Thursday, May 28, 2020

Noeleen McIlvenna's "Early American Rebels"

Noeleen McIlvenna is professor of history at Wright State University and author of A Very Mutinous People and The Short Life of Free Georgia.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Early American Rebels: Pursuing Democracy from Maryland to Carolina, 1640–1700, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Officers of Crown or corporation were empowered to show no mercy; the savage brutality that accompanied England’s theft of the world’s people and commodities over the next two centuries was unleashed in full now. Tens of thousands of Africans in the 1680s and 1690s suffered the Middle Passage, to die from overwork and malnutrition on Caribbean sugar, Chesapeake tobacco and South Carolinian rice plantations. Millions would follow in the eighteenth century.

All of this was made possible by the investment in and development of the British navy, both merchant and military, and as the empire expanded, the financial sector, which shifted from Antwerp in the Netherlands to London in the late seventeenth century. The Royal Greenwich Observatory opened in 1675, to pinpoint longitude for better navigation. The Royal Navy blurred the line between private and public, protecting English merchants as it simultaneously protected the royal treasury’s interests through customs enforcement. Manned increasingly by impressed sailors, the ships themselves were a microcosm of the brutal hierarchical empire. Marcus Rediker describes the grim reality of Britannia’s glory: “For sailors, the press-gang represented slavery and death: three out of four pressed men died within two years, with only one in five of the dead expiring in battle. Those lucky enough to survive could not expect to be paid.”

The early 1680s also witnessed attempts by colonial governors to flush away all democratic ideology in the English-speaking world through a reassertion of hierarchical right, tight judicial discipline, and direct rule from London.
Page 99 gives the reader the larger, Atlantic context of the second half of the book. The work as a whole covers the years 1640-1700 and looks closely at people living in the Chesapeake. It features a network of democratically-minded families and neighbors trying to find ways to gain a say in their own governance. Page 99 describes how the Stuart kings attempted to expand globally while stamping out such revolutionary ideas. I think the test works well: here is the background for 1670-1700; now read to see how these changes affected our protagonists.

Until page 99, you will read about how the Leveler ideas of the English Revolution and the overthrow of monarchy, aristocracy and censorship spread across the Atlantic to Maryland and from there spread into Virginia and North Carolina, through the activities of these protagonists. Colonies usually studied separately are revealed to be very connected by this network of neighbors, who tried to achieve their goals through appeal to power in London, but were not averse to creating new multi-racial communities outside the reach of local governments nor to taking up arms when that seemed the only means possible. The introduction of mass slavery, however, brought a new dimension into the region. Will our protagonists continue to embrace egalitarian ideals, or will the temptation of enormous wealth lure them to abandon democracy?
Learn more about Early American Rebels at the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Barton Gellman's "Dark Mirror"

Barton Gellman, a critically honored author and journalist, is a staff writer at The Atlantic and senior fellow at the Century Foundation in New York. He is the author, most recently, of Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State and Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency. His awards include the Pulitzer Prize, an Emmy for documentary filmmaking, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Gellman applied the “Page 99 Test” to Dark Mirror and reported the following:
Page 99 of Dark Mirror begins at a crucial moment in the narrative. I have been communicating privately for weeks with Edward Snowden, but this is the first time he sends me a classified document— at first a single file, describing an NSA program code-named PRISM, and then an archive, which he calls Pandora, that contains tens of thousands. Now I begin to ask myself what to do with it.
The PRISM slides arrived the next day, Pandora the day after that. I quickly became uneasy about losing them. Spinning magnetic platters in a cheap plastic case were no vessel for irreplaceable data. I pictured the drive shattered on the floor or fumble-fingered into the coffeepot. I imagined a subway snatch-and-grab, a black bag search of my home or office, a predawn visit from men and women with badges.

Was it a crime to make backup copies? Maybe so, by a black-and-white reading of the Espionage Act of 1917. The statute was notoriously broad…. Receiving, possessing, or communicating what I had learned, none of which was optional in my line of work, could theoretically lead to felony charges. If I took the statute literally, there was no lawful course for me at all: I could not keep the NSA documents, give them to someone else, or destroy them. Making copies might add another few counts to the list.

To hell with that. There was evidence here of domestic espionage that the government had dissembled and sometimes flat-out lied about. Game-changing rules had been written in secret, concealed from the public and even from judges with active cases before them. I took for granted that secrecy was inherent in spycraft. Intelligence operations could not be run by plebiscite. But powers so enormous called for free debate at least about their limits and principles. No one in a democracy got to assume new authority and hide it, least of all when it came to surveillance of the sovereign public….

My decision was visceral, but I knew what it meant. I would not willingly comply with an order to hand over these documents….
Much to my surprise, the Page 99 test provides a vivid and representative impression of what I tried to do with this book. Dark Mirror is above all a narrative, and one of its recurring story lines is about the risks and dilemmas of national security journalism itself. This passage offers a glimpse of my anxiety at the moment of my first encounter with the Snowden documents.

There are three intertwining story lines in Dark Mirror. One is about Ed Snowden himself, with a great deal of new information about who he is, what drove him to rebel against the NSA, and how exactly he made off with the patrimony of a global surveillance giant. The second is about the secrets he revealed, a kind of insider’s tour of the surveillance Leviathan and the people who run it, featuring interviews with leading players like James Clapper, Jim Comey, and some powerful people whose names you haven’t heard. The third and last story line is my own, an honest and sometimes embarrassing account of doing journalism while under attack from hackers, foreign intelligence services and elements of my own government.
Visit Barton Gellman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Jill Watts's "The Black Cabinet"

Jill Watts is a Professor of History at California State University San Marcos and is also the author of Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood which has been optioned for film. She is the Brakebill Distinguished Professor of 2017-2018 and is also the coordinator of the History Department’s graduate program.

Watts applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Black Cabinet: The Untold Story of African Americans and Politics During the Age of Roosevelt, and reported the following:
The Black Cabinet: The Untold Story of African Americans and Politics During the Age of Roosevelt explores the struggles of the black advisors who served in President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. An unofficial group, the Black Cabinet fought for equal treatment for African Americans in depression-era relief programs as well as society-at-large. While never acknowledged by FDR, these Black Brain Trusters won major victories—among them were the establishment of anti-discrimination clauses in federal contracts (which would lay groundwork for later civil rights legislation) and the inclusion of African Americans in much needed educational, agricultural, health, public housing, and job programs. They also succeeded breaking down segregation in the federal workplace in Washington D.C., a battle that was hard fought and is captured on page 99:
[Robert Weaver and William Hastie] headed to the Department of Interior’s segregated cafeteria. On their way, they flipped a coin. Weaver lost. It meant he not only had to pay for lunch but had to be the one to request to be seated.

“Do you work here?” the hostess asked as Weaver and Hastie arrived.

“Yes,” Weaver replied.

“Would you mind giving me your name?” She responded.

“No. This is William Hastie and I am Robert Weaver. Now would you mind giving me your name?” Weaver asked.

“She looked as if she were about to have a stroke [but] she gave her name,” Weaver recalled. He wrote it down and she showed the pair to their seats.

They had broken a barrier by being seated in the whites-only dining room. Now protest rested on a single African American woman, waitress Dorothy Roane. The cafeteria’s rules prohibited her from serving Weaver and Hastie. To do so, could mean she would lose her job.

What can I get you? she bravely asked.

While Weaver and Hastie ate their lunch, a delegation of white female cafeteria workers made their way to Ickes’s office.

Without looking up from his work, Ickes huffed: “Good afternoon ladies. What can I do for you?”

“Mr. Secretary, do you know that Negroes are eating in the lunchroom?” they asked.

“Yes,” he replied.

“What are you going to do about it?” they demanded.

“Not a damned thing, ladies,” he responded.

Shortly afterward Ickes issued a formal order directing that all of Interior’s dining facilities be fully integrated. It was a victory for Weaver and Hastie and the first step in ending the discrimination that had spread throughout federal buildings since the Wilson years.
Page 99 does reflect much of the spirit of The Black Cabinet. When African American advisors came to Washington to take federal posts, they found themselves subjected to hostility and discrimination at the very seat of American democracy. Bathrooms and some elevators were separated by race. When first hired, black administrators found they often had no office space or that their white bosses cold shouldered them. In many divisions, the white secretarial pool refused to work for African American administrators. And many of D.C.’s federal cafeterias would not serve black federal employees. The episode on page 99 recounts how the brilliant economist, Robert Weaver, and stellar legal mind, William Hastie, successfully challenged Jim Crow segregation in the Department of Interior’s cafeteria.

The story of the Black Cabinet is driven by its members and is told through the experiences of its five major leaders which, in addition to Weaver and Hastie, also included the savvy political operative and newspaper owner Robert Vann, the clever journalist Alfred Edgar Smith, and the celebrated educator (and friend of Eleanor Roosevelt) Mary McLeod Bethune. Page 99 exemplifies how this diverse group, some only one generation removed from slavery, pressured the federal government to expand New Deal philosophy and to embrace its responsibility to protect all citizens regardless of race. Although the Black Cabinet failed to completely achieve all of its goals, which included full integration, equal voting rights, and the end of racial violence, it did provide a bridge to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. It was through the individual actions like those of Weaver and Hastie that Jim Crow slowly began to unravel—a struggle that continues today.
Visit Jill Watts's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 25, 2020

Phuc Tran's "Sigh, Gone"

Phuc Tran has been a high school Latin teacher for more than twenty years while also simultaneously establishing himself as a highly sought-after tattooer in the Northeast. Tran graduated Bard College in 1995 with a BA in Classics and received the Callanan Classics Prize. He taught Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit in New York at the Collegiate School and was an instructor at Brooklyn College’s Summer Latin Institute. Most recently, he taught Latin, Greek, and German at the Waynflete School in Portland, Maine.

His 2012 TEDx talk “Grammar, Identity, and the Dark Side of the Subjunctive” was featured on NPR’s Ted Radio Hour. He has also been an occasional guest on Maine Public Radio, discussing grammar; the Classics; and Strunk and White’s legacy. He currently tattoos at and owns Tsunami Tattoo in Portland, Maine, where he lives with his family.

Tran applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new memoir, Sigh, Gone: A Misfit's Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Sigh, Gone is a scene where my brother and I (ages 7 and 9 at the time) are ignoring my parents’ demands that we go to sleep. We are jumping on our beds and wrestling, and my father is incredibly exasperated. He comes into the bedroom, screams at us, and we ignore him (which leads to some unforeseen consequences on page 100).

I would say that page 99 is as good a page as any to illustrate the central bonds and fissures of the book. My father, stern and exacting, yells at us, and my brother and I are thick as thieves, co-conspirators for all manner of tomfoolery. (My brother was my steadfast yes-man, and in Freudian parlance, we were both ids with nary a superego in sight.)

There is humor (in the telling of the story) and familial tension on page 99, and those are key elements throughout the book. I would say that a missing element would be the lens of classic literature. As a framing device, each chapter’s stories are told through the lens of a classic work of western literature (The Scarlet Letter, Madame Bovary, The Iliad, The Metamorphosis, etc.). It’s a fair sample page of the book (I’d give it a 7 on a scale of 10).

Sigh, Gone begins with my earliest memories as the only Vietnamese refugee family in a small Pennsylvania town in the ‘70s and ‘80s; it’s a coming-of-age story about finding my place in the world with the help of great books and punk rock. How do we make sense of who we are and where we live, sense of what our place is in it? How do we make sense of the contradictions and complexities of who we are/were and who we want to be? I wrangle with these questions, especially as they are affected by immigration, race, class, and cultural divides. There’s a healthy dose of Star Wars and ‘80s pop culture thrown in there, too.

I hope that Sigh, Gone is an invitation to readers to consider their own complexities and not to ignore them. We are paradoxical, and those tensions are not hypocrisies but depth of character and richness of experience, and they should be told and celebrated.
Visit Phuc Tran's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Andrew B. Liu's "Tea War"

Andrew B. Liu is assistant professor of history at Villanova University, where his research focuses on China, transnational Asia, and the history of capitalism.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Tea War: A History of Capitalism in China and India, and reported the following:
Page 99 features a debate in the late 1840s among the board members of the Assam Company. The first company to grow tea in India for export, the Assam Company was established by British colonial officials in India (Calcutta and Assam) and shared an office in London. The Company had attempted to launch an Indian tea industry for years, but even as their techniques improved, they found few local people in upper Assam, on the border with Burma, willing to work for them. In this debate, the London board accused its India counterparts of not trying hard enough to find willing employees, to which the latter replied that paying more money for workers was out of the question. “We can procure any number of unsuitable people if expense is no object," the India board wrote back.

I argue that this debate highlighted the economic reasoning behind the eventual deployment of unfree penal labor contracts to recruit workers to Assam, widespread during the late nineteenth century. Labor shortages were not self-evident and natural phenomena but dependent upon historically-specific conditions such as “how much employers are willing to pay to lure farmers away from their property and work for someone else?” I conclude by suggesting: “The Assam Company’s problem was not the physical absence of labor but rather the absence of social conditions that would compel locals to sign up for low-paying jobs.”

This debate provides a useful entry-point into one of the larger themes of my work: that many labor arrangements in Asia that may have appeared irrational and ‘precapitalist’ were in fact animated by very modern dynamics bound up with the accumulation of capital.

Some context: for a long time, economic writing has assumed that capitalism is distinguished by a unique kind of employment relationship. Under capitalism, workers freely pursue their own interest without duress or coercion but are also dependent upon the marketplace for survival. The modern worker is an atomized, urban individual: neither slave, serf, nor peasant, as may be found in the putatively ‘backwards’ parts of the world, for instance, the rural tea-growing hinterlands of Asia.

This ideal-type, however, is belied by the experience of the export tea trades of China and India during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which were unquestionably bound up with the circuit of other classic goods central to capitalism’s history, such as British cotton, Caribbean sugar, and Indian opium. Tea earned staggering sums of profits for the Chinese, British, and Indian business classes, and it employed more workers than any urban industrial sector in each Asian society. Such workers were employed under arrangements that have long been seen as backwards and precapitalist, such as independent Chinese farmers and indentured Indian labor. As the page 99 passage indicates, however, such arrangements were not relics of the past but actively reinforced by the dynamic global division of labor, including European participants.

The debate on page 99 highlighted why the colonial Indian government empowered British planters to immobilize peasants from eastern and central India through penal contract legislation modeled after centuries-old "master and servant" laws. In their mind, unfree labor, though controversial, was more economically rational for a fluctuating global market. Capitalism’s history was not founded upon abstract principles like “freedom” but by taking the path of least resistance.

My book is both about Asian the tea trade, then, but also a contribution to a more flexible and globally-oriented account of capitalism’s history. These insights into China and India’s past, I conclude, can also help us understand developments behind the “rise of Asia” in recent decades.
Learn more about Tea War at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Pablo Palomino's "The Invention of Latin American Music"

Pablo Palomino is Assistant Professor of Latin American and Caribbean Studies and Mellon Faculty Fellow at Oxford College of Emory University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Invention of Latin American Music: A Transnational History, and reported the following:
On page 99 the reader will find a variety of examples of what I call “transnational regionalism” in the thinking about music, arts, and culture in general in the first decades of the 20th century. Intellectuals all over Latin America joined a global trend of reflecting and writing about regions of varied size—some sub-national, like Argentina’s provincial folklore or Brazilian Southern and Northeastern regionalisms; others connecting several countries, like pan-Andean indigenismo or the idea of “Arab music”; others being continentally ambitious, with plans to connect music education “from the Gulf of Mexico to the Cape Horn.” Regional music traditions were to be unearthed from the past or invented and concocted toward a future aesthetic. In all cases, music was an arena for state programs aimed at modernizing people’s aesthetics. Page 99 suggests, interestingly, that this global concern about music and modernization, source of policies enacted by national bureaucracies, was elaborated in regional terms. A sort of intermediate, mediating dimension between the nation and the globe.

Page 99 advances thus one of the key arguments of the book: that “Latin America” is not a region in an objective sense. We take it for granted, we assume it automatically, by default, following the conventions of academic fields, as if it were out there waiting to be studied and as if the mere addition of national cases produced a region. But in this history of musical practices I show that Latin America is in fact the result of regionalist projects that “invented” it. Through specifically musical projects, the region became since the 1930s not only an elite diplomatic framework inherited from the 19th century, but a wider cultural history, an unfinished but growing market, and an aesthetic rhetoric. The idea of “Latin American music” also provided other Latin Americanist projects with aesthetic materials and legitimacy.

The rest of the book (pages 1-98 and 100-272) simply expands on the multiple consequences of this regionalist approach: tango musical diasporas, exiled Jewish singers, and Mexican broadcasters crisscrossing and connecting Latin America; state policies and markets that formed this region in dialogue with the wider process of musical globalization; pioneer musicologists who crucially articulated (and policed the boundaries of) what “Latin American” means in music; the use of this category by United States cultural diplomats during and after World War Two; and the consolidation, since the 1960s, of a regional musical idea in Latin American sciences, culture, and politics, including the “Latino” musical discourse in the United States. This is not a music analysis book, but a cultural history. However, its ultimate goal is to make the reader curious about what “Latin America” means and to invite her to figure out the answer by putting the book aside and listening to good “Latin American” music.
Learn more about The Invention of Latin American Music at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 22, 2020

Allison Margaret Bigelow's "Mining Language"

Allison Margaret Bigelow is assistant professor of colonial Latin American literature at the University of Virginia.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Mining Language: Racial Thinking, Indigenous Knowledge, and Colonial Metallurgy in the Early Modern Iberian World, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Mining Language begins mid-sentence: “agencies in the gold industry, and we have largely overlooked storytelling traditions as archives of knowledge.” The paragraph goes on to outline major interpretations of Taíno demographic collapse, an Indigenous community of the Caribbean who represent the first Native people in the Americas to encounter Columbus in his invasion of the Americas. In the next paragraph, I suggest why the conclusions reached by this older historiographical model may require serious reassessment. As scholars like Kathleen Deagan have shown, Taíno communities were matrilineal, but studies of big, public spaces, rather than household-unit analysis, have dominated the literature of Taíno life in the colonial period, and thus distorted our sense of continuity rather than change.

This page concludes a chapter that juxtaposed colonial petitions from Santo Domingo, imperial ordinances declared in Spain, and a Taíno creation narrative. As if this combination were not complex enough, Taínos explained their cosmovision in Classic Taíno to a Catalán priest who had studied Macorís, a different Taíno language spoken in the northeast region of Quisqueya, one of the Taíno names for the island that is now called the Dominican Republic. The narrative was recounted in father Ramón Pané’s Relación de las antigüedades de los indios, which was first published in an Italian-language biography of Christopher Columbus, authored by the Admiral’s son, Fernando, in 1571.

Using literary methods to analyze these layers of translation and mistranslation, alongside historical work in Spanish archives, I provide evidence of Indigenous influences in the timing and methods of gold processing on the island in the 1520s-1550s. Many of the policies that regulated goldwork, such as the Spanish Crown’s decision to move the season of refining from the dry months of November and December to the rainy months of June and July, make little sense from the perspective of an extractive empire. But the decision makes a lot of sense in a worldview that relates rain, gold metals, and the emergence of Taíno life. I therefore suggest that Taínos told their stories to colonists as part of a broader process of narrative reframing, or telling stories to bring meaning-making coherence to a world turned upside down. These colonists, in turn, incorporated Indigenous ideas about plants, metals, and seasons into their petitions to the Crown. By approaching old texts in new ways, the chapter shows how imperial archives can become sources that document Indigenous knowledge production.

In an annoyingly professorial fashion, I’d say that page 99 is both a good indicator of the book as a whole and not useful at all for understanding the book. On the one hand, most of the book is not dedicated to a critique of earlier scholarly approaches. I build from them, and my own thinking is deeply indebted to them. On the other hand, the kind of methodological creativity that page 99 summarizes is reflective of the approaches that I develop in Mining Language. Each part of the book – Gold, Iron, Copper, Silver – unfolds in a different world region and historical moment, and these local differences force me to use different kinds of scholarly methods to tell about Indigenous, African, and South Asian histories in mining and metalwork.
Learn more about Mining Language at the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Rebekah Farrugia & Kellie D. Hay's "Women Rapping Revolution"

Rebekah Farrugia is Professor of Media Studies in the Department of Communication, Journalism, and Public Relations at Oakland University. She is the author of Beyond the Dance Floor: Female DJs, Technology, and Electronic Dance Music Culture.

Kellie D. Hay is Professor of Cultural Studies in the Department of Communication, Journalism, and Public Relations at Oakland University. She has authored many articles about music, politics, and cultural identity, and specializes in critical qualitative methodologies.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Women Rapping Revolution: Hip Hop and Community Building in Detroit, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Women Rapping Revolution features emcee Mahogany Jones’s track “Skin Deep” from her album Pure. Ronald “iRonic” Lee Jr. produced the track that features fellow Detroit emcee Insite the Riot and vocalist Ozara Ode.' In our analysis, we contend that “Skin Deep’s” music and lyrics invite listeners to reflect on the history of whiteness and colonization in the United States. Specifically, the track zeroes in on the privileging of light skin and emphasizes the need for Black girls and women to love themselves in a country where they continue to be exoticized and treated as less than white women.

Upon receiving the call to participate in the Page 99 Test we eagerly flipped through our book to see whether or not this one page would give readers an accurate sense of the project as a whole. To our amazement, page 99 is an uncannily accurate snapshot of the subject matter we engage in Women Rapping Revolution. Specifically, it is a page from the chapter where we expand upon the concept of the “Vulnerable Maverick,” a construct we introduce and use as a framework for analyzing Black women’s subjectivity in their roles as artists and cultural citizens. The pairing of vulnerability with a maverick’s attitude and power rescues vulnerability from weakness. It is a response and contrast to the controlling image known as the Strong Black Woman, which forecloses the possibility of vulnerability.

In reference to “Skin Deep,” Insite the Riot explains on page 99 that the song expresses her belief that “vulnerability is a strength, self-confidence is a necessity, and recognizing our own beauty is vital.” iRonic Lee adds that “these issues are frequently experienced and seldom dealt with or even expressed artistically.” We argue that together these artists create fresh texture, where colorism and institutionalized racism brush up against perseverance and the joy of self-love in melodic rhythms, a jazzy hook, and soft and steady voices.

Women Rapping Revolution is an ethnographic study about a women-centered collective called The Foundation (2009-2016) that had a dynamic presence in Detroit’s hip hop underground at a time when the city was undergoing immense transition as it fell into and emerged from bankruptcy. Throughout, we employ an interdisciplinary framework to showcase how women and some men in the city embody hip hop’s roots as a community-building enterprise to create spaces and places for themselves in an increasingly neoliberal environment. While in many ways diverse, a common set of ethics, aesthetics, and an overarching commitment to social justice binds these artists together.
Learn more about Women Rapping Revolution at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Matthew C. Klein & Michael Pettis's "Trade Wars Are Class Wars"

Matthew C. Klein is the economics commentator at Barron’s. Michael Pettis is professor of finance at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management and a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Klein applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Trade Wars Are Class Wars: How Rising Inequality Distorts the Global Economy and Threatens International Peace, and reported the following:
Page 99 is at the very end of chapter 3, near the center of the entire book. The first three chapters are all about giving the reader a multi-century perspective on the history of trade, cross-border financial flows, economic development, and imbalances between production and consumption. The second half of the book, by contrast, is focused on detailed case studies of China, Germany, and the United States over the past few decades.

Taken out of context, I suspect that page 99 would be confusing to the general reader. It represents the culmination of an argument about the implications of the U.S. trade balance with Mexico and why many people misunderstand the economic relationship between Mexico and the U.S. People who hadn't read the preceding pages would probably have trouble following the concepts and the discussion. But many of the points we make are core to our overall understanding about what matters when it comes to thinking about international trade. So while I don't think it's the best page for a browser to pick to get a sense of whether they would like our book, it is fairly representative of the ideas in our book -- especially the idea that misconceptions about trade can lead to needless conflicts between countries with common interests.

Our basic thesis is that trade disputes between countries aren't caused by geopolitics or incompatible national interests, but by class conflicts within them. Unfortunately, many people don't understand this, such as those we criticize on page 99 who believe Mexico's prosperity comes at the expense of the U.S. Income inequality is the underlying problem in the global economy. It deprives consumers of the money they need to buy what they should be able to afford, which means they either will spend less than they should, or borrow to make up the difference. Under-spending depresses the economy, while borrowing breeds instability and crises. To end the trade wars, we must end the class wars.
Learn more about Trade Wars Are Class Wars at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Anya P. Foxen's "Inhaling Spirit"

Anya Foxen is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2015.

Foxen applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Inhaling Spirit: Harmonialism, Orientalism, and the Western Roots of Modern Yoga, and reported the following:
I have to admit, I was kind of excited to see what the “Page 99” test would reveal. I mean, I know I wrote the book, but when I finally got to hold a paper copy in my hands, I had little idea of even the chapter that this seemingly random page would land me in. Upon actually flipping the thing open, I was first confused, then annoyed, then perplexed, and then finally fascinated.

Page 99 contains the only passage in the book dedicated to a fairly major 19th-century historical figure—specifically one whom I had originally excluded, but was forced to reexamine by one of my readers during peer review. This figure is Andrew Jackson Davis (1826–1910), the “Poughkeepsie seer” who synthesized much of the ad-hoc theology for American Spiritualism out of an eclectic mix of Mesmerism and Swedenborgianism and authored an entire six-volume encyclopedic work called The Great Harmonia (1850–1861).

Now, given that my book is about “Harmonialism,” it seems like Davis should have been a shoo-in, which of course is precisely what my reader pointed out. I had originally chosen to ignore Davis because I found him a little overrated. Davis, who was so prolific a writer that one finds it difficult to believe he ever had a thought he didn’t see fit to publish, authored over thirty books over his lifetime. These books, all on more or less related themes, were simultaneously masterful syntheses of contemporary metaphysical thought, but for this same reason not particularly novel or unique. The book I spend quite a bit of this page describing was titled The Harbinger of Health (1861). It’s lengthy and consists largely of home remedies—some magnetic, though the majority herbal—for nearly every condition known to man, from hemorrhoids to being struck by lightning. One aspect of it, however, was particularly relevant for my purposes. As part of his discussion of magnetic healing, Davis describes something that he refers to as the “Pneumogastric Treatment,” through which one may receive “spiritual strength” from the air by means of deep and steady breathing performed in a supine position while directing the will to the various parts of one’s body. This, of course, is precisely what is meant by my book’s title—“Inhaling Spirit.”

Ultimately, I begrudgingly incorporated Davis because, harmonial jack-of-all-trades that he was, he represented the most perfect little microcosm for the diffuse yet consistent idea I was working to establish under the label of “harmonialism.” Down to the fact that he grounds his personal origin story in an astral double-team visitation by Galen and Swedenborg. So, in the end (and as evidenced by my whirlwind of emotions as I once more processed Davis’s relevance), I think the “Page 99” test worked.
Visit Anya P. Foxen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue