the history of science (from experimental microbiology, atomic theory, astrophysics and astronomy) where robustness reasoning is -- or could be claimed to have been -- used. Hudson goes on to show that none of these episodes do in fact exhibit robustness reasoning. In this way, the significance of robustness reasoning is rebutted on both philosophical and historical grounds.

But the book does more than critique robustness reasoning. It also develops a better defense of the informative value of observation reports. The book concludes by relating insights into the failure of robustness reasoning to a popular approach to scientific realism called "(theoretical) preservationism." Hudson argues that those who defend this approach to realism commit similar errors to those who advocate robustness reasoning. In turn, a new form of realism is formulated and defended. Called "methodological preservationism," it recognizes the fundamental value of naked eye observation to scientists -- and the rest of us.
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 27, 2013

"Broken Links, Enduring Ties"

New from Stanford University Press: Broken Links, Enduring Ties: American Adoption across Race, Class, and Nation by Linda Seligmann.

About the book, from the publisher:
Family-making in America is in a state of flux—the ways people compose their families is changing, including those who choose to adopt. Broken Links, Enduring Ties is a groundbreaking comparative investigation of transnational and interracial adoptions in America. Linda Seligmann uncovers the impact of these adoptions over the last twenty years on the ideologies and cultural assumptions that Americans hold about families and how they are constituted. Seligmann explores whether or not new kinds of families and communities are emerging as a result of these adoptions, providing a compelling narrative on how adoptive families thrive and struggle to create lasting ties.

Seligmann observed and interviewed numerous adoptive parents and children, non-adoptive families, religious figures, teachers and administrators, and adoption brokers. The book uncovers that adoption—once wholly stigmatized—is now often embraced either as a romanticized mission of rescue or, conversely, as simply one among multiple ways to make a family.
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 26, 2013


New from Oxford University Press: Appomattox: Victory, Defeat, and Freedom at the End of the Civil War by Elizabeth R. Varon.

About the book, from the publisher:
Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House evokes a highly gratifying image in the popular mind -- it was, many believe, a moment that transcended politics, a moment of healing, a moment of patriotism untainted by ideology. But as Elizabeth Varon reveals in this vividly narrated history, this rosy image conceals a seething debate over precisely what the surrender meant and what kind of nation would emerge from war. The combatants in that debate included the iconic Lee and Grant, but they also included a cast of characters previously overlooked, who brought their own understanding of the war's causes, consequences, and meaning.

In Appomattox, Varon deftly captures the events swirling around that well remembered-but not well understood-moment when the Civil War ended. She expertly depicts the final battles in Virginia, when Grant's troops surrounded Lee's half-starved army, the meeting of the generals at the McLean House, and the shocked reaction as news of the surrender spread like an electric charge throughout the nation. But as Varon shows, the ink had hardly dried before both sides launched a bitter debate over the meaning of the war. For Grant, and for most in the North, the Union victory was one of right over wrong, a vindication of free society; for many African Americans, the surrender marked the dawn of freedom itself. Lee, in contrast, believed that the Union victory was one of might over right: the vast impersonal Northern war machine had worn down a valorous and unbowed South. Lee was committed to peace, but committed, too, to the restoration of the South's political power within the Union and the perpetuation of white supremacy. Lee's vision of the war resonated broadly among Confederates and conservative northerners, and inspired Southern resistance to reconstruction.

Did America's best days lie in the past or in the future? For Lee, it was the past, the era of the founding generation. For Grant, it was the future, represented by Northern moral and material progress. They held, in the end, two opposite views of the direction of the country-and of the meaning of the war that had changed that country forever.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Adam Smith's Pluralism"

New from Yale University Press: Adam Smith's Pluralism: Rationality, Education, and the Moral Sentiments.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this thought-provoking study, Jack Russell Weinstein suggests the foundations of liberalism can be found in the writings of Adam Smith (1723–1790), a pioneer of modern economic theory and a major figure in the Scottish Enlightenment. While offering an interpretive methodology for approaching Smith’s two major works, The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations, Weinstein argues against the libertarian interpretation of Smith, emphasizing his philosophies of education and rationality. Weinstein also demonstrates that Smith should be recognized for a prescient theory of pluralism that prefigures current theories of cultural diversity.
Visit Jack Russell Weinstein's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Evangelicals and American Foreign Policy"

New from Oxford University Press: Evangelicals and American Foreign Policy by Mark R. Amstutz.

About the book, from the publisher:
Gallons of ink have been spilled in examining the influence of Evangelicals on American politics. Yet the conversation--among pundits, politicians, and scholars--has focused overwhelmingly on hot-button domestic issues, such as abortion and gay marriage. In Evangelicals and American Foreign Policy, Mark Amstutz looks beyond our shores at Evangelicals' role in American foreign affairs.

Writers have generally traced Evangelicals' political awakening to the 1970s or, at the earliest, to World War II. But Amstutz digs deeper, arguing that Evangelicals were active in foreign affairs since at least the nineteenth century, when Protestant missionaries spread throughout the world, gaining fluency in foreign languages and developing knowledge of distant lands. They were on the front lines of American global engagement--serving as agents of humanitarianism and cultural transformation. Indeed, long before anyone had heard of Woodrow Wilson, Evangelicals were America's first internationalists.

In the postwar period, that expertise was put to more organized and sophisticated use, as Evangelicals sought to translate their belief that humans were created in God's image into a core principle of American foreign policy. Amstutz explores how this principle has been put into practice on issues ranging from global poverty to foreign policy towards Israel, paying close attention to Evangelicals' triumphs and failures on the global stage.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 23, 2013

"Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences"

New from Routledge: Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences by John R. Hibbing, Kevin B. Smith, and John R. Alford.

About the book, from the publisher:
Buried in many people and operating largely outside the realm of conscious thought are forces inclining us toward liberal or conservative political convictions. Our biology predisposes us to see and understand the world in different ways, not always reason and the careful consideration of facts. These predispositions are in turn responsible for a significant portion of the political and ideological conflict that marks human history.

With verve and wit, renowned social scientists John Hibbing, Kevin Smith, and John Alford—pioneers in the field of biopolitics—present overwhelming evidence that people differ politically not just because they grew up in different cultures or were presented with different information. Despite the oft-heard longing for consensus, unity, and peace, the universal rift between conservatives and liberals endures because people have diverse psychological, physiological, and genetic traits. These biological differences influence much of what makes people who they are, including their orientations to politics.

Political disputes typically spring from the assumption that those who do not agree with us are shallow, misguided, uninformed, and ignorant. Predisposed suggests instead that political opponents simply experience, process, and respond to the world differently. It follows, then, that the key to getting along politically is not the ability of one side to persuade the other side to see the error of its ways but rather the ability of each side to see that the other is different, not just politically, but physically. Predisposed will change the way you think about politics and partisan conflict.

As a bonus, the book includes a "Left/Right 20 Questions" game to test whether your predispositions lean liberal or conservative.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"Counterinsurgency in Crisis"

New from Columbia University Press: Counterinsurgency in Crisis: Britain and the Challenges of Modern Warfare by David H. Ucko and Robert Egnell.

About the book, from the publisher:
Long considered the masters of counterinsurgency, the British military encountered significant problems in Iraq and Afghanistan when confronted with insurgent violence. In their effort to apply the principles and doctrines of past campaigns, they failed to prevent Basra and Helmand from descending into lawlessness, criminality, and violence.

By juxtaposing the deterioration of these situations against Britain’s celebrated legacy of counterinsurgency, this investigation identifies both the contributions and limitations of traditional tactics in such settings, exposing a disconcerting gap between ambitions and resources, intent and commitment. Building upon this detailed account of the Basra and Helmand campaigns, this volume conducts an unprecedented assessment of British military institutional adaptation in response to operations gone awry. In calling attention to the enduring effectiveness of insurgent methods and the threat posed by undergoverned spaces, David H. Ucko and Robert Egnell underscore the need for military organizations to meet the irregular challenges of future wars in new ways.
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 21, 2013

"Eating Right in America"

New from Duke University Press: Eating Right in America: The Cultural Politics of Food and Health by Charlotte Biltekoff.

About the book, from the publisher:
Eating Right in America is a powerful critique of dietary reform in the United States from the late nineteenth-century emergence of nutritional science through the contemporary alternative food movement and campaign against obesity. Charlotte Biltekoff analyzes the discourses of dietary reform, including the writings of reformers, as well as the materials they created to bring their messages to the public. She shows that while the primary aim may be to improve health, the process of teaching people to "eat right" in the U.S. inevitably involves shaping certain kinds of subjects and citizens, and shoring up the identity and social boundaries of the ever-threatened American middle class. Without discounting the pleasures of food or the value of wellness, Biltekoff advocates a critical reappraisal of our obsession with diet as a proxy for health. Based on her understanding of the history of dietary reform, she argues that talk about "eating right" in America too often obscures structural and environmental stresses and constraints, while naturalizing the dubious redefinition of health as an individual responsibility and imperative.
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 20, 2013

"Rwanda Before the Genocide"

New from Oxford University Press: Rwanda Before the Genocide: Catholic Politics and Ethnic Discourse in the Late Colonial Era by J.J. Carney.

About the book, from the publisher:
Between 1920 and 1994, the Catholic Church was Rwanda's most dominant social and religious institution. In recent years, the church has been critiqued for its perceived complicity in the ethnic discourse and political corruption that culminated with the 1994 genocide. In analyzing the contested legacy of Catholicism in Rwanda, Rwanda Before the Genocide focuses on a critical decade, from 1952 to 1962, when Hutu and Tutsi identities became politicized, essentialized, and associated with political violence.

This study--the first English-language church history on Rwanda in over 30 years--examines the reactions of Catholic leaders such as the Swiss White Father André Perraudin and Aloys Bigirumwami, Rwanda's first indigenous bishop. It evaluates Catholic leaders' controversial responses to ethnic violence during the revolutionary changes of 1959-62 and after Rwanda's ethnic massacres in 1963-64, 1973, and the early 1990s. In seeking to provide deeper insight into the many-threaded roots of the Rwandan genocide, Rwanda Before the Genocide offers constructive lessons for Christian ecclesiology and social ethics in Africa and beyond.
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"Nation of Devils"

New from Yale University Press: Nation of Devils: Democratic Leadership and the Problem of Obedience by Stein Ringen.

About the book, from the publisher:
Oxford University political theorist Stein Ringen offers a thought-provoking meditation on the art of democratic rule: how does a government persuade the people to accept its authority? Every government must make unpopular demands of its citizens, from levying taxes to enforcing laws and monitoring compliance to regulations. The challenge, Ringen argues, is that power is not enough; the populace must also be willing to be led. Ringen addresses this political conundrum unabashedly, using the United States and Britain as his prime examples, providing sharp opinions and cogent analyses on how the culture of national obedience is created and nurtured. He explores the paths leaders must choose if they wish to govern by authority rather than power, or, as the philosopher Immanuel Kant put it, to “maintain order in a nation of devils.”
Stein Ringen is professor emeritus of sociology and social policy at Oxford University.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"The Triumph of Human Empire"

New from the University of Chicago Press: The Triumph of Human Empire: Verne, Morris, and Stevenson at the End of the World by Rosalind Williams.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the early 1600s, in a haunting tale titled New Atlantis, Sir Francis Bacon imagined the discovery of an uncharted island. This island was home to the descendants of the lost realm of Atlantis, who had organized themselves to seek “the knowledge of Causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of Human Empire, to the effecting of all things possible.” Bacon’s make-believe island was not an empire in the usual sense, marked by territorial control; instead, it was the center of a vast general expansion of human knowledge and power.

Rosalind Williams uses Bacon’s island as a jumping-off point to explore the overarching historical event of our time: the rise and triumph of human empire, the apotheosis of the modern ambition to increase knowledge and power in order to achieve world domination. Confronting an intensely humanized world was a singular event of consciousness, which Williams explores through the lives and works of three writers of the late nineteenth century: Jules Verne, William Morris, and Robert Louis Stevenson. As the century drew to a close, these writers were unhappy with the direction in which their world seemed to be headed and worried that organized humanity would use knowledge and power for unworthy ends. In response, Williams shows, each engaged in a lifelong quest to make a home in the midst of human empire, to transcend it, and most of all to understand it. They accomplished this first by taking to the water: in life and in art, the transition from land to water offered them release from the condition of human domination. At the same time, each writer transformed his world by exploring the literary boundary between realism and romance. Williams shows how Verne, Morris, and Stevenson experimented with romance and fantasy and how these traditions allowed them to express their growing awareness of the need for a new relationship between humans and Earth.

The Triumph of Human Empire shows that for these writers and their readers romance was an exceptionally powerful way of grappling with the political, technical, and environmental situations of modernity. As environmental consciousness rises in our time, along with evidence that our seeming control over nature is pathological and unpredictable, Williams’s history is one that speaks very much to the present.
Visit the official Rosalind Williams website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes"

New from the University of Chicago Press: The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes by Conevery Bolton Valencius.

About the book, from the publisher:
From December 1811 to February 1812, massive earthquakes shook the middle Mississippi Valley, collapsing homes, snapping large trees midtrunk, and briefly but dramatically reversing the flow of the continent’s mightiest river. For decades, people puzzled over the causes of the quakes, but by the time the nation began to recover from the Civil War, the New Madrid earthquakes had been essentially forgotten.

In The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes, Conevery Bolton Valencius remembers this major environmental disaster, demonstrating how events that have been long forgotten, even denied and ridiculed as tall tales, were in fact enormously important at the time of their occurrence, and continue to affect us today. Valencius weaves together scientific and historical evidence to demonstrate the vast role the New Madrid earthquakes played in the United States in the early nineteenth century, shaping the settlement patterns of early western Cherokees and other Indians, heightening the credibility of Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa for their Indian League in the War of 1812, giving force to frontier religious revival, and spreading scientific inquiry. Moving into the present, Valencius explores the intertwined reasons—environmental, scientific, social, and economic—why something as consequential as major earthquakes can be lost from public knowledge, offering a cautionary tale in a world struggling to respond to global climate change amid widespread willful denial.

Engagingly written and ambitiously researched—both in the scientific literature and the writings of the time—The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes will be an important resource in environmental history, geology, and seismology, as well as history of science and medicine and early American and Native American history.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 16, 2013

"The Blood Telegram"

New from Knopf: The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide by Gary J. Bass.

About the book, from the publisher:
A riveting history—the first full account—of the involvement of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger in the 1971 atrocities in Bangladesh that led to war between India and Pakistan, shaped the fate of Asia, and left in their wake a host of major strategic consequences for the world today.

Giving an astonishing inside view of how the White House really works in a crisis, The Blood Telegram is an unprecedented chronicle of a pivotal but little-known chapter of the Cold War. Gary J. Bass shows how Nixon and Kissinger supported Pakistan’s military dictatorship as it brutally quashed the results of a historic free election. The Pakistani army launched a crackdown on what was then East Pakistan (today an independent Bangladesh), killing hundreds of thousands of people and sending ten million refugees fleeing to India—one of the worst humanitarian crises of the twentieth century.

Nixon and Kissinger, unswayed by detailed warnings of genocide from American diplomats witnessing the bloodshed, stood behind Pakistan’s military rulers. Driven not just by Cold War realpolitik but by a bitter personal dislike of India and its leader Indira Gandhi, Nixon and Kissinger actively helped the Pakistani government even as it careened toward a devastating war against India. They silenced American officials who dared to speak up, secretly encouraged China to mass troops on the Indian border, and illegally supplied weapons to the Pakistani military—an overlooked scandal that presages Watergate.

Drawing on previously unheard White House tapes, recently declassified documents, and extensive interviews with White House staffers and Indian military leaders, The Blood Telegram tells this thrilling, shadowy story in full. Bringing us into the drama of a crisis exploding into war, Bass follows reporters, consuls, and guerrilla warriors on the ground—from the desperate refugee camps to the most secretive conversations in the Oval Office.

Bass makes clear how the United States’ embrace of the military dictatorship in Islamabad would mold Asia’s destiny for decades, and confronts for the first time Nixon and Kissinger’s hidden role in a tragedy that was far bloodier than Bosnia. This is a revelatory, compulsively readable work of politics, personalities, military confrontation, and Cold War brinksmanship.
Writers Read: Gary J. Bass (January 2008).

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 15, 2013

"Front Porch Politics"

New from Hill and Wang: Front Porch Politics: The Forgotten Heyday of American Activism in the 1970s and 1980s by Michael Stewart Foley.

About the book, from the publisher:
An on-the-ground history of ordinary Americans who took to the streets when political issues became personal

The 1960s are widely seen as the high tide of political activism in the United States. According to this view, Americans retreated to the private realm after the tumult of the civil rights and antiwar movements, and on the rare occasions when they did take action, it was mainly to express their wish to be left alone by government—as recommended by Ronald Reagan and the ascendant New Right.

In fact, as Michael Stewart Foley shows in Front Porch Politics, this understanding of post-1960s politics needs drastic revision. On the community level, the 1970s and 1980s witnessed an unprecedented upsurge of innovative and impassioned political activity. In Southern California and on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, tenants challenged landlords with sit-ins and referenda; in the upper Midwest, farmers vandalized power lines and mobilized tractors to protect their land; and in the deindustrializing cities of the Rust Belt, laid-off workers boldly claimed the right to own their idled factories. Meanwhile, activists fought to defend the traditional family or to expand the rights of women, while entire towns organized to protest the toxic sludge in their basements. Recalling Love Canal, the tax revolt in California, ACT UP, and other crusades famous or forgotten, Foley shows how Americans were propelled by personal experiences and emotions into the public sphere. Disregarding conventional ideas of left and right, they turned to political action when they perceived, from their actual or figurative front porches, an immediate threat to their families, homes, or dreams.

Front Porch Politics is a vivid and authoritative people’s history of a time when Americans followed their outrage into the streets. Addressing today’s readers, it is also a field guide for effective activism in an era when mass movements may seem impractical or even passé. The distinctively visceral, local, and highly personal politics that Americans practiced in the 1970s and 1980s provide a model of citizenship worth emulating if we are to renew our democracy.
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 14, 2013

"Standing Their Ground"

New from Oxford University Press: Standing Their Ground: Small Farmers in North Carolina since the Civil War by Adrienne Monteith Petty.

About the book, from the publisher:
The transformation of agriculture was one of the most far-reaching developments of the modern era. In analyzing how and why this change took place in the United States, scholars have most often focused on Midwestern family farmers, who experienced the change during the first half of the twentieth century, and southern sharecroppers, swept off the land by forces beyond their control.

Departing from the conventional story, this book focuses on small farm owners in North Carolina from the post-Civil War era to the post-Civil Rights era. It reveals that the transformation was more protracted and more contested than historians have understood it to be. Even though the number of farm owners gradually declined over the course of the century, the desire to farm endured among landless farmers, who became landowners during key moments of opportunity. Moreover, this book departs from other studies by considering all farm owners as a single class, rejecting the widespread approach of segregating black farm owners. The violent and restrictive political culture of Jim Crow regime, far from only affecting black farmers, limited the ability of all farmers to resist changes in agriculture.

By the 1970s, the vast reduction in the number of small farm owners had simultaneously destroyed a Southern yeomanry that had been the symbol of American democracy since the time of Thomas Jefferson, rolled back gains in landownership that families achieved during the first half century after the Civil War, and remade the rural South from an agrarian society to a site of global agribusiness.
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 13, 2013

"Mortal Rituals"

New from Columbia University Press: Mortal Rituals: What the Story of the Andes Survivors Tells Us About Human Evolution by Matt J. Rossano.

About the book, from the publisher:
On December 21, 1972, sixteen young survivors of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 were rescued after spending ten weeks stranded at the crash site of their plane, high in the remote Andes Mountains. The incident made international headlines and spawned several best-selling books, fueled partly by the fact that the young men had resorted to cannibalism to survive.

Matt Rossano examines this story from an evolutionary perspective, weaving together findings and ideas from anthropology, psychology, religion, and cognitive science. During their ordeal, these young men broke “civilized” taboos to fend off starvation and abandoned “civilized” modes of thinking to maintain social unity and individual sanity. Through the power of ritual, the survivors were able to endure severe emotional and physical hardship. Rossano ties their story to our story, seeing in the mortal rituals of this struggle for survival a reflection of what it means to be human.
Matt Rossano is head of the Psychology Department at Southeastern Louisiana University and the author of Evolutionary Psychology: The Science of Human Behavior and Evolution and Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved.

The Page 99 Test: Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Where the North Sea Touches Alabama"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Where the North Sea Touches Alabama by Allen C. Shelton.

About the book, from the publisher:
On a warm summer’s night in Athens, Georgia, Patrik Keim stuck a pistol into his mouth and pulled the trigger. Keim was an artist, and the room in which he died was an assemblage of the tools of his particular trade: the floor and table were covered with images, while a pair of large scissors, glue, electrical tape, and some dentures shared space with a pile of old medical journals, butcher knives, and various other small objects. Keim had cleared a space on the floor, and the wall directly behind him was bare. His body completed the tableau. Art and artists often end in tragedy and obscurity, but Keim’s story doesn’t end with his death.

A few years later, 180 miles away from Keim’s grave, a bulldozer operator uncovered a pine coffin in an old beaver swamp down the road from Allen C. Shelton’s farm. He quickly reburied it, but Shelton, a friend of Keim’s who had a suitcase of his unfinished projects, became convinced that his friend wasn’t dead and fixed in the ground, but moving between this world and the next in a traveling coffin in search of his incomplete work.

In Where the North Sea Touches Alabama, Shelton ushers us into realms of fantasy, revelation, and reflection, paced with a slow unfurling of magical correspondences. Though he is trained as a sociologist, this is a genre-crossing work of literature, a two-sided ethnography: one from the world of the living and the other from the world of the dead.

What follows isn’t a ghost story but an exciting and extraordinary kind of narrative. The psycho-sociological landscape that Shelton constructs for his reader is as evocative of Kafka, Bataille, and Benjamin as it is of Weber, Foucault, and Marx. Where the North Sea Touches Alabama is a work of sociological fictocriticism that explores not only the author’s relationship to the artist but his physical, historical, and social relationship to northeastern Alabama, in rare style.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"All Good Books Are Catholic Books"

New from Cornell University Press: All Good Books Are Catholic Books: Print Culture, Censorship, and Modernity in Twentieth-Century America by Una M. Cadegan.

About the book, from the publisher:
Until the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the stance of the Roman Catholic Church toward the social, cultural, economic, and political developments of the twentieth century was largely antagonistic. Naturally opposed to secularization, skeptical of capitalist markets indifferent to questions of justice, confused and appalled by new forms of high and low culture, and resistant to the social and economic freedom of women—in all of these ways the Catholic Church set itself up as a thoroughly anti-modern institution. Yet, in and through the period from World War I to Vatican II, the Church did engage with, react to, and even accommodate various aspects of modernity. In All Good Books Are Catholic Books, Una M. Cadegan shows how the Church’s official position on literary culture developed over this crucial period.

The Catholic Church in the United States maintained an Index of Prohibited Books and the National Legion of Decency (founded in 1933) lobbied Hollywood to edit or ban movies, pulp magazines, and comic books that were morally suspect. These regulations posed an obstacle for the self-understanding of Catholic American readers, writers, and scholars. But as Cadegan finds, Catholics developed a rationale by which they could both respect the laws of the Church as it sought to protect the integrity of doctrine and also engage the culture of artistic and commercial freedom in which they operated as Americans. Catholic literary figures including Flannery O’Connor and Thomas Merton are important to Cadegan’s argument, particularly as their careers and the reception of their work demonstrate shifts in the relationship between Catholicism and literary culture. Cadegan trains her attention on American critics, editors, and university professors and administrators who mediated the relationship among the Church, parishioners, and the culture at large.
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality"

New from Princeton University Press: The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality by Angus Deaton.

About the book, from the publisher:
The world is a better place than it used to be. People are wealthier and healthier, and live longer lives. Yet the escapes from destitution by so many have left gaping inequalities between people and between nations. In The Great Escape, Angus Deaton--one of the foremost experts on economic development and on poverty--tells the remarkable story of how, starting 250 years ago, some parts of the world began to experience sustained progress, opening up gaps and setting the stage for today's hugely unequal world. Deaton takes an in-depth look at the historical and ongoing patterns behind the health and wealth of nations, and he addresses what needs to be done to help those left behind.

Deaton describes vast innovations and wrenching setbacks: the successes of antibiotics, pest control, vaccinations, and clean water on the one hand, and disastrous famines and the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the other. He examines the United States, a nation that has prospered but is today experiencing slower growth and increasing inequality. He also considers how economic growth in India and China has improved the lives of more than a billion people. Deaton argues that international aid has been ineffective and even harmful. He suggests alternative efforts--including reforming incentives to drug companies and lifting trade restrictions--that will allow the developing world to bring about its own Great Escape.

Demonstrating how changes in health and living standards have transformed our lives, The Great Escape is a powerful guide to addressing the well-being of all nations.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 9, 2013

"Ebony and Ivy"

New from Bloomsbury USA: Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America's Universities by Craig Steven Wilder.

About the book, from the publisher:
A 2006 report commissioned by Brown University revealed that institution’s complex and contested involvement in slavery—setting off a controversy that leapt from the ivory tower to make headlines across the country. But Brown’s troubling past was far from unique. In Ebony and Ivy, Craig Steven Wilder, a rising star in the profession of history, lays bare uncomfortable truths about race, slavery, and the American academy.

Many of America’s revered colleges and universities—from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton to Rutgers, Williams College, and UNC—were soaked in the sweat, the tears, and sometimes the blood of people of color. The earliest academies proclaimed their mission to Christianize the savages of North America, and played a key role in white conquest. Later, the slave economy and higher education grew up together, each nurturing the other. Slavery funded colleges, built campuses, and paid the wages of professors. Enslaved Americans waited on faculty and students; academic leaders aggressively courted the support of slave owners and slave traders. Significantly, as Wilder shows, our leading universities, dependent on human bondage, became breeding grounds for the racist ideas that sustained them.

Ebony and Ivy is a powerful and propulsive study and the first of its kind, revealing a history of oppression behind the institutions usually considered the cradle of liberal politics.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 8, 2013

"Buzz: Urban Beekeeping and the Power of the Bee"

New from New York University Press: Buzz: Urban Beekeeping and the Power of the Bee by Lisa Jean Moore and Mary Kosut.

About the book, from the publisher:
Bees are essential for human survival—one-third of all food on American dining tables depends on the labor of bees. Beyond pollination, the very idea of the bee is ubiquitous in our culture: we can feel buzzed; we can create buzz; we have worker bees, drones, and Queen bees; we establish collectives and even have communities that share a hive-mind. In Buzz, authors Lisa Jean Moore and Mary Kosut convincingly argue that the power of bees goes beyond the food cycle, bees are our mascots, our models, and, unlike any other insect, are both feared and revered.

In this fascinating account, Moore and Kosut travel into the land of urban beekeeping in New York City, where raising bees has become all the rage. We follow them as they climb up on rooftops, attend beekeeping workshops and honey festivals, and even put on full-body beekeeping suits and open up the hives. In the process, we meet a passionate, dedicated, and eclectic group of urban beekeepers who tend to their brood with an emotional and ecological connection that many find restorative and empowering. Kosut and Moore also interview professional beekeepers and many others who tend to their bees for their all-important production of a food staple: honey. The artisanal food shops that are so popular in Brooklyn are a perfect place to sell not just honey, but all manner of goods: soaps, candles, beeswax, beauty products, and even bee pollen.

Buzz also examines media representations of bees, such as children’s books, films, and consumer culture, bringing to light the reciprocal way in which the bee and our idea of the bee inform one another. Partly an ethnographic investigation and partly a meditation on the very nature of human/insect relations, Moore and Kosut argue that how we define, visualize, and interact with bees clearly reflects our changing social and ecological landscape, pointing to how we conceive of and create culture, and how, in essence, we create ourselves.
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 7, 2013

"Black Odysseys"

New from Oxford University Press: Black Odysseys: The Homeric Odyssey in the African Diaspora since 1939 by Justine McConnell.

About the book, from the publisher:
Black Odysseys explores creative works by artists of ultimately African descent, which respond to the Homeric Odyssey. Considering what the ancient Greek epic has signified for those struggling to emerge from the shadow of Western imperialism, and how it has inspired anti-colonial poets, novelists, playwrights, and directors, McConnell examines twentieth- and twenty-first century works from Africa and the African diaspora, including the Caribbean and the United States. In seeking to discover why the Odyssey, as a founding text of the Western canon, has been of such interest to these artists, the great plurality of post-colonial and anti-colonial responses becomes clear: responses that differ dramatically from each other, even in the attitude adopted towards Odysseus himself.

Since Aime Cesaire's seminal 1939 poem, Cahier d'un retour au pays natal (Notebook of a Return to My Native Land), the Odyssey's homecoming trope and quest for identity have inspired writers who are simultaneously striving against and appropriating the very forms which had been used to oppress them. Following in the wake of Cesaire, this volume proceeds chronologically and considers works by Ralph Ellison, Derek Walcott, Jon Amiel, Wilson Harris, Njabulo Ndebele, and Jatinder Verma.
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 6, 2013

"Floating City"

New from Penguin: Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York's Underground Economy by Sudhir Venkatesh.

About the book, from the publisher:
New York is a city of highs and lows, where wealthy elites share the streets with desperate immigrants and destitute locals. Bridging this economic divide is New York’s underground economy, the invisible network of illicit transactions between rich and poor that secretly weaves together the whole city.

Sudhir Venkatesh, acclaimed sociologist at Columbia University and author of Gang Leader for a Day, returns to the streets to connect the dots of New York’s divergent economic worlds and crack the code of the city’s underground economy. Based on Venkatesh’s interviews with prostitutes and socialites, immigrants and academics, high end drug bosses and street-level dealers, Floating City exposes the underground as the city’s true engine of social transformation and economic prosperity—revealing a wholly unprecedented vision of New York.

A memoir of sociological investigation, Floating City draws from Venkatesh’s decade of research within the affluent communities of Upper East Side socialites and Midtown businessmen, the drug gangs of Harlem and the sex workers of Brooklyn, the artists of Tribeca and the escort services of Hell’s Kitchen. Venkatesh arrived in the city after his groundbreaking research in Chicago, where crime remained stubbornly local: gangs stuck to their housing projects and criminals stayed on their corners. But in Floating City, Venkatesh discovers that New York’s underground economy unites instead of divides inhabitants: a vast network of “off the books” transactions linking the high and low worlds of the city. Venkatesh shows how dealing in drugs and sex and undocumented labor bridges the conventional divides between rich and poor, unmasking a city knit together by the invisible threads of the underground economy.

Planting himself squarely within this unexplored world, Venkatesh closely follows a dozen New Yorkers locked in the underground economy. Bangledeshi shop clerks like Manjun and Santosh navigate immense networks of illegal goods and services, connecting inquisitive tourists with sex workers and drug dealers. Hispanic prostitutes like Angela and Carla feel secure enough in the new city to leave their old neighborhoods behind in pursuit of bigger money, yet abandon all the safety they had when their clients were known locals. Rich uptown women like Analise and Brittany have the changing city at their beck and call, but both turn to sex work as an easy way to make ends meet without relying on their family fortunes. Venkatesh’s greatest guide is Shine, an African American drug boss based in Harlem who hopes to break into the elusive, upscale cocaine market. Without connections among wealthy whites, Shine undertakes an audacious campaign of self-reinvention, leaving behind the certainties of race and class with all the drive of the greatest entrepreneurs. As Shine explains to Venkatesh, “This is New York! We’re like hummingbirds, man. We go flower to flower. . . . Here, you need to float.”

Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York’s Underground Economy chronicles Venkatesh’s decade of discovery and loss in the shifting terrain of New York, where research subjects might disappear suddenly and new allies emerge by chance, where close friends might reveal themselves to be criminals of the lowest order. Propelled by Venkatesh’s numerous interviews and firsthand research, Floating City at its heart is a story of one man struggling to understand a complex global city constantly in the throes of becoming.
Visit Sudhir Venkatesh's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 5, 2013

"W. E. B. Du Bois and 'The Souls of Black Folk'"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: W. E. B. Du Bois and "The Souls of Black Folk" by Stephanie J. Shaw.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this book, Stephanie J. Shaw brings a new understanding to one of the great documents of American and black history. While most scholarly discussions of The Souls of Black Folk focus on the veils, the color line, double consciousness, or Booker T. Washington, Shaw reads Du Bois' book as a profoundly nuanced interpretation of the souls of black Americans at the turn of the twentieth century.

Demonstrating the importance of the work as a sociohistorical study of black life in America through the turn of the twentieth century and offering new ways of thinking about many of the topics introduced in Souls, Shaw charts Du Bois' successful appropriation of Hegelian idealism in order to add America, the nineteenth century, and black people to the historical narrative in Hegel’s philosophy of history. Shaw adopts Du Bois' point of view to delve into the social, cultural, political, and intellectual milieus that helped to create The Souls of Black Folk.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"Conservative Internationalism"

New from Princeton University Press: Conservative Internationalism: Armed Diplomacy under Jefferson, Polk, Truman, and Reagan by Henry R. Nau.

About the book, from the publisher:
Debates about U.S. foreign policy have revolved around three main traditions--liberal internationalism, realism, and nationalism. In this book, distinguished political scientist Henry Nau delves deeply into a fourth, overlooked foreign policy tradition that he calls "conservative internationalism." This approach spreads freedom, like liberal internationalism; arms diplomacy, like realism; and preserves national sovereignty, like nationalism. It targets a world of limited government or independent "sister republics," not a world of great power concerts or centralized international institutions.

Nau explores conservative internationalism in the foreign policies of Thomas Jefferson, James Polk, Harry Truman, and Ronald Reagan. These presidents did more than any others to expand the arc of freedom using a deft combination of force, diplomacy, and compromise. Since Reagan, presidents have swung back and forth among the main traditions, overreaching under Bush and now retrenching under Obama. Nau demonstrates that conservative internationalism offers an alternative way. It pursues freedom but not everywhere, prioritizing situations that border on existing free countries--Turkey, for example, rather than Iraq. It uses lesser force early to influence negotiations rather than greater force later after negotiations fail. And it reaches timely compromises to cash in military leverage and sustain public support.

A groundbreaking revival of a neglected foreign policy tradition, Conservative Internationalism shows how the United States can effectively sustain global leadership while respecting the constraints of public will and material resources.
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Forgotten Ally"

New from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945 by Rana Mitter.

About the book, from the publisher:
The epic, untold story of China’s devastating eight-year war of resistance against Japan

For decades, a major piece of World War II history has gone virtually unwritten. The war began in China, two years before Hitler invaded Poland, and China eventually became the fourth great ally, partner to the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain. Yet its drama of invasion, resistance, slaughter, and political intrigue remains little known in the West.

Rana Mitter focuses his gripping narrative on three towering leaders: Chiang Kai-shek, the politically gifted but tragically flawed head of China’s Nationalist government; Mao Zedong, the Communists’ fiery ideological stalwart, seen here at the beginning of his epochal career; and the lesser-known Wang Jingwei, who collaborated with the Japanese to form a puppet state in occupied China. Drawing on Chinese archives that have only been unsealed in the past ten years, he brings to vivid new life such characters as Chiang’s American chief of staff, the unforgettable “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell, and such horrific events as the Rape of Nanking and the bombing of China’s wartime capital, Chongqing. Throughout, Forgotten Ally shows how the Chinese people played an essential role in the wider war effort, at great political and personal sacrifice.

Forgotten Ally rewrites the entire history of World War II. Yet it also offers surprising insights into contemporary China. No twentieth-century event was as crucial in shaping China’s worldview, and no one can understand China, and its relationship with America today, without this definitive work.
The Page 69 Test: Rana Mitter's Modern China: A Very Short Introduction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 2, 2013

"Live and Die Like a Man"

New from Stanford University Press: Live and Die Like a Man: Gender Dynamics in Urban Egypt by Farha Ghannam.

About the book, from the publisher:
Watching the revolution of January 2011, the world saw Egyptians, men and women, come together to fight for freedom and social justice. These events gave renewed urgency to the fraught topic of gender in the Middle East. The role of women in public life, the meaning of manhood, and the future of gender inequalities are hotly debated by religious figures, government officials, activists, scholars, and ordinary citizens throughout Egypt. Live and Die Like a Man presents a unique twist on traditional understandings of gender and gender roles, shifting the attention to men and exploring how they are collectively "produced" as gendered subjects. It traces how masculinity is continuously maintained and reaffirmed by both men and women under changing socio-economic and political conditions.

Over a period of nearly twenty years, Farha Ghannam lived and conducted research in al-Zawiya, a low-income neighborhood not far from Tahrir Square in northern Cairo. Detailing her daily encounters and ongoing interviews, she develops life stories that reveal the everyday practices and struggles of the neighborhood over the years. We meet Hiba and her husband as they celebrate the birth of their first son and begin to teach him how to become a man; Samer, a forty-year-old man trying to find a suitable wife; Abu Hosni, who struggled with different illnesses; and other local men and women who share their reactions to the uprising and the changing situation in Egypt.

Against this backdrop of individual experiences, Ghannam develops the concept of masculine trajectories to account for the various paths men can take to embody social norms. In showing how men work to realize a "male ideal," she counters the prevalent dehumanizing stereotypes of Middle Eastern men all too frequently reproduced in media reports, and opens new spaces for rethinking patriarchal structures and their constraining effects on both men and women.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 1, 2013

"The Color of Our Shame"

New from Oxford University Press: The Color of Our Shame: Race and Justice in Our Time by Christopher J. Lebron.

About the book, from the publisher:
For many Americans, the election of Barack Obama as the country's first black president signaled that we had become a post-racial nation - some even suggested that race was no longer worth discussing. Of course, the evidence tells a very different story. And while social scientists are fully engaged in examining the facts of race, normative political thought has failed to grapple with race as an interesting moral case or as a focus in the expansive theory of social justice. Political thought's under participation in the debate over the status of blacks in American society raises serious concerns since the main academic task of political theory is to adjudicate discrepancies between the demands of ideal justice and social realities.

Christopher J. Lebron contends that it is the duty of political thought to address the moral problems that attend racial inequality and to make those problems salient to a democratic polity. Thus, in The Color of Our Shame, he asks two major questions. First, given the success of the Civil Rights Act and the sharp decline in overt racist norms, how can we explain the persistence of systemic racial inequality? Second, once we have settled on an explanation, what might political philosophy have to offer in terms of a solution?

In order to answer these questions Lebron suggests that we reconceive of racial inequality as a condition that marks the normative status of black citizens in the eyes of the nation. He argues that our collective response to racial inequality ought to be shame. While we reject race as a reason for marginalizing blacks on the basis of liberal democratic ideals, we fail to live up to those ideals - a situation that Lebron sees as a failure of national character. Drawing on a wide array of resources including liberal theory, virtue ethics, history, and popular culture, Lebron proposes a move toward a "perfectionist politics" that would compel a higher level of racially relevant moral excellence from individuals and institutions and enable America to meet the democratic ideals that it has set for itself.
Visit Chris Lebron's website.

--Marshal Zeringue