Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Lonán Ó Briain's "Voices of Vietnam"

Lonán Ó Briain is Associate Professor of Music at the University of Nottingham. He is the author or editor of several books, including Musical Minorities: The Sounds of Hmong Ethnicity in Northern Vietnam.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Voices of Vietnam: A Century of Radio, Red Music, and Revolution, and reported the following:
This book investigates the historical impact of broadcast sound on geopolitics. The shifting borders and polities of mainland Southeast Asia over the past century provide ample material for examination, especially during and after the major wars of the twentieth century but also following economic reforms and the emergence of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. My attention is particularly focused on Hanoi, which served for a time as the capital of French Indochina, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV; North Vietnam) and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

The first half of page 99 provides an excellent summary of the key arguments in Voices of Vietnam by describing the activities of a central figure associated with radio music during the Second Indochina War, Dân Huyền, and then summarizing the legacy of wartime musicians, broadcasts and audio technologies in contemporary Vietnam:
…seminal recordings are regularly broadcast to accompany interviews with survivors, and iconic songs are re-recorded by up-and-coming popular artists. Much of the technical and administrative infrastructures described here also remain in place. These mechanisms served as a platform for the invention and propagation of a national communist cultural heritage in the early postcolonial period, and today they buttress the power of the current political establishment.
The page 99 test is less successful on the second half of the page, which shifts to the Republic of Vietnam (RVN; South Vietnam):
With loudspeakers positioned along the seventeenth parallel, wireless radio broadcasts beaming into the South, and pamphlets advertizing the VOV’s schedule, potential listeners in the RVN were inundated with red music and other propaganda from the DRV during the war. But southern listeners had many alternatives...
Only a few pages are devoted to broadcasts from this region. Here, I provide a snapshot of cultural life and music broadcasting in the South, largely based on secondary sources—other scholars are developing important research on the RVN which I briefly highlight. The primary sources for Voices of Vietnam are original interviews with musicians in northern Vietnam, fieldwork in the offices, rehearsal halls, and recording studios of state radio in Hanoi, and archival documents on broadcasting mostly in northern Vietnam/Tonkin. So, this test is only successful if you read the first half of the page!
Learn more about Voices of Vietnam at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 29, 2021

Hannah Farber's "Underwriters of the United States"

Hannah Farber is assistant professor of history at Columbia University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Underwriters of the United States: How Insurance Shaped the American Founding, and reported the following:
If we flip to page 99 of Underwriters of the United States, we find ourselves in Philadelphia, shortly after the ratification of the Constitution of the United States. A local insurance group has successfully persuaded the legislature of the state of Pennsylvania to grant it an incorporation, in spite of noisy complaints from its opponents. The Page 99 test works fairly well, because what follows is a transformation that is central to the book: the noisy opponents, placated with an incorporation of their own, immediately discover that collaboration is more profitable than competition. Suddenly, they become a lot quieter. The two new insurance companies amicably exchange insurance rates, collaborate on matters of policy, and begin to build relationships with other insurance companies and private insurance brokerages up and down the eastern seaboard of the new republic.

Over the following two decades, a major shift takes place: the overwhelming majority of American merchants begin buying their insurance at home instead of overseas. As a result, American insurers are able to reconstitute their staggeringly complex, wealthy, and exclusive international business inside the United States. But how "inside" the United States is this business, really? When insurers talk about their business in public, they try to have things both ways. On the one hand, they portray the insurance business as a private project of expert, cosmopolitan merchants, with which the state has no right to interfere. On the other hand, they also try to portray insurance as a civic-minded business that benefits (secures!) all Americans, and that therefore deserves public acclamation and state support.
Learn more about Underwriters of the United States at the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Michael Krepon's "Winning and Losing the Nuclear Peace"

Michael Krepon co-founded the Stimson Center in 1989 and worked previously in the executive branch and on Capitol Hill. He has taught as a professor of practice at the University of Virginia and received the Carnegie Endowment’s award for lifetime achievement in non-governmental work to reduce nuclear dangers in 2015. Winning and Losing the Nuclear Peace: The Rise, Demise, and Revival of Arms Control is Krepon's twenty-third book. Most of his previous books were collaborative efforts resulting from Stimson programming.

Krepon applied the “Page 99 Test” to Winning and Losing the Nuclear Peace and reported the following:
My new book is a history of nuclear arms control. Page 99 will give readers a flavor of how I write, but you’ll need to read the whole work to get the complete story. Page 99 finds us at the Glassboro summit during the Lyndon Baines Johnson administration. LBJ and his Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara are trying to convince Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin to begin strategic arms limitation talks:
The luncheon discussion was rushed and not worthy of the topic. Kosygin, part of a collective leadership, wasn’t empowered to make a decision, in any event. Llewellyn Thompson was dispatched once more to Moscow to deliver the message that the United States was willing to send a high-level delegation to Moscow to begin preliminary discussions. He was to lead the U.S. delegation, but was left cooling his heels. Thompson conveyed three subsequent messages from Washington, but there was still no reply.

The decision to begin strategic arms control talks tied the Kremlin into knots. Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin raised one important concern with Secretary of State Dean Rusk: What, exactly, did the United States want to achieve? Superiority? Or would Washington accept parity? Rusk was evasive.
History never repeats itself exactly, but it always brings us to the present. This vignette, now over five decades old, is again about to unfold vis-à-vis China. Like the Soviet Union in 1967, China is expanding rapidly its nuclear forces, partly in anticipation of the onset of strategic arms control talks with the United States. China’s build up will force the Biden administration to confront difficult choices in defining U.S. negotiating objectives. Whatever Biden decides to do, he can expect a domestic backlash. I discuss this in my concluding chapter.
Learn more about Winning and Losing the Nuclear Peace at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 26, 2021

Ray E. Boomhower's "Richard Tregaskis"

Ray E. Boomhower is a senior editor at the Indiana Historical Society Press. He is also the author of more than a dozen books, including Dispatches from the Pacific: The World War II Reporting of Robert L. Sherrod; John Bartlow Martin: A Voice for the Underdog; and Robert F. Kennedy and the 1968 Indiana Primary.

Boomhower applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Richard Tregaskis: Reporting under Fire from Guadalcanal to Vietnam, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The American Legion’s deck was black with slime and grit because, as he later discovered, the ship had no modern equipment for pumping water. “The marines cramming the deck were just as dirty,” he noted. Tregaskis met with the Fifth Marine Regiment’s commanding officer, Col. Leroy P. Hunt, a World War I veteran, in the officer’s cabin, which at least had a clean floor. Hunt said his men might be unkempt and looked like gypsies because there was no water available to clean up, but he believed they would fight when called upon to do so. “They got it here,” Hunt told Tregaskis, tapping his chest in the region of his heart. Returning to his cabin, which he shared with Capt. William Hawkins, a former schoolteacher in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Tregaskis went to the bathroom he shared with the adjoining stateroom and tried to wash off the sweat and grime he had collected during the day. When he pressed the tap, no water came out. A neighbor informed him, “The water’s only on for about ten minutes at a time, about three times a day. And the times it’s on are a mystery that only the Navy and God know about.”

As the American Legion sailed south on the big sweep that would take it into Guadalcanal, Tregaskis got to know more about the marines and their commander. Hunt and his officers tried to be realistic about their chances, believing from intelligence reports that there were anywhere from five to ten thousand enemy troops on the island, most of them labor troops, numbers that proved to be greatly inflated. The Japanese would probably be able to bring some large guns to bear upon the American landing craft on their way into the landing beaches five miles east of Lunga Point, as well as machine-gun fire and mortar rounds. Zealous map interpreters, Tregaskis recalled, straining their eyes over aerial photo-mosaic maps, believed they had identified evidence of intense enemy defensive preparations on the beach chosen for the landing. “The interpreters said they saw worn truck tracks, indicating movement in the vicinity of the beach,” he recalled, “and conjured machine gun positions out of minute combinations of shadows in the beach area.” One of Hunt’s aides confided to Tregaskis that he and the other officers expected about a third of the assault boats to be destroyed and a quarter of the combat troops would be casualties during the landing. The officers were also sure that Japanese reconnaissance planes would spot the U.S. armada long before it reached its destination and would send planes to bomb and strafe the ships, and the Japanese fleet would not be far behind. “This estimate did not improve the pleasantness of the prospect of accompanying the assault troops in their attack,” the correspondent noted.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the page 99 test proved to represent well what I attempted to capture in writing about Richard Tregaskis’s war correspondent career. Tregaskis made his name through his experiences with the U.S. Marines who stormed the beaches on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, sharing the dangers with them for the first seven weeks of the campaign to capture and hold the island from the Japanese. Here, on page 99, a reader can gain a good sense of Tregaskis’s reporting method. Instead of describing the grand strategy of the war in the Pacific, he concentrates on the day-to-day struggles of the men facing combat. Tregaskis serves as a surrogate eyewitness for those on the American home front, offering, through his dispatches to newspapers via the International News Service, intriguing details about service overseas (in this example, the grime and dirt encountered by the marines while sailing on an old transport).

Tregaskis’s interaction with the marines on the dirty ship typified his time as one of the approximately 1,800 men and women who worked as combat reporters (a job Tregaskis once described as “an outsider with special privileges”) during World War II. As Robert Considine, one of his INS colleagues noted: “He never in his career as a correspondent sent home a rewrite of a head- quarters communiqué. He didn’t believe in communiqués. He had to see for himself.”

Tregaskis often pondered why he and others risked their lives to report on the war. Good correspondents, like other people of action, were generally unwilling to make themselves heroes, he said, but most “will admit that they take chances in war zones for the same reason the mountain climber gave when asked why he wanted to scale [Mount] Everest: ‘Because it is there.’” Although Associated Press reporter Hal Boyle joked that all one needed to be a war correspondent was “a strong stomach, a weak mind, and plenty of endurance,” he and his colleagues were aware of the dangers they faced.
Follow Ray E. Boomhower on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Eric Helleiner's "The Neomercantilists"

Eric Helleiner is Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Balsillie School of International Affairs at the University of Waterloo. His books include The Forgotten Foundations of Bretton Woods and The Status Quo Crisis.

Helleiner applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Neomercantilists: A Global Intellectual History, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book comes in the middle of a chapter describing how the neomercantilist ideas of the famous nineteenth century German thinker Friedrich List were embraced around the world and modified in interesting ways in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. That specific page details how some Argentine thinkers supported List’s general protectionist advice while ignoring his more specific idea that Latin American countries should not implement these kinds of policies.

The page 99 test works partially to convey the central idea of my work. The goal of The Neomercantilists is to provide the first detailed global intellectual history of neomercantlist ideology in the pre-1945 years. Neomercantilists are supporters of strategic trade protectionism and other forms of government economic activism to promote state wealth and power. Their ideology is similar to the mercantilist thinkers that Adam Smith famously criticized in his 1776 book The Wealth of Nations. But they formulated new defenses of these policies and goals in the wake of Smith’s critique. The most famous of these thinkers is List whose 1841 book The National System of Political Economy was a strong attack on the Smithian school of free traders during his era. Although List’s work is well known, the key goal of my book is to also feature many other neomercantilist thinkers in the pre-1945 era who have received much less attention than List. Some of these other neomercantilists were people who found List’s work inspiring but modified his ideas in innovative ways. The Argentine thinkers are in that category.

The page 99 test only works partially because many of the thinkers I feature in the book were figures with little interest or even knowledge of List’s ideas. The majority of the book (which comes after page 99) examines these kinds of people, highlighting how neomercantilist thought emerged in a much more decentralized fashion in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries than List-centric accounts suggest. Particularly interesting were many East Asian thinkers who pioneered neomercantilist ideas by drawing on local intellectual traditions. Their ideas receive little attention in histories of economic thought, despite their historical significance and the important legacies of some of their ideas. I argue that the intellectual histories of political economy need to devote more space to these (and other) non-Western thinkers, particularly in the contemporary age when Western dominance of the world economy is waning. And more generally, I argue that it is important to understand much better the roots and content of neomercantilist thought in an era when this ideology’s popularity is growing in popularity. My book is designed to provide the first history of this kind.
Learn more about The Neomercantilists at the Cornell University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Forgotten Foundations of Bretton Woods.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Fay A. Yarbrough's "Choctaw Confederates"

Fay A. Yarbrough is professor of history at Rice University and the author of Race and the Cherokee Nation.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Choctaw Confederates: The American Civil War in Indian Country, and reported the following:
If you opened Choctaw Confederates: The American Civil War in Indian Country to page 99, you would find yourself in the middle of chapter 3 titled “The Choctaws and Chickasaws Are Entirely Southern and Are Determined to Adhere to the Fortunes of the South: Choosing Sides in the Conflict.” Here I outline a remarkable, in my view, concession that the Confederate States of America made to gain the support of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations: a delegate in the Confederate House of Representatives. This delegate would not have the voting rights of other representatives, but the provision was still a departure from the lukewarm language suggesting only the possibility for representation offered by the federal government in a previous treaty with the Choctaws. The delegate had to be a member “by birth or blood, on either the father’s or mother’s side, of one of the said nations,” and a Confederate agent would manage the logistics of the election of the delegate. These last two details reveal American pressure to impose a recognition of patrilineal descent among Native peoples who had traditionally recognized matrilineal descent to determine membership in the group and a usurpation of Native sovereignty. After all, the Choctaws and Chickasaws regularly conducted their own elections; why should the Confederate agent be in charge of this election?

Page 99 highlights several important themes in my work. First, the Choctaw Nation allied with the Confederacy during the American Civil War and one enticement is revealed here. Second, some cultural practices among Native groups changed or adapted to pressure from Euro-Americans and interactions with foreign governments. And, third, state, federal, and Confederate governments constantly tested and attempted to chip away at the bounds of Native sovereignty. What is missing from page 99, however, is discussion of the central roles the Choctaw desire to protect Native sovereignty and their own cultural identity and their commitment to practicing the enslavement of people of African descent had in the Choctaw decision to enter the war. Nor does page 99 give you a sense of the Civil War experience for Choctaw soldiers or the consequences of Reconstruction for freedpeople in the Choctaw Nation. For those parts of the story, read the book!
Learn more about Choctaw Confederates at the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 22, 2021

Anima Adjepong's "Afropolitan Projects"

Anima Adjepong holds a faculty position as Assistant Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexualities Studies at the University of Cincinnati. They research, write, and teach about identity, culture, and social change and are particularly interested in how cultural struggles can bring about social transformation.

Adjepong applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Afropolitan Projects: Redefining Blackness, Sexualities, and Culture from Houston to Accra, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Afropolitan Projects is in Chapter 4, titled “Afropolitan Politics in Accra.” The page discusses the cultural politics embedded in language choice, examining how class and gender shape the Ghanaian languages used in Afropolitan spaces. The page dives into how Pidgin, the language choice proposed as inclusive can potentially be exclusive in gendered and classed ways. Sociolinguists interested in language use in Ghana have shown that Pidgin is a language used by men across social class. In other words, the language acts to bond men. By contrast, while working class women may have access to Pidgin as a vernacular, in the privileged class spaces that Afropolitans create, working class women might not prefer to use this language as it could betray their class status and marginalize them. For class-privileged women, pidgin is not typically a language to which they have access. As I write, “Given these realities, I found the suggestion that Pidgin was an inclusive language for progressive organizing to be both surprising and potentially troublesome.” Taking the argument further, I note that the “least self-consciously inclusive linguistic space” was one that was already exclusive by class. Within this space, English, Ewe, Pidgin, Ga, and Akan were used without hesitation or concern about being inclusive. As such, I conclude that perhaps the issue is not about how language includes or excludes, but rather about working through class tensions as a part of a politics that claims a desire to be inclusive.

Afropolitan Projects examines how a privileged class of Ghanaians who claim a politics of inclusion and a desire to articulate Africa as a part of a transnational community navigate the contradictions of this position via their cultural work. Focusing on my interlocutors’ articulations and experiences of class, gender, sexuality, and race, the book explores how these identity categories shape cultural politics. Based on years long ethnography, in-depth interviews, and analyses of various cultural materials including visual art, music videos and songs, memes, and Twitter trends, I found that what I call Afropolitan projects – the cultural politics of class-privileged Ghanaians (and potentially other Africans who occupy similar positionality) are characterized and hampered by neoliberalism, heteronormativity, and Christian nationalism. Although this finding seems paradoxical given the claim to progress and inclusivity, the larger cultural context in which this politics occurs offers some explanations as to why and the book explores this context in depth.

In my view, page 99 is surprisingly helpful as an introduction to some of the paradoxes and tensions about which I write. This page offers insight into key themes of the book, which included how patriarchy (in this instance normalizing men’s experiences to the exclusion of woman) and class inequality impose themselves on Afropolitan efforts to be inclusive. Although a definition of Afropolitan is not provided on this page, a reader might conclude that Afropolitan is a privileged class identity. By reading page 99, readers can begin to familiarize themselves with the tensions that are opened up throughout the book.
Visit Anima Adjepong's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Deborah Gordon's "No Standard Oil"

Deborah Gordon is a senior principal in the Climate Intelligence Program at RMI where she leads the Oil and Gas Solutions Initiative. Gordon also serves as a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University and the principal investigator for the Oil Climate Project. Her research has spearheaded the development of the Oil Climate Index Plus Gas (OCI+), a first-of-its-kind analytic tool that compares the lifecycle climate impacts of global oil and gas resources.

Gordon applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, No Standard Oil: Managing Abundant Petroleum in a Warming World, and reported the following:
On page 99, I argue that the first place to drive down greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector is in the industry’s own operations. This page captures the main message in my book. Consumers cannot simply demand less to solve the world’s energy and climate problems. We’ve tried this single-handed approach for decades yet oil and gas use and emissions continue to rise.

Supply-side oil and gas operations—production, processing, refining, and shipping—have not been aggressively pursued even though reducing these emissions sources are low-hanging fruit for immediate climate action. A lot of energy (mostly fossil fuels) is consumed pumping, separating, heating, cooling, and converting oil and gas even before various petroleum products make their way into cars, planes, roadways, and plastics. I come to the same conclusion as the International Energy Agency: “minimizing emissions from core oil and gas operations should be a first-order priority for all, whatever the [clean energy] transition pathway.”

No Standard Oil stresses that oil and gas are abundant and are not going away anytime soon. Moreover, there are large differences in different assets’ climate intensities (measured by their emissions in an equivalent barrel). And, in a rapidly warming world, these emissions differences are large enough to matter. The Oil Climate Index Plus Gas (OCI+), a first-of-its-kind tool that assembles a series of models to estimate the lifecycle GHGs from the oil and gas sector fills this knowledge gap. Climate intelligence generated by the OCI+ informs industry, policymakers, and civil society about where in the supply chain the greatest emissions are, how best to cut them, how to factor emissions into financial decision making, how to design government regulations, and which assets deserve activists' attention. Targeting supply-side actions offers the best chance of reducing oil and gas emissions in line with international targets to stop the Earth from runaway warming in the decade ahead.
Learn more about No Standard Oil at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Two Billion Cars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 19, 2021

Mathias Clasen's "A Very Nervous Person's Guide to Horror Movies"

Mathias Clasen is Associate Professor of Literature and Media Studies at Aarhus University. He is interested in the paradox of horror and researches the psychological underpinnings of horror from an evolutionary perspective. He has also conducted empirical studies on the psychology and physiology of haunted house visitors. Clasen is the author of Why Horror Seduces (2017) and associate editor of the journal Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Deplorable: The Worst Presidential Campaigns from Jefferson to Trump, and reported the following:
My book is addressed to a person who is nervous yet curious about horror movies, and page 99 is the last page in a chapter called “I’m Nervous that Watching Horror Makes Me Look Stupid.” The chapter is about the bias and prejudice that surround the horror genre, which is often perceived as a stupid or even dangerous kind of fiction, and so somebody might legitimately be worried about condescending looks if they admit to being a huge slasher fan, or a torture porn buff, or a connoisseur of zombie apocalypse movies. Toward the end of the chapter I briefly talk about literally looking stupid, like when you’re watching a horror movie and a powerful jump scare makes you jump out of the seat with a piercing scream. To illustrate that idea, there’s an image [inset left. click to enlarge] on page 99 showing a young woman in a Danish haunted house, Dystopia Haunted House, who is so powerfully startled by an actor that she falls off a couch to her companions’ great amusement. The image is from a surveillance camera that was mounted in that room as part of a research project conducted by myself and my colleagues in the Recreational Fear Lab at Aarhus University. So, yes, somebody opening the book to page 99 would get a fairly accurate idea of the tone and subject matter of the book—a light-hearted yet serious attempt to explain in accessible terms what science tells us about horror movies and their effects, and what a nervous person can do to mitigate those effects. (The bad news is that there’s little you can do to shield yourself from a well-executed jump scare, but that’s the topic of a separate chapter in the book.)
Learn more about A Very Nervous Person's Guide to Horror Movies at the Oxford University Press website and follow Mathias Clasen on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Mary E. Stuckey's "Deplorable: The Worst Presidential Campaigns from Jefferson to Trump"

Mary E. Stuckey Mary E. Stuckey is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Communication at Penn State University. Her many books include Voting Deliberatively: FDR and the 1936 Presidential Campaign.

Stuckey applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Deplorable: The Worst Presidential Campaigns from Jefferson to Trump, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Deplorable: The Worst Presidential Campaigns from Jefferson to Trump is delightfully revealing of the book itself. It’s the first page of a chapter on the 1924 election and describes the chaos of the 1924 Democratic convention in Madison Square Garden, as the delegates fought for sixteen days and cast 103 ballots before they could decide on their presidential nominee. The convention was so nasty that people thought it was evidence that democracy had ceased to function.

And that’s what’s true of the rest of the book—all of these deplorable campaigns were examples of democracy at its worst. I use the examples of three early elections (1800, 1840, and 1852) to set the stage for a discussion of how and why presidential elections can go bad (by which I mean that they can be too personal, too trivial, and too likely to ignore important matters) and why. In the book as a whole, I show that we tend to get deplorable elections when the political system is weak, when the economy is bad, when candidates exploit fear of immigrants and rely on racism. This rhetoric is iterative—it shows up more at some times than others—and cumulative—if one candidate relies on exclusionary language, it often goes away for a time, but if a series of candidates do so, it builds force and power. And this, I think, explains where we are today. So it’s a book about our current political moment that relies on history to make the case about why our politics are so ugly and what, if anything, we can do about it.
Learn more about Deplorable at the Penn State University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue