Saturday, July 11, 2020

Heather Houser's "Infowhelm"

Heather Houser writes on contemporary culture, the environment, and science and is an associate professor of English at The University of Texas at Austin. Her books include Infowhelm: Environmental Art & Literature in an Age of Data (2020) and Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. Fiction: Environment and Affect (2014).

Houser applied the “Page 99 Test” to Infowhelm and reported the following:
From page 99:
In short, the new naturalist arts manage environmental data to manage loss. Yet, as the next chapters insist, writers and visual artists revive natural history not out of nostalgic yearning or to unleash a zombie Enlightenment. Rather, they rework naturalist epistemologies and cultural forms to salvage a future out of the past; they produce ways of knowing that variously accommodate, contain, or diminish emotions of loss.... Their questions chime with another that I paraphrase from Paul Farber’s history of natural history: What responsibilities do our knowledge and our knowledge systems confer on us?
At page 99, readers are one-third of the way through Infowhelm: Environmental Art and Literature in an Age of Data. More specifically, they're in the preface to part 2, "The New Natural History." Each of the book's three parts—the others being "Cultural Climate Knowledge" and "Aerial Environmentalisms"—opens with a preface in which the poetry of Juliana Spahr inspires the questions driving the next two chapters. One of those questions—"What responsibilities do our knowledge and our knowledge systems confer on us?"—appears on page 99 but pulses through the entire book. With this question and a central point about the affective dimensions of scientific information, page 99 gives someone browsing the book an accurate taste of the whole.

Infowhelm explains how the environmental arts take up scientific information—data as well as methods and explanations—to relay consensus facts about crises like climate change and species extinction but also to reflect on how environmental knowledge comes to be. Certainly, eco-knowledge arises from Eurowestern science, but it also arises from traditional ecological knowledge practices; it arises from emotions and embodied understanding; it arises from speculation and uncertainty. The question on page 99 gets at these varieties of knowledge while acknowledging that certain knowledge systems are bound up in practices of domination, extraction, and exploitation, while others promote cohabitation, reciprocity, renewal, and resilience to ongoing crises (Kyle Powys Whyte's "Indigenous climate change studies" is an inspiration here). The positivist epistemologies of classical natural history, which I'm referencing on this page, are often aligned with practices of domination and mastery. Contemporary artists challenge the colonial and exploitative currents of science by repurposing naturalist methods into a new natural history. They reimagine natural history to feel the losses of environmental crises and to envision alternative relations between humans and the more-than-human.
Learn more about Infowhelm at the Columbia University Press website and visit Heather Houser's website.

The Page 99 Test: Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. Fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Rebecca Earle's "Feeding the People: The Politics of the Potato"

Rebecca Earle is Head of the Department of History at the University of Warwick. Her publications include The Body of the Conquistador: Food, Race and the Colonial Experience in Spanish America, 1492–1700 (2012) and The Return of the Native: Indians and Mythmaking in Spanish America, 1810–1930 (2007). She has also edited a cookery book.

Earle applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Feeding the People: The Politics of the Potato, and reported the following:
Page 99 discusses soup kitchens. As today, in eighteenth-century Europe ordinary people often found it difficult to feed themselves and their families. In response individuals and organisations in a number of countries set up soup kitchens, dispensing ‘poor soups’, usually based on potatoes mixed with barley or other grains, some vegetables, and a small amount of meat. Surprisingly, the organisers of these soup kitchens were at pains to stress that their soups were not only economical and nourishing, but also tasty. They tested their recipes on likely recipients, and adapted them in light of the responses. These adaptations reflect local culinary traditions. In Germany soups often included a hefty dose of vinegar, whereas in France they were seasoned with fines herbes. In Spain charitable organisations added cumin, paprika and olive oil. The resultant soups, they reported confidently, pleased local tastes, and were consumed with pleasure by the poor. Whether the beneficiaries of these charitable initiatives shared the enthusiasm of the organisers is another matter. ‘This is washy stuff, that affords no nourishment’, was the assessment of poor people in the south of England when offered charity soups.

Page 99 captures some recurrent themes in Feeding the People. Specifically, it touches on the ways in which the rhetoric of individual choice has become central to how we talk about freedom. Even the organisers of soup kitchens felt it was important to stress that poor people were ‘choosing’ to eat their soups. This is why they put some effort into testing their recipes and (so they alleged) adapting them to local tastes. Given these efforts, they felt able to dismiss any criticisms.

Being able to make one’s own choices is a cornerstone of liberal definitions of freedom, and it is interesting to see how these ideas, born in the Enlightenment, shaped even the ways in which the organisers of soup kitchens thought about their activities. Of course, many factors, including poverty, constrain our actual ability to choose what we eat and how we live our lives. Beyond this, not everyone would agree that individual choice should lie at the centre of how we organise society. These debates, and their links to eating, emerged in the eighteenth century, which is why a small history of eighteenth-century soup kitchens can reveal how the rhetoric of individualism became entangled with how we talk about eating.
Learn more about Feeding the People at  the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Larry Tye's "Demagogue"

Larry Tye is the best-selling author of Bobby Kennedy and Satchel, as well as Superman, The Father of Spin, Home Lands, and Rising from the Rails, and co-author, with Kitty Dukakis, of Shock. Previously an award-winning reporter and national writer at the Boston Globe and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, he now runs the Boston-based Health Coverage Fellowship.

Tye applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy, and reported the following:
Page 99 is an ideal teaser for my book, and for understanding where Joe McCarthy stood early in a Senate career that would make him the most controversial man in America.

It opens by talking about McCarthy’s personal and political friendship with the all-powerful head of the FBI. J. Edgar Hoover realized McCarthy could be an ally in his battle to root out Reds and pinkos, and he told his agents to play nice with the senator. As I write, “the affection was mutual. Joe called the FBI ‘the only bureau in Washington that gets the highest praise from everyone,’ adding that ‘many of us feel you should have more men in the FBI at this time.

I continue by noting what such schmoozing with kingmakers meant to the one-time poultry farmer and grocery clerk from rural Wisconsin:
Joe acted as if such relationships were the most natural thing in the world, but he hadn’t lost sight of how far he had come. In 1947, at an especially swank cocktail party in the Capitol, the freshman lawmaker stood in the corner with a friend reflecting on the big shots whose hands he’d been shaking: “I wonder what these people would think if they knew I once raised chickens.” Whether or not they would have cared about that, some might have been shocked at how, rather than finding a place of his own in Washington, he was camping out college-style in a small room he was renting from his office manager, Ray Kiermas. Underwear was piled up under the bed, and pants were wedged under the mattress in hopes of removing the wrinkles. “Whenever we move to a new home we tell him the address on moving day,” said Kiermas. “He comes there that night instead of going to the old place.” While Joe didn’t mean to be insensitive, he was to Ray and even more to his wife, Dolores. On the eve of one of their moves, he told her he’d invited a few people to dinner, and persisted although she explained that the dishes were packed. That night eighteen journalists turned up. She unpacked, then repacked, everything that was needed. Joe thought nothing of it: “Everyone sat around on crates and had a fine time.” [His best friend Urban] Van Susteren compared him to “a stray dog. He’d stay three days at one place, three at another, and four at another. He’d sleep on the couch, on the floor, on the porch — it didn’t matter at all to him.”
My book seeks to balance the human and public sides of Joe McCarthy, and looks for the kind of nuance we can get only now that I was given first and exclusive access to the senator’s personal and professional papers, which were under lock and key for sixty years.

It’s not often that a man’s name becomes an ism, in this case a synonym for reckless accusation, guilt by association, and fear-mongering. In the early 1950s, the senator from Wisconsin promised America a holy war against a Communist “conspiracy so immense and an infamy so black as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man.” While the conspiracy and infamy claims were a stretch, the body count was measurable: a government engineer, current and former US senators, and incalculable others who committed suicide to escape McCarthy and his warriors; hundreds more whose careers and reputations he crushed; and the hundreds of thousands he browbeat into a tongue-tied silence. His targets all learned the futility of taking on a tyrant who recognized no restraints and would do anything — anything — to win.

Examining all the fresh evidence of McCarthy’s official excesses and his behind-the-scenes humanity makes him more authentic, if also more confounding. Today, every schoolchild in America is introduced to Joe McCarthy, but generally as a caricature, and parents and grandparents recall the senator mainly with catchphrases like witch-hunter or with a single word: evil. The new records let us shave away the myths and understand how the junior senator from Grand Chute rose to become powerful enough not just to intimidate Dwight Eisenhower, our most popular postwar president, but to drive legislators and others to take their own lives. Pulling open the curtain, we find Senator McCarthy revealed as neither the Genghis Khan his enemies depicted nor the Joan of Arc rendered by friends. Somewhere between that saint and that sinner lies the real man. He was in fact more insecure than we imagined, more undone by his boozing, more embracing of friends and vengeful toward foes, and more sinister.

Before today’s era of unprecedented political brawling and bile, even a groundbreaking biography of Joe McCarthy might have seemed like a chapter of American history too painful to revisit, one with little relevance to a republic that had outgrown his appeals to xenophobia. An autocratically inclined Russia might unite behind the ironfisted Vladimir Putin, but surely this would never happen in the judicious, eternally fair-minded United States. After the 2016 election, nobody needs reminding that this is the story of today and of us.
Visit Larry Tye's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 6, 2020

Jason Blakely's "We Built Reality"

Jason Blakely is Associate Professor of Political Science at Pepperdine University. He is the author of Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor, and the Demise of Naturalism and, with Mark Bevir, of Interpretive Social Science.

Blakely applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, We Built Reality: How Social Science Infiltrated Culture, Politics, and Power, and reported the following:
Page 99 of We Built Reality captures in fragmented form not only a part of the whole work but also anticipates a tiny bit of the American political scene in the summer of 2020—a time of pandemic, massive unrest, and scenes of highly militarized police forces in the streets. A short excerpt from page 99 reads: “with super predators supposedly wandering open, hostile urban environments … foot soldiers would need to be deployed with the latest military technologies. What the futuristic Robocop aesthetic communicated was a technocratic fantasy of scientifically inflicted violence.” This chapter analyzes how a complex of social scientific theories from the late twentieth century developed by scholars like James Q. Wilson and Charles Murray played an important role in generating a pseudoscientific notion of race that was linked to increasingly militarized policing practices. Today we see these very same pseudo-sciences of race and crime reaching a climax in the atrocious murder of George Floyd (one in a seemingly endless cycle of killings of unarmed black citizens by police).

Page 99’s image of dystopian, futuristic policemen not only resonates with today’s newspapers but also captures in snapshot form a much broader transformation that I argue in my book has seized our society—one in which technocratic forms of scientism dominate an enormous range of phenomena in our everyday lives. The central thesis of my book is that counterfeit claims to a science of human behavior while failing to predict the political world we now live in, did play a central role in creating it. Throughout the course of the book I argue that supposedly scientific theories helped generate the 2008 financial crisis; yawning inequalities; overly medicalized notions of love and happiness; managerial and top-down notions of democracy; abstract and anesthetized forms of global drone warfare; and much more.
Follow Jason Blakeley on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Francine Hirsch's "Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg"

Francine Hirsch is Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she teaches Soviet and Modern European history. Her first book, Empire of Nations: Ethnographic Knowledge and the Making of the Soviet Union (2005), received several prizes, including the Herbert Baxter Adams Prize of the American Historical Association.

Hirsch applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg: A New History of the International Military Tribunal after World War II, and reported the following:
Page 99 finds us in Berlin, in October 1945, about six weeks before the start of the Nuremberg Trials. Representatives from all four countries of the prosecution (the U.S., Britain, France, and the USSR) are in the midst of deliberations that will fundamentally affect the course of the trials.

Tensions are high among the four chief prosecutors about the Indictment—a jointly authored document that lays out the charges against the former Nazi leaders and their organizations. The American, British, and French chief prosecutors have signed off on the Indictment. Soviet chief prosecutor Roman Rudenko is stalling for time; he is under strict orders “not to sign off on the final document—under any circumstances” until he gets approval from Moscow.

Meanwhile the four main Nuremberg judges work through other issues. Some are matters of pomp and circumstance. The French judge, Henri Donnedieu de Vabres, insists that the judges wear “black robes as befitting the Tribunal’s dignity.” But Soviet chief judge Iona Nikitchenko dismisses such attire as “medieval.” A compromise is reached: each judge could wear whatever he considered appropriate—leaving the Soviet judges free to wear their military uniforms.

Other more significant issues remain matters of contention. On October 11, the three Western judges decide, over Nikitchenko’s objections, that the presidency of the Tribunal would not rotate during the trials at Nuremberg. A couple of days later, the judges select the British judge, Sir Geoffrey Lawrence, as the Tribunal’s president. While the American judge Francis Biddle had coveted this post, the U.S. chief prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson, had convinced him to support Lawrence “lest the Americans, who were playing host and supplying the majority of the defendants, be seen as completely running the show.” Jackson sends President Truman a letter expressing his concern that if Biddle were to preside and anything went wrong, “all of the animosities and blame would be centered upon the United States.” Nikitchenko goes along with the choice of Lawrence, mainly because he, in turn, is selected to preside over the Tribunal during its public sessions in Berlin.

Back in Moscow, the Soviet deputy foreign minister Andrei Vyshinsky—who had been appointed by Stalin to head a secret commission to oversee the Soviet delegation for the Nuremberg Trials—is focusing his attention on the Indictment. Nikitchenko has surreptitiously sent him a copy for review and approval. Vyshinsky is well aware that the October 15 deadline for lodging the document with the Tribunal is approaching quickly. He sends copies (hastily translated into Russian) to the other members of the secret commission asking them “to send their comments that afternoon.” Matters are complicated for Vyshinsky and others in Moscow because Stalin is incommunicado. Stalin had left Moscow on October 9 for his villa in Sochi, near the Black Sea in the Caucasus, for his first vacation in nine years. Rumors abound that he had suffered two heart attacks during the Potsdam Conference in August and is gravely ill.

The page 99 test works beautifully for my book. Although the prosecutors and judges have not yet arrived in Nuremberg—and the start of the trials is still over a month away—page 99 illustrates a number of key dynamics that are at the heart of the story.

First of all, it shows that Nuremberg was a four-power affair—and it captures the difficult relationships among the wartime allies who were cooperating to bring the Nazis to justice. The Americans, the British, the French, and the Soviets came to Germany with different ideas about the meaning of justice and with competing visions of what Nuremberg should look like. They all made compromises to make Nuremberg happen and to keep the trials moving forward. Some of those compromises (over matters of wardrobe, for example) were small ones; others, involving questions of procedure and evidence, would threaten the very legitimacy of the trials.

Page 99 also shows how the particularities of Stalinism undermined the Soviets in Nuremberg—another key theme of the book. It reveals the tensions between the Soviet delegation in Germany and Soviet leaders in Moscow who were determined to shape the trials from afar. Soviet deputy foreign minister Andrei Vyshinsky and his secret Nuremberg commission play a key role throughout the trials. Vyshinsky (who had gained infamy in the 1930s as the prosecutor of the Moscow show trials) answered directly to Stalin. Moscow’s insistence on reviewing and signing off on each and every decision greatly impeded the Soviet delegation—which was continually scrambling to meet tight deadlines. Stalin’s influence over the Soviet delegation is heavily felt at all times, even when he is away from Moscow and incommunicado.

Finally, on page 99 we start to get a sense of Nuremberg as an incipient Cold War battleground—another theme that is developed more fully in the book. We see Soviet judge Iona Nikitchenko being outvoted by the other three judges on a key procedural issue; this will happen again and again. We also get a peek at U.S. chief prosecutor (and Supreme Court Justice) Robert H. Jackson’s desire to have the Americans run the show at Nuremberg without it being evident that they are doing so. (His letter to Truman is especially telling.) The Soviet-American relationship is critical to the course of the trials and also to the postwar creation of international law regarding human rights—which is a theme I explore in more depth in the final chapter of the book.
Learn more about Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 3, 2020

Sara Mayeux's "Free Justice"

Sara Mayeux is associate professor of law at Vanderbilt University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Free Justice: A History of the Public Defender in Twentieth-Century America, and reported the following:
Page 99 summarizes the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1963 decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, which held that states are constitutionally required to provide defense counsel for criminal defendants who cannot afford their own legal representation. It quotes an oft-quoted line from that opinion: “The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours.” Page 99 also explains that, by the time the Court issued this ruling, it would not have been surprising to lawyers; Supreme Court case law had been tending in this direction for some time and, in a related development within the legal profession, lawyers themselves had become increasingly receptive to publicly funded counsel, at least in the criminal context.

Superficially, and oddly enough, the page 99 test works perfectly for my book—perhaps because page 99 is right about halfway through. The book examines debates within the legal profession about public defenders both before Gideon (beginning in the Progressive Era) and after Gideon. So, page 99 is, coincidentally, the exact fulcrum in the book’s overall narrative arc.

In a deeper sense, though, I think the page 99 test works less well for my book than it might seem, because the book is not primarily about the Supreme Court or Gideon per se, but rather about the larger iceberg of changes and debates within American legal culture of which Gideon represented only the most visible tip. Certainly, page 99’s brief summary of Gideon’s holding will not be novel or surprising to legally trained readers, but rather familiar law school fare.

Nevertheless, I think a reader who turned to page 99 would get a pretty good capsule summary of what the book is about. On this page, the reader encounters a brief reminder of a point developed earlier in the book, that many lawyers had once considered public defenders controversial or at least puzzling. American legal culture has historically been committed both to an adversarial model of the criminal trial and to a set of vaguely free market, capitalist background assumptions about the legal profession—i.e., that the default scenario is that people hire their own lawyers as needed to help them pursue their private interests. So, how would it work for the government to underwrite its own adversary in criminal cases? But by the early 1960s, lawyers had developed a set of arguments that made sense of the public defender as a means of extending the benefits of adversarial legal representation to everyone. Yet these arguments generally accepted and proceeded from the premise that the government had no general obligation to provide assistance to the poor, outside of unique contexts such as the criminal courts—a limitation of American legal culture also briefly discussed on page 99.
Learn more about Free Justice at the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Andrew S. Baer's "Beyond the Usual Beating"

Andrew S. Baer is assistant professor of history with a secondary appointment in African American studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Beyond the Usual Beating: The Jon Burge Police Torture Scandal and Social Movements for Police Accountability in Chicago, and reported the following:
Beyond the Usual Beating appears to pass the test, as page 99 does indeed include core themes of the overall manuscript. While much of the book zooms-in to specific details of police torture against Black criminal suspects on Chicago’s South and West Sides in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, page 99 pulls back to reflect on the larger context of the Jon Burge police torture scandal. This page appears during a narrative of the 1982 killing of two Chicago police officers by an African American man named Andrew Wilson. Following this shooting, officers launched a manhunt for Wilson that quickly turned brutal, as cops ransacked homes, harassed families, apprehended innocent men, and beat or tortured them to enact punishment and gather information. Once detectives brought Wilson into custody, they physically assaulted him, tortured him with electroshock, and coerced a confession that would land him in prison for the rest of his life. Yet evidence of his abuse, including burns and bruises, would surface in a civil suit brought by Wilson years later. This civil suit helped bring one of Chicago’s most impactful police scandals to light.

Page 99 reveals how Black community leaders, including writers for the Chicago Defender and Reverend Jesse Jackson, employed the brutal manhunt for Andrew Wilson in 1982 as evidence that the Chicago Police Department had long turned Black Chicago into a “warzone.” Jackson “alerted city leaders and apathetic whites to the everyday violence of the nation’s racially motivated crime war” and framed the recent manhunt as symptomatic of routine racial harassment by the city’s police. Local atrocities flourished in a national climate of crime panic, law and order politics, and racist disregard for Black lives. One resident wrote to a Black-owned newspaper, “When white people kill blacks, no one cares […] but let a white policeman be killed, regardless of how rotten or dirty he might be, and it’s a city-wide catastrophe.” Another resident added, “Things just don’t balance out. Some folks think it’s time for revenge.” Page 99 offers specific details of police torture in 1982, broader analysis of the national climate that facilitated torture in Chicago, and evidence of local resistance by affected communities.
Learn more about Beyond the Usual Beating at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

David M. Carballo's "Collision of Worlds"

David M. Carballo is Associate Professor of Archaeology, Anthropology, and Latin American Studies at Boston University. His books include Urbanization and Religion in Ancient Central Mexico.

Carballo applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Collision of Worlds: A Deep History of the Fall of Aztec Mexico and the Forging of New Spain, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Collision of Worlds I provide details on the Aztec narratives of ethnogenesis, which involved accounts of migration from Aztlan (the origins of the ethnonym) into central Mexico. I discuss the framing of Mexica-Aztec identity in particular as a blending of Toltec and Chichimec lineages. Whereas the Toltecs represented the storied urban civilizations that had existed in central Mexico for centuries before the Aztecs, the Chichimec represented the nomadic desert dwellers of arid regions to the north. The content of the page captures some of the essence of the book as a whole in that I draw on a mix of textual sources and archaeology—outlining the origins of the bow and arrow within Mesoamerica, a weapon the Aztecs associated with the Chichimecs—and mention the legendary Toltec ruler Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, whom some authors argue Moctezuma equated Cortés with. Nevertheless, the 99 page test would apply much more satisfactorily if pagination were to include the final paragraph of page 98, which I quote here:
Regardless of the historical accuracy of these migration narratives, the framing of apparently disparate origins projected both the trappings of civi­lized people and the conquering spirit of barbarians. Framing ethnic identity as Toltec and Chichimec could simultaneously appeal to a sense of legiti­mate authority grounded in the past and a sense of restless energy of hard­scrabble newcomers. It is a rags-to-riches story and would be effective for projecting political authority based on both ancient grandeur and a people not to be messed with. Similar origin narratives are familiar to us from states and empires of the West. The Roman version combined the heroic Trojan War of the Aeneid with the half-wild Remus and Romulus suckling from the she-wolf; the version in the United States combines Greco-Roman ideals of governance, rendered in neoclassical styles on the National Mall in Washington, with the humble origins of the Pilgrims and western Pioneers. We will examine Spanish national mythos later in this section.
This passage captures several of the central elements of the book in that it is (1) cross-culturally comparative, (2) temporally deep, and (3) focuses on how selective historical memory framed ethnic and imperial ideologies on both sides of the Atlantic preceding and during the Spanish invasion of Mesoamerica. Previous chapters cover the deep histories of Mesoamerica and Iberia, while this explicitly comparative chapter (Chapter 4) examines the parallels and contrasts between Aztec (particularly Mexica) and Spanish (particularly Castilian) societies on the eve of their encounter. Part of the conquistador mythos drew on a Romano-Christian identity that celebrated not only the power of the Roman Empire but also resistance to it on the Iberian peninsula at sites such as the fortified Celtiberian town of Numantia, memorialized later in a tragedy by the author of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes. Another drew on notions of a Christian “Reconquista” of the peninsula from Islamic forces, which was extended to Mesoamerica in conquistador accounts of the “mosques” and “minarets” of the Aztec and Maya cities they invaded. Native Mesoamerican narratives of ethnogenesis, in turn, emphasize the distinctiveness of ethnic city-states that underlay a sense of micro-patriotism in affiliation and different strategies regarding whether to resist or ally with the bearded foreigners who arrived on their shores.
Learn more about Collision of Worlds at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Kevin Duong's "The Virtues of Violence"

Kevin Duong is Assistant Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Virtues of Violence: Democracy Against Disintegration in Modern France, and reported the following:
A reader of The Virtues of Violence finds me pivoting on page 99. It has a section break, and like many such breaks, it doesn’t make for artful reading. However, at the center of the page sits the heading “From the Electorate to the People-in-Arms.” This chapter studies midcentury French socialism’s changing relationship to political violence, and the heart of its argument is expressed here in oversized lettering and bold typeface. France in the 1840s saw the first organized demands for universal male suffrage. Equipping each man with a ballot was beyond the pale of respectable politics, because French elites feared there existed a causal connection between universal suffrage and democratic socialism. A revolution in February 1848 put the hypothesis to the test when its leaders implemented universal manhood suffrage. The experiment did not go well for “Dem-Socs.” The new electorate voted for Louis Napoleon, first as president and then as emperor in 1852. Thanks to the clever use of plebiscites, Napoleon III terminated the Second French Republic to popular acclaim.

This tragedy is well known by students of French history. My own heading “From the Electorate to the People-in-Arms” is meant to draw attention to the way these events betrayed socialists’ faith in electoral politics. As I put on page 99: “As the editors of Le Peuple reminded their readers in September 1848, ‘Socialism is a science, politics is an art; Socialism has principles, politics has only fantasies; Socialism knows only humanity, politics knows only individuals.’ So much the worse, then, for political answers to the social question.” In the chapter’s remainder, I describe how disenchantment with universal suffrage enhanced socialist enthusiasm for insurrectionary violence and the levée en masse, especially during the 1871 Paris Commune.

The book is not organized around the canonical opposition between ballots and bullets, so on its own, page 99 might be misleading. Then as now, French socialists were caught in a tug of war, unsure if their millenarian hopes for an egalitarian society were best pursued in or beyond the electoral arena. Yet that tug of war was specific to the institutional and intellectual conflicts that embroiled French socialists in the nineteenth century. Others I study in the book found their own paths to regenerative popular violence. French revolutionaries like Robespierre and St-Just, for example, turned to such violence because of the limits of constitutionalism, not electoral democracy. Likewise, Alexis de Tocqueville justified colonial terror in North Africa in the 1840s because of commercial society’s centrifugal impact on the French national psyche. Writers and intellectuals of all types came to appreciate the constructive role “the people in arms” played for democratization, but they never arrived at that appreciation in a uniform way.

There is, though, one specific clause on page 99 that speaks to the wider argument of the book: “Socialism knows only humanity, politics knows only individuals.” Pierre-Joseph Proudhon probably wrote this sentence; he was chief editor for the paper in which it appears. The Virtues of Violence is an effort to understand why regenerative popular violence was such a promiscuous trope in nineteenth century France. Proudhon’s contrast on page 99 between “humanity” and “individuals” points to a piece of the answer: the French struggle for democracy was a struggle against the experience of social disintegration. Democracy required the creation of a “humanity” beyond the quantitative aggregation of discrete “individuals.” Violence by “the people-in-arms” promised—and it was never more than a promise—to create those transcendent social bonds. This violence holds less appeal today than it did two centuries ago. Its vision of democracy, however, is still something we grapple with.
Visit Kevin Duong's website and learn more about The Virtues of Violence at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Susan M. Reverby's "Co-conspirator for Justice"

Susan M. Reverby is the Marion Butler McLean Professor Emerita in the History of Ideas and Professor Emerita of Women’s and Gender Studies at Wellesley College. She is the author of Examining Tuskegee: The Infamous Syphilis Study and Its Legacy.

Reverby applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Co-conspirator for Justice: The Revolutionary Life of Dr. Alan Berkman, and reported the following:
In 1978, William Morales was being held in New York’s Bellevue Hospital prison ward. He was accused of being the master bomber for a group of Puerto Rican revolutionaries, and had been caught when a bomb he was making blew up, taking out several fingers in his hands and causing severe facial damage. Morales’ lawyer and supporters called in Dr. Alan Berkman to make sure Morales was cared for properly, and Berkman was horrified by his mistreatment. Eventually Morales’ comrades concocted plans for an escape. He was freed from his hospital cell by being given wire cutters to cut the window bars, lowering himself out and shimming down several stories on bandages and bed sheets to make his escape, eventually arriving in Cuba where he still lives.

On page 99, the reader learns:
After this, the FBI began to realize that Alan might be important. Alan noticed an FBI van nearby as he worked at Betances, the Lower East Side health clinic where Dylcia Pagan, Morales’ partner, was a patient. The police could never determine if Alan had anything to do with the escape. The FBI agent in charge of the case alleged that Alan told Morales about the layout in the Bellevue ward and provided extra bandages. This was never proved, and Alan was never charged. "There was a grand jury," he remembered, "and I was not called." But the FBI van became more ubiquitous in his life. Other Bellevue prison guards were thought to have been bribed, or merely asleep and incompetent, and lost their positions.
Page 99 captures the paradoxes of Alan Berkman’s political and personal journey. Three years after Morales’ escape, Berkman treated a woman who had a gun shot wound after she participated in a robbery/murder action to raise funds for the militant Black Liberation Army, but he did not report the wound as required by law. This time a Grand Jury did go after him for accessory to murder after the fact. Sure he could not get a fair trial in the hysteria around the case, he went into the political underground, joining comrades who did non-lethal bombings of government sites (including an FBI office and a U.S. Senate anteroom.) Caught, and barely surviving two bouts of serious cancers in prison, he would go on to become an important global health activist around HIV/AIDS.

The page shows Berkman’s willingness to use his doctor skills to help those who called upon him. It demonstrates that he worked with those whose principles of anti-racism and anti-colonialism he shared, even when he personally opposed lethal armed struggle they were willing to undertake. What the page does not show is how his principles stayed the same, but his changed tactics and ability to use his doctor position for a global population, not just individuals, would define the last years of his life.

As Americans now of every kind and in every place are in the streets over structural racism, the biography of Dr. Alan Berkman allows us to understand a man who really lived his principles of anti-racism and global solidarity at great peril to himself. Not born into politics, his religious background as a Jew in the first post Holocaust generation and from a family that thought you ought to be principled meant he brought the teachings of resistance to the world. He grew from a brilliant and arrogant man on his way to a renown career as a medical scientist into a loving and sensitive human being, with all the foibles and mistakes we might all recognize. None of us will probably be him, but his life journey is an illumination of his struggle to make solidarity across the world real, and to do so not out of guilt but with real understanding of our joint humanity.
Learn more about Co-conspirator for Justice at the University of North Carolina Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Examining Tuskegee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 26, 2020

Aya Gruber's "The Feminist War on Crime"

Aya Gruber is Professor of Law at the University of Colorado Law School. A former public defender, she is a frequent commentator on criminal justice issues. She has appeared on ABC, NBC, and PBS, and her work has been featured in the New York Times, Denver Post, and Associated Press.

Gruber applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women's Liberation in Mass Incarceration, and reported the following:
Page 99 examines the American crime victims’ rights movement, a late-twentieth century social and political movement that played a significant role in feminism’s turn to criminal law. It appears in chapter four (The Weapon: Ideal Victims), which differs from the other chapters in that it does not tell the story of a particular feminist battle against crime. Rather, it discuss how feminist reformers and victim’s rights activists in the 1980s, sometimes working in tandem, centered “blameless,’ innocent, usually attractive, middle class, and white” women in reform advocacy, with the effect of broadening and strengthening a penal state that disproportionately burdened poor people of color. Conservative lawmakers juxtaposed this victim image with “the image of scary brown men to frighten voters into believing that crime, not lack of stable employment or income, was the main problem to be addressed by government.”

On page 99, I observe that the victims’ rights movement theoretically emphasized protecting victims from an uncaring prosecutorial system, but in practice it became about accruing more power to prosecutors and undermining defendants’ rights:
In principle, the movement was about serving the victims caught up in a stressful bureaucratic criminal system and not about unilaterally strengthen­ing law enforcement. However, even in the early years, victims’ rights organi­zations did not champion the interests of victims who wanted to avoid the criminal system altogether. This may have had something to do with the organizations’ composition. Gottschalk notes that “activists in victims’ organizations tended to be overwhelmingly White, female, and middle-aged—a group demographic that is hardly representative of crime victims in gen­eral.” She goes on, “These activists generally were more supportive of the death penalty and of the police, prosecutors, and judges than were victims not active in these organizations.” So, in theory, victims’ rights are not synonymous with crime control. But as legal scholar Markus Dubber observes, “As a matter of fact, the vindication of victims’ rights has every­thing to do with the war on crime.”
The book, as a whole, recounts the complicated role feminism played in the formation the modern American penal state, and suggests how contemporary feminists can disentangle gender justice aims from the law enforcement apparatus. I am not sure that one could discern those aims from page 99. Nevertheless, the victim’s rights movement was key to late twentieth century feminists’ emphasis on criminal reform and the success of those reforms. Moreover, in this moment of intense worldwide activism demanding a radical reimagining of the role of policing and punishment in society, it is important to understand how essentialist notions of female victimhood historically have been used to maintain the U.S. prison state. In response to current calls to defund the police, many ask, often rhetorically, “What about rape and domestic violence?” Chapter four exposes that the claim that female victims invariably demand policing and punishment—a claim frequently made by feminists in the past—is not an obvious truth but a narrative rooted in racialized tough-on-crime politics.
Learn more about The Feminist War on Crime at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Sarah Glosson's "Performing Jane"

Sarah Glosson is director of the Arts & Sciences Graduate Center at the College of William & Mary in Virginia.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Performing Jane: A Cultural History of Jane Austen Fandom, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Performing Jane provides a glimpse into the scholarly habits of one particular Jane Austen fan, George Holbert Tucker (1909-2005). A beloved journalist in his native Norfolk, Virginia, Tucker had no college education but published several books in his lifetime, including two biographical works about Jane Austen and her family. He was an avowed anglophile, and among the earliest members of the Jane Austen Society of North America.

This page examines Tucker’s opinions on the inherent value of his collection of over one hundred research scrapbooks. Excerpts from correspondence between Tucker and the Special Collections librarian at the College of William and Mary’s Earl Gregg Swem Library discuss the bequest of these scrapbooks. Tucker describes his research collection as “a ready reference archive,” alluding to the fact that he had assiduously organized and curated the materials prior to depositing them with Swem Library. He was particularly keen to have his scrapbooks preserved in an archive for use by future scholars of Jane Austen, and viewed these raw materials as a scholarly resource even more valuable than his published works. In my assessment, “Tucker felt strongly that he was making a substantial contribution to William & Mary’s collections, placing the university in the selective company of other institutions with important Austen-related collections.” But the same page will reveal that, following its acquisition by Swem Library in 1987, Tucker’s collection was virtually forgotten and much of its material made redundant by digital scholarship and the internet.

Here the Page 99 Test illuminates two key aspects of the book, though it does not ultimately represent the book well as a whole. First, the page would likely—and correctly—disabuse readers of the notion that Performing Jane centers Jane Austen or her works, a common expectation of books with Austen’s name in the title. Discussion of George H. Tucker and his research scrapbooks asserts the book’s focus on Austen fans and their pursuits. Second, the page hints at questions that several sections of the book address: What are the distinctions between those we would comfortably refer to as “fans” and those we would perhaps call “experts” or “enthusiasts”? How do those distinctions play out? Tucker was a scholar, yet, as I state on page 99, his habits and affinities are those of a fan.

Performing Jane tackles a wider range of themes and ideas than this single page reveals. I hope that readers of page 99 would find Tucker’s research scrapbooks intriguing, and feel moved to continue reading about the twentieth-century collectors and lovers of Austen who experienced and expressed their fandom through performative acts related to scrapbooking. Other sections in the book consider similarly performative fan practices: going on pilgrimage to bring oneself closer to Austen and her world, and engaging with imitative works, adaptations, and fanfiction as a way of rekindling an experience with beloved texts like Pride and Prejudice. These three types of fan activities are visible throughout the roughly 200-year history of Austen fandom, and reflect continuity in Austen fans’ desires and habits across time and media environments.
Learn more about Performing Jane at the Louisiana State University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Peter J. Thuesen's "Tornado God"

Peter J. Thuesen is Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and co-editor of Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation. His books include Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine, and In Discordance with the Scriptures: American Protestant Battles over Translating the Bible.

Thuesen applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Tornado God: American Religion and Violent Weather, and reported the following:
I appreciate the invitation to participate in The Page 99 Test, though I’ll have to confess to some skepticism about Ford Madox Ford’s device. It strikes me as a bit similar to when some Christians open the Bible to a random page and seek guidance from the first verse they see. That said, such a method is time honored—it goes back at least to Saint Augustine, who famously opened the Scriptures to Romans 13:13-14—so here goes.

On page 99 of my Tornado God, I’m in the midst of describing religious responses to the St. Louis Tornado of 1896. That tornado was a tremendous calamity for what was then the nation’s fourth-largest city. At least 255 people died, a thousand were injured, and 7,500 buildings were destroyed or damaged. Many of the devastated buildings were churches, a stark reminder of the religious questions posed by the tragedy.

Across the country, clergy wrestled with the disaster in their Sunday sermons. I discuss some of those responses on page 99. I quote Ezra Squier Tipple, pastor of Grace Methodist Episcopal Church in New York City and later president of Drew Theological Seminary, who said that God permits tornadoes and other catastrophes to turn people’s attention from “the minor details of life” and to increase “sympathy among men.” I also quote T. De Witt Talmage, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Washington, D.C., who said that the “best thing that ever happens to us is trouble” because it drives us “into the harbor of God’s protection.”

But page 99 only gets at these sunny estimations of the tragedy’s significance. In the next chapter, I show how some twentieth-century theologians began to question whether there is any purpose or plan behind natural events. One such theologian was Reinhold Niebuhr, who was a three-year-old living in St. Charles, Missouri, just across the Missouri River from St. Louis, when the 1896 tornado happened. Niebuhr illustrates a central irony of my story, that despite the ongoing progress of scientific discovery, humans today are still in some sense as confounded by the tornado as Job was by the Whirlwind.

So does Tornado God pass the Page 99 Test? Not exactly, in that page 99 tells only part of the story: the optimism of the Gilded Age clergy who said that God sends tornadoes for human improvement. But whether they were correct or whether Niebuhr was right to be skeptical, page 99 does at least indirectly point to the central argument of my book: that the tornado is both American and transcendent, a national preoccupation but one that gets at questions as old as humanity itself.
Visit Peter J. Thuesen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Geoffrey Plank's "Atlantic Wars"

Geoffrey Plank is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of East Anglia. He is the author of John Woolman's Path to the Peaceable Kingdom: A Quaker in the British Empire; Rebellion and Savagery: The Jacobite Rising of 1745 and the British Empire; and An Unsettled Conquest: The British Campaign Against the Peoples of Acadia.

Plank applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Atlantic Wars: From the Fifteenth Century to the Age of Revolution, and reported the following:
Page 99 opens with a law passed by the colonial assembly of Barbados in 1676 banning New Englanders from bringing indigenous American war captives to the island to be sold as slaves. The assemblymen argued that a recent influx of enslaved indigenous Americans, captured during King Philip’s War, had posed an intolerable security risk. They warned that if this branch of the slave trade continued, “greater mischief may happen to this island than from any Negroes.” Page 99 continues:
The moral and pragmatic arguments over the sale of indigenous war captives grew louder in the English colonies following King Philip’s War. Nonetheless the practice continued for several decades. In Charleston, South Carolina, English colonial officials and slave traders paid indigenous warriors for war captives who were subsequently sold abroad as slaves. The Carolina economy relied on slave labour, but the colonists preferred to purchase Africans and send indigenous American captives away. Historian Alan Gallay has estimated that before 1715 the number of indigenous American captives the colony sent overseas exceeded the number of enslaved people the colonists brought in from the Caribbean and Africa. Some indigenous Americans targeted for capture and sale in South Carolina voluntarily sought exile overseas to avoid enslavement. In 1711 a Cuban ship captain named Luis Perdomo carried 270 indigenous men, women and children from Florida to Havana. These exiles were fleeing Yamasee warriors who intended to sell them in Charleston. Perdomo reported that he left behind hundreds of other indigenous people, perhaps as many as 2,000, who had wanted to sail to Cuba to escape the South Carolina slave market. He said he would have brought more of them to safety and freedom “had he had the vessels.”

Perdomo believed that his ships offered some indigenous people in Florida a way to escape danger. The families he assisted, and others who pleaded for his help, hoped that by crossing the water they could place a barrier between themselves and their attackers. Ironically the Virginians and New Englanders who sent war captives to the Caribbean professed a similar aim, to put a distance between themselves and their adversaries and use the ocean for protection. Refugees who crossed the Atlantic to escape religious persecution in Europe thought about the vastness of the sea in a similar way, as did European imperial officials who sent rebels and other convicts to the Americas as bound labourers. The ocean could separate antagonists, but in most cases, rather than diminishing conflict, crossing the ocean or shipping people overseas only transformed the perception of warfare by moving violence beyond the horizon. The African military leaders who took captives and sold them into the transatlantic slave trade had many of the same incentives that motivated the Virginians and New Englanders who sent indigenous Americans to the Caribbean. The slave trade was a business, and large fortunes could be made marketing and exploiting captives, but in the early modern era shipping captives away was also an increasingly pervasive feature of warfare.
Page 99 provides a clear introduction to several of the central concerns of my book. It illustrates the value of studying Atlantic history by recovering dramas that can be revealed only by looking at different Atlantic regions together. Page 99 contains narratives linking New England with Barbados and South Carolina with Cuba. It broadly identifies dynamics simultaneously operating during the early modern period in Africa, Europe and the Americas. In concrete terms, the page emphasises the pervasive, transformative influence of ships on warfare around the Atlantic. The first third of my book is devoted to this theme.

Another aim of my book is to present Atlantic history in as non-hierarchical a manner as possible, not only assessing the motivations and actions of imperial leaders, colonists and slave traders, but also considering events from the perspective of their allies in Africa and the Americas and those they pursued and fought, such as the indigenous American refugees who pled with Perdomo for transportation to Cuba. Considering the refugees’ perspective highlights the formative impact of warfare on life around the Atlantic. Military action exposed whole communities to slaughter, dispossession, forcible removal, enslavement and exile. The impacts varied, often for example distinguishing men from women, children from adults, indigenous Americans from Africans, Europeans and European colonists. But wars were also communal experiences creating opportunities for cooperation among diverse groups of people from different shores, like Perdomo and his crew and the families they carried across the Florida Strait. Warfare did not simply divide people. It also, sometimes in horrifying ways, brought them together.
Learn more about Atlantic Wars at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 22, 2020

Uzma Quraishi's "Redefining the Immigrant South"

Uzma Quraishi is assistant professor of history at Sam Houston State University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Redefining the Immigrant South: Indian and Pakistani Immigration to Houston during the Cold War, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Redefining the Immigrant South lands the reader in the middle of Chapter Two which broadly examines the second phase of the migration process as outlined in this book—that of getting acquainted with one’s host society. It moderately illustrates the value of the whole book, though it does not directly engage with the regional and local histories detailed in the second half of the book. A casual perusal of the page offers information on the financial solvency of international students in the 1950s and early 1960s.

However, a careful reading of the page reveals much larger processes underway, namely the rising primacy of the United States in the postwar world, the Cold War-driven expansion of American higher education, and the privileges attached to the cultural capital of South Asian immigrants (i.e. advanced degrees). The page casts a spotlight on a moment in American history when the country actively encouraged and invited international students to pursue higher education while simultaneously denying that opportunity to African Americans. Thus, it indirectly draws attention to the paradox of privilege enjoyed by Asian immigrants in a Cold War United States that was deeply concerned with its racial image abroad versus the systemic racism long endured by African Americans across the country but acutely in the U.S. South.

Based on the economically lean beginnings described on page 99, South Asian immigrants often evoke the “rags to riches” trope in reinforcing the American Dream myth. For many of the South Asian immigrants that I interviewed, the resulting false binary, that of their own “success” versus black “failure,” lends legitimacy to their own championing of the model minority myth. This narrative was circulated in the 1960s and 1970s to undermine the radicalism of the civil rights and Black Power movements.

Pointedly, access to American universities was not merely a result of Asian immigrants’ individual effort. Passage of the civil rights-inspired 1965 Hart Celler Act eased anti-Asian immigration restrictions into the country, while the Civil Rights Act of 1964 facilitated Asian American participation in American society.

Furthermore, the rise in international students attending American universities was subsidized by the U.S. government, posing a further challenge to the individualism of the model minority myth. As I note on page 99:
The generous amount of financial support available at American universities—unlike at other Western universities—was an important part of the calculus by which middle-class South Asian students opted to pursue higher education in the United States. In 1963, American universities and the U.S. government paid for one third of education-related costs for international students, regardless of major. Approximately half of all foreign students were supported by scholarships and grants in the 1960s. By the 1970s, British universities began drastic reductions to international student support, further contributing to the rise in international student enrollment in the United States.
The last sentence in the above passage touches on the ascent of American higher education in the global arena. By the end of the 1960s, Indians’ and Pakistanis’ preferred destination for academic advancement was the United States, partly due to the United States’ unprecedented expansion of its university system but also as a result the Cold War promotion of American education through U.S. public diplomacy abroad.

Page 99 offers the reader a sense of the depth and breadth of the historical forces at play in the early decades of the Cold War.
Learn more about Redefining the Immigrant South at the University of North Carolina Press.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Montse Feu's "Fighting Fascist Spain"

Montse Feu is an associate professor at Sam Houston State University. She recovers the literary history of the Spanish Civil War exile in the United States, US Hispanic periodicals, and migration and exile literature at large. Feu is the author of Fighting Fascist Spain. Worker Protest from the Printing Press and Correspondencia personal y política de un anarcosindicalista exiliado: Jesús González Malo (1943-1965). She is co-editor of Writing Revolution: Hispanic Anarchism in the United States.

Feu applied the “Page 99 Test” to Fighting Fascist Spain and reported the following:
Page 99 of Fighting Fascist Spain is four pages into chapter 5 entitled “Solidarity for Political Prisoners.” About two-hundred US Hispanic societies organized as the Sociedades Hispanas Confederadas (SHC), denounced fascist Spain, and politically and financially supported its victims. The SHC included mutual aid and cultural societies created by earlier Spanish migrants, who arrived in the United States around the turn of the twentieth century. Many of them brought radical traditions rooted in their homeland fueling anti-authoritarian and emancipatory practices that promoted the creation of culture and participation in politics from below. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the Francisco Franco’s dictatorship (1939-1975), the SHC published periodicals to denounce Franco’s rule, raised funds for political prisoners and refugees, and preserved, disseminated, and adapted Spanish labor culture and politics in the United States exile while Franco prosecuted it in Spain.

A photograph takes up half of page 99. In the photograph, SHC’s members are protesting in front of a shop in New York. The SHC picketed businesses that sold products from Germany, Italy, Japan, Portugal, or Spain. Jesús González Malo, editor of the SHC’s antifascist periodical, España Libre (1939-1977), is holding a sign that reads, “We are against dictatorships anywhere.” Another SHC member, José Nieto Ruiz, is holding the sign that says, “Franco No, Khrushchev No, Liberty Yes.” Dorothy Day is holding another sign that proclaims, “The Catholic Worker supports this picketing.” The photograph allows readers to capture a glimpse of the SHC’s protests.

A paragraph continues from the previous page. It describes the protests and the coverage in the antifascist periodical that preceded España Libre, Frente Popular (1936-1939), both published in New York:
To show that members were not afraid of intimidations, Frente Popular printed the names of about 150 picketers. Nonetheless, the Judge Philip McCook prohibited the continuous protests in front of the shops. Theaters who supported Francoist artists were affected by the picketers as well. More than three thousand banners were made to demonstrate in front of the Fleisher Auditorium in Philadelphia and the Lewisohn Stadium in New York on the occasion of concerts of composer and pianist José Iturbi.
Another section describes the SHC’s cultural festivals, which raised funds for political prisoners and and refugees while disseminating antifascist culture:
Soon after its foundation, the SHC held cultural fundraisers on the streets as well. Funds were raised by and for workers. For this reason, fundraisers were held outside of working hours, after 8 p.m. on Saturdays. As one of España Libre’s reviews reminded readers, most attendees worked on Saturday mornings. In other words, the show times, the themes, the venues – kept both accessible and affordable – were all decided while considering the needs and interests of the working-class audience.
This paragraph continues on the next page examining other working-class characteristics of the SHC’s fundraisers, which included the writing and performing of antifascist plays with working class protagonists.

Page 99 is fairly representative of Fighting Fascist Spain as a whole in that it uncovers an untold story of US antifascism and explores its multifaceted characteristics. The Spanish Civil War exile print culture cannot be understood on political terms alone but rather in the transformative role that culture had—in the forms of cartoons, essays, literature, satirical chronicles, and theater—for antifascist engagement for four decades. España Libre’s editors, contributors, and readers created an identity linked not only to legacies of the Spanish Revolution but also to new influences in the United States. They did so through a diverse body of cultural work. Creative expression was one of the most revolutionary means of fighting fascism because it enlarged members’ comprehension of their reality and encouraged activism by reiterating the significance of resistance. Print culture also allowed this grassroots community to ask one of the most crucial questions after fascism: How do we care for others? Some of the later cultural and intellectual trajectories of SHC members provided answers to this question. Their intellectual development moved toward a postwar approach that understood social revolution as a practice of transnational inclusion in the body politic rather than through a violent contest of a national political power.​
Visit Montse Feu's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 20, 2020

C. Patterson Giersch's "Corporate Conquests"

C. Patterson Giersch is Professor of History at Wellesley College. He is the author of Asian Borderlands (2006).

Giersch applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Corporate Conquests: Business, the State, and the Origins of Ethnic Inequality in Southwest China, and reported the following:
From page 99:
To examine the commercial changes of the 1870s through 1940s, the chapter follows the Yunnanese corporations into Kham to explain the overall growth of privately-financed commerce and to reveal the changing local dynamics of commodity production. Along with Shaanxi and Sichuanese firms, the Yunnanese were able to link more Kham producers to larger and more extensive networks of regional and even global trade. The private trading corporations were well capitalized and, using the new organizational and bookkeeping technologies examined in Chapter 1, could reach more deeply into local communities to purchase and move highland products to Chongqing, Kunming, Mandalay, and even Shanghai and Hong Kong. The firms were responding to increasing regional and global demand, and they shipped musk as far as Paris, to be used by the burgeoning perfume industry, while also purchasing and transporting Chinese traditional medicine products to meet growing demand in Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia.

The ability of corporations to extend their business in Kham was, perhaps counterintuitively, aided by the destabilization of the region by the Qing in 1905-1911. This destabilization was provoked by Qing adoption of Euro-American models of colonialism in the wake of the British invasion of Lhasa. There followed a brutal military campaign to suppress and even eradicate indigenous institutions of power in Kham. After the Qing regime fell in 1911-1912, Kham became an arena for competition as monasteries, secular aristocratic families, merchants, Lhasa, and various forms of the new Republican Chinese state jockeyed for power. While commerce was frequently interrupted by conflict, this period of competition actually allowed for new private and state-owned corporations to gain power, a process that, when combined with the political changes, laid the foundations for modern China’s long-term practices of development that tends to disempower local, non-Han communities. In this chapter, then, we continue to follow the fortunes of the Yunnan trading firms, but their story is now placed within a broader geographical and political context as we move into Kham and explore in detail the concurrent transformations of the various forms of the modern Chinese state.
I confess that I may have enhanced the page 99 test by including a paragraph that begins on page 98. But a reader who examines these two paragraphs will encounter actors, stories, and locations that are central to the book. The stories spill across the rugged highlands of Southwest China, from Yunnan Province to Eastern Tibet (Kham), and down the great river valleys into India, Burma, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. The actors include entrepreneurs from China’s Yunnan Province who adopted new management and recordkeeping technologies to build powerful transregional trading corporations. The growing corporations transformed many rural areas of China’s ethnically diverse frontier regions, reaching deeper, for example, into the villages and grasslands inhabited by Tibetans called Khampas. And they controlled the profits from expanding commercial sidelines, such as traditional medicine gathering, thus limiting the economic leverage Khampa families could gain through increasing market participation.

The actors also include central and provincial governments, which, after the 1870s, increasingly viewed China’s diverse western expanses as alien lands in need of domination through top-down political and economic control. This meant that government officials initially supported the private trade corporations in gaining commercial power over indigenous communities. Later, in the 1950s, the state would take over the private firms, thus commandeering that commercial power for itself. And, from the 1880s forward, it also meant creating state-run corporations and developmental plans that would rationalize state control over the economic future of Khampas and other communities. In China’s West and Yunnan Province in particular, the book demonstrates, lay the origins of the most creative and essential of China’s long-term approaches to economic development, which have tended not only to be state-led, but also fundamentally flawed by prejudice and a lack of inclusivity, especially for minority communities in the western regions.

What the page 99 test does not quite capture is the book’s revelation of alternative paths. By focusing on the activism and planning of well-educated and worldly ethnic Tai leaders in western Yunnan, the book uncovers an early twentieth-century alternative of inclusive commercial and industrial planning, which would have left key institutions and corporations under the authority of local communities. As we know today from reading the terrible news about Xinjiang, Tibet, and even Hong Kong, this alternative path of local autonomy and control, while possible in the past, is now tragically gone.
Learn more about Corporate Conquests at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 19, 2020

Sunny Stalter-Pace's "Imitation Artist"

Sunny Stalter-Pace is the Hargis Associate Professor of American Literature at Auburn University. She is the author of Underground Movements: Modern Culture on the New York Subway.

Stalter-Pace applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Imitation Artist: Gertrude Hoffmann's Life in Vaudeville and Dance, and reported the following:
What’s on page 99 of Imitation Artist? A news story about Gertrude Hoffmann’s cubist dress and a review of her performance in Chicago that compares her vaudeville performance to modern abstract art. Here’s an extract of the review:

“She is ethereal, but it is ether with phosphorescent edges trailing in ugly green and with sibilant hushes around her wraith. She is ghostly past impressionisty.”

Page 99 gives an accurate representation of the whole biography for a couple of reasons. It uses a lot of primary sources from the early twentieth century to tell the story of Gertrude Hoffmann’s stage career. She was born in San Francisco and lived in New York City, but she regularly toured across the U.S., so the setting at this point in the book gives a good indication of that. (Her husband Max Hoffmann started writing songs while he lived in Chicago too.) Most importantly, it talks about Hoffmann as a figure who brings together popular culture and high art. Even if you know a lot about this period in American culture, you might not think that a fast-paced musical comedy would be compared to a painting by Pablo Picasso. But Hoffmann’s performances bring the lowbrow and the highbrow together in unexpected ways.

A weird side note about the cubist gown mentioned in the news story: I have no idea if it existed, and I suspect it didn’t. One of the challenges of writing about theater history has to do with its ephemerality: it’s there onstage, and then it’s gone. The evidence you have to work with might be video, or still photography, or a story – and there’s no guarantee that any piece of evidence is accurate by itself. I don’t know if Gertrude Hoffmann had a cubist dress, but I do know that enough people compared her to modern art that the comparison made sense to the American newspaper-reading public circa 1913, and I wanted to know why that was the case.
Learn more about Imitation Artist: Gertrude Hoffmann's Life in Vaudeville and Dance at the Northwestern University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Claas Kirchhelle's "Pyrrhic Progress"

Claas Kirchhelle is an historian at the University of Oxford. His award-winning research explores the history of antibiotics and the development of modern risk perceptions, microbial surveillance, and international drug regulation.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Pyrrhic Progress: The History of Antibiotics in Anglo-American Food Production, and reported the following:
From page 99:
"...the effect of the addition of antibiotic supplements [to domestic feeds] is unlikely to be of commercial importance.” (1951)
To my surprise, page 99 takes us right to the heart of Pyrrhic Progress' exploration of uncertainty, overhasty decision-making, and counter science in 20th century drug regulation. What at first glance appears to be a very unexciting sentence from a technical report is in fact an explosive statement that casts doubt on the science underpinning one of the most significant expansions of modern antibiotic use.

Since the 1930s, antibiotics' ability to treat and manage bacterial infections has saved countless lives. However, it is often forgotten that over 50% of global antibiotic use does not occur in humans but in animals and plants. A large part of agricultural use was initially driven by the so-called 'antibiotic growth effect'. Accidently discovered by US industry researchers in 1949, the 'antibiotic growth effect' stated that regularly feeding low doses of antibiotics to animals and humans could promote their growth and ability to convert food. The discovery drove a major expansion of global antibiotic use and made it acceptable for producers to routinely medicate increasingly large numbers of animals.

But the science behind antibiotic growth promoters was murky. In 1951, British government researchers, who were keen to replicate US findings, found no pronounced benefit of adding antibiotics to rations. However, their concerns about US data and antibiotics' selection for resistant bacteria on farms were ignored. In 1953, Britain followed the US and licensed low-dosed antibiotic growth promoters. Abstract long-term hazards were outweighed by hopes for economic benefits resulting from cheaper meat and new agricultural outlets for the antibiotic market.

Although studies continued to question their efficacy and safety, low-dosed antibiotics became a standard component of animal rations. Their alleged importance for global food security was cited by industry to oppose restrictions when fears about bacterial resistance to antibiotics became more widespread from the 1960s onwards.

Low-dosed growth promoter feeds were eventually banned first in the European Union between 1998 and 2006 and in the US from 2013 onwards. By this time, many producers had begun to doubt feeds' effectiveness and it was clear that agricultural antibiotics had contributed to the emerging global health crisis of bacterial resistance. By reconstructing the turbulent history of agricultural antibiotics, Pyrrhic Progress highlights the difficulties of modern drug regulation and the danger of prioritising short-term gains over long-term health hazards.
Learn more about Pyrrhic Progress at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

James P. Woodard's "Brazil's Revolution in Commerce"

James P. Woodard, professor of history at Montclair State University, is the author of A Place in Politics: São Paulo, Brazil, from Seigneurial Republicanism to Regionalist Revolt.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Brazil's Revolution in Commerce: Creating Consumer Capitalism in the American Century, and reported the following:
Flipping through the early chapters of my book with some anticipation, I found the top of page 99 to be a letdown. For the crucial page opens midway through a paragraph describing techniques used by the media- and market-research firm Instituto Brasileiro de Opinião Pública e Estatística (Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics, known universally in Brazil as IBOPE, pronounced ee-bop), founded in 1942 by a Brazilian admirer of George Gallup. These are important details, to be sure, but it is hardly the most exciting passage in the book.

Description of IBOPE’s techniques continues through the next two paragraphs, toward the end of the second of which one finds its scheme for ranking the neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro by the socioeconomic class of their households, using the letters A, B, and C; A denoting the toniest neighborhoods, C the least chic. Now we’re getting somewhere—I thought to myself as my eyes worked their way down the page—for as the next paragraph indicates, the classification of household socioeconomic standing using the letters A, B, and C was something that IBOPE had borrowed from the J. Walter Thompson Company, which had developed the system in the United States before bringing to Brazil in 1929, when the powerful New York–based advertising agency opened its first Brazilian office. By time IBOPE’s operations were in full swing, in the mid-1940s, the A, B, C scheme had reached much wider use in Brazil than it ever did in the United States. And it is there that page 99 ends, in another incomplete paragraph.

If any readers persevered through the discussion of “coincidental radio checking” techniques and reached this discussion of the origins and diffusion of a letter-denominated system of social classification, they would have—knowingly or not—arrived at something that is at once one of the “hooks” to the project, as well as evidence of its central thrust. For it follows up on where the book begins:

A classe C vai ao paraíso!
(Class C goes to paradise!)
These words were everywhere in Brazil as the first decade of the twentieth-first century ended. They indicated that, for the first time in the country’s history, its working poor (class C) had arrived and become full participants in its consumer capitalism—its world of getting and spending, of more—built up over the preceding decades by firms the likes of J. Walter Thompson and IBOPE, amid encounters between the United States and Brazil in which Brazilians were the most crucial actors. Along the way, their country and its culture were remade, to the extent that the dominant way of discussing social difference in Brazil today is an artifact of interwar Madison Avenue. That remaking—the cumulative work of decades—is the subject of every one of the pages of Brazil’s Revolution in Commerce. Along the way, readers will even find that the book hazards an explanation for why the A, B, C system caught on in Brazil (today it is ubiquitous, used even by the Brazilian equivalent of the Census Bureau), whereas in the United States it fell into disuse even in advertising circles, never having made any broader cultural impact. But that explanation begins 189 pages after the page we began with today...
Learn more about Brazil's Revolution in Commerce at the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Leah Cardamore Stokes's "Short Circuiting Policy"

Leah C. Stokes is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and affiliated with the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and the Environmental Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Short Circuiting Policy: Interest Groups and the Battle Over Clean Energy and Climate Policy in the American States, and reported the following:
From page 99:
At the state level, there were few renewable energy projects in the pipeline by the early 1990s. Instead, advocates focused their attention on blocking coal plants. Before deregulation, many states had transitioned to IRP processes. In theory, this planning approach was supposed to bring public benefits like environmental harms into utilities’ proposals. It largely worked: advocates advancing energy efficiency and renewables in IRPs were often winning. But with deregulation, the IRP process would disappear from many states (Duane 2002; Wiser et al. 2000). Thus, advocates had to change tactics and find new policy ideas that could be tacked onto the agenda of the day: electricity restructuring.

Advocates working through a cross-state network saw restructuring as a policy opportunity. The Energy Foundation—a foundation started in 1991 that provides grants to clean energy advocates—funded this advocacy network. The group met regularly to discuss policy ideas and political strategies. To build capacity offline, the foundation set up a list-serve where members could share and debate. Key groups in this network in the mid-1990s included the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and the Utility Reform Network (TURN).

In specific states, the foundation would strategically fund groups when policy opportunities arose. This funding strategy involved a blend of insider groups, who could sit at the table and negotiate policy; and outsider groups, who could build grassroots campaigns to pressure the negotiations externally. Over time, this strategy evolved, and eventually the Energy Foundation saw itself as funding three kinds of groups: pillars, specialists, and local groups. Pillars led regional efforts across the country, providing professional staff and technical expertise—these groups included UCS, the Renewable Northwest Project and the Conservation Law Foundation. Specialist groups had a narrow focus, only working on one topic such as energy efficiency. Local groups had relationships and credibility in a given state and the ability to drive grassroots mobilization. In practice, this funding model sometimes failed to incorporate local groups into national campaigns or would result in national groups parachuting into local debates last minute. That said, even those groups that did not receive foundation funding, such as state Public Interest Research Groups and Environment America, built relationships with the network and provided critical grassroots support. Many of the EF-funded groups also worked together to try to get a federal clean energy target on the agenda during the 1990s, although that effort ultimately failed.

The advocates struggled in the early days of this foundation network to agree on which policy to advance (Wiser et al. 1998). There were three main options: voluntary green power purchasing, a system benefits charge, and...
Page 99 is a few pages from the end of Chapter 3, which discusses the institutional history of electricity politics and climate inaction. The page is a decent reflection of the book as a whole. It touches on how an advocacy group network was formed to promote clean energy policies across the American states. These groups, who have worked on trying to advance climate policy for decades, include the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Citizen and the Sierra Club. The page ends on a gloomy note: these advocates’ efforts in the 1990s to pass a federal clean energy standard failed. Sadly, this page captures one of the themes of the book: our failure to pass clean energy legislation that is up to the scale of the climate challenge. What the page largely leaves out is the dominant and disproportionately powerful role that electric utilities and fossil fuel companies played in systematically attacking and preventing clean energy policies. This includes trying to roll back Renewable Portfolio Standards and net metering laws, whose implementation was helping to decarbonize our electricity grid and address climate change. I hope that my book can help expose the historic and systematic efforts electric utilities, fossil fuel companies and other interest groups have taken to block and weaken climate policy. Ultimately, we need a federal clean energy standard to ensure that all states are cleaning up their electricity systems. Perhaps we will finally get one in 2021!
Visit Leah C. Stokes's website.

--Marshal Zeringue