Sunday, May 31, 2015

Trenton Merricks's "Propositions"

Trenton Merricks is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Objects and Persons, Truth and Ontology, and many articles in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and philosophy of religion.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Propositions, and reported the following:
Page 99:
possible worlds. So, given Lewis’s account of possible worlds, I deny that there are sets of possible worlds. Propositions are sets of possible worlds only if there are sets of possible worlds. Thus my first reason for saying that, given Lewis’s account of possible worlds, propositions are not sets of possible worlds.

Given Lewis’s account of possible worlds, each possible world exists in—that is, is located in or is a part of—only one possible world, itself. So, given Lewis’s account of possible worlds, there is no possible world in which all the members of a set of possible worlds exist. So, given Lewis’s account of possible worlds, there is no possible world in which a set of possible worlds exists. So, given Lewis’s account of possible worlds, sets of possible worlds do not possibly exist. (The exceptions that prove the rule: sets of possible worlds with exactly one member.) Again, given Lewis’s account of possible worlds, sets of possible worlds are impossible entities.

Lewis believes that there are sets of possible worlds. But I do not think he would dispute my argument for the conclusion that, given his account of possible worlds, sets of possible worlds are impossible entities. For here is what Lewis says about ‘trans-world individuals’, which he takes to be single individuals that have parts located in various possible worlds:
It is possible for something to exist iff it is possible for the whole of it to exist. That is, iff there is a world at which the whole of it exists. That is, iff there is a world such that, quantifying only over parts of that world, the whole of it exists. That is, iff the whole of it is among the parts of some world. That is, iff it is part of some world— and hence not a trans-world individual; trans-world individuals are therefore impossible individuals. (1986a, 211)
Lewis believes that trans-world individuals exist. But he thinks that they are impossible.

Given Lewis’s account of possible worlds, sets of possible worlds are impossible entities. Lewis believes that there are some impossible entities. I do not. Indeed, the claim that some
The book Propositions has two main goals. The first is to show that there are propositions. The second is to defend an account of their nature. Questions about the existence and nature of propositions have been central to analytic philosophy throughout its history. And considerations from the philosophy of language have dominated the search for answers to those questions. You can see why. For propositions are supposed to be the fundamental bearers of truth and falsity. And propositions are supposed to be expressed by sentences that have truth-values. All of this fits squarely in the domain of the philosophy of language.

But to make claims about the existence and nature of propositions—entities whose existence and nature are matters of controversy—is not to engage in only the philosophy of language. It is also to engage in metaphysics. This book differs from most other discussions of propositions by its sustained focus on the metaphysical issues surrounding claims made about propositions. Here is just one example. Many linguists and philosophers of language say that propositions are “sets of possible worlds,” and often say this without a serious exploration of the metaphysics of possible worlds. But this book argues that the best account of the metaphysics of possible worlds rules out the thesis that propositions are sets of possible worlds. This book also argues that that thesis cannot be combined, without incurring new and serious problems, with any standard account of the metaphysics of possible worlds. Page 99 contains a snippet of this book’s argument for the conclusion that we should not combine the claim that propositions are sets of possible worlds with David Lewis’s famous (notorious) view that possible worlds are universes.
Learn more about Propositions at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 29, 2015

Jason Stanley's "How Propaganda Works"

Jason Stanley is Professor of Philosophy at Yale University. Before going to Yale in 2013, he was Professor II (Distinguished Professor) in the Department of Philosophy at Rutgers University. He has also been a Professor at the University of Michigan and Cornell University.

Stanley has published four books, two in epistemology, one in philosophy of language and semantics, and the newly released How Propaganda Works, a work of social and political philosophy.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to How Propaganda Works and reported the following:
In a democracy, we expect our politicians to pursue policies that further the common good; a politician who straightforwardly argued that all the goods of society should go just to her largest campaign donors would not win broad support. Of course, politicians in a democracy often do push policies that favor a narrow class of voters, for example their campaign donors, over the interests of others. However when politicians are advancing the interests of their campaign donors at the expense of others, they must at least openly pretend otherwise. For example, they must argue that serving the interests of their major campaign donors is what serves the interests of everyone. This is because we expect politicians and the media in a democracy to represent everyone. Page 99 of my book occurs in the middle of a discussion of different theories philosophers have given of what it is to take everyone’s interests into consideration; the three philosophers I most rely on in this discussion are W.E.B. Du Bois, Susan Stebbing, and John Rawls.

Understanding the kind of attitude that we expect politicians and media to have, taking everyone into consideration, is crucial to an understanding of political communication. Political debate is a contest between candidates each of whom seeks to convince opinion makers that she really has everyone’s interests at heart. The difficulty is that politicians must often try to win this contest, while simultaneously advancing an agenda that benefits a favored group at the expense of others, as is typically the case in politics (though perhaps not, as Carl Schmitt might suggest, invariably).

An example of how to compete under these constraints can be found in Frank Luntz’s “Wexner Analysis: Israeli Communication Priorities 2003”. This document is an effort to find a way to communicate the message to American “opinion elites” that Israel is genuinely interested in peace and Palestinian well-being, while simultaneously undermining support for the Palestinian leadership. In polling, Luntz discovered that the sound bite “[w]e are hoping to find a Palestinian leadership that really does reflect the best interest for the Palestinian people” was an effective way to communicate the message that Israel is a reasonable negotiating partner, but the Palestinian leadership is not. The sentence suggests that the Israeli politicians are the reasonable ones, the ones who actually have the Palestinian interests most at heart, while simultaneously undercutting the Palestinian leadership position.
Learn more about How Propaganda Works at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thomas Aiello's "Jim Crow's Last Stand"

Thomas Aiello is associate professor of history at Valdosta State University, specializing in the confluence of race and cultural history. He is the author of The Kings of Casino Park: Black Baseball in the Lost Season of 1932.

Aiello applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Jim Crow's Last Stand: Nonunanimous Criminal Jury Verdicts in Louisiana, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Jim Crow’s Last Stand is a reproduction of Justice Lewis Powell’s concurring opinion in the Supreme Court’s 1972 Johnson v. Louisiana decision. I didn’t even write it. That said, however, it is a perfect reflection of what the book actually discusses.
Petitioners contend that less-than-unanimous jury verdict provisions undercut that right [of a fair and impartial jury trial] by implicitly permitting in the jury room that which is prohibited in the jury venire selection process—the exclusion of minority group viewpoints. They argue that unless unanimity is required even of a properly drawn jury, the result—whether conviction or acquittal—may be the unjust product of racism, bigotry, or an emotionally inflamed trial.
It is my great hope that the other pages aren’t quite as dry and clinical, but as far as argumentative thrust is concerned, this is actually on point. Beginning in 1880, Louisiana allowed criminal defendants to be convicted by nine of twelve jurors. Today it allows them to be convicted by ten. It was a law designed to increase convictions to feed the state’s burgeoning convict lease system and remained in the first half of the segregationist twentieth century even after convict lease had run its course. As rights advocates of the 1950s and 1960s successfully challenged the ingrained racism of southern laws first conceived in the crucible of turn of the century reactionary politics, it left nonunanimous criminal jury verdicts alone. It is, among southern states, unique to Louisiana. Many never realized the law existed. Those who did were unaware of the law’s genesis, its original purpose, or its modern consequences. And so it remained. It still remains. It is the last active law of racist Redeemer politics in Louisiana.

This book makes the case, like the petitioners crying out from page 99, that such is an almost inconceivable injustice. The Law & Order thinking that has been ingrained into everyone, that creating a reasonable doubt in the mind of one juror can save a defendant, does not hold in Louisiana (or, for that matter, in Oregon). In Louisiana, it actually benefits a potential assailant to commit a hate crime rather than one for, say, purely financial reasons, because the federal standard (under which a hate crime would fall) is jury unanimity.

Thus the petitioners on page 99 argued that they were being denied “a fair and impartial jury trial.” They lost that case. But a full understanding of the law’s genesis was still hidden in 1972. Jim Crow’s Last Stand uncovers it, so maybe the petitioners on future page 99s will win.
Learn more about Jim Crow's Last Stand at the LSU Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Melanie Keene's "Science in Wonderland"

Melanie Keene is a historian of science for children, based at Homerton College, Cambridge. She has published several academic and popular articles on scientific books and objects from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, on topics from candles, pebbles, or cups of tea, to board games, toy sets, and model dinosaurs.

Keene applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Science in Wonderland: The scientific fairy tales of Victorian Britain, and reported the following:
Serendipitously, page 99 of Science in Wonderland is about beginnings. Part of a chapter on ‘familiar fairylands’, which explores how drops of water were used to baptise new members of the scientific community, it quotes from the introduction to Arabella Buckley’s 1879 Fairy-Land of Science, a key text that is analysed throughout the book. How were her readers to enter this fairyland of science? The answer, it transpired, was to look again at the surrounding world: like ‘the knight or the peasant in the fairy tales, you must open your eyes’. ‘For Buckley’, I write:
children could learn about science through stories, told with and about the plenitude of illustrious objects at hand in the Victorian home and garden: a piece of coal, a primrose, a sunbeam, a bee, or a drop of water.
Buckley encouraged her young audience to investigate the hidden mysteries of their surrounding world: she used the conceit of a fairyland of science to emphasise the scientific processes at work in the everyday environment. These ‘true’ fairies, she argued, provided just as wonderful (and, for her, just as spiritual) transformations, creatures, powers, or histories, than any fictional counterparts. In its emphasis on active engagement in the sciences, in the power of invisible forces, in comparing scientific practitioners to figures from fairy tales, and in looking again at supposedly common objects, Page 99 summarises well the themes of Science in Wonderland: it therefore provides a very appropriate way in to the book, as well as to the Fairy-Land of Science itself.
Learn more about Science in Wonderland at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Thomas Parker's "Tasting French Terroir"

Thomas Parker is an Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies at Vassar College. He worked in Champagne, France after high school and remained in the wine trade for many years before going to graduate school.

Parker applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Tasting French Terroir: The History of an Idea, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book is one of my favorites and very representative of the read. It suggests how wine connoisseurship was historically tied to social class in France, and leads to an explanation of how champagne first acquired the snob appeal that it retains in many circles today. Medical authorities in the seventeenth century advised that red wine was filled with heavy particles that would stop up circulation, rise to the brain, and make smart people sluggish. Hearty red wines were suitable only for people with large pores who perspired a lot— peasants, laborers, and low-class people in general— because they were able to sweat out the impurities.

More refined people were advised to drink white wine. White wine lacked the heavy matter red wine absorbed from the dirt the grapes grew in. In fact, the best “terroir,” or growing area, was thought to come from the small town of Ay in Champagne. Those wines were light, pure, and healthful, most proper for kings, poets, and the elite population who frequented seventeenth-century Versailles. Champagne d’Ay became the rage at the court, where the message was not that you were what you drank, but rather that you should drink what you were.

Curiously, the Hippocratic and Galenic humors theory on which these assessments were based had been largely outmoded by the science of the time. The high-stakes social world of Paris and Versailles, however, retained theories on humors in relation to wine because they helped reinforce existing social hierarchies. They also provided the means by which one could attempt to fake it, tippling to the top by choosing the right drink.

Voltaire turned the tables and democratized champagne 75 years later in a poem on luxury, claiming that the wines of Ay with their frothy foam and effervescence were the very image of French people themselves. In doing so, he tied the idea of national identity and “Frenchness” to wine and the concept of terroir.

This is just one episode in the fascinating story of the idea of terroir that I explore throughout the book. Incidentally, champagne d’Ay is still around today and stunningly delicious, no matter how big your pores are.
Learn more about Tasting French Terroir at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Cedric de Leon's "The Origins of Right to Work"

Cedric de Leon is Associate Professor of Sociology at Providence College. He is the author of Party and Society: Reconstructing a Sociology of Democratic Party Politics and co-editor of Building Blocs: How Parties Organize Society. Before becoming a professor de Leon was by turns an organizer, a local union president, and a rank-and-file activist in the U.S. labor movement.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Origins of Right to Work: Antilabor Democracy in Nineteenth-Century Chicago, and reported the following:
The Origins of Right to Work is about the bait-and-switch that characterizes the place of workers in American democracy: enticed by the American Dream, they are at the same time prohibited from fulfilling its promise through the collective power of their unions. Right to work laws allow workers to reap the benefits of union contracts without having to pay the dues or fees that support the daily operation of unions.

These and other limits to collective bargaining have led many scholars to speculate on why the United States is so antilabor compared to other liberal capitalist democracies. Most of these folks emphasize the role of workers or judges in inaugurating the distinctly antilabor ethos of American democracy. In The Origins of Right to Work, I argue that we need to look more closely at the changing relationship between nineteenth-century political parties and workers.

Page 99 casts doubt on the notion that judges were responsible for right to work laws. Such laws were – and are – statutory laws passed by politicians in state legislatures, not decisions handed down by the courts on the basis of legal precedence. Indeed, as I point out on page 99, even the landmark court decisions (e.g., Commonwealth v. Hunt [1842]; The Danbury Hatters' Case [1908]) were shaped by the context of party politics.

As an alternative to the judiciary thesis, I argue that right to work laws emerged because workers, who were once loyal Republicans and Democrats, defected from the major parties into trade unions, socialist parties, and revolutionary organizations. Unable to persuade nineteenth-century workers with the same old political slogans, the two-party system instead tried to control workers through right to work laws and violent force.
Learn more about The Origins of Right to Work at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 22, 2015

Susan J. Terrio's "Whose Child Am I?"

Susan J. Terrio is Professor of Anthropology at Georgetown University. She is author of Judging Mohammed: Juvenile Delinquency, Immigration, and Exclusion at the Paris Palace of Justice and Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Whose Child Am I?: Unaccompanied, Undocumented Children in U.S. Immigration Custody, and reported the following:
Page 99 gets to the heart of the key issues of U.S. immigration policy and the treatment of undocumented minors after their apprehension by American authorities. Although unlawful entry is a civil, not a penal, offense these youth become ensnared in two separate and convoluted federal systems: mandatory detention in closed facilities and removal proceedings in immigration courts. The government becomes their legal guardian while at the same time prosecuting them for immigration violations. We should ask ourselves if automatic detention is necessary to ensure the protection of a vulnerable population? What due process rights do detained child migrants have under U.S. immigration law? Despite the frenzied media coverage of migrants flooding across the U.S.–Mexico border in 2014, little is known about what happens to them in federal custody or how the U.S. government got into the business of detaining children and youth. This is the story of a legal tug-of-war between the constitutional protection of individual rights regardless of legal status and the government’s interest in border security. This tension affects new migrants as well as those who were brought as children and spent their formative years in this country.

Page 99 describes the experience of Orlando, an undocumented Mexican teenager who came to the US at the age of nine. He turned sixteen in an Arizona reform school where he was sent after adjudication for an assault. When he completed his sentence with a clean record a juvenile judge ordered his release. Instead, immigration authorities re-apprehended him and transferred him to a Virginia juvenile prison under government contract that holds undocumented minors deemed to be security risks.

This page describes my tour of that Virginia prison where I saw the central surveillance monitors, empty classrooms, and immigrant boys confined to their residential “pods” because the facility was on lockdown. The deputy director explained that this was due to problems with the two prison populations: the “domestic” and the “federal” youth. Orlando’s clinician described him as “one angry kid.” He knew that as a U.S. citizen he would have been released to his family after “doing his time.” Instead, he was sent to a real prison, this time with no set endpoint, far from his family, and facing the real threat of deportation to a country where he had no family.
Learn more about Whose Child Am I? at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Kristin Kobes Du Mez's "A New Gospel for Women"

Kristin Kobes Du Mez is an associate professor of History and Gender Studies at Calvin College. She received a Ph.D. in American Religious History from the University of Notre Dame. Her research interests include the intersection of religion, gender, and sexuality in American history, with a particular focus on women in American Protestantism from the nineteenth century to the present.

Du Mez applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, A New Gospel for Women: Katharine Bushnell and the Challenge of Christian Feminism, and reported the following:
What if it was Adam’s choice, and not Eve’s, that led to humanity’s fall into sin?
What if women’s submission to men is the work of the devil, and not the will of God?
What if Christian patriarchy is in fact man’s rebellion against God?
What if the Apostle Paul didn’t tell wives to submit to their husbands, and women to be silent in church?
What if redemption means the liberation of women?
And what if Christians have gotten their theology wrong because of mistranslations of the Christian scriptures? And men have perpetuated these mistranslations for centuries on end by doing everything they could to keep the work of Christian theology out of the hands of women?

A New Gospel for Women tells the story of Katharine Bushnell, a woman who asked these very questions over 100 years ago. Part history, part biography, and part theology, this book introduces Bushnell to modern audiences and provides an overview of her remarkable feminist theology.

Page 99 occurs just after the book switches from historical narrative to a description of her theology. Bushnell was an internationally-known anti-trafficking activist in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and it was through this work that she repeatedly observed seemingly respectable, Christian men committing acts of unspeakable cruelty against women. Ultimately, she concluded that “the crime is the fruit of the theology”—that Christian theology itself, as it had been handed down through the centuries, must be to blame. Rather than abandoning Christianity in its entirety, however, she turned to the original languages and set out to expose a long tradition of misogynistic biblical translation.

Page 99 offers a sample of her early work, and her sharp wit:
In addition to contesting familiar passages on female authority, Bushnell examined a number of other instances “where sex affects the English translation.” She discussed, for instance, the account of the “dukes of Edom” in Genesis 36, where in verse 14 Anah was introduced as the daughter of Zibeon, but ten verses later, and again in 1 Chronicles, translators had depicted Anah as a male. “We illiterate women are able to spell out the fact that several of these dukes were women!” Bushnell asserted, “Yet we are called upon to prove that women have ever ruled to any extent, or can rule, or were meant to rule, according to Bible teaching or history; and I answer that when woman’s sex is snowed under without protest between the beginning and end of a single chapter, by careless translators who take it for granted that men are doing almost everything that is done, the case is singularly hard to prove.”

In a similar vein, Bushnell pointed to the Greek word diakonos (διάκονος), which was translated as “minister” or “deacon” in each instance where it referred “to an office held by a man in the church,” but was rendered “servant” in the single instance where it referred to a woman (Romans 16:1), despite the fact that it was “distinctly [stated] that this is her rank in the church—an ecclesiastical order.” Bushnell also drew attention to Romans 16:7, where Paul mentions Junia as being “of note among the apostles,” a fact that both Chrysostom and Origen accepted as clear evidence of the existence of female apostles in the early church. To Bushnell’s dismay, however, modern commentators had “found themselves able to master the difficulty with one masculine flourish,” arguing that “if Junia is a woman she cannot be an apostle, and if Junia is an apostle he [she] cannot be a woman!”
But page 99 is just the tip of the iceberg—the rest of the book describes Bushnell’s dramatic revision of the entire biblical narrative, from Genesis through Revelation. And it asks how it was that Bushnell and her work have been all but lost to history. Its larger story, then, revolves around the relationship between Christianity and feminism, past and present. And, in light of the growing popularity of Bushnell’s writings among evangelical Christians in the global church today, it reflects as well on the future of Christian feminism.
Learn more about A New Gospel for Women at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Karen M. Paget's "Patriotic Betrayal"

Karen M. Paget, a former member of the National Student Association, is a contributing editor to The American Prospect and co-author of Running as a Woman: Gender and Power in American Politics.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Patriotic Betrayal: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Secret Campaign to Enroll American Students in the Crusade Against Communism, and reported the following:
From page 99:
In October, Ingram told an NSA academic advisor that he had all the money he needed to operate a Latin America program, “just as we planned it.” He did not identify specific donors, although to a prospective NSA staff member, he indiscreetly described a “new hush-hush agency in the government” that would be able to finance the NSA. In early November, he told a friend at Georgia Tech that he had found an angel.
This excerpt from Patriotic Betrayal captures a turning point in the covert relationship between the CIA and the United States National Student Association (NSA), an organized formed in 1947 by campus student government leaders. When Avrea Ingram, the NSA international affairs vice president, made these remarks in 1951, the CIA’s ad hoc funding arrangements with NSA had become untenable, and CIA officials devised new ways to route secret funds. Ingram’s angel was John Simons, an NSA founding father, who as a CIA career agent resurfaced as a director of the Foundation for Youth and Student Affairs. The name, meant to suggest a traditional philanthropy, in fact, served as a conduit for CIA funds.

In 1967, when Ramparts magazine exposed the NSA/CIA relationship, many Americans could not understand why the CIA would care about students – after all, campuses conjured images of football, fraternities and other frivolities. It was a uniquely American view: elsewhere, students were important actors; they overthrew governments, ousted dictators, fought colonial power, and, at a minimum, influenced education policy.

In the early Cold War, the CIA sought to counter Soviet influence abroad. The Soviet-backed International Union of Students in Prague, for example, claimed to represent the world’s students. In response, the CIA created and secretly funded a rival international organization, as it did in other areas.

Over the years, the NSA/CIA relationship grew into multiple covert operations, global in scope, and carried out by “witting” participants, students who had signed a security oath under the 1917 Espionage Act. The oath, if violated, carried a twenty-year prison term. During the 1967 press uproar, this threat kept participants’ lips sealed. Patriotic Betrayal is the first history of these sweeping CIA-student operations, from their origins and growth to the heroic effort of one NSA President to end the CIA’s grip on NSA, the subsequent Ramparts investigation, and the CIA’s frenetic attempts at damage control. Patriotic Betrayal goes far beyond the moral argument over whether the CIA operation was justified, and examines what the young operatives did. It reveals the central role that espionage—spying on foreign students--played over the years, and its unforeseen and dangerous consequences. It is a cautionary tale for those who today advocate similar covert strategies to win the hearts and minds of new enemies.
Visit Karen M. Paget's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ilana Feldman's "Police Encounters"

Ilana Feldman is Associate Professor of Anthropology, History, and International Affairs at The George Washington University. She is the author of Governing Gaza: Bureaucracy, Authority, and the Work of Rule, 1917–1967 (2008).

Feldman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Police Encounters: Security and Surveillance in Gaza under Egyptian Rule, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Balancing the multiple security concerns posed by Palestinian insistence on the opportunity to fight for Palestine was a challenge throughout the administration. Speech, action, and organizing were all identified as security problems and therefore had to be controlled. At the same time, and for the same reasons, these were the same arenas in which the administration had to be most responsive to people’s demands. A careful calibration was required to create an outlet for expression and a sense of a public, political space, without creating a truly free space that might actually threaten government control.
Police Encounters explores the dynamics of policing and security in the Gaza Strip during the twenty-years after the loss of Palestine and before the Israeli occupation of Gaza, when the Strip was governed by Egypt. Egyptian authorities saw Palestinians in Gaza as both potential security threats and objects of protection and their policing practices reflected this double concern. As also happened in Egypt at the same time, police relied heavily on informants and surveillance to respond to a broad range of security concerns, including matters of national security, everyday illegality, and social propriety. The “security society” that developed through police practices was a tremendously unequal space. The police had an array of coercive powers at their disposal that other people could never mobilize. Yet this inequality did not mean that police held all the cards. People in Gaza also acted politically through security society, in part by mobilizing policing techniques to other ends.

Acting politically was not just about acting against or in relation to governing authorities. Not only were people occasionally able to push back at government policies they opposed, they mobilized security techniques to shape the behavior of others in their community. In these efforts people sometimes deployed an explicitly political language, particularly the discourse of nationalism, to suggest that others were involved in corruption or betrayal. Even more frequently though, or so it seems from the available sources, they used the notion of propriety, and especially gendered propriety, to assert control over public space, private behavior, and social practices. Political mobilization for the nation and social mobilization for proper behavior in the community were often linked.

Page 99 addresses one part of this complex security terrain: the perception by Egyptian authorities that independent Palestinian political or military activity was a threat that needed to be contained and the concomitant requirement that these authorities be responsive to Palestinian national claims and demands. Balancing between these competing demands was a challenge throughout the Administration. One way that Palestinians were sometimes able to effect a change in Administration policies was by changing the threat calculation. That is, by creating a situation where not responding to a demand seemed more threatening than meeting it.
Learn more about Police Encounters at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 18, 2015

Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs's "Jonas Salk: A Life"

Charlotte D. Jacobs, M.D. is the Ben and A. Jess Shenson Professor of Medicine (Emerita) at Stanford University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new biography, Jonas Salk: A Life, and reported the following:
What is happening on page 99 of Jonas Salk: A Life?

Salk, the most junior scientist in the group which advised the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP) on polio prevention, had just recommended that they undertake a clinical trial of his polio vaccine. His suggestion brought back painful memories. Such an attempt had been made in 1934, and the results had been disastrous. New York scientist Maurice Brodie had made a polio vaccine using presumably killed poliovirus from the spinal cord of infected monkeys. He vaccinated six volunteers and pronounced it safe. At the same time, Philadelphia researcher John Kolmer made a vaccine using a live poliovirus. Having inoculated forty-two monkeys, his two children, and himself, he publicized its success. A deadly polio outbreak had just struck Los Angeles, and the public was clamoring for protection. A race was on to see whose vaccine would be the first to rid the world of polio.

The two scientists conducted trials including over 10,000 children. It appeared to afford little protection, and a number suffered paralysis from the vaccine. The careers of both men plummeted; a few years later, Brodie died from a suspected suicide.

Polio vaccine work was constrained as investigators in the field became leery. Not Jonas Salk. In 1948 he told the NFIP research director, Harry Weaver, that he planned to have a vaccine in five years. “There was nobody like him in those days,” Weaver said. “His approach was entirely different from that which had dominated the field.... He thought big. … He wanted to leap, not crawl. His willingness to shoot the works was made to order for us.” For this Salk would later be rebuffed by the scientific community.
Visit Charlotte Jacobs's website.

My Book, The Movie: Jonas Salk: A Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Howard Gillette, Jr.'s "Class Divide"

Howard Gillette, Jr. is Professor Emeritus of History at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. He is the author of Between Justice and Beauty: Race, Planning, and the Failure of Urban Policy in Washington, D.C.; Camden After the Fall: Decline and Renewal in a Post-Industrial City; and Civitas by Design: Building Better Communities, from the Garden City to the New Urbanism.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Class Divide: Yale '64 and the Conflicted Legacy of the Sixties, and reported the following:
Jack Cirie was a real tough guy at Yale: a “local” who excelled in football as well as in the boxing ring. Not surprisingly he joined the marines at the time of his graduation in 1964, making the corps his first career, including a second deployment to Vietnam. What, then, was he doing in the 1980s at the ‘60s hotbed of experimentation, the Esalen Institute? Yet there he is, pictured on page 99, wiry, determined, and wearing an Esalen designation on his shirt as he sets out for a race. His training at Esalen is with George Leonard, a former Look magazine reporter, who coined the term “human potential movement” before throwing himself into it. Dogged by his involvement in the war, Cirie tries in the years after retiring from the military to reconcile his war experience with his inner needs.

Cirie’s effort to reconcile war with peace, external rewards and inner satisfaction, mark him as part of an “in-between” generation: carrying the socialization of the 1950s into the turbulent 1960s. Among his classmates—famous and not—there was a shared sense of obligation to national service. And yet, unlike the silent generation it might have been part of, these men could not count on becoming a part of a unified leadership elite. Instead, as members of this class absorbed the experiences associated with the sixties, they divided: Stephen Bingham, wanted for murder by the FBI in conjunction with a fatal shootout at San Quentin prison, William Bradford Reynolds rolling back busing and affirmative action in his position as head of the civil rights division of the Justice Department under Ronald Reagan. Fellow classmate Joe Lieberman sought the center, and it didn’t hold. These are the stories that begin to identify how a cultural turn in the 1960s had such a lasting and diffusive effect.
Learn more about Class Divide at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sheila A. Smith's "Intimate Rivals"

Sheila A. Smith is Senior Fellow for Japan Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China, and reported the following:
In Intimate Rivals, I explore the growing contention between Japan and its neighbor, the increasingly powerful China. I look within Japan to see how China’s transformation is affecting Japanese citizens and their interests, and page 99 presents the conclusion to the first of four chapters that look at the issues that resist compromise between Tokyo and Beijing. This page falls in the final discussion of what is arguably the most conspicuously contentious issue in the Sino-Japanese relations – war memory.

Chinese sensitivities to how postwar Japanese leaders memorialize their imperial veterans at the Yasukuni Shrine is well known, and has colored the relationship since the early years after the two governments concluded a peace treaty in 1978. Today, perhaps even more than those veterans, it has come to symbolize Japanese rejection of China’s right to limit Japan’s options.
Yasukuni thus remains a lightning rod for those who want to challenge foreign criticism of Japan’s past. Within Japan’s conservative party, many younger politicians use their visits to Yasukuni to burnish their conservative credentials, and it remains a rallying point for those who resent Chinese and South Korean criticism of Japan and its interpretation of its twentieth century history. Indeed, in his return to power in late 2012, Abe Shinzo raised the possibility of yet another round of Yasukuni nationalism.
The larger thesis of my book, however, is that nationalism is not what characterizes Japanese responses to this transforming China. True, some issues – war memory and their island dispute – offer the space for marginal voices to come to the fore, voices that have long existed yet have gained little traction in Japan’s mainstream politics. These old issues of contention, however, have at times made partners out of the two governments as they sought to limit popular sensitivities in the quest for a better overall relationship.

Grounding that relationship has been the economic interdependence and the shared concern with peace and prosperity in the region. Other issues such as their shared maritime boundary in the East China Sea and their increasingly interdependent market for food have forced the Japanese and Chinese governments to come up with new solutions to new problems. All told, Japan’s citizens are demanding better solutions, and at times better protections from their own government as the impact of China’s rise challenges old patterns of negotiation.

As complicated as Japanese responses are, there is no consensus within Japan on a strategy for coping with geostrategic change in Asia. Intimate Rivals demonstrates how complex a process geostrategic change can be, and the Japanese public has turned to its government to improve its ability to manage this complexity better. At the end of the day, China’s rise has reshaped not only the international relations of the Asia Pacific but also Japanese domestic politics.
Learn more about Intimate Rivals at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Calvin Schermerhorn's "The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815-1860"

Calvin Schermerhorn is an associate professor in Arizona State University’s School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, and is the author of Money over Mastery, Family over Freedom: Slavery in the Antebellum Upper South.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815–1860, and reported the following:
The Business of Slavery shows how the firms that financed, traded, and transported enslaved people exemplify modern capitalism. Credit expansion was an essential building block, and in the 1830s banking expansion fueled unheard of growth. Cotton and sugar planters relied on credit. And so too did slave traders, who used it to buy captives and reallocated credit to buyers like car dealers do today.

Credit expansion relied on foreign investment and banking innovations. New Orleans financiers Edmond Jean Forstall and Hugues Lavergne founded property banks, which collateralized slave property through mortgages, then securitized them. Owners leveraged lands and property in people to reinvest. And with state guarantees, slave-mortgage-backed securities were sold in the financial centers of the North Atlantic. The first such property bank was the Consolidated Association of the Planters of Louisiana. From page 99:
The Consolidated Association seemed to be dwindling when the twenty-eight-year-old financier [Thomas Baring] landed in New Orleans [in 1828]. Baring liked what he saw in commercial New Orleans. Cotton, sugar, and other commodities were ripe for investment, and rapid agricultural growth created great demand for credit. Besides opportunities to own or finance actual commodities shipments, American state bonds were appealing. Their interest rates compared favorably to those of British and European bonds. A quarter century after financing the Louisiana Purchase, the House of Baring was poised to fulfill the promise of the Mississippi Valley slave country.
And Barings fulfilled it in spades. They marketed Louisiana’s slave-mortgage-backed bonds, reselling them on British and European markets. With foreign investment ballooning credit, Forstall helped found other property banks. Barings sold more state bonds to investors in London, Amsterdam, and New York City. Other investment bankers followed suit. Cotton and sugar markets surged on the proceeds, and the domestic slave trade mushroomed. Louisiana became a model for banking in other Deep South states, and by the mid-1830s the region was the most credit rich, most monetized region of the country.

But like the home mortgage crisis of 2008, confidence crashed in 1837, leading to a financial panic and a slave mortgage crisis. Unlike real property, however, mortgaged humans were easy to hide. And slaveholders were supreme not subprime. They elected repudiationists who burned outside investors. Nevertheless, the cotton, sugar, and slave economy recovered, and by the 1850s the country was again awash in credit financing capitalist expansion on the backs of African Americans.
Learn more about The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Peter Singer's "The Most Good You Can Do"

Peter Singer is Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University, and Laureate Professor, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne. One of the most prominent ethicists of our time, he is the author of more than twenty books including Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics, and The Life You Can Save.

Singer applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically, and reported the following:
In The Most Good You Can Do I describe some people who go to great lengths to help others and make the world a better place. Julia Wise and her partner Jeff Kaufman donated a third of their income to charities, even when they were living on only $40,000 a year; Matt Wage turned down the opportunity to do a graduate degree in philosophy at the University of Oxford in order to earn more money so he could give more away – he now gives away half of his income. Chris Croy is one among a number of people who have donated a kidney to a stranger.

Why do people do this? That question is discussed in several chapters of the book, and page 99 occurs in a section that explores the relationship between altruism and happiness. I report on studies showing that being generous and helping others correlates with being more satisfied with one’s life. In the only complete paragraph on the page, I speculate on why this might be the case.
Perhaps we imagine that money is important to our well- being because we need money to buy consumer goods, and buying things has become an obsession that beckons us away from what really advances our well- being. An in-depth study of thirty-two families in Los Angeles found that three-quarters of them could not park their cars in their garages because the garages were too full of stuff. The volume of possessions was so great that managing them elevated levels of stress hormones in mothers. Despite the fact that the growth in size of the typical American home means that Americans today have three times the amount of space, per person, that they had in 1950, they still pay a total of $22 billion a year to rent extra storage space. Are they happier for having so much stuff? Graham Hill has known both sides of this question. After selling an Internet consulting company, he bought a four-story 3,600-square-foot house and filled it with all the latest consumer goods. His enjoyment was brief; he soon became numb to his possessions and found that his life had become much more complicated. He now lives in a 420-square-foot apartment with a minimum of possessions and likes his life far better than before.
The book focuses on Effective Altruism, both the underlying values and the emerging social movement that has taken that name. It asks how we can decide between the various good causes – and good organizations – that an altruist might support. I argue that there are objective reasons for holding that some causes are better than others. In particular, the best of the charities that assist people in extreme poverty in poor countries typically offer much better value for money than one can get by contributing to art galleries, museums, opera houses, and elite universities like the one at which I work.
Learn more about the book and author--and about how leading an ethical life involves using a portion of personal wealth and resources to efficiently alleviate the effects of extreme poverty--at The Life You Can Save website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 99 Test: The Life You Can Save.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 11, 2015

Carroll Pursell's "From Playgrounds to PlayStation"

Carroll Pursell is an adjunct professor of history at The Australian National University and professor emeritus of history at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of The Machine in America: A Social History of Technology.

Carroll applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, From Playgrounds to PlayStation: The Interaction of Technology and Play, and reported the following:
From Playgrounds to PlayStation contains seven chapters covering Toys, Playgrounds, Amusement Parks, Hobbies, Games and Sports, Extreme Sports and Electronic Games. Ford Madox Ford’s suggested page 99 falls within the chapter on Hobbies, and is, as he predicted, a fair sample of the book itself. First, the narrative moves along quickly covering a number of topics, in this case the final examples of the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) craze which peaked in the years after World War II. It manages to span a 225,000 square foot Home Depot builders’ material store/warehouse and San Francisco’s boutique TechShop which opened in 2011. Mid-page the topic shifts to the DIY kitchen. Historian Rachel Maines, author of Hedonizing Technologies points out that in 2006 only 53 percent of meals eaten in American homes were actually prepared there (mostly sandwiches and bowls of cereal). Furthermore, of the remaining DIY home cooks, many were men (27 percent of men were said to be the “primary food handlers for their families”). When men got interested in cooking they also developed a desire for more upscale and specialized technologies to aid their efforts: Italian espresso machines, saute pans and very expensive handmade Japanese knives among others. It was the latest example of what historian Steven Gelber called Domestic Masculinity.

The theoretical constructions of Maines and Gelber are among a number of such insights that are brought to bear on the subject “technology and play” in the book. The historian Susan Douglas has alerted us to the “audio outlaws” whose pursuit of sound pioneered radio broadcasting and pushed the boundaries of high-fidelity recordings and FM radio, while historian Elaine Tyler May contributed the concept of “virtuous consumption” to explain the post-war urge to own a home, improve it, and fill it with domestic technologies. Page 99, like the rest of the book, attempts to tell many stories about the interaction of technology and play, while finding meanings through the theorizing of such underlying realities as gender and the dynamics of a developing industrial capitalism.
Learn more about From Playgrounds to PlayStation at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ellyn Kaschak's "Sight Unseen"

Ellyn Kaschak has been Professor of Psychology at San Jose State University since 1974, where she has also been the Chairperson of the graduate program in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling and Director of the University's Family Counseling Service. She is one of the founders of the field of feminist psychology, which she has practiced since its inception some 40 years ago, and has published numerous articles and chapters on the topic, as well as the award-winning book Engendered Lives: A New Psychology of Women's Experience.

Kaschak applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Sight Unseen: Gender and Race Through Blind Eyes, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Luke says that a sighted person has to let him know if a woman is interested in him.

“Flirtation is visual and depends on being able to hold eye contact,” he tells me. I have heard these words before and have thought them before. Here they are again. When I first began these conversations, I was not so sure. I did not want it to be the case. By now I sadly agree that the absence of eye contact leaves a gaping space in a relationship. It is not just about flirtation, although it is about that. But it is more, at least for me and the sighted people I know. Eye contact informs every phase of intimacy. It is the channel by which heart connects to heart, soul to soul. I have come to know this in a way that I never would have if I had continued through life looking into the eyes of everyone I met or with whom I developed some intimacy. It has been the startling inability to do so with any of these blind people that has compelled me to experience the importance of eye contact in my own life.

It is the complex and reverberating vortex of sight and meaning, acceptance and desire, interest and connection. I would feel my experience reduced and impoverished without this nexus of meaning and desire. I have become all too aware that I look for the light of connection and recognition, of conversation and friendship, of appreciation and even desire in someone else’s eyes. Without having spent these hours with blind people, I never would have known this.

I get to meet Flor, one of Luke’s female roommates. The other roommate, Laney, could not make time to talk to me and may not have wanted the kind of scrutiny that she imagined I would impose on her. Flor and I met a few times in the house they share. Our meetings were always in the living room, which was furnished with the kind of old overstuffed furniture that one finds in thrift shops. It was clean and comfortable, with worn flower print fabrics. Of course, lack of funds is not the only factor that leads the way to this furniture; the lack of sight on which such aesthetic decisions are based also plays a part. As much as they care about gender and ethnicity, these roommates seem not at all bothered by the ordinary issue of decor. Faded flowers are the least of their concerns. How would they even know what faded looks like? I have learned my lesson and no longer try to explain such things.
Sight Unseen: Gender and Race through Blind Eyes is a unique approach to our understanding of the culturally-based, life-defining human characteristics that we call race and gender. Page 99 both does and does not represent the entire book , but it does reveal an important aspect of “doing gender” that requires eye contact.

I have spent a lifetime trying to understand the demands of race and gender in the world in which we live, the world that lives inside each of us. I realized that I could study individuals who have been blind since birth and, as a result, could not have seen what we sighted take for granted as racialized skin or the multitude of prescribed and proscribed gendered behaviors and body language. And so I set out on an ethnographic study of the lives of people completely ordinary but for their lack of access to vision.

My first question was “What if the defining sense of vision were absent?” The next questions: “Are such basic human characteristics as gender and ethnicity, race and sexual orientation discoveries or inventions of a species dependent on sight? How would we categorize each other, how would we discriminate were it not for the details of vision transmitted to our human brains?”

What better place then to begin my paradoxical non-sightseeing journey than with those who do not have access to vision? I wanted to find out how they fared in a world so rooted in sight, how they survived in a culture where interpersonal systems of knowledge are so embedded in vision. Did they develop an entirely different system, a different first language, and, if so, what was it and how did it stand up to the language of vision?

This project then was something of a vision quest with at least two pre- conceived purposes. The first was to find out what it is like to be blind. The second was to find out what it is like to be sighted, or what I came to think of as normal or ordinary blindness. I was ultimately after the blindness of the sighted.

Page 99 reveals an aspect of “doing gender” and is part of the stories of two blind people, Luke, a blind man, and Flor, a blind woman. Both were very active in the dating world and very interested in knowing how to flirt. Without eye contact, both found it impossible.
Visit Ellen Kaschak's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 8, 2015

Andrew Hartman's "A War for the Soul of America"

Andrew Hartman is associate professor of history at Illinois State University and the author of Education and the Cold War: The Battle for the American School.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars, and reported the following:
Many have regarded the culture wars as a mere sideshow or as a simple byproduct of deindustrialization, but A War for the Soul of America argues that the culture wars were the very public face of America’s struggle over the unprecedented social changes of the late-twentieth-century United States, as the cluster of social norms that had long governed American life began to give way to a new openness to different ideas, identities, and articulations of what it meant to be an American. The hot-button issues like abortion, affirmative action, art, censorship, homosexuality, and multiculturalism that dominated politics in the period were symptoms of the larger struggle, as conservative Americans slowly began to acknowledge—if initially through rejection—some of the fundamental transformations of American life.

The two paragraphs below from Page 99—which is towards the end of Chapter 3, “Taking God’s Country Back”—nicely represent the book. Ronald Reagan might not have been a member of the grassroots Christian Right but the fact that he committed to the conservative culture wars ensured that religious conservatives would vote for him.

From page 99:
Reagan should hardly have been theologically palatable to white evangelicals: despite dabbling in premillennial dispensationalism, a distinctive Christian fundamentalist eschatology in which adherents sought to decode signs of the coming rapture, he also showed interest in Baha’i, astrology, and the Shroud of Turin. As one Carter supporter bitterly pointed out, Reagan was “a Hollywood libertine, had a child conceived out of wedlock before he and Nancy married, admitted to drug use during his Hollywood years, and according to Henry Steele Commager, was one of the least religious presidents in American history.” Yet Reagan won nearly 75 percent of white evangelical voters in 1980—and this should not have puzzled anyone. By unambiguously aligning himself with Christian Right efforts to take God’s country back, Reagan won over conservative evangelicals less interested in his theology or his personal history than in his politics.

Winning over the Christian Right in 1980 was a big deal. In response to developments that they believed imperiled the nation—secularization, feminism, abortion, gay rights—religious conservatives intensified their involvement in political activism. Evangelical leaders told their congregants that it was their duty to inject their religious beliefs into the political sphere. Falwell, in an apparent reversal of his earlier claim that preachers should not participate in the civil rights movement because it was not the role God had called them to, proclaimed: “This idea of ‘religion and politics don’t mix’ was invented by the devil to keep Christians from running their own country.” Tapped by well-connected Republican operatives Paul Weyrich, Richard Viguerie, and Howard Phillips, Falwell founded Moral Majority in 1979 as part of a larger effort to bring religious conservatives into a powerful new political alliance. Falwell justified the need for Moral Majority by arguing that Christian fundamentalists like himself had more in common with similarly orthodox Jews and Catholics “than we ever will with the secularizers of this country. It is time for all religiously committed citizens to unite against our common enemy.”
Learn more about A War for the Soul of America at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Eve MacDonald's "Hannibal: A Hellenistic Life"

Eve MacDonald is an archaeologist, lecturer, and travel guide who has participated in excavations around the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and the Caucasus, including the site of ancient Carthage. She has taught at several universities in the UK and Canada and is currently sessional lecturer, Department of Classics, University of Reading.

MacDonald applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Hannibal: A Hellenistic Life, and reported the following:
‘Will anyone believe that he owed his career and so many great deeds to the fickleness of chance and the favours of fortune?’, asked Napoleon Bonaparte of Hannibal.

It is remarkable how much page 99 of my book passes the page 99 Test. For it falls at the end of the chapter called Legend that describes Hannibal’s most famous deed: the crossing of the Alps with his army and elephants in 218BC. The final page of the chapter looks at Napoleon’s assessment of it all. If there is one modern-ish leader that I believe we can compare Hannibal to it is Napoleon and Napoleon even compared himself to Hannibal. This is history repeating itself in circles.

Here we have ‘Napoleon the strategist reflecting on the Carthaginian military genius and in the same passage pondering the degree that luck or pure bloody-mindedness must have played in Hannibal’s career’. Napoleon’s insights on Hannibal are fascinating. He claims that Hannibal ‘conceived what is scarcely conceivable, and executed what must have been looked upon as impossible’. Both were men of astounding military genius and both took armies across the Alps. When Napoleon did it, two thousand years after Hannibal, his contemporaries were blown away by his success. So imagine what Hannibal’s contemporaries must have thought? Hannibal and Napoleon were men who experienced great successes but whose lives ultimately ended in failure. The thoughts recorded by Napoleon were written down at the end of his life while in exile on St. Helena. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to have Hannibal’s thoughts on the same topic? What, in his own estimation, did he do right and what did he do wrong? It is easy to imagine that Hannibal might have regretted the incredible sacrifice in sheer numbers of men that the Alps crossing cost him. If we believe our sources Hannibal had 40 – 50,000 men with him when he left Spain and it was a shadow of that army that arrived in Italy four months later, perhaps half that many. Hostile locals and the treacherous conditions of the late autumn meant that for many it must have been a death climb. Yet Hannibal’s surviving soldiers remained loyal to their commander, he must have been leader of great charisma to maintain this kind of support and trust from him men.

The Alps remain the most memorable of all Hannibal’s deeds and were instrumental in creating the legend that still rests with us today. For
the impact of the Alps throughout the ages has placed Hannibal’s crossing in the realm of myth …. This most heroic deed played a key role in the psychological impact Hannibal had on the Romans and the people of Italy once he arrived. By taking his army across the Alps and into Italy Hannibal reinforced his reputation for divinely inspired leadership. The Alps were high, mighty, freezing and dangerous. Crossing them was an epic feat of heroes.
Hannibal’s arrival in Italy changed the paradigm of the war and put the Romans on the back foot. He came very close to defeating Rome and although he did not succeed, in the trying Hannibal became a legend. He would go on to be remembered as one of the greatest of all soldiers from antiquity.
Learn more about Hannibal: A Hellenistic Life at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Jon Cowans's "Empire Films and the Crisis of Colonialism, 1946-1959"

Jon Cowans is an associate professor of history at Rutgers University–Newark.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Empire Films and the Crisis of Colonialism, 1946--1959, and reported the following:
Empire Films and the Crisis of Colonialism, 1946-1959, assesses the role popular cinema played in western countries’ reactions to the dismantling of the colonial empires after World War II, and what those films and reviews of them suggest about how American, British, and French people felt about decolonization. The book argues that the films of those years reveal considerable distaste for colonialism but also deeply embedded colonialist mentalities and assumptions of cultural superiority. Although a few films were out-and-out colonialist propaganda or were blatantly racist, while an equally small number were genuinely anti-colonialist, most were “liberal colonialist,” meaning that they favored more liberal, humane, non-racist, and egalitarian approaches toward colonized peoples. “Liberal colonialism,” however, is a fundamentally unstable construct, even an oxymoron, and these films inadvertently revealed the problems inherent in any colonial project that seeks to justify itself on such grounds. If the films’ pleas for equality, downplaying of difference between colonizer and colonized, and flattering visions of humanitarian whites earned sympathy from many western critics – while also, perhaps, building support for last-ditch efforts to preserve colonial dominance – they also helped audiences come to terms with the need for decolonization and for fundamental changes in race relations both at home and abroad.

The passage on page 99 concerns John Ford’s Fort Apache (1948), which has often been mistaken for a traditional western about Indians. Unlike many other Ford films, this one was deeply critical of whites’ mistreatment of American Indians and was a pioneering film in that respect. The passage in question is more descriptive than analytical; before analyzing and contextualizing a film, it was important to recap it for viewers who had not seen it or could not remember it. In that sense, the passage is somewhat unrepresentative, but it conveys how this film, like many others discussed, indicated important changes taking place in popular cinema’s treatment of colonialism.
Learn more about Empire Films and the Crisis of Colonialism, 1946--1959 at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 4, 2015

Michael Neiberg's "Potsdam: The End of World War II and the Remaking of Europe"

Michael Neiberg is a professor of history and the Stimson Chair of the Department of National Security and Strategy at the U.S. Army War College. The author of several award-winning books, Neiberg lives in Carlisle, PA.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Potsdam: The End of World War II and the Remaking of Europe, and reported the following:
Page 99 of the book fortuitously gets to the heart of one of the key themes of Potsdam: how much do individuals really matter in the shaping of great events? Even though Potsdam prominently featured some of the giants of their age (most notably Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and Harry Truman), contemporaries openly doubted that the “great men” of 1945 had much ability to shape the world as they wanted to. Larger geopolitical conditions and the realities shaped by history constrained the so-called Big Three and made some of their policy goals impossible to achieve. In other words, I was interested in seeing how much it really mattered that Churchill and Truman were at Potsdam rather than some other leaders.

Potsdam gives us a fascinating glimpse into this question. Truman had just replaced Franklin Roosevelt, who had died only a few months before the conference. As vice-president, Truman had been completely in the dark about American policies. He did not know what the United States had agreed to at Yalta and could not even see secret diplomatic messages. He did not meet with Roosevelt or his advisors on any serious issues. Still, most of Roosevelt’s advisors observed at Potsdam that little changed in the American position at the conference under this new and inexperienced president.

Page 99 discusses the odd British situation at Potsdam. Churchill brought with him the Labour Party leader and deputy prime minister, Clement Attlee. Britain held an election midway through the conference that shocked everyone by rejecting Churchill and placing Attlee in charge. It is hard to imagine two Englishmen less alike than Churchill and Attlee, yet the positions of the British government hardly changed. Potsdam showed that neither a surprising election nor the death of a legendary American president could change the past, the relative power of the nation-states, or the economic realities of the new global order.
Learn more about Postdam at the Basic Books website.

The Page 99 Test: Dance of the Furies.

The Page 99 Test: The Blood of Free Men.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Carol Berkin's "The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America's Liberties"

Carol Berkin, Presidential Professor of History, Emerita at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, is the author of A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution, First Generations, Jonathan Sewall, and Wondrous Beauty: The Life and Adventures of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America's Liberties, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Madison was heavily invested in the next proposal. It guaranteed the equal right of conscience, freedom of the press, and trial by jury. The rights themselves were uncontroversial, but the umbrella extended to protect them was certain to be challenged. For the proposal denied the state governments as well as the federal government any power to violate these rights.

Antifederalist members of the House recognized this for what it was: a challenge to the sovereign authority of the states. South Carolina’s Thomas Tudor Tucker spoke for them when he declared it best “to leave the state governments to themselves, and not to interfere with them more than they already do.” Many of us, he added, thought federal interference “rather too much” as it was. He demanded that this infraction of state sovereignty be deleted….
While most Americans may assume that Congress welcomed the chance to vote for a bill of rights, they would be wrong. Madison’s own party at the time, the Federalists, dominated the House and they thought discussing a set of amendments was a terrible waste of time. The federal government had no power to infringe on these rights, they said, and besides, the first Congress had far more important things to do than create a ‘parchment barrier” to oppression. Madison however believed it was good politics to pass a bill of rights. Many voters were still wary of the new government exactly because it did not seen fit to make a ringing defense of their rights and many anti-administration Representatives who wanted to preserve the supremacy of the states were eager to harness that wariness. Madison thought a bill of rights would, in modern terms, separate the anti-administration leadership from the base. He persisted— and the House finally began to debate his proposals. The debates revealed a divide that, on other issues, persists even in our own day: where, in a federal system, does ultimate sovereignty lie? Is it with the central government or with the states?
Learn more about The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America's Liberties.

My Book, The Movie: Wondrous Beauty.

My Book, The Movie: The Bill of Rights.

Writers Read: Carol Berkin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 1, 2015

Ralph Young's "Dissent: The History of an American Idea"

Ralph Young is a professor in the Department of History at Temple University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Dissent: The History of an American Idea, and reported the following:
Dissent: The History of an American Idea, is a narrative history of the United States from the standpoint of dissenters—from the perspective of those who did not see eye to eye with the powers that be; who pushed the United States to live up to the lofty ideals and constitutionally guaranteed rights so eloquently expressed in our founding documents. My thesis is that dissent is central to American history. Dissent gave birth to the United States and it has played a significant and influential role in our development ever since. Sometimes dissenters have won important victories, sometimes not, but always they influenced the debate. Dissent, in fact, is one of this nation’s defining characteristics.

Page 99 of Dissent is a transitional page that is representative of the book’s overarching theme. It concludes a section detailing the plight of workers who ultimately discovered that despite their protests and all their efforts to organize unions “the age of the common man did not provide quite as much opportunity for them to advance as it did for bankers, industrialists, and planters.” And then I begin a section on the tragedy that befell the Indians who protested against the Indian Removal Bill. Although they fought courageously against being expelled from their ancestral lands, and although Quakers and other Americans, even politicians such as Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen, ardently supported their cause, they too, like the workers, met with defeat.

From page 99:
The Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw were, in Jackson’s eyes, a barrier to progress. Even though the Cherokee had assimilated to a large degree into white society ... they were still regarded by Jackson and whites living in the southeastern states as uncivilized savages. Naturally, underlying this racist attitude was the basic economic issue of white lust for Indian land. If whites could convince themselves that Indians were inferior and uncivilized, it would ease whatever pangs of conscience that might otherwise have reminded them that the insatiable desire for Indian land in and of itself was dishonorable.

In 1830 Jackson sent a bill to Congress calling for the removal of these five Indian nations to an area west of the Mississippi. However, many humanitarians, largely evangelical Christians and Quakers, protested. They believed that the Indians ... had the right to remain on their ancestral lands.... Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen of New Jersey ... argued that the Indians, living on the continent for thousands of years, had title to the land, not Americans. “Our ancestors,” he reminded senators, “found these people, far removed from the commotions of Europe, exercising all the rights, and enjoying the privileges, of free and independent sovereigns of this new world. They were not a wild and lawless horde of banditti, but lived under the restraints of government.” The whites, when they first arrived, “approached them as friends” but soon began to take over their lands and destroy their way of life. The Indian has been wronged. “Do the obligations of justice,” Frelinghuysen asked rhetorically, “change with the color of the skin?”
Of course the Cherokee were expelled from their lands, forced to endure the infamous “Trail of Tears,” and found that their protests against their treatment were futile.

Still, there are many examples in US history when dissent did achieve remarkable success. The American Revolution, abolitionism, women’s suffrage, the civil rights struggle against Jim Crow, LGBT rights and marriage equality, the antiwar movement during the Vietnam war—although for most of these movements, especially the antiwar movement, eventual success came at an agonizingly slow pace. Still dissenters pushed against the establishment and even when success was elusive they raised questions that forced Americans to rethink the issues and pushed them to make up their minds where they stood.
Learn more about Dissent: The History of an American Idea at the New York University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue