Wednesday, February 21, 2024


New from Oxford University Press: Wuhan: How the COVID-19 Outbreak in China Spiraled Out of Control by Dali L. Yang.

About the book, from the publisher:
The definitive account of the Chinese government's response to the initial Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan.

The Covid-19 pandemic, which began as an outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019, has claimed millions of lives and caused unprecedented disruptions. Despite its generation-defining significance, there has been a surprising lack of independent research examining the decisions and measures implemented in the weeks leading up to the Wuhan lockdown, as well as the missteps and shortcomings that allowed the novel coronavirus to spread with minimal hindrance.

In Wuhan: How the COVID-19 Outbreak in China Spiraled Out of Control, Dali L. Yang scrutinizes China's emergency response to the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan, delving into the government's handling of epidemic information and the decisions that influenced the scale and scope of the outbreak. Yang's research reveals that China's health decision-makers and experts had an excellent head start when they implemented a health emergency action program to respond to the outbreak at the end of December 2019. With granular detail and compelling immediacy, Yang investigates the political and bureaucratic processes that hindered information flows and sharing, as well as the cognitive framework that limited understanding of the virus's contagiousness and hampered effective decisions.

Yang's research uncovers that urgent warnings from sources outside Wuhan helped shift the Chinese health leadership's focus towards epidemic control. Once this shift occurred, China's party-state mobilized resources and enforced a lockdown in Wuhan. This lockdown was divided into two phases: providing additional medical resources and enforcing community-level lockdowns and home confinement. The 76-day lockdown contained the virus within China's borders, but the leadership and public later faced the challenge of reopening China in a world still grappling with SARS-CoV-2.

Wuhan: How the COVID-19 Outbreak in China Spiraled Out of Control also critiques the Chinese authorities for prioritizing dominance and control in their response to the Wuhan outbreak. This preoccupation led to the suppression, distortion, and neglect of crucial disease information, fostering an atmosphere of organized silence. The punishment of whistleblowers and the banning of the immediate release of research findings on the novel coronavirus further contributed to this silencing. Yang emphasizes the importance of retaining public trust during a pandemic and underscores the need for transparency, openness to new information, and direct communication of risk with the public.
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

"The Political Outsider"

New from Stanford University Press: The Political Outsider: Indian Democracy and the Lineages of Populism by Srirupa Roy.

About the book, from the publisher:
Defying the dire predictions that attended its birth as an independent nation-state in 1947, the Indian republic is more than seventy-five years old. And yet, it is a place where criticisms of actually existing democracy are intense and strident. In recent years, the trope of victimized people suffering at the hands of a predatory elite and political dysfunction has reaped rewards. The populist language of redemptive outsiders pledging to combat a corrupt system has been harnessed in successful electoral campaigns, like the majoritarian regime of Narendra Modi.

Tracking the shift from postcolonial nation-building to democracy-rebuilding, Srirupa Roy shows how the political outsider came to be a valorized figure of late-twentieth century Indian democracy, tasked with the urgent mission of curing a broken democratic system―what Roy terms "curative democracy." Drawing attention to an ambivalent political field that folds together authoritarian and democratic forms and ideas, Roy argues that the long 1970s were a crucial turning point in Indian politics, when democracy was suspended by the declaration of a national emergency and then subsequently restored. By tracing the crooked line that connects the ideals of curative democracy and the political outsider to the populist antipolitics and strongman authoritarian rule in present times, this book revisits democracy from India, and asks what the Indian experience tells us about the trajectory of global democratic politics.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 19, 2024

"The Devil Sat on My Bed"

New from Oxford University Press: The Devil Sat on My Bed: Encounters with the Spirit World in Mormon Utah by Erin E. Stiles.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the mountains of beautiful, bucolic northern Utah, many Latter-day Saints (Mormons) are visited by spirits. Local folklore is filled with stories of uncanny encounters of all kinds, and Latter-day Saint scripture and prophetic teachings emphasize the reality and the importance of the spirit world. Spirit encounters are common in this community. People report visits from the benevolent spirits of kin offering aid and also from evil spirits who tempt and harass. Combining folklore research with ethnography, the book examines many types of spirit encounters and shows that such experiences must be understood as particularly Latter-day Saint phenomena.

Spirit encounters take place within a larger cultural and religious framework that emphasizes the important relationships between living and non-living beings. For Mormons in northern Utah, spirit lore and experiences are interpreted and understood with reference to Latter-day Saint cosmology and particularly Mormon conceptions of the nature of the person, the spirit, and the family, and the nature of righteousness, evil, and spiritual power. The book also explores how people in Utah differentiate between "Mormon culture," the institutional church, and how they understand the "true" meaning of the religion, which has relevance far beyond understanding of people's relationship to the spirit realm and spirit power, and speaks to key issues of concern―and polarization―among Latter-day Saints today.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 18, 2024

"Singing the Land"

New from the University of Michigan Press: Singing the Land: Hebrew Music and Early Zionism in America by Eli Sperling.

About the book, from the publisher:
Singing the Land: Hebrew Music and Early Zionism in America examines the proliferation and use of popular Hebrew Zionist music amongst American Jewry during the first half of the twentieth century. This music—one part in a greater process of instilling diasporic Zionism in American Jewish communities—represents an early and underexplored means of fostering mainstream American Jewish engagement with the Jewish state and Hebrew national culture as they emerged after Israel declared its independence in 1948. This evolutionary process brought Zionism from being an often-polemical notion in American Judaism at the turn of the twentieth century to a mainstream component of American Jewish life by 1948. Hebrew music ultimately emerged as an important means through which many American Jews physically participated in or ‘performed’ aspects of Zionism and Hebrew national culture from afar.

Exploring the history, events, contexts, and tensions that comprised what may be termed the ‘Zionization’ of American Jewry during the first half of the twentieth century, Eli Sperling analyzes primary sources within the historical contexts of Zionist national development and American Jewish life. Singing the Land offers insights into how and why musical frameworks were central to catalyzing American Jewry’s support of the Zionist cause by the 1940s, parallel to firm commitments to their American locale and national identities. The proliferation of this widespread American Jewish-Zionist embrace was achieved through a variety of educational, religious, economic, and political efforts, and Hebrew music was a thread consistent among them all.
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 17, 2024

"Singer of the Land of Snows"

New from the University of Virginia Press: Singer of the Land of Snows: Shabkar, Buddhism, and Tibetan National Identity by Rachel H. Pang.

About the book, from the publisher:
The singular role of Shabkar in the development of the idea of Tibet

Shabkar (1781–1851), the “Singer of the Land of Snows,” was a renowned yogi and poet who, through his autobiography and songs, developed a vision of Tibet as a Buddhist “imagined community.” By incorporating vernacular literature, providing a narrative mapping of the Tibetan plateau, reviving and adapting the legend of Tibetans as AvalokiteĊ›vara’s chosen people, and promoting shared Buddhist values and practices, Shabkar’s concept of Tibet opened up the discursive space for the articulation of modern forms of Tibetan nationalism.

Employing analytical lenses of cultural nationalism and literary studies, Rachel Pang explores the indigenous epistemologies of identity, community, and territory that predate contemporary state-centric definitions of nation and nationalism in Tibet and provides the definitive treatment of this foundational figure.
Visit Rachel H. Pang's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 16, 2024

"Reluctant Race Men"

New from Oxford University Press: Reluctant Race Men: Black Challenges to the Practice of Race in Nineteenth-Century America by Joan L. Bryant.

About the book, from the publisher:
Activists in the earliest Black antebellum reform endeavors contested and deprecated the concept of race. Attacks on the logic and ethics of dividing, grouping, and ranking humans into races became commonplace facets of activism in anti-colonization and emigration campaigns, suffrage and civil rights initiatives, moral reform projects, abolitionist struggles, independent church development, and confrontations with scientific thought on human origins. Denunciations persisted even as later generations of reformers felt compelled by theories of progress and American custom to promote race as a basis of a Black collective consciousness.

Reluctant Race Men traces a history of the disparate challenges Black American reformers lodged against race across the long nineteenth century. It factors their opposition into the nation's history of race and reconstructs a reform tradition largely ignored in accounts of Black activism. Black-controlled newspapers, societies, churches, and conventions provided the principal loci and resources for questioning race. In these contexts, people of African descent generated a lexicon for refuting race, debated its logic, and, ultimately, reinterpreted it.

Reformers' challenges call into question the notion that race is a self-evident site of identity among Black people. Their ideas instead spotlight legal, political, religious, social, and scientific practices that configured human difference, sameness, hierarchy, and consciousness. They show how a diverse set of actions constituted multi-faceted American phenomena dubbed "race."
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 15, 2024

"The China Firm"

New from Columbia University Press: The China Firm: American Elites and the Making of British Colonial Society by Thomas M. Larkin.

About the book, from the publisher:
What roles did Americans play in the expanding global empires of the nineteenth century? Thomas M. Larkin examines the Hong Kong–based Augustine Heard & Company, the most prominent American trading firm in treaty-port China, to explore the ways American elites at once made and were made by British colonial society. Following the Heard brothers throughout their firm’s rise and decline, The China Firm reveals how nineteenth-century China’s American elite adapted to colonial culture, helped entrench social and racial hierarchies, and exploited the British imperial project for their own profit as they became increasingly invested in its political affairs and commercial networks.

Through the central narrative of Augustine Heard & Co., Larkin disentangles the ties that bound the United States to China and the British Empire in the nineteenth century. Drawing on a vast range of archival material from Hong Kong, China, Boston, and London, he weaves the local and the global together to trace how Americans gained acceptance into and contributed to the making of colonial societies and world-spanning empires. Uncovering the transimperial lives of these American traders and the complex ways extraimperial communities interacted with British colonialism, The China Firm makes a vital contribution to global histories of nineteenth-century Asia and provides an alternative narrative of British empire.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

"Empire of Refugees"

New from Stanford University Press: Empire of Refugees: North Caucasian Muslims and the Late Ottoman State by Vladimir Hamed-Troyansky.

About the book, from the publisher:
Between the 1850s and World War I, about one million North Caucasian Muslims sought refuge in the Ottoman Empire. This resettlement of Muslim refugees from Russia changed the Ottoman state. Circassians, Chechens, Dagestanis, and others established hundreds of refugee villages throughout the Ottoman Balkans, Anatolia, and the Levant. Most villages still exist today, including what is now the city of Amman. Muslim refugee resettlement reinvigorated regional economies, but also intensified competition over land and, at times, precipitated sectarian tensions, setting in motion fundamental shifts in the borderlands of the Russian and Ottoman empires. Empire of Refugees reframes late Ottoman history through mass displacement and reveals the origins of refugee resettlement in the modern Middle East. Vladimir Hamed-Troyansky offers a historiographical corrective: the nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire created a refugee regime, predating refugee systems set up by the League of Nations and the United Nations. Grounded in archival research in over twenty public and private archives across ten countries, this book contests the boundaries typically assumed between forced and voluntary migration, and refugees and immigrants, rewriting the history of Muslim migration in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Visit Vladimir Hamed-Troyansky's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

"Morality and Socially Constructed Norms"

New from Oxford University Press: Morality and Socially Constructed Norms by Laura Valentini.

About the book, from the publisher:
Observe social distancing. Tip your waiter. Give priority to the elderly. Stop at the red light. Pay your taxes. Do not chew with your mouth open. These are imperatives we face every day, imposed upon us by norms that happen to be generally accepted in our environment. Call these 'socially constructed norms'. A constant presence in our lives, these norms elicit mixed feelings. On the one hand, we treat them as valid standards of behaviour and respond to their violation with emotions such disapproval, resentment, and guilt. On the other hand, we look at them with suspicion: after all, they are arbitrary human constructs that may contribute to oppression and injustice. In light of this ambivalence, it is important to have a criterion telling us when, if ever, we are morally bound by socially constructed norms and when we should instead disregard them. Morality and Socially Constructed Norms systematically develops such a criterion. It traces the moral significance of those norms to the agential commitments that underpin them, and explains why those commitments ought to be respected, provided the content of the corresponding norms is consistent with independent moral constraints. The book then explores the implications of this view for three core questions in moral, legal, and political philosophy: the grounding of moral rights, the obligation to obey the law, and the wrong of sovereignty violations. Morality and Socially Constructed Norms shows how much progress can be made in normative theorizing when we give socially constructed norms their (moral) due.
Visit Laura Valentini's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 12, 2024

"Moral Atmospheres"

New from Columbia University Press: Moral Atmospheres: Islam and Media in a Pakistani Marketplace by Timothy P. A. Cooper.

About the book, from the publisher:
Lahore’s Hall Road is the largest electronics market in Pakistan. Once the center of film and media piracy in South Asia, it now specializes in smartphones and accessories. For Hall Road’s traders, conflicts between the economic promises and the moral dangers of film loom large. To reconcile their secular trade with their responsibilities as devoted Muslims, they often look to adjudicate the good or bad moral “atmosphere” (mahaul) that can cling to film and media.

Timothy P. A. Cooper examines the diverse and coexisting moral atmospheres that surround media in Pakistan, tracing public understandings of ethical life and showing how they influence economic behavior. Drawing on extensive ethnographic work among traders, consumers, collectors, archivists, cinephiles, and cinephobes, Moral Atmospheres explores varied views on what the relationship between film and faith should look, sound, and feel like for Pakistan’s Muslim-majority public. Cooper considers the preservation and censorship of film in and outside of the state bureaucracy, contestations surrounding heritage and urban infrastructure, and the production and circulation of sound and video recordings among the country’s religious minorities. He argues that a focus on atmosphere provides ways of seeing moral thresholds as mutable and affective, rather than as fixed ethical standpoints. At once a vivid ethnography of a market street and a generative theorization of atmosphere, this book offers fresh perspectives on moral experience and the relationship between religion and media.
--Marshal Zeringue