Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Christopher Grasso's "Skepticism and American Faith"

Christopher Grasso is professor of history at the College of William and Mary and was the editor of the William and Mary Quarterly. He is the author of A Speaking Aristocracy: Transforming Public Discourse in Eighteenth-Century Connecticut and the editor of Bloody Engagements: John R. Kelso's Civil War.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Skepticism and American Faith: From the Revolution to the Civil War, and reported the following:
Skepticism and American Faith: From the Revolution and the Civil War argues that the dialogue of religious skepticism and faith shaped struggles over the place of religion in politics; it produced different visions of knowledge and education in an "enlightened" society; it fueled social reform in an era of economic transformation, territorial expansion, and social change; and it molded the making and eventual unmaking of American nationalism. It has four thematic sections, arranged chronologically: “Revolutions, 1775-1815,” “Enlightenments, 1790-1840,” “Reforms, 1820-1850,” and “Sacred Causes, 1830-1865.” The chapters examine the lives of believers who come to doubt and doubters who come to believe; of faithful Christians who battle skepticism and freethinkers who battle the hegemony of faith. Page 99 is at the beginning of the third chapter, “Instituting Skepticism: The Emergence of Organized Deism,” focusing on 1790 to about 1815, when Elihu Palmer, Thomas Paine and others tried to establish organizations criticizing Christianity as superstitious and anti-democratic and promoting deism as an enlightened religion of reason and nature.

From page 99 (with sentences beginning on page 98 and ending on page 100; footnotes omitted):
Together [some liberal, more enlightened forms of Christianity] applied ‘a purifying hand of reason, pruning and lopping off the decayed branches of the old theological tree, approaching still nearer to the source and principles of nature, till at length, by regular progression, the human mind discovered, that moral principle was placed upon a more solid foundation than the reveries of sectarian fanaticism.” At the same time, “the philosophical investigations of French, English, and German philanthropists” helped produce “a new era in the intellectual history of man.” Newton, Locke, d’Holbach, Rousseau, Voltaire, Hume, Bolingbroke, Paine, and many others “swept away the rubbish of ancient superstition.”

Writing at the commencement of the nineteenth century, Palmer knew that much work remained to be done. The virtuous needed to continue to spread enlightened philosophy through print, encouraging people to use their reason, become skeptical about the claims of revealed religion, and place faith, politics, and knowledge on natural, rational foundations. They needed to continue to fight for republican liberty and equality, at the ballot box or with a sword if necessary. And they needed to associate, organize, and institutionalize, replacing the old systems and institutions with new ones. Palmer and his fellow deistic reformers fought their political battles and spread their good news about the dawning Age of Reason with their printing presses. They made considerable efforts, but devoted less systematic thinking to the shape and function of the new religious institutions that would need to replace the old churches. Palmer called for scrutinizing and analyzing “the complicated association and application of the ideas of former institutions,” and of “disorganizing the system” of antiquated religious, political, literary, and moral establishments. But he seemed to think that once oppression, ignorance, and error were removed, new cultural institutions would emerge naturally, and then inevitably “harmonize and form one grand system.”

Deist reformers in the age of the American and French revolutions like Palmer and his friend Thomas Paine tried to combine a skeptical critique of revealed religion (especially Christianity) with a program for a simplified, liberated religion of reason and nature. Their ideas had a lasting legacy, but their institutions—their deist clubs, periodicals, and proposals for Temples of Reason—had a short life. Explanations for the fate of organized deism have tended to emphasize the limited popular appeal of reasoned religion in an era of evangelical enthusiasm. Organized deism, however, like other voluntary associations that sprouted up in the early republic, was a complex cultural formation with its own particular social make-up, political profile, internal structure, and precarious place in the evolving relations of early national cultural power. These facets can best be seen by comparing it to other groups that also worked to perpetuate themselves in stable institutions outside the Christian mainstream—in particular, the Universalists, the Freemasons, the New Jerusalem (Swedenborgian) Church, and the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Organized deism, like these other groups, was fashioned by the ideas, attitudes, and desires of its leaders and members, but also by the power of the state, the constraints and authorizations of the law, and the bitterly contested politics of religious and political association in the 1790s.
I think the “Page 99 Test” gives a fair representation of the book.
Learn more about Skepticism and American Faith at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 16, 2018

Randi Hutter Epstein's "Aroused"

Randi Hutter Epstein is a medical writer, lecturer at Yale University, Writer in Residence at Yale Medical School, and an adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is the author of Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank (2010) and the new book, Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to Aroused and reported the following:
Aroused traces the history of hormones and much to my delight (but no original intention) spotlights quite a few women with moxie who were instrumental in paving new directions in endocrinology.

Page 99 of my book highlights a female pioneer in medicine, who defied the odds in a few ways.
In 1942, the team published a larger study in the Bulletin of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. They also renamed the pregnancy hormone. Ascheim and Zondek called it prolan, from proles, the Latin word for offspring. Seegar called it chorionic gonadotropin.
Seegar is Georgeanna Seegar Jones. Georgeanna Jones was the first director of the department of reproductive endocrinology at Johns Hopkins in the 1940s, when the field was, well, to use a pun—just conceived. She, along with her husband, Dr. Howard W. Jones, would go on to create America’s first test tube baby. But Dr. Georgeanna, as she was called, did so much more: She also provided crucial advice to Dr. Robert Edwards enabling him to create the world’s first IVF baby. The chapter explains the science and her incredible marriage (like seriously incredible—she and her husband shared desks throughout their entire careers).

The page talks about her landmark discovery she made when she was a medical student. She proved that the so-called pregnancy hormone comes from the placenta, not the pituitary in the brain as previously thought. Her research that led to this paper was conducted when she was a medical student. She used her first initial and middle name (Emory) instead of Georgeanna because she was told by her advisor that no one would publish a study by a woman.

Here’s two more lines from page 99: “Seegar not only solved a medical riddle; she named the pregnancy hormone and became the first woman ever to dine at the Maryland Club.”

To honor her achievement, a group of doctors organized a lunch at the Maryland Club. Shortly before the afternoon event, the doctors were told that Georgeanna could not attend because women were not allowed. When the endocrinologists threatened to go elsewhere, the club reluctantly allowed one Dr. Georgeanna.

This page encapsulates the key points in my book: pioneering research depends on curious and persistent scientists. And courageous women (with chutzpah) paved the way for this burgeoning field.
Visit Randi Hutter Epstein's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Randi Hutter Epstein, Ellie and Dexter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 14, 2018

John M. Coggeshall's "Liberia, South Carolina"

John M. Coggeshall is professor of anthropology at Clemson University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Liberia, South Carolina: An African American Appalachian Community, and reported the following:
On page 99 of my book, I describe a typical crossroads store in the upper part of South Carolina in the early twentieth century. Just 4 miles from the Blue Ridge, in the valley of the Oolenoy River, the store served the rural surrounding area, including an enclave of African Americans (descendants of freed slaves) living in a little side valley called “Liberia” since 1865. Imagine a few older white farmers sitting on a bench outside the store, sipping “dopes” (soft drinks) and talking about the cotton crop or the weather. Up to the porch shyly shuffles a young black child from Liberia, peddling a basket of blueberries and his mother’s chicken’s eggs. One of the whites disdainfully utters the “N” word as the little boy enters the store. After getting his money for the berries and eggs, and after buying some penny candy, the little boy leaves. Upon his return home, he tells his mother what happened. Outraged, she informs all her neighbors and friends. All Liberia residents refuse to trade at that store ever again; the store eventually closes.

This incident actually happened to the older brother of the current matriarch of the Liberia community, a woman whose family and friends I document in my book. The example illustrates the tremendous pressures on this black community by surrounding whites to humiliate, antagonize, threaten, and drive off these descendants of freed slaves from their ancestral land, especially during the Jim Crow era. At the same time, the fact that the boy’s family and friends refused to shop at this store ever again also demonstrates the resiliency of these upper South Carolina residents, to resist, to retaliate, and still to remain in a predominantly white space since before 1865. The role of the boy’s mother in leading the boycott also demonstrates the recurring theme of strong-willed matriarchs in the Liberia community, extending over generations.

This book chronicles 5 generations of blacks, primarily through the voices of strong-willed women, to present the story of this enclave community by utilizing secondary sources and first-person interviews. Ultimately, it is a story of human resilience.
Learn more about Liberia, South Carolina at The University of North Carolina Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Liberia, South Carolina.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Loka Ashwood's "For-Profit Democracy"

Loka Ashwood is an environmental and rural sociologist at Auburn University. She works with communities to research issues that pertain to agriculture, cancer clusters, land loss, and pollution.

Ashwood applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, For-Profit Democracy: Why the Government Is Losing the Trust of Rural America, and reported the following:
In a book with only three maps, the Page 99 Test effectively finds one of them [below; click to enlarge]. And the map bears crucial data – it shows the racial demographics around the site where the only new nuclear reactors are currently under construction in the United States. Soon, they will join two existing reactors at the Vogtle plant that have long operated in this rural, Georgia community. This is not a simple case of environmental injustice, where risk and exposure hit black people the most acutely. In fact, within five miles of the pant, a majority of residents are white. The map is emblematic of the book’s message that the most-is-best orientation of the democratic state – most people or most money – at the end of the day comes back to make everyone, including at one time more affluent white people, a minority in some sense. No one, in fact, is completely immune.

The only full paragraph on page 99 specifically focuses on the damage rendered by profit’s rule:
In a situation of public for profit, the worth of all communities is beholden to revenue. In a sense, it is similar to the slash-and-burn orientation of rainforest cropping systems. The rich forests are harvested, the land planted hastily with crops for a few seasons until the soil has no nutrients left to give, and fixing the situation would either require an investment of inputs, or a change in production regimes. Both of those methods cost, and so the tiller moves elsewhere, leaving a barren land that was once rich in ecology, and moving elsewhere to feed its insatiable appetite. Such an analogy is symptomatic of the modern US economy. Profit extracts while there is money to be made, only moving on when there comes a better deal. Countless empty storefronts in countless communities attest to the thirst for short-term profits that drives a whip behind American society today.
Visit Loka Ashwood's website.

Writers Read: Loka Ashwood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Jeff Love's "The Black Circle"

Jeff Love is Research Professor of German and Russian at Clemson University. He is the author of The Overcoming of History in “War and Peace” (2004), editor of Heidegger in Russia and Eastern Europe (2017), and translator of Kojève’s Atheism, among other works.

Love applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Black Circle: A Life of Alexandre Kojeve, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book concludes a chapter on two important Russian thinkers preceding Kojève, Vladimir Soloviev (1853-1900) and Nikolai Fedorov (1829-1903). On that page I conclude my discussion of Fedorov’s main project, which still has the power to stun. For Fedorov sought nothing less than the complete eradication of human conflict in favor of a greater conflict, that between the human being and the “blind” nature which kills and destroys, bringing death into the world. Fedorov develops this project of overcoming nature and death as one of universal resurrection and eternal life for all human beings who have ever lived. This immense, perhaps absurd “bio-political” project provides a fine example of the pursuance of perfection that is a key issue in the book and in Kojève’s thought. Kojève seeks, ostensibly in pursuit of Hegel, to complete or “perfect” the “error” of history as understood hitherto. In a distant echo of Fedorov, Kojève insists that only by overcoming nature, and therewith the inherently selfish fear of death, may we truly correct and complete history whose final goal is the creation of a universal free state. This state is universal and free precisely because it has terminated the attachment to the individual self and self-interest that gave birth to error in the complete immersion of the individual in the state and the state in the individual. Here is at once a project of revolutionary and post-revolutionary action that sees the only way of creating a community as mutual suppression of individual self-interest rather than its cultivation (in contrast to the modern bourgeois nation state). Kojève notes tartly that the supposedly free individual of this latter state is in fact deeply in thrall to fear (the “instinct” for self-preservation, the wellspring of selfishness) and the greatest of all fears, that of death, which, as Kojève reminds us elsewhere, happens only to individuals.
Learn more about The Black Circle at the Columbia University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: The Black Circle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 9, 2018

Paul Thomas Chamberlin's "The Cold War’s Killing Fields"

Paul Chamberlin is Associate Professor of History at Columbia University. He specializes in twentieth century international history with a focus on U.S. foreign relations and the Middle East. His first book, The Global Offensive: The United States, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Making of the Post-Cold War Order, is an international history of the Palestinian liberation struggle.

Chamberlin applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Cold War's Killing Fields: Rethinking the Long Peace, and reported the following:
Page 99 does indeed prove to be surprisingly representative of many of the ideas present throughout The Cold War’s Killing Fields. In particular, the prevalence of mass violence, the interconnected nature of Cold War geopolitics, and the potential for local revolutionary conflicts to spark larger conflagrations all appear. Likewise, the three key forces of postcolonial revolution, the United States, and the Soviet Union all appear.

The section begins with a 1949 exchange between Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin in which the former brags that his army has killed over 5.5 million people in the last three years and predicts the consequent inevitability of a communist victory in the Chinese Civil War. This is very much in keeping with one broader argument of the book, which is focused on the role of mass violence in shaping post-1945 geopolitics. I maintain that the theme of body counts remains underappreciated in the history of the Cold War. Many leaders across the East-West and North-South divides were very much interested in killing large numbers of people as a means to secure and maintain political power.

Page 99 then turns to a cable from the American CIA explaining that Mao’s coming victory was a matter of grave concern. Many U.S. officials worried that China would become an “advance base for Soviet penetration” into Southeast Asia, India, and the Middle East. This hits on another key theme of the book, which examines the ways that Cold War leaders tended to view their adversaries as monolithic: Mao’s victory, in the eyes of many U.S. officials, represented a key setback in what was truly a global struggle against the Kremlin-backed forces of communism.

But the impending collapse of Nationalist China presented an array of dangers for Mao and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – as the following paragraph explains. Mao would now be faced with the challenge of transforming a revolutionary party and its forces into the governing regime of a massive country. Even more worrisome was the possibility that the United States might intervene to save Chiang Kai-shek’s regime, sparking a direct confrontation between the world’s greatest superpower and the CCP, which might, in turn, lead spark World War III between Washington and Moscow.
Learn more about The Cold War's Killing Fields at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Global Offensive.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 7, 2018

John Reeves's "The Lost Indictment of Robert E. Lee"

John Reeves has been a teacher, editor, and writer for over twenty-five years. Recently, Reeves’s articles on Robert E. Lee have been featured in The Washington Post and the History News Network. His next book is on the Battle of the Wilderness.

Reeves applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Lost Indictment of Robert E. Lee: The Forgotten Case against an American Icon, and reported the following:
On page 99 of The Lost Indictment of Robert E. Lee, I discuss the indictment of Captain Henry Wirz, the former commandant of Andersonville Prison during the Civil War. In August 1865, just a few months after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House, Wirz was charged, along with several leaders of the Confederate States of America, with conspiring to “injure the health and destroy the lives of soldiers in the military services of the United States…in violation of the laws and customs of war.” Among the co-conspirators, who were charged with Wirz, was General Robert E. Lee.

After the Civil War, northerners and freedmen were outraged by what they learned about Andersonville Prison, where 13,000 Union soldiers died due to insufficient food and atrocious living conditions. There were approximately 100 black prisoners at Andersonville and they were treated even worse than the white prisoners. President Andrew Johnson was determined to punish all those who were responsible for such horrors. So, that’s why Robert E. Lee and Captain Wirz were charged with war crimes.

The prosecutors ultimately decided to focus solely on Wirz, and they removed Lee from the indictment. Wirz was eventually tried, convicted and hanged. His public execution took place near the United States Capitol. The Judge Advocate General of the Army described Wirz as more of “a demon than a man.”

In the end, Robert E. Lee was never tried for war crimes against Union soldiers. He was extremely upset that the accusations had ever been made in the first place. Many northerners were relentless in their attacks on Lee on this issue, however. An editor for The Liberator argued, “Lee had the power to prevent or mitigate the sufferings of our prisoners, the worst tyrant and tormenter, from the remotest ages of Paganism down to the cruelest instrument of the French Reign of terror, was not so wicked as he.”

Lee was also indicted for treason by a federal court in Virginia on June 7, 1865, though he ultimately escaped prosecution on those charges as well. My book provides detail on the forgotten legal and moral case that was made against Lee in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. I also try to show how an indicted rebel went on to become a hero for both southerners and northerners in the decades after Appomattox.

I believe that “The 99th Page Test” is accurate for my book. Most Americans have forgotten that Robert E. Lee was accused of mistreating Union prisoners. And even though he may not have been responsible for the day-to-day operations at Andersonville Prison, he certainly upheld, as the South’s leading general, the Confederacy’s odious policies toward African American prisoners during the Civil War. Many Americans are unaware of the mistreatment of black soldiers who fought to preserve the Union. That story has been “lost” to us over the past century and a half. By forgetting the indictments of Lee for treason and war crimes, it made it easier for Americans to deify him. That is a central theme of The Lost Indictment of Robert E. Lee.
Learn more about The Last Indictment of Robert E. Lee at the Rowman & Littlefield website, and visit John Reeves's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Samuel Kline Cohn, Jr.'s "Epidemics"

Samuel K. Cohn, Jr is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Glasgow, an Honorary Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Over the past sixteen years, he has focused on the history of popular unrest in late medieval and early modern Europe and on the history of disease and medicine. Cohn's recent books include Popular Protest in Late Medieval English Towns and Cultures of Plague: Medical Thinking at the End of the Renaissance.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Epidemics: Hate and Compassion from the Plague of Athens to AIDS, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Others refused to name it after the French or any other people and referred instead to the disease’s physical signs—‘mala pustularum’ or ‘turgentium pustularum’, as with Heidelberg physician Conrad Schellig and Ioannes Trithenmius—or just the pustules, as with the Spanish physician Marcellus Cumanus, active at Navarra in 1495, even though he described soldiers returning from war in Venice and Milan as carrying it to his home town.
Page 99 falls near the beginning of chapter 5: ‘Syphilis: Naming and Blaming?’ The page questions the long-held belief that after the explosion and spread of syphilis during Charles VIII’s siege of Naples in January 1495, countries blamed one another for the disease: a tit-for-tat verbal battle ensued: Italians calling it the French disease; the French, the mal de Naples, the Germans naming it after the Poles, and so on. Instead, on an unprecedented scale, a wide variety of names for this disease quickly developed, arising from the fact that physicians and others could not agree whether the disease was new or a form of leprosy that dated back to Biblical times, and, as they insisted, a disease needed a name.

These names, however, most often centred on the physical signs of the disease--poxes, pustules, and warts--its seeming relation to leprosy, or after its patron saint, Job. The one name after a country that did stick for a century and a half was the French disease (malfrancese or morbus Gallicus). Yet this name was lodged mainly in medical texts and not with commoners. Moreover, commentators such as Ullrich von Hutten and the famous Florentine statesman-historian Francesco Guicciardini made it clear that calling it after the French was in no way intended to blame them. In the most widely published syphilis pamphlet of the sixteenth century, von Hutten, whose text was entitled, De Morbo Gallico, countered that France was ‘the most civilized and hospitable now in existence’. Finally, no evidence has yet to emerge of any riots or even individual attacks against those perceived as carrying syphilis or against the French or any other foreigners named for the disease during the early modern period: naming was not blaming.

Page 99 reflects a trait running through this book: long-held views about the socio-psychological effects of large epidemics need to be contested. Most notably, diseases imagined as new and mysterious were not the ones most likely to spark blame or violence against the diseased ‘other’.
Learn more about Epidemics at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Mary Carter Bishop's "Don't You Ever"

A graduate of Columbia Journalism School, Mary Carter Bishop was on the Philadelphia Inquirer team that won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of nuclear leaks at Three Mile Island. Her Roanoke Times & World-News series on poisonings and fraud by exterminators and other pesticide users won a George Polk Award and was a Pulitzer finalist.

Bishop applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Don't You Ever: My Mother and Her Secret Son, and reported the following:
This is irresistible, because page 99 in my book does indeed represent one of its central themes — our family’s vulnerable status in our overwhelmingly wealthy community of Keswick, Virginia, where our parents were servants. A passage on page 99 describes my renegade older brother’s thieving and spying on the gentry:
Ronnie roamed Keswick like an undercover agent. He crept around the houses and peered in at the rich people in their dining rooms and in their bedrooms. For all its high-class charm, Keswick, to Ronnie, was a vulgar, craven place. With all his prowling and peering, he was tweaking the monster’s tail. Keswick’s servant class customarily looked the other way at wild behavior by the rich, but here was Ronnie trespassing on Keswick’s most precious commodity: the freedom of the elite to do as they pleased, safe from prying eyes.
Learn more about Don't You Ever.

My Book, The Movie: Don't You Ever.

Writers Read: Mary Carter Bishop.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 2, 2018

Emily Abrams Ansari's "The Sound of a Superpower"

Emily Abrams Ansari is a British-born musicologist who studies and teaches the history of 20th- and 21st-century music at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada. She received her PhD from Harvard University in 2010 following a Masters Degree at Oxford University and a BA in music from Durham University.

Ansari applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Sound of a Superpower: Musical Americanism and the Cold War, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book describes the first stages of one American’s difficult experience of anti-communism in the early Cold War period. This man is Roy Harris, an American composer of classical music who had, until the 1950s, been revered as one of the most significant contributors in the effort to create an American-sounding music. I explore here how that nationalist loyalty began to be called in to question, both by anti-Communists in Pittsburgh, where he lived, and the FBI.

Harris had made a significant political miscalculation during World War II. Keen to write works that contributed to the war effort, he decided in 1942 to dedicate his fifth Symphony to the people of the USSR—then a vital ally of the United States in the fight against fascism. Little did he know, of course, that a decade later, the USSR would be the United States sworn enemy. In this new environment, past pro-Soviet statements—whatever their context—would risk being interpreted as celebrations of Communism.

On page 99 I describe the contents of Harris’s FBI file, where concerns about the Fifth Symphony are articulated. Investigators list descriptions of Harris from informants that were his friends and colleagues, all of whom proclaimed his patriotism and national loyalty. Some are quite amusing, even bizarre: one proclaimed him to be both a “sun cultist” and a “vegetable cultist.” But one commitment Harris had never made was to the “cult” of Communism. Harris was then as loyal to his country and everything it stood for as one could imagine.

Yet Harris’s experience of anti-Communism would sully permanently his deep commitment to his nation and to a national music. He is one of six “Americanist” composers explored in the book whose careers were significantly shaped by the Cold War: the others are Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, William Schuman, Virgil Thomson, and Howard Hanson. Some experienced personal, aesthetic, and professional challenges because of the ideological conflict. Some experienced unanticipated—and unprecedented—professional opportunities. All were also obliged to adapt the national style they had developed to serve a new ideological age in which accessible artistic nationalism was all too easily associated with fascism and communism. Very quickly—and with their willing participation—their American-sounding music would be adapted to serve a new vision of what the United States represented on the world stage.
Visit Emily Abrams Ansari's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Edward M. Hallowell's "Because I Come from a Crazy Family"

Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. is a graduate of Harvard College, Tulane Medical School, and a Harvard Residency Program in Adult and Child Psychiatry. He is the best-selling author of Driven to Distraction, Worry, and Connect, and has been featured on 20/20, Dateline, The Today Show, Good Morning America, and Oprah.

Hallowell applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Because I Come from a Crazy Family: The Making of a Psychiatrist, and reported the following:
As it happens, page 99 of Because I Come from a Crazy Family comes at the end of a chapter and only takes about one-fifth of the page. Here it is in its entirety:
I just threw the stupid hatchet. It stuck in the middle of the bedroom door with a shudder. Perfect hit.

He was disappointed. "Go back to bed," he said gruffly. I looked over at my mother, whose eyes were closed. I was glad that she'd passed out. I knew she was safe. And for the first time in the longest while, I knew that I was safe as well.
I am very happy with my page 99 as revealing the quality of the book as a whole, as Ford Madox Ford suggested it would.

The book tells the story of my childhood, and the scene on page 99 shows the conclusion of my drunk stepfather's challenging me to throw a hatchet into the bedroom door and stick it or he would throw the hatchet at my mother's head. This is the kind of antic he subjected us to all the time, but this time, for the first time, I saw through it and knew he wouldn't throw the hatchet at my mother's head. I was not afraid. I also knew I could stick the hatchet. It was a victory for me. At last, I found some safety.

The stories in the book are dramatic, many very funny, the characters colorful, admirable, smart, sometimes tragic, but never bereft. The second half of the book tells of my years in medical school in New Orleans, then my training in psychiatry in Boston.

It is a memoir full of hope, memorable characters, and stories that you won't soon forget.
Visit Edward M. Hallowell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Nora Doyle's "Maternal Bodies"

Nora Doyle is assistant professor of history at Salem College.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Maternal Bodies: Redefining Motherhood in Early America, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Maternal Bodies falls in chapter three, which explores the cultural idealization of breastfeeding in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Coincidentally, this was the piece of research that gave birth (pun intended!) to the project as a whole. Looking at historical debates about breastfeeding, I realized that my sources were really talking about the maternal body—how it should be used, what it should look like, and how it should feel. In chapter three, I explore how authors of maternal advice manuals portrayed breastfeeding, and I argue that in the late eighteenth century they began to emphasize maternal breastfeeding as the greatest source of women’s physical and emotional pleasure. This rhetoric of pleasure sought to transform motherhood from a physically grueling and often painful experience to a transcendent one. Or, as I write on page 99,
If pleasure was an inherent part of nursing, then good mothering must be by definition a pleasurable experience. A popular women’s magazine corroborated this idea in a sketch of the ideal mother: “She takes her child to her breast, and imparts that nourishment which the Creator has designed for its sustenance; and in so doing she is conscious of a new principle of delight, physically and morally. The turbulence of love is past, and she has now that tranquil enjoyment best adapted to her health and her moral and intellectual growth.” In obeying the dictates of God and nature, the good mother derived a new form of joy that permeated her body and spirit.
Also on page 99, however, I note that some advice writers acknowledged that breastfeeding could be a physically challenging and even painful experience for women, although they ultimately persisted in their representation of breastfeeding as a delightful experience. This passage gestures to the central tension that structures my book as a whole: the disconnect between the cultural idealization of motherhood and the physical experiences of real-life mothers. I argue that women saw motherhood as fundamentally rooted in the labor of their bodies, and they emphasized the physical challenges of pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. Their experiences of pain and exhaustion led them to regard motherhood with ambivalence. In American print culture, however, representations of motherhood began to efface the physical work of childbearing and childrearing. In fact, I argue that by the mid-nineteenth century cultural depictions of motherhood had made the maternal body largely invisible and the ideal mother was portrayed as an ethereal influence primarily defined by her emotional work.
Learn more about Maternal Bodies at The University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Alex Csiszar's "The Scientific Journal"

Alex Csiszar is associate professor in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Scientific Journal: Authorship and the Politics of Knowledge in the Nineteenth Century, and reported the following:
Page 99 begins with images [below, click to enlarge] of two scientific instruments, a simple microscope and a humble apparatus for magnetic experiments. The Scientific Journal is packed with images of documents, but these are the only instruments depicted in it. Understanding why they matter goes a long way to explaining how this book turns the conventional image of scientific journals on its head. One was designed by François-Vincent Raspail and the other by his friend Jacques-Frédéric Saigey. They met in the 1820s as paid writers for a scientific journal called the Bulletin universel des sciences et de l’industrie, a publication aimed at diffusing scientific news as widely as possible. Both had come to Paris from humble beginnings in the provinces and -- lacking the inside connections of more well-heeled savants -- both struggled to make it in science. Page 99 retells Raspail’s narrative of the barriers to recognition at the Paris Academy of Sciences:
[Raspail] recalled how he “trembled upon entering the courtyard of the Institut for the first time,” and finally mustered the courage to approach the botanist René Desfontaines with his manuscript. Upon learning that the subject was botany, the academician inquired what new species he had discovered. Raspail responded that its subject was not new species but rather new organs and analogies. “At these words Desfontaines turned his back to me, as if I had given him an insult to which he could not stoop to respond.” Raspail did eventually have his manuscript—on “The Formation of the Embryo in Grasses”—read at the Academy. Eventually—after Raspail had given up hope—a commission presented a report that was more or less favorable. And then nothing happened. Because Raspail had no particular patron at the Academy, his positive report won him no further notice. Raspail continued to pepper the Academy with memoirs over the next several years, most of which the Academy simply seemed to ignore. This was disappointing. But there was something worse than being ignored. While Raspail became a subject of ridicule among academicians for his many submissions, he noticed that their protégés and family members were beginning to re-present his ideas as their own.
Such misfortunes turned Raspail and Saigey into radical scientific activists. The cheap scientific instruments they designed would broaden access to experimentation, while a cheap scientific press would give the people control over the advance of knowledge. Scientific journals were rarely the prestigious venues we now see them as, and they were often shunned by prestigious institutions such as the Academy. Raspail argued that the judgments of academicians were biased, behind the times, and corrupt. The legitimate judge of scientific truth was the educated public, and it was the periodical marketplace that represented that judgment. After the 1830 July Revolution, Raspail and Saigey stepped up their critique of scientific elitism as part of a broad Republican political opposition, reporting on and exposing the weekly doings of the Academy. Eventually the Academy realized the best way to fight back was to appropriate the same weapons. It launched its own competing journal in 1835, the Comptes rendus hebdomadaries, hoping that official weekly reports might put their critics out of business.

Despite, or because of, these sordid beginnings, the Comptes rendus became part of a trend in which the most prestigious forms of scientific writing became short articles somewhat akin to advertisements (think Nature, Science, or, indeed, the Comptes rendus, still thriving today). Amid present upheavals in publishing, refocusing the history of the scientific journal around seemingly peripheral figures such as Raspail and Saigey shows that even the most prestigious genres of knowledge have been the result of political, commercial, and epistemic compromise.
Learn more about The Scientific Journal at The University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 25, 2018

Joshua T. McCabe's "The Fiscalization of Social Policy"

Joshua T. McCabe is an assistant professor of sociology and the assistant dean of social sciences in the school of arts and sciences at Endicott College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Fiscalization of Social Policy: How Taxpayers Trumped Children in the Fight Against Child Poverty, and reported the following:
From page 99:
They went on to recommend a “radical restructuring of the existing system of child benefits” in order to “remove children from the social assistance system entirely by using another program to meet their income needs” (Ontario Social Assistance Review Committee 1988: 115). This began a popular movement to “take children off welfare.”

Echoing the 1988 Transitions, both committees emphasized “taking children off welfare” by increasing child benefits rather than social assistance— recommending funds from the latter be directed to the former. Doing so would “remove children from the social assistance rolls” and avoid the stigma attached to being on welfare (Canada Senate 1991: 29). The House of Commons report also assumed categorical distinctions between child benefits and welfare benefits, even though they often went to the same families.

The themes that emerged from these parliamentary hearings and reports were important not only because they guided subsequent policymaking processes but also because of what they tell us about the cultural legacies of public policies. First, policymakers continued to see the erosion of family allowances as a source of economic pressure on families— applying it specifically to child poverty now. For this reason, the logic of income supplementation for families— not tax relief— dominated the policymaking rationale. As I will show, this occurred even under a conservative government. Policy legacies, not the abstract ideology of conservative actors, determined whether the goal was income supplementation or tax relief in the 1990s.

Second, and relatedly, we also see an emergent trend toward “workfare” or general concerns with work incentives in social policy reform. This trend has been extensively documented elsewhere and has been assumed to be the reason for the popularity of in- work tax credits, such as the EITC in the US and the WFTC in the UK (Bertram 2015; Steensland 2008). The argument is that these tax credits were attractive precisely because they make categorical distinctions between the working poor and the welfare poor. As I will show, categorical distinctions separating welfare benefits from other family benefits are not necessarily predicated on making categorical distinctions between the families themselves.
The Fiscalization of Social Policy is my attempt to explain why American approaches to tackling child poverty differ from Canadian and Britsh approaches when it comes to the use of tax credits for workers and children. On this page, I’m setting up the evidence for my argument about how policymakers perceive social assistance programs. Policymakers everywhere are ambivalent about “welfare”. Where they diverge is in their perception of what actually constitutes stigmatized welfare. Whereas American policymakers saw extending tax credits to the poorest families as a form of welfare, Canadian saw the same extension as a way to take children off welfare - the exact opposite.
Visit Joshua T. McCabe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Michael North's "What Is the Present?"

Michael North is professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. His many books include Novelty: A History of the New, Machine-Age Comedy, and Camera Works: Photography and the Twentieth-Century Word.

North applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, What Is the Present?, and reported the following:
In this book, page 99 comes toward the end of a chapter called “The Present in Pictures.” The thesis of this chapter is that our ideas about the present, and maybe even the belief that there is such a thing at all, come as much from pictures as from actual experience. Though we tend to think that all experience occurs in the present, there is really no way for us to apprehend it as time flashes past. The senses cannot verify the intellectual notion that human time is centered on some impossibly thin membrane between past and future. But we can see what passes for the present in pictures because these, unlike actual experience, are still. In fact, traditional aesthetic theory taught that pictures can only show the present. The trick of art, according to authorities on the matter, consisted in painting a moment that implied the past behind and the future before it. Painting came to be dedicated to the depiction of “fruitful” moments, instants that imply whole narratives, and when photography arrived it too attempted to portray such moments. Toward the end of the 19th century, though, when instantaneous photography became possible, the visual evidence it provided tended to contradict these assumptions about the present. For the most part, the moments captured by instantaneous photography were not fruitful. In fact, they were mostly illegible in that it was impossible to read in them evidence of some larger arc of motion. In other words, to quote from page 99, “the evidence of photography suggests that the fruitful moment is not a judicious selection from nature but an aesthetic convention.... Photography exposed the artificiality of the present stripped of the adjustments and justifications with which painting had surrounded it. Thus it tended to call into question not just the fruitful moment but also the moment itself.” These sentences offer a pretty good summation of the idea behind this book, that the present is not an experiential given but a convention. This matters because it suggests that certain normative assumptions about modern life, which is often criticized as too concentrated on the present, depend on opinion rather than fact. So, a closer look at the history of the present might make us rethink a lot of settled ideas about how we live now.
Learn more about What Is the Present? at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Novelty: A History of the New.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Gideon Yaffe's "The Age of Culpability"

Gideon Yaffe is a Professor of Law, Professor of Philosophy, and Professor of Psychology at Yale University. His research interests include the philosophy of law, particularly criminal law; the study of metaphysics including causation, free will and personal identity; and the study of intention and the theory of action.

Yaffe applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Age of Culpability: Children and the Nature of Criminal Responsibility, and reported the following:
The Age of Culpability offers a philosophical argument in support of something that no one in their right mind would deny: kids deserve a break when they commit crimes. It’s odd that even though no one denies it, the commonly voiced reasons for thinking it’s true are unpersuasive. I claim that what’s important is not, for instance, brain development, but, instead, the subordinate political position of kids: they are denied a say over the laws they break, primarily by being denied the vote. To make a case for my view, I need to connect two things that don’t initially seem linked: (1) voting rights, and (2) what criminals deserve. I try to explain how they are linked in the book. Page 99 is the argument’s midpoint. So, Ford’s statement is pretty accurate when it comes to my book.

On page 99, I say what it is to be owed something bad for doing something bad. What you’re owed is what would have made you view the bad act, before you performed it, in the same way that an ideal person would have viewed it. Say you steal a bike. If it would have taken $10,000 to make the ideal person view that as worth doing, then you’re owed the loss of something you value that much. We want you to be just as averse to stealing the bike as the ideal person. So we need to give you, in response to the theft, just what would have made you that averse.

In later pages I claim that when we are talking about crime, the ideal person is the ideal citizen. But what an ideal citizen is averse to doing is a function of what the laws that apply to him require. The ideal American citizen, contemplating stealing a bike off the street in Tacoma, gives no thought to the laws of Japan. So which laws apply to this ideal citizen? The laws over which he’s entitled to exert influence by voting and speaking. And that’s why how much say a person has over the law he breaks matters to what he’s owed for breaking it. Since kids have less say, they are owed lesser punishments. So, page 99 describes a piece of a philosophical edifice linking voting and criminal punishment. That page is a peephole into “the quality of the whole.”
Learn more about The Age of Culpability at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Philip Thai's "China's War on Smuggling"

Philip Thai is assistant professor of history at Northeastern University. His research explores the interplay between law, economy, and society in modern China, East Asia, and the world.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, China's War on Smuggling: Law, Economic Life, and the Making of the Modern State, 1842–1965, and reported the following:
China’s War on Smuggling is a legal and economic history of illicit trade on the Chinese coast from the late imperial period through the early People’s Republic. It traces how official efforts to regulate, tax, and police the flow of goods steadily widened definitions of criminality. Smuggling, the book argues, was a product of iterative encounters between states eager to assert their prerogative and control the economy on the one side, and individuals reluctant to adhere to official strictures on trade on the other.

I was amused by, but skeptical of, the Page 99 Test. Can the essence of any book be revealed by single page—and an arbitrarily selected one at that? Imagine my surprise, then, when I flipped to the page in question. Page 99 comes from chapter three, “State Interventions and Legal Transformations.” It begins with a discussion of efforts by the Nationalist government of China during the 1930s to enforce a newly-promulgated anti-smuggling law as well as widespread resistance state agents encountered on the ground. It recounts a particularly vivid episode of customs agents engaged in door-to-door search for contraband before a village mob attacked the search party “with poles and pelted [them] with tins of pineapple.” It continues with an elaboration of how anti-smuggling campaigns redefined “legal” and “illegal” modes of commerce and patterns of movement, provoking the ire of individuals and communities forced to bear more fetters on their freedom to truck, barter, and trade. Its final sentences highlight the ways militarized interdiction helped broadcast the power of the Nationalist government—especially at the expense of recalcitrant warlords who “feared that the war on smuggling was a Trojan horse that would strengthen and extend central authority into their own localities.” Good stuff all.

Ford Madox Ford’s dictum may not apply to every book, but it certainly applies to mine. In the case of China’s War on Smuggling, page 99 is situated after introductory overviews and right as the book is building momentum in making its argument. The varied descriptions of illicit operations, spectacular violence, and political intrigue—all choked with “you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up” human drama—are right here on a single page. Apparently, page 99 serves as a perfect showcase for the book’s main themes.
Learn more about China's War on Smuggling at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 18, 2018

Stephen W. Sawyer's "Demos Assembled"

Stephen W. Sawyer is professor and chair of history, cofounder of the History, Law, and Society Program, and director of the Center for Critical Democracy Studies at the American University of Paris. He is editor of the Tocqueville Review and associate editor of the Annales. History and Social Sciences.

Sawyer applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Demos Assembled: Democracy and the International Origins of the Modern State, 1840–1880, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Demos Assembled opens with a betrayal. Or so it seems.

The book claims to shed light on our contemporary democratic crisis. And yet, page 99 is the first page of chapter 4 entitled “Necessity,” which explores this concept through a figure rarely associated with anything even remotely democratic, Adolphe Thiers. Thiers, the “butcher” of the Paris Commune of 1871, has something to tell us about democracy? It is this paradox that page 99 and the book attempt to grasp.

For all the talk of democratic crisis, our knowledge of democracy’s actual history remains limited. If the notion emerged in its modern usage among western philosophers in the 17th and 18th centuries, following the American and French Revolutions it was largely discredited: Robespierre and Napoleon’s quasi-dictatorship reduced the democratic ideal to dangerous mob rule, or a government fit only for ancient Athens. This suddenly changed in the 1820s and 30s when Andrew Jackson’s “Democratic Party,” radicals in France and Britain, and Tocqueville’s trip to the US all placed democracy front and center. Then, in 1848, democracy stepped out of the crowd and took center stage. Revolutions swept across Europe, all of them entertaining some relationship with the democratic. At the end of this revolutionary wave, Napoleon’s nephew was elected President of France by universal manhood suffrage but soon declared himself emperor. His regime, though dictatorial, was considered to be a “modern democracy” because he maintained universal manhood suffrage.

Demos Assembled shows that this moment marked the birth of a critical history of democracy. When modern democracy took hold, a panoply of thinkers and statesmen began critiquing democracies that existed in the name of democracies alternatively defined. Adolphe Thiers was among them. An opponent of Napoleon III, Thiers elaborated a potent, though ultimately very dangerous, notion of legal necessity as the foundation for popular rule in the modern age. He therefore captures the paradox of democracy’s past: while he used the notion of necessity to brutally crush the Commune, he also consolidated the first lasting democratic Republic in Europe.

A betrayal? Perhaps. But Thiers provides an important – if troubling – entry point to our modern condition. As little as we may ever know about an ideal democracy, our past offers an important lesson: modern democracy was born neither of consensus nor utopia, but of our constant struggle to self-govern and the inevitable challenges of doing so.
Learn more about Demos Assembled at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Seth Perry's "Bible Culture and Authority in the Early United States"

Seth Perry is assistant professor of religion at Princeton University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Bible Culture and Authority in the Early United States, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Bible Culture and Authority in the Early United States lands in Chapter 4, which happens to be my favorite chapter (so, score one for the Page 99 Test!). The book argues that in early America the Bible was not a “source” of authority, as is often said, but rather a site of authority: a cultural space for editors, commentators, publishers, preachers, and readers to cultivate authoritative relationships. “The Bible” is best thought of not as a specific text, but as a set of relationships sustained by a universe of cultural practices and assumptions. Chapter Four – “‘Write These Things in a Book’: Scripturalization and Visionary Authority” -- shows that this extended to new scripturalized texts that participated both in the resonance of biblical content (they cited the Bible) and in the practices and assumptions of Bible reading as a cultural practice (they were treated like bibles). This part of the chapter is about The Vision of Isaac Childs, a Quaker visionary text originating in 1757 that circulated widely in both print and manuscript throughout the nineteenth century (it was last published in 1929). Childs’s vision was copied, recopied, edited, translated, annotated, and commented upon over the course of well over a century – I’ve seen eighteen manuscript versions and copies of nine printed editions. Page 99 is the beginning of a section pointing out that the significance of Childs’s vision changed through all of this activity even though the text itself mostly didn’t: the anonymous editor of an 1826 edition, for example, added footnotes explaining the vision and applying it to events in his or her own time, far distant from Childs’s own: “While the text remained more or less consistent with a manuscript tradition going back more than seventy years, the novel annotations demonstrated the flexible terms for making meaning in a scripturalized environment.” It’s this constellation of practices that constitutes scripturalization; this is what “bible culture” was all about in the early United States.
Learn more about Bible Culture and Authority in the Early United States at the Princeton University Press website.

Writers Read: Seth Perry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 15, 2018

Margarette Lincoln's "Trading in War"

Margarette Lincoln is Research Fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Curator Emeritus at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Trading in War: London’s Maritime World in the Age of Cook and Nelson, and reported the following:
On page 99, customs official, Joseph Pierson, is bludgeoned by a smuggling gang in Deptford, London. It’s 1775, and smuggling from East Indiamen anchored in the River Thames is practically a full-time job for some people. The revenue men are the hated enemy.

“Afterwards, Pierson was taken by boat to the London Hospital. His skull was exposed and beaten in, his chest mangled, and his right arm so badly broken that it had to be laid open to the shoulder.”

Although Pierson’s wife was allowed to nurse him in hospital, he died from his injuries a month later. Members of the gang were pursued and some were brought to justice. The famous Smugglerius, flayed by the surgeon William Hunter and arranged to imitate the position of The Dying Gaul, was thought to have been prepared from the body of one gang member, hanged at Tyburn. He had the muscle formation of a river worker, developed through hard, physical labour.

It was stories like this that got me interested in the riverside life of eighteenth-century London, a topic which has been so often overlooked. These maritime communities were essential to Britain’s war effort, and they also played a key part in preparing ships for voyages of exploration. While some people along the river were undoubtedly engaged in illicit activity, most were employed in roles that were vital for the maintenance of the Royal Navy and the British economy, then heavily dependent on foreign trade. What’s more, as the book shows, women also had vital roles to play in these turbulent times.
Learn more about Trading in War at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Dominic Sachsenmaier's "Global Entanglements of a Man Who Never Traveled"

Dominic Sachsenmaier is a professor of “Modern China with a Special Emphasis on Global Historical Perspectives” at Göttingen University/Germany. In the past, he held faculty positions at Duke University and the University of California, Santa Barbara. Sachsenmaier’s main current research interests include China’s transnational and global connections. Among other works, he authored Global Perspectives on Global History: Theories and Approaches in a Connected World (2011).

Sachsenmaier applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Global Entanglements of a Man Who Never Traveled: A Seventeenth-Century Chinese Christian and His Conflicted Worlds, and reported the following:
Page 99 actually raises some questions that are important for the entire monograph. My book deals with an untraveled seventeenth-century Chinese Catholic convert who throughout his lifetime remained a committed Confucian. His name was Zhu Zongyuan, and he was actually one of the most significant Chinese Christian authors of the mid-seventeenth-century. People like Zhu believed that both Confucianism and Christianity or as they called it, the “Learning of Heaven,” were ultimately one and the same teaching. But this was hardly acceptable to many people around them – neither to most Confucian scholars nor to many circles in the Catholic Church.

Page 99 shows that combining traditions like Confucianism and Christianity could lead to huge uncertainties:
Was this really a synthesis between equal parts?... Was the Lord of Heaven (i.e. the Christian God) truly a divine being towering far above the cultural differences of this world? Or was his message, as presented to seventeenth-century China, closely wedded to concepts and contents from Europe? … This was not a theoretical question but also pointed to many practical issues.
Partly writing against his critics in China, the hero of this book, Zhu Zongyuan, spent much ink on questions of this kind. He sought to come to terms with the foreign origins of his faith. This was a formidable challenge since – for a variety of reasons – the “Learning of Heaven” put emphasis on key concepts, liturgies and symbols which were not Chinese but obviously of European origin. I deal with these challenges in one part of my book.

In another part I show that ongoing battles also characterized aspects of Zhu Zongyuan’s life in Catholic communities. He played various roles as a Christian, many of which were entangled with his life as a Confucian scholar in his local society. Yet exactly because Christian life was not – and could not possibly be – strictly separated from Chinese communal and associational life, it was characterized by many inherent contradictions. Both sides of the Chinese-Catholic encounter had to make institutional compromises, and the final product did not always make the “Learning of Heaven’s” more acceptable to a Chinese audience.
Learn more about Global Entanglements of a Man Who Never Traveled at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Alexandra Délano Alonso's "From Here and There"

Alexandra Délano Alonso is Associate Professor of Global Studies at The New School and the current holder of the Eugene M. Lang Professorship for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring. Her work is driven by a concern with the inequalities underlying the causes of migration, the structures that lead to the marginalization of undocumented migrants in the public sphere, and the limited protection of their rights, from a transnational perspective. Her book Mexico and Its Diaspora in the United States: Policies of Emigration since 1848 was the co-winner of the William LeoGrande Prize for the best book on US-Latin America Relations.

Délano Alonso applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, From Here and There: Diaspora Policies, Integration, and Social Rights Beyond Borders, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The program is a place where participants find tools for education and work. But they also find a space for community and solidarity. The participants are learning and at the same time, they feel comfortable in the space. They establish relationships, share values and solidarity. We teach them to read but we also give them information about a job ad, we give them tools (coordinator, Plaza Comunitaria Chicago, 2009).

We are creating a space where people feel recognized, where they realize that as individuals they can do more than work. The Plaza creates a space for growth and opportunity to change their expectations in life. It gives them opportunities to live better, to have better jobs, to speak up, to feel safe, to have self-esteem, to have security. This preparation gives them tools to defend themselves, to avoid abuse, and to aspire to work in better places (coordinator, Plaza Comunitaria, Chicago, 2009).
Page 99 of the book discusses the Mexican government’s Plazas Comunitarias adult-education program, which operates through its 50 consulates in the United States, in collaboration with schools, hospitals, community organizations and prisons. This is one of various initiatives focused on education, health, financial literacy, labor rights and citizenship that Mexico –and to a lesser extent other Latin American countries— have developed in the US in the past two decades to promote access to social rights for migrants with precarious status.

The analysis of these programs is at the core of the book: I discuss the interests that underlie them; the innovative discourse of integration and shared responsibility that has developed around these initiatives--and its limitations; the collaborations between consulates, private and public institutions in the US, and migrant communities that make these programs possible; and the concrete results of these initiatives in terms of improving the material and social conditions of migrants’ lives regardless of their legal status.

Page 99 provides some examples of information from surveys, interviews and reports that demonstrate that even though the reach of the programs is limited (and quantitative analyses of their results are sparse), some of the most significant contributions that they make in supporting migrants is in offering spaces where there is a sense of trust where they are more likely to be receptive to information about and enroll in social programs given the linguistic and cultural familiarity, as well as the assurance that a person’s migratory status is not a factor in being able to participate. The Plazas Comunitarias were initially conceived as spaces where migrant populations could continue the education they could not complete in Mexico by offering literacy, elementary, middle and high school programs, textbooks in Spanish, and online testing tools through the Mexican Ministry of Education. My visits to the Plazas, interviews with participants and with educators revealed that in addition to these original goals, students in the Plazas are also learning English, and completing GEDs and skills certification programs, which have helped them access better opportunities for work, health and education in the US.

The two quotes above from page 99 capture key elements of the argument of the book, which is that these programs challenge traditional notions of integration. First, by including origin countries in a process of English language acquisition, education and understanding of the institutional context that is traditionally assumed as the sole responsibility of the country where they now live. And second, by demonstrating how these transnational spaces of community and solidarity that include a variety of government and non-government actors from the country of origin and destination contribute to integration in the sense of supporting equal access to rights and opportunities for migrant communities.
Learn more about From Here and There at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 11, 2018

Thomas F. Gieryn's "Truth-Spots"

Tom Gieryn is Rudy Professor of Sociology Emeritus at Indiana University Bloomington, where he has stayed put for 40 years--except for travels to many truth-spots.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Truth-Spots: How Places Make People Believe, and reported the following:
I feel cheated. Page 99 comes at the tail end of Chapter 5 in Truth-Spots, and only about two-thirds of it is text--the rest is blank. But if I borrow lines from page 100, the start of Chapter 6, to fill in the white space on page 99, the cobbled-together result gives a hint of what this weird little book is all about. Chapter 5 follows pilgrims struggling along The Way of St. James toward Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, drawing on their reminiscences to figure out how the experience affirms (or challenges) their beliefs about life, God, nature and everything else that matters. Chapter 6 explores the architecture of the Thomas F. Eagleton US Courthouse in St. Louis, taking note of how the arrangement of passages and rooms segregates people who play distinctive roles in the pursuit of justice (as defendant, plaintiff, attorney, jury member or judge)--a carefully choreographed sequence of contacts and separations that lends legitimacy to discovering the whole truth and nothing but.

The connection between a tenth century 482-mile pilgrimage route and a federal justice center housed in a 29-story skyscraper built in 2000 is not immediately obvious. It only gets worse when the other chapters are thrown into this promiscuous soup. The book opens at the oracle of Delphi and ends at the ultra-clean laboratory at Cal Tech that persuaded Congress to ban lead from gasoline--in between, I visit Walden Pond; Linnaeus’ botanic garden in Uppsala; Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village outdoor museum; and commemorated birthplaces of identity-based movements at Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall. This sounds like a completely undisciplined and eclectic list of random places--and it is, until you’ve got the concept of “truth-spot” to tie them all together. Each of these places makes people believe: each lends credibility and legitimacy to claims and understandings that have their provenance specifically at that geographic location, ensconced there in natural and built materialities and embedded in narratives about such places that give them meaning and value. All of this comes in a slim 177-page book with a trim size of 8-1/2 x 5-1/2 inches, just the right size for a long plane ride somewhere.
Learn more about Truth-Spots at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Nicole C. Nelson's "Model Behavior"

Nicole C. Nelson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical History and Bioethics at University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her research examines scientists’ assumptions about the natural world and how these assumptions shape scientific practice. She also does research on new technologies in oncology research and clinical care.

Nelson applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Model Behavior: Animal Experiments, Complexity, and the Genetics of Psychiatric Disorders, and reported the following:
Model Behavior is an ethnographic study of what laboratory work looks like under assumptions of complexity. Laboratories are spaces where scientists attempt to refine and control nature to get answers to questions that would be impossible to ask in messy, real-world settings, but some phenomena remain maddeningly difficult to study even in these carefully controlled places—a poorly timed fire alarm or the smell of a pet dog might be all it takes to make a mouse hide out in the dark corners of a maze rather than go exploring. Moreover, the more controlled the setting, the further away scientists found themselves from the real-world problems they cared about, such as helping people who suffer from anxiety.

Under these conditions, the scientists that I followed learned to be very cautious about the conclusions they drew from the research they conducted. Page 99 of the book finds me seated next to a scientist who was analyzing data from a mouse experiment on anxiety, eating my lunch as I watched recordings of the experiment with him:
At one point in watching the video I commented, “That guy really likes the open arms” when the mouse that we were watching at the time seemed to be spending more time there than the others. There was silence, and then Dr. Lam said, “Don’t say ‘like.’”…He said that you should never say things such as “the mouse likes the open arms” or “the mouse is less anxious,” you should say things like “the mouse spends a higher percentage of time in the open arms” or “the mouse shows less anxiety-like behavior.”
The exchange recorded on page 99 is a good example of what the ethnographic method is all about—placing yourself in situations where your ignorance will provide opportunities for others to teach you about their culture. My initial lack of understanding of why behavioral scientists used cumbersome phrases such as “anxiety-like behavior” to talk about their mice helped me better understand how they saw their work. For these scientists, the data from animal models was only a tentative first step towards understanding a complex problem, and the language they used served as a reminder that their mouse experiments were only a proxy for human anxiety. By studying with the scientists, I learned to see the nuances they saw in their own data, and to see laboratory work as something other than an activity that produces definitive answers to narrowly-defined questions.
Visit Nicole C. Nelson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Lori G. Beaman's "Deep Equality in an Era of Religious Diversity"

Lori G. Beaman is the Canada Research Chair in Religious Diversity and Social Change, Professor in the Department of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa, and the Principal Investigator of the Religion and Diversity Project, a thirty-seven-member international research team whose focus is religion and diversity. She is the co-editor of Constructions of Self and Other in Yoga, Travel, and Tourism: A Journey to Elsewhere (with Sonia Sikka), Atheist Identities: Spaces and Social Contexts (with Steven Tomlins), and Varieties of Religious Establishment (with Winnifred Fallers Sullivan).

Beaman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Deep Equality in an Era of Religious Diversity, and reported the following:
English writer Ford Madox Ford once said if you “Open the book to page ninety-nine, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.” Taking this invitation and directive to heart, I (rather serendipitously) discover that the very first word on page 99 of Deep Equality in an Era of Religious Diversity happens to be Respect, with a capital ‘R.’ There is perhaps no word (both as a noun and a verb), more foundational to my emergent work on deep equality than the notion of respect.

Deep Equality is my rather lengthy reaction to two things: law’s dominance of the notion of equality and the pervasiveness of ‘tolerance’ and ‘reasonable accommodation’ as responses to diversity. Drawing from a range of sources including interviews, novels and films, I argue that the key to living well together is deep equality, and the elements of this are to be found in everyday interactions between people which are characterized by a number of elements, including respect. I approach this from an interdisciplinary standpoint: I am trained in philosophy, law and sociology and I draw from numerous other fields of study, including sociobiology and game theory, to construct my arguments.

Page 99 is in large measure representative of the strategy of the book: using short vignettes I trace the elements of deep equality that are evidenced by those stories. Fortuitously, page 99 includes both a vignette and mentions caring, humour, forgiveness, and generosity as additional elements of deep equality. In the process of sorting out how to live well together the focus becomes similarity—not sameness (i.e. everyone is really the same) and universality, and not difference (insisting on the peculiarity of everyone). This is a tricky balance particularly when religion is thrown into the mix. Consider this quote from page 99: “Some people told stories of protectiveness and caring that were manifested not in a paternalistic way, but as extensions of the agonistic process that creates a shared place of relationship in the everyday”. When religious difference is at the center of a particular conflict or debate, the agonistic process requires a relinquishment ‘rightness’ in order to achieve harmony. Given that the root word agon (‘struggle’ or ‘contest’ from the classical Greek) implies an inherent respect for all actors in a negotiation, agonistic respect becomes the ground upon which difference (religious or otherwise) can be a fertile space for human interaction and flourishing.
Learn more about Deep Equality in an Era of Religious Diversity at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong's "Sex and the City and Us"

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, where she spent most of her time putting on shows in her parents’ garage, studying TV Guide, devouring Sweet Valley High books, and memorizing every note of every George Michael song. This finally came in handy when she got a job at Entertainment Weekly, where she worked for a decade. She’s now the TV columnist for BBC Culture and also writes for several other publications, including The New York Times Book Review, Fast Company, Vulture, and Billboard. She’s the author of the New York Times bestseller Seinfeldia: The Secret World of the Show About Nothing that Changed Everything and a history of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted. She now lives in Manhattan.

Armstrong applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Sex and the City and Us: How Four Single Women Changed the Way We Think, Live, and Love, and reported the following:
My page 99 is largely dedicated to male critics expressing disdain for Sex and the City’s objectification of men and its “hollow and predictable … portrait of the desperation of the over-30 single woman.” This checks out: It’s a theme throughout my book because it’s a theme that ran throughout the show’s six-year run, not to mention its afterlife. Sex and the City has always struggled for the respect it deserves, and it’s often been reduced to a caricature, but it was more than just a silly show about sex, shoes, and cosmopolitans. I couldn’t have written an entire book about it otherwise.

The early reviews of the show were hilariously melodramatic about their fear of this series celebrating sexually independent single women—and their concern over how straight men would feel, as the women, for instance, discussed a man’s unimpressive penis size. They were also very, very mean at times. (The Washington Post’s Tom Shales, in particular, loved to go after the actresses’ physical appearances, and another male critic called the character of Samantha a “slut.”) This demonstrates the power the show had. It wouldn’t be so scary if it weren’t pushing a seismic shift in perceptions of single women over 30.

Even its glitzier aspects played to this power. The shoes, the nights out, the clothes, and the other indulgences made these women’s lives look enviable. They turned single women from cat ladies into the women everyone wanted to be. They made women want to ask each other, “Are you a Carrie, a Charlotte, a Miranda, or a Samantha?”

In the end, that’s what Sex and the City and Us is about: It’s about the Sex and the City characters and stories that made fans want to live in that world, and it’s about what that meant to all of us. Many young women and men have moved to New York City looking for their own Sex and the City. The show taught us about sex, relationships, friendship, and how to express ourselves through outrageous fashion. In short, it changed lives. I should know. The first line of my introduction is, “I left my fiancé for Sex and the City.”

That’s hardly hollow, predictable, or desperate.
Visit Jennifer Keishin Armstrong's website.

My Book, The Movie: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted.

The Page 99 Test: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted.

The Page 99 Test: Seinfeldia.

--Marshal Zeringue