Monday, May 27, 2024

"Fruitfulness"

New from Oxford University Press: Fruitfulness: Science, Metaphor, and the Puzzle of Promise by Chris Haufe.

About the book, from the publisher:
Some ideas seem to possess a disproportionate ability to lead to new insights, new discoveries, new ideas, and even entirely new ways of thinking. Such ideas are said to be fruitful. Looking across the history of science and mathematics, we see creative minds preoccupied with the search for ideas of this kind. More precious than truth, but far less plentiful, fruitful ideas provide those in pursuit of knowledge with a seemingly bottomless well of innovation from which to draw as they attempt to solve new problems and to refine solutions to old ones. Seasoned researchers have a nose for these ideas. They often know in an instant that some way of approaching a problem will eventually result in a solution to it and to a whole host of other problems, all of which suddenly seem related.

In Fruitfulness, Chris Haufe explains how these ideas are detected and developed into large-scale frameworks for research. He argues for a philosophical perspective on scientific knowledge that places the search for fruitfulness at the heart of the scientific enterprise. This perspective demands a fundamental shift in our thinking about scientific theories, conceiving of them as metaphors to facilitate research instead of increasingly correct descriptions of nature.
Visit Chris Haufe's website.

The Page 99 Test: Do the Humanities Create Knowledge?.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 26, 2024

"Good Guys, Bad Guys"

New from NYU Press: Good Guys, Bad Guys: The Perils of Men's Gender Activism by Emily K. Carian.

About the book, from the publisher:
Explores questions of masculinity, privilege, and identity to explain why some men become feminists while others become men’s rights activists

In the evolving landscape of gender activism in the United States, it is intriguing that four-in-ten American men now identify as feminists. Despite this seemingly positive shift, gender inequality remains deeply rooted in the US. Good Guys, Bad Guys delves into this paradox, unraveling the complexities of men’s feminist allyship and its limitations in propelling genuine progress.

Emily K. Carian masterfully dissects the narratives of two distinct groups of gender activists: feminist men and men who belong to the men's rights movement, which opposes feminism. By engaging directly with the men themselves, Carian constructs a compelling analysis of their journeys into these contrasting social movements.

Surprisingly, Carian finds that both feminist men and men’s rights activists share a common motivation for their engagement in gender activism: the desire to be perceived as “good men.” However, this well-intentioned yet superficial drive hinders feminist men from envisioning concrete and effective strategies to challenge gender inequality. Conversely, it fuels men’s rights activists’ participation in a movement that fosters a virulent misogyny.

Good Guys, Bad Guys exposes how even self-proclaimed feminist men inadvertently perpetuate gender inequality through their attitudes, behaviors, and relationships. As society navigates the complexities of gender activism, this book serves as a valuable resource in guiding the path towards a truly equal and inclusive future.
Visit Emily K. Carian's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 25, 2024

"Buddhism in Court"

New from Oxford University Press: Buddhism in Court: Religion, Law, and Jurisdiction in China by Cuilan Liu.

About the book, from the publisher:
What happens to Buddhist monks and nuns who commit crimes? Buddhism in Court is the first book to uncover an important, yet long-overlooked, Buddhist campaign for clerical legal privileges that aim to exempt monks and nuns from being tried and punished in the government courts. Liu reveals the campaign's origins in Indian Buddhism and how Chinese Buddhists' engagement reshaped Buddhism's place in the jurisdictional landscape in China from the fourth century to the present.

Drawing on Buddhist monastic law texts, archives, court documents, Chinese laws, official histories, law case books, institutional announcements, and private writings circulated on social media, Buddhism in Court traces the legacy of the campaign for clerical legal privileges from its origin in India to its transformation in China and its continuing impact in the Chinese courtroom to the present day. Diverting from the dynasty-centered approach to studying religion, law, and history in China, Buddhism in Court expands our understanding of this legacy of early Chinese Buddhism and challenges the notion that the transition between imperial and post-imperial China was marked only by disruption.
Visit Cuilan Liu's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 24, 2024

"Liberty's Grid"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Liberty's Grid: A Founding Father, a Mathematical Dreamland, and the Shaping of America by Amir Alexander.

About the book, from the publisher:
The surprising history behind a ubiquitous facet of the United States: the gridded landscape.

Seen from an airplane, much of the United States appears to be a gridded land of startling uniformity. Perpendicular streets and rectangular fields, all precisely measured and perfectly aligned, turn both urban and rural America into a checkerboard landscape that stretches from horizon to horizon. In evidence throughout the country, but especially the West, the pattern is a hallmark of American life. One might consider it an administrative convenience—an easy way to divide land and lay down streets—but it is not. The colossal grid carved into the North American continent, argues historian and writer Amir Alexander, is a plan redolent with philosophical and political meaning.

In 1784 Thomas Jefferson presented Congress with an audacious scheme to reshape the territory of the young United States. All western lands, he proposed, would be inscribed with a single rectilinear grid, transforming the natural landscape into a mathematical one. Following Isaac Newton and John Locke, he viewed mathematical space as a blank slate on which anything is possible and where new Americans, acting freely, could find liberty. And if the real America, with its diverse landscapes and rich human history, did not match his vision, then it must be made to match it.

From the halls of Congress to the open prairies, and from the fight against George III to the Trail of Tears, Liberty’s Grid tells the story of the battle between grid makers and their opponents. When Congress endorsed Jefferson’s plan, it set off a struggle over American space that has not subsided. Transcendentalists, urban reformers, and conservationists saw the grid not as a place of possibility but as an artificial imposition that crushed the human spirit. Today, the ideas Jefferson associated with the grid still echo through political rhetoric about the country’s founding, and competing visions for the nation are visible from Manhattan avenues and Kansan pastures to Yosemite’s cliffs and suburbia’s cul-de-sacs. An engrossing read, Liberty’s Grid offers a powerful look at the ideological conflict written on the landscape.
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 23, 2024

"The Threshold of Dissent"

New from NYU Press: The Threshold of Dissent: A History of American Jewish Critics of Zionism by Marjorie Feld.

About the book, from the publisher:
Explores the long history of anti-Zionist and non-Zionist American Jews

Throughout the twentieth century, American Jewish communal leaders projected a unified position of unconditional support for Israel, cementing it as a cornerstone of American Jewish identity. This unwavering position served to marginalize and label dissenters as antisemitic, systematically limiting the threshold of acceptable criticism. In pursuit of this forced consensus, these leaders entered Cold War alliances, distanced themselves from progressive civil rights and anti-colonial movements, and turned a blind eye to human rights abuses in Israel. In The Threshold of Dissent, Marjorie N. Feld instead shows that today’s vociferous arguments among American Jews over Israel and Zionism are but the newest chapter in a fraught history that stretches from the nineteenth century.

Drawing on rich archival research and examining wide-ranging intellectual currents―from the Reform movement and the Yiddish left to anti-colonialism and Jewish feminism―Feld explores American Jewish critics of Zionism and Israel from the 1880s to the 1980s. The book argues that the tireless policing of contrary perspectives led each generation of dissenters to believe that it was the first to question unqualified support for Israel. The Threshold of Dissent positions contemporary critics within a century-long debate about the priorities of the American Jewish community, one which holds profound implications for inclusion in American Jewish communal life and for American Jews’ participation in coalitions working for justice.

At a time when American Jewish support for Israel has been diminishing, The Threshold of Dissent uncovers a deeper―and deeply contested―history of intracommunal debate over Zionism among American Jews.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

"The Last Plantation"

New from Princeton University Press: The Last Plantation: Racism and Resistance in the Halls of Congress by James R. Jones.

About the book, from the publisher:
A revealing look at the covert and institutionalized racism lurking in the congressional workplace

Racism continues to infuse Congress’s daily practice of lawmaking and shape who obtains congressional employment. In this timely and provocative book, James Jones reveals how and why many who work in Congress call it the “Last Plantation.” He shows that even as the civil rights movement gained momentum in the 1960s and antidiscrimination laws were implemented across the nation, Congress remained exempt from federal workplace protections for decades. These exemptions institutionalized inequality in the congressional workplace well into the twenty-first century.

Combining groundbreaking research and compelling firsthand accounts from scores of congressional staffers, Jones uncovers the hidden dynamics of power, privilege, and resistance in Congress. He reveals how failures of racial representation among congressional staffers reverberate throughout the American political system and demonstrates how the absence of diverse perspectives hampers the creation of just legislation. Centering the experiences of Black workers within this complex landscape, he provides valuable insights into the problems they face, the barriers that hinder their progress, and the ways they contest entrenched inequality.

A must-read for anyone concerned about social justice and the future of our democracy, The Last Plantation exposes the mechanisms that perpetuate racial inequality in the halls of Congress and challenges us to confront and transform this unequal workplace that shapes our politics and society.
Visit James R. Jones's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

"Meritocratic Democracy"

New from Oxford University Press: Meritocratic Democracy: A Cross-Cultural Political Theory by Elena Ziliotti.

About the book, from the publisher:
Meritocratic Democracy puts into dialogue contemporary works in Western democratic theory and Confucian political theory to examine the effectiveness of democracy as a decision-making system, the role of political leaders and political parties in real-world democracies. The result is a unique cross-cultural theory of democracy, meritocratic democracy, which combines democratic principles with a system of 'partisan juries' at the party level to enhance the quality of political leaders in democracy. Ultimately, this book shows that cross-cultural dialogue is imperative to generate innovative solutions to pressing political issues and foster reciprocal corrections.
Visit Elena Ziliotti's website.

Ziliotti is a tenured Assistant Professor (UD1) of Ethics and Political Philosophy at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). Before joining TU Delft, she was an International Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Philosophy, Wuhan University, China, and a recipient of the 2019 China International Postdoctoral Exchange Fellowship. She completed my doctorate degree in Political Philosophy in June 2018 at the King’s College London and the National University of Singapore Joint Ph.D. programme.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 20, 2024

"The Chinese Computer"

New from The MIT Press: The Chinese Computer: A Global History of the Information Age by Thomas S. Mullaney.

About the book, from the publisher:
The fascinating, untold story of how the Chinese language overcame unparalleled challenges and revolutionized the world of computing.

A standard QWERTY keyboard has a few dozen keys. How can Chinese—a language with tens of thousands of characters and no alphabet—be input on such a device? In The Chinese Computer, Thomas S. Mullaney sets out to resolve this paradox, and in doing so, discovers that the key to this seemingly impossible riddle has given rise to a new epoch in the history of writing—a form of writing he calls “hypography.” Based on fifteen years of research, this pathbreaking history of the Chinese language charts the beginnings of electronic Chinese technology in the wake of World War II up through to its many iterations in the present day.

Mullaney takes the reader back through the history and evolution of Chinese language computing technology, showing the development of electronic Chinese input methods—software programs that enable Chinese characters to be produced using alphanumeric symbols—and the profound impact they have had on the way Chinese is written. Along the way, Mullaney introduces a cast of brilliant and eccentric personalities drawn from the ranks of IBM, MIT, the CIA, the Pentagon, the Taiwanese military, and the highest rungs of mainland Chinese establishment, to name a few, and the unexpected roles they played in developing Chinese language computing. Finally, he shows how China and the non-Western world—because of the hypographic technologies they had to invent in order to join the personal computing revolution—“saved” the Western computer from its deep biases, enabling it to achieve a meaningful presence in markets outside of the Americas and Europe.

An eminently engaging and artfully told history, The Chinese Computer is a must-read for anyone interested in how culture informs computing and how computing, in turn, shapes culture.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 19, 2024

"Birthing Romans"

New from Princeton University Press: Birthing Romans: Childbearing and Its Risks in Imperial Rome by Anna Bonnell Freidin.

About the book, from the publisher:
How Romans coped with the anxieties and risks of childbirth

Across the vast expanse of the Roman Empire, anxieties about childbirth tied individuals to one another, to the highest levels of imperial politics, even to the movements of the stars. Birthing Romans sheds critical light on the diverse ways pregnancy and childbirth were understood, experienced, and managed in ancient Rome during the first three centuries of the Common Era.

In this beautifully written book, Anna Bonnell Freidin asks how inhabitants of the Roman Empire—especially women and girls—understood their bodies and constructed communities of care to mitigate and make sense of the risks of pregnancy and childbirth. Drawing on medical texts, legal documents, poetry, amulets, funerary art, and more, she shows how these communities were deeply human yet never just human. Freidin demonstrates how patients and caregivers took their place alongside divine and material agencies to guard against the risks inherent to childbearing. She vividly illustrates how these efforts and vital networks offer a new window onto Romans’ anxieties about order, hierarchy, and the individual’s place in the empire and cosmos.

Unearthing a risky world that is both familiar and not our own, Birthing Romans reveals how mistakes, misfortunes, and interventions in childbearing were seen to have far-reaching consequences, reverberating across generations and altering the course of people’s lives, their family histories, and even the fate of an empire.
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 18, 2024

"Enlightenment Biopolitics"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Enlightenment Biopolitics: A History of Race, Eugenics, and the Making of Citizens by William Max Nelson.

About the book, from the publisher:
A wide-ranging history tracing the birth of biopolitics in Enlightenment thought and its aftermath.

In Enlightenment Biopolitics, historian William Max Nelson pursues the ambitious task of tracing the context in which biopolitical thought emerged and circulated. He locates that context in the Enlightenment when emancipatory ideals sat alongside the horrors of colonialism, slavery, and race-based discrimination. In fact, these did not just coexist, Nelson argues; they were actually mutually constitutive of Enlightenment ideals.

In this book, Nelson focuses on Enlightenment-era visions of eugenics (including proposals to establish programs of selective breeding), forms of penal slavery, and spurious biological arguments about the supposed inferiority of particular groups. The Enlightenment, he shows, was rife with efforts to shape, harness, and “organize” the minds and especially the bodies of subjects and citizens. In his reading of the birth of biopolitics and its transformations, Nelson examines the shocking conceptual and practical connections between inclusion and exclusion, equality and inequality, rights and race, and the supposed “improvement of the human species” and practices of dehumanization.
Visit William Max Nelson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue