Sunday, April 14, 2024

"Slow Burn"

New from Princeton University Press: Slow Burn: The Hidden Costs of a Warming World by R. Jisung Park.

About the book, from the publisher:
How the subtle but significant consequences of a hotter planet have already begun—from lower test scores to higher crime rates—and how we might tackle them today

It’s hard not to feel anxious about the problem of climate change, especially if we think of it as an impending planetary catastrophe. In Slow Burn, R. Jisung Park encourages us to view climate change through a different lens: one that focuses less on the possibility of mass climate extinction in a theoretical future, and more on the everyday implications of climate change here and now.

Drawing on a wealth of new data and cutting-edge economics, Park shows how climate change headlines often miss some of the most important costs. When wildfires blaze, what happens to people downwind of the smoke? When natural disasters destroy buildings and bridges, what happens to educational outcomes? Park explains how climate change operates as the silent accumulation of a thousand tiny conflagrations: imperceptibly elevated health risks spread across billions of people; pennies off the dollar of productivity; fewer opportunities for upward mobility.

By investigating how the physical phenomenon of climate change interacts with social and economic institutions, Park illustrates how climate change already affects everyone, and may act as an amplifier of inequality. Wealthier households and corporations may adapt quickly, but, without targeted interventions, less advantaged communities may not.

Viewing climate change as a slow and unequal burn comes with an important silver lining. It puts dollars and cents behind the case for aggressive emissions cuts and helps identify concrete steps that can be taken to better manage its adverse effects. We can begin to overcome our climate anxiety, Park shows us, when we begin to tackle these problems locally.
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 13, 2024

"Cemetery Citizens"

New from Stanford University Press: Cemetery Citizens: Reclaiming the Past and Working for Justice in American Burial Grounds by Adam Rosenblatt.

About the book, from the publisher:
Across the United States, groups of grassroots volunteers gather in overgrown, systemically neglected cemeteries. As they rake, clean headstones, and research silenced histories, they offer care to individuals who were denied basic rights and forms of belonging in life and in death. Cemetery Citizens is the first book-length study of this emerging form of social justice work. It focuses on how racial disparities shape the fates of the dead, and asks what kinds of repair are still possible. Drawing on interviews, activist anthropology, poems, and drawings, Adam Rosenblatt takes us to gravesite reclamation efforts in three prominent American cities. Cemetery Citizens dives into the ethical quandaries and practical complexities of cemetery reclamation, showing how volunteers build community across social boundaries, craft new ideas about citizenship and ancestry, and expose injustices that would otherwise be suppressed. Ultimately, Rosenblatt argues that an ethic of reclamation must honor the presence of the dead—treating them as fellow cemetery citizens who share our histories, landscapes, and need for care.
Visit Adam R. Rosenblatt's university webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 12, 2024

"A Supreme Court Unlike Any Other"

New from the University of Chicago Press: A Supreme Court Unlike Any Other: The Deepening Divide Between the Justices and the People by Kevin J. McMahon.

About the book, from the publisher:
A data-rich examination of the US Supreme Court’s unprecedented detachment from the democratic processes that buttress its legitimacy.

Today’s Supreme Court is unlike any other in American history. This is not just because of its jurisprudence but also because the current Court has a tenuous relationship with the democratic processes that help establish its authority. Historically, this “democracy gap” was not nearly as severe as it is today. Simply put, past Supreme Courts were constructed in a fashion far more in line with the promise of democracy—that the people decide and the majority rules.

Drawing on historical and contemporary data alongside a deep knowledge of court battles during presidencies ranging from FDR to Donald Trump, Kevin J. McMahon charts the developments that brought us here. McMahon offers insight into the altered politics of nominating and confirming justices, the shifting pool of Supreme Court hopefuls, and the increased salience of the Court in elections. A Supreme Court Unlike Any Other is an eye-opening account of today’s Court within the context of US history and the broader structure of contemporary politics.
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 11, 2024

"The Carceral City"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: The Carceral City: Slavery and the Making of Mass Incarceration in New Orleans, 1803-1930 by John Bardes.

About the book, from the publisher:
Americans often assume that slave societies had little use for prisons and police because slaveholders only ever inflicted violence directly or through overseers. Mustering tens of thousands of previously overlooked arrest and prison records, John K. Bardes demonstrates the opposite: in parts of the South, enslaved and free people were jailed at astronomical rates. Slaveholders were deeply reliant on coercive state action. Authorities built massive slave prisons and devised specialized slave penal systems to maintain control and maximize profit. Indeed, in New Orleans—for most of the past half-century, the city with the highest incarceration rate in the United States—enslaved people were jailed at higher rates during the antebellum era than are Black residents today. Moreover, some slave prisons remained in use well after Emancipation: in these forgotten institutions lie the hidden origins of state violence under Jim Crow.

With powerful and evocative prose, Bardes boldly reinterprets relations between slavery and prison development in American history. Racialized policing and mass incarceration are among the gravest moral crises of our age, but they are not new: slavery, the prison, and race are deeply interwoven into the history of American governance.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

"Liminal Minorities"

New from Cornell University Press: Liminal Minorities: Religious Difference and Mass Violence in Muslim Societies by Günes Murat Tezcür.

About the book, from the publisher:
Liminal Minorities addresses the question of why some religious minorities provoke the ire of majoritarian groups and become targets of organized violence, even though they lack significant power and pose no political threat. Güneş Murat Tezcür argues that these faith groups are stigmatized across generations, as they lack theological recognition and social acceptance from the dominant religious group. Religious justifications of violence have a strong mobilization power when directed against liminal minorities, which makes these groups particularly vulnerable to mass violence during periods of political change.

Offering the first comparative-historical study of mass atrocities against religious minorities in Muslim societies, Tezcür focuses on two case studies―the Islamic State's genocidal attacks against the Yezidis in northern Iraq in the 2010s and massacres of Alevis in Turkey in the 1970s and 1990s―while also addressing discrimination and violence against followers of the Bahá'í faith in Iran and Ahmadis in Pakistan and Indonesia. Analyzing a variety of original sources, including interviews with survivors and court documents, Tezcür reveals how religious stigmatization and political resentment motivate ordinary people to participate in mass atrocities.
Visit Günes Murat Tezcür's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

"Human Motives"

New from Oxford University Press: Human Motives: Hedonism, Altruism, and the Science of Affect by Peter Carruthers.

About the book, from the publisher:
Motivational hedonism (often called “psychological hedonism”) claims that everything we do is done in pursuit of pleasure (in the widest sense) and to avoid pain and displeasure (again, in the widest sense). Although perennially attractive, many philosophers and experimental psychologists have claimed to refute it. Human Motives shows how decision-science and the recent science of affect can be used to construct a form of motivational hedonism that evades all previous critiques. On this view, we take decisions by anticipating and responding affectively to the alternatives, with the pleasure / displeasure component of affect constituting the common currency of decision-making. But we do not have to believe that the alternatives will bring us pleasure or displeasure in the future. Rather, those feelings get bound into and become parts of the future-directed representation of the options, rendering the latter attractive or repulsive. Much then depends on what pleasure and displeasure really are. If they are intrinsically good or bad properties of experience, for example, then motivational hedonism results. Carruthers argues, in contrast, that the best account is a representational one: pleasure represents its object (nonconceptually, in a perception-like manner) as good, and displeasure represents it (nonconceptually) as bad. The result is pluralism about human motivation, making room for both genuine altruism and intrinsic motives of duty.

Clearly written and deeply scientifically informed, Human Motives has implications for many areas of philosophy and cognitive science, and will be of interest to anyone wanting to understand the foundations of human motivation.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 8, 2024

"The Insiders’ Game"

New from Princeton University Press: The Insiders’ Game: How Elites Make War and Peace by Elizabeth N. Saunders.

About the book, from the publisher:
How elites shape the use of force in American foreign policy

One of the most widely held views of democratic leaders is that they are cautious about using military force because voters can hold them accountable, ultimately making democracies more peaceful. How, then, are leaders able to wage war in the face of popular opposition, or end conflicts when the public still supports them? The Insiders’ Game sheds light on this enduring puzzle, arguing that the primary constraints on decisions about war and peace come from elites, not the public.

Elizabeth Saunders focuses on three groups of elites—presidential advisers, legislators, and military officials—to show how the dynamics of this insiders’ game are key to understanding the use of force in American foreign policy. She explores how elite preferences differ from those of ordinary voters, and how leaders must bargain with elites to secure their support for war. Saunders provides insights into why leaders start and prolong conflicts the public does not want, but also demonstrates how elites can force leaders to change course and end wars.

Tracing presidential decisions about the use of force from the Cold War through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Saunders reveals how the elite politics of war are a central feature of democracy. The Insiders’ Game shifts the focus of democratic accountability from the voting booth to the halls of power.
Visit Elizabeth N. Saunders's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 7, 2024

"Dangerous Innocence"

New from LSU Press: Dangerous Innocence: White Men, Mass Culture, and the Southern Outsider's Appeal, 1960–2020 by William P. Murray.

About the book, from the publisher:
Dangerous Innocence investigates how prevailing constructions of white masculinity in the U.S. South help feed and reinforce systems of racial inequity. Tracing the rise of the “southern outsider” in literature and on television from 1960 to 2020, William P. Murray probes white Americans’ enduring desire to assert their own blamelessness even though such acts of self-justification facilitate continued violence against historically oppressed populations. Dangerous Innocence courses from popular television such as The Andy Griffith Show and The Waltons through influential fiction by Eudora Welty, Walker Percy, and other prominent southern authors―alongside forceful challenges voiced by Black writers including Chester Himes and Ernest Gaines―before turning to works created after the September 11 attacks that reinscribe cultural logics predicated on protecting white innocence and power.

Concluding on a note of praxis, Dangerous Innocence argues that reattaching southern outsiders to a communal identity encourages an honest assessment about what whiteness represents and what it means to belong to a nation steeped in commitments to white supremacy.
William P. Murray is assistant professor of English at Tennessee Wesleyan University.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 6, 2024

"The Ethics of Privacy and Surveillance"

New from Oxford University Press: The Ethics of Privacy and Surveillance by Carissa Véliz.

About the book, from the publisher:
Privacy matters because it shields us from possible abuses of power. Human beings need privacy just as much as they need community. Our need for socialization brings with it risks and burdens which in turn give rise to the need for spaces and time away from others. To impose surveillance upon someone is an act of domination. The foundations of democracy quiver under surveillance.

Given how important privacy is for individual and collective wellbeing, it is striking that it has not enjoyed a more central place in philosophy. The philosophical literature on privacy and surveillance is still very limited compared to that on justice, autonomy, or equality-and yet the former plays a role in protecting all three values. Perhaps philosophers haven't attended much to privacy because for most of the past two centuries there have been strong enough privacy norms in place and not enough invasive technologies. Privacy worked for most people most of the time, which made thinking about it unnecessary. It's when things stop working that the philosopher's attention is most easily caught-the owl of Minerva spreading its wings only with impending dusk.

With the spread of machine learning, a kind of AI that often uses vast amounts of personal data, and a whole industry dedicated to the trade of personal data becoming one of the most popular business models of the 21st century, it's time for philosophy to look more closely at privacy.

This book is intended to contribute to a better understanding of privacy from a philosophical point of view-what it is, what is at stake in its loss, and how it relates to other rights and values. The five parts that compose this book respond to five basic questions about privacy: Where does privacy come from? What is privacy? Why does privacy matter? What should we do about privacy? Where are we now?
Visit Carissa Véliz's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 5, 2024

"Structuring Inequality"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Structuring Inequality: How Schooling, Housing, and Tax Policies Shaped Metropolitan Development and Education by Tracy L. Steffes.

About the book, from the publisher:
How inequality was forged, fought over, and forgotten through public policy in metropolitan Chicago.

As in many American metropolitan areas, inequality in Chicagoland is visible in its neighborhoods. These inequalities are not inevitable, however. They have been constructed and deepened by public policies around housing, schooling, taxation, and local governance, including hidden state government policies.

In Structuring Inequality, historian Tracy L. Steffes shows how metropolitan inequality in Chicagoland was structured, contested, and naturalized over time even as reformers tried to change it through school desegregation, affordable housing, and property tax reform. While these efforts had modest successes in the city and the suburbs, reformers faced significant resistance and counter-mobilization from affluent suburbanites, real estate developers, and other defenders of the status quo who defended inequality and reshaped the policy conversation about it. Grounded in comprehensive archival research and policy analysis, Structuring Inequality examines the history of Chicagoland’s established systems of inequality and provides perspective on the inequality we live with today.
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 4, 2024

"Breathless"

New from Stanford University Press: Breathless: Tuberculosis, Inequality, and Care in Rural India by Andrew McDowell.

About the book, from the publisher:
Each year in India more than two million people fall sick with tuberculosis (TB), an infectious, airborne, and potentially deadly lung disease. The country accounts for almost 30 percent of all TB cases worldwide and well above a third of global deaths from it. Because TB's prevalence also indicates unfulfilled development promises, its control is an important issue of national concern, wrapped up in questions of postcolonial governance. Drawing on long-term ethnographic engagement with a village in North India and its TB epidemic, Andrew McDowell tells the stories of socially marginalized Dalit ("ex-untouchable") farming families afflicted by TB, and the nurses, doctors, quacks, mediums, and mystics who care for them. Each of the book's chapters centers on a material or metaphorical substance—such as dust, clouds, and ghosts—to understand how breath and airborne illness entangle biological and social life in everyday acts of care for the self, for others, and for the environment. From this raft of stories about the ways people make sense of and struggle with troubled breath, McDowell develops a philosophy and phenomenology of breathing that attends to medical systems, patient care, and health justice. He theorizes that breath—as an intersection between person and world—provides a unique perspective on public health and inequality. Breath is deeply intimate and personal, but also shared and distributed. Through it all, Breathless traces the multivalent relations that breath engenders between people, environments, social worlds, and microbes.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

"Slouch: Posture Panic in Modern America"

New from Princeton University Press: Slouch: Posture Panic in Modern America by Beth Linker.

About the book, from the publisher:
The strange and surprising history of the so-called epidemic of bad posture in modern America—from eugenics and posture pageants to today’s promoters of “paleo posture”

In 1995, a scandal erupted when the New York Times revealed that the Smithsonian possessed a century’s worth of nude “posture” photos of college students. In this riveting history, Beth Linker tells why these photos were only a small part of the incredible story of twentieth-century America’s largely forgotten posture panic—a decades-long episode in which it was widely accepted as scientific fact that Americans were suffering from an epidemic of bad posture, with potentially catastrophic health consequences. Tracing the rise and fall of this socially manufactured epidemic, Slouch also tells how this period continues to feed today’s widespread anxieties about posture.

In the early twentieth century, the eugenics movement and fears of disability gave slouching a new scientific relevance. Bad posture came to be seen as an individual health threat, an affront to conventional race hierarchies, and a sign of American decline. What followed were massive efforts to measure, track, and prevent slouching and, later, back pain—campaigns that reached schools, workplaces, and beyond, from the creation of the American Posture League to posture pageants. The popularity of posture-enhancing products, such as girdles and lumbar supports, exploded, as did new fitness programs focused on postural muscles, such as Pilates and modern yoga. By 1970, student protests largely brought an end to school posture exams and photos, but many efforts to fight bad posture continued, despite a lack of scientific evidence.

A compelling history that mixes seriousness and humor, Slouch is a unique and provocative account of the unexpected origins of our largely unquestioned ideas about bad posture.
Visit Beth Linker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

"Life under Pressure"

New from Oxford University Press: Life under Pressure: The Social Roots of Youth Suicide and What to Do About Them by Anna S. Mueller & Seth Abrutyn.

About the book, from the publisher:
A rare study that transforms our understanding of why youth die by suicide, why youth suicide clusters happen, and how to stop them

Youth suicide clusters have deeply unsettled communities in recent years. While clusters have been widely documented in the media, too little is known about why youth die by suicide, why youth suicide clusters happen, and how to stop them both.

In Life under Pressure, Anna S. Mueller and Seth Abrutyn investigate the social roots of youth suicide and why certain places weather disproportionate incidents of adolescent suicides and suicide clusters. Through close examination of kids' lives in a community repeatedly rocked by youth suicide clusters, Mueller and Abrutyn reveal how the social worlds that youth inhabit and the various messages they learn in those spaces--about who they are supposed to be, mental illness, and help-seeking--shape their feelings about themselves and in turn their risk of suicide. With great empathy, Mueller and Abrutyn also identify the moments when adults unintentionally fail kids by not talking to them about suicide, teaching them how to seek help, or helping them grieve.

Through stories of survival, resilience, and even rebellion, Mueller and Abrutyn show how social environments can cause suicide and how they can be changed to help kids discover a life worth living. By revealing what it is like to live and die in one community, Life under Pressure offers tangible solutions to one of the twenty-first century's most tragic public health problems.
Visit Anna S. Mueller's website and Seth Abrutyn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 1, 2024

"Pregnant at Work"

New from NYU Press: Pregnant at Work: Low-Wage Workers, Power, and Temporal Injustice by Elise Andaya.

About the book, from the publisher:
A compelling analysis of social inequality through the perspective of pregnant, low-wage service workers

The low-wage service industry is one of the fastest-growing employment sectors in the US economy. Its workers disproportionately tend to be low-income and minority women. Service sector work entails rigid forms of temporal discipline manifested in work requirements for flexible, last-minute, and round-the-clock availability, as well as limited to no eligibility for sick and parental leaves, all of which impact workers’ ability to care for themselves and their dependents.

Pregnant at Work examines the experiences of pregnant service sector workers in New York City as they try to navigate the time conflicts between precarious low-wage service labor and safety net prenatal care. Through interviews and fieldwork in a prenatal clinic of a public hospital, Elise Andaya vividly describes workers’ struggles to maintain expected tempos of labor as their pregnancies progress as well as their efforts to schedule and attend prenatal care, where waiting is a constant factor―a reflection of the pervasive belief that poor people’s time is less valuable than that of other people.

Pregnant at Work is a compelling examination of the ways in which power and inequalities of race, class, gender, and immigration status are produced and reproduced in the US, including in individual pregnant bodies. The stories of the pregnant workers featured in this book underscore the urgency of movements towards temporal justice and a new politics of care in the twenty-first century.
Visit Elise Andaya's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 31, 2024

"In the Shadow of Diagnosis"

New from the University of Chicago Press: In the Shadow of Diagnosis: Psychiatric Power and Queer Life by Regina Kunzel.

About the book, from the publisher:
A look at the history of psychiatry’s foundational impact on the lives of queer and gender-variant people.

In the mid-twentieth century, American psychiatrists proclaimed homosexuality a mental disorder, one that was treatable and amenable to cure. Drawing on a collection of previously unexamined case files from St. Elizabeths Hospital, In the Shadow of Diagnosis explores the encounter between psychiatry and queer and gender-variant people in the mid- to late-twentieth-century United States. It examines psychiatrists’ investments in understanding homosexuality as a dire psychiatric condition, a judgment that garnered them tremendous power and authority at a time that historians have characterized as psychiatry’s “golden age.” That stigmatizing diagnosis made a deep and lasting impact, too, on queer people, shaping gay life and politics in indelible ways. In the Shadow of Diagnosis helps us understand the adhesive and ongoing connection between queerness and sickness.
Regina Kunzel is the Larned Professor of History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University.

The Page 99 Test: Criminal Intimacy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 30, 2024

"Jerusalem through the Ages"

New from Oxford University Press: Jerusalem through the Ages: From Its Beginnings to the Crusades by Jodi Magness.

About the book, from the publisher:
A major new history of one of the world's holiest of cities, based on the most recent archaeological discoveries

First settled five thousand years ago by a mountain spring between the Mediterranean and Dead Sea, Jerusalem was named for the god (Shalem) that was worshipped there. When David reportedly conquered the city, ca. 1000 BCE, he transferred the Ark of the Covenant--and with it, the presence of the God of Israel--to this rocky outcrop. Here, David's son Solomon built a permanent house for the God of Israel called the first temple, and since then this spot has been known as the Temple Mount. After Babylonians destroyed Solomon's temple in 586 BCE, it was replaced by the second temple, which is the setting for many of the events described in the Gospel accounts. In 70 CE, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, leaving the Temple Mount in ruins. Two hundred and fifty years later, the emperor Constantine constructed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher around the spots where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and buried, and the church is now considered Jerusalem's holiest site by many Christians worldwide. In the late seventh century CE the focus shifted back to the Temple Mount, when an early Islamic ruler named `Abd al-Malek enshrined the rocky outcrop in a monument that is still iconic of the city today: the Dome of the Rock. In 1099 Crusaders conquered Jerusalem, and although their rule was brief rule they left a deep impact on the city. Today, much of the old city retains its medieval appearance.

For followers of the three Abrahamic faiths, Jerusalem is the place where the presence of the God of Israel dwells--the meeting point of heaven and earth and the locus of divine and human interaction. Jerusalem through the Ages by Jodi Magness explores how these beliefs came to be associated with the city by introducing readers to its complex and layered history, providing a broad yet detailed account, including the most recent archaeological discoveries. Each chapter focuses on a key moment of transition from Jerusalem's beginnings to the Crusades of the medieval period, enabling readers to experience the city's many transformations as it changed hands and populations-Jebusites, Israelites, Judahites, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The book also includes a walking guide for visitors who wish to experience the city's many archaeological sites firsthand.
Visit Jodi Magness's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 29, 2024

"Creatures of Fashion"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: Creatures of Fashion: Animals, Global Markets, and the Transformation of Patagonia by John Soluri.

About the book, from the publisher:
Today, the mention of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego conjures images of idyllic landscapes untouched by globalization. Creatures of Fashion upends this, revealing how the exploitation of animals—terrestrial and marine, domesticated and wild, living and dead—was central to the region's transformation from Indigenous lands into the national territories of Argentina and Chile. Drawing on evidence from archives and digital repositories, John Soluri traces the circulation of furs and fibers to explore how the power of fashion stretched far beyond Europe's houses of haute couture to entangle the fates of Indigenous hunters, migrant workers, and textile manufacturers with those of fur seals, guanacos, and sheep at the "end of the world."

From the nineteenth-century rise of commercial hunting to twentieth-century sheep ranching to contemporary conservation-based tourism, Soluri's narrative explains how struggles for control over the production of commodities and the reproduction of animals drove the social and environmental changes that tied Patagonia to global markets, empires, and wildlife conservation movements. By exposing seams in national territories and global markets knit together by force, this book provides perspectives and analyses vital for understanding contemporary conflicts over mass consumption, the conservation of biodiversity, and struggles for environmental justice in Patagonia and beyond.
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 28, 2024

"Subversion"

New from Oxford University Press: Subversion: From Covert Operations to Cyber Conflict by Lennart Maschmeyer.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Subversion, Lennart Maschmeyer provides a powerful new theory and analysis of an age-old concept. While a strategy of subversion offers great strategic promise in theory, it faces an underappreciated set of challenges that limit its strategic value in practice. Drawing from two major cases--the KGB's use of traditional subversion methods to crush the Prague Spring in 1968 and Russia's less successful use of cyberwarfare against Ukraine since 2014--Maschmeyer demonstrates both the benefits and weaknesses of the approach. While many believe that today's cyber-based subversion campaigns offer new strategic opportunities, they also come with their own challenges. Because of these disadvantages, cyber operations continue to fall short of expectations--most recently in the Russo-Ukrainian war. By showing that traditional subversion methods remain the more potent threat, Subversion forces us to reconsider our fears of the subversive potential of cyberwar.
Visit Lennart Maschmeyer's website.

Maschmeyer is a Senior Researcher at the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Toronto and an MPhil in International Relations from the University of Oxford. Lennart’s research examines the subversive nature of cyber power, focusing on its operational challenges and strategic limitations. In particular, he has studied the use of cyber operations in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict since 2014. As part of this research, Lennart is also investigating the effectiveness of social media disinformation as a subversive instrument. A second pillar of Lennart’s research agenda critically examines knowledge production processes in cybersecurity and resulting bias and distortions.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

"Devotion to the Administrative State"

New from Princeton University Press: Devotion to the Administrative State: Religion and Social Order in Egypt by Mona Oraby.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why the pursuit of state recognition by seemingly marginal religious groups in Egypt and elsewhere is a devotional practice

Over the past decade alone, religious communities around the world have demanded state recognition, exemption, accommodation, or protection. They make these appeals both in states with a declared religious identity and in states officially neutral toward religion. In this book, Mona Oraby argues that the pursuit of official recognition by religious minorities amounts to a devotional practice. Countering the prevailing views on secularism, Oraby contends that demands by seemingly marginal groups to have their religious differences recognized by the state in fact assure communal integrity and coherence over time. Making her case, she analyzes more than fifty years of administrative judicial trends, theological discourse, and minority claims-making practices, focusing on the activities of Coptic Orthodox Christians and Baháʼí in modern and contemporary Egypt.

Oraby documents the ways that devotion is expressed across a range of sites and sources, including in lawyers’ offices, administrative judicial verdicts, televised media and film, and invitation-only study sessions. She shows how Egypt’s religious minorities navigated the political and legal upheavals of the 2011 uprising and now persevere amid authoritarian repression. In a Muslim-majority state, they assert their status as Islam’s others, finding belonging by affirming their difference; and difference, Oraby argues, is the necessary foundation for collective life. Considering these activities in light of the global history of civil administration and adjudication, Oraby shows that the lengths to which these marginalized groups go to secure their status can help us to reimagine the relationship between law and religion.
Visit Mona Oraby's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

"Love and the Working Class"

New from Oxford University Press: Love and the Working Class: The Inner Worlds of Nineteenth Century Americans by Karen Lystra.

About the book, from the publisher:
Love and the Working Class is a unique look at the emotions of hard-living, nineteenth-century Americans who were often on the cusp of literacy. These laboring folk highly valued letters and, however difficult it was, wrote to stay connected to those they loved. This book displays the personal expression of factory hands, manual laborers, peddlers, coopers, carpenters, lumbermen, miners, tanners, haulers, tailors, seamstresses, laundresses, domestics, sharecroppers, independent farmers, and common soldiers and their wives. Entering the “anonymous corners” of these people's lives through letters, we can see their humor, grit, hope, heartache, and endurance, and grasp what they believed and felt about themselves, their kinfolk, and their friends.

As much as possible, these working-class Americans living in the nineteenth century speak to contemporary readers in their own words. Often armed with only a third or fourth grade education, they could read but had limited instruction in writing. Yet they sat down to compose a letter, often spurred by a range of experience including the Gold Rush, westward expansion, slavery, the Emancipation Proclamation, and what was arguably the most important event in nineteenth-century America, the Civil War. During the war, poor, undereducated soldiers and their families wrote letters in a quantity never before seen in American history.

Using letters written to parents, siblings, husbands, wives, friends, and potential mates between 1830 and 1880, Karen Lystra identifies the shared conceptions of love and practices of courtship and marriage within a racially diverse population of free working-class people born in America. Readers can listen to their voices as they flirt, act as intermediaries in hometown courtships, express non-romantic love to their mates, tease each other, and voice their hopes for the future. Through these personal letters, poor, minimally schooled Americans show us how they felt about love and how they created meaningful attachments in their uncertain lives.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 25, 2024

"I, Yantra"

New from State University of New York Press: I, Yantra: Exploring Self and Selflessness in Ancient Indian Robot Tales by Signe Cohen.

About the book, from the publisher:
What does it mean to be human? I, Yantra examines ancient Indian narratives about robots and mechanically constructed beings to explore how their Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist authors approached this question. Making translations of many of these texts available in English for the first time, author Signe Cohen argues that they shed considerable light on South Asian religious notions of humanity, self, and agency. She also documents connections between ancient and modern responses to the ethical problems of what precisely constitutes a sentient being and what rights such a being should have. Situated at the intersection of humanities and bioethics, this cross-disciplinary study will be of interest to scholars of South Asian languages and literature as well as specialists in religion and technology.
Signe Cohen is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Missouri. She is the author of Textual Criticism and Sacred Texts and Text and Authority in the Older Upaniṣads and the editor of The Upaniṣads: A Complete Guide.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 24, 2024

"The Path of Desire"

New from the University of Chicago Press: The Path of Desire: Living Tantra in Northeast India by Hugh B. Urban.

About the book, from the publisher:
A provocative study of contemporary Tantra as a dynamic living tradition.

Tantra, one of the most important religious currents in South Asia, is often misrepresented as little more than ritualized sex. Through a mixture of ethnography and history, Hugh B. Urban reveals a dynamic living tradition behind the sensationalist stories. Urban shows that Tantric desire goes beyond the erotic, encompassing such quotidian experiences as childbearing and healing. He traces these holistic desires through a series of unique practices: institutional Tantra centered on gurus and esoteric rituals; public Tantra marked by performance and festival; folk Tantra focused on magic and personal well-being; and popular Tantra imagined in fiction, film, and digital media. The result is a provocative new description of Hindu Tantra that challenges us to approach religion as something always entwined with politics and culture, thoroughly entangled with ordinary needs and desires.
Hugh B. Urban is College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor at the Ohio State University. He is the author of numerous books including Secrecy: Silence, Power and Religion and Zorba the Buddha: Sex, Spirituality and Capitalism in the Global Osho Movement.

The Page 99 Test: Zorba the Buddha.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 23, 2024

"Strangers Within"

New from Princeton University Press: Strangers Within: The Rise and Fall of the New Christian Trading Elite by Francisco Bethencourt.

About the book, from the publisher:
A comprehensive study of the New Christian elite of Jewish origin—prominent traders, merchants, bankers and men of letters—between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries

In Strangers Within, Francisco Bethencourt provides the first comprehensive history of New Christians, the descendants of Jews forced to convert to Catholicism in late medieval Spain and Portugal. Bethencourt estimates that there were around 260,000 New Christians by 1500—more than half of Iberia’s urban population. The majority stayed in Iberia but a significant number moved throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, coastal Asia and the New World. They established Sephardic communities in North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, Italy, Amsterdam, Hamburg and London. Bethencourt focuses on the elite of bankers, financiers and merchants from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries and the crucial role of this group in global trade and financial services. He analyses their impact on religion (for example, Teresa de Ávila), legal and political thought (Las Casas), science (Amatus Lusitanus), philosophy (Spinoza) and literature (Enríquez Gomez).

Drawing on groundbreaking research in eighteen archives and library manuscript departments in six different countries, Bethencourt argues that the liminal position in which the New Christians found themselves explains their rise, economic prowess and cultural innovation. The New Christians created the first coherent legal case against the discrimination of a minority singled out for systematic judicial inquiry. Cumulative inquisitorial prosecution, coupled with structural changes in international trade, led to their decline and disappearance as a recognizable ethnicity by the mid-eighteenth century. Strangers Within tells an epic story of persecution, resistance and the making of Iberia through the oppression of one of the most powerful minorities in world history. Packed with genealogical information about families, their intercontinental networks, their power and their suffering, it is a landmark study.
--Marshl Zeringue

Friday, March 22, 2024

"China's Vulnerability Paradox"

New from Oxford University Press: China's Vulnerability Paradox: How the World's Largest Consumer Transformed Global Commodity Markets by Pascale Massot.

About the book, from the publisher:
China's Vulnerability Paradox explains the uneven transformations in global commodity markets resulting from China's contemporary, dramatic economic growth. At times, China displays vulnerabilities towards global commodity markets because of unequal positions of market power. Why is it that Chinese stakeholders are often unable to shape markets in their preferred direction? Why have some markets undergone fundamental changes while other similar ones did not? And how can we explain the uneven liberalization dynamics across markets? Through a series of case studies, Pascale Massot argues that the balance of market power between Chinese domestic and international market stakeholders explains their behavior as well as the likelihood of global institutional change. At a time of deepening US-China economic tensions, this book provides an alternative, granular understanding of the interacting dynamics between the political economy of Chinese and global markets.
Visit Pascale Massot's website.

Massot is an assistant professor in the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa.

She was a member and adviser to the co-chairs of the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs’ Indo-Pacific Advisory Committee. She has also served as the Senior Advisor for China and Asia to various Canadian Cabinet ministers, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, at different points between 2015 and 2021.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 21, 2024

"In the Land of the Unreal"

New from Duke University Press: In the Land of the Unreal: Virtual and Other Realities in Los Angeles by Lisa Messeri.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the mid-2010s, a passionate community of Los Angeles-based storytellers, media artists, and tech innovators formed around virtual reality (VR), believing that it could remedy society’s ills. Lisa Messeri offers an ethnographic exploration of this community, which conceptualized VR as an “empathy machine” that could provide glimpses into diverse social realities. She outlines how, in the aftermath of #MeToo, the backlash against Silicon Valley, and the turmoil of the Trump administration, it was imagined that VR—if led by women and other marginalized voices—could bring about a better world. Messeri delves into the fantasies that allowed this vision to flourish, exposing the paradox of attempting to use a singular VR experience to mend a fractured reality full of multiple, conflicting social truths. She theorizes this dynamic as unreal, noting how dreams of empathy collide with reality’s irreducibility to a “common” good. With In the Land of the Unreal, Messeri navigates the intersection of place, technology, and social change to show that technology alone cannot upend systemic forces attached to gender and race.
Visit Lisa Messeri's website.

Messeri is a professor of sociocultural anthropology at Yale University. She is also affiliated with Program in the History of Science and Medicine. Her first book, Placing Outer Space, considers how "planet" is not only a cosmic concept, but also a humanistic one.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

"Military Medicine and the Hidden Costs of War"

New from Oxford University Press: Military Medicine and the Hidden Costs of War by Tanisha M. Fazal.

About the book, from the publisher:
A highly original comprehensive history of US military medicine.

Decisions to go to war are often framed in cost-benefit terms, and typically such assessments do not factor in longer term costs. However, recent dramatic improvements in American military medicine have had an unanticipated effect: saving more soldiers' lives has vastly increased long-term, downstream costs of war with profound consequences for global politics in an era of heightened great power competition. In Military Medicine and the Hidden Costs of War, Tanisha M. Fazal traces the modern history of medical treatment and casualty rates in American conflicts from the Civil War to the more recent counterinsurgency wars. As she shows, wars became increasingly survivable for wounded troops, to the point now where a large majority of wounded soldiers survive. Yet the human and financial implications of this steep increase in the wounded-to-killed ratio are dramatic, and her powerful analysis of this shift provides a necessary corrective to how we understand the costs of war. For each major conflict, Fazal analyzes the weapons used, injuries sustained, and policies put in place for veterans' care and pensions. As she argues, these improvements have significant financial and deeply personal implications for the returned wounded and their families, as well as the US government and its citizenry. Fazal's analysis highlights the significance of policymakers underestimating the costs of war, which in turn makes it easier both to initiate and continue military action abroad, contributing to Americas' penchant for engaging in so-called "endless wars." A sweeping political history, Military Medicine and the Hidden Costs of War will fundamentally change our understanding of the lasting consequences of America's wars.
Visit Tanisha M. Fazal's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

"Insurgent Communities"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Insurgent Communities: How Protests Create a Filipino Diaspora by Sharon M. Quinsaat.

About the book, from the publisher:
Sociologist Sharon M. Quinsaat sheds new light on the formation of diasporic connections through transnational protests.

When people migrate and settle in other countries, do they automatically form a diaspora? In Insurgent Communities, Sharon M. Quinsaat explains the dynamic process through which a diaspora is strategically constructed. Quinsaat looks to Filipinos in the United States and the Netherlands—examining their resistance against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, their mobilization for migrants’ rights, and the construction of a collective memory of the Marcos regime—to argue that diasporas emerge through political activism. Social movements provide an essential space for addressing migrants’ diverse experiences and relationships with their homeland and its history. A significant contribution to the interdisciplinary field of migration and social movements studies, Insurgent Communities illuminates how people develop collective identities in times of social upheaval.
Visit Sharon M. Quinsaat's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 18, 2024

"An Unholy Traffic"

New from Oxford University Press: An Unholy Traffic: Slave Trading in the Civil War South by Robert K.D. Colby.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Confederate States of America was born in defense of slavery and, after a four-year struggle to become an independent slaveholding republic, died as emancipation dawned. Between Fort Sumter to Appomattox, Confederates bought and sold thousands African American men, women, and children. These transactions in humanity made the internal slave trade a cornerstone of Confederate society, a bulwark of the Rebel economy, and a central part of the experience of the Civil War for all inhabiting the American South.

As An Unholy Traffic shows, slave trading helped Southerners survive and fight the Civil War, as well as to build the future for which they fought. They mitigated the crises the war spawned by buying and selling enslaved people, using this commerce to navigate food shortages, unsettled gender roles, the demands of military service, and other hardships on the homefront. Some Rebels speculated wildly in human property, investing in slaves to ward off inflation and to buy shares in the slaveholding nation they hoped to create. Others traded people to counter the advance of emancipation. Given its centrality to their nationhood, Confederates went to great lengths to prolong the slave trade, which, in turn, supported the Confederacy. For those held in slavery, the surviving slave trade dramatically shaped their pursuit of freedom, inserting a retrograde movement into some people's journeys toward liberty while inspiring others to make the risky decision to escape.

Offering an original perspective on the intersections of slavery, capitalism, the Civil War, and emancipation, Robert K.D. Colby illuminates the place of the peculiar institution within the Confederate mind, the ways in which it underpinned the CSA's war effort, and its impact on those attempting to seize their freedom.
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 17, 2024

"People's Diplomacy"

New from Cornell University Press: People's Diplomacy: How Americans and Chinese Transformed US-China Relations during the Cold War by Kazushi Minami.

About the book, from the publisher:
In People's Diplomacy, Kazushi Minami shows how the American and Chinese people rebuilt US-China relations in the 1970s, a pivotal decade bookended by Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to China and 1979 normalization of diplomatic relations. Top policymakers in Washington and Beijing drew the blueprint for the new bilateral relationship, but the work of building it was left to a host of Americans and Chinese from all walks of life, who engaged in "people-to-people" exchanges. After two decades of estrangement and hostility caused by the Cold War, these people dramatically changed the nature of US-China relations. Americans reimagined China as a country of opportunities, irresistible because of its prodigious potential, while Chinese reinterpreted the United States as an agent of modernization, capable of enriching their country and rejuvenating their lives. Drawing on extensive research at two dozen archives in the United States and China, People's Diplomacy redefines contemporary US-China relations as a creation of the American and Chinese people.
Kazushi Minami is Associate Professor at the Osaka School of International Public Policy, Osaka University.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 16, 2024

"Hidden Wars"

New from Oxford University Press: Hidden Wars: Gendered Political Violence in Asia's Civil Conflicts by Sara E. Davies and Jacqui True.

About the book, from the publisher:
Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) has always been a part of warfare. In Asia, testimonies of egregious rape and sexual violence extend back to the Rape of Nanjing, to the experience of the Korean comfort women in World War II, and to forced marriages and sexual slavery during the Cambodian genocide. The past two decades have yielded crucial new insights about SGBV, but scholars and researchers still struggle to explain why and when this violence occurs. A major problem is that incidences of SGBV are vastly underreported; reliable data is especially scarce in Asia, where demographic and health surveys are infrequent and national reporting systems are underdeveloped relative to other parts of the globe. Asia also has some of the most protracted conflicts in the world but the complexity of subnational conflicts in Asia often masks the gendered dimensions of violence.

In Hidden Wars, Sara E. Davies and Jacqui True examine the relationship between reports of SGBV and structural gender inequality in three conflict-affected societies in Asia--Burma, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Based on extensive field research and an original dataset on conflict-related SGBV, Davies and True show how reporting is significantly constrained by a variety of factors, including normalized gendered violence as well as political dynamics affecting local civil society, humanitarian, and international organizations. They address the real-world limitations of data collection and argue that these constraints reinforce a culture of silence and impunity that perpetuates SGBV and permits governments to abrogate their responsibility for this violence. Hidden Wars breaks new methodological ground in showing that what we know about SGBV can be understood fully only if the politicized context of reporting SGBV and data collection is taken into consideration.
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 15, 2024

"The Cybernetic Border"

New from Duke University Press: The Cybernetic Border: Drones, Technology, and Intrusion by Iván Chaar López.

About the book, from the publisher:
In The Cybernetic Border, Iván Chaar López argues that the settler US nation requires the production and targeting of a racialized enemy that threatens the empire. The cybernetic border is organized through practices of data capture, storage, processing, circulation, and communication that police bodies and constitute the nation as a bounded, territorial space. Chaar López historicizes the US government’s use of border enforcement technologies on Mexicans, Arabs, and Muslims from the mid-twentieth century to the present, showing how data systems are presented as solutions to unauthorized border crossing. Contrary to enduring fantasies of the purported neutrality of drones, smart walls, artificial intelligence, and biometric technologies, the cybernetic border represents the consolidation of calculation and automation in the exercise of racialized violence. Chaar López draws on corporate, military, and government records, promotional documents and films, technical reports, news reporting, surveillance footage, and activist and artist practices. These materials reveal how logics of enmity are embedded into information infrastructures that shape border control and modern sovereignty.
Visit Iván Chaar López's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 14, 2024

"Disruption"

New from Cornell University Press: Disruption: The Global Economic Shocks of the 1970s and the End of the Cold War by Michael De Groot.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Disruption, Michael De Groot argues that the global economic upheaval of the 1970s was decisive in ending the Cold War. Both the West and the Soviet bloc struggled with the slowdown of economic growth; chaos in the international monetary system; inflation; shocks in the commodities markets; and the emergence of offshore financial markets. The superpowers had previously disseminated resources to their allies to enhance their own national security, but the disappearance of postwar conditions during the 1970s forced Washington and Moscow to choose between promoting their own economic interests and supporting their partners in Europe and Asia.

De Groot shows that new unexpected macroeconomic imbalances in global capitalism sustained the West during the following decade. Rather than a creditor nation and net exporter, as it had been during the postwar period, the United States became a net importer of capital and goods during the 1980s that helped fund public spending, stimulated economic activity, and lubricated the private sector. The United States could now live beyond its means and continue waging the Cold War, and its allies benefited from access to the booming US market and the strengthened US military umbrella. As Disruption demonstrates, a new symbiotic economic architecture powered the West, but the Eastern European regimes increasingly became a burden to the Soviet Union. They were drowning in debt, and the Kremlin no longer had the resources to rescue them.
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

"A Nation Fermented"

New from Oxford University Press: A Nation Fermented: Beer, Bavaria, and the Making of Modern Germany by Robert Shea Terrell.

About the book, from the publisher:
How did beer become one of the central commodities associated with the German nation? How did a little-known provincial production standard – the Reinheitsgebot, or Beer Purity Law – become a pillar of national consumer sentiments? How did the jovial, beer-drinking German become a fixture in the global imagination?

While the connection between beer and Germany seems self-evident, A Nation Fermented reveals how it was produced through a strange brew of regional commercial and political pressures. Spanning from the late nineteenth century to the last decades of the twentieth, A Nation Fermented argues that the economic, regulatory, and cultural weight of Bavaria shaped the German nation in profound ways. Drawing on sources from over a dozen archives and repositories, Terrell weaves together subjects ranging from tax law to advertising, public health to European integration, and agriculture to global stereotypes.

Offering a history of the Germany that Bavaria made over the twentieth century, A Nation Fermented eschews both sharp temporal divisions and a conventional focus on northern and industrial Germany. In so doing, Terrell offers a fresh take on the importance of provincial influences and the role of commodities and commerce in shaping the nation.
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

"Sons, Daughters, and Sidewalk Psychotics"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Sons, Daughters, and Sidewalk Psychotics: Mental Illness and Homelessness in Los Angeles by Neil Gong.

About the book, from the publisher:
Sociologist Neil Gong explains why mental health treatment in Los Angeles rarely succeeds, for the rich, the poor, and everyone in between.

In 2022, Los Angeles became the US county with the largest population of unhoused people, drawing a stark contrast with the wealth on display in its opulent neighborhoods. In Sons, Daughters, and Sidewalk Psychotics, sociologist Neil Gong traces the divide between the haves and have-nots in the psychiatric treatment systems that shape the life trajectories of people living with serious mental illness. In the decades since the United States closed its mental hospitals in favor of non-institutional treatment, two drastically different forms of community psychiatric services have developed: public safety-net clinics focused on keeping patients housed and out of jail, and elite private care trying to push clients toward respectable futures.

In Downtown Los Angeles, many people in psychiatric crisis only receive help after experiencing homelessness or arrests. Public providers engage in guerrilla social work to secure them housing and safety, but these programs are rarely able to deliver true rehabilitation for psychological distress and addiction. Patients are free to refuse treatment or use illegal drugs—so long as they do so away from public view.

Across town in West LA or Malibu, wealthy people diagnosed with serious mental illness attend luxurious treatment centers. Programs may offer yoga and organic meals alongside personalized therapeutic treatments, but patients can feel trapped, as their families pay exorbitantly to surveil and “fix” them. Meanwhile, middle-class families—stymied by private insurers, unable to afford elite providers, and yet not poor enough to qualify for social services—struggle to find care at all.

Gong’s findings raise uncomfortable questions about urban policy, family dynamics, and what it means to respect individual freedom. His comparative approach reminds us that every “sidewalk psychotic” is also a beloved relative and that the kinds of policies we support likely depend on whether we see those with mental illness as a public social problem or as somebody’s kin. At a time when many voters merely want streets cleared of “problem people,” Gong’s book helps us imagine a fundamentally different psychiatric system—one that will meet the needs of patients, families, and society at large.
Visit Neil Gong's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 11, 2024

"Before the Badge"

New from NYU Press: Before the Badge: How Academy Training Shapes Police Violence by Samantha J. Simon.

About the book, from the publisher:
An inside look at how police officers are trained to perpetuate state violence

Michael Brown. Philando Castile. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. As the names of those killed by the police became cemented into public memory, the American public took to the streets in unprecedented numbers to mourn, organize, and demand changes to the current system of policing. In response, police departments across the country committed themselves to change, pledging to hire more women and people of color, incorporate diversity training, and instruct officers to verbally de-escalate interactions with the public.

These reform efforts tend to rely on a “bad apple” argument, focusing the nature and scope of the problem on the behavior of specific individuals and rarely considering the broader organizational process that determines who is allowed to patrol the public and how they learn to do their jobs. In Before the Badge, Samantha J. Simon provides a firsthand look into how police officers are selected and trained, describing every stage of the process, including recruitment, classroom instruction, and tactical training.

Simon spent a year at police academies participating in the training alongside cadets, giving her a visceral, hands-on understanding of how police training operates. Using rich and detailed examples, she reveals that the process does more than test a cadet’s physical or intellectual abilities. Instead, it socializes cadets into a system of state violence. As training progresses, cadets are expected to see themselves as warriors and to view Black and Latino/a members of the public as their enemies. Cadets who cannot or will not uphold this approach end up washing out. In Before the Badge, Simon explains how this training creates a context in which patterns of police violence persist and implores readers to re-envision the future of policing in the United States.
Visit Samantha J. Simon's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 10, 2024

"The Dispersion of Power"

New from Oxford University Press: The Dispersion of Power: A Critical Realist Theory of Democracy by Samuel Ely Bagg.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Dispersion of Power is an urgent call to rethink centuries of conventional wisdom about what democracy is, why it matters, and how to make it better. Drawing from history, social science, psychology, and critical theory, it explains why elections do not and cannot realize the classic ideal of popular rule, and why prevailing strategies of democratic reform often make things worse. Instead, Bagg argues, we should see democracy as a way of protecting public power from capture-an alternative vision that is at once more realistic and more inspiring.

Despite their many shortcomings, real-world elections do prevent the most extreme forms of tyranny, and are therefore indispensable. In dealing with the vast inequalities that remain, however, we cannot rely on standard solutions such as electoral reform, direct democracy, deliberation, and participatory governance. Instead, Bagg shows, protecting and enriching democracy requires addressing underlying inequalities of power directly. In part, this entails substantive policies attacking the advantages of wealthy elites. Even more crucially, deepening democracy requires the organization of oppositional, countervailing power among ordinary people. Neither task is easy, but historical precedents exist in both cases-and if democracy is to survive contemporary crises, leaders and citizens alike must find ways to revive and reinvent these essential democratic practices for the 21st century.
Visit Samuel Bagg's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 9, 2024

"Write like a Man"

New from Princeton University Press: Write like a Man: Jewish Masculinity and the New York Intellectuals by Ronnie Grinberg.

About the book, from the publisher:
How virility and Jewishness became hallmarks of postwar New York’s combative intellectual scene

In the years following World War II, the New York intellectuals became some of the most renowned critics and writers in the country. Although mostly male and Jewish, this prominent group also included women and non-Jews. Yet all of its members embraced a secular Jewish machismo that became a defining characteristic of the contemporary experience. Write like a Man examines how the New York intellectuals shared a uniquely American conception of Jewish masculinity that prized verbal confrontation, polemical aggression, and an unflinching style of argumentation.

Ronnie Grinberg paints illuminating portraits of figures such as Norman Mailer, Hannah Arendt, Lionel and Diana Trilling, Mary McCarthy, Norman Podhoretz, Midge Decter, and Irving Howe. She describes how their construction of Jewish masculinity helped to propel the American Jew from outsider to insider even as they clashed over its meaning in a deeply anxious project of self-definition. Along the way, Grinberg sheds light on their fraught encounters with the most contentious issues and ideas of the day, from student radicalism and the civil rights movement to feminism, Freudianism, and neoconservatism.

A spellbinding chronicle of mid-century America, Write like a Man shows how a combative and intellectually grounded vision of Jewish manhood contributed to the masculinization of intellectual life and shaped some of the most important political and cultural debates of the postwar era.
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 8, 2024

"The Fox Spirit, the Stone Maiden, and Other Transgender Histories from Late Imperial China"

New from Columbia University Press: The Fox Spirit, the Stone Maiden, and Other Transgender Histories from Late Imperial China by Matthew H. Sommer.

About the book, from the publisher:
In imperial China, people moved away from the gender they were assigned at birth in different ways and for many reasons. Eunuchs, boy actresses, and clergy left behind normative gender roles defined by family and procreation. “Stone maidens”―women deemed physically incapable of vaginal intercourse―might depart from families or marriages to become Buddhist or Daoist nuns. Anatomical males who presented as women sometimes took a conventionally female occupation such as midwife, faith healer, or even medium to a fox spirit. Yet they were often punished harshly for the crime of “masquerading in women’s attire,” suspected of sexual predation, even when they had lived peacefully in their communities for many years.

Exploring these histories and many more, this book is a groundbreaking study of transgender lives and practices in late imperial China. Through close readings of court cases, as well as Ming and Qing fiction and nineteenth-century newspaper accounts, Matthew H. Sommer examines the social, legal, and cultural histories of gender crossing. He considers a range of transgender experiences, illuminating how certain forms of gender transgression were sanctioned in particular social contexts and penalized in others. Sommer scrutinizes the ways Qing legal authorities and literati writers represented and understood gender-nonconforming people and practices, contrasting official ideology with popular mentalities. An unprecedented account of China’s transgender histories, this book also sheds new light on a range of themes in Ming and Qing law, religion, medicine, literature, and culture.
--Marshal Zeringue