Friday, December 30, 2011

Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka's "Zoopolis"

Sue Donaldson is an independent researcher and author from Kingston, Ontario. Her books include Foods that Don't Bite Back (Arsenal Pulp, 2003).

Will Kymlicka is the Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy at Queen's University. His books include Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction, Multicultural Citizenship, and Multicultural Odysseys.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the linchpin of our book. From this point forward, we develop a novel theory of animal rights, drawing on contemporary political theories of citizenship and diversity. In the human context, while we extend certain inviolable rights to all individuals simply in virtue of their humanity, we also recognize differential rights based on membership in political communities. Consider the different political statuses of citizens versus recent immigrants, foreign tourists, or refugees; or of adult versus child citizens. We argue the same logic applies to animals: all sentient animals are entitled to basic rights, but we also have differential responsibilities to particular groups of animals based on the way they are related to human political communities.

Page 99 summarizes the limitations of previous efforts to define animal rights solely on the basis of animals’ intrinsic characteristics, or their species norms, without attention to the way they are connected to human communities. All rabbits may have the same species characteristics, but some are living in the wild apart from humans, some are feral rabbits living in urban settings, and some are domesticated rabbits raised by humans. These variations matter in ways that existing theories cannot capture, but which can be illuminated by theories of citizenship. We argue that domesticated animals should be seen as members of our community, and hence our co-citizens, whereas wild animals should be viewed as members of foreign communities, entitled to sovereign control of territory and forms of life. Liminal animals such as raccoons or pigeons inhabit an in-between position. They live amongst us, and we need to devise relationships of just co-existence with them, but the relationship is more attenuated, involving fewer mutual obligations, than co-citizenship – a status we call “denizenship”.

These relationships aren’t captured by the idea of species. They are social and political relationships determined by history, geography, mutual impacts, and mutual possibilities. And the individuals involved in these relationships are precious not just because they all share subjective consciousness, but because as individual agents they participate in and shape unique webs of relationship and possibility. As we put it on page 99:
justice requires a conception of flourishing that is more sensitive to both interspecies community membership and intra-species individual variation. It should also be open to evolution, as new forms of interspecies community emerge, opening up new possibilities for forms of animal and human flourishing…. This is precisely what is offered by a citizenship model.
Learn more about Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights at the Oxford University Press and Will Kymlicka's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

William Monter's "The Rise of Female Kings in Europe"

William Monter is professor emeritus of history, Northwestern University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Rise of Female Kings in Europe, 1300-1800, and reported the following:
This book is relatively short, and a reader is almost halfway through it by the time (s)he reaches page 99. Once past the second chapter, which attempts a general overview of the subject, it’s probably better to jump ahead to the illustrations grouped after page 121.

The book attempts the first general history of female sovereignty in a bygone era when divine-right hereditary monarchs were expected to govern. Its organization revolves around the problems that arose when a dozen European monarchies encountered thirty ‘female kings’ – we have no special word for them. These women were also expected to be queens, i.e., to reproduce the ruling dynasty. Because marriage was necessary for legitimate heirs and wives were expected to obey husbands, female kings faced formidable dilemmas in fulfilling their political and biological responsibilities. Unsurprisingly, several of them failed to do either, let alone both. Perhaps unexpectedly, several female kings governed successfully in various parts of Europe after 1300 – but not before then, and not in other parts of the world after then. Four European women ruled major states for at least thirty years. More importantly, their autonomy as rulers increased over time. However, “modernity” did not bring “progress”; no woman headed any European government between the death of Catherine the Great and the election of Margaret Thatcher.

As for page 99, its best part is the first three sentences of the final paragraph. Here they are:
Europe’s two earliest long-serving female regents, Margaret of Austria and Mary of Hungary, offer an interesting set of comparisons and contrasts. Both of them governed as childless widows, and each supervised a young niece who eventually occupied her position. On the other hand, it was already something of a commonplace in the sixteenth century that the first “governed the Low Countries with sweetness and the other with rigor.”
Learn more about The Rise of Female Kings in Europe, 1300-1800 at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

John Gribbin's "Alone in the Universe"

John Gribbin is one of today's greatest writers of popular science and the author of bestselling books including In Search of the Multiverse, In Search of Schrödinger's Cat, and Science: A History. He trained as an astrophysicist at Cambridge University and is now Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Alone in the Universe: Why Our Planet Is Unique, and reported the following:
From page 99:
[The Solar System seems to be a rather] orderly place, with a neat arrangement of planets in tidy circular orbits... Did it have to turn out that way? Probably not, but the fact that it did is one of the reasons why we are here to ask such questions.
This strikes to the very heart of the argument put forward in my book, so Ford Madox Ford hit the nail on the head this time. The tidiness of the Solar System is just one of many unusual features about the Earth and the surrounding environment in space which I believe make our planet special -- perhaps uniquely special -- in terms of its suitability as a place in which a technological civilization could arise.

My contention is that life is common in the Galaxy, but our kind of intelligent life is rare. This is deliberately intended as a counterpoint to the excitement generated by the recent discovery of “other Earths”. “Other Earths” may be like our planet physically, and they may even have life (life based for reasons I explain in the book, on some variation on the DNA theme). But “little green men” with radio telescopes looking our way? I think not.

This matters, because it makes our home in space special, If we are the only -- or the most advanced -- civilization in our Galaxy, we have a special, and awesome, responsibility to take care of our planet and stop squabbling amongst ourselves. The Galaxy is there for us to explore, and perhaps even colonise, if we have the will to do so.
Learn more about Alone in the Universe and the author at John Gribbin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 26, 2011

Rudy Rucker's "Nested Scrolls"

Rudy Rucker lives in Los Gatos, California. He has twice won the Philip K. Dick Award.

Here's the whole of page 99 of his autobiography, Nested Scrolls: The Autobiography of Rudolf von Bitter Rucker, with little bit added from page 98 and from page 100:
What else did I learn at college? A little about modern painting and architecture. And I took a German literature class where we read Kafka’s Metamorphosis in the original German, which allowed me to understand that Kafka had meant for his stories to be in some sense funny. This insight would help me with my own writing. A story can be profound, creepy, lacerating, surreal­—without being at all grim or stodgy.

But most of what I learned at college was from my fellow-students: offbeat styles of speech, disruptive behaviors, and real-time wit. I liked talking to my friends, flirting with the girls, walking around the grassy campus, and exploring the nearby Crum woods.

In grade school and high school I’d always been an outsider, but at Swarthmore I was in with the in-crowd. I reveled in that.


With my steady stream of C grades being mailed home semester after semester, Pop sensed how little work I was doing.

“It’s like you’re sitting at a great banquet, Rudy. And all you’re doing is eating a ham sandwich that you brought in your pocket.”

Concerned as he was, Pop even paid me a surprise visit one day—­appearing in my dorm room in 1966, during the fall of my senior year. It ended up being the best day together that we ever spent. He was accepting and non-judgmental. We walked around the campus talking about the meaning of life. I even took him down to the Crum woods and showed him the impressively high train trestle that crossed the creek.

We boys liked to walk out to the middle of the trestle—­it had two tracks so that, in principle, even if a train came by, you could go to the other side, and if, by some horrible fluke, two trains came at once, you could lie down flat between a pair of the rails and hold the ties, not that anyone I knew had ever executed this drastic maneuver, although we talked about it a lot, worrying that the train might have a dangling chain that hung to within millimeters of the ties.

Pop was being such a sport on our big day together that he even walked onto the trestle with me. For those few hours, it was like we were fellow college boys. He really didn’t care much about proprieties or appearances. He just wanted me to be okay. He didn’t want me to fall off the edge.


During my junior and senior years, Sylvia was off at grad school, so there were many days when I had nothing better to do than get into trouble.

One of my closest Swarthmore friends was a boy named Gregory Gibson. Greg loved drinking and writing as much as I did. He was an English major, and by way of helping to complete my education, on one wonderful rainy morning, he read the whole of The Miller’s Tale to me in Old English, doing voices and adding glosses comparing the characters to our friends.
© Rudy Rucker 2011
Visit Rudy Rucker's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Eric Anderson’s "The Monogamy Gap"

Eric Anderson is an American sociologist at the University of Winchester known for his research on sport, masculinities, sexualities and homophobia. He shows an increasingly positive relationship between gay male athletes and sports, as well as a growing movement of young heterosexual men’s masculinity becoming softer and more inclusive. Anderson also researches matters related to men’s monogamy, men's improving recognition of bisexuality, and the increased acceptance of young heterosexual men kissing.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating, and reported the following:
A key reason why most men falsely maintain that monogamy (as in sexual restriction to the person you are partnered with) will provide them with a lifetime of sexual fulfilment, is because it is currently shrouded in robust myths about being healthy, proper, moral, and natural. If it were not for the strength of the myths surrounding monogamy, young men and women might enter into relationships with a greater understanding of the diminishing quality and quantity that long-term partnered sex provides.

However, even among men who espouse their desire to be monogamous, cracks normally emerge. Page 99 of my book, The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love and the Reality of Cheating examines men’s conflicted ideas about being in an open sexual relationship, as opposed to being in a closed/monogamous one.

Among the 120 straight and gay men that I interviewed for the research, Jonathan is a nineteen year-old heterosexual male athlete. When discussing what he thinks about monogamy he tells me:
Yeah, of course, who wouldn’t want to be told that they could have sex with whomever they wanted and their girlfriend wouldn’t care. That would be awesome. But if you’re going to be fair about it, then she’s going to have the right to do it, too. And that’s a lot harder to deal with than you doing it.
Jonathan’s statement highlights one of the primary modes of motivation behind men in maintaining monogamy. Whereas those who are in the beginning of their relationships desire monogamy for purely ideological purposes; in time, those in long-term relationships grow sexually habituated to their partners, strongly desiring sex with others. But page 99 shows that men cheat because cheating serves as a way to have their extra-dyadic sex while simultaneously preventing their partners from doing the same. Cheating, as opposed to being in an open relationship, permits them to have their cake and eat it, too.
Learn more about The Monogamy Gap at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ruth W. Grant's "Strings Attached"

Ruth W. Grant is professor of political science and philosophy and a senior fellow of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. She is the author of John Locke's Liberalism and Hypocrisy and Integrity.

Grant applied the “Page 99 Test” to her most recent book, Strings Attached: Untangling the Ethics of Incentives, and reported the following:
If you open Strings Attached to p. 99, you will find yourself in the middle of a discussion of the use of incentives to recruit subjects for medical research: “. . . consider the hypothetical case where cash incentives are offered through an advertisement in a high school newspaper for sexually active teenagers willing to participate in a research study. Some religious students object, viewing the incentives as a reward for immoral behavior. And one might imagine others objecting that it undermines the cultural support of teenage abstinence as an important value in a more general sense. But if the incentives offered were free treatment of sexually transmitted infections, counseling, or birth control, the picture could change considerably with respect to these concerns . . . sometimes, even attention to the kind of incentive that is offered can make an ethical difference.” This book takes up widely differing uses of incentives - from plea bargaining to paying students to get good grades – aiming to help us distinguish legitimate from illegitimate uses of them.

Incentives can be found everywhere – in schools, businesses, factories, and government – and so long as people have a choice, incentives seem innocuous. But incentives are a form of power: they are one way some people get other people to do what they want them to do. When viewed as a kind of power, many ethical questions arise: How do incentives affect character and institutional culture? Can incentives be manipulative or exploitative, even if people are free to refuse them? What are the responsibilities of the powerful in using incentives? I argue that, like all other forms of power, incentives can be subject to abuse.

Strings Attached begins with the history of the growth of incentives in early twentieth-century America, identifies standards for judging incentives, and examines four cases in detail. In every case, the analysis of incentives in terms of power yields strikingly different and more complex judgments than an analysis that views incentives as trades. With this novel approach, I distinguish between incentives rather than embracing or rejecting them wholesale.

Finally, the book raises questions about the place of incentives in a democratic society. Incentives are used increasingly in all areas of life. They are employed by experts to steer people’s behavior. And they encourage people to ask, “What’s in it for me?” Readers of this book will be led to wonder, first, about the proper role of experts in a democracy and, second, about whether the penchant for constant ‘incentivizing’ undermines the qualities required for active, autonomous democratic citizenship.
Learn more about the book at the official Strings Attached Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jason Morgan Ward's "Defending White Democracy"

Jason Morgan Ward is assistant professor of history at Mississippi State University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Defending White Democracy: The Making of a Segregationist Movement and the Remaking of Racial Politics, 1936-1965, and reported the following:
My book, Defending White Democracy, traces the emergence of a self-consciously “segregationist” movement in the 1950s back to its roots in the racial struggles of the New Deal, World War II, and immediate postwar years. During the 1930s and 1940s, a growing chorus of southern racial conservatives concluded that white supremacy was under attack. Years before the landmark Brown decision and the rise of mass protest in the South, black political realignment and civil rights activism convinced many white southerners that they would have to fight to maintain their segregated status quo. In short, my book recasts segregationists as far-sighted and preemptive opponents of racial change rather than as kneejerk reactionaries goaded into open revolt.

Page 99 highlights a pivotal moment in the evolution of southern racial politics. A few pages into Chapter Four, “Nationalizing Race and Southernizing Freedom,” this passage shows how civil rights reforms in the immediate postwar months forced southern racial conservatives to reconcile their commitment to Jim Crow with their desire for regional prosperity and national credibility in the postwar world. Ironically, the victory over Hitler and his ilk had unleashed a wave of racist repression back home. Compelled to action by beatings, lynchings, and black protest, President Harry Truman made unprecedented postwar concessions on civil rights. In 1947, he became the first president to address the NAACP’s annual convention. He also created the President’s Committee on Civil Rights (PCCR), whose landmark report, To Secure These Rights, catalogued rampant racial abuse and prescribed a number of reforms aimed at “the elimination of segregation…from American life.” As this Page 99 excerpt reveals, southern elites cried foul:
Many white southerners regarded the report as an insult rather than an outright attack. Keeping cool for the time being, Thurmond stressed modernization while mocking the PCCR’s misled idealism. “A little more practical help on economic lines, and a little less fallacious racial theory,” Thurmond declared, “would accomplish a great deal more for the improvement of the level of life and opportunity of all our people of whatever race.” SSIC columnist Thurman Sensing chided the committee, and particularly its two white southern members, for proposing reforms that were not only “impractical” but also “inimical to the American way of life.” Claiming that segregation was not discrimination but rather “a law of nature,” Sensing concluded: “Those who actually understand the relationship between the races know that nothing would be worse for the Negro race than enforced abolishment of segregation.”
In the excerpt, I point out that southern defenders of segregation responded to the PCCR’s report in derisive yet measured language. South Carolina governor J. Strom Thurmond, remembered as a symbol of segregationist defiance, was busy trying to tamp down racial tension and negative publicity in his home state so that he could focus on economic development. The Southern States Industrial Council (SSIC), a lobby for the region’s right-wing businessmen, shared Thurmond’s belief that prosperity could proceed apace with racial retrenchment. Faced with unprecedented pressure from the federal government and their own Democratic Party, southern racial conservatives realized that they had to convince the nation that a segregated society could be orderly, prosperous, and consistent with fundamental American values. They had fought the Axis, they argued, to preserve their “white democracy.” They would continue to fight—their President, their party, and even their neighbors—to save segregation.
Learn more about Defending White Democracy at the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Markus Krajewski's "Paper Machines"

Markus Krajewski is Associate Professor of Media History at the Bauhaus University, Weimar, and a developer of the bibliographic software Synapsen: A Hypertextual Card Index.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Paper Machines: About Cards & Catalogs, 1548-1929, and reported the following:
A book is usually not considered as a machine, though it is common to use paper as one of the book’s basic elements and a machine to print its pages. If you open a book called Paper Machines on page 99, you may see a longer quote from a library furniture catalog from 1894 which depicts a paper machine. This page 99 first reads, no doubt, as one of the most boring passages of the whole narrative. However, the quote points to an incident where nothing less than a historical change within the long tradition of economical bookkeeping was invented. This crucial scene—which is described on the previous pages, 95ff.—took place in a company called Library Bureau and it was led by America’s foremost librarian of the 19th century, Melvil Dewey, the inventor of the famous library classification system which bears his name. Also, Dewey’s secretary plays a major role while using card catalogs not only for libraries but for her own commercial bookkeeping. Her visionary insight consisted of applying library furniture to financial transactions which led to the ubiquitous spread of card indexes on every office desk around 1900. However, this is only one small episode in a longer trajectory: Paper Machines outlines the story of the card index, as a library catalogue, as a collection of index cards for thinkers and as a tool for office efficiency from its primordial scene in 1548 (when a Zurich based polymath named Conrad Gesner starts thinking about cutting information into pieces) up to the beginning of the electrical era in the office and the new age of data processing, 1929. For the first time, this book deals with the history and analysis of a crucial cultural technique which has been neglected so far, though it operates on the very basis of our intellectual life: since freely moving data pieces around on paper slips is one way to cope with the notorious information overflow. Before the dawn of the computer age information was usually stored on paper, often kept in notebooks for further use. And the card index is, as Paper Machines argues meticulously, the obvious precursor of the computer as a data processing device.

Imaging the three following pieces of information written down on three index cards. You may shuffle them, you may store them in your own modern card index (i.e. your computer), or you may use them as the nucleus of your own new(s) story:

Paper Machines unfolds the history of cutting those papers of thinking in pieces instead of keeping them in bound form, and how those mobile elements provide a specific advantage not only for data processing purposes or for library use. Furthermore paper slips serve as very basic as well as productive tools of thinking for both more efficient handling and—what is more—for scholarly purposes.

Paper Machines makes a strong contribution to a new historiographical approach, i.e. developing an argument in an entertaining as well as theoretically challenging manner. That's how media theory is fun.

Paper Machines tells the long story of the card index / index card from the Early Modern Period to the dawning age of electronic communication in an unexpectedly amusing way: as a history of failures. An astonishing story, not only for librarians, bibliophiles and historians of the art of unelectronic data processing.
Learn more about Paper Machines at The MIT Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 19, 2011

Michael Broyles's "Beethoven in America"

Michael Broyles is Professor of Music at Florida State University and former Distinguished Professor of Music and Professor of American History at Pennsylvania State University. His book, Leo Ornstein: Modernist Dilemmas, Personal Choices, written with Denise Von Glahn, won the Irving Lowens Prize in 2007.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Beethoven in America, and reported the following:
I have often been asked, what does a piece of music mean? What is it about? I usually answer “to whom?” Beethoven in America explores the many ways that Beethoven’s music has been viewed, valued, interpreted and used in the United States for the past 200 years. It examines how he has been appropriated in popular music, film and theater, in art, and in both TV and magazine commercials. The early part of the book addresses how Beethoven came to be deified as a Romantic icon in the nineteenth century, and how twentieth-century modernists, wanting to overthrow Romanticism but not wanting to abandon Beethoven, redefined him and made him a modernist.

Page 99 occurs at the juncture between Romanticism and modernism. It does not mention Beethoven, but rather discusses the rise of modernism in various arts. The page lies on the tail end of a discussion of the New York Armory Show of 1913, which shocked the American art world with first glimpses of radical new ideas sweeping Europe. Then it moves to music, to discuss two of the pioneers of American modernism, Charles Ives and Leo Ornstein.

From page 99:
Musical modernism, it seemed, lagged far behind its artistic cousin. Through the 1910s music heard at most concerts was little changed from what appeared in the 1880s. Yet musical radicalism was present, only hidden away, out of public view, in such places as Redding, Connecticut. There Charles Ives continued his foray into modernism which he had begun in New Haven in the 1890s. Ives knew he was creating new and controversial music, in style and complexity far beyond what the public would accept. As a consequence he decided not to enter the music profession, but instead had an extremely successful career in the insurance business. At night and on weekends he composed. He was much aware of what was happening in Europe but he made little attempt to connect directly with the European moderns or even to get his music performed. Scores piled up, only to be discovered later. Ives was clear about his choice: He didn’t want his family “to starve on his dissonances.”

Somewhat later than Ives’s was Leo Ornstein. A Jewish immigrant who came to the United States in 1906 Ornstein suddenly discovered his own modernist style in 1913. He was more public about it, because he was his own performer. A talented concert pianist, Ornstein created a stir wherever he went with his ultramodern works, such as Danse Sauvage and Suicide in an Airplane. His appeal was due in part to the outrageous novelty of his music, and the audience’s privilege of witnessing a small, wiry man beating a piano into submission.
Learn more about Beethoven in America at the Indiana University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Beethoven in America.

Writers Read: Michael Broyles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bruce N. Waller's "Against Moral Responsibility"

Bruce N. Waller is Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Youngstown State University. He is the author of The Natural Selection of Autonomy, Consider Ethics: Theory, Readings, and Contemporary Issues, and other books.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Against Moral Responsibility, and reported the following: 
Page 99 of Against Moral Responsibility discusses Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but it focuses on the work of a very insightful contemporary American philosopher, John Martin Fischer. Fischer is a dedicated defender of moral responsibility, but he is acutely aware of the challenges posed to moral responsibility by advances in our scientific understanding of the causes of human behavior. Like almost everyone – whether philosopher, baker or candlestick maker – Fischer regards the possibility of giving up moral responsibility as almost too absurd and awful to seriously consider. One way of preserving moral responsibility from scientific threat is to narrow the scope of morally responsible behavior to a very small (but vitally important) range. Fischer develops an appealing version of this approach: We are morally responsible when we are freely writing the narratives of our own lives. But creative as this moral responsibility model is, it is difficult to see how it can justify us in holding anyone morally responsible for his or her life narrative. Ebenezer Scrooge writes the narrative of his own selfish life, and reflectively approves of that miserly narrative, judging himself to have “grown so much wiser.” But as the great novelist peels back the layers that shaped Scrooge’s steadfastly selfish character, the grounds for holding Scrooge morally responsible for his life narrative – a narrative he himself wrote and approves – become ever more doubtful.

Given the relentless pressure of our scientific understanding to prise moral responsibility out of every corner in which it attempts to take refuge, the real question is why we find it so difficult to contemplate the total rejection of moral responsibility (the moral responsibility that props up our system of blame, punishment, “justice,” and reward). First, there is confusion about what is involved in the rejection of moral responsibility: it is typically (but mistakenly) assumed that we would also be rejecting freedom, self-control, morality, and personal achievement. Second, belief in moral responsibility is deeply entrenched in primitive “strike-back” retributive emotions, and it seems to us inconceivable that such a deep emotional response might be unjustifiable. And finally, the moral responsibility system of belief has become so broad and pervasive that rejecting moral responsibility seems absurd or even incoherent. Thus we are only beginning to explore the psychological, social, and institutional freedom that would result from the total demise of the moral responsibility system.
Learn more about Against Moral Responsibility at the MIT Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 16, 2011

Joe Sutliff Sanders's "Disciplining Girls"

Joe Sutliff Sanders is an assistant professor of English at Kansas State University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Disciplining Girls: Understanding the Origins of the Classic Orphan Girl Story, and reported the following:
This was a fun exercise—thanks for asking me to play. The 99th page of Disciplining Girls is half excellent representative, half tantalizing (or so I tell myself) rabbit trail. The top of the page talks about Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic orphan girl novel The Secret Garden, especially the bizarre yet historically appropriate gender negotiations at work in Burnett’s novel. As a whole, Disciplining Girls is about how the literary histories of late sentimental woman’s fiction and early girls’ fiction intertwine, specifically over the issue discipline. The top half of this page returns to one of the main claims I make: recent literary scholarship has argued that we have over-emphasized the importance of gender in understanding sentimental fiction and its cultural uses; I argue that the only historically accurate way to understand sentimental fiction is to insist on seeing the ways that gender participated in the realignments of family, law, discipline, and emotion, at the turn of the century. Burnett’s novel, as page 99 explains, is part of the long historical process of renegotiating what role girls, mothers, boys, and fathers would play in the evolving structures of discipline.

My book is about what these novels and their ideas about discipline meant in the United States. The second half of this page, though, points out that there are specific British antecedents for the ideas about discipline in The Secret Garden. Disciplining Girls is only about these books (two of them penned by a Canadian writer, two of them by a woman who refused to define herself as either British or American) in America: a broader focus would have been too sprawling. If that focus on U.S. culture and literary history is a problem in the book’s argument—and it might well be—I like to tell myself that what I’ve done, and you can see this in the second half of the 99th page, is open the door for other readers to explain how what I said almost pertains to the cultural and literary history of, say, the U.K. or Canada. My book is in direct conversation with the smart people who came before me—why not also with the smart people who will come after me?
Learn more about Disciplining Girls at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kristen Monroe's "Ethics in an Age of Terror and Genocide"

Kristen Monroe’s books include the prize-winning The Heart of Altruism (1996) and The Hand of Compassion (2004). Professor of Political Science and Director of the UC Irvine Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality, Monroe has served as President of the International Society of Political Psychology and has received numerous awards for her work on ethics, political psychology and political science.

Monroe applied the “Page 99 Test” to her most recent book, Ethics in an Age of Terror and Genocide: Identity and Moral Choice, and reported the following:
My book presents interviews with rescuers of Jews, bystanders and Nazi supporters during World War II in order to understand what causes genocide. It finds self-image and identity are critical determinants of our moral choices. How we see ourselves in relation to others defines our choice options, not just morally but cognitively. We all establish a critical relationship with “the other,” either thinking about and classifying people in need as “human beings just like us” or reducing them to strangers seen as different, threatening, or even beyond the boundaries of the community of our concern. Recognizing the political and psychological significance of how we categorize others helped me understand the dehumanization that is a prerequisite for genocidal aggression. I then used this knowledge of genocide during World War II to develop a broader theory of moral choice that applies to other forms of ethnic, religious, racial, and sectarian prejudice, aggression, and violence. In doing so, I realized compassion and identity are more fundamental than religious beliefs or deliberative reasoning processes in the treatment of others. Our ethical acts reflect who we are and how we see ourselves in relation to others.

My Page 99 is actually page 236, which quotes a Czech rescuer who saved over 100 people before landing in concentration camp himself. Otto describes a concentration camp guard telling what it is like to be given an order to kill another human being. This one passage highlights the importance of the moral psychology. It provides a concrete illustration of the link between how we think about others and how we respond to their suffering. Page 236 also suggests why we all need to think about genocide, as painful as it is to do so. If we can understand the psychological process that leads to genocide, presumably we can then stop it. Genocide is not inevitable. It can be prevented.

Page 236:
For rescuers, all people within the boundaries of their community of concern were to be treated the same, and their circle of concern included all human beings. This perception of a shared humanity triggered a sense of relationship to the other that then made the suffering of another a concern for the rescuers. Significantly, this extensivity included Nazis, with the rescuers demonstrating extraordinary forgiveness of Nazis. I believe it is this role of the ethical framework to classify and categorize people and then to work through a cognitive process of moral salience that provides the link between the lack of choice and identity and the variation in our treatment of others.

Ironically, while other scholars have noted the importance of categorization for genocidalists, I first encountered the ethical importance of categorization via conversations with an ethnic German rescuer, whose time in concentration camps provided a contact with the genocidal mentality that was far more intense and personal than any scholarly one:
Otto: I interviewed many SS guards. I was always intrigued by the question: how could seemingly normal people become killers? Once I got an interesting answer. In a camp in Upper Silesia, I asked one of our guards, pointing at the big gun in his holster, “Did you ever use that to kill?” He replied, “Once I had to shoot six Jews. I did not like that at all, but when you get such an order, you have to be hard.” Then he added, “You know, they were not human anymore.” That was the key: dehumanization. You first call your victim names and take away his dignity. You restrict his nourishment and he loses his physical beauty and sometimes some of his moral values. You take away soap and water, then say the Jew stinks. Then you take their human dignity further away by putting them in situations where they even will do such things which are criminal. Then you take food away. When they lose their beauty and health and so on, they are not human anymore. When he’s reduced to a skin-colored skeleton, you have taken away his humanity. It is much easier to kill nonhumans than humans.
Rescuers were quick to note that this phenomenon is not unique to the Holocaust, occurring elsewhere, especially during wars. As Tony (Dutch rescuer) commented: “We have to watch for the old ‘yellow gooks’ mentality. It is much easier to shoot at or burn the ‘yellow gooks’ than to shoot and burn some other farm boy just like yourself.” In contrast, the rescuer categorization process is one in which all people are included in the same category, and because of that, all are treated the same. The power of this was reflected most strikingly in the rescuers’ discussions of the Nazis and in their insistence that genocide’s roots can find fertile soil anywhere; it is not specific to one culture or one country. As Tony put it, “All over the world, there’s a certain attitude. It’s not any one nation. It’s not because they are German.”
Learn more about Ethics in an Age of Terror and Genocide at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Brad S. Gregory's "The Unintended Reformation"

Brad S. Gregory is Dorothy G. Griffin Associate Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society, and reported the following:
My book, The Unintended Reformation, is about the complex ways in which North American and European life in the early twenty-first century is the long-term product of Western Europe’s unresolved doctrinal disagreements and religio-political conflicts in the Reformation era.

Page 99 is not necessarily representative of the book as a whole, which addresses issues ranging from the exercise of public political power to the character of higher education. Each of the book’s six chapters is an analytical narrative that runs from the late Middle Ages to the present, emphasizing the Reformation’s multivalent role in reshaping the institutionalized worldview of late medieval Christianity. But page 99 does give a sense of one of the book’s key arguments: that we are living in a world of competing and conflicting truth claims about what people should believe, how they should live, and what they should care about; that this began in Germany in the early 1520s in what have turned out to be enduring ways; and that the governing institutions and dominant ideologies of Western modernity are an attempt to manage this disagreement. Page 99 falls in the middle of Chapter 2, “Relativizing Doctrines.” I am discussing the unsuccessful appeals to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as one of the ways in which, beginning in the sixteenth century and persisting to the present, those who rejected the authority of the Roman Catholic Church sought to overcome their disagreements about the meaning of the Bible. Instead of resolving deadlocks about the correct interpretation of scripture, such appeals were futile because claimed by all sides in every dispute. Nor could such standoffs about genuine inspiration by the Spirit be settled by recourse to behavioral criteria, because Christians in the Reformation era also disputed these criteria. Thus page 99:
Unlike exegetical disagreements about the “external Word”—in which texts could be cited and weighed, compared and debated—disagreements about whom the Spirit had “taught from above” “in the heart” were insurmountably problematic because of their inaccessible interiority. Nothing has changed in this respect between the early Reformation and the early twenty-first century. This is apparent when one considers the contrary claims about the work of the Spirit today among the hundreds of Pentecostal denominations, for example, the latter-day legacy of the schisms between Trinitarian and Oneness, “First Work” and “Second Work,” Pentecostals in the 1910s. Erasmus’s question [“What am I to do when many persons allege different interpretations, each one of whom swears to have the Spirit?”] remains as pertinent today as it was in 1524, especially if coupled with the stunning contrast between appearance and reality implicit in Paul’s warning about false apostles: “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14). Apparently, this meant that sixteenth-century people who seemed to be devout Christians leading upright lives inspired by the Holy Spirit might in fact be just the opposite. This is what Reformed Protestant critics of the Anabaptists such as Guy de Brès argued in sharply distinguishing between the appearance and reality of a holy life, the former including the Anabaptists’ willingness to die with seeming tranquility for their beliefs. At the very least, Paul’s warning problematized Jesus’s seemingly straightforward criterion for telling true from false prophets, and by extension, those whom the Spirit had enlightened or failed to enlighten: “You will know them by their fruits” (Mt 7:16, 20).

Yet Jesus’s maxim was not straightforward. Even had all concurred that “by their fruits ye shall know them,” the disagreements evident from the outset of the Reformation would have rendered impossible any consensus about the content of this criterion. Because Christians disagreed about what they were to believe and do, they disagreed about what the fruits of a Christian life were. For example, was the Anabaptist withdrawal from political participation after the Peasants’ War—save for the debacle of Münster—a fruit of their holy rejection of a sinful world, or a sinful shirking of their duty to participate in its public life? Did Hutterite communitarian life in the mid-sixteenth century manifest the fruits by which Christians were known, in accord with the community of goods practiced by first-century Christians and mentioned in Acts 2 and 4, or was it an aberrant distortion of the nuclear families living in separate households with private property that constituted the basic units of any viable Christian society? Were Calvinists manifesting the fruits of the Spirit in seeking to shape political and social institutions in accord with the Gospel as they understood it, or were they backsliding on justification by faith alone and violating the proper distinction between the “two kingdoms” of the Gospel and the world as stipulated by Luther? Such questions could be extended almost indefinitely.
Appeals to reason were similarly unable to resolve the interpretative conflicts because of disagreements about its character, application, and scope. Modern liberal states eventually solved the problem of concretely disruptive Christian commitments by replacing a substantive ethics of the good with a formal ethics of rights that allowed individuals to define the good for themselves and to believe and worship (or not) however they pleased in exchange for political obedience. This in turn established the modern foundation for our contemporary pluralism of competing moral commitments and irreconcilable political views.
Learn more about The Unintended Reformation at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

David Satter's "It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway"

David Satter is senior fellow, Hudson Institute, and fellow, Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He was Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times from 1976 to 1982, then a special correspondent on Soviet affairs for the Wall Street Journal. His  books include Age of Delirium: The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union and Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past, and reported the following:
Page 99 of It Was a Long Time Ago... contains an interview with a woman who is nostalgic for the Soviet Union and it is part of a chapter that seeks to explain what it was about communism that appealed to Russians. The book as a whole, however, deals not with what was good about the Soviet Union but rather with what was murderous, tragic, inhuman and repellent. Page 99 therefore is not a particularly good guide to the content of the entire book.

What I've tried to show is why Russia is different from the West, what it is about Russians that we need to understand and what they need to understand about themselves. In Russia, as nowhere in the West, the individual is a means to an end. He can be used for any purpose. This underlying mentality provided the psychological base for communism and it led to the deaths of millions. It is also the reason that Russians do not view with horror the crimes that were committed against innocent individuals and find it hard to condemn either the crimes of communism or the society that those crimes helped to build.
Learn more about It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 12, 2011

T. Bruneau et al, eds., "Maras: Gang Violence and Security in Central America"

Thomas C. Bruneau is Distinguished Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School; Lucía Dammert is Executive Director of the Global Consortium on Security Transformation; Elizabeth Skinner is the think tank coordinator at NATO's Allied Command Transformation. They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Maras: Gang Violence and Security in Central America, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Maras: Gang Violence and Security in Central America is in the last section of the Chapter by Joanna Mateo, “Street Gangs of Honduras” in which she deals with the impact of mano dura (heavy hand) policies by the government of Honduras against the street gangs, or maras. In this co-edited book the authors describe and analyze the phenomenon of the maras or street gangs and their impact on security in the four Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Originally founded in Los Angeles, California, in the 1980s, the main maras, the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, and the 18th Street Gang, or Barrio – 18, were exported to Central America as illegal immigrants from the region were deported back to their countries of origin in the 1990s. These two maras quickly established themselves in these new, fragile, and impoverished democracies where they decimated other, less “modern” gangs. The gang members share certain bizarre features including tattoos, graffiti, and language. They are mainly characterized by their reliance on violence as they battle for control of turf and illegal commerce, which extends beyond the region to North America.

As governments have sought to deal with the maras, all but Nicaragua have implemented mano dura, or heavy handed, strategies, which violate human rights. They have also led to imprisoning the young gang members with hardened more senior members of the gangs and organized crime with the result that the mara members have become more organized and strategic in their thinking. Neither the three countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, nor the U.S. Government have come up with much more than repressive methods to respond to the gangs. These strategies have not been successful in that homicide rates have increased to an average of 63 per 100,000 population, among the highest in the world.

The ten chapters in the book include studies on the four main Central America countries, Los Angeles, California, sub-regional and regional comparisons, U.S. policies and programs, and the importance of intelligence in combating the maras. As the first book in English on this topic, the book seeks to provide a base line of information and analysis that other serious scholars might follow.
Learn more about Maras: Gang Violence and Security in Central America at the University of Texas Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christopher P. Loss's "Between Citizens and the State"

Christopher P. Loss is assistant professor of public policy and higher education at Vanderbilt University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Between Citizens and the State: The Politics of American Higher Education in the 20th Century, and reported the following:
Is a picture really worth a thousand words? If it is, then I’m in trouble, because there’s a picture on page 99 of my book and these are supposed to be short posts. I’ll do my best to keep it brief.

The picture shows eight American G.I.s—their identities hidden—participating in reading therapy at a Red Cross reading room at the Eighty-second Field Hospital in Okinawa, Japan, May 1945. Reading therapy? Really? Yes: during World War II the U.S. Army Neuropsychiatric Consultants Division—headed by William Menninger, who, along with his brother, Karl, ran the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas—deployed educational therapeutics as part of the army’s neuropsychiatric rehabilitation regimen, which was to commence at the moment convalescence began, while psychologically damaged soldiers were still in bed.

Reading therapy was just one example of the wartime overhaul of democratic citizenship that merged education to psychological health and synthesized them in the person of the veteran. During the war the army deployed a bevy of education programs—from orientation and literacy training to correspondence study to the creation of four Army University Centers—aimed at improving the intellectual, informational, material, and, not least of all, psychological health of American soldiers. The belief that education embodied therapeutic power and could be used to help soldiers “adjust” and “readjust” to changing wartime experiences informed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944—better known as the G.I. Bill of Rights. Nearly half of the nation’s 16 million veterans went back to school with the G.I. Bill, 2.2 million of whom did so at a college or university. As I explain in the rest of the book, veterans’ celebrated, if overblown, success under the G.I. Bill became a critical policy touchstone for the rest of the century—fueling the public’s demand for higher learning and shaping the creation of subsequent federal education legislation, from the 1958 National Defense Education Act to the 1965 Higher Education Act. At every turn policymakers and the general public intoned the legacy of the G.I. Bill to advance access for more and more students, not just veterans.

National policymakers willingly obliged these demands, justifying increased support for college going on the belief that educated citizens were better-adjusted citizens—civically engaged, economically productive, and psychologically healthy. This vision of democratic citizenship endured until the late 1960s when the unruly behavior of some student protesters suggested to government leaders that educated citizens were anything but well adjusted—they were maladjusted! The crack in the consensus around democratic citizenship was the first of many to chisel away at the postwar state-academic partnership—a partnership that had created the atomic bomb, put a man on the moon, discovered countless new medical breakthroughs, and helped millions upon millions of Americans get an education. None of this mattered anymore: by the mid-1970s the government had lost faith in higher education’s capacity to create democratic citizens and higher education leaders, in turn, had become increasingly suspicious of federal meddling even as they continued to demand evermore federal funding for research and student aid. Today’s chilly relationship between the government and higher education dates back to the impasse of the 1960s. What is college for? All these decades on we are still searching for an answer.

If you are intrigued by what you’ve read, and would like to read more, please check out Between Citizens and the State: The Politics of American Higher Education in the 20th Century. And, in case you’re wondering, there are twenty-eight additional pictures in the book, each worth a thousand words—or, as in this case, at least six hundred.
Learn more about Between Citizens and the State at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Arthur J. Magida's "The Nazi Seance"

Arthur J. Magida is writer-in-residence at the University of Baltimore, a journalism professor at Georgetown University and recipient of multiple awards in journalism and the humanities, including the Simon Rockower Award from the American Jewish Press Association, the A.D. Emmart Award and the Smolar Award for Excellence in Jewish Journalism. His books include The Rabbi and The Hit Man, Prophet of Rage: A Life of Louis Farrakhan and His Nation, Opening the Doors of Wonder and How To Be a Perfect Stranger.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Nazi Séance: The Strange Story of the Jewish Psychic in Hitler's Circle, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Nazi Seance? There’s not much here: 16 words, barely enough for a decent fortune cookie in a Chinese restaurant. There’s an announcement that you’ve reached “Part Two” of the book and that it’s titled “The Fuehrer, the Fire and the Actress.” Below that is a quotation of six words: “Great liars are also great magicians.” The man who spoke those words is Adolf Hitler.

Despite the paucity of words, Page 99 is the fulcrum of The Nazi Séance, the point where the protagonist – Erik Jan Hanussen, an immensely successful clairvoyant – went from being a mere showman to throwing in his lot with the Nazis who were then scheming and agitating in Berlin. The fact that Hanussen was Jewish makes this story even more compelling, and more disturbing.

On page 98, Hanussen had just been acquitted for fraud in a trial in Czechoslovakia. It was May 1930. The judge declared that Hanussen’s “metaphysical abilities are beyond doubt;” the trial drew so much international attention that New York Times headlined its story: “Clairvoyant Proves Power in Czech Court; Jan Hanussen, With Face Masked and Ears Stuffed, Demonstrates While Experts Wrangle.” Then on Page 100, Hanussen heads off to Berlin, a ravaged, yet magical city that had always enchanted him. Here, Hanussen was more successful than ever, but with less stability in Berlin every day, he needed security and safety. For that, he drew close to the top Storm Troopers, occasionally assured Hitler that the stars were aligned in his favor and turned his tabloid newspaper into pro-Nazi rags.

Page 99 is almost shorn of words, but pregnant with doom. This is the point where Hanussen began his foolish and fatal journey, hoping that if Hitler was the new God, he would be his favored prophet: the resident seer of the Third Reich. But Hitler was one step ahead of Hanussen. Hitler understood that “great liars are also great magicians.” He also understood that no one in Germany was a better liar than the king of the Nazis.
Learn more about the book and author at Arthur J. Magida's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nico Slate's "Colored Cosmopolitanism"

Nico Slate is Assistant Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Colored Cosmopolitanism: The Shared Struggle for Freedom in the United States and India, and reported the following:
What did Rabindranath Tagore and W.E.B. Du Bois talk about when they met in New York City in 1930? According to Du Bois, the Nobel Prize-winning Indian poet and the renowned African American scholar “found much in common to discuss concerning the color line which was growing in world importance.” While Indians “naturally recoiled from being mistaken for Negroes and having to share their disabilities,” Du Bois wrote, “the Negroes thought of Indians as people ashamed of their race and color.” According to Du Bois, never one to understate the importance of his endeavors, his meeting with Tagore helped “Negroes and Indians realize that both are fighting the same great battle against the assumption of superiority made so often by the white race.”

Page 99 of my book, Colored Cosmopolitanism, examines the interaction between two intellectual titans of the twentieth century. The relationship between Tagore and Du Bois was only one facet of the long history of connections between African American and South Asian freedom struggles. Some of these connections involved famous figures like Tagore and Du Bois. It is fitting that Page 99 references Gandhi as, along with Du Bois, Gandhi is one of the most important historical actors in the book.

Page 99 also discusses the exploits of lesser-known, but equally remarkable figures—including Gandhi’s close friend, the English priest and anticolonial activist, C.F. Andrews and the Indian poet and president of the Indian National Congress, Sarojini Naidu. I was surprised to see such a variety of people gathered on that one page. One of the great joys of writing a transnational history is being continually surprised by relationships that spanned the borders of nations, races, and history books like mine.
Learn more about Colored Cosmopolitanism at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sarah S. Elkind's "How Local Politics Shape Federal Policy"

Sarah S. Elkind is associate professor of history and director of environmental studies at San Diego State University. She is author of Bay Cities and Water Politics: The Battle for Resources in Boston and Oakland, which won the Abel Wolman Prize from the Public Works Historical Society.

Elkind applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, How Local Politics Shape Federal Policy: Business, Power, and the Environment in Twentieth-Century Los Angeles, and reported the following:
The year was 1938, two decades into the campaign to curb flooding in Los Angeles County. But in spite of all that effort, the worst flood in Southern California history had just roared down the mountains, overwhelming a third of the flood control channels and reservoirs, damaging $40 million in property, and killing 49 people. Nineteen-thirtyeight was also the year that the Army Corps of Engineers proposed building the flood control basin at Whittier Narrows to protect Long Beach from the rampaging San Gabriel River, and to reduce floodwaters from the Rio Hondo into the Los Angeles River. This flood control basin, the first proposed for Los Angeles County, ultimately displaced a community of truck farmers and industrial workers. Residents of this community took their objections to their Congressmember, Jerry Voorhis. Voorhis called upon the Army Corps to hold a public hearing. The Army Corps refused because they did not recognize Voorhis or his constituents as legitimate representatives of the public interest in the debate over Whittier Narrows Dam.
While the Los Angeles District replied to letters from opponents and discussed the merits of the dam with the El Monte Citizens Flood Committee [the main opposition group], the Army Corps actually helped organize supporters of the dam. This collaboration showed in the supporters' correspondence and activities. The Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners passed resolutions in April 1938 and again in February 1940 calling the dam the best means to protect the population and property below the Narrows. … The 1938 resolution not only used the Army Corps’s data on flood sizes and runoff rates, but also Army Corps’s wording. The resolution stated, "the erection of said Whittier Narrows dam will create no engineering problem that cannot be solved to the entire satisfaction of residents of that area" and that "any economic problems affecting the residents of that area can also be solved without working a hardship upon such residents;" nearly the same language appeared in the Army Corp’s responses to Voorhis’ 1938 enquiries on Whittier Narrows Dam.

A 1938 resolution passed by the Norwalk Chamber of Commerce repeated the Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners' resolution almost verbatim. … Both the Norwalk and Long Beach resolutions mention the Army Corps' warning that, in view of the El Monte opposition, the corps would not seek congressional appropriations without a stronger show of support for Whittier Narrows. (How Local Politics Shape Federal Policy, p. 99; footnotes not included)
Whittier Narrows Dam proved successful by many measures: it cost less, displaced fewer people, and controlled floods far better than any of the alternatives demanded by opponents. If the Army Corps succeeded in controlling floods, however, they failed the people. The Army Corps of Engineers engineered Los Angeles County politics as surely as they redesigned the San Gabriel River. By recognizing supporters of their plans as legitimate representatives of the public interest while dismissing opponents as "special interests," the Army Corps drove a wedge between the people of the Whittier Narrows basin and the federal government. The story of Whittier Narrows Dam offers one explanation of why Americans have lost faith in the federal government. The other 183 pages in How Local Politics Shape Federal Policy reveal how the groups identified as the legitimate voices of the public earned that status, how their priorities shaped federal as well as local politics, and finally, how Americans rejected federal authority as a threat to private enterprise and autonomy in the twentieth century. As the Occupy movement suggests, these trends have left too many Americans on the sidelines of democracy.
Learn more about How Local Politics Shape Federal Policy at the the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 5, 2011

Douglas W. Allen's "The Institutional Revolution"

Douglas W. Allen is the Burnaby Mountain Professor of Economics at Simon Fraser University in Canada. He is the author of numerous books, including The Nature of the Farm: Contracts, Risk, and Organization in Agriculture.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Institutional Revolution: Measurement and the Economic Emergence of the Modern World, and reported the following:
Travel back in time 150 years to Victorian England or the United States, and you’ll have no problem understanding the institutions of the day. Transportation and health would have been somewhat poorer, but you would recognize the institutional apparatus as modern. The same could not be said if you travelled back 250 or 350 years. You would have no clue of the institutional context most were operating under.

Prior to the turn of the 19th century there was a strong class structure and a vast gulf between them. Certain people dueled to the point of death over the slightest social blunders. There were no police, but townsmen volunteered as watchmen. Cities had walls and gates with their keepers. Roads were private, and wannabe soldiers paid good money to be an officer. Punishments were severe, monitoring was limited, and rewards often high. There were servants more than laborers. Most public services were up for sale. And on and on.

The Institutional Revolution explains why the Western world transformed institutionally between 1780-1850. The basic answer lies in measurement. Prior to 1800 it was either impossible or meaningless to measure many basic things like time or distance. As a result, the modern concept of meeting at a certain time and place, had little meaning in many situations. This problem lead to institutions to manage affairs under these conditions. When these measurement problems were solved, the modern world emerged.

Page 99 is at the end of the chapter on dueling. Dueling was used as a method of testing whether or not marginal aristocrats could be trusted. This explanation of dueling explains why it arose, why it fell away, and why it had so many strange rules. Page 99 is explaining why dueling was more lethal in the United States compared to Europe.
Learn more about The Institutional Revolution at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 4, 2011

William deBuys's "A Great Aridness"

William deBuys's books include River of Traps: A New Mexico Mountain Life, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in general non-fiction in 1991; Enchantment and Exploitation: The Life and Hard Times of a New Mexico Mountain Range; The Walk (an excerpt of which won a Pushcart Prize in 2008), and Salt Dreams: Land and Water in Low-Down California. An active conservationist, deBuys has helped protect more than 150,000 acres in New Mexico, Arizona, and North Carolina. He lives and writes on a small farm in northern New Mexico.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest, and reported the following:
Maybe Ford Madox Ford, in extolling the virtues of an ideal Page 99, didn’t contemplate the intrusion of half-tone photos, maps, and graphs. As it happens, Page 99 of A Great Aridness has no text whatever; it consists entirely of a map of northwest Chihuahua, with towns, mountains, and rivers indicated, along with the boundaries of the recently declared Janos Biosphere Reserve.

What can a map say about a book?

Actually quite a lot.

What the map doesn’t hint at, however, is the quality of the read. Let’s face it: the news about climate change in the Southwest isn’t good. Rising temperatures and shifting weather patterns promise a future full of drought, dust, fire, and thirst. Several hundred pages on those subjects could produce a monotone gloomcast if unrelieved by vivid characters, evocative locations, and a narrative momentum that makes you want to turn the page. Readers will have to judge how well I succeeded, but my strategy was to tell the stories--especially the stories of discovery--of smart, dedicated people who understand the lands of the Southwest best. In making the book, I drew inspiration from them. I pray that some part of that inspiration comes through.

But back to the map. Instead of writing the book from the perspective of a dozen different locations, I could have connected nearly all of the subject matter to the lands of greater Janos. The riddles of the past are there, buried in the mud-walled ruins of nearby Casas Grandes. The legacy of land abuse is there in the bald pastures of El Cuervo, which lack grass enough to hide a golf ball. Drought is there, and also storm. (The rains suddenly returned with such vehemence that we barely escaped on flooded roads.) And, no surprise, desperate human circumstance abides there, along with love for nature and its embattled creatures, amid a population hungry for finding new ways of living in a demanding land.

Also on the map is a place famous for just such insights: the Río Gavilán, where Aldo Leopold glimpsed elements of his famous Land Ethic.

And strewn across the map with spendthrift generosity are places of exquisite beauty that remind us how marvel-filled our small blue planet is, and why we might want to save it.

In the end, the goodness of the land is what the book is about.
Learn more about the book and author at William deBuys's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 2, 2011

Julia A. Ericksen's "Dance With Me"

Julia A. Ericksen is Professor of Sociology at Temple University and author of Kiss and Tell: Surveying Sex in the Twentieth Century and Taking Charge of Breast Cancer.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Dance With Me: Ballroom Dancing and the Promise of Instant Intimacy, and reported the following:
Page 99 in Dance with Me passes the Ford Madox Ford test. The page appears at the start of one of the book’s most important chapters: Feeling the Dance, Showing the Magic and it describes a transgressive portrayal of love and romance on the dance floor.

I argue that ballroom dance involves the desire for intimacy in the modern world. Students want to experience intimacy when they have dance lessons and they want to see intimacy portrayed in performances on the dance floor. On page 99, I note that audiences want to see a believable performance and that this is less related to actual emotions than to audiences’ beliefs about their appropriate display. Here is the page:
Audiences for professional dance competitions know that the emotions portrayed are sometimes a performance. However, they too want to believe in a man, a woman, and love in the air, even if only for the moment of the dance. When a performance does not match this expectation, audiences are troubled. Ruud Vermeij tells the following story in his book on Latin American dancing:

In 1991, I danced a duet to Mahler’s 5th Symphony with Peter Townsend, as part of a lecture demonstration at the World Congress in Blackpool. The intention of the lecture was to demonstrate how a change in the ingredients of the dance, i.e. the music and the dancers, affected the entire expression/meaning. While we were occupied with dynamic changes and spatial forms, the audience perceived a relationship between two men and some were disturbed by this to the extent that they perceived nothing else. The point here is that no matter how well we controlled our steps, our partnering, no matter how clear the choreography, we were two men looking, touching, gesturing, partnering one another, and this was the essential expression. The steps made no difference at all.

Most of Blackpool’s audience of dancers would have known that Vermeij and Townsend were a well-established couple, but the public demonstration of this relationship in the form of a Latin dance interfered with their understanding of what they were seeing. Although the dance is a performance, the audience wants to believe that the feelings portrayed could be authentic and that the feelings are heterosexual. Unlike for other dance forms, in which characters are established and acting is expected, ballroom audiences are interested in the dancers themselves and in their emotions. As Vermeij’s story demonstrates, “authentic” means a man and a woman—not two men—even if they have strong and genuine romantic feelings for each other.

Intimacy is only believable when certain cultural expectations are met. Otherwise, it is hard to believe even genuine intimacy. Given these expectations, how do ballroom couples learn to portray sex and/or romance? Do they need to share a romantic relationship in order to achieve authenticity on the floor? Some top couples I interviewed were not sexually involved with each other. Others were a couple off the floor, and these often believed that something special showed between them when they danced. They understood the artifice of performance but emphasized authenticity of feeling.
After discussing how professional performers view the portrayal of feelings on the dance floor, I turn to students who often struggle to show the emotions they feel.

In a world where increasing numbers of people live alone, dance provides an instant intimacy with no strings attached and without sex. This is of particular interest to the many professional women who have succeeded in a man’s world but still want glamour in their personal lives. Such women take dance lessons. They participate with their teachers in competitions dressed in outrageous gowns with glittering hair makeup and jewelry. They watch the performances of the professional dancers at night.

The book takes the reader into a world most of us do not know exists. Ballroom is different from other forms of dance because it is all about the connection and indeed, I take E. M. Forster’s quote in this regard as a paradigm. The dance floor violates most of our assumptions about touching and bodily space, about age-appropriate partners, and about appropriate dress. It also violates many of our assumptions about gender. This is a world where men dance and where they learn to look after their partners and to demonstrate care. Women professionals often put aside the traditional trappings of womanhood like home and family and must learn how to teach men to take charge.

Page 99 is a good beginning but it does not contain the whole story.
Learn more about Dance With Me at the NYU Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Timothy Matovina's "Latino Catholicism"

Timothy Matovina is professor of theology and the William and Anna Jean Cushwa Director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame. His books include Guadalupe and Her Faithful: Latino Catholics in San Antonio, from Colonial Origins to the Present and Horizons of the Sacred: Mexican Traditions in U.S. Catholicism.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Latino Catholicism: Transformation in America's Largest Church, and reported the following:
The primary interpretive lens of Latino Catholicism is how the U.S. context, the U.S. Catholic Church, and Latinos mutually transform one another. Thus the book assesses how Latinos’ attempts to celebrate their faith and bring it to bear on the everyday realities of their lives have shaped parishes, apostolic movements, leadership, ministries, worship, voting patterns, social activism, and much more. At the same time, the lives and faith of Latino Catholics are being dramatically refashioned through the multiple pressures of assimilation, the upsurge of Pentecostal and evangelical religion, other types of religious pluralism, growing secularization, civil rights struggles, conservative political forces, and ongoing controversies over immigration and clergy sexual abuse. This book examines these mutual influences in detail, showing how U.S. Catholicism is being shaped by the rise of a largely working-class Latino population in a church whose leadership at all levels is still predominantly Euro-American and middle class.

Page 99 illustrates well the volume’s overall focus on mutual transformations. It discusses the attraction of charismatic evangelical-type religious movements among Latinos, in some cases leading them away from the Catholic Church, in other cases motivating them to transform Catholic religious practice. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal introduced on this page is the largest and most understudied apostolic movement among Latinos; some recent surveys even conclude that more Latinos in the United States self-identify as Catholic Charismatics than their counterparts who self-identify as Pentecostals. The narration of former Pentecostal Elisabeth Román’s experience of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal opens the chapter focused on this topic. That chapter reveals how the rise of Pentecostal and evangelical religion has influenced the Catholic Church and its Latino adherents, who in turn have shaped the church and its worship and devotion with charismatic expressions of their Latino Catholic spirituality.

From page 99:
in common prayer, faith formation, and evangelization activities, often in smaller-sized communities that foster a stronger sense of commitment and belonging than many large parish congregations. Though far more Catholics are attracted to evangelical and Pentecostal groups than vice versa, the dynamism of apostolic movements is illuminated in the non-Catholics who are drawn to participate in them. Puerto Rican Chicagoan Elisabeth Román “was raised in a strict Pentecostal household and indoctrinated from an early age about the evils of the Catholic Church.” Faced with a personal crisis and lacking a spiritual home after a twenty-year hiatus from church attendance, she accepted a friend’s invitation to a parish Mass imbued with the spirit of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, an apostolic group centered on the gifts and the power of the Holy Spirit that seeks to renew Christian faith through community life, prayer, preaching, healing ministries, and evangelization. Román continued to worship at the Charismatic Mass each Sunday for three months. Impressed with the community’s faith, her own sense of inner peace, and the fact that no one pressured her to become Catholic, she went through the process of being received into the Catholic Church, over the strong objections of her family members. To this day, at family gatherings Román is “lectured on how I have abandoned God for Catholicism, and should I die without repenting, my soul will be eternally condemned to hell.” Yet she insists that “the spirited [Catholic Charismatic] church I encountered, and the one I have learned to love and serve, seems to be what many Latinos are seeking.” Román concludes that “for Hispanics, who must live between two cultures, charismatic Catholicism can offer the best of both worlds: participation in the sacraments and a personal, livelier form of worship, which is at the heart of our religious experience.”
Learn more about Latino Catholicism at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue