Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nick Smith's "Justice through Apologies"

Nick Smith is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of New Hampshire. Formerly a litigator and a clerk for the US Court of Appeals, he specializes in the philosophy of law, politics and society. Smith is the author of I Was Wrong: The Meanings of Apologies. He regularly appears in the media, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Guardian UK, Fortune, NPR, BBC, CBC, CNN, and others.

Smith applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Justice through Apologies: Remorse, Reform, and Punishment, and reported the following:
On page 99 I consider an example to test my claim that categorically apologetic criminal offenders deserve reductions in punishment. I return on this page to the case of William Beebe, who drugged and raped eighteen-year-old Liz Seccuro at a University of Virginia Phi Kappa Psi party in 1984. Seccuro awoke the next day wrapped in a bloody sheet on the couch of the deserted fraternity house. She confirmed Beebe's identity by the mail on his dresser. Still bloodied and bruised, Seccuro reported the attack. Campus authorities and Charlottesville police treated her claim dismissively and obstructed her access to a proper investigation. Beebe claimed she had consented. Feeling stonewalled and hoping to move forward with the rest of her education and life, Seccuro stopped pursuing legal recourse.

Twenty-one years later, Seccuro pulled out of her driveway en route to a vacation with her spouse and young child. She stopped at the mailbox and found the following letter:
Dear Elizabeth:

In October 1984 I harmed you. I can scarcely begin to understand the degree to which, in your eyes, my behavior has affected you in its wake. Still, I stand prepared to hear from you about just how, and in what ways you've been affected; and to begin to set right the wrong I've done, in any way you see fit.

Most sincerely yours,

Will Beebe
In a subsequent exchange of emails where Beebe explained that he was undergoing a twelve step addiction recovery program, he confessed to a decades old crime for which he was not under investigation and that carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. "I want to make clear that I'm not intentionally minimizing the fact of having raped you," he wrote, "I did." Seccuro took this opportunity in 2005 to contact Charlottesville police. This time they properly investigated her claim. She pressed charges against Beebe.

On page 99 I consider how Beebe should be punished in light of his apology and confession. Why do we punish offenders and exactly how does remorse—and remorselessness—impact our view about who deserves what sorts of punishment? How should we punish Beebe? How much time did he ultimately serve? Read Justice through Apologies to find out.
Learn more about Justice through Apologies at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Nick Smith's I Was Wrong: The Meanings of Apologies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 21, 2014

Paul M. Cobb's "The Race for Paradise"

Paul M. Cobb is Professor of Islamic History in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of White Banners: Contention in Abbasid Syria, 750-880 and Umayyad Legacies: Medieval Memories from Syria to Spain.

Cobb applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Race for Paradise falls at a crucial moment in the narrative, namely the arrival of the European Crusaders (known to the Muslim inhabitants of the Near East as “Franks”) before the walls of Jerusalem in 1099. This was the final act of the events known in the West as the First Crusade. The Franks had been busy for some time much farther north in what is now Syria and Lebanon, where part of the army at least recalled lessons they had earlier learned in Muslim Spain (known as al-Andalus): namely that holding a castle hostage (in this case a fort named ‘Arqa) during a siege could be much more lucrative than actually going through the trouble of capturing it. This made others in the army rather antsy:
Indeed, just as in al-Andalus of the taifa kings, the Muslim lord of Tripoli sent envoys to Raymond and the Franks at ‘Arqa with vast amounts of coins and gifts to buy them off—hardly an inducement to move on, if more such wealth could be extracted. In the end the rest of the Frankish army arrived to reunite with Raymond, and the drive to reach Jerusalem was too strong. ‘Arqa and nearby Tripoli would have to wait for Raymond’s attentions at a later date. The Franks lifted the siege and proceeded down the coastal road into Palestine, “and the people fled in panic from their abodes before them.” At Arsuf, on the coast, they cut inland toward al-Ramla, which they captured, while Bohemond’s rough nephew Tancred, his hour come round at last, slouched toward Bethlehem to take it as his own. The next day, June 7, the Franks encamped before their heartfelt goal: Jerusalem.
This passage is and isn’t a representative passage of my book, however. Most starkly, it is all about the Franks and is written somewhat from their point of view. The Race for Paradise, however, is (as the sub-title says) An Islamic History of the Crusades, which I tried to write as much as possible from the perspective of Muslim observers, using medieval Islamic sources almost exclusively to do so. Yet this passage is very Crusader-centric.

And that is perhaps a point worth highlighting. For the fact is that the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 did not leave such a huge impact in the contemporary Islamic sources. This passage shows that, in order to describe the events leading up to the conquest of Jerusalem, we have to fall back on Frankish sources. Contemporary Muslims, for a host of reasons, were simply not keen to report in any detailed way on the progress of the Franks across Syria. Even the infamous stories of Frankish rapine and destruction that accompanied the conquest of Jerusalem appear only at a later date, although there seems little reason to doubt their general outline. In the fury of the moment, most Muslims seem to have considered the Frankish invasion of Syria to have been a local Syrian problem. Only later would they realize their mistake, and then re-cast these events as a problem for all of Islamdom.

The passage is also unrepresentative in that (unlike the rest of the book) it contains a hidden snarky literary reference—extra credit for those of you who find it!
Learn more about The Race for Paradise at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 20, 2014

H. H. Shugart's "Foundations of the Earth"

H. H. “Hank” Shugart holds the W. W. Corcoran Chair in Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia and has produced more than 400 scientific publications that largely involve systems ecology and ecosystems modeling strongly focused on regional and global change. His book How the Earthquake Bird Got Its Name and Other Tales of Unbalanced Nature is considered a classic in modern ecology.

Shugart applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Foundations of the Earth: Global Ecological Change and the Book of Job, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Foundations of the Earth: Global Ecological Change and The Book of Job is the penultimate page of Chapter 4, “Freeing the Onager: Feral and Introduced Animals.” Foundations of the Earth poses global environmental problems in the context of a set of biblical questions, the Whirlwind Speech, found in Job: 38-40. The Joban questions initiate chapter discussions on such topics as, “Where did the solar system come from? How were animals domesticated? How do changes in the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere imply global warming? How do climate and its change alter the world’s vegetation and vice versa?” Foundations of the Earth intends to demonstrate the intrinsic connectedness of the Earth’s systems, their dynamic change and their interactions with humans using these divine questions as a framework to provide additional connectedness. The book emphasizes environmental synthesis at large scales — regional to global scales in space; century to millennia to even longer scales in time. The mutual interactions among different Earth systems provide a unity to the text, so does the framework provided by the extraordinary questions from Job.

Page 99 does a very good job of representing the intent of Foundations of the Earth. The Joban questions motivating Chapter 4 are:
Who has let the wild ass go free? Who has loosed the bonds of the swift ass, to which I have given the steppe for its home, the salt land for its dwelling place? It scorns the tumult of the city; it does not hear the shouts of the driver.
--Job 39:5-7 (New Revised Standard Version)
The chapter uses the wild ass, Equus hemionus, as an ecological icon for introduced and invasive species, a significant consideration in domains ranging from agriculture and horticulture (weeds) to conservation (introduced species replacing native species of animals) to medicine (introduced diseases and vectors for diseases).

Page 99 initiates the summary of the chapter’s earlier discussions of the evolution of weeds, domestication of draft animals, the creation of a human-dominated planet, and change due to introduced species may be doing to the Earth’s ecosystems. To quote page 99,
We know from the fossil and geological record that past ecosystems with different mixtures of species and different environment conditions coalesce, persist and eventually change over time. The instances in the geological past in which floras and faunas mingled after the formation of land bridges often have featured extinction of many species. For example with the formation of the Isthmus of Panama around 3 million years ago, the remarkably diverse marsupial mammal fauna of South America collapsed and was replaced by more advanced placental mammals from North America. Thus, we have reason to believe that the species we have loosed across the Earth will also change the planet.
But what will these new, ecosystems shaped by the actions of humanity be like? We would hope for optimistic outcomes, but there is cause for concern. Again from page 99,
We enjoy gardens and arboreta loaded with exotic plants from all over the world and find pleasure in this human-created biological diversity. There are also significant negatives. Many of these stem from feedback loops between the exotics and the ecosystems they inhabit. Fire-tolerant alien plants prosper under fires and create additional fuel for more frequent or hotter fires. Introduced fish eliminate natural fisheries that support coastal towns. Inedible or even poisonous weeds invade pastures and prosper…
Inadvertently or otherwise, we are creating new ecosystems comprised of some, often novel, species that have been selected for their capacity to resist our efforts to control them.

The alteration of the biota of Earth’s ecosystems, the themes of Chapter 4 and Page 99, occur and interweave on our dynamic and human-altered planet. The overarching themes of the Foundations of the Earth involve Earth-systems complexity and connectedness.. These are large themes for a small book and the diversity of disciplines considered is substantial. Page 99 provides a sample of the depth of the challenges before us.
Learn more about Foundations of the Earth at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 18, 2014

Peter Jones's "Open Skies"

Peter Jones is an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, Canada.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Open Skies: Transparency, Confidence-Building, and the End of the Cold War, and reported the following:
The page 99 test works pretty well. “Open Skies,” was first proposed by President Eisenhower in 1955, but rejected by the Soviets. The idea called for each side to allow the other to make short-notice overflights with unarmed surveillance aircraft as assurance against surprise attacks. This would have been a highly intrusive measure before satellites. The Russian rejection was seen as evidence of nefarious intent. We now know it was largely motivated by fears that their weakness would be exposed. Open Skies was a valuable propaganda victory, allowing American diplomats to juxtapose America’s transparency with Soviet secrecy.

As the Cold War came to a close, President Bush (41) proposed that Open Skies be revived as an Alliance-to-Alliance Treaty. He believed that it would test the new Soviet willingness to embrace openness and reform, as well as allowing smaller nations to independently monitor events. The Treaty was negotiated between 1990 and 1992, resulting in the first major European security agreement of the Post-Cold War era.

One of the major themes of the book is that, even though their leaders supported Open Skies, the US and Soviet military and intelligence bureaucracies remained deeply suspicious of it. The Soviet military put up obstacles to the achievement of real transparency. The US intelligence community sought to enshrine measures that would permit the US to gain an advantage by using far more sophisticated sensors than other nations could.

It was the insistence of Presidents Bush and Gorbachev that the regime be genuine and equal which overcame the resistance of their respective bureaucracies. But an important role was also played by the smaller nations of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, which did not have satellites and saw the benefits of the Treaty.

Page 99 concerns the revival of the negotiations, after two rounds in Ottawa and Budapest had failed due to the obduracy of the US and Soviet bureaucracies. President Bush had forced the US intelligence community to back off its attempt to gain a unilateral advantage. The NATO nations were reviewing their positions in hopes of tempting the Soviets back to the table. But the powerful Soviet military bureaucracy was holding out and there were signs of the impending coup attempt against Gorbachev of mid-August 1991. It was not until after this coup attempt had been defeated, and those opposed to Open Skies were removed from office, that the Soviets responded favorably. The negotiations resumed in Vienna, leading to an agreement.

Thus, page 99 encapsulates a major theme of the book – only high-level political guidance can overcome the resistance of self-interested bureaucracies to far-reaching change.
Learn more about Open Skies at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Michael Dumper's "Jerusalem Unbound"

Michael Dumper is professor in Middle East politics at the University of Exeter and the author of The Future of the Palestinian Refugees; The Politics of Sacred Space: The Old City of Jerusalem and the Middle East Conflict, 1967–2000; and The Politics of Jerusalem Since 1967.

Dumper applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Jerusalem Unbound: Geography, History, and the Future of the Holy City, and reported the following:
In the case of Jerusalem Unbound, the p. 99 Test is not bad. The page deals with, on one hand, the holiness of the city
...chockablock with religious sites: synagogues, churches, mosques, prayer rooms, seminaries, monasteries, convents, hostels for pilgrims, mausoleums, and cemeteries. The Old City alone, an area of not more than 1 kilometer square, is reputed to have between 225 and over 300 holy sites—an incredible one holy site for every 3 to 4 square meters! In fact, Jerusalem must be the holy city per se. Residents and frequent visitors or long-stayers like myself frequently overlook a blindingly obvious fact: Jerusalem is not just holy to one religion, but is holy to three. And it is not just holy to any three, but holy to one of the oldest religions in existence—Judaism—and holy to two of the largest religions in the world—Christianity and Islam. .... Layer upon layer of faith and belief has been deposited upon the city.
At the same time, the page also tries to put Jerusalem into a broader context by comparing it to other so-called holy cities to see what it is about such cities which are deemed holy:
Is it just the number of holy sites themselves? If so, how many sites make up a holy city—five, twenty, two hundred? And what proportion of holy sites to land area or population defines its holiness?
This snapshot of the book is part of my overall argument that Jerusalem is a city of many borders and that its formal political borders reveal neither the dynamics of power in the city nor the underlying factors that make an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians so difficult. This argument is based on the fact that the lines delineating Israeli authority are frequently different from those delineating segregated housing or areas of uneven service provision or parallel and overlapping Israel and Palestinian electoral districts or competing and overlapping Israeli and Palestinian educational jurisdictions. There is a lack of congruity between political control and the everyday use of the city which leaves many areas of Israeli occupied East Jerusalem in a kind of twilight zone where citizenship, property rights, and the enforcement of the rule of law are ambiguously applied.
Learn more about Jerusalem Unbound at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

C. Christine Fair's "Fighting to the End"

C. Christine Fair holds a PhD from the University of Chicago’s Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations. She has been working in, studying, and writing about South Asia since her first trip to Pakistan, India and Nepal in 1991. She speaks Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi. Currently, she is an assistant professor in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program within the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. Previously, she served as a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, a political officer to the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan in Kabul, and as a senior research associate in USIP's Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention. She is also a senior fellow with the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. She has authored numerous scholarly publications and has co-edited Policing Insurgencies: Cops as Counterinsurgents (2014); Treading on Hallowed Ground: Counterinsurgency in Sacred Spaces (2008); Pakistan in National and Regional Change: State and Society in Flux (2013); Political Islam and Governance in Bangladesh (2010). When she is not thinking or writing about South Asia, she dilates upon the politics of food. In 2008, she published Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States (2008).

Fair applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army's Way of War, and reported the following:
In Fighting to the End I try to explain Pakistan’s pursuit of numerous reckless policies that include supporting jihadi proxies, engaging in nuclear proliferation, and sustaining a seemingly endless appetite for conflict with India in an effort to rest Kashmir from India. Why does Pakistan persist in these policies that imperil the very viability of the state? I argue that the answer lies, at least partially, in the strategic culture of the army which relies heavily upon Islamic themes and imagery.

Turning to page 99, the reader encounters an extended discussion of the primacy that famed Quranic battles enjoy in the Pakistan army’s professional journals. These, along with numerous expositions of the utility of jihad in an “Islamic Army” are frequent subjects of these publications. While U.S. army professional publications engage in discussions of past and present battles with the intent of understanding what went wrong or well and why, the Pakistan army’s professional publications do not engage in such analyses of their own battles. Instead, their publications focus upon military campaigns from early Muslim history.

On page 99, the reader learns about one of these articles from 1963 titled “Morale: From the Early Muslim Campaigns.” The author, Col. Bashir Ahmad, concludes his study of early Quranic battles with four lessons that he believes are important for the Pakistan army. First, “in each battle, the Muslim contingent was inferior in strength, ill-equipped, and poorly trained.” However, despite these disadvantages against their always kufar (non-Muslim) foes, they prevailed because of their “moral qualities.” Second, their moral qualities defeated the enemies’ will to fight, obviating their numerous advantages. Third, the Muslim combatants entered each battle with full knowledge that they were outmatched. However, “They came out onto the battlefield ‘only to defend the intrinsic values of their faith.’” Finally, Ahmad argues that the “main-stay of the morale of these Muslims was…the identification of life with and its subordination to the ideal: a fundamental of the faith. An army equipped with this faith will always dominate the adversary.’”

I argue that articles such as these help explain in significant measure the Pakistan army’s endless appetite for conflict with India, which these same publications construct as the kufar enemy of Islam and thus of Pakistan. These articles serve as an important morale booster for the Pakistan army as it has never won any of the wars it initiated with India in 1947, 1965 or 1999. Worse, the Indian army intervened in the civil war that was raging in East Pakistan in 1971. Within a few weeks of India’s entry into direct combat, East Pakistan was liberated and became independent Bangladesh. Due to India’s direct involvement in that war, Pakistan lost half of its territory and population.

India will always have a larger army and a bigger, faster growing economy that permits it to invest in its armed forces more than Pakistan ever will. Yet Pakistan will continue to challenge India. I contend that articles such as these help explain why the Pakistan Army is prepared to fight to the end.
Learn more about Fighting to the End at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 14, 2014

Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson's "Word of Mouth"

Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson is Professor in the Department of Sociology at Columbia University. After publishing on French literary identity in Literary France: The Making of a Culture, she studied the urban culture of Paris in Paris as Revolution: Reading the Nineteenth-Century City. Her work on cuisine and food started with Accounting for Taste: The Triumph of French Cuisine and has moved into an ever more comparative perspective.

Ferguson applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Word of Mouth: What We Talk About When We Talk About Food, and reported the following:
Just about half-way through the book, after analyzing different understandings of food over time and cultures, p. 99 comes to the encounter with France that changed the way many Americans think about food. The writer M.F.K. Fisher in the 1940s and the cookbook author and culinary personality Julia Child in the 1960s owed their success to their enthusiasm for French ways of doing food.
For it was in France that both women learned to cultivate a sense of flavor, to savor food, and to appreciate the pleasures of preparation and consumption. …Fisher and Child set America on a great culinary adventure.
But French foodways had to be translated in American terms. With their emphasis on sensual pleasure and practices perceived as aristocratic, French conceptions of food and cuisine came up against traditions that viewed pleasures of the flesh as not only frivolous but potentially dangerous for moral well being, Benjamin Franklin, in his iconic Autobiography, recounts that his father considered meals an educational opportunity.
He always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse which might tend to improve the minds of his children. Little or no notice was ever taken of what related to the victuals on the table.
Other more traveled Americans like the hugely popular author of the Last of the Mohicans James Fenimore Cooper on mission in France, complained about the predictable result of culinary resistance illustrated by Franklin’s father:
Americans are the grossest feeders of any civilized nation known. As a nation, their food is heavy, coarse, ill prepared and indigestable.
How times have changed! Subsequent chapters track the very different, highly sophisticated— many would say obsessed— food world of the 21st century. Neither Franklin nor Cooper would recognize the America in which food is the topic of so much conversation and where culinary identities are increasingly prominent. From blogs and reviews to menus, cookbooks, films and advertising, food talk focuses attention on the experimental and the creative, on new practices of production and consumption, on shifting identities for the home cook and the celebrity chef, the savvy, exigent consumer and the chef-host. Such is the wonderful, ever-changing disconcerting culinary world of America today, which Word of Mouth explores in detail and depth.
Learn more about Word of Mouth at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Heather Houser's "Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. Fiction"

Heather Houser is an assistant professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin. She teaches and publishes on contemporary literature; the environmental humanities; and science, technology, and culture.

Houser applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. Fiction: Environment and Affect, and reported the following:
On page 99, the reader is in the midst of a close reading, a reminder that this is a work of literary criticism. Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. Fiction: Environment and Affect gives an account of an emergent narrative mode that brings readers to environmental awareness through the sick body. Medicalizing space and the body, novels and memoirs by the likes of David Foster Wallace, Leslie Marmon Silko, and David Wojnarowicz engage a range of emotions—discord, disgust, wonder, and anxiety—that express the complex entanglements of environmental and human bodily injury today. Contemporary fiction shows the astonishing variety of affects that attach to these related phenomena and establishes how those affects shape environmental ethics and politics.

Page 99 falls toward the end of a chapter on the surprising outcomes of wonder in Richard Powers's 2006 novel The Echo Maker. Powers expertly entwines two narratives: one about a rare neurological disorder called Capgras syndrome and the other about the migratory habits of sandhill cranes in the U.S. Central Plains. Wonder has long inspired scientific inquiry and appreciation of nature. Path-breaking scientists like Isaac Newton and René Descartes, and, more recently, Rachel Carson and Richard Dawkins extoll what the latter calls our insatiable "appetite for wonder." The Echo Maker whets this appetite and follows a line of environmental thinkers who champion wonder for its ability to cultivate an environmental ethic. But, steeped in cutting-edge neuroscience, this novel pursues another trajectory wonder can take—away from ethical involvement. Wonder is all about making connections, but excessive connection making can tip over into wonder's ugly obverses of projection and paranoia and jam care for the outside world.

This page doesn't display all that Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. Fiction argues and accomplishes, but it gets at one of its main claims: that recent writers are revising environmental tropes in light of technoscientific interventions into the body and the earth. Here I analyze a description of the novel's setting, Kearney, Nebraska, that laments the demise of the family farm and economic stagnation in the region. The description comes through the eyes of a central character, Karin, and concludes, "geography had decided Mark's [her brother's] fate long before his birth. Only the doomed stayed on to collect" (The Echo Maker 28). His fate is the brain injury that motivates the plot, but this passage wants to show more broadly how, as I write on 99, Mark is "like other Generation X Nebraskans, . . . a farmer manqué without a land inheritance. His mental disintegration expresses the decay of the earth signaled by the growth of agribusiness . . . and tourism." The novel does not respond to these transformations by idealizing human attachment to place, as is a tendency among many environmental writers, especially those focused on food and farming. Rather it imagines the pervasive technologization and endangerment of bodies and ecosystems today.

The reading on this page and the chapter in which it appears demonstrate Ecosickness's ambition to show how contemporary U.S. novels and memoirs are rethinking the concepts that have driven environmentalism. These concepts include, among things, wonder, sense of place, nature as a source of beauty and escape, and anxiety as a spur to activism. Writers like Powers update these concepts while experimenting with new narrative and aesthetic techniques. As the introduction to the book states, "ecosickness narratives establish that environmental and biomedical dilemmas produce representational dilemmas." The conventions of scientific discourse, pastoral, nature writing, postmodernism, and realism don't seem to be enough; none of them alone can get at the affective complexities of what Wallace has called "today's diseased now" (Girl with Curious Hair). To learn about the formal strategies recent writers have developed to depict these complexities, check out the book.
Learn more about Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. Fiction at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 11, 2014

Jonathan Brown's "In the Shadow of Velázquez"

Jonathan Brown is the Carroll and Miton Petrie Professor of Fine Arts, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, In the Shadow of Velázquez: A Life in Art History, and reported the following:
In In The Shadow of Velázquez: A Life in Art History, I draw upon my experience to show the ways in which personality is a determinate of the study of art history. I begin, naturally, with my youth and family, which centered on my parents’ commitment to the collecting of the avant garde artists of the 1920s-70s, and my subsequent rebellion by becoming a scholar of Baroque Spanish Art, at a time when Spain was a dictatorship. Later chapters explore questions of artists and authenticity. My obsession with the art of Spain culminates in a new interpretation of Velázquez’s masterpiece, Las Meninas.

I would argue that my p.99 does indeed pass the test. This page presents the reader with both of my main themes—the question of authenticity and the ways in which the artist is shaped by his personal and professional lives. As p.99 mentions, we know little about Velázquez the man: “As indicated by these few observations on Velázquez’s private life, which I have extracted from circumstantial evidence, there remain large gaps to fill if we are to achieve a well-informed view of the man who confidently stands in front of the easel of Las Meninas.” One of the key concepts is his struggle to gain acceptance as a nobleman in the court of Philip IV—to be recognized not merely as an artisan but as a creator. This is a struggle that also confronts the art historian, as he attempts to authenticate works attributed to a famous painter but which may very well be products of his workshop or even simply copies. Does the historian have the authority to claim authenticity? Will his attribution be accepted or will a battle ensue, one which, perhaps, is more about the power of various art historians rather than a search for the true painter? These are significant questions and ones with which In The Shadow of Velázquez attempts to answer through its study of authenticity in the works of Ribera, El Greco, and Velázquez.
Learn more about In the Shadow of Velázquez at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Stuart Kirsch's "Mining Capitalism"

Stuart Kirsch is an anthropologist who works in the Pacific and the Amazon on indigenous politics and environmental issues. He is professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan.

Kirsch is the author of Reverse Anthropology: Indigenous Analysis of Social and Environmental Relations in New Guinea (2006), and the newly released Mining Capitalism: The Relationship between Corporations and their Critics.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to Mining Capitalism and reported the following:
Mining Capitalism examines the relationship between corporations and their critics. It reveals the strategies corporations use to counter criticism and evade regulation, allowing them to continue externalizing the social and environmental costs of production.

The first half of the book follows the international campaign against the environmental impact of the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine in Papua New Guinea, including litigation against the mining company in the Australian courts. Page 99 describes how lawyers working for the mining company convinced the Papua New Guinea government to criminalize participation in the lawsuit, actions resulting in a judgment of contempt of court.

Before the bill was passed, it was the subject of debate in the media and in Parliament. On Page 99, I write about a mining company advertisement published in a local newspaper that encouraged people to accept modest monetary compensation in lieu of participating in the lawsuit. The 1995 newspaper ad:
indicated that the plaintiffs could continue to pursue compensation in the Australian courts even “though it may take years before there are any results, and the result may not be what people want.” However, the claim that their access to the courts in Australia was protected turned out to be inaccurate when the Parliament subsequently passed a second bill criminalizing participation in foreign legal proceedings. The ad also claimed that the mining company “supported a government proposal for an independent inquiry into disposal of tailings from the mine” and that “the company has also made a commitment to reduce the environmental impact of sediment on the river,” but offered no concrete guarantees that anything would be done.
In hindsight, the deception of the mining company ad is even more stark as more than 2,500 square kilometers of rain forest have been lost to pollution from the mine. Some parts of the river are affected by acid mine drainage, in which the production of sulfuric acid renders the environment inhospitable for organic life, often for centuries.

I also discuss the debate about the bill in the Parliament of Papua New Guinea on Page 99:
Several MPs were concerned that the agreement did not address tailings containment, although the sponsor of the bill indicated that [the mining company] had expressed its willingness to address the issue separately. Other MPs made reference to mining projects in their own districts and wanted the Parliament to devise a general solution to the question of compensation. They also expressed concerns about the environmental impacts of mining, oil, and gas projects in Papua New Guinea given the country’s dependence on resource extraction. But there was general support for separating the provision of compensation to the people living downstream from the Ok Tedi mine, which was seen to be urgent and desirable, from the larger and more complex question of reducing environmental impacts. Several of the MPs raised concerns about the relatively low value of the compensation payments, which, after being divided up among the number of people affected by the mine, amounted to annual payments of only K125 ($95) per person. But other MPs pointed out that the total value of the compensation package was larger than any other group in Papua New Guinea had received.
The bill passed, mandating monetary compensation to the people who opted out of the lawsuit. However, it failed to address the environmental problems caused by the mine, which continues to pollute one of the largest river systems in New Guinea.

The second half of Mining Capitalism examines how the mining industry has responded to its indigenous and NGO critics, including its appropriation of the language of critique, which has resulted in claims about corporate social responsibility and sustainable mining. It also examines new political strategies that offer more hopeful outcomes than the environmental devastation caused by the Ok Tedi mine.
Visit Stuart Kirsch's webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue