Tuesday, October 31, 2023

"The Black Ceiling"

New from the University of Chicago Press: The Black Ceiling: How Race Still Matters in the Elite Workplace by Kevin Woodson.

About the book, from the publisher:
A revelatory assessment of workplace inequality in high-status jobs that focuses on a new explanation for a pernicious problem: racial discomfort.

America’s elite law firms, investment banks, and management consulting firms are known for grueling hours, low odds of promotion, and personnel practices that push out any employees who don’t advance. While most people who begin their careers in these institutions leave within several years, work there is especially difficult for Black professionals, who exit more quickly and receive far fewer promotions than their White counterparts, hitting a “Black ceiling.”

Sociologist and law professor Kevin Woodson knows firsthand what life at a top law firm feels like as a Black man. Examining the experiences of more than one hundred Black professionals at prestigious firms, Woodson discovers that their biggest obstacle in the workplace isn’t explicit bias but racial discomfort, or the unease Black employees feel in workplaces that are steeped in Whiteness. He identifies two types of racial discomfort: social alienation, the isolation stemming from the cultural exclusion Black professionals experience in White spaces, and stigma anxiety, the trepidation they feel over the risk of discriminatory treatment. While racial discomfort is caused by America’s segregated social structures, it can exist even in the absence of racial discrimination, which highlights the inadequacy of the unconscious bias training now prevalent in corporate workplaces. Firms must do more than prevent discrimination, Woodson explains, outlining the steps that firms and Black professionals can take to ease racial discomfort.

Offering a new perspective on a pressing social issue, The Black Ceiling is a vital resource for leaders at preeminent firms, Black professionals and students, managers within mostly White organizations, and anyone committed to cultivating diverse workplaces.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 30, 2023

"For F*ck's Sake"

New from Oxford University Press: For F*ck's Sake: Why Swearing is Shocking, Rude, and Fun by Rebecca Roache.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why do we love to swear so much? Why do we get so offended when others do it? With wit and insight, philosopher Rebecca Roache seeks answers to these and other puzzling questions about bad language.

When someone swears at you, it can sting. Likewise, sometimes there is no better way to make the point you're making--emphasize, insult, or just plain offend--than to use a swear. What explains the magical power of swearwords? Why are they so good at offending people? To understand swearwords' power, we need to look beyond the words themselves--beyond the way they sound and what they refer to--and consider more generally what we do when we swear.

In this lively and amusing exploration of the various puzzles that surround swearing, philosopher Rebecca Roache argues that what makes swearing offensive is not really the words at all: the offensiveness lies in what we don't say. The unspoken--and usually unconscious--inferences that speakers and listeners make about each other are key to explaining swearwords' capacity to shock. Swearing is unique among etiquette breaches in that it is designed to convey disrespect--swearing packs more of a punch than failing to say “please”.

Roache helps readers understand how swearing works, celebrating its power as a communicative tool and source of humor while also taking a close and serious look at specific words--those directed at women and women's bodies, for example--that function in particular, complex ways. She also examines the often-hypocritical ways swearing can be punished or censored. Along the way, she clears up a few puzzles, including why people are more tolerant of f*** than of fuck, and why quoted swearing is less offensive than unquoted swearing.

Finally, Roache helps readers appreciate that swearing isn't always bad. When it's not used offensively, it can foster social intimacy, can help people withstand pain, and might even help us curb our violent impulses. Even the offensiveness of swearing is valuable. Being able to cause offence by swearing is an important way of being accepted and respected as equals by other people.
Visit Rebecca Roache's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 29, 2023

"The Suburban Crisis"

New from Princeton University Press: The Suburban Crisis: White America and the War on Drugs by Matthew D. Lassiter.

About the book, from the publisher:
How the drug war transformed American political culture

Since the 1950s, the American war on drugs has positioned white middle-class youth as sympathetic victims of illegal drug markets who need rehabilitation instead of incarceration whenever they break the law. The Suburban Crisis traces how politicians, the media, and grassroots political activists crusaded to protect white families from perceived threats while criminalizing and incarcerating urban minorities, and how a troubling legacy of racial injustice continues to inform the war on drugs today.

In this incisive political history, Matthew Lassiter shows how the category of the “white middle-class victim” has been as central to the politics and culture of the drug war as racial stereotypes like the “foreign trafficker,” “urban pusher,” and “predatory ghetto addict.” He describes how the futile mission to safeguard and control white suburban youth shaped the enactment of the nation’s first mandatory-minimum drug laws in the 1950s, and how soaring marijuana arrests of white Americans led to demands to refocus on “real criminals” in inner cities. The 1980s brought “just say no” moralizing in the white suburbs and militarized crackdowns in urban centers.

The Suburban Crisis reveals how the escalating drug war merged punitive law enforcement and coercive public health into a discriminatory system for the social control of teenagers and young adults, and how liberal and conservative lawmakers alike pursued an agenda of racialized criminalization.
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 28, 2023

"American Imperialist"

New from the University of Chicago Press: American Imperialist: Cruelty and Consequence in the Scramble for Africa by Arwen P. Mohun.

About the book, from the publisher:
This biography of “African explorer” Richard Dorsey Mohun, written by one of his descendants, reveals how American greed and state power helped shape the new imperial order in Africa.

Richard Dorsey Mohun spent his career circulating among the eastern United States, the cities and courts of Europe, and the African continent, as he served the US State Department at some points and King Leopold of Belgium at others. A freelance imperialist, he implemented the schemes of American investors and the Congo Free State alike. Without men like him, Africa’s history might have unfolded very differently. How did an ordinary son of a Washington bookseller become the agent of American corporate greed and European imperial ambition? Why did he choose to act in ways that ranged from thoughtless and amoral to criminal and unforgivable?

With unblinking clarity and precision, historian Arwen P. Mohun interrogates the life and actions of her great-grandfather in American Imperialist. She seeks not to excuse the man known as Dorsey but to understand how individual ambition and imperial lust fueled each other, to catastrophic ends. Ultimately, she offers a nuanced portrait of how her great-grandfather’s pursuit of career success and financial security for his family came at a tragic cost to countless Africans.
Visit Arwen P. Mohun's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 27, 2023

"Police and the Empire City"

Coming soon from Duke University Press: Police and the Empire City: Race and the Origins of Modern Policing in New York by Matthew Guariglia.

About the book, from the publisher:
During the years between the Civil War and World War II, police in New York City struggled with how to control a diverse metropolis. In Police and the Empire City Matthew Guariglia tells the history of the New York Police Department to show how its origins were built upon and inseparably entwined with the history of race, ethnicity, and whiteness in the United States. Guariglia explores the New York City Police Department through its periods of experimentation and violence as police experts imported tactics from the US occupation of the Philippines and Cuba, devised modern bureaucratic techniques to better suppress Black communities, and infiltrated supposedly unknowable immigrant neighborhoods. Innovations ranging from recruiting Chinese, Italian, and German police to form “ethnic squads” to the use of deportation and federal immigration restrictions to control local crime—even the introduction of fingerprinting—were motivated by attempts to govern a multiracial city. Campaigns to remake the police department created an urban landscape where power, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, crime, and bodies collided and provided a foundation for the supposedly color-blind, technocratic, federally backed, and surveillance-based policing of today.
Visit Matthew Guariglia's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 26, 2023

"The Antechamber"

New from Stanford University Press: The Antechamber: Toward a History of Waiting by Helmut Puff.

About the book, from the publisher:
Helmut Puff invites readers to visit societies and spaces of the past through the lens of a particular temporal modality: waiting. From literature, memoirs, manuals, chronicles, visuals, and other documents, Puff presents a history of waiting anchored in antechambers—interior rooms designated and designed for people to linger. In early modern continental Western Europe, antechambers became standard in the residences of the elites. As a time-space infrastructure these rooms shaped encounters between unequals. By imposing spatial distance and temporal delays, antechambers constituted authority, rank, and power. Puff explores both the logic and the experience of waiting in such formative spaces, showing that time divides as much as it unites, and that far from what people have said about early moderns, they approached living in time with apprehensiveness. Unlike how contemporary society primarily views the temporal dimension, to early modern Europeans time was not an objective force external to the self but something that was tied to acting in time. Divided only by walls and doors, waiters sought out occasions to improve their lot. At other times, they disrupted the scripts accorded them. Situated at the intersection of history, literature, and the history of art and architecture, this wide-ranging study demonstrates that waiting has a history that has much to tell us about social and power relations in the past and present.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

"The Republican Hero"

New from State University of New York Press: The Republican Hero: From Homer to Batman by Michael Lusztig.

About the book, from the publisher:
Politically speaking, do heroes matter? Are we living in a post-heroic age? The Republican Hero addresses both these questions. The general tenor of modern thinking is that heroes do matter but that the modern age is characterized by a narrowing of moral horizons once illuminated by heroes, secular and spiritual. Michael Lusztig argues that the modern world is not post-heroic. He makes the case that the modern age is the most heroic age, if measured in terms of the Aristotelian currency of balance and completeness. To this end, he identifies four main hero-types—the epic, magnanimous, Romantic, and common. Each can rightfully be called a republican hero: each contributes to the promotion or protection or provision of republican values. Each exemplifies the heroic virtues of their age. However, taken conjunctively, each contributes to what Lusztig conceives as the complete republican hero of the modern age.
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

"War on Record"

New from Yale University Press: War on Record: The Archive and the Afterlife of the Civil War by Yael A. Sternhell.

About the book, from the publisher:
A history of the United States’ greatest archival project and how it has shaped what we know about the Civil War

The Civil War generated a vast archive of official records—documents that would shape the postwar era and determine what future generations would know about the war. Yael Sternhell traces these records from their creation during wartime through their deployment in a host of postwar battles, including those between the federal government and Southerners seeking reparations and between veterans blaming each other for defeat.

These documents were eventually published in the most important historical collection ever to have been assembled in the United States: The War of the Rebellion: The Official Records of the Union and the Confederate Armies. Known as the OR, it is the ultimate source for generations of scholars and writers and ordinary citizens researching the war. By delving into the archive, Sternhell reveals its power to shape myths, hide truths, perpetuate rancor, and foster reconciliation. Far more than a storehouse of papers, the Civil War archive is a major historical actor in its own right.
The Page 99 Test: Routes of War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 23, 2023

"The Burden-Sharing Dilemma"

New from Cornell University Press: The Burden-Sharing Dilemma: Coercive Diplomacy in US Alliance Politics by Brian D. Blankenship.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Burden-Sharing Dilemma examines the conditions under which the United States is willing and able to pressure its allies to assume more responsibility for their own defense. The United States has a mixed track record of encouraging allied burden-sharing―while it has succeeded or failed in some cases, it has declined to do so at all in others. This variation, Brian D. Blankenship argues, is because the United States tailors its burden-sharing pressure in accordance with two competing priorities: conserving its own resources and preserving influence in its alliances. Although burden-sharing enables great power patrons like the United States to lower alliance costs, it also empowers allies to resist patron influence.

Blankenship identifies three factors that determine the severity of this burden-sharing dilemma and how it is managed: the latent military power of allies, the shared external threat environment, and the level of a patron's resource constraints. Through case studies of US alliances formed during the Cold War, he shows that a patron can mitigate the dilemma by combining assurances of protection with threats of abandonment and by exercising discretion in its burden-sharing pressure.

Blankenship's findings dismantle assumptions that burden-sharing is always desirable but difficult to obtain. Patrons, as the book reveals, can in fact be reluctant to seek burden-sharing, and attempts to pass defense costs to allies can often be successful. At a time when skepticism of alliance benefits remains high and global power shifts threaten longstanding pacts, The Burden-Sharing Dilemma recalls and reconceives the value of burden-sharing and alliances.
Visit Brian Blankenship's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 22, 2023

"Living in Words"

New from Oxford University Press: Living in Words: Literature, Autobiographical Language, and the Composition of Selfhood by Garry L. Hagberg.

About the book, from the publisher:
Living in Words: Literature, Autobiographical Language, and the Composition of Selfhood pursues three main questions: What role does literature play in the constitution of a human being? What is the connection between the language we see at work in imaginative fiction and the language we develop to describe ourselves? And is something more powerful than just description at work -- that is, does self-descriptive or autobiographical language itself play an active role in shaping and solidifying our identities?

This adventurous book suggests that interdisciplinary work interweaving philosophy and literature can answer these questions. Main sections investigate the relational model of the self derived from American pragmatism, the sense of rightness that can attach to descriptions of ourselves and our actions, the analogy between interpreting works of art and the interpretation of persons, the special power of literature as a self-compositional tool and the "architecture" of self-narratives and the corresponding growth of self-understanding, what we can learn from cautionary tales concerning the tragic lack of self-knowledge, the possibility of "rewriting" and "rereading" the self, and overall, the assembly of real-life structures of self-definition through our reflective engagement with literature. Throughout, the book develops a model of active, self-constitutive literary reading that provides language for, and sharpens, self-individuation and sensibility.

Conjoining a relational conception of selfhood to a narrative conception of self-understanding, Living in Words makes a powerful claim that aesthetic experience and our engagement with the arts is a far more serious matter in human life and society than it in some quarters is taken to be.
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 21, 2023

"Gun Country"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: Gun Country: Gun Capitalism, Culture, and Control in Cold War America by Andrew C. McKevitt.

About the book, from the publisher:
Just as World War II transformed the United States into a global military and economic superpower, so too did it forge the gun country America is today. After 1945, war-ravaged European nations possessed large surpluses of mass-produced weapons, and American entrepreneurs seized the opportunity to buy used munitions for pennies on the dollar and resell them stateside. A booming consumer market made cheap guns accessible to millions of Americans, and rates of gun ownership and violence began to climb. Andrew C. McKevitt tells the history of this gun boom through the dynamics of consumer capitalism and Cold War ideology, the combination of which resulted in a vast number of Americans arming themselves to the teeth and centering their political identity on their guns.

When gun control legislation emerged in the 1960s, many Americans, accustomed to the unregulated postwar bounty of cheap guns and fearful of Soviet invasion, domestic subversion, and urban uprisings, fiercely challenged it. Meanwhile, gun control groups were diverted from their abolitionist roots toward a conciliatory, fundraising-focused strategy that struggled to limit the stockpiling of firearms. Gun Country recasts the story of guns in postwar America as one of Cold War and racial anxieties, unfettered capitalism, and exceptional violence that continues to haunt us to this day.
Visit Andrew C. McKevitt's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 20, 2023

"Judging Insanity, Punishing Difference"

New from Stanford University Press: Judging Insanity, Punishing Difference: A History of Mental Illness in the Criminal Court by Chloé Deambrogio.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Judging Insanity, Punishing Difference, Chloé Deambrogio explores how developments in the field of forensic psychiatry shaped American courts' assessments of defendants' mental health and criminal responsibility over the course of the twentieth century. During this period, new psychiatric notions of the mind and its readability, legal doctrines of insanity and diminished culpability, and cultural stereotypes about race and gender shaped the ways in which legal professionals, mental health experts, and lay witnesses approached mental disability evidence, especially in cases carrying the death penalty. Using Texas as a case study, Deambrogio examines how these medical, legal, and cultural trends shaped psycho-legal debates in state criminal courts, while shedding light on the ways in which experts and lay actors' interpretations of "pathological" mental states influenced trial verdicts in capital cases. She shows that despite mounting pressures from advocates of the "rehabilitative penology," Texas courts maintained a punitive approach towards defendants allegedly affected by severe mental disabilities, while allowing for moralized views about personalities, habits, and lifestyle to influence psycho-legal assessments, in potentially prejudicial ways.
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 19, 2023

"States of Anxiety"

New from Oxford University Press: States of Anxiety: Scarcity and Loss in Revolutionary Russia by William G. Rosenberg.

About the book, from the publisher:
Amidst the vast literature on the parties and politics of revolutionary Russia and its near constant appropriation for presentist purposes over the years, States of Anxiety assesses the effects of the great scarcities and enormous losses that Russia experienced between 1914 and 1921, a period of dramatic civil conflicts and Russia's “long World War.” Scarcities meant not only the deficits of necessary goods like food, but also their accompanying anxieties and fears. Using archival documents and materials of the period almost exclusively, this study explores how the tsarist, democratic liberal, democratic socialist, and Bolshevik regimes all addressed the forms and effects of scarcity and loss in ways they hoped would assure the revolutionary outcomes of their own historical imaginations. Looking closely at their efforts, it suggests how and why each failed to do so.

Approaching the Russian revolutionary period in these terms involves exploring a broad range of connected issues. Material scarcities involved problems with market exchange, prices, and inflation, as well as procurement, production, and distribution. They involved fiscal policies, monetary emissions, and the effects of escalating debt. But they also directly engaged cultural understandings of fairness, sacrifice, and social difference, and were accompanied by what today would be called today the anxieties of “food insecurity,” the dangerous risks of unemployment, and a range of fears about family and community welfare. Officials and members of various state and public committees of various political orientations faced both the threats and actualities of market collapse, rampant speculation, black markets, increasingly visible social inequalities, and an array of emotional fields whose implications need to be understood.

The statistical and other objective dimensions of scarcity and loss are generally described in ways that omit their complex emotional dimension, as the language of “food insecurity” obscures the actual effects of hunger. While taking into account important recent contributions to a large historiography, new efforts to decipher historical feelings and emotions, and attention to the languages through which events and feelings both were represented and given coherence, this book contributes to a broader understanding of the social and cultural foundations of uprisings and revolutionary upheavals.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

"Origins of the Just War"

New from Princeton University Press: Origins of the Just War: Military Ethics and Culture in the Ancient Near East by Rory Cox.

About the book, from the publisher:
A groundbreaking history of the ethics of war in the ancient Near East

Origins of the Just War reveals the incredible richness and complexity of ethical thought about war in the three millennia preceding the Greco-Roman period, establishing the extent to which ancient just war thought prefigured much of what we now consider to be the building blocks of the Western just war tradition.

In this incisive and elegantly written book, Rory Cox traces the earliest ideas concerning the complex relationship between war, ethics and justice. Excavating the ethical thought of three ancient Near Eastern cultures―Egyptian, Hittite and Israelite―he demonstrates that the history of the just war is considerably more ancient and geographically diffuse than previously assumed. Cox shows how the emergence of just war thought was grounded in a desire to rationalise, sacralise and ultimately to legitimise the violence of war. Rather than restraining or condemning warfare, the earliest ethical thought about war reflected an urge to justify state violence. Cox terms this presumption in favour of war ius pro bello―the “right for war”―characterizing it as a meeting point of both abstract and pragmatic concerns.

Drawing on a diverse range of ancient sources, Origins of the Just War argues that the same imperative still underlies many of the assumptions of contemporary just war thought and highlights the risks of applying moral absolutism to the fraught ethical arena of war.
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

"Execution, State and Society in England, 1660–1900"

New from Cambridge University Press: Execution, State and Society in England, 1660–1900 by Simon Devereaux.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book provides the first comprehensive account of execution practices in England and their extraordinary transformation from 1660 to 1900. Agonizing execution rituals were once common. Male traitors were hanged, disembowelled while still alive, then decapitated and quartered. Female traitors were burned alive. And common criminals slowly choked to death beneath wooden crossbeams erected at the margins of towns. Some of their bodies were either left to rot on roadside gibbets or dissected by anatomy instructors. Two centuries later, only murderers and traitors were executed – both by hanging – and they died alone, usually quickly, and behind prison walls. In this major contribution to the history of crime and punishment in England, Simon Devereaux reveals how urban growth, and the unique public culture it produced, challenged and largely displaced those traditional elites who valued the old 'Bloody Code' as an instrument of their rule.
Simon Devereaux is Associate Professor of History at the University of Victoria.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 16, 2023

"Ambivalent Affinities"

New from The University of North Carolina Press: Ambivalent Affinities: A Political History of Blackness and Homosexuality after World War II by Jennifer Dominique Jones.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the early twenty-first century, comparisons between the modern civil rights movement and the movement for marriage equality reached a fever pitch. These comparisons, however, have a longer history. During the five decades after World War II, political ideas about same-sex intimacy and gender nonconformity—most often categorized as homosexuality—appeared in the campaigns of civil rights organizations, Black liberal elected officials, segregationists, and far right radicals. Deployed in complex and at times contradictory ways, political ideas about homosexuality (and later, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender subjects) became tethered to conceptualizations of Blackness and racial equality.

In this interdisciplinary historical study, Jennifer Dominique Jones reveals the underexamined origins of comparisons between Black and LGBT political constituencies in the modern civil rights movement and white supremacist backlash. Foregrounding an intersectional framing of postwar political histories, Jones demonstrates how the shared non-normative status of Blackness and homosexuality facilitated comparisons between subjects and political visions associated with both. Drawing upon organizational records, manuscript collections, newspaper accounts, and visual and textual ephemera, this study traces a long, conflicting relationship between Black and LGBT political identities that continues to the present day.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 15, 2023

"Challenging Confinement"

New from NYU Press: Challenging Confinement: Mass Incarceration and the Fight for Equality in Women's Prisons by Bonnie L. Ernst.

About the book, from the publisher:
Examines how the feminist movements in the late twentieth century ignited prison protests, activism, and reform in women’s prisons

While the late twentieth century brought about greater rights for women, it also saw a rapid increase in the number of female prisoners. Before their confinement, many incarcerated women had gained access to work and higher education. But once behind bars, they found the only programs available for them perpetuated misogynistic norms.

Challenging Confinement is about how incarcerated women incorporated strategies from feminist movements into their activism behind bars. Facing long sentences, overcrowded prisons, and a lack of rehabilitation programs, incarcerated women protested, organized, and filed lawsuits to advocate for gender and racial equality in prison. Drawing on prison grievance reports, oral histories, state archives, and private collections, Bonnie L. Ernst tells the story of how women's movements, beginning in the 1920s and ending in the era of mass incarceration, infused prison activism in Michigan with new energy. Female prisoners and attorneys successfully persuaded the federal court to force state prisons to offer more programming and access to legal services. Mass incarceration swallowed up many of those efforts, but this history demonstrates how core principles of women’s movements encouraged incarcerated women to form coalitions and challenge their jailers. By bringing together histories of race, gender, and punishment, Challenging Confinement reveals how incarcerated women worked together to resist, in an era of mass imprisonment.
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 14, 2023

"Consistent Democracy"

New from Oxford University Press: Consistent Democracy: The "Woman Question" and Self-Government in Nineteenth-Century America by Leslie Butler.

About the book, from the publisher:
What did it mean that in the world's first mass democracy only a minority ruled? Women--free and enslaved, white and Black, single and married--constituted the bulk of those barred from full self-government in nineteenth-century America. The seeming anomaly of this exclusion fostered basic questions about the possibilities and limits of popular rule during the decades of democracy's worldwide ascendancy.

Consistent Democracy examines how these wide-ranging discussions about self-government and the so-called woman question developed in published opinion from the 1830s through the 1890s. Ranging beyond the organized women's rights movement, it places in conversation travel writers and domestic advice gurus, activists and educators, novelists and journalists, as well as countless others who explored contested aspects of democratic womanhood. Across the expansive world of print, these writers explored women's individual autonomy, their familial roles, and their participation in the polity with the franchise and without it. An array of theorists, reformers, and critics--including foreign observers Alexis de Tocqueville and Harriet Martineau, educator Catharine Beecher, political theorist John Stuart Mill, African American author and activist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and historian Francis Parkman--compelled Americans to assess and reassess their popular political ideas and assumptions against the backdrop of a turbulent century that witnessed the violent end of slavery.

Combining intellectual, political, and cultural history, Consistent Democracy illuminates how--in the nineteenth century and since--woman questions were democracy questions.
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 13, 2023

"The Price of Misfortune"

New from the University of Chicago Press: The Price of Misfortune: Rights and Wrongs in Indebted America by Daniel Platt.

About the book, from the publisher:
A history of the struggle for debtors’ rights from the Civil War to the Great Depression

What can be taken from someone who has borrowed money and cannot repay? What do the victims of misfortune owe to their lenders, and what can they keep for themselves? The answers to those questions, immensely important for debtors, creditors, and society at large, have changed over time. The Price of Misfortune examines the cause of debtors’ rights in the modern United States and the struggles of reformers who fought to establish financial freedoms in law.

Daniel Platt shows how, in the wake of the Civil War, a range of advocates drew potent analogies between slavery, imprisonment for debt, and the experiences of wage garnishment and property foreclosure. He traces the ways those analogies were used to campaign for bold new protections for debtors, keeping them secure in their labor, property, and personhood. Yet, as Platt demonstrates, those reforms tended to assume as their ideal borrower someone who was white, propertied, and male. In subsequent decades, the emancipatory promise of debtors’ rights would be tested as women, wage earners, and African Americans seized on their language to challenge other structural inequalities: the dependency of marriage, the exploitation of industrial capitalism, and the oppression of Jim Crow. By reconstructing these forgotten developments—and recovering the experiences of indebted farmwives, sharecroppers, and wage workers—The Price of Misfortune narrates a new history of inequality, coercion, and law amid the early financialization of American capitalism.
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 12, 2023

"Shadow Empires"

New from Princeton University Press: Shadow Empires: An Alternative Imperial History by Thomas J. Barfield.

About the book, from the publisher:
An original study of empire creation and its consequences, from ancient through early modern times

The world’s first great empires established by the ancient Persians, Chinese, and Romans are well known, but not the empires that emerged on their margins in response to them over the course of 2,500 years. These counterempires or shadow empires, which changed the course of history, include the imperial nomad confederacies that arose in Mongolia and extorted resources from China rather than attempting to conquer it, as well as maritime empires such as ancient Athens that controlled trade without seeking territorial hegemony. In Shadow Empires, Thomas Barfield identifies seven kinds of counterempire and explores their rise, politics, economics, and longevity.

What all these counterempires had in common was their interactions with existing empires that created the conditions for their development. When highly successful, these counterempires left the shadows to become the world’s largest empires―for example, those of the medieval Muslim Arabs and of the Mongol heirs of Chinggis Khan. Three former shadow empires―Manchu Qing China, Tsarist Russia, and British India―made this transformation in the late eighteenth century and came to rule most of Eurasia. However, the DNA of their origins endured in their unique ruling strategies. Indeed, world powers still use these strategies today, long after their roots in shadow empires have been forgotten.

Looking afresh at the histories of important types of empires that are often ignored, Shadow Empires provides an original account of empire formation from the ancient world to the early modern period.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

"Health Problems"

New from Oxford University Press: Health Problems: Philosophical Puzzles about the Nature of Health by Elizabeth Barnes.

About the book, from the publisher:
Health is weird. Health is weird in a way that resists simple explanations or elegant theorizing. This book is a philosophical explanation of that weirdness, and an argument that grappling with the distinctive weirdness of health can give us insight into how we might approach difficult questions about social reality. After examining extant theories of health - and finding them lacking - the book explores some particularly intractable puzzles about the nature of health, places where we often feel pulled in multiple directions or have reason to say conflicting things. On the basis of these puzzles, the book then defends a stance called ameliorative skepticism. Although health is real, there is, on this view, no way of giving a coherent, explanatorily adequate answer to the question “what is health?” Yet adopting this skeptical stance can, it is argued, help us to better understand the role that health plays in our lives, and the work that we need a theory of health to do.
Visit Elizabeth Barnes's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

"On the Edge: Feeling Precarious in China"

New from Columbia University Press: On the Edge: Feeling Precarious in China by Margaret Hillenbrand.

About the book, from the publisher:
Charismatic artists recruit desperate migrants for site-specific performance art pieces, often without compensation. Construction workers threaten on camera to jump from the top of a high-rise building if their back wages are not paid. Users of a video and livestreaming app hustle for views by eating excrement or setting off firecrackers on their genitals. In these and many other recent cultural moments, China’s suppressed social strife simmers―or threatens to boil over.

On the Edge probes precarity in contemporary China through the lens of the dark and angry cultural forms that chronic uncertainty has generated. Margaret Hillenbrand argues that a vast underclass of Chinese workers exist in “zombie citizenship,” a state of dehumanizing exile from the law and its safeguards. Many others also feel precarious―sensing that they live on a precipice, with the constant fear of falling into this abyss of dispossession, disenfranchisement, and dislocation. Examining the volatile aesthetic forms that embody stifled social tensions and surging anxiety over zombie citizenship, Hillenbrand traces how people use culture to vent taboo feelings of rage, resentment, distrust, and disdain in scenarios rife with cross-class antagonism.

On the Edge is highly interdisciplinary, fusing digital media, art history, literary criticism, and performance studies with citizenship, protest, and labor studies. It makes both the distinctive Chinese experience and the vital role of culture central to global understandings of how entrenched insecurity and civic jeopardy fray the bonds of the social contract.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 9, 2023

"Lawyers and Movements"

New from Oxford University Press: Lawyers and Movements: Legal Mobilization in Transformative Times by Scott L. Cummings.

About the book, from the publisher:
An innovative approach for understanding how law matters in contemporary social movements that rise to meet the twin challenges of American democracy: promoting liberal values of equality and inclusion, while fortifying the rule of law itself.

Fifty years after the Civil Rights Movement, America confronts a new democratic reckoning. What role do-and should-lawyers play in strengthening collective action at this pivotal moment? In Lawyers and Movements, Scott L. Cummings offers an innovative answer to this age-old question, breaking from the legacy of legal liberalism to reveal the essential, yet underappreciated, work of lawyers in social struggle-redefining legal mobilization in transformative times. Building from a sweeping analysis of progressive legal theory and practice, Cummings challenges foundational critiques of lawyers as inaccurate and ill-suited to the current context. In response, he advances a new theory of legal mobilization in which control over law is at the heart of movements rising to meet the twin challenges of contemporary liberalism: promoting inclusion and equity, while fortifying democratic institutions. A call to radically rethink how lawyers contribute to progressive change, Lawyers and Movements asserts a timely challenge to democracy in crisis.
The Page 99 Test: Blue and Green.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 8, 2023

"Supreme Bias"

New from Stanford University Press: Supreme Bias: Gender and Race in U.S. Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings by Christina L. Boyd, Paul M. Collins, Jr., and Lori A. Ringhand.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Supreme Bias, Christina L. Boyd, Paul M. Collins, Jr., and Lori A. Ringhand present for the first time a comprehensive analysis of the dynamics of race and gender at the Supreme Court confirmation hearings held before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Drawing on their deep knowledge of the confirmation hearings, as well as rich new qualitative and quantitative evidence, the authors highlight how the women and people of color who have sat before the Committee have faced a significantly different confirmation process than their white male colleagues. Despite being among the most qualified and well-credentialed lawyers of their respective generations, female nominees and nominees of color face more skepticism of their professional competence, are subjected to stereotype-based questioning, are more frequently interrupted, and are described in less-positive terms by senators. In addition to revealing the disturbing extent to which race and gender bias exist even at the highest echelon of U.S. legal power, this book also provides concrete suggestions for how that bias can be reduced in the future.
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 7, 2023

"Shame: The Politics and Power of an Emotion"

New from Princeton University Press: Shame: The Politics and Power of an Emotion by David Keen.

About the book, from the publisher:
The uses of shame (and shamelessness) in spheres that range from social media and consumerism to polarized politics and mass violence

Today, we are caught in a shame spiral―a vortex of mutual shaming that pervades everything from politics to social media. We are shamed for our looks, our culture, our ethnicity, our sexuality, our poverty, our wrongdoings, our politics. But what is the point of all this shaming and countershaming? Does it work? And if so, for whom?

In Shame, David Keen explores the function of modern shaming, paying particular attention to how shame is instrumentalized and weaponized. Keen points out that there is usually someone who offers an escape from shame―and that many of those who make this offer have been piling on shame in the first place. Self-interested manipulations of shame, Keen argues, are central to understanding phenomena as wide-ranging as consumerism, violent crime, populist politics, and even war and genocide. Shame is political as well as personal. To break out of our current cycle of shame and shaming, and to understand the harm that shame can do, we must recognize the ways that shame is being made to serve political and economic purposes.

Keen also traces the rise of leaders on both sides of the Atlantic who possess a dangerous shamelessness, and he asks how shame and shamelessness can both be damaging. Answering this question means understanding the different types of shame. And it means understanding how shame and shamelessness interact―not least when shame is instrumentalized by those who are selling shamelessness. Keen points to a perverse and inequitable distribution of shame, with the victims of poverty and violence frequently being shamed, while those who benefit tend to exhibit shamelessness and even pride.
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 6, 2023

"The Violent Underpinnings of American Life"

New from NYU Press: The Violent Underpinnings of American Life: How Violence Maintains Social Order in the US by Liam Downey.

About the book, from the publisher:
A damning examination of how violence serves to maintain social order and elite power in the United States

The Violent Underpinnings of American Life boldly asserts that violence―far from going against American ideals―is as American as apple pie, central to the country’s social order and the dominance of its most powerful groups. Drawing from extensive research and analysis of key social, political, and cultural events, Liam Downey investigates the myriad ways violence maintains the American way of life. Through compelling case studies, Downey identifies four main ways in which violence produces and maintains the American social hierarchy: the creation of divisions among non-elite social groups; the reinforcement of dominant discourses in multiple social arenas; the aligning of marginalized group identities with dominant institutional practices; and the selective promotion of the interests of specific, non-elite groups.

This is the first book to argue that violence is both a negative, coercive power and a positive, productive one that helps produce not only social order but also consent, discipline, discourse, identity, subjectivity, and embodied knowledge, among other things. The Violent Underpinnings of American Life is an audacious work that argues violence is absolutely central to social life in America, and that Americans cannot effectively fight against the inequalities that surround them without accepting this reality.
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 5, 2023

"A Few Acres of Ice"

New from Cornell University Press: A Few Acres of Ice: Environment, Sovereignty, and "Grandeur" in the French Antarctic by Janet Martin-Nielsen.

About the book, from the publisher:
A Few Acres of Ice is an in-depth study of France's complex relationship with the Antarctic, from the search for Terra Australis by French navigators in the sixteenth century to France's role today as one of seven states laying claim to part of the white continent. Janet Martin-Nielsen focuses on environment, sovereignty, and science to reveal not only the political, commercial, and religious challenges of exploration but also the interaction between environmental concerns in polar regions and the geopolitical realities of the twenty-first century. Martin-Nielsen details how France has worked (and at times not worked) to perform sovereignty in Terre Adélie, from the territory's integration into France's colonial empire to France's integral role in making the environment matter in Antarctic politics. As a result, A Few Acres of Ice sheds light on how Terre Adeìlie has altered human perceptions and been constructed by human agency since (and even before) its discovery.
Visit Janet Martin-Nielsen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

"Immigration and Social Equality"

New from Oxford University Press: Immigration and Social Equality: The Ethics of Skill-Selective Immigration Policy by Désirée Lim.

About the book, from the publisher:
Skill-selective immigration policies, through which states favor the admission of highly-skilled migrants over low-skilled migrants, are a familiar component of the immigration landscape. Wealthy Western states, such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia have explicitly declared their desire to attract the "best and the brightest". On the other hand, attitudes towards low-skilled migrants could not be more different. They have consistently been portrayed as dangerous and undesirable, a drain on social welfare, and economically threatening to citizens. Immigration and Social Equality argues that we ought to re-think this stance. Beginning from the widely-shared principle of equal respect for all persons, it proposes that equal respect requires the recognition of each person's pro tanto right to social equality, regardless of their citizenship status. Even if states have the right to exclude non-citizens, they cannot do so in a way that is demeaning or subordinating to excluded persons. The right to social equality gives us a richer picture of why certain instances of immigrant selection, such as the US's recent ban on citizens from Muslim-majority countries, are unjust. However, it also has troubling implications for skill-selective immigration policies, as they are currently practiced: the book reveals that they ought to be regarded as a form of wrongful discrimination. Drawing on the framework of social equality, Désirée Lim goes on to consider the problem of colonial injustice and how it may be reproduced by skill-selective immigration policies, as well as migratorial disobedience.
Visit Désirée Lim's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

"Judgment at Tokyo"

New from Knopf: Judgment at Tokyo: World War II on Trial and the Making of Modern Asia by Gary J. Bass.

About the book, from the publisher:
A landmark, magisterial history of the trial of Japan’s leaders as war criminals—the largely overlooked Asian counterpart to Nuremberg

In the weeks after Japan finally surrendered to the Allies to end World War II, the world turned to the question of how to move on from years of carnage and destruction. For Harry Truman, Douglas MacArthur, Chiang Kai-shek, and their fellow victors, the question of justice seemed clear: Japan’s militaristic leaders needed to be tried and punished for the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor; shocking atrocities against civilians in China, the Philippines, and elsewhere; and rampant abuses of prisoners of war in notorious incidents such as the Bataan death march. For the Allied powers, the trial was an opportunity to render judgment on their vanquished foes, but also to create a legal framework to prosecute war crimes and prohibit the use of aggressive war, building a more peaceful world under international law and American hegemony. For the Japanese leaders on trial, it was their chance to argue that their war had been waged to liberate Asia from Western imperialism and that the court was victors’ justice.

For more than two years, lawyers for both sides presented their cases before a panel of clashing judges from China, India, the Philippines, and Australia, as well as the United States and European powers. The testimony ran from horrific accounts of brutality and the secret plans to attack Pearl Harbor to the Japanese military’s threats to subvert the government if it sued for peace. Yet rather than clarity and unanimity, the trial brought complexity, dissents, and divisions that provoke international discord between China, Japan, and Korea to this day. Those courtroom tensions and contradictions could also be seen playing out across Asia as the trial unfolded in the crucial early years of the Cold War, from China’s descent into civil war to Japan’s successful postwar democratic elections to India’s independence and partition.

From the author of the acclaimed The Blood Telegram, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, this magnificent history is the product of a decade of research and writing. Judgment at Tokyo is a riveting story of wartime action, dramatic courtroom battles, and the epic formative years that set the stage for the Asian postwar era.
Writers Read: Gary J. Bass (January 2008).

The Page 99 Test: The Blood Telegram.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 2, 2023

"The Lies of the Land"

New from the University of Chicago Press: The Lies of the Land: Seeing Rural America for What It Is―and Isn’t by Steven Conn.

About the book, from the publisher:
A new history that boldly challenges the idea of a rural American crisis.

It seems everyone has an opinion about rural America. Is it gripped in a tragic decline? Or is it on the cusp of a glorious revival? Is it the key to understanding America today? Steven Conn argues that we’re missing the real question: Is rural America even a thing? No, says Conn, who believes we see only what we want to see in the lands beyond the suburbs—fantasies about moral (or backward) communities, simpler (or repressive) living, and what it means to be authentically (or wrongheadedly) American. If we want to build a better future, Conn argues, we must accept that these visions don’t exist and never did.

In The Lies of the Land, Conn shows that rural America—so often characterized as in crisis or in danger of being left behind—has actually been at the center of modern American history, shaped by the same forces as everywhere else in the country: militarization, industrialization, corporatization, and suburbanization. Examining each of these forces in turn, Conn invites us to dispense with the lies and half-truths we’ve believed about rural America and to pursue better solutions to the very real challenges shared all across our nation.
The Page 99 Test: History's Shadow.

The Page 99 Test: Americans Against the City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 1, 2023

"Fate Unknown"

New from Oxford University Press: Fate Unknown: Tracing the Missing after World War II and the Holocaust by Dan Stone.

About the book, from the publisher:
Dan Stone tells the story of the last great unknown archive of Nazism, the International Tracing Service. Set up by the Allies at the end of World War II, the ITS has worked until today to find missing persons and to aid survivors with restitution claims or to reunite them with loved ones. From retracing the steps of the 'death marches' with the aim of discovering the burial sites of those murdered across the towns and villages of Central Europe, to knocking on doors of German foster homes to find the children of forced labourers, Fate Unknown uncovers the history of this remarkable archive and its more than 30 million documents.

Under the leadership of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the tracing service became one of the most secretive of postwar institutions, unknown even to historians of the period. Delving deeply into the archival material, Stone examines the little-known sub-camps and, after the war, survivors' experience of displaced persons' camps, bringing to life remarkable stories of tracing. Fate Unknown combs the archives to reveal the real horror of the Holocaust by following survivors' horrific journeys through the Nazi camp system and its aftermath.

The postwar period was an age of shortage of resources, bitterness, and revenge. Yet the ITS tells a different story: of international collaboration, of commitment to justice, and of helping survivors and their relatives in the context of Cold War suspicion. These stories speak to a remarkable attempt by the ITS, before the Holocaust was a matter of worldwide interest, to carry out a programme of ethical repair and to counteract some of the worst effects of the Nazis' crimes.
The Page 99 Test: Goodbye to All That?.

The Page 99 Test: The Liberation of the Camps.

--Marshal Zeringue