Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Christopher Hemmer's "American Pendulum"

Christopher Hemmer is the Dean and a Professor of International Security Studies at the Air War College. He is the author of Which Lessons Matter? American Foreign Policy Decision Making in the Middle East, 1979–1987.

Hemmer applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, American Pendulum: Recurring Debates in U.S. Grand Strategy, and reported the following:
When I tell people that my book is about U.S. grand strategy, a typical response is, “I did not know we had one.” American Pendulum argues that such skepticism is often based on a misunderstanding of what grand strategy is and should be. Debates about America’s role or inconsistencies in its approach to different security issues should not automatically be seen as a result of strategic confusion or the lack of a grand strategy. The book examines four recurring debates in U.S. grand strategy (unilateralism versus multilateralism, defining the proper role of U.S. values in its foreign policy, prioritizing threats, and calculating whether time is on the side of the United States) and argues that U.S. foreign policy is most likely to go astray not when these debates are at their most pointed, but when the pendulum of the title swings too far in any one direction.

Page 99 grapples with Ronald Reagan’s approach to U.S. grand strategy, which provides an excellent example of the book’s overall themes. Attempting to capture Reagan’s strategy in a way that avoids the caricature of the left (that he was an amiable cipher who got lucky) and the hagiography of the right (that he was a staunch ideologue who proved the merits of conservative dogmatism), this chapter contends that it was more conciliatory parts of Reagan’s grand strategy, which were met with suspicion by those on the right, that deserve the most praise rather than the more confrontational and ideologically pure parts of Reagan’s program.

Tracing issues of continuity and change in American foreign policy is another theme and page 99 hits this, noting that the “Reagan” buildup started under Carter and that Reagan’s approach to the Soviet Union reflected, but modified, earlier debates between proponents of rollback versus containment over whether time was on the side of the United States, arguing that Reagan took an “optimistic path to rollback” where “it was the advantages of the United States that made limited rollback possible, not its weaknesses that made rollback necessary.”

Finally, the frame for page 99 is John Lewis Gaddis’s distinction between symmetrical versus asymmetrical approaches to containment, which is also an accurate reflection of the impact that his unsurpassed Strategies of Containment had on me and on the overall study of U.S. grand strategy.
Learn more about American Pendulum at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 28, 2015

Brian P. Copenhaver's "Magic in Western Culture"

Brian P. Copenhaver is Distinguished Professor and Udvar-Hazy Chair of Philosophy and History at the University of California, Los Angeles.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Magic in Western Culture: From Antiquity to the Enlightenment, and reported the following:
With reverence for the irreverent Ford Madox Ford, from page 99:
Both love and magic are forces, however: they drive the motions of the heavenly bodies, cause the changes of elements, humors, and compounds and power the mutual attraction of all these organs of the living cosmos. Love in Ficino’s physics, spirit (pneuma) in Stoic physics, and force in Newton’s physics have analogous, though not identical, roles. Ficino’s love lacks both the explanatory power of Newton’s force and the systematic coherence of the Stoic pneuma, but all three are terms of scientific intention that aim to explain puzzling features of nature.

Ficino’s ideas about erotic magic are not idiosyncratic. They come from his Platonism. ‘Love is given in Nature,’ Plotinus teaches, and ‘the qualities inducing love induce mutual approach: hence there has arisen an art of magic ... that knits soul to soul.’ In his immanentist, anti-Gnostic moments, Plotinus insists on the organic unity of the world and on the erotic forces binding it together, just as Proclus does in his booklet On Sacrifice, with allusions to the Symposium. Attention to the philosophy, cosmology, and theology in Ficino’s magic reveals a theory that means to respect religious probity, scientific evidence, and philosophical reasoning. Those same norms are honored by On Sacrifice, and – though the resonance of love with magic and physics may be silent for us – it rang loud for Ficino and his contemporaries.”
These paragraphs from page 99 of Magic in Western Culture are about Marsilio Ficino, the philosopher at the focus of the book. These few lines summarize Ficino’s great debts to his ancient sources, especially Plato, Plotinus and Proclus. They also suggest that Ficino’s magic outlasted him, surviving into the age of Isaac Newton.

Ficino, who translated and interpreted Plato, was the leading philosopher of his time and place – Renaissance Italy – at a time when magic was not just respectable but required reading for respected intellectuals like himself and Pico della Mirandola. By the time Newton died in 1727, however, taking magic seriously was something that a serious intellectual like Newton could no longer risk – except in private.

The last part of Magic in Western Culture tells the story of magic’s decline, which Max Weber called ‘disenchantment.’ The first part of the book explains how Western Europe became enchanted in the first place, by thinkers of the first rank like Plato, Plotinus, Proclus and Thomas Aquinas. The middle of the book shows why Hermes Trismegistus did not make the list of Ficino’s sources – because his magic was not ‘Hermetic.’
Learn more about Brian P. Copenhaver and Magic in Western Culture.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Louise L. Stevenson's "Lincoln in the Atlantic World"

Louise L. Stevenson is a professor of history and American studies at Franklin & Marshall College. Her books include Scholarly Means to Evangelical Ends: The New Haven Scholars and the Transformation of Higher Learning in America, 1830-1890 and The Victorian Homefront: American Cultural and Intellectual Life, 1860-1880.

Stevenson applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Lincoln in the Atlantic World, and reported the following:
Why the Beard, why the Atlantic World?

Page 99 in Lincoln in the Atlantic World shows two photographs of Abraham Lincoln. They reveal his efforts to style himself after the model of fashionable young men and political luminaries of the republican Atlantic World.

A clean-shaven, rather pasty-faced Lincoln sat for the first photo by William Marsh, and English immigrant, in Springfield, IL, on May 20, 1860. [photo left; click to enlarge] Two days previously, the Republican Party had nominated the Illinoisan as its candidate in the 1860 presidential contest.

With the election decided, on November 25, 1860, Samuel G. Altschuler posed Lincoln, now the president elect, for another portrait. Experts claim that this photograph is the first to show Lincoln with the sproutings of a beard.

Conventional biographies of the sixteenth president report that he grew the beard in response to a letter that the president had received before the election from Grace Bedell, an 11 year-old from Westfield, NY. As Lincoln replied to her, that’s “partially” so.

Chapter 3 of Lincoln in the Atlantic World reveals that he had larger reasons with their origins in the political upheavals affecting Austria, France, Great Britain, Hungary, and Italy in the late 1840s and 1850s. The campaign of Lajos (Louis) Kossuth to liberate Hungary from Austrian rule especially affected Lincoln. In Springfield, he led a committee that invited the Hungarian to the Illinois capital during his fundraising tour of the United States in 1851 and 1852. Across the country, Kossuth’s hat and neatly trimmed facial hair started a trend. Men could grow a beard and groom it with a new product called “Whiskerando.” Everyone could buy Kossuth hats, liquor bottles, jewelry, handkerchiefs, and wall decorations.

In the 1850s the young, fashion-forward men committed to the Republican Party cause who surrounded Lincoln, like Elmer Ellsworth and John George Nicolay, sprouted facial hair. As Lincoln assumed the presidency of a constitutional government that he called the world’s last best hope is it any wonder that he sought to signal a global audience that he led a government dependent on the consent of the governed? His beard did just that.
Learn more about Lincoln in the Atlantic World at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 25, 2015

Steven Lubet's "The 'Colored Hero' of Harper's Ferry"

Steven Lubet is the Williams Memorial Professor of Law and Director, Bartlit Center for Trial Strategy at Northwestern University School of Law. His books include Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial.

Lubet applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The "Colored Hero" of Harper's Ferry: John Anthony Copeland and the War against Slavery, and reported the following:
African-American resistance to slavery took three forms: flight from the slave states, rescue and support for fugitives, and eventually armed resistance. John Anthony Copeland was one of the few people who engaged in all three. As a child, he fled North Carolina with his parents, eventually settling in Oberlin, Ohio. As a young man, he was one of the leaders of the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, in which a fugitive was wrested from the grasp of slave hunters. And of course, he joined John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, in the failed attempt to free the slaves of Virginia by force.

Page 99 of The “Colored Hero” of Harper’s Ferry: John Anthony Copeland and the War against Slavery falls at the end of the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue in late 1858, when the fugitive John Price, freed only hours earlier from the clutches of slave catchers, was hidden in the home of a conservative college professor. It was impossible for the runaway to remain in Oberlin, so someone had to be recruited to escort him to freedom in Canada. The logical candidate was John Anthony Copeland, who had shown great courage in confronting the forces of slavery. Not only had he led the charge against Price’s kidnappers, but several months earlier he had beaten a deputy U.S. marshal to the ground, as a warning to all slave hunters in Oberlin.

Copeland accepted the mission with the zeal of a dedicated abolitionist, accompanying Price to the African-American community of Chatham, in what is now Ontario. John Brown had been in Chatham only a few months earlier, where he first solidified his plans to invade Virginia. Several Oberlin expatriates had been delegates to Brown’s Chatham Convention, and they would have provided Copeland with his first opportunity to learn about John Brown’s provisional army of liberation.

Brown himself had great admiration for the black men of Oberlin, whom he considered among the vanguard in resistance to slavery. By the middle of the following year, he had contacted John Anthony Copeland and his relative Lewis Sheridan Leary, who became two of only five African Americans who joined the battle of Harper’s Ferry. “Colored Hero” tells the rest of the story, including Copeland’s role in the fighting and his eventual capture and trial at the hands of Virginia’s slaveholders.
Learn more about The "Colored Hero" of Harper's Ferry at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Stephen Lovell's "Russia in the Microphone Age"

Stephen Lovell is Professor of Modern History at King's College London. His books include The Soviet Union: A Very Short Introduction (2009) and The Shadow of War: Russia and the Soviet Union, 1941 to the Present (2010).

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Russia in the Microphone Age: A History of Soviet Radio, 1919-1970, and reported the following:
My book can be summed up as an attempt to explain what radio can tell us about Soviet culture and politics more broadly. The Soviet regime policed its media and propaganda network very closely. It was particularly anxious about the possibility of error and political incorrectness in the largely ‘live’ medium of broadcasting. From the late 1920s radio scripts were subjected to overbearing preliminary censorship. This rather begs the question: did radio have any significance independent of the narrow agenda of the Party - wasn’t it just subservient or parasitic?

In a nutshell, my argument is that, even in an oppressive one-party state that is determined to eliminate ambiguity, the message is shaped by the medium. The arrival in power of the Bolsheviks coincided almost exactly with the invention of sound broadcasting: a ‘newspaper without paper and without distances’, as Lenin called radio in its very early days. By the early 1930s radio was starting to establish itself as an everyday presence in the lives of Soviet urbanites: the Soviet authorities had opted for diffusion networks rather than wireless radio, which meant that 80 per cent of Soviet listeners were getting their radio through wired receiver points in their workplaces or dwellings (which, in the 1930s and for some time afterwards, were often communal).

Radio was a boon to Soviet propagandists for the fact that it could reach even a weakly literate audience and could bring public discourse right into people’s homes. But it was also path-breaking because it could communicate events in a new, remarkably vivid way: in ‘real time’, and from the place where they were occurring. In the 1930s the Soviet media kept the population at a fever pitch of excitement and anxiety. One aspect of this was show trials and the never-ending quest for ‘enemies’; the murder of Sergei Kirov in December 1934, which set the USSR on a steep downward path to terror, was a Soviet ‘JFK moment’, and one that many people experienced at the radio receiver point. But another aspect was ‘socialist sensationalism’: the notion that Sovietness was compatible, even synonymous, with heroism and adventure. Page 99 is about how radio conveyed some of the ‘distance-conquering feats’ of the 1930s: the first unbroken transatlantic flight, the construction projects that extended from deep underground to the summit of the gargantuan planned Palace of Soviets.
Learn more about Russia in the Microphone Age at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Susan Niditch's "The Responsive Self"

Susan Niditch is Samuel Green Professor of Religion at Amherst College.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Responsive Self: Personal Religion in Biblical Literature of the Neo-Babylonian and Persian Periods, and reported the following:
The Responsive Self page 99 mentions subjects that are critical to the study of religion and that engage my interest in the book as a whole: our responses to death, the material and embodied qualities of religious expression, the importance of physical environment in religious experience, the role of prayer, the qualities of the traditional that characterize ritual speech, the meaning of concepts such as symbol, culture, identity, and worldview. On page 99 I am bringing to a close the study of a particular ancient burial site in Khirbet Beit Lei, dating to the late seventh or early sixth century BCE. I describe the physical contours of the cave; an object found in its vicinity; the way the dead are laid out and the personal and decorative items still found on their skeletons, a ring and earring; the writing on the walls, etched by a weary traveler seeking shelter in the cave or by a person who visits to wait upon the dead; and line drawings, rough graffiti etched into the walls of the space, abstract and concrete, e.g. crossed lines, a ship. How does this burial cave, its site and contents, reflect upon religion as lived in ancient Israel and the ways in which human beings try to cope with loss? What do people actually do, physically and materially, to express deeply held values, potent anxieties, personal and cultural identities?

Page 99 is part of a larger study of personal religion as it emerges in evidence of the late biblical period. I am interested in first person speech found in biblical texts, seemingly autobiographical nuances, questions about individual responsibility for sin and punishment, responses to seemingly undeserved suffering, the traditional forms of expression, verbal and non-verbal, that people make their own, the emotional dimensions of characterization in Ruth and Jonah, self-imposed rituals such as vows, and the portrayal of daily and ordinary things and actions that relate in profound ways to worldview and being. The end of page 99 transitions to a discussion of visions, delving further into the experiential dimension of ancient Israelite religion, but you’ll have to turn the page to learn more.
Learn more about The Responsive Self at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

George A. Gonzalez's "The Politics of Star Trek"

George A. Gonzalez is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Miami.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Politics of Star Trek: Justice, War, and the Future, and reported the following:
From page 99:
indicates that the normative core of neoliberalism is the we/they distinction. In the case of the current world system, neoliberalism became hegemonic in the 1980s, in a context where the Reagan Administration was ramping up the Cold War. More specifically, President Ronald Reagan (shifting away from the rhetoric of detente) held that the United States was “a bright beacon of hope and freedom,” and the Soviet Union was an “evil empire.” After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a different foe was identified in Islamofascism—a global movement aimed at secular, modern governments and societies. A similar position was reflected in the “clash of civilizations” thesis—namely, that traditional/religious societies are pitted against modern/secular ones. In 2014, there are efforts to recast Russia as a threat to civilization. Senior Senator and former Republican nominee for President John McCain, for instance, recently castigated Russian President Vladimir V. Putin for being an “unreconstructed Russian imperialist and K.G.B. apparatchik.” He contrasted this with the idea that “America’s greatest strength has always been its hopeful vision of human progress.” Enterprise indicates that these efforts to establish a foe reflect a need to shore up the normative core of the American neoliberal global project.

In pointing out that the normative foundation of neoliberalism is the friend/foe distinction, Enterprise indicates that the normative core of empire and neoliberalism are roughly similar. Notably, Islamofascism is used to anchor the neoliberal world system, and it was used by the Bush Administration to justify the conquest of Iraq. The main component of Hitler and the Nazis’ political/propaganda argumentation was directed at an imaginary coalition of Western bankers and Eastern communists conspiring against Germany. According to Nazi mythology (myopia), Jews were at the center of this worldwide anti-Germany coalition. The Vulcans, in First Contact and Enterprise, are cast as the “they” to humanity’s “we” in the neoliberal Federation. In this context, it is noteworthy that Leonard Nimoy (who was Jewish himself ) held that Vulcans are a metaphor for Jews.
Page 99 is from Chapter 5. The following is a description of this chapter:

Going back to the 1960s, Star Trek made an effective case for world government, pointing somewhat presciently to both the geopolitical and environmental liabilities of the current nation-state system. Star Trek, however, goes further than making a normative case for global government. Its creators also offer three different templates on how to achieve such a world government: (1) federation, (2) empire, and (3) neoliberalism.

In this way, Star Trek helps us to reason through the momentous perils that confront humanity in the modern era—that is, globally devastating war and impending environmental catastrophe (i.e., climate change). Will humanity choose to achieve a global polity through liberal humanism—a concept of universal justice and equality? Alternatively, will we turn to a project of conquest and imperial control to establish stability and environmental sustainability? Finally, will humans rely on an argument of practicality (neoliberalism) to manage global affairs?

In outlining the federation, empire, and neoliberalism paths to world governance, Star Trek describes the normative principles of each. For federation, the normative value propelling the creation of a global polity is liberal humanism—that is, the idea of a classless society, free of ethnic/gender biases. Empire relies on concepts of national (species) superiority and deception. Neoliberalism, while its proponents hold that practical concerns are sufficient to create an international governance structure, Star Trek (Enterprise) posits the compelling argument that concepts of national (species) superiority also serve as the normative foundation of neoliberalism.

Analytically, each of these templates of federation, empire, and neoliberalism can be identified in America’s present leadership of the global economic/political system. Nevertheless, Star Trek demonstrates a bias for the federation form of government—indicating that the solidarity and justice at the heart of federation is the only way to establish an effective, viable, and long-lasting global governance regime. Otherwise, humanity will face ultimate disaster as it seeks to establish world government through empire or neoliberalism.
Learn more about The Politics of Star Trek at the Palgrave Macmillan website.

Writers Read: George A. Gonzalez.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 21, 2015

Emily Conroy-Krutz's "Christian Imperialism"

Emily Conroy-Krutz is a historian of nineteenth-century America specializing in global history of the early American republic. She has particular interests in American ideas about empire and the international dimensions of American religion and reform. Her first book, Christian Imperialism: Converting the World in the Early American Republic, focuses on the American foreign mission movement and American imperialism.

Conroy-Kurtz applied the “Page 99 Test” to Christian Imperialism and reported the following:
Page 99 finds us towards the end of my chapter on mission schools and conversion and one of my favorite stories from the book, about the marriage of an early convert named Audee. Audee and her husband, Babajee, were among the first converts at the American mission in Bombay during the 1830s and their stories are important for our understandings of what this first generation of American foreign missionaries thought conversion would look like and thus what they were trying to accomplish. Audee first came to the missionaries’ attention when Babajee requested baptism while living with a woman outside of marriage. For American missionaries deeply concerned with spreading Anglo-American “civilization” alongside their Protestantism, this would not do. In this respect, Audee was a symbol of many of the complaints that the Americans had about Indian culture and caste. As a widow, caste expectations prevented her remarriage, marking any relationship she had with sin in the eyes of the missionaries. And yet she also presented an opportunity. If the couple were to be married at the mission (as they did), they would be the first Indian couple married there, visibly embracing American gender and religious practices. Page 99 tells the story of Audee’s second Christian wedding after Babajee’s death, a public event designed to show a clear contrast between Christian and Hindu traditions and values. After the missionaries told their American supporters this story, Audee disappears from their records. Her transformation—from an example of the cultural problems that prevented conversion into an example of the possibilities of conversion—had served its purpose.

Audee’s story highlights the ways that American missionaries of this era conflated culture and religion. To be a “true Christian,” they believed, one had to also adopt Anglo-American culture (such as its gender norms). The direction of causality between “civilization” and “Christianity” was unclear, but missionaries were sure that a link existed. When they looked to see evidence of conversion, or even of the possibility of a given people to ever be converted, they looked for signs of civilization. As I discuss throughout the rest of my book, they tended to find those signs largely in the company of empires. The book as a whole is about the ways that those experiences in empire shaped the evangelical understanding of America’s place in the world in the early 19th century. Audee’s story highlights the human dimensions of those experiences.
Visit Emily Conroy-Krutz's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Peter Jones's "Track Two Diplomacy"

Peter Jones is an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, Canada.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Track Two Diplomacy in Theory and Practice, and reported the following:
The Page 99 Test works reasonably well for this book, but is not completely representative of it. In a way, this is no fault of the test; the book is quite wide-ranging in its content and approach and there is probably no single page which meets the test entirely.

Track Two Diplomacy is a conflict resolution method which brings together influential people from different sides of a conflict, on an unofficial basis, to talk and try to jointly develop new ideas as to how the conflict may be better managed or resolved. Proponents of Track Two believe that it can help to break through the barriers that official diplomacy can sometimes place on talks. This often means entering the ‘grey area’ between what governments will talk about (and who they will talk to), and what they often know must be discussed if a problem is to be addressed. Many governments say publicly that they will not talk to this or that group but do so quietly. Track Two is one of the mechanisms used to do so.

The earliest contacts between influential Israelis and Palestinians were conducted in Track Two forums, when it was illegal under Israeli law for a citizen to meet anyone affiliated with the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Similarly, the earliest contacts between people associated with the apartheid government of South Africa and those affiliated with the banned African National Congress took place in Track Two settings. In each case, by holding such discussions at arms’ length from government, and holding them quietly, it was possible to explore whether there was a potential partner, and to begin to identify and map the terrain of compromise, without publicly compromising on a position of principle.

There are many other examples. Throughout the Cold War, high-level unofficial discussions took place between Americans, Soviets and others. These discussions were often run by groups such as Pugwash and the Dartmouth Conferences and the ideas they generated made it into numerous arms control and other agreements. Indeed, Pugwash was awarded a share of the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize for its work. At present, such dialogues have been going for some time between Indians and Pakistanis, Americans and Iranians and amongst the various factions and groups in Afghanistan, to name but a few. While, by design, much of what happens in these discussions is confidential, their results seek to quietly transfer ideas and people between Track Two and official diplomacy. Often, the influence of Track Two is as much about demonstrating that new ways of approaching problems are possible, as it is any specific proposals.

Even though it has been a quiet fixture of international relations for decades, relatively little has been written about Track Two. There have been many articles about specific instances of quiet talks, but little about the field as a whole. This is perhaps not surprising, as most Track Two is done quietly, but it has led to a lot of confusion about the area. The purpose of this book is to ‘de-mystify’ Track Two and to explore what is known about it and where it fits into contemporary international affairs. The book is aimed at both officials, who must interact with Track Two, and students of International Relations. It mixes a review and analysis of the literature on Track Two, with my own insights derived from over 20 years as a practitioner of Track Two.

On page 99 of the book, the question of the role and characteristics of the so-called ‘third party’ is being discussed. The third party in Track Two is the individual or group of individuals who act as the convenor and facilitator of the discussions. This is a very specific role, the understanding of which has emerged through a process of trial and error over many years. Key to this role is that the third party in a Track Two setting does not act like a mediator in a traditional conflict resolution or bargaining situation. For example, it is not the third party’s role in Track Two to propose solutions, like a traditional mediator might, but rather to create a setting in which those in conflict begin to jointly assess the reasons for their conflict and develop together new ideas and proposals as to how it may be resolved. This calls for a very special set of capabilities and personality traits. On page 99, these are being discussed, with reference to what different people who have played this role over the years have said about it.

But the book is much broader than this one subject. It also tackles such issues as how these dialogues are run, how they are funded, who the typical participants are, how the results of these dialogues are ‘transferred’ to official diplomacy and many others. Page 99 does not address these issues. That said, page 99 is broadly reflective of the tone and objectives of the book as a whole in that it seeks to lay out the theory and practice of a particular area of Track Two.
Learn more about Track Two Diplomacy at the Stanford University Press website.

Peter Jones is also the author of Open Skies: Transparency, Confidence-Building, and the End of the Cold War.

The Page 99 Test: Open Skies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Kevin Myers's "Struggles for a Past"

Kevin Myers is Senior Lecturer in Social History and Education at the University of Birmingham.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Struggles for a Past: Irish and Afro-Caribbean Histories in England, 1951-2000, and reported the following:
Immigrants are often blamed for social ills. Unemployment, crime and a sense of social fragmentation are attributed to immigrants and their children. The siren voices ring out; there are too many immigrants; they’re too different; they don’t belong and they’re not prepared to integrate to the national traditions of host societies.

None of this is new. Exactly the same was said about the immigrants who fill the pages of my book, Struggles for a Past. They too were told they didn’t belong, were blamed for social problems, associated with terrorism and subject to extensive official and popular hostility. But these immigrants, and their children, built a place in British society.

One of the ways they did so was by turning to the past. In a wide range of cultural and educational projects, they researched, taught and celebrated histories that turned some cherished national mythologies on their head. For first and second generation immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean and Ireland the story of British civilisation was not freedom and liberty but enslavement, famine and genocide. The legacies of imperialism were the prejudice and racism that blighted their lives in Britain.

But how does a society confront a troubled and divisive history? Page 99 explores one attempt to discuss and to teach the history of the British Empire as ‘the saddest and most terrible theme in history’. Organised by the British Council of Churches in 1975, and strongly influenced by the programmes of race awareness training devised by US psychologist Judith Katz, the Zebra Project encouraged white Christians to revisit the past and own ‘a history of economic exploitation, colonisation and trade in human beings’. The Zebra Project was certainly ambitious and typical of the dynamism of educators acting as a force for good in the world.

But the title of my book, Struggles for a Past, hints at the profound difficulties of acknowledging the legacies of the past in contemporary British society. In a world that has grown used to accepting ‘racial difference’ as a cause of social problems and, in doing so, to accept an essential assumption of racism itself, the work of developing a critical historical consciousness continues.
Learn more about Struggles for a Past at the Manchester University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Daniel Schlozman's "When Movements Anchor Parties"

Daniel Schlozman is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, When Movements Anchor Parties: Electoral Alignments in American History, and reported the following:
When Movements Anchor Parties compares five social movements across American history that confronted American political parties. Two movements forged long-running alliances with parties: organized labor with the Democrats starting in the New Deal years and the Christian Right with the Republicans starting in the late 1970s. Two movements fell apart: the Populists in the 1880s and 1890s and the antiwar movement in the 1960s. The abolitionist movement, finally, got inside the Republican Party but, as Reconstruction fell apart, couldn’t stay inside the party.

Parties accept movements inside their coalitions if they prefer them to other paths to majority. To convince pragmatists inside parties that they’ll be a good electoral bet, movements have must offer resources to parties that they can’t get elsewhere – votes, and the money, time, and networks needed to get votes. In return, parties will deliver policy for their group allies.

Page 99 treats an important episode in the formation of the Christian Right. In 1978, the Internal Revenue Service sought to revoke tax exemptions for schools formed as white-flight havens from the public schools. The backlash stopped the rules, and forged the Christian Right. The IRS received more than a quarter of a million letters against the proposed rules. Congressional hearings reframed the issue from an attack on segregation to an attack on religion by meddlesome bureaucrats. As Newt Gingrich, then a freshman representative explained, “The IRS should collect taxes—not enforce social policy.”

In particular, Page 99 compares the two Congressional chambers’ responses to the proposed IRS rules. The House language, adopted in conference, simply blocked the new rules. With support from all Republicans and the vast majority of Southern Democrats, it passed 297-63; a sizable chunk of Northern Democrats skipped the vote. In the Senate, by contrast, Jesse Helms aimed to forbid the IRS from any spending whatsoever to review private-school tax exemptions, even against schools such as Bob Jones University that admitted to racial discrimination. The debate explicitly referenced race, and the Helms language passed only by vote of 47-43, with the support of every Southern Democrat save one, and the opposition of a dozen Northern Republicans.

The framing in the House foretold a new alignment of religious conservatives with the Republican Party, based around shared opposition to taxes and bureaucrats – and silence on race. “The Senate, in other words,” Page 99 explains, “treated the amendment in traditional terms of racial politics, while in the House it linked to antigovernment conservatism.”
Visit Daniel Schlozman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 14, 2015

Jay Atkinson's "Massacre on the Merrimack"

Jay Atkinson, called “the bard of New England toughness” by Men’s Health magazine, is the author of eight books. Caveman Politics was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Program selection and a finalist for the Discover Great New Writers Award; Ice Time was a Publishers Weekly Notable Book of the Year and a New England Bookseller’s Association bestseller; and Legends of Winter Hill spent seven weeks on the Boston Globe hardcover bestseller list. He has written for the New York Times, Boston Globe, Newsday, Portland Oregonian, Men’s Health, Boston Sunday Herald, and Boston Globe magazine, among other publications. Atkinson teaches writing at Boston University and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times. He grew up hearing Hannah Duston's story in his hometown of Methuen, Massachusetts, which was part of Haverhill until 1726. He lives in Methuen, Massachusetts.

Atkinson applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Massacre on the Merrimack: Hannah Duston's Captivity and Revenge in Colonial America, as well as to other books he's published, and reported the following:
As a scientific experiment, aimed at proving Ford’s hypothesis, I have selected one sentence from page 99 of my last four books.

Massacre on the Merrimack:

“Despite frequent bursts of temper, Frontenac had a sharp wit and didn’t always take himself or his office too seriously.”

Memoirs of a Rugby-Playing Man:

“Surf. Wake up,” I said. “The cops.”

Paradise Road:

“All the swimming pools in that part of the country are above ground, for some reason; you can see their shimmering blue orbs dotting the neighborhoods as you fly out of Midway.”

Tauvernier Street:

Then her eyes, heavy with mascara, flickered over Ryan in a quick appraisal. ‘You’re drunk,” she said.

(Okay, I cheated. That’s two sentences).

These five sentences prove….well, I don’t know what they prove. But Ford’s larger point is a good one. If something is well made, it will show in every detail. Flip over a Chippendale armchair and examine the seat backing. Despite the fact that hardly anyone would do such a thing, the simple, direct, clean elements of the craft that went into the underside of the chair will be on display there as much as anywhere else. Similarly, I can pick up, say, Gustave Flaubert’s A Simple Heart or Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, choose a page at random, and within seconds, I will be possessed by the sure and certain knowledge I’m in the presence of a master.

So, yes Mr. Ford. I get it.
Visit Jay Atkinson's website.

My Book, The Movie: Massacre on the Merrimack.

Writers Read: Jay Atkinson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Lillian Faderman's "The Gay Revolution"

Lillian Faderman is an internationally known scholar of lesbian history and literature, as well as ethnic history and literature. Among her many honors are six Lambda Literary Awards, two American Library Association Awards, and several lifetime achievement awards for scholarship. She is the author of the New York Times Notable Books, Surpassing the Love of Men and Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers.

Faderman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle, and reported the following:
Gay and lesbian civil rights activists always knew that as long as the psychiatrist’s “bible,” The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, classified homosexuality as a mental illness their movement couldn’t get very far: crazies weren’t granted first-class American citizenship. The challenge to social prejudice that passed as “science” began in 1953, when Dr. Evelyn Hooker applied to the National Institute of Mental Health for a grant to study whether homosexuality was a legitimate “diagnostic category.” That’s the story I begin to tell on page 99 of The Gay Revolution.

Dr. Hooker got her grant (though NIMH’s staff jocularly referred to her study as “The Fairy Project”). It involved thirty homosexual men who were a 5 or 6 on the Kinsey scale—exclusively or predominantly homosexual; and thirty heterosexual men who were a 0 or 1. None of them was ever to have been in psychotherapy. She gave each subject an IQ test and then the three standard psychological projective tests: the Rorschach inkblot test; the Thematic Apperception Test (the subjects had to make up stories about human images); and the Make-a-Picture-Story Test (the subjects had to place cut-out figures in various settings and tell a story about them). Next, she matched homosexual with heterosexual for education and IQ. Then she assigned each subject a number and removed from his test all identifying information. Finally, she got the leading experts in each of those tests to try to distinguish between the matched pairs of homosexuals and heterosexuals. If the experts could discern from the tests who the homosexuals were, then homosexuality was legitimately a “diagnostic category.” But if they couldn’t discern—it wasn’t.

The experts agreed only sixteen times. And most of the time they were wrong. Dr. Bruno Klopfer, the worldwide Rorschach expert complained, “There are no clues. I just have to guess.” “These are so similar,” Dr. Mortimer Meyer, the Thematic Apperception expert admitted. Dr. Edward Schneidman, the Make-a-Picture expert said, “If you showed me the protocol for thirty schizophrenics, I’d be surprised if I didn’t get twenty-eight right. But to identify the homosexuals…” The experts were convinced: homosexuality is not a diagnostic category.

The American Psychiatric Association didn’t get around to deleting homosexuality from its bible until 1973. But as an APA president, Dr. Judd Marmor admitted, Dr. Hooker’s research twenty years earlier was “the reference point to which we had to keep coming back.”
Visit Lillian Faderman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Kathryn Rudy's "Postcards on Parchment"

Kathryn M. Rudy is senior lecturer in the School of Art at the University of St. Andrews. She earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University in Art History, and also holds a Licentiate in Mediaeval Studies from the University of Toronto.

Rudy applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Postcards on Parchment: The Social Lives of Medieval Books, and reported the following:
I spent about a decade studying the images in medieval books that didn’t quite fit, thematically or size-wise. And I realised that many of these ‘miniatures’ were not designed for manuscripts, at least not for the ones they landed in. I wrote a book about the other careers that small images could have outside the book and what functions they might have. Sometimes they functioned like postcards. Other times as corporate calling cards, indulgences, or objects on which to swear an oath.

The image of Margaret to which I refer on page 99 [inset left, click to enlarge] is a political print, meant to rally support for Margaret of Austria at the beginning of her reign. She has herself represented as a shepherdess, protecting her lambs from the beasts lurking in the woods. These beasts are the French!
From p. 99; click to enlarge
Cistercian nuns near Brussels stuck their copy of the image in a liturgical manuscript, partly because it was big enough to house and protect the rather strange image of Margaret. This is the only copy of the print that survives, and it did so just because these nuns stuck it in their book.
Learn more about Postcards on Parchment at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Eytan Bayme's "High Holiday Porn"

Eytan Bayme is a graduate of McGill University and a former stage actor.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new memoir, High Holiday Porn, and reported the following:
Page 99 has a break in the middle separating it into two scenes. The first half is about my struggle with school work and exams— something I dealt with through the end of college— and how the only way I could succeed was with my mother’s undivided attention through the studying process; without it, I was helpless to even the slightest distraction. The second half is about finding a psychologist, which was a way my parents urged me to handle the problems I was facing at school. Therapy wasn't the most helpful for me as a teenager because I never knew what I was supposed to talk to my therapist about. And talking in general made me nervous. My understanding of clinical therapy and how it worked was based on what I saw in television and films— neurotic patients lying on couches, talking about sex or their relationship with their father in frank and biting words— the only instructions I was given was that I could talk about anything, which really isn't helpful for a kid anxious about talking in the first place. And so, I often felt like I was supposed to get the therapist to like me, to make him laugh or think I was interesting, which, obviously, didn’t help me solve much.

High Holiday Porn as a whole is about my obsessions — with sex, porn, drugs, being cool, avoiding school work— and how I handled, or attempted to handle, or flat out succumbed to them in disastrous glory. Page 99 probably isn't the funniest or most exciting in the book, but in a sense it lives up to Madox Ford’s statement in the way it progresses from problem to an attempt at finding a solution. Is the “quality” of the whole revealed? I’ll let the reader decide that.
Visit Eytan Bayme's website.

My Book, The Movie: High Holiday Porn.

Writers Read: Eytan Bayme.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Nancy Marie Brown's "Ivory Vikings"

Nancy Marie Brown is the author of six general interest books and one young adult novel: Ivory Vikings: The Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them (September 2015), The Saga of Gudrid the Far-Traveler (the novel; June 2015), Song of the Vikings (2012), The Abacus and the Cross (2010), The Far Traveler (2007), Mendel in the Kitchen (2004), and A Good Horse Has No Color (2001).

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to Ivory Vikings and reported the following:
I think of Ivory Vikings as a biography of the Lewis chessmen, the most famous chessmen in the world. Between one and five-eighths and four inches tall, these chessmen are Norse netsuke, each face individual, each full of quirks. As their curator at the British Museum once said, “Few objects compete with the Lewis chessmen in terms of their popular appeal.”

Yet we know so little about them. Who carved them? Where? When? How did they arrive on the Isle of Lewis in westernmost Scotland, where they were discovered in 1831? No one knows for sure.

Instead of facts about these chessmen, we have clues. Some come from medieval sagas. Others from modern archaeology, art history, forensics, and the history of board games. The story of the Lewis chessmen encompasses the whole history of the Vikings in the North Atlantic, from 793 to 1066, when the sea road connected places we think of as far apart and culturally distinct: Norway and Scotland, Ireland and Iceland, the Orkney Islands and Greenland, the Hebrides and Newfoundland. Their story questions the economics behind the Viking voyages to the west, explores the Viking impact on Scotland, and shows how the whole North Atlantic was dominated by Norway for almost five hundred years, until the Scottish king finally reclaimed his islands in 1266. It reveals the struggle within Viking culture to accommodate Christianity, the ways in which Rome’s rules were flouted, and how orthodoxy eventually prevailed. And finally, the story of the Lewis chessmen brings from the shadows a talented artist of the twelfth century, Margret the Adroit, who may have made the chessmen under a commission from Bishop Pall of Iceland.

Ivory Vikings is organized around the five face pieces: rooks (who in these sets are berserk warriors), bishops, queens, kings, and knights. Flipping to page 99, I find myself in the chapter about the bishops—both chess bishops, of which the Lewis chessmen are the earliest extant examples, and real Scandinavian bishops, including Pall. The page explores several key themes—the luxury trade in walrus ivory; the sea road between Scotland, Iceland, and Greenland; Bishop Pall’s wealth and status. But mostly it points out the unreliability of much of our information about this period of history. It ends, as so much of my research did, with more questions. As such, it represents the entire book: Ivory Vikings passes the Page 99 test.
Visit Nancy Marie Brown's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 4, 2015

Christine Leigh Heyrman's "American Apostles"

Christine Leigh Heyrman is the Robert W. and Shirley P. Grimble Professor of American History at the University of Delaware. She is the author of Commerce and Culture: The Maritime Communities in Colonial Massachusetts, 1690-1750 and Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt, winner of the 1998 Bancroft Prize.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, American Apostles: When Evangelicals Entered the World of Islam, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Legion, the superstitions of these people [the Maltese], but what else could be expected from the centuries of Roman Catholic sway? Jowett glimpsed its most vivid emblem from the terrace of his airy, elegant villa—the looming twin towers of St. John of Jerusalem, a great, gaudy Baroque pile perched near Valletta’s summit. Before the high altar and a huge statue of St. John baptizing Jesus, the congregation bowed their heads and knelt. Now there was a testimony to the power of faith, given how freely the faithful spat on the floor—even the priests and sometimes the women. (“I have never mixed in the crowds at church without some apprehension for my clothes.”) How could the people revere such a clergy—among them that buffoon of a Capuchin month? (Disgusting, his mimicry of a false penitent in his sermon—ranting, laughing, and crying—as if he were standing on a stage instead of a pulpit.) Jowett’s sole satisfaction came from the knowledge that St. John’s exterior walls—built like all of Valletta, from soft, crumbly limestone—were peeling in thin layers. The great church was flaking away like a giant’s sandcastle whenever a sirocco beat up, the wind which made people so melancholy that sadness seeped into their very dreams. But the sirocco did not blow often or hard enough to suit Jowett. Malta’s lying sky nearly always shone clear and serene, as if this island fortress of crusader Catholicism were not every inch as much the dominion of Satan as the lands ruled by the sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Since 1800, it had also been a dominion of Britain.
What a windfall, finding archival sources rich enough to sustain a “point-of-view” narrative like this paragraph. I felt smug, being able to follow my own advice to graduate students: Dramatize, dramatize, dramatize. So enter William Jowett, a key member of American Apostles’ supporting cast, who aired his candid views about Catholics, as well as Jews and Muslims, in long letters to his mother and brother-in-law back in England. A genteel Anglican clergyman in his early 30s headquartered in Valletta, the largest city in Malta, he was the architect of British evangelical missionary policy throughout the Mediterranean in the 1820s. Jowett favored an aggressive approach to converting Muslims, even if it risked the lives of his junior colleagues, the “American apostles” of my book’s title. Western attitudes toward Islam hold the center of my study, but Page 99 introduces the reader to nineteenth-century evangelicals’ equally profound contempt for Roman Catholicism, which they regarded, along with Islam, as the twin horns of the Anti-Christ. Religious periodicals routinely published missionary reports from the Mediterranean and elsewhere in the world that abounded in Catholic-bashing. That polemical barrage played an important role in igniting violence against Catholics in the United States during the 1830s and 1840s, just as missionary magazines exerted a formative influence on American views of Islam.
Learn more about American Apostles at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Samuel Moyn's "Christian Human Rights"

Samuel Moyn is Professor of Law and History at Harvard University and author of The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History. He is coeditor, with Jan Eckel, of The Breakthrough: Human Rights in the 1970s.

Moyn applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Christian Human Rights, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Christian Human Rights comes from the conclusion to the book’s second and most important chapter, which provides an overview of the trajectory of so-called “Christian personalism.”

What was personalism? It matters because it was on the rise during the period of the 1930s and 1940s that Christian Human Rights singles out for study, and because the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) — which still serves as the lodestar of the human rights movement today — repeatedly consecrated “the human person” as the beneficiary of rights.

As Page 99 of Christian Human Rights argues, when we hear the term “person” today we are likely to associate it with Enlightenment German thinker Immanuel Kant’s philosophy, which drew on a long tradition going back to Roman law. And, in turn, we are likely to believe that the whole human rights project is committed to the sort of progressive liberalism with which a series of Kant’s disciples in our day have succeeded in associating his philosophy. In turn, the individualist liberalism of that school of thought is still routinely compared to “communitarian” views that encumber people with traditions of obligation and coercive membership that mark the limit of autonomy.

But if Christian Human Rights is correct, these assumptions make it difficult to grasp the outlook of many of our 1940s ancestors, for whom communitarianism was the necessary premise for any declaration of rights.

In fact, “the human person” in the 1930s and 1940s was associated primarily with Christian social thought, not secular liberalism, whether Kantian or otherwise. The phrase had arisen and become popular in the 1930s among critics of secular liberalism, who joined the large club of observers through the Great Depression insisting that not only the economic liberalism but the moral individualism and therefore the political rights associated with the French Revolution had led humanity badly astray. Such observers called in droves for a wide variety of alternatives, but all of them were premised on restoring some sort of community that the nineteenth century had supposedly ruled out.

As we now know, of course, most of those alternatives themselves failed, even though European Christians of the time generally embraced them with open arms, whether the alternatives took the form of outright fascism or more Christian inflected forms of clerico-fascism or religious authoritarianism. Christian Human Rights tells the story of how Europeans, even as their experiments failed through World War II, never turned back to nineteenth-century secular liberalism, but instead struggled for a vision of the “person” whose moral and political prerogatives would remain compatible with (religious) community and its overriding moral norms.

The Universal Declaration became one landmark in this achievement. In turn, one project from Christian politics of the 1930s did survive, the invention of a new form of “Christian democracy” that would rehabilitate parliamentary rule and individual rights within a larger Christian polity. Not only did the project dominate West European politics after World War II, but it became central to the Cold War struggle against Soviets who now claimed to be the true heirs of the secular French Revolution. More generally, therefore, Christian Human Rights contends that in their inaugural age, the new principles had tight links to the sort of Cold War liberalism that dominated the transatlantic space. Learning from conservatives, liberals gave up much belief in human emancipation to make politics fearful of threats, anxious about sin, and fatalistic in regards to human possibility.

As a transatlantic story, the consecration of “the person” (against the individual) in the 1930s or 1940s for the sake of Christian politics also had some interesting American parallels — not surprisingly given that mainline Protestants still ruled the United States politically and culturally, and regularly saw themselves as part of a much larger Protestant international. John Rawls himself, though later the founder of contemporary academic liberalism, was not yet a Kantian in the 1940s (few were). Instead, he was a Christian thinker. His own sources, and perhaps most especially the Swiss theologian Emil Brunner, convinced him (as Rawls put it in his 1942 Princeton senior thesis) that “an individual is not merely an individual, but a person, and … a society is not a group of individuals but a community.” At the time, he was a world away from his ultimate destination, and therefore from the criticism that his liberalism neglected “community.” Rather, as for so many others, the establishment of Christian community was a prime goal of theory.

Overall, Page 99 of Christian Human Rights, like the larger book, tries to restore human rights to the intellectual ambiance of the 1940s, since so much has changed between then and now. It is easy to forget what human rights meant to their main advocates and audiences when they were first canonized internationally.
Learn more about Christian Human Rights at the University of Pennsylvania Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History.

--Marshal Zeringue