Thursday, August 30, 2012

Laurent Dubois's "Haiti: The Aftershocks of History"

Laurent Dubois is a Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke University and Co-Director of the Haiti Laboratory at the Franklin Humanities Institute.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Haiti: The Aftershocks of History, and reported the following:
How much does a revolution cost? In 1825, Haiti received an answer to that question in the form of a ₣150 million indemnity paid to its former colonizer, France, in return for political recognition. Page 99 of my book Haiti: The Aftershocks of History tells the story of how that indemnity was levied by France. The early chapters of the book examines the Haitian struggle to create a political and economic alternative on the ashes of a brutal plantation system, and the story of how Haiti ultimately paid – and dearly – for its recognition is a turning point in the story.

In 1925 it had been over two decades since the country’s founder, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, had driven the debris of Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops from the island and announced the creation of a new nation. But while some countries – most notably Britain and the U.S. – traded actively with Haiti, none had officially and publicly acknowledged its existence as an independent, sovereign country. Within Haiti, a new and profoundly radical new order had been born. Ex-slaves had transformed a landscape of sugar and coffee plantations into small farms, combining production for internal consumption with export of coffee, lumber, and other goods. Though their legion of detractors outside the country had trouble seeing it, and despite many conflicts and fissures within their society, this was a significant victory. It secured a drastically better quality of life for them than the one their ancestors had suffered, and better too than that of most people of African descent in a hemisphere where slavery dominated many societies.

But the diplomatic isolation suffered by Haiti circumscribed their economic opportunities, and was also experienced as a humiliating refusal by many in the political class. France had, for decades, simply refused to officially admit that Haiti was anything more than a rebellious colony. Repeated efforts to resolve the impasse had failed. In the end, however, an idea emerged: if Haiti were to pay an indemnity to France, calculated to reimburse the planters who had lost property during the revolution, the colonial power would acknowledge independence. The deal was made by Haiti’s President Boyer, who ignored parliamentary resistance and took advantage of his dictatorial powers to do so. But he faced a clear choice: French warships were lurking off the coast, threatening to blockade the country if its leaders refused the deal.

Haiti was, with this decision, propelled precociously into a cycle of debt that is by now wearily familiar. Their treasury did not have enough in it for the first payment. “No problem!” said French banks, who offered loans to pay off the debt. So Haiti contracted what became known as the “double debt.” Until the late 19th century, they would continue paying both the original indemnity payments and the interest on the loans they took out to pay them. And the cycle of debt would, in fact, never end.
Learn more about the book and author at Laurent Dubois's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ryan M. Irwin's "Gordian Knot"

Ryan M. Irwin is Assistant Professor of History at the University at Albany-SUNY and was previously Associate Director of International Security Studies at Yale University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Gordian Knot: Apartheid and the Unmaking of the Liberal World Order, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the final page of Gordian Knot’s third chapter and everything is building toward the last paragraph. In the preceding pages, I’ve explored how U.S. elites responded to the changes of the early 1960s, when the number of nation-states in the international system almost doubled. This was a crucial moment in world history, and U.S. leaders were walking a fine line, criticizing racism and underdevelopment—signaling that they could be trusted partners after decolonization—without relinquishing American economic and military interests. This last paragraph on page 99 comes at the end of a longer discussion about U.S. actions toward Southern Rhodesia and it’s designed as a transition within the narrative:
Mennen Williams had resolute views on [the Rhodesian] question, but he refrained from lobbying the president [in] spring [1966].... For Williams, the time had come to rebuild the alliance between blacks and unions that had propelled his political career in the 1950s. Eager to reenter the national arena someday as a viable presidential contender, he wanted badly to prove that New Deal liberalism could still solve the problems facing contemporary America. The debate about South Africa and apartheid’s contested place in the world now rested on the shoulders of other politicians.
The answers to the obvious questions—who was Mennen Williams, and why should I care?—are wrapped up in the previous 27 pages. The gist: on the chessboard of postcolonial affairs, Williams wasn’t über powerful—he spent 1961-1966 heading the State Department’s African affairs bureau—but he was well connected and very opinionated, and he successfully pushed some influential colleagues to (1) blur the line between civil rights and decolonization and (2) deepen U.S. support for international law and the United Nations. Williams’s experiences anchor this chapter, and these last sentences on page 99 are meant to jolt the reader. At this critical period after the 1965 UDI crisis, when the direction of Washington policy seemed genuinely up for grabs, the most committed anti-apartheid bureaucrat in the United States just ... stepped aside.

The paragraph sets up some of the changes that unfold in the book’s second half. If you flip through Gordian Knot’s other sections, a story about the larger apartheid debate will emerge. The book uses this fight to explore how different actors—U.S. elites, Third World diplomats, Afrikaner leaders, NGO activists, and many more—responded to the imperatives that accompanied African decolonization. Some people, like Williams, attempted to bolster international institutions and racial equality; others tried to shift the nexus of transnational discourse away from the U.N.; still others encouraged the creation of entirely new networks and institutions. The book’s central argument is that the 1960s saw the culmination (and collapse) of long-standing arguments about territoriality, development, and pluralism. From this moment emerged a much different sort of apartheid movement—the one we associate with the 1980s—and a postmodern international system that continues to shape global politics today.
Learn more about Gordian Knot at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 27, 2012

Robin R. Wang's "Yinyang"

Robin R. Wang is Professor of Philosophy and Director of Asian and Pacific Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Yinyang: The Way of Heaven and Earth in Chinese Thought and Culture, and reported the following:
Yin and Yang are so familiar that they have practically become English words, invoked when someone wants to discuss opposites that are complementary or when one wants to appeal to harmony and balance. In fact, the Yinyang concept is at once utterly simple and wildly complicated. This book traces the historical development and diversified manifestations of yinyang, showing how yinyang for thousands of years has functioned as the warp and woof of Chinese thought and culture. The goal is to give a more nuanced, synchronic account of the rich meanings and applications of yinyang, from logical reasoning to aesthetic understanding, from divination to medicine, from the art of fengshui to the art of sex. Yinyang is not simply about balance or harmony but involves dynamic action in the world. One of the most important functions of yinyang is as a matrix to describe, guide, and structure concrete phenomena, which we see an example of on page 99. The yinyang matrix is a way of linking and classifying things, allowing for successful action. It functions in a way analogous to scientific accounts, while extending more broadly to encompass ethics, politics, health and ritual. It arranges human knowledge into a simple, integrated, and flexible pattern, which can be applied to an extremely wide range of phenomena. For example, “mother” is a predicate for a woman who has given birth or has a child. If one were to follow deductive logic, one would say: all mothers have a child; Mary is a mother, therefore, Mary has a child. According to a yinyang matrix, though, "mother" belongs to the category of yin, things with giving and nurturing functions, and thus can be grouped with earth, moon, and water. Anything perceived as yin or nurturing fits into this image of giving and nurturing. This yinyang matrix is flexible and complex, applied on different levels and with different scopes. For example, the sun and ginger belong to the group of yang because they both have properties of being hot. Snow and watermelon belong to the group of yin because they have properties of being cool. From another perspective, though, sun and snow can be grouped together as belonging to heaven (yang), and ginger and watermelon are grouped with earth (yin). On page 99, the yinyang matrix is applied to a ritual practice. We read:
Dong Zhongshu [179-104 BC] promotes ‘ritual as the manifestation of heaven and earth and the embodiment of yinyang.’ Ritual links heaven, earth, and human beings, and thus it must fit into the overall matrix of correspondences. On a broad level, worship was classified into two kinds: yang sacrifices and yin sacrifices… The performances of ritual actions were also coordinated according to yinyang. For example, at worship, the altars of grain and soil for earth should be on the right, because the right is yin; the ancestral temple should be on the left, because the left is yang.
Page 99 is a good example of the complex ways in which phenomena could be integrated and arranged through yinyang, but it also shows that the yinyang matrix was not merely descriptive -- it was used to guide and structure human life and institutions.
Learn more about Yinyang at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Daniel Gorman's "The Emergence of International Society in the 1920s"

Daniel Gorman is Associate Professor of History and Political Science at the University of Waterloo and the Balsillie School of International Affairs. He is the author of Imperial Citizenship: Empire and the Question of Belonging (2007).

Gorman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Emergence of International Society in the 1920s, and reported the following:
My book The Emergence of International Society in the 1920s is about how and why international cooperation deepened and intensified after the First World War, and the implications of this development for the British Empire and the practice of international governance. In writing the book, I was interested in trying to explain the origins of several ideas and institutions which are fundamental parts of our global world today. International sporting events, the normative prohibition against war, international humanitarian work, international feminism, an international criminal court, and other topics I address in the book feature daily in our newspapers and social media. W.H. Auden called the 1930s a “low dishonest decade,” a description which often colours the interwar period as a whole. The 1920s, however, saw many optimistic and determined efforts to prevent another war by fostering cooperation across borders – a very contemporary theme.

The Page 99 Test provides a fairly accurate reflection of these ideas. Page 99 of my book deals with the League of Nations’ campaign against the traffic in women and children, the period’s description of organized international prostitution. The League of Nations is usually remembered as a historical failure, a fair judgment given its flawed efforts to maintain international peace. It was much more successful, however, in providing a new international framework for addressing international social, economic, and humanitarian issues.

The League’s anti-prostitution work was organized by Dame Rachel Crowdy, a British nurse and the only woman to direct one of the League’s Sections. Page 99 contrasts Crowdy’s expansive vision of cooperative and humanitarian internationalism with British Foreign Secretary Austen Chamberlain’s guarded view of internationalism as but one tool amongst many for maintaining collective security. It then looks at how Britain tried to apply the League’s new anti-prostitution provisions to some of its Asian colonies. This is consistent with my book’s central argument that international society developed out of both international and imperial impulses in the 1920s.
Read an excerpt from The Emergence of International Society in the 1920s.

Learn more about The Emergence of International Society in the 1920s at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Matthew Fuhrmann's "Atomic Assistance"

Matthew Fuhrmann is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Texas A&M University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Atomic Assistance: How "Atoms for Peace" Programs Cause Nuclear Insecurity, and reported the following:
Atomic Assistance is about international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Page 99 is a fitting place to sample the book. On that page, I discuss one of the most infamous cases of peaceful nuclear assistance: Canada’s export of a nuclear reactor to India in the 1950s. Canada provided this facility exclusively for peaceful purposes—but it ultimately served as the foundation for India’s nuclear weapons program (India used plutonium that was produced in the Canadian supplied reactor to conduct its first nuclear test in 1974).

In the book, I argue that this case is indicative of a broader historical trend. Peaceful nuclear assistance increases the likelihood of nuclear proliferation by providing states with dual-use technology and knowledge that collectively reduce the barriers to building the bomb. My analysis of global nuclear commerce supports this argument, showing that higher levels of atomic assistance are statistically associated a greater likelihood of proliferating.

Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, South Africa, and other countries benefited from peaceful nuclear aid before they built nuclear weapons. For example, the individual who headed South Africa’s nuclear explosives program during the 1970s was previously trained by the United States through its “Atoms for Peace” program. The United States also inadvertently augmented Iran’s capacity to build nuclear weapons when it exported the Tehran Research Reactor and small “hot cells” to that country in the 1960s—when Washington and Tehran were allies.

Of course, not all countries that receive nuclear energy assistance attempt to build nuclear weapons. Germany and Japan, for instance, did not actively pursue the bomb after developing large nuclear energy programs, partially with foreign help. However, on average, peaceful nuclear assistance increases the probability of nuclear proliferation—especially if the recipient country experiences an international crisis after receiving aid.

The book’s conclusions are significant given that many countries have recently expressed interest in nuclear energy as part of a movement commonly known as the “nuclear renaissance.” Enthusiasm about nuclear power has waned somewhat in the aftermath of the March 2011 nuclear accident in Japan, but many countries continue to pursue foreign nuclear assistance.

Policymakers in Washington and elsewhere should strengthen existing measures that are designed to separate the peaceful and military uses of the atom. If they fail to do so, we may find ourselves living in a world where more countries possess nuclear weapons.
Learn more about Atomic Assistance at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Blake W. Mobley's "Terrorism and Counterintelligence"

Blake W. Mobley is an associate political scientist with the RAND Corporation. Before joining RAND, he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency as a counterintelligence analyst in the Middle East and Washington, D.C and specialized in non-state actor counterintelligence issues.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Terrorism and Counterintelligence: How Terrorist Groups Elude Detection, and reported the following:
Terrorism and Counterintelligence is about terrorist groups and how they protect their secrets and operate clandestinely -- efforts known as counterintelligence. The book explores the common strengths and weaknesses of terrorist counterintelligence strategies with a deep dive analysis of al Qaeda, the IRA, the Egyptian Islamic Group, Palestinian Fatah, the infamous Black September organization, and numerous “embryonic” terrorist groups.

The central argument is that counterintelligence vulnerabilities are unavoidable for terrorist groups. Additionally, most terrorists’ efforts to reduce their vulnerabilities introduce new security weaknesses. A terrorist group's organizational structure, popular support, and access to controlled territory significantly shape these vulnerabilities, which, I argue, can be systematically exploited by intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

Page 99 brings the reader to the very core of the argument. A comparison of Fatah and Black September shows how the groups’ counterintelligence strengths and weaknesses varied according to their organizational structure and popular support. I note that Black September’s highly centralized command structure promoted significant vulnerabilities—specifically, standardized security procedures and centralized personnel databases, which the Jordanian and Israeli security services were able to exploit. However, the group’s centralized command structure was also a source of strength. It allowed Black September to “respond quickly” to security breaches, “replacing agents and changing its codes” to prevent extensive damage to the organization.

On page 99 I also highlight how Fatah’s extensive popular support campaigns and media outreach—contrasted sharply with Black September’s “radio silence”—won Fatah many recruits and sympathizers in the population. However, Fatah’s leaders began to “crave publicity” and frequently subjugated counterintelligence concerns to enjoy the media limelight. As a result, they exposed “sensitive details to the media” on numerous occasions and were unable “to go back underground” when they tried to reanimate their clandestine infrastructure. As I explain later in the book, most terrorist group leaders are seduced by the allure of publicity and the group’s secrecy is a frequent casualty.

The key takeaway from page 99, and the rest of the book, is that terrorist counterintelligence vulnerabilities are common, predictable, and, with some ingenuity, can be exploited.
Learn more about Terrorism and Counterintelligence at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mark A. Largent's "Vaccine: The Debate in Modern America"

Mark A. Largent is an associate professor of history and director of the Science, Technology, Environment, and Public Policy Program at Michigan State University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Vaccine: The Debate in Modern America, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Vaccine drops the reader into the middle of a discussion of Andrew Wakefield’s research on inflammatory bowel syndrome in the early 1990s. The work eventually led to a 1997 paper in Britain’s premier medical journal The Lancet that suggested that the combined measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine might cause neurological damage in some children. Today, health authorities vilify Wakefield for leading the public to believe that vaccines might cause autism.

Health officials are absolutely certain that vaccines do not cause autism. They brandish authoritative studies and compile mountains of scientific evidence to support their assertions that vaccines are safe and effective. Then, they are frustrated to learn that 40% of American parents choose to alter the routine vaccination schedule or outright refuse some of the recommended vaccines for their children.

The fear that vaccines cause autism is proxy for a complex set of concerns that American parents have about the modern vaccination schedule. Scientific evidence alone will never assuage their fears. Over the last twenty-five years we have more than quadrupled the number of vaccines young children receive. Today, a fully vaccinated 6-year-old will get nearly three dozen vaccinations, most of them in the first 18 months of life. There are so many vaccines, against so many obscure diseases, given at such a young age under intense time and financial constraints. It is no wonder that parents bridle at vaccine requirements. At the same time, state legislatures have made it easier than ever for most Americans to opt out of the mandatory vaccines.

Vaccine takes parents’ concerns about their children’s vaccines seriously. It explains the origins of the claim that vaccines might cause autism, it describes some of the many problems with the modern vaccination schedule, and it offers advice for parents as they struggle with difficult decisions about their children’s vaccinations. The modern American debate over vaccines will not be resolved with scientific studies or authoritative statements from physicians. It will require us to understand and address parents’ actual concerns about the modern vaccination schedule.
Learn more about Vaccine at the the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Beth E. Levy's "Frontier Figures"

Beth E. Levy is Associate Professor of Music at the University of California, Davis. Her contribution to the volume Aaron Copland and His World, ed. Carol J. Oja and Judith Tick (Princeton University Press, 2005) won the Society for American Music’s Irving Lowens Award for the year’s best article on American Music.

Levy applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book Frontier Figures: American Music and the Mythology of the American West, and reported the following:
I chose to call my book Frontier Figures because it’s about composers who bumped up against western Americana and about the western characters they drew into the unlikely realm of classical music. My chapters treat eight composers in succession, and each approached the West in a different way, paying as much attention to people as to landscapes. One of the things that holds my narrative together is the perception that while composers at the turn of the twentieth century were most interested in Native Americans, later composers turned first to pastoral or pioneer settings and then to the colorful cowboy as a source of inspiration. In short, it’s people who are stylized in the Thomas Hart Benton painting on the book’s cover and people who appear front and center on page 99, even though they might not be the people you might expect.

Page 99 [inset at left; click to enlarge] is representative of what the book does–though of course it is only about a quarter of the way through the story. You’ll have to wait until page 179 to hear about Virgil Thomson’s soundtrack for the Dust Bowl documentary The Plow That Broke the Plains. Not until page 227, with the much heralded entrance of Roy Harris, will you meet a composer who was actually born in the West and made “westernness” a key component of his self image. Aaron Copland, certainly the most influential “cowboy composer”(despite his Brooklyn birth), takes the stage on page 293, and only those who visit the conclusion will encounter Ferdé Grofe’s iconic Grand Canyon Suite. (Of course you can always skip to the end!)

By contrast, page 99 treats the lesser known Charles Wakefield Cadman, usually remembered as a sentimental songwriter but here hard at work on his most ambitious project, Daoma. In negotiation with librettist Nelle Eberhart and Francis La Flesche, a key informant for ethnologist Alice Fletcher, Cadman aimed for a “purely Indian” opera, appropriating Omaha songs but uniting them with operatic models taken from Verdi and Puccini. While Daoma never reached the stage and therefore sparked little of the critical reception incorporated into other chapters, my discussion here is typical in that I begin by thinking about history and biography before exploring aspects of the creative or collaborative process and analyzing how the music works to create a self-consciously “western” impression.
Read Chapter 1 (on composer Arthur Farwell) and learn more about the book at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 17, 2012

Belinda Jack's "The Woman Reader"

Belinda Jack is Tutorial Fellow in French, Christ Church, University of Oxford. She is the author of George Sand: A Woman's Life Writ Large and Beatrice's Spell.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Woman Reader, and reported the following:
You’re not quite a third of the way through my history of women’s reading – The Woman Reader – when you get to page ninety-nine; you have reached the Middle Ages. But you will have read about the earliest literate women who were scribes in the late fourth millennium B.C., in southern Mesopotamia, now southern Iraq. You’ll also have read stories about Sappho, and a number of women in Ancient Rome who were famous for their wide reading. While some men praised their intellectual achievements, others derided them. Juvenal, first to second centuries A.D., wrote, ‘I loathe the woman… who quotes lines I’ve never heard.’ Half way to page ninety-nine you’ll have read a discussion of second century romances and the degree to which they seem to have been written mostly for women. Are these the first works of chick lit.? The so-called Dark Ages were a time of innovation and an increasing number of women writers emerged, sometimes writing adaptations of works by men. Hrotsvit (c. 935- after 973) was a monastic Christian poet who lived and worked in Gandersheim (now Lower Saxony). She entered a Benedictine abbey early on in life and while there re-wrote the plays of Terence to make them more acceptable reading for the sisters. These were mildly feminist works which encouraged the nuns to be active as well as passive in their faiths. Other fascinating women readers emerge in the centuries up to the twelfth, when a first ‘renaissance’ took place and reading and writing flourished. There were notable Muslim women scholars at this point. Page 99 is in some ways the beginning of the story of the ‘modern’ woman reader. It tells of Christine de Pizan who read widely and then took to authorship. She was appalled by the misogynism of the day and wrote:
An extraordinary thought became planted in my mind which made me wonder why on earth it was that so many men… have said and continue to say and write such awful damming things about women and their ways. I was at a loss how to explain it. It is not just a handful of writers that do this… . It is all manner of philosophers, poets and orators too numerous to mention, who all seem to speak with one voice and are unanimous in their view that female nature is wholly given up to vice.
Christine de Pizan believed that women had a natural capacity for reading and study, and innate political skills. She saw no reason why they shouldn’t receive the same education as men and participate in public life. So, page 99 is typical in the sense that it tells the story of one feisty woman reader and there are myriad examples in my book. But the variety of interesting women increases dramatically as the centuries pass. I particularly enjoyed writing about the eighteenth century. It’s when women fans started to write to the well-known writers of the day – who often published in instalments – begging them to give their story a happy ending, for example. The producers of today’s TV series apparently receive large numbers of similar requests.
Learn more about The Woman Reader at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Raymond Taras's "Xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe"

Raymond Taras was Willy Brandt Professor at Sweden's Malmö University for 2010–11, and director of Tulane University's world literature program before Hurricane Katrina forced its closure. He is the author of numerous scholarly books on nationalism and identities in Europe.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe, and reported the following:
Can we imagine an author today writing a book on xenophobia without anticipating what should appear on page 99? Especially if we know that it will be typeset in Goudy Old Style font, can there be any reason on earth not to have it be page 99 that showcases the book’s literary flare, its jesuitry, its import?

In my case page 99 appears as a welcome respite from a taxing two-page-long chart of European states’ mean scores on support given for repatriating immigrants, as estimated by country experts. It’s not scintillating social science, nor as riveting a book as one on great white sharks: a Stanford Press editor once told me that a shark book and a coffee table one on California cacti were among the Press’s top moneymakers. Nevertheless my table crudely weighing national differences on the desirability of expelling immigrants can prove to be eye candy for the conscientious but tiring reader.

So page 99 begins with a new paragraph asking what has changed over the last decade in the level of support for anti-immigrant right-wing movements across Europe. Geert Wilders and Jörg Haider’s names appear, predictably, but so does that of Silvio Berlusconi. Nicolas Sarkozy has chapter five all to himself but does it equal the cachet of being cited on The Page? Not really.

Jobbik and Fidesz and Perussuomalaiset show up on page 99 as important parties. Who would have thought? The misleadingly-titled Sverigedemokraterna and Popolo della Libertà join them. But “The Better One” and “Alliance of Young Democrats” and “True Finns” together with Sweden’s self-acclaimed democrats and the liberty-loving people of Italy have nothing on the Schweizerische Volkspartei which gets a brief mention on The Page. It is the Swiss party, after all, which supplies the cover image for the book: a photo of a young blonde female on a Swiss escalator fixated on a poster showing a woman in a burqa with minarets, easily mistaken for missiles, forming the backdrop.

This volume’s page 99, then, serves up a catalog of Europe’s menacing right-wing parties. In turn, this catalog furnishes a backdrop for something both more pervasive and elusive found not just in Europe but much of the world – the spread of a fear of foreigners, whether defined by religion, ethnicity, or culture. This is the subject that makes the book over 200 pages long, and not a single page – page 99.

Harboring fears is natural, I believe. But when cynically exploited by politicians of different stripes – and they are found not just in Jobbik and the British National Party and Bulgaria’s Ataka (yes, that’s Bulgarian for “Attack”), it becomes urgent to start to unmake xenophobia.
Learn more about Xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe at the Edinburgh University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Raymond J. Haberski, Jr.'s "God and War"

Raymond J. Haberski, Jr. is an associate professor of history at Marian University. He is the author of several books, including It's Only a Movie: Films and Critics in American Culture, The Miracle Case: Film Censorship and the Supreme Court, and Freedom to Offend: How New York Remade Movie Culture.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, God and War: American Civil Religion since 1945, and reported the following:
God and War raises questions about civil religion as it tries to document the evolution of the term since 1945. Among the most pressing of these questions is one that will probably never be fully answered but is vital to ask of every generation: what would a genuine moral accounting of a nation at war look like? Abraham Lincoln was the first to recognize the profound irony of America’s relationship to war in terms universally applicable to American history. Through his experience in the Civil War, he saw a particular kind of American tragedy unfold: Americans would find war, at once, both a terrible consequence of their contemporary world and a chance to redeem their nation through martial sacrifice. To my mind, the history since 1945 demonstrates that we continue to live with Lincoln’s observation—it is his bequest to us.

The “Page 99 Test” worked for God and War because on it I discuss how the American bicentennial celebration of 1976 posed an ironic moment for the nation. Here was a country that wanted to celebrate its “exceptional” birth but had to do so in the shadow of the gravest national crises since the Civil War—Watergate and Vietnam.

By the mid-1970s, America had, metaphorically, been brought to its knees and a nation that considered itself proudly religious, now had to consider what being “under God” truly meant. I wrote that this presented “a moment of genuine reflection as American civil religion became contrite.” But what would a national act of contrition look like? “If the nation were to be saved, it had to be reborn,” I observed, “and American civil religion offered a way for Americans of diverse religious faiths to share in a born-again experience, which, of course, only evangelical Christians traditionally had. But because this had to be a civil religious experience, the meaning of this national rebirth was hotly contested. At base, the conflict pitted those who believed America could be made ‘moral’ again against those who worked to make it less immoral.”

The rest of the book takes off from this central conflict, running from the different visions of an American future between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan to the present paradox of Americans honoring the military as their most valuable institution while mourning the loss of soldiers for deaths in wars and for a nation that they feel ambivalent about.
Learn more about God and War at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Claire and Mia Fontaine's "Have Mother, Will Travel"

Mia Fontaine is an author, writer and motivational speaker whose past appearances include Good Morning America, The O’Reilly Factor, and The Montel Williams Show. She has spoken nationally about drug addiction and the long-term cost of child sexual abuse. Claire Fontaine is the author of two memoirs, a national public speaker and a former screenwriter.

In their bestselling memoir, Come Back: A Mother and Daughter’s Journey Through Hell and Back, readers around the world were inspired by the story of Mia’s harrowing drug addiction and her mother, Claire’s, desperate and ultimately successful attempts to save her.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to Have Mother, Will Travel: A Mother and Daughter Discover Themselves, Each Other, and the World, their second book together, and reported the following:
Page 99, which is entirely in Mia’s voice, is indicative of Have Mother, Will Travel in that Mia is in Alexandria, Egypt, one of the 20 cities we raced through on the global scavenger hunt that comprises the first have of the book; and that it shows the capacity of travel to illuminate and to deepen relationships, with yourself and others. It’s not representative in that it’s only one voice—the book is written in alternating narratives by both Mia and Claire, her mother.

Ten years ago after the events that led us to co-author our bestselling memoir, Come Back: A Mother and Daughter’s Journey Through Hell and Back (2008), we were each at a crossroads in life, Claire as a mid-life woman who, oops, forgot to plan for life after motherhood and Mia, who at twenty-five was finding adult life not all it’s cracked up to be. And the relationship we worked so hard to heal after the events chronicled in Come Back had grown distant, strained. So we decided to set off on a grand adventure to transform our relationship and ourselves once more – and to study women’s lives and the mother/adult daughter relationship globally.

The first half of the book, titled Hunting, covers an exhausting, exhilarating competitive race around the world to raise money for charities (think Amazing Race without cameras or prize money.) The second half, titled Gathering, covers the four months we lived in the medieval heart of Avignon, in Provence. Avignon turned out to be a perfect city for two women to redefine and renew their relationship, and to create, and in Claire’s case recreate, a vision of an intentional life once home.

We wrote it as we did Come Back, in alternating voices, so you always get two views of the world and of us as women and as mother and daughter. We examined women’s lives, motherhood—and daughterhood—in countries as varied as Nepal, China, Malaysia, Egypt, the Balkans, Hungary, France. Mia’s keen observations of twentysomethings outside the U.S., who seem more content and mature, led her to shift her perceptions, and eventually, her behavior and choices. The world had so much to teach us, and, we think, our readers; it changed our lives forever.

On page 99, Mia writes about the long term residue of being sexually abused as a child as it comes up for her while visiting with a charming, boisterous group of young girls in Alexandria, Egypt. Here it is:
Cairo: Never Ride a One-humped Camel

pretense of exploring so I could have a moment alone. Since arriving in Cairo, we’ve been met everywhere by smiling young girls, holding hands, linking arms, singing, chattering. It’s been a delight to see them at every turn, but it’s been difficult as well.

It surprised me, that sudden feeling of sadness and longing. I’ve dealt with being sexually abused as a child but that doesn’t mean I never have issues come up around it; I still have triggers, movie scenes that bother me disproportionately, times when I’m inexplicably scared or randomly get that sick, frozen feeling that something bad is about to happen.

Mostly, it saddens me that I never felt completely safe growing up, that in the back of my head I knew of the potential for human cruelty and felt like there was something wrong with me at an age when most kids think they can conquer the world.

Yesterday it was all around me. Those luminous eyes that followed us wherever we went were beautiful reminders of a painful truth: I’ve always lived with some degree of fear and sadness. But I must have gotten that out of my system yesterday because today I’m genuinely loving being with these girls.

This is still a newer skill for me: acknowledging and letting myself feel my feelings. It took me a while to realize that the more I let myself sink into whatever’s coming up, the sooner it dissipates. This is true in general, but for me it’s been especially true for anything abuse-related, where I tended to trivialize and minimize.

Once I turned eight, I lost my most intense memories of the abuse, but I’ve always remembered remembering, the way someone with amnesia might have a déjà vu–like awareness of something, without a concrete memory. Which can make you feel crazy. I was embarrassed and aggravated to be so affected by something I barely remembered, and I thought people would tell me I was being overdramatic or to just get over it.

It really wasn’t until a few years ago that I fully stopped doing this. One, writing Come Back put me in touch with thousands of readers, scores of whom also didn’t remember the events themselves but had the same long-term feelings and behaviors. Two, through speaking engagements I was lucky enough to meet neuroscientists and child-development experts, and a huge light bulb moment for me was learning that childhood trauma (especially when it happens before you learn to speak
Learn more about the book and authors at Claire and Mia Fontaine’s website and the Have Mother, Will Travel Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Have Mother, Will Travel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 13, 2012

Shon Hopwood's "Law Man"

Shon Hopwood is a law school student at the University of Washington School of Law who, prior to law school, served over ten years in federal prison for a string of bank robberies he committed as a young adult. While in prison, he learned the law and he wrote legal briefs for other prisoners, two of which were granted by the U.S. Supreme Court—the equivalent of winning the legal lottery. Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption is the story of his prison term, legal successes, and the romance of his now wife while he was still incarcerated.

Hopwood applied the “Page 99 Test” to Law Man and reported the following:
Page 99 was one of the hardest pages to write out of 305-page memoir. It was hard to write because on that page I am telling the story of how my best friend and I robbed a bank. The guilt from that one act still bothers me today. I don’t like writing about it, I don’t like talking about it.

But it is a centerpiece of the story. Because you cannot know where I am now if you don’t know where I was 15 years ago.

Some say the day I was sentenced to over 12 years in federal prison was the low point—my rock bottom.

I think the bank robbery was the low point because it illustrates just how desperate and lost I truly was at the time.
Learn more about Law Man at Shon Hopwood's website, blog, and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Law Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Irina Aristarkhova's "Hospitality of the Matrix"

Irina Aristarkhova writes on and lectures in comparative feminist theory and contemporary aesthetics. She joined the University of Michigan's School of Art & Design faculty as an Associate Professor in 2012. She edited and contributed to the volume Woman Does Not Exist: Contemporary Studies of Sexual Difference and to the Russian translation of Luce Irigaray’s An Ethics of Sexual Difference.

Aristarkhova applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Hospitality of the Matrix: Philosophy, Biomedicine, and Culture, and reported the following:
Page 99 is about how historically, biomedical research in artificial reproduction conflated the mother with the chicken, and her matrix / uterus, with the chicken egg. If one can incubate an egg, then, one can incubate a human:
My argument here is that the desire for machine gestation of humans reflects a long-standing embryological assumption that successful artificial incubation of chickens will eventually lead to human incubation. (p. 99)
Not only this assumption has not been supported by biomedical research, but it also presents generation as a simple question of ‘where,’ of availability of suitable space in machine or mother to gestate an embryo. I follow the history of early incubators and contemporary neonatal technologies to show that it is not the lack of suitable spaces in and around machines that fails to fulfill ectogenetic desire (artificial gestation), but rather, undervaluing and underplaying the work / role of nurses and nursing. We need to think through the question “Can the machine nurse?” in order to respond to fundamental epistemological problems of current biomedical research that deals with ectogenetic technologies. It is, after all, about the meaning of generation and its philosophical underpinnings.

Nursing and generating – two early inspirations for the meaning of the matrix that are discussed in my first chapter "Journeys of the Matrix" - need to be thought through acts of maternal / matrixial hospitality. Hence, it is “Hospitality of the Matrix.” I use these together (maternal and matrixial) to create a space in which we can see them both, without forgetting the mother in the matrix, assuming the mother in the matrix, or collapsing the mother into the matrix. Hospitality, however, is not some essential quality of the matrix as others have argued (hospitality as essential quality of the feminine, maternal, matrixial, etc). It is work. Acts of maternal hospitality need to be acknowledged before we can reintroduce the mother. These acts of maternal / matrixial hospitality are revealed through the attempts to replicate and mimic generation: by philosophers in their ideas about space, generation and form; by biomedical researchers in their ideas about generation and artificial reproduction; and by men who perform the mother (as in male pregnancy in culture and art). On page 99 I explore one of these moments, of the mother-machine, which leads me ultimately to the question of the welcoming man in the final chapter.
Learn more about Hospitality of the Matrix at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 10, 2012

Richard Foley's "When Is True Belief Knowledge?"

Richard Foley is professor of philosophy and vice chancellor for strategic planning at New York University. He is the author of Intellectual Trust in Oneself and Others, Working Without a Net: A Study of Egocentric Epistemology, and The Theory of Epistemic Rationality.

Foley applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, When Is True Belief Knowledge?, and reported the following:
My book defends a philosophical account of the nature of knowledge. Its primary thesis, most simply expressed, is that one knows something only if one believes it to be true, it is in fact true, and there isn’t important information one lacks.

Page 99 discusses a first person claim about knowledge that we as individuals commonly make, namely, although we believe something to be the case, we don’t really know it to be so. On some philosophical accounts of knowledge, it turns out to be surprisingly hard to explain why we would make such claims, but on the account I defend it is baby simple.

Take the Ford Madox Ford test as an example. If you open my book to page 99, you may be inclined to believe it is representative of the whole book, especially if you are in the grip of the Madox Ford thesis. Even so, if you haven’t read other pages and have no other source of information about the book, you will probably readily admit that you don’t know this to be the case.

I on the other hand can know whether page 99 is representative, since I’ve not only read the other pages, I wrote them, and I hereby report to you that page 99 is indeed representative of the whole book.

Now that I’ve confessed this to you, however, you too may be in a position to know this as well, since one common way of getting information about an issue is through the testimony of others who are in a good position to provide it. This just happens to be the subject of another of my books, Intellectual Trust in Oneself and Others. By the way, its page 99 discusses the thorny issue of how and when it is appropriate for someone (you for example) to rely on the testimony of a stranger about whom you know very little (me and my testimony about page 99, for example). But this is another story.
Learn more about When Is True Belief Knowledge? at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Simon Finger's "The Contagious City"

Simon Finger is Visiting Assistant Professor of History and Humanities at Reed College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Contagious City: The Politics of Public Health in Early Philadelphia, and reported the following:
In The Contagious City, I trace the interweaving lines of medicine in politics in early Philadelphia, exploring subjects including urban planning, sanitation, quarantine policy, charity and public relief, social reform movements, the development of scientific and medical education, and the changing place of medicine in the early republic.

Page 99 of the book deals with the personal and professional rivalry between John Morgan and William Shippen, the former director of the Continental Army's medical department, and the man who succeeded him. For four years, even through the heaviest fighting of the American Revolution, the two doctors waged their own war over medicine, professionalism, and patriotism. Charges of incompetence and malpractice flew back and forth alongside accusations of profiteering, and even treason.

The polarizing clash between Shippen and Morgan reflects the central theme of the book--the complex but enduring relationship between medicine and politics. Medicine offered powerful new technologies for achieving political and national objectives, and emerging governmental structures offered valuable opportunities for medical men to establish the legitimacy of their profession, as well as their own individual reputations.

From the very founding of Philadelphia, William Penn drew upon proposals for sanitation and public health developed in the wake of London's "Devil's Year" of war, plague, and fire (1665-1666). Throughout the colonial period, Philadelphia led the way among American cities in seeking solutions to medical problems. But institutions like the Pennsylvania Hospital were driven by more than just humanitarian sentiment--they embodied a new way of understanding the relationship between a healthy population and national power. Rather than considering health as a strictly individual concern, these new philanthropists and reformers believed that the greatness of any nation depended on the number and condition of its people, and that promoting health was therefore a public goal. In short, the commonwealth depended on the common health.
Learn more about The Contagious City at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Robert Gordon's "The Holocaust in Italian Culture, 1944-2010"

Robert S. C. Gordon is Professor of Modern Italian Culture at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College. He is the author of Primo Levi's Ordinary Virtues (2001) and 'Outrageous Fortune': Luck and the Holocaust (2010).

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Holocaust in Italian Culture, 1944-2010, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Holocaust in Italian Culture, 1944-2010 finds us in Rome, in a series of courtrooms and prisons. The book as a whole explores the remarkable and troubled field of responses to the Holocaust in post-war Italy, as the country struggled to come to terms with its ambiguous status as both prime historical ally and victim of Nazi genocide and brutal violence. I argue that these responses are best understood by drawing an elaborate cultural map of the field, showing how specific moments, events, voices, artistic forms and places permitted Italians collectively to give shape and sense to the Holocaust; and also, crucially, to gloss over and veil certain aspects of their involvement in it.

Page 99 comes from a chapter on Rome: ever at the heart of Italy's history and identity, Rome was the stage for a series of appalling and unnerving events under Nazi occupation, events that were to resonate throughout the post-war era, amplified by Italy's shaky sense of nationhood, by the proximity and power of the Catholic Church, by the small but valiant anti-Fascist Resistance, and by the presence of Rome's ancient and beleaguered Jewish community. Between 1943 and 1944, the Nazis demanded of that Jewish community an absurd tribute of 50 kilograms of gold; they rounded up and deported to Auschwitz over 1000 Roman Jews; they massacred over 300 Romans (including 75 Jews) in the most murderous 10-to-1 reprisal of the war in Italy, shooting them in the back of the head at the catacombs at the Ardeatine Caves. After the war, trials of sorts were held, of Nazis and Roman police officials responsible for these hideous acts, but the trials came in what I describe as 'an uneven patchwork', incomplete and compromised, occasionally both violent and corrupt. The courtroom could not quite perform the necessary cultural work of processing this history of war, Fascism, occupation, and genocide. This was what I call on p.99, citing historian Michele Battini, 'Italy's missing Nuremberg'.

The rest of the chapter, and the rest of the book, work to suggest how the gaps and inadequacies, the patchwork of the courtroom history, when set alongside a mosaic of other cultural moments and processes, build a picture of how this very worst of modern atrocities became part and parcel of Italy's own modern history.
Read an excerpt from The Holocaust in Italian Culture, 1944-2010, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 6, 2012

Zheng Wang's "Never Forget National Humiliation"

Zheng Wang is an Associate Professor at the John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University. His research seeks to explain China's political transition and foreign policy behavior through the exploration of the country's indigenous culture, identity and domestic discourse.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations, and reported the following:
The page 99 test works very well with my book.

First, this page happens to bring up a few key concepts of the book, such as “history education,” “legitimacy,” and “political transition.” In general, this book discusses the state use of history and the politics of collective memory in Chinese political transformation and foreign policy. The chapter that contains page 99 tracks particularly how the legitimacy-challenged Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has used history and ideological education as instruments to glorify the party, reestablish its legitimacy, consolidate national identity, and justify one-party rule in the post-Tiananmen and post-Cold War era.

Second, page 99 is indeed among the pages addressing the most important case study of the book, China’s “Patriotic Education Campaign.” This page begins with an introduction of an official document that the CCP issued for conducting a major curriculum reform in history education. This document is considered as the first official policy statement to launch this top-down ideological education campaign. Page 99 (and a little bit page 100) also contains one of the important findings of the book:
Since the CCP was no longer supported by communist ideology, the Beijing leadership needed to find a new source of legitimacy. Patriotic education stressed the role of the communist state as the bearer of China’s historic struggle for national independence and therefore reinforced CCP authority.
Third, this page reveals a good example of the writing style of the book, too. On page 99, there is a direct quotation from a CCP document, “Outline on Implementing Patriotic Education.” As I commented: “The CCP did not hesitate to tell people why it had launched this education campaign. The 1994 outline explicitly laid out a series of major objectives:
The objectives of conducting the patriotic education campaign are to boost the nation’s spirit, enhance cohesion, foster national self-esteem and pride, consolidate and develop a patriotic united front to the broadest extent possible, and direct and rally the masses’ patriotic passions to the great cause of building socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
This book frequently features direct translations of Chinese official documents, political leaders’ articles, and history textbooks. As a person who has been educated in both China and the West, I hope that I can interpret one culture to another in meaningful and actionable ways. In this book, I want to guide my readers to visit the country’s primary schools and high schools and read their history textbooks and official narratives. I believe that this is an essential way to really understand a country and its future orientation.
Learn more about Never Forget National Humiliation at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Will Brooker's "Hunting the Dark Knight"

Will Brooker is Reader and Director of Research in Film and Television at Kingston University, London. He is a leading expert on the Dark Knight, author of the cultural history of Batman, Batman Unmasked. His other books include Using the Force and Alice’s Adventures. He edited the Audience Studies Reader and The Blade Runner Experience, and wrote the BFI Film Classics volume on Star Wars.

Brooker applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Hunting the Dark Knight: Twenty-First Century Batman, and reported the following:
My book proposes that Batman is a mosaic, an icon made of fragments, and in keeping with this theory, page 99 of the book reveals an aspect of the whole – a valid angle, but only part of the bigger picture, a single snatched statement overheard from a longer dialogue. You could guess at the broader conversation from this page, but it would only be an informed guess: the extract doesn’t provide a smaller-scale, fractal version of the entire book.

Page 99 discusses the discourses of ‘realism’ – in scare quotes because it means so many different things – that circulated around and were imposed upon Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, to give it a sense of machismo, authenticity and fidelity, and to distinguish it from the camp, theatrical, stylised Joel Schumacher films (Batman Forever, Batman & Robin) that had come before.

The production’s authenticity here was coded in terms of ‘real’ stunts, ‘real’ danger and it is implied, ‘real’ men, rather than the pantomime dames of ‘camp’ Batman movies and television shows. But there’s also a sense of ‘realism’ in the (more likeable) sense proposed by Andre Bazin in his discussion of Bicycle Thieves: a discourse of purity, freshness and a lack of artifice. The insistence on down-and-dirty masculinity in the interviews with Nolan and his crew starts to sound like protesting too much, but to his credit, Nolan chose to simply set up events – men falling off cliffs, trucks turning over, hospitals exploding – and film them with multiple cameras. This, to me, is a far more endearing and impressive approach to the choreography and organisation of film-making than relying on CGI, as so many superhero films do.
Learn more about Hunting the Dark Knight at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 3, 2012

Steve Kemper's "A Labyrinth of Kingdoms"

Steve Kemper is the author of Code Name Ginger. His work has appeared in many national publications, including Smithsonian and National Geographic.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles through Islamic Africa, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the end of a chapter and contains only six lines. It seems a bit unfair of Ford Madox Ford to ask so much of so little, but that’s the way it goes with dictums, so these six lines will have to do. They describe the explorer Heinrich Barth sitting in a desert camp in 1850, in what is now central Niger. He is eight months into his great journey, which he would be shocked to know will last for five-and-half-years and cover 10,000 miles.

At this moment on page 99 he is writing to the British Foreign Office, which hired him as a scientist, about his recent visit to the ancient trading post of Agadez. He feels that he is writing to save the expedition, which has already been pillaged and extorted of nearly all its goods. Barth hopes that his report about the wonders of Agadez will inspire Europe’s scientists to push the British government to send more funds so that the expedition can continue.

From those few lines on page 99:

“Otherwise, he noted, ‘after our heavy losses, we should be obliged to return directly, leaving the chief objects of the expedition unattained.’

“Seven months after leaving Tripoli, those objects were almost within reach. And just ahead lay Kano, the greatest city in central Sudan.”

Looking at those lines, I concede that they partly vindicate FMF’s dictum. The page shows Barth in one of his familiar dilemmas: he is desperate for funds, unsure he will be able to continue, hopeful that his discoveries will be appreciated in Europe, and excited by the prospect of the next unknown locale and what it may reveal.

The page is atypical in that it features no deprivations or death threats, no Africans or African marvels, which fill most of the book.
Learn more about the book and author at Steve Kemper's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Aaron Belkin's "Bring Me Men"

Aaron Belkin is professor of political science at San Francisco State University and director of the Palm Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has been a MacArthur Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, and a predoctoral fellow at Stanford University. He has published more than twenty-five books, chapters, and peer-reviewed journal articles. His books include How We Won: Progressive Lessons from the Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Belkin applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Facade of American Empire, 1898-2001, and reported the following:
I’m not sure how I feel about this page-99 thing. On one hand, it seems so strange to jump into the middle of the text without any context, extract a disembodied passage, hold it up and say, “voila, this is what my book is about.” It would be like taking a close-up photo of some random body part, the belly button perhaps. And then exclaiming, “This is who I am!” On the other hand, why the hell not? The exercise is just quirky (can I say queer?) enough that I am truly delighted at the prospect of opening my book, which I can no longer stand to read but love to re-read just the same, to page 99.

So here goes…
As David Boxwell, a former professor at the Air Force Academy, says of his students, they “don’t know whether to fuck or fight each other”...
Hmmm. What am I supposed to do with that?

For starters, I would like to thank my parents for dissuading me, 30 years ago, from applying to the Air Force Academy.

More broadly, I can situate Boxwell’s observation in a broader argument that I make in Bring Me Men, that warrior masculinity is structured by contradictions in that service members are expected to be masculine and feminine, dominant and subordinate, civilized and barbaric, emotional and stoic, top and bottom, dirty and clean. And that these contradictions play a powerful role in confusing the troops (“they don’t know whether to fuck or fight each other”) and hence making it easier for the military to control them.

Page 99 is in the middle of a case study about male-male rape in the military. In the case study, I address one contradiction – penetrable/impenetrable – in some depth by showing that service members' bodies are not supposed to be penetrated by bullets, penises or anything else. But at the same time, both men and women in uniform are expected to endure rape, sometimes as initiation into the warrior community and sometimes as a form of punishment or excommunication.

Here is another passage from page 99:
In U.S. military culture, service members have penetrated and been penetrated by each other continuously, and their anxieties about penetration have been structured by a split and then projected onto incoherent imaginations about gay men as violently aggressive penetrators but also passively weak victims of penetration. As a projective mirror of the service members themselves, the fragmented displacement illustrates and reflects fundamental contradictions involving penetration which have structured their masculinity.
Why is this interesting? I argue in Bring Me Men that contradictions that structure warrior masculinity look a lot like contradictions that structure U.S. empire, and that both sets of contradictions get sanitized and swept out of sight at the same moments, often by outcasts (African Americans, women, gays and lesbians) who portray the military and the empire in noble terms as part of inclusion-seeking strategies.
Read chapter 1 of Bring Me Men, and learn more about the book and author at Aaron Belkin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Kimberly Marten's "Warlords: Strong-arm Brokers in Weak States"

Kimberly Marten is Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is the author of Enforcing the Peace: Learning from the Imperial Past; Weapons, Culture, and Self-Interest: Soviet Defense Managers in the New Russia; and Engaging the Enemy: Organization Theory and Soviet Military Innovation, which won the Marshall Shulman Prize.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Warlords: Strong-arm Brokers in Weak States, and reported the following:
Page 99 is a great place to sample Warlords. The book is about armed local power-brokers in a variety of places including the Pakistani tribal areas, Iraq, Chechnya in Russia, and post-Soviet Georgia. These warlords have bargained and cooperated with state officials, both domestic and foreign, while creating all kinds of security headaches and undermining genuine state sovereignty. The book explores the relationships between warlords and states through deep case-studies, and provides policy recommendations to the U.S. and its allies as they face warlords in weak states all over the world.

My basic argument is that warlords can sometimes bring short-term stability to areas that are hard to govern, but they aren’t state-builders. It’s a mistake to believe that cooperating with them will overcome state failure. This matters today in Afghanistan and Libya and Syria, because many security forces there are really local warlord-led militias.

On Page 99 I sum up my conclusions about warlords in Georgia, and begin offering policy recommendations drawn from that case. Eduard Shevardnadze, despite being a hero for helping end the Cold War as Gorbachev’s foreign minister, was later too intimidated as the leader of the new Georgian state to kick two powerful warlords off his territory. I write that these local power-brokers and their militias caused “rampant criminality, the bleeding of the state budget, and significant human suffering.” Mikheil Saakashvili, the leader who replaced Shevardnadze in the Rose Revolution, then successfully dislodged both warlords. This proves something important: “Warlords may be more pretense than peril…. Longstanding fears of unrest in both places were laid to rest quite easily.”

But Saakashvili did this “only through methods that would probably have been impossible in a liberal democratic political system.” He gathered good intelligence about the warlords’ clan and patronage networks, and then made shadowy deals to win those networks over to the side of the state. State-building and democratization do not necessarily go hand in hand.

In one case, in Upper Kodori, Saakashvili also antagonized Russia through his arrogance and unilateralism, by “showing the Georgian flag so vividly—as well as flaunting the support of the United States—in what had previously been…a buffer zone” maintained by a warlord militia between Georgia and Russian-supported Abkhazia.

If you’re going to take on a warlord, pay attention to the external states involved and make deals there, too. Otherwise you may find yourself at war, as Saakashvili did in 2008.
Learn more about Warlords at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue