Sunday, May 9, 2021

"Imagining Persecution"

New from Rutgers University Press: Imagining Persecution: Why American Christians Believe There Is a Global War against Their Faith by Jason Bruner.

About the book, from the publisher:
Many American Christians have come to understand their relationship to other Christian denominations and traditions through the lens of religious persecution. This book provides a historical account of these developments, showing the global, theological, and political changes that made it possible for contemporary Christians to claim that there is a global war on Christians. Bruner does not advocate on behalf of particular repressed Christian communities, nor does it argue for the genuineness of certain Christians’ claims of persecution. Instead, this book is the first to examine the idea that there is a “global war on Christians” and its analytical implications. It does so by giving a concise history of categories such as "martyr" and theologies that have come together to produce a global Christian imagination premised upon the notion of shared suffering for one’s faith. This history does not deny certain instances of suffering or death; rather, it sets out to reflect upon and make meaning of the consequences for thinking about religious violence and Christianity worldwide using terms such as a “global war on Christians.”
Jason Bruner is an associate professor of global Christianity in the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies at Arizona State University in Tempe. He is author of Living Salvation in the East African Revival in Uganda.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 8, 2021

"Feeling Like It"

New from Oxford University Press: Feeling Like It: A Theory of Inclination and Will by Tamar Schapiro.

About the book, from the publisher:
You may have an inclination to do it, but there is still a moment when you can decide to do it or not. This "moment of drama" is more puzzling than it first appears. When you are inclined to do something, are you related to your inclination as rider to horse? As ruler to subject? As thinker to thoughts? Schapiro shows that these familiar pictures fail to confront the central puzzle. Inclinations are motives with respect to which we are distinctively passive. But to be motivated is to be active—to be self-moved. How can you be passive in relation to your own activity? Schapiro puts forward an "inner animal" view, inspired by Kant, which holds that when you are merely inclined to act, the instinctive part of yourself is already active, while the rest of you is not. At this moment, your will is at a crossroads. You can humanize your inclination, or you can dehumanize yourself. Feeling Like It provides a concise and accessible investigation of a new problem at the intersection of ethics, philosophy of action, and philosophy of mind.
Tamar Schapiro holds a BA from Yale and a PhD in Philosophy from Harvard. She taught in the department of philosophy at Stanford for many years before joining MIT, where she is currently Associate Professor of Philosophy. She has published articles on Kantian ethics, the theory of action, and motivational psychology.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 7, 2021

"American Health Crisis"

New from the University of California Press: American Health Crisis: One Hundred Years of Panic, Planning, and Politics by Martin Halliwell.

About the book, from the publisher:
A history of U.S. public health emergencies and how we can turn the tide.

Despite enormous advances in medical science and public health education over the last century, access to health care remains a dominant issue in American life. U.S. health care is often hailed as the best in the world, yet the public health emergencies of today often echo the public health emergencies of yesterday: consider the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918–19 and COVID-19, the displacement of the Dust Bowl and the havoc of Hurricane Maria, the Reagan administration’s antipathy toward the AIDS epidemic and the lack of accountability during the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

Spanning the period from the presidency of Woodrow Wilson to that of Donald Trump, American Health Crisis illuminates how—despite the elevation of health care as a human right throughout the world—vulnerable communities in the United States continue to be victimized by structural inequalities across disparate geographies, income levels, and ethnic groups. Martin Halliwell views contemporary public health crises through the lens of historical and cultural revisionings, suturing individual events together into a narrative of calamity that has brought us to our current crisis in health politics. American Health Crisis considers the future of public health in the United States and, presenting a reinvigorated concept of health citizenship, argues that now is the moment to act for lasting change.
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 6, 2021

"Running Out"

New from Princeton University Press: Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains by Lucas Bessire.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Ogallala aquifer has nourished life on the American Great Plains for millennia. But less than a century of unsustainable irrigation farming has taxed much of the aquifer beyond repair. The imminent depletion of the Ogallala and other aquifers around the world is a defining planetary crisis of our times. Running Out offers a uniquely personal account of aquifer depletion and the deeper layers through which it gains meaning and force.

Anthropologist Lucas Bessire journeyed back to western Kansas, where five generations of his family lived as irrigation farmers and ranchers, to try to make sense of this vital resource and its loss. His search for water across the drying High Plains brings the reader face to face with the stark realities of industrial agriculture, eroding democratic norms, and surreal interpretations of a looming disaster. Yet the destination is far from predictable, as the book seeks to move beyond the words and genres through which destruction is often known. Instead, this journey into the morass of eradication offers a series of unexpected discoveries about what it means to inherit the troubled legacies of the past and how we can take responsibility for a more inclusive, sustainable future.

An urgent and unsettling meditation on environmental change, Running Out is a revelatory account of family, complicity, loss, and what it means to find your way back home.
Visit Lucas Bessire's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

"The Ambivalence of Gay Liberation"

New from Oxford University Press: The Ambivalence of Gay Liberation: Male Homosexual Politics in 1970s West Germany by Craig Griffiths.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Ambivalence of Gay Liberation explores ways of thinking, feeling, and talking about being gay in the 1970s, an influential decade sandwiched between the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in 1969, and the arrival of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the early 1980s. Moving beyond divided Cold War Berlin, it also focuses on lesser-known cities, such as Aachen, Cologne, Frankfurt, Münster, and Stuttgart, to name just a few of the 53 localities that were home to a gay group by the end of the 1970s. These groups were important, and this book tells their story.

In 1970s West Germany gay liberation did not take place only in activist meetings, universities, and on street demonstrations, but also on television, in magazine editorial offices, ordinary homes, bedrooms, and beyond. In considering all these spaces and individuals, this book provides a more complex account than previous histories, which have tended to focus only on a social movement and only on the idea of 'gay pride'. By drawing attention to ambivalence, this book shows that gay liberation was never only about pride, but also about shame; characterized not only by hope, but also by fear; and driven forward not just by the pushes of confrontation, but also by the pulls of conformism. Ranging from the painstaking emergence of the gay press to the first representation of homosexuality on television, from debates over the sexual legacy of 1968 and the student movement to the memory of Nazi persecution, The Ambivalence of Gay Liberation is the first English-language book to tell the story of male homosexual politics in 1970s West Germany. In doing so, this book changes the way we think about modern queer history.
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

"By Executive Order"

New from Princeton University Press: By Executive Order: Bureaucratic Management and the Limits of Presidential Power by Andrew Rudalevige.

About the book, from the publisher:
How the executive branch—not the president alone—formulates executive orders, and how this process constrains the chief executive's ability to act unilaterally

The president of the United States is commonly thought to wield extraordinary personal power through the issuance of executive orders. In fact, the vast majority of such orders are proposed by federal agencies and shaped by negotiations that span the executive branch. By Executive Order provides the first comprehensive look at how presidential directives are written—and by whom.

In this eye-opening book, Andrew Rudalevige examines more than five hundred executive orders from the 1930s to today—as well as more than two hundred others negotiated but never issued—shedding vital new light on the multilateral process of drafting supposedly unilateral directives. He draws on a wealth of archival evidence from the Office of Management and Budget and presidential libraries as well as original interviews to show how the crafting of orders requires widespread consultation and compromise with a formidable bureaucracy. Rudalevige explains the key role of management in the presidential skill set, detailing how bureaucratic resistance can stall and even prevent actions the chief executive desires, and how presidents must bargain with the bureaucracy even when they seek to act unilaterally.

Challenging popular conceptions about the scope of presidential power, By Executive Order reveals how the executive branch holds the power to both enact and constrain the president’s will.
Follow Andrew Rudalevige on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 3, 2021

"The Cold War from the Margins"

New from Cornell University Press: The Cold War from the Margins: A Small Socialist State on the Global Cultural Scene by Theodora K. Dragostinova.

About the book, from the publisher:
In The Cold War from the Margins, Theodora K. Dragostinova reappraises the global 1970s from the perspective of a small socialist state—Bulgaria—and its cultural engagements with the Balkans, the West, and the Third World. During this anxious decade, Bulgaria's communist leadership invested heavily in cultural diplomacy to bolster its legitimacy at home and promote its agendas abroad. Bulgarians traveled the world to open museum exhibitions, show films, perform music, and showcase the cultural heritage and future aspirations of their "ancient yet modern" country.

As Dragostinova shows, these encounters transcended the Cold War's bloc mentality: Bulgaria's relations with Greece and Austria warmed, émigrés once considered enemies were embraced, and new cultural ties were forged with India, Mexico, and Nigeria. Pursuing contact with the West and solidarity with the Global South boosted Bulgaria's authoritarian regime by securing new allies and unifying its population. Complicating familiar narratives of both the 1970s and late socialism, The Cold War from the Margins places the history of socialism in an international context and recovers alternative models of global interconnectivity along East-South lines.
Follow Theodora Dragostinova on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 2, 2021

"Card-Carrying Christians"

New from the University of California Press: Card-Carrying Christians: Debt and the Making of Free Market Spirituality in Colombia by Rebecca C. Bartel.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the waning years of Latin America's longest and bloodiest civil war, the rise of an unlikely duo is transforming Colombia: Christianity and access to credit. In her exciting new book, Rebecca C. Bartel details how surging evangelical conversions and widespread access to credit cards, microfinance programs, and mortgages are changing how millions of Colombians envision a more prosperous future. Yet programs of financialization propel new modes of violence. As prosperity becomes conflated with peace, and debt with devotion, survival only becomes possible through credit and its accompanying forms of indebtedness. A new future is on the horizon, but it will come at a price.
Rebecca C. Bartel is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Associate Director for the Center for Latin American Studies at San Diego State University.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 1, 2021

"Life after Gravity"

New from Oxford University Press: Life after Gravity: Isaac Newton's London Career by Patricia Fara.

About the book, from the publisher:
The story of Isaac Newton's decades in London - as ambitious cosmopolitan gentleman, President of London's Royal Society, Master of the Mint, and investor in the slave trade.

Isaac Newton is celebrated throughout the world as a great scientific genius who conceived the theory of gravity. But in his early fifties, he abandoned his life as a reclusive university scholar to spend three decades in London, a long period of metropolitan activity that is often overlooked. Enmeshed in Enlightenment politics and social affairs, Newton participated in the linked spheres of early science and imperialist capitalism. Instead of the quiet cloisters and dark libraries of Cambridge's all-male world, he now moved in fashionable London society, which was characterized by patronage relationships, sexual intrigues and ruthless ambition.

Knighted by Queen Anne, and a close ally of influential Whig politicians, Newton occupied a powerful position as President of London's Royal Society. He also became Master of the Mint, responsible for the nation's money at a time of financial crisis, and himself making and losing small fortunes on the stock market. A major investor in the East India Company, Newton benefited from the global trading networks that relied on selling African captives to wealthy plantation owners in the Americas, and was responsible for monitoring the import of African gold to be melted down for English guineas.

Patricia Fara reveals Newton's life as a cosmopolitan gentleman by focussing on a Hogarth painting of an elite Hanoverian drawing room. Gazing down from the mantelpiece, a bust of Newton looms over an aristocratic audience watching their children perform a play about European colonialism and the search for gold. Packed with Newtonian imagery, this conversation piece depicts the privileged, exploitative life in which this eminent Enlightenment figure engaged, an uncomfortable side of Newton's life with which we are much less familiar.
The Page 99 Test: Erasmus Darwin.

The Page 99 Test: A Lab of One's Own.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 30, 2021

"Crossing: How We Label and React to People on the Move"

New from Stanford University Press: Crossing: How We Label and React to People on the Move by Rebecca Hamlin.

About the book, from the publisher:
Today, the concept of "the refugee" as distinct from other migrants looms large. Immigration laws have developed to reinforce a dichotomy between those viewed as voluntary, often economically motivated, migrants who can be legitimately excluded by potential host states, and those viewed as forced, often politically motivated, refugees who should be let in. In Crossing, Rebecca Hamlin argues against advocacy positions that cling to this distinction. Everything we know about people who decide to move suggests that border crossing is far more complicated than any binary, or even a continuum, can encompass. Drawing on cases of various "border crises" across Europe, North America, South America, and the Middle East, Hamlin outlines major inconsistencies and faulty assumptions on which the binary relies. The migrant/refugee binary is not just an innocuous shorthand—indeed, its power stems from the way in which it is painted as apolitical. In truth, the binary is a dangerous legal fiction, politically constructed with the ultimate goal of making harsh border control measures more ethically palatable to the public. This book is a challenge to all those invested in the rights and study of migrants to move toward more equitable advocacy for all border crossers.
Follow Rebecca Hamlin on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Let Me Be a Refugee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 29, 2021

"The War Beat, Pacific"

New from Oxford University Press: The War Beat, Pacific: The American Media at War Against Japan by Steven Casey.

About the book, from the publisher:
The definitive history of American war reporting in the Pacific theater of World War II, from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After almost two years slogging with infantrymen through North Africa, Italy, and France, Ernie Pyle immediately realized he was ill-prepared for covering the Pacific War. As Pyle and other war correspondents discovered, the climate, the logistics, and the sheer scope of the Pacific theater had no parallel in the war America was fighting in Europe.

From Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, The War Beat, Pacific provides the first comprehensive account of how a group of highly courageous correspondents covered America's war against Japan, what they witnessed, what they were allowed to publish, and how their reports shaped the home front's perception of some of the most pivotal battles in American military history. In a dramatic and fast-paced narrative based on a wealth of previously untapped primary sources, Casey takes us from MacArthur's doomed defense on the Philippines and the navy's overly strict censorship policy at the time of Midway, through the bloody battles on Guadalcanal, New Guinea, Tarawa, Saipan, Leyte and Luzon, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, detailing the cooperation, as well as conflict, between the media and the military, as they grappled with the enduring problem of limiting a free press during a period of extreme crisis.

The War Beat, Pacific shows how foreign correspondents ran up against practical challenges and risked their lives to get stories in a theater that was far more challenging than the war against Nazi Germany, while the US government blocked news of the war against Japan and tried to focus the home front on Hitler and his atrocities.
Learn more about The War Beat, Pacific at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: When Soldiers Fall.

The Page 99 Test: The War Beat, Europe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

"Souls under Siege"

New from Cornell University Press: Souls under Siege: Stories of War, Plague, and Confession in Fourteenth-Century Provence by Nicole Archambeau.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Souls under Siege, Nicole Archambeau explores how the inhabitants of southern France made sense of the ravages of successive waves of plague, the depredations of mercenary warfare, and the violence of royal succession during the fourteenth century. Many people, she finds, understood both plague and war as the symptoms of spiritual sicknesses caused by excessive sin, and they sought cures in confession.

Archambeau draws on a rich evidentiary base of sixty-eight narrative testimonials from the canonization inquest for Countess Delphine de Puimichel, which was held in the market town of Apt in 1363. Each witness in the proceedings had lived through the outbreaks of plague in 1348 and 1361, as well as the violence inflicted by mercenaries unemployed during truces in the Hundred Years' War. Consequently, their testimonies unexpectedly reveal the importance of faith and the role of affect in the healing of body and soul alike.

Faced with an unprecedented cascade of crises, the inhabitants of Provence relied on saints and healers, their worldview connecting earthly disease and disaster to the struggle for their eternal souls. Souls under Siege illustrates how medieval people approached sickness and uncertainty by using a variety of remedies, making clear that "healing" had multiple overlapping meanings in this historical moment.
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

"Sailor Talk"

New from Liverpool University Press: Sailor Talk: Labor, Utterance, and Meaning in the Works of Melville, Conrad, and London (Studies in Port and Maritime History LUP) by Mary K. Bercaw Edwards.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book investigates the highly engaging topic of the literary and cultural significance of 'sailor talk.' The central argument is that sailor talk offers a way of rethinking the figure of the nineteenth-century sailor and sailor-writer, whose language articulated the rich, layered, and complex culture of sailors in port and at sea. From this argument many other compelling threads emerge, including questions relating to the seafarer's multifaceted identity, maritime labor, questions of performativity, the ship as 'theater,' the varied and multiple registers of 'sailor talk,' and the foundational role of maritime language in the lives and works of Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, and Jack London. The book also includes nods to James Fenimore Cooper, Rudyard Kipling, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Meticulous scholarly research underpins the close readings of literary texts and the scrupulously detailed biographical accounts of three major sailor-writers. The author's own lived experience as a seafarer adds a refreshingly materialist dimension to the subtle literary readings. The book represents a valuable addition to a growing scholarly and political interest in the sea and sea literature. By taking the sailor's viewpoint and listening to sailors' voices, the book also marks a clear intervention in this developing field.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 26, 2021

"Bullets Not Ballots"

New from Cornell University Press: Bullets Not Ballots: Success in Counterinsurgency Warfare by Jacqueline L. Hazelton.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Bullets Not Ballots, Jacqueline L. Hazelton challenges the claim that winning "hearts and minds" is critical to successful counterinsurgency campaigns. Good governance, this conventional wisdom holds, gains the besieged government popular support, denies support to the insurgency, and makes military victory possible. Hazelton argues that major counterinsurgent successes since World War II have resulted not through democratic reforms but rather through the use of military force against civilians and the co-optation of rival elites.

Hazelton offers new analyses of five historical cases frequently held up as examples of the effectiveness of good governance in ending rebellions—the Malayan Emergency, the Greek Civil War, the Huk Rebellion in the Philippines, the Dhofar rebellion in Oman, and the Salvadoran Civil War—to show that, although unpalatable, it was really brutal repression and bribery that brought each conflict to an end. By showing how compellence works in intrastate conflicts, Bullets Not Ballots makes clear that whether or not the international community decides these human, moral, and material costs are acceptable, responsible policymaking requires recognizing the actual components of counterinsurgent success—and the limited influence that external powers have over the tactics of counterinsurgent elites.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 25, 2021

"Undoing Optimization"

New from Yale University Press: Undoing Optimization: Civic Action in Smart Cities by Alison B. Powell.

About the book, from the publisher:
A unique examination of the civic use, regulation, and politics of communication and data technologies

City life has been reconfigured by our use—and our expectations—of communication, data, and sensing technologies. In this book Alison Powell examines the civic use, regulation, and politics of these technologies, looking at how governments, planners, citizens, and activists expect them to enhance life in the city. She argues that the de facto forms of citizenship that emerge in relation to these technologies represent sites of contention over how governance and civic power should operate. These sites become more significant as an increasingly urbanized and polarized world faces new struggles over local participation and engagement. The author moves past the usual discussion of top-down versus bottom-up civic action and instead explains how citizenship shifts in response to technological change and particularly in response to issues related to pervasive sensing, big data, and surveillance in “smart cities.”
Follow Alison Powell on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 24, 2021

"God's Marshall Plan"

New from Oxford University Press: God's Marshall Plan: American Protestants and the Struggle for the Soul of Europe by James D. Strasburg.

About the book, from the publisher:
God's Marshall Plan tells the story of the American Protestants who sought to transform Germany into a new Christian and democratic nation in the heart of twentieth-century Europe. James D. Strasburg follows the American pastors, revivalists, diplomats, and spies who crossed the Atlantic in an era of world war, responded to the rise of totalitarian dictators, and began to identify Europe as a continent in need of saving. He examines their far-reaching campaigns to make Germany into the European cornerstone of a new American-led global spiritual order.

God's Marshall Plan illuminates the dramatic ramifications of these efforts by showing how the mission to remake Germany in America's image actually remade American Protestantism itself. American Protestants realized they had come to dramatically different conclusions about how to rebuild the West out of the ruins of war. European Protestants, meanwhile, began to sharply protest America's spiritual advance. Forsaking their wartime nationalism, a growing number of ecumenical Protestants championed a new ethic of global fellowship, reconciliation, and justice. However, a fresh wave of evangelical Protestants emerged and ensured that the religious struggle would continue into the Cold War. Strasburg argues that the spiritual struggle for Europe ultimately forged two competing visions of global engagement — Christian nationalism and Christian globalism — that transformed the United States, diplomacy, and politics in the Cold War and beyond.
Visit James D. Strasburg's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 23, 2021

"The Compromise of Return"

New from Wayne State University Press: The Compromise of Return: Viennese Jews after the Holocaust by Elizabeth Anthony.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Compromise of Return: Viennese Jews after the Holocaust explores the motivations and expectations that inspired Viennese Jews to reestablish lives in their hometown after the devastation and trauma of the Holocaust. Elizabeth Anthony investigates their personal, political, and professional endeavors, revealing the contours of their experiences of returning to a post-Nazi society, with full awareness that most of their fellow Austrians had embraced the Nazi takeover and their country’s unification with Germany—clinging to a collective national identity myth as "first victim" of the Nazis. Anthony weaves together archival documentation with oral histories, interviews, memoirs, and personal correspondence to craft a multilayered, multivoiced narrative of return focused on the immediate postwar years.

The book consists of six chapters. Chapter 1 begins with setting the historical scene and political context to elucidate the backdrop for the role and position of Jews in Austrian and Viennese society. Chapter 2 begins just before the Soviet conquest of Vienna in April 1945 and with the story of the last Jews murdered in Vienna. Chapter 3 deals with the second group of returning Jews—concentration camp survivors—and outlines their varied processes and journeys, as they also followed their impulse to go to their familial home. Chapter 4 presents how their parties shaped their motivations and expectations of home while they lived abroad after fleeing from the Nazis. Chapter 5 illuminates the return and rerooting of Austrian Jewish professionals, including their struggles and successes. Chapter 6 expounds common challenges encountered by all groups of returnees while relaunching their lives in Vienna, with a focus on developing postwar identity concepts—both Viennese Jewish identity and Austrian national identity.

The Compromise of Return is the first such social history to depict how survivors—individually and collectively—navigated postwar Vienna’s political and social setting. This book will be of special interest to scholars, students, and readers of Holocaust and European studies.
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 22, 2021

"Mahjong"

New from Oxford University Press: Mahjong: A Chinese Game and the Making of Modern American Culture by Annelise Heinz.

About the book, from the publisher:

How has a game brought together Americans and defined separate ethnic communities? This book tells the first history of mahjong and its meaning in American culture.

Click-click-click. The sound of mahjong tiles connects American expatriates in Shanghai, Jazz Age white Americans, urban Chinese Americans in the 1930s, incarcerated Japanese Americans in wartime, Jewish American suburban mothers, and Air Force officers' wives in the postwar era.

Mahjong: A Chinese Game and the Making of Modern American Culture illustrates how the spaces between tiles and the moments between games have fostered distinct social cultures in the United States. This mass-produced game crossed the Pacific, creating waves of popularity over the twentieth century. Annelise Heinz narrates the history of this game to show how it has created a variety of meanings, among them American modernity, Chinese American heritage, and Jewish American women's culture. As it traveled from China to the United States and caught on with Hollywood starlets, high society, middle-class housewives, and immigrants alike, mahjong became a quintessentially American game. Heinz also reveals the ways in which women leveraged a game to gain access to respectable leisure. The result was the forging of friendships that lasted decades and the creation of organizations that raised funds for the war effort and philanthropy. No other game has signified both belonging and standing apart in American culture.

Drawing on photographs, advertising, popular media, and dozens of oral histories, Heinz's rich and colorful account offers the first history of the wildly popular game of mahjong.
Visit Annelise Heinz's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

"Creation Stories"

New from Yale University Press: Creation Stories: Landscapes and the Human Imagination by Anthony Aveni.

About the book, from the publisher:
An accessible exploration of how diverse cultures have explained humanity’s origins through narratives about the natural environment

Drawing from a vast array of creation myths—Babylonian, Greek, Aztec, Maya, Inca, Chinese, Hindu, Navajo, Polynesian, African, Norse, Inuit, and more—this concise illustrated book uncovers both the similarities and differences in our attempts to explain the universe.

Anthony Aveni, an award-winning author and professor of astronomy and anthropology, examines the ways various cultures around the world have attempted to explain our origins, and what roles the natural environment plays in shaping these narratives. The book also celebrates the audacity of the human imagination.

Whether the first humans emerged from a cave, as in the Inca myths, or from bamboo stems, as the Bantu people of Africa believed, or whether the universe is simply the result of Vishnu’s cyclical inhales and exhales, each of these fascinating stories reflects a deeper understanding of the culture it arose from as well as its place in the larger human narrative.
Visit Anthony Aveni's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

"African Europeans: An Untold History"

New from Basic Books: African Europeans: An Untold History by Olivette Otele.

About the book, from the publisher:
A dazzling history of Africans in Europe, revealing their unacknowledged role in shaping the continent

Conventional wisdom holds that Africans are only a recent presence in Europe. But in African Europeans, renowned historian Olivette Otele debunks this and uncovers a long history of Europeans of African descent. From the third century, when the Egyptian Saint Maurice became the leader of a Roman legion, all the way up to the present, Otele explores encounters between those defined as "Africans" and those called "Europeans." She gives equal attention to the most prominent figures—like Alessandro de Medici, the first duke of Florence thought to have been born to a free African woman in a Roman village—and the untold stories—like the lives of dual-heritage families in Europe's coastal trading towns.

African Europeans is a landmark celebration of this integral, vibrantly complex slice of European history, and will redefine the field for years to come.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 19, 2021

"Driving While Brown"

New from the University of California Press: Driving While Brown: Sheriff Joe Arpaio versus the Latino Resistance by Terry Greene Sterling and Jude Joffe-Block.

About the book, from the publisher:
How Latino activists brought down powerful Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio

Journalists Terry Greene Sterling and Jude Joffe-Block spent years chronicling the human consequences of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s relentless immigration enforcement in Maricopa County, Arizona. In Driving While Brown, they tell the tale of two opposing movements that redefined Arizona’s political landscape—the restrictionist cause embraced by Arpaio and the Latino-led resistance that rose up against it.

The story follows Arpaio, his supporters, and his adversaries, including Lydia Guzman, who gathered evidence for a racial-profiling lawsuit that took surprising turns. Guzman joined a coalition determined to stop Arpaio, reform unconstitutional policing, and fight for Latino civil rights. Driving While Brown details Arpaio's transformation—from "America’s Toughest Sheriff," who forced inmates to wear pink underwear, into the nation’s most feared immigration enforcer who ended up receiving President Donald Trump’s first pardon. The authors immerse readers in the lives of people on both sides of the battle and uncover the deep roots of the Trump administration's immigration policies.

The result of tireless investigative reporting, this powerful book provides critical insights into effective resistance to institutionalized racism and the community organizing that helped transform Arizona from a conservative stronghold into a battleground state.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 18, 2021

"Why the New Deal Matters"

New from Yale University Press: Why the New Deal Matters by Eric Rauchway.

About the book, from the publisher:
A look at how the New Deal fundamentally changed American life, and why it remains relevant today

The greatest peaceable expression of common purpose in U.S. history, the New Deal altered Americans' relationship with politics, economics, and one another in ways that continue to resonate today. No matter where you look in America, there is likely a building or bridge built through New Deal initiatives. If you have taken out a small business loan backed by the federal government or drawn unemployment insurance, you can thank the New Deal. While certainly flawed in many aspects—the New Deal was implemented by a Democratic Party still beholden to the segregationist South for its majorities in Congress and the Electoral College—the New Deal functioned as a bulwark of American democracy in hard times. This book looks at how this legacy, both for good and ill, informs the current debates around governmental responses to crises.
Follow Eric Rauchway on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Eric Rauchway's Blessed Among Nations: How the World Made America.

My Book, The Movie: Winter War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 17, 2021

"Whites and Reds"

New from Oxford University Press: Whites and Reds: A History of Wine in the Lands of Tsar and Commissar by Stephen V. Bittner.

About the book, from the publisher:
Whites and Reds: A History of Wine in the Lands of Tsar and Commissar tells the story of Russia's encounter with viniculture and winemaking. Rooted in the early-seventeenth century, embraced by Peter the Great, and then magnified many times over by the annexation of the indigenous wine economies and cultures of Georgia, Crimea, and Moldova in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, viniculture and winemaking became an important indicator of Russia's place at the European table. While the Russian Revolution in 1917 left many of the empire's vineyards and wineries in ruins, it did not alter the political and cultural meanings attached to wine. Stalin himself embraced champagne as part of the good life of socialism, and the Soviet Union became a winemaking superpower in its own right, trailing only Spain, Italy, and France in the volume of its production.

Whites and Reds illuminates the ideas, controversies, political alliances, technologies, business practices, international networks, and, of course, the growers, vintners, connoisseurs, and consumers who shaped the history of wine in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union over more than two centuries. Because wine was domesticated by virtue of imperialism, its history reveals many of the instabilities and peculiarities of the Russian and Soviet empires. Over two centuries, the production and consumption patterns of peripheral territories near the Black Sea and in the Caucasus became a hallmark of Russian and Soviet civilizational identity and cultural refinement. Wine in Russia was always more than something to drink.
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 16, 2021

"Between Containment and Rollback"

New from Stanford University Press: Between Containment and Rollback: The United States and the Cold War in Germany by Christian F. Ostermann.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the aftermath of World War II, American policymakers turned to the task of rebuilding Europe while keeping communism at bay. In Germany, formally divided since 1949,the United States prioritized the political, economic, and, eventually, military integration of the fledgling Federal Republic with the West. The extraordinary success story of forging this alliance has dominated our historical under-standing of the American-German relationship. Largely left out of the grand narrative of U.S.–German relations were most East Germans who found themselves caught under Soviet and then communist control by the post-1945 geo-political fallout of the war that Nazi Germany had launched. They were the ones who most dearly paid the price for the country's division. This book writes the East Germans—both leadership and general populace—back into that history as objects of American policy and as historical agents in their own right

Based on recently declassified documents from American, Russian, and German archives, this book demonstrates that U.S. efforts from 1945 to 1953 went beyond building a prosperous democracy in western Germany and "containing" Soviet-Communist power to the east. Under the Truman and then the Eisenhower administrations, American policy also included efforts to undermine and "roll back" Soviet and German communist control in the eastern part of the country. This story sheds light on a dark-er side to the American Cold War in Germany: propaganda, covert operations, economic pressure, and psychological warfare. Christian F. Ostermann takes an international history approach, capturing Soviet and East German responses and actions, and drawing a rich and complex picture of the early East–West confrontation in the heart of Europe.
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 15, 2021

"Stoic Wisdom"

New from Oxford University Press: Stoic Wisdom: Ancient Lessons for Modern Resilience by Nancy Sherman.

About the book, from the publisher:

How do we find calm in times of stress and uncertainty? How do we cope with sudden losses or find meaning in a world that can easily rob us of what we most value? Drawing on the wisdom of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and others, Nancy Sherman's Stoic Wisdom presents a compelling, modern Stoicism that teaches grit, resilience, and the importance of close relationships in addressing life's biggest and smallest challenges.

A renowned expert in ancient and modern ethics, Sherman relates how Stoic methods of examining beliefs and perceptions can help us correct distortions in what we believe, see, and feel. Her study reveals a profound insight about the Stoics: They never believed, as Stoic popularizers often hold, that rugged self-reliance or indifference to the world around us is at the heart of living well. We are at home in the world, they insisted, when we are connected to each other in cooperative efforts. We build resilience and goodness through our deepest relationships.

Bringing ancient ideas to bear on 21st century concerns — from workers facing stress and burnout to first responders in a pandemic, from soldiers on the battlefield to citizens fighting for racial justice — Sherman shows how Stoicism can help us fulfil the promise of our shared humanity.

In nine lessons that combine ancient pithy quotes and daily exercises with contemporary ethics and psychology, Stoic Wisdom is a field manual for the art of living well.
Visit Nancy Sherman's website and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Afterwar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

"We Are the Land"

New from the University of California Press: We Are the Land: A History of Native California by Damon B. Akins and William J. Bauer Jr.

About the book, from the publisher:
Rewriting the history of California as Indigenous.

Before there was such a thing as “California,” there were the People and the Land. Manifest Destiny, the Gold Rush, and settler colonial society drew maps, displaced Indigenous People, and reshaped the land, but they did not make California. Rather, the lives and legacies of the people native to the land shaped the creation of California. We Are the Land is the first and most comprehensive text of its kind, centering the long history of California around the lives and legacies of the Indigenous people who shaped it. Beginning with the ethnogenesis of California Indians, We Are the Land recounts the centrality of the Native presence from before European colonization through statehood—paying particularly close attention to the persistence and activism of California Indians in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The book deftly contextualizes the first encounters with Europeans, Spanish missions, Mexican secularization, the devastation of the Gold Rush and statehood, genocide, efforts to reclaim land, and the organization and activism for sovereignty that built today’s casino economy. A text designed to fill the glaring need for an accessible overview of California Indian history, We Are the Land will be a core resource in a variety of classroom settings, as well as for casual readers and policymakers interested in a history that centers the native experience.
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

"Iran in Motion"

New from Stanford University Press: Iran in Motion: Mobility, Space, and the Trans-Iranian Railway by Mikiya Koyagi.

About the book, from the publisher:
Completed in 1938, the Trans-Iranian Railway connected Tehran to Iran's two major bodies of water: the Caspian Sea in the north and the Persian Gulf in the south. Iran's first national railway, it produced and disrupted various kinds of movement—voluntary and forced, intended and unintended, on different scales and in different directions—among Iranian diplomats, tribesmen, migrant laborers, technocrats, railway workers, tourists and pilgrims, as well as European imperial officials alike. Iran in Motion tells the hitherto unexplored stories of these individuals as they experienced new levels of mobility.

Drawing on newspapers, industry publications, travelogues, and memoirs, as well as American, British, Danish, and Iranian archival materials, Mikiya Koyagi traces contested imaginations and practices of mobility from the conception of a trans-Iranian railway project during the nineteenth-century global transport revolution to its early years of operation on the eve of Iran's oil nationalization movement in the 1950s. Weaving together various individual experiences, this book considers how the infrastructural megaproject reoriented the flows of people and goods. In so doing, the railway project simultaneously brought the provinces closer to Tehran and pulled them away from it, thereby constantly reshaping local, national, and transnational experiences of space among mobile individuals.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 12, 2021

"West of Slavery"

New from The University of North Carolina Press: West of Slavery: The Southern Dream of a Transcontinental Empire by Kevin Waite.

About the book, from the publisher:
When American slaveholders looked west in the mid-nineteenth century, they saw an empire unfolding before them. They pursued that vision through diplomacy, migration, and armed conquest. By the late 1850s, slaveholders and their allies had transformed the southwestern quarter of the nation – California, New Mexico, Arizona, and parts of Utah – into a political client of the plantation states. Across this vast swath of the map, white southerners defended the institution of African American chattel slavery as well as systems of Native American bondage. This surprising history uncovers the Old South in unexpected places, far beyond the region's cotton fields and sugar plantations.

Slaveholders' western ambitions culminated in a coast-to-coast crisis of the Union. By 1861, the rebellion in the South inspired a series of separatist movements in the Far West. Even after the collapse of the Confederacy, the threads connecting South and West held, undermining the radical promise of Reconstruction. Kevin Waite brings to light what contemporaries recognized but historians have described only in part: The struggle over slavery played out on a transcontinental stage.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 11, 2021

"Intentions in Great Power Politics"

New from Yale University Press: Intentions in Great Power Politics: Uncertainty and the Roots of Conflict by Sebastian Rosato.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why the future of great power politics is likely to resemble its dismal past

Can great powers be confident that their peers have benign intentions? States that trust each other can live at peace; those that mistrust each other are doomed to compete for arms and allies and may even go to war. Sebastian Rosato explains that states routinely lack the kind of information they need to be convinced that their rivals mean them no harm. Even in cases that supposedly involved mutual trust—Germany and Russia in the Bismarck era; Britain and the United States during the great rapprochement; France and Germany, and Japan and the United States in the early interwar period; and the Soviet Union and United States at the end of the Cold War—the protagonists mistrusted each other and struggled for advantage. Rosato argues that the ramifications of his argument for U.S.–China relations are profound: the future of great power politics is likely to resemble its dismal past.
Visit Sebastian Rosato's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 10, 2021

"Up to Heaven and Down to Hell"

New from Princeton University Press: Up to Heaven and Down to Hell: Fracking, Freedom, and Community in an American Town by Colin Jerolmack.

About the book, from the publisher:
A riveting portrait of a rural Pennsylvania town at the center of the fracking controversy

Shale gas extraction—commonly known as fracking—is often portrayed as an energy revolution that will transform the American economy and geopolitics. But in greater Williamsport, Pennsylvania, fracking is personal. Up to Heaven and Down to Hell is a vivid and sometimes heartbreaking account of what happens when one of the most momentous decisions about the well-being of our communities and our planet—whether or not to extract shale gas and oil from the very land beneath our feet—is largely a private choice that millions of ordinary people make without the public's consent.

The United States is the only country in the world where property rights commonly extend "up to heaven and down to hell," which means that landowners have the exclusive right to lease their subsurface mineral estates to petroleum companies. Colin Jerolmack spent eight months living with rural communities outside of Williamsport as they confronted the tension between property rights and the commonwealth. In this deeply intimate book, he reveals how the decision to lease brings financial rewards but can also cause irreparable harm to neighbors, to communal resources like air and water, and even to oneself.

Up to Heaven and Down to Hell casts America’s ideas about freedom and property rights in a troubling new light, revealing how your personal choices can undermine your neighbors’ liberty, and how the exercise of individual rights can bring unintended environmental consequences for us all.
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 9, 2021

"Theory of the Earth"

New from Stanford University Press: Theory of the Earth by Thomas Nail.

About the book, from the publisher:
We need a new philosophy of the earth. Geological time used to refer to slow and gradual processes, but today we are watching land sink into the sea and forests transform into deserts. We can even see the creation of new geological strata made of plastic, chicken bones, and other waste that could remain in the fossil record for millennia or longer. Crafting a philosophy of geology that rewrites natural and human history from the broader perspective of movement, Thomas Nail provides a new materialist, kinetic ethics of the earth that speaks to this moment.

Climate change and other ecological disruptions challenge us to reconsider the deep history of minerals, atmosphere, plants, and animals and to take a more process-oriented perspective that sees humanity as part of the larger cosmic and terrestrial drama of mobility and flow. Building on his earlier work on the philosophy of movement, Nail argues that we should shift our biocentric emphasis from conservation to expenditure, flux, and planetary diversity. Theory of the Earth urges us to rethink our ethical relationship to one another, the planet, and the cosmos at large.
Visit Thomas Nail's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 8, 2021

"The Age of Acrimony"

New from Bloomsbury USA: The Age of Acrimony: How Americans Fought to Fix Their Democracy, 1865-1915 by Jon Grinspan.

About the book, from the publisher:
A raucous history of American democracy at its wildest--and a bold rethinking of the relationship between the people and their politics.

Democracy was broken. Or that was what many Americans believed in the decades after the Civil War. Shaken by economic and technological disruption, they sought safety in aggressive, tribal partisanship. The results were the loudest, closest, most violent elections in U.S. history, driven by vibrant campaigns that drew our highest-ever voter turnouts. At the century's end, reformers finally restrained this wild system, trading away participation for civility in the process. They built a calmer, cleaner democracy, but also a more distant one. Americans' voting rates crashed and never fully recovered.

This is the origin story of the “normal” politics of the 20th century. Only by exploring where that civility and restraint came from can we understand what is happening to our democracy today.

The Age of Acrimony charts the rise and fall of 19th-century America's unruly politics through the lives of a remarkable father-daughter dynasty. The radical congressman William “Pig Iron” Kelley and his fiery, Progressive daughter Florence Kelley led lives packed with drama, intimately tied to their nation's politics. Through their friendships and feuds, campaigns and crusades, Will and Florie trace the narrative of a democracy in crisis. In telling the tale of what it cost to cool our republic, historian Jon Grinspan reveals our divisive political system's enduring capacity to reinvent itself.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

"The Ledger and the Chain"

New from Basic Books: The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America by Joshua D. Rothman.

About the book, from the publisher:
An award-winning historian reveals the harrowing forgotten story of America's internal slave trade—and its role in the making of America.

Slave traders are peripheral figures in most histories of American slavery. But these men—who trafficked and sold over half a million enslaved people from the Upper South to the Deep South—were essential to slavery's expansion and fueled the growth and prosperity of the United States.

In The Ledger and the Chain, acclaimed historian Joshua D. Rothman recounts the shocking story of the domestic slave trade by tracing the lives and careers of Isaac Franklin, John Armfield, and Rice Ballard, who built the largest and most powerful slave-trading operation in American history. Far from social outcasts, they were rich and widely respected businessmen, and their company sat at the center of capital flows connecting southern fields to northeastern banks. Bringing together entrepreneurial ambition and remorseless violence toward enslaved people, domestic slave traders produced an atrocity that forever transformed the nation.
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

"To Her Credit"

New from Johns Hopkins University Press: To Her Credit: Women, Finance, and the Law in Eighteenth-Century New England Cities by Sara T. Damiano.

About the book, from the publisher:
A transformative look at colonial women's pivotal roles as lenders and debtors in shaping the economic and legal systems of Newport and Boston.

In colonial Boston and Newport, personal credit relationships were a cornerstone of economic networks. During the eighteenth century, the pace of market exchange quickened and debt cases swelled the dockets of county courts, institutions that became ever more central to enforcing financial obligations. At the same time, seafaring and military service drew men away from home, some never to return. The absences of male household heads during this era of economic transition forced New Englanders to evaluate a pressing question: Who would establish and manage consequential financial relationships?

In To Her Credit, Sara T. Damiano uncovers free women's centrality to the interrelated worlds of eighteenth-century finance and law. Focusing on everyday life in Boston, Massachusetts, and Newport, Rhode Island—two of the busiest port cities of this period—Damiano argues that colonial women's skilled labor actively facilitated the growth of Atlantic ports and their legal systems. Mining vast troves of court records, Damiano reveals that married and unmarried women of all social classes forged new paths through the complexities of credit and debt, stabilizing credit networks amid demographic and economic turmoil. In turn, urban women mobilized sophisticated skills and strategies as borrowers, lenders, litigants, and witnesses.

Highlighting the often-unrecognized malleability of early American social hierarchies, the book shows how indebtedness intensified women's vulnerability, while acting as creditors, clients, or witnesses enabled women to exercise significant power over men. Yet by the late eighteenth century, class differentiation began to mark finance and the law as masculine realms, obscuring women's contributions to the very institutions they helped to create. The first book to systematically reconstruct the centrality of women's labor to eighteenth-century personal credit relationships, To Her Credit will be an eye-opening work for economic historians, legal historians, and anyone interested in the early history of New England.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 5, 2021

"Nuclear Reactions"

New from Cornell University Press: Nuclear Reactions: How Nuclear-Armed States Behave by Mark S. Bell.

About the book, from the publisher:
Nuclear Reactions analyzes how nuclear weapons change the calculations states make in their foreign policies, why they do so, and why nuclear weapons have such different effects on the foreign policies of different countries.

Mark S. Bell argues that nuclear weapons are useful for more than deterrence. They are leveraged to pursue a wide range of goals in international politics, and the nations that acquire them significantly change their foreign policies as a result. Closely examining how these effects vary and what those variations have meant in the United States, the United Kingdom, and South Africa, Bell shows that countries are not generically "emboldened"—they change their foreign policies in different ways based on their priorities. This has huge policy implications: What would Iran do if it were to acquire nuclear weapons? Would Japanese policy toward the United States change if Japan were to obtain nuclear weapons? And what does the looming threat of nuclear weapons mean for the future of foreign policy? Far from being a relic of the Cold War, Bell argues, nuclear weapons are as important in international politics today as they ever were.
Visit Mark Bell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 4, 2021

"The Privilege of Being Banal"

New from the University of Chicago Press: The Privilege of Being Banal: Art, Secularism, and Catholicism in Paris by Elayne Oliphant.

About the book, from the publisher:
France, officially, is a secular nation. Yet Catholicism is undeniably a monumental presence, defining the temporal and spatial rhythms of Paris. At the same time, it often fades into the background as nothing more than “heritage.” In a creative inversion, Elayne Oliphant asks in The Privilege of Being Banal what, exactly, is hiding in plain sight? Could the banality of Catholicism actually be a kind of hidden power?

Exploring the violent histories and alternate trajectories effaced through this banal backgrounding of a crucial aspect of French history and culture, this richly textured ethnography lays bare the profound nostalgia that undergirds Catholicism’s circulation in nonreligious sites such as museums, corporate spaces, and political debates. Oliphant’s aim is to unravel the contradictions of religion and secularism and, in the process, show how aesthetics and politics come together in contemporary France to foster the kind of banality that Hannah Arendt warned against: the incapacity to take on another person’s experience of the world. A creative meditation on the power of the taken-for-granted, The Privilege of Being Banal is a landmark study of religion, aesthetics, and public space.
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 3, 2021

"Love Lives"

New from Oxford University Press: Love Lives: From Cinderella to Frozen by Carol Dyhouse.

About the book, from the publisher:
The story of how women's lives, loves, and dreams have been re-shaped since 1950, the year of Walt Disney's Cinderella and a time when teenage girls dreamed of marriage, Mr Right, and happy endings...

Cinderella stories captured the imagination of girls in the 1950s, when dreams of meeting the right man could seem like a happy ending, a solution to life's problems. But over the next fifty years women's lives were transformed, not by the magic wand of a fairy godmother, nor by marrying princes, but by education, work, birth control--and feminism. However, while widening opportunities for women were seen as progress, feminists were regularly caricatured as man-haters, cast in the role of ugly sisters, witches or wicked fairies in the fairy-tale.

This book is about the reshaping of women's lives, loves and dreams since 1950, the year in which Walt Disney's film Cinderella gave expression to popular ideas of romance, and at a time when marriage was a major determinant of female life chances and teenage girls dreamed of Mr Right and happy endings. It ends with the runaway success of Disney's Frozen, in 2013--a film with relevance to very different times. Along the way, it illuminates how women's expectations and emotional landscapes have shifted, asking bold questions about how women's lives have been transformed since 1950. How have women's changing life experiences been mirrored in new expectations about marriage, intimacy, and family life? How have new forms of independence through education and work, and greater control over childbearing, altered women's life ambitions? And were feminists right to believe that sexual equality would improve relationships between men and women?
The Page 99 Test: Heartthrobs: A History of Women and Desire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 2, 2021

"Believing in South Central"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Believing in South Central: Everyday Islam in the City of Angels by Pamela J. Prickett.

About the book, from the publisher:
The area of Los Angeles known as South Central is often overshadowed by dismal stereotypes, problematic racial stigmas, and its status as the home to some of the city’s poorest and most violent neighborhoods. Amid South Central’s shifting demographics and its struggles with poverty, sociologist Pamela J. Prickett takes a closer look, focusing on the members of an African American Muslim community and exploring how they help each other combat poverty, job scarcity, violence, and racial injustice. Prickett’s engaging ethnography relates how believers in this longstanding religious community see Islam as a way of life, a comprehensive blueprint for individual and collective action, guiding how to interact with others, conduct business, strive for progress, and cultivate faith.

Prickett offers deep insights into the day-to-day lived religion of the Muslims who call this community home, showing how the mosque provides a system of social support and how believers deepen their spiritual practice not in spite of, but through, conditions of poverty. Prickett breaks past the stigmas of urban poverty, revealing a complex and vibrant community by telling the stories of longstanding residents of South Central—like Sister Ava, who offers food to the local unhoused people and finds the sacred in her extensive DVD collection. In addition to her portraits of everyday life among Muslims in South Central, Prickett also provides vivid and accessible descriptions of Ramadan and histories of the mosque, situates this community within the larger story of the Nation of Islam, explores gender issues, and unpacks the interaction between African American Muslims and South Asian and Arab American Muslims, revealing both the global and local significance of this religious tradition.
Visit Pamela J. Prickett's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 1, 2021

"Uncivil Mirth"

New from Princeton University Press: Uncivil Mirth: Ridicule in Enlightenment Britain by Ross Carroll.

About the book, from the publisher:
The relaxing of censorship in Britain at the turn of the eighteenth century led to an explosion of satires, caricatures, and comic hoaxes. This new vogue for ridicule unleashed moral panic and prompted warnings that it would corrupt public debate. But ridicule also had vocal defenders who saw it as a means to expose hypocrisy, unsettle the arrogant, and deflate the powerful. Uncivil Mirth examines how leading thinkers of the period searched for a humane form of ridicule, one that served the causes of religious toleration, the abolition of the slave trade, and the dismantling of patriarchal power.

Ross Carroll brings to life a tumultuous age in which the place of ridicule in public life was subjected to unparalleled scrutiny. He shows how the Third Earl of Shaftesbury, far from accepting ridicule as an unfortunate byproduct of free public debate, refashioned it into a check on pretension and authority. Drawing on philosophical treatises, political pamphlets, and conduct manuals of the time, Carroll examines how David Hume, Mary Wollstonecraft, and others who came after Shaftesbury debated the value of ridicule in the fight against intolerance, fanaticism, and hubris.

Casting Enlightenment Britain in an entirely new light, Uncivil Mirth demonstrates how the Age of Reason was also an Age of Ridicule, and speaks to our current anxieties about the lack of civility in public debate.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

"Paper Trails"

New from Oxford University Press: Paper Trails: The US Post and the Making of the American West by Cameron Blevins.

About the book, from the publisher:
A groundbreaking history of how the US Post made the nineteenth-century American West.

There were five times as many post offices in the United States in 1899 than there are McDonald's restaurants today. During an era of supposedly limited federal government, the United States operated the most expansive national postal system in the world.

In this cutting-edge interpretation of the late nineteenth-century United States, Cameron Blevins argues that the US Post wove together two of the era's defining projects: western expansion and the growth of state power. Between the 1860s and the early 1900s, the western United States underwent a truly dramatic reorganization of people, land, capital, and resources. It had taken Anglo-Americans the better part of two hundred years to occupy the eastern half of the continent, yet they occupied the West within a single generation. As millions of settlers moved into the region, they relied on letters and newspapers, magazines and pamphlets, petitions and money orders to stay connected to the wider world.

Paper Trails maps the spread of the US Post using a dataset of more than 100,000 post offices, revealing a new picture of the federal government in the West. The western postal network bore little resemblance to the civil service bureaucracies typically associated with government institutions. Instead, the US Post grafted public mail service onto private businesses, contracting with stagecoach companies to carry the mail and paying local merchants to distribute letters from their stores. These arrangements allowed the US Post to rapidly spin out a vast and ephemeral web of postal infrastructure to thousands of distant places.

The postal network's sprawling geography and localized operations forces a reconsideration of the American state, its history, and the ways in which it exercised power.
Visit Cameron Blevins's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

"All Societies Die"

New from Cornell University Press: All Societies Die: How to Keep Hope Alive by Samuel Cohn.

About the book, from the publisher:
In All Societies Die, Samuel Cohn asks us to prepare for the inevitable. Our society is going to die. What are you going to do about it? But he also wants us to know that there's still reason for hope.

In an immersive and mesmerizing discussion Cohn considers what makes societies (throughout history) collapse. All Societies Die points us to the historical examples of the Byzantine empire, the collapse of Somalia, the rise of Middle Eastern terrorism, the rise of drug cartels in Latin America and the French Revolution to explain how societal decline has common features and themes. Cohn takes us on an easily digestible journey through history. While he unveils the past, his message to us about the present is searing.

Through his assessment of past—and current—societies, Cohn offers us a new way of looking at societal growth and decline. With a broad panorama of bloody stories, unexpected historical riches, crime waves, corruption, and disasters, he shows us that although our society will, inevitably, die at some point, there's still a lot we can do to make it better and live a little longer.

His quirky and inventive approach to an "end-of-the-world" scenario should be a warning. We're not there yet. Cohn concludes with a strategy of preserving and rebuilding so that we don't have to give a eulogy anytime soon.
Visit Samuel Cohn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 29, 2021

"How Green Became Good"

New from the University of Chicago Press: How Green Became Good: Urbanized Nature and the Making of Cities and Citizens by Hillary Angelo.

About the book, from the publisher:
As projects like Manhattan’s High Line, Chicago’s 606, China’s eco-cities, and Ethiopia’s tree-planting efforts show, cities around the world are devoting serious resources to urban greening. Formerly neglected urban spaces and new high-end developments draw huge crowds thanks to the considerable efforts of city governments. But why are greening projects so widely taken up, and what good do they do? In How Green Became Good, Hillary Angelo uncovers the origins and meanings of the enduring appeal of urban green space, showing that city planners have long thought that creating green spaces would lead to social improvement. Turning to Germany’s Ruhr Valley (a region that, despite its ample open space, was “greened” with the addition of official parks and gardens), Angelo shows that greening is as much a social process as a physical one. She examines three moments in the Ruhr Valley's urban history that inspired the creation of new green spaces: industrialization in the late nineteenth century, postwar democratic ideals of the 1960s, and industrial decline and economic renewal in the early 1990s. Across these distinct historical moments, Angelo shows that the impulse to bring nature into urban life has persistently arisen as a response to a host of social changes, and reveals an enduring conviction that green space will transform us into ideal inhabitants of ideal cities. Ultimately, however, she finds that the creation of urban green space is more about how we imagine social life than about the good it imparts.
Visit Hillary Angelo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 28, 2021

"The Democratic Sublime"

New from Oxford University Press: The Democratic Sublime: On Aesthetics and Popular Assembly by Jason Frank.

About the book, from the publisher:
The transition from royal to popular sovereignty during the age of democratic revolutions--from 1776 to 1848--entailed not only the reorganization of institutions of governance and norms of political legitimacy, but also a dramatic transformation in the iconography and symbolism of political power. The personal and external rule of the king, whose body was the physical locus of political authority, was replaced with the impersonal and immanent self-rule of the people, whose power could not be incontestably embodied. This posed representational difficulties that went beyond questions of institutionalization and law, extending into the aesthetic realm of visualization, composition, and form. How to make the people's sovereign will tangible to popular judgment was, and is, a crucial problem of democratic political aesthetics.

The Democratic Sublime offers an interdisciplinary exploration of how the revolutionary proliferation of popular assemblies--crowds, demonstrations, gatherings of the "people out of doors"--came to be central to the political aesthetics of democracy during the age of democratic revolutions. Jason Frank argues that popular assemblies allowed the people to manifest as a collective actor capable of enacting dramatic political reforms and change. Moreover, Frank asserts that popular assemblies became privileged sites of democratic representation as they claimed to support the voice of the people while also signaling the material plenitude beyond any single representational claim. Popular assemblies continue to retain this power, in part, because they embody that which escapes representational capture: they disrupt the representational space of appearance and draw their power from the ineffability and resistant materiality of the people's will. Engaging with a wide range of sources, from canonical political theorists (Rousseau, Burke, and Tocqueville) to the novels of Hugo, the visual culture of the barricades, and the memoirs of popular insurgents, The Democratic Sublime demonstrates how making the people's sovereign will tangible to popular judgment became a central dilemma of modern democracy, and how it remains so today.
--Marshal Zeringue