Tuesday, February 28, 2017

R. Scott Hanson's "City of Gods"

R. Scott Hanson is a Lecturer in History at the University of Pennsylvania and an Affiliate of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to City of Gods: Religious Freedom, Immigration, and Pluralism in Flushing, Queens, his first book, and reported the following:
From page 99 (Chapter 3: “Beyond Protestant-Catholic-Jew: The Immigration Act of 1965 and the Religions of New Immigrants in Flushing”):
“Little Kashi”: Hinduism in Flushing
There were thirty-two Indian families in our building of fifty apartments, so specialized as to language, religion, caste, and profession that we did not need to fraternize with anyone but other educated Punjabi-speaking Hindu Jats. There were six families more or less like [ours] (plus Punjabi-speaking Sikh families who seemed friendly in the elevator and politically tame, though we didn’t mingle), and three of the families also had aged parents living in.
—Bharati Mukherjee, Jasmine
In Jasmine, Bharati Mukherjee’s novel about a Punjabi Hindu woman’s life as an Indian immigrant in late-twentieth-century America, the main character lives briefly in Flushing and encounters an already large and well-established South Asian community. Amazed by the variety of ethnic stores and services in the Indo-Pak-Bangla-Afghani shopping district on Main Street (perhaps the first Little India in America, though not the largest), Jasmine later reflects back on her time there: “Flushing was safe, a cocoon to hatch out of.” The community had become so settled that the degree of replicating an entire culture approached what sociologists would call “institutional completeness,” with South Asian groceries; appliance, video, jewelry, and sari stores; beauty salons; newsstands; car services; restaurants; and sweet shops—as well as places of worship and other ethnic organizations. Like other upwardly mobile immigrants who eventually find the familiarity of the ethnic enclave stifling, Jasmine grows restless and soon takes “the #7 train out of the ghetto.” Many who come back still remember Flushing as a primarily South Asian community, and they are surprised to see how it has absorbed other new immigrant groups. Taiwanese and Korean immigrants eventually took over more area as their businesses and institutions grew in central downtown Flushing, but in the 1970s through the 1980s (Jasmine was published in 1989), South Asians were the most visible new immigrant group, and their presence was felt more.

Similar and even larger South Asian commercial areas would form later in Jackson Heights, Richmond Hill, in two areas of Manhattan, and in nearby Edison, New Jersey, as enterprising pioneers from Flushing moved on, but it would remain the mother of the South Asian community in America. People stayed and returned to Flushing not so much for the shops but because it was also where most of the first temples, gurdwaras, and mosques were established. It was a “Little India,” but, more specifically, it also became, as a woman at one of the newer Hindu temples in Flushing put it, a “Little Kashi”—a reference to the city of Varanasi (or Benares or Banaras), India, to which Hindus make pilgrimages to visit ancient temples, bathe in the Ganges River for ritual purification, and where many hope to be taken when they die to have their cremated remains deposited in the water. Some South Asians in America still wish to make that final return to India, but, until then, Flushing would be the principal spiritual location for the greater tristate area (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut) and beyond.
This section on page 99 is a nice excerpt. I love the quotation from Bharati Mukherjee’s novel, Jasmine, about the early South Asian Indian and Pakistani immigrant community in Flushing in the 1970s-80s. I’m especially happy to offer this small tribute to her work, as Bharati Mukherjee passed away on January 28 at the age of 76. Despite the main character’s somewhat negative view of Flushing and the insular immigrant community then, Mukherjee’s novel captures something of that time and place in the wake of the Immigration Act of 1965 when new immigrants would begin to transform the religious landscape of the Flushing from Protestant-Catholic-Jewish to a microcosm of world religions.

You don’t get a sense of the earlier/colonial history of Flushing in this snippet, but the first half of the book covers the period from 1645-1965 tracing the often overlooked history of the origin and defense of religious freedom in Vlissingen (which later anglicized to Flushing when New Amsterdam became New York), its growth up through the 19th century, and its rise to international prominence during the 1939-40 and 1964-65 Worlds Fairs. The excerpt above comes from a second half that focuses on the period from 1965-2001 and a more ethnographic analysis of the recent history of Flushing leading up to 9/11.

The story of Flushing has proven to be timely in light of the recent election of Donald Trump, with the rise in hate crimes against Muslims and other minorities, his controversial travel ban, and talk of a wall along the Mexican border. Many areas that have been undergoing rapid demographic change for the first time in their history voted for Trump, but Flushing shows that it is possible for areas like this to learn to live and thrive with diversity.
Visit R. Scott Hanson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Patricia Illingworth & Wendy E. Parmet's "The Health of Newcomers"

Patricia Illingworth is Professor in the Department of Philosophy and in the D’Amore-McKim College of Business Administration at Northeastern University, where she is also Lecturer in Law. She is the author of AIDS and the Good Society, Trusting Medicine: The Moral Costs of Managed Care, and Us Before Me: Ethics and Social Capital for Global Well-Being. She also blogs for the Huffington Post.

Wendy E. Parmet is George J. and Kathleen Waters Matthews Distinguished Professor of Law and Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, where she directs the program on Health Policy & Law. She is the author of Populations, Public Health, and the Law.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, The Health of Newcomers: Immigration, Health Policy, and the Case for Global Solidarity, and reported the following:
The Health of Newcomers: Immigration, Health Policy, and the Case for Global Solidarity explores the intersections between health and immigration, arguing that xenophobia distorts health policy and fear of disease confounds immigration policy. The book makes the case that because health is a public good, all societies have an ethical duty, as well as a pragmatic need, to protect the health of newcomers. In the end, we conclude that all people should act in solidarity with immigrants.

Page 99 is part of a chapter, "Denying the Right to Health," that considers how nations that purport to respect a right to health treat immigrants. The chapter shows that most nations, including those we think of as providing universal health care, fail to ensure equal access to health care to at least some classes of immigrants. After establishing that international law creates a right to health, we ask on page 99: “What about noncitizen newcomers? Does the right to health apply to them?” We review several sources of international law, including the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights (which the U.S. signed but did not ratify) and the United Nations Declaration on the Human Rights of Individuals Who are Not Nationals of the Country in Which They Live, and conclude that they affirm a nondiscrimination principle which states from denying marginalized populations equal access to health care and the conditions required for health. This principle, we argue, “would appear to apply to newcomers.” Nevertheless, in the pages that follow page 99, we explain that international law is somewhat ambivalent on this point. Other sources of international law provide cover to the common practice of discriminating against some class of non-citizen immigrants. Thus we can say both that the right to health applies to immigrants, but that it does not do so unequivocally.

This ambivalence in the treatment of immigrants with respect to health is one that appears in many arenas, as we document throughout the book. Everywhere we look we see both inclusion and exclusion, xenophobia and solidarity. These inconsistencies undermine the right to health; they also jeopardize the health of all.
Learn more about The Health of Newcomers at the NYU Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 24, 2017

Alex Preda's "Noise"

Alex Preda is professor at King’s College London. He is the author of Framing Finance: The Boundaries of Markets and Modern Capitalism, and coeditor of the Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of Finance.

Preda applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Noise: Living and Trading in Electronic Finance, and reported the following:
Noise. Living and Trading in Electronic Finance is an ethnographic book about why ordinary people engage in financial speculation, and about why they are encouraged to do so. This is puzzling, because there is plenty of evidence that these people lose money in the long run. And yet they do it. Why? The book is based on interviews and close observations with traders from the US and the UK, brokers, and operators of electronic trading platforms. It follows the motivations and dreams of these amateurs, but also the rationales of banks and brokerages that encourage them to trade.

The world of amateur traders may seem completely apart from that of professionals. But is that so? Page 99 is about how ordinary people are transformed into professional traders through trading competitions organized by banks. This is part and parcel of the ways in which banks recruit traders. Every year, young amateur traders enter these competitions hoping that at the finish line they will be offered a job by a bank. Why are competitions so important, and why are amateur traders so eager to engage in them? Participants do not compete with real money. Why do banks use them as a recruitment mechanism?
Competitions organized by investment banks can start with thousands of teams, only a few of whom will finish. Many teams will not trade throughout the entire allotted time, or will abandon the game. Nevertheless, what happens in such contests is that participants who make it through the entire game learn how to make decisions as part of a team. Competitive games are thus designed to replicate and anticipate real life organizational situations, where decisions are made in a team while profit is sought.
Learn more about Noise: Living and Trading in Electronic Finance at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Amy Adamczyk's "Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality"

Amy Adamczyk is Professor of Sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Programs of Doctoral Study in Sociology and Criminal Justice at The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY).

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality: Examining Attitudes across the Globe, and reported the following:
Public opinion about homosexuality varies substantially across the world. While in some countries, like Saudi Arabia, individuals can be killed for having a same-sex relationship, in other places like, the Netherlands, gay rights have been embraced as human rights. Why are there such big differences in how people across the world view this issue? This is the issue that I sought to examine in Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality.

My research drew on survey data from almost ninety societies, case studies of various countries, content analysis of newspaper articles, and in-depth interviews to examine how country and individual characteristics influence acceptance of homosexuality. I found that many of the same individual-level factors that are important for shaping attitudes within nations like the United States are also important in other countries. Hence, across the world on average older people tend to be less tolerant of homosexuality than younger ones. Likewise, on average more religious people are less accepting than less religious individuals.

Aside from individual characteristics I wanted to see whether there was anything in the larger culture that shaped attitudes over and above individual characteristics. I found that there was. Specifically, using public opinion data from the World Values Surveys, I found that more democratic, richer, and less religious nations tended to have more supportive residents. The interesting thing about these three factors is that they had an effect on the attitudes of everyone living in the country. Hence, regardless of how religious a resident was, if he or she lived in a nation where a high proportion of people thought religion was important, the individual was more disapproving. Likewise, regardless of how rich or poor an individual was, if he or she lived in a country where residents on average had high incomes the person tended to be more tolerant. These findings provide insight into why people across the world vary so substantially in how they view homosexuality.

On the 99th page of Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality I am explaining why people living in mainline Protestant nations, almost all of which are located in Europe, have more liberal residents than those living in nations that include a mixture of mainline and conservative Protestant Christians. This page is representative of the book as I try to make the argument that the national culture, in this case the religious context, can shape individuals’ attitudes.
Visit Amy Adamczyk's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Cathal J. Nolan's "The Allure of Battle"

Cathal J. Nolan is Associate Professor of History and Executive Director of the International History Institute at Boston University. His books include a two volume Concise History of World War II; Wars of the Age of Louis XIV, and a two-volume study of The Age of the Wars of Religion. He consults on military history to the PBS series NOVA and various other films.

Nolan applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Allure of Battle: A History of How Wars Have Been Won and Lost, and reported the following:
From page 99:
...militarily significant in itself, this first check to the great Swedish general’s campaign in Germany scarred his reputation for invincibility.

The effect reverberated through the strategic calculations of Europe. Because this made the Swedish position less secure politically, and therefore ultimately also militarily, Gustavus felt compelled to draw Wallenstein out of his trenches and defeat him in an open battle between the main armies. He thought he could entice Wallenstein from his fortified earthworks by moving south into Bavaria to once more ravage territory allied to the Habsburgs and threaten a dash toward Vienna. To draw Wallenstein out of his fixed position, but also desperate to feed his own army, Gustavus pulled out of the trenches and marched off to threaten Vienna again. The Imperials were now free to come out to forage, too. This was the moment when Wallenstein showed a superior strategic ability. He declined the bait and invitation to battle dangled by Gustavus in the south and instead struck out northward. Rather than follow the Swedish king, Wallenstein marched back into Saxony to again threaten Swedish lines of supply and eat out a southern Protestant state and Swedish ally. The main armies thus separated, hungry herds of armed men marching off in mutual feints and to gnaw at the other’s allies. Gustavus was again halted by a brilliant strategy of maneuver that avoided battle yet twice pulled the Protestant army back north by threatening its strategic rear. The two greatest generals of the Thirty Years’ War were proving their worth as commanders not in battle but in the main warcraft of their era: in campaigns of strategic movement, maneuver and supply.

Wallenstein had partly adopted Swedish tactics when he reformed the Imperial Army after its defeat at Breitenfeld, marginally increasing the flexibility of the tercios and significantly increasing their firepower by multiplying the number of musketeers they presented. Moreover, while the Swedes retained a clear qualitative edge, they were a reduced force in numbers and quality from the crisp professional army that crossed the Baltic two years before. Two years of marching and fighting, of disease and desertion, and Sweden’s limited manpower reserves and small population, meant that its army in Germany by 1632 was actually close to 80% foreign mercenary. However, it was still commanded by Swedish generals and was organized and trained to make war in the Swedish style. Also, its critical field artillery was still predominantly Swedish. It was also the turn of the “Lion of the North” to display his own advanced command skills. Making use of the markedly superior training and maneuverability of his Swedish regiments, joined now by thousands of mercenaries and allies he had trained to make war in the Swedish way, Gustavus took the great mercenary general’s bait and marched...
War is too complex to be reduced to a parlor game of ranking generals, too important to indulge armchair nationalism about a putative genius on horseback who supposedly imposed his superior will on history in a bloody morning or afternoon of “decisive battle.” War is far more than the history of generals or battles, even the very grandest. Cannae, Agincourt, Trafalgar, Waterloo, Midway, Dien Bien Phu, all invoke powerful images with a word, recalling in the name of an obscure village in France or Vietnam decades or centuries of war. Yet, many who won famously lopsided battles went on to lose bigger wars: Hannibal won at Cannae; Napoleon at Marengo and Ulm; Hitler’s panzer armies took 650,000 prisoners at Kiev and tore across the steppe. Yet all three ended in catastrophic defeats, as strategic losses mounted in long attritional wars against enemies who refused to accept that one afternoon’s or summer’s tactical outcome would decide the far greater and deeper conflict of matériel and collective will and resolution we call war.

Page 99 touches on several of these themes: how whenever they could even the two greatest generals in the Thirty Years’ War fought wastage campaigns against each other rather than actively pursuing battle; how armies survived through long wars of attrition by training and reserves and logistics, more than by superior generalship over a day or two or three of combat. In the wider chapter and book it is shown how wars among major powers were shaped by a balance of forces that threw up coalitions against fast aggressors; how those who sought quick victory via a battle or campaign too far suffered short-war delusions born of material weakness, not strength. How retributive passions all major wars arouse ensured that most were 15-round title fights, not knock-outs. The book lays out and illustrates these major themes across time, from Rome to the Middle Ages, the Renaissance to Louis XIV and Napoleon, to the obliteration of “genius” and of battle in two total wars of attrition that remade the 20th century and are still shaping the 21st.
Learn more about The Allure of Battle at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 20, 2017

Shobita Parthasarathy's "Patent Politics"

Shobita Parthasarathy is associate professor of public policy and women’s studies at the University of Michigan.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Patent Politics: Life Forms, Markets, and the Public Interest in the United States and Europe, and reported the following:
On page 99 we find ourselves at the European Patent Office (EPO). It is struggling to contend with citizen opposition to a patent covering the Oncomouse, an animal genetically engineered to contract cancer. At first glance, this episode seems strange. Why are environmentalists, animal rights activists, and farmers doing battle in a technical and objective decisionmaking arena like a patent bureaucracy?

In fact, over the last 40 years patent systems across the world have experienced extraordinary scrutiny and opposition related to patents on life forms, including genetically engineered organisms, stem cells, and human genes. The US and European patent systems have handled these controversies differently, despite their seemingly objective nature and the many political and economic similarities between the two places. Most scholars argue that this is the result of minor legal differences including the ordre public clause, which prohibits patents deemed contrary to public policy or morality, which is found in European patent laws.

Patent Politics argues that the differences between the US and European patent systems run far deeper than that, and are consequential beyond the world of biotechnology patent law. Analyzing the life form patent controversies in historical and comparative perspective, it demonstrates that different political cultures, ideologies, and histories have led the two places to actually think about patents quite differently. And through the life form patent controversies, the United States and Europe began to understand appropriate governance—including the role of the patent system—rather differently too. On page 99 [inset left; click to enlarge], we see the EPO’s Technical Board of Appeal, made up of senior technical examiners, acknowledge the moral concerns regarding animal patents; given the perceived objectivity of this body, this is surprising. And ultimately, this episode triggers the EPO to develop new policies and programs to demonstrate responsiveness to the public. In addition, it began to suggest explicitly that the interests of the inventor and the public were separate, and to acknowledge a responsibility to balance them. Meanwhile, US decisionmakers and stakeholders rejected similar protests as irrelevant and borne of ignorance, arguing that the patent system’s role was to make decisions that are procedurally objective based on science and law. Furthermore, they dismissed the idea that the public and inventor’s interests differed.

Patent Politics takes us inside one of the most vigorous controversies over the role of moral, social, and ecological concerns in science and technology policymaking, providing tools for nuanced analysis of these debates. It also helps us rethink current proposals for reforming intellectual property systems.
Visit Shobita Parthasarathy's website, and learn more about Patent Politics at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Matin Durrani and Liz Kalaugher's "Furry Logic"

Liz Kalaugher is a science and environment writer based in Bristol, UK. Fascinated by animals since a childhood encounter with a squashed frog, she is a particular fan of bats, bees and badgers. After winning journalism fellowships from the World Federation of Science Journalists and the European Geosciences Union, Kalaugher has also reported on beluga whales in the Canadian Arctic and Finnish reindeer. She has a materials science degree from Oxford University and a PhD in thin-film diamond.

Matin Durrani is editor of the international magazine Physics World, where he enjoys telling the stories that underpin physics and showing how it impacts so much of everyday life. Based in Bristol, UK, he first became intrigued by how animals use physics after publishing a special issue of Physics World on the subject in 2012. Durrani has a degree in chemical physics and did a PhD and postdoc squashing food gels at Cambridge University before moving into publishing.

Durrani and Kalaugher applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life, and reported the following:
“…the gecko must plonk its feet right up close to the surface it’s trying to cling to; the molecules in its skin and the ceiling must be near enough to attract.“

That’s the first sentence on page 99 of Furry Logic: the Physics of Animal Life. And in many ways it represents the whole book. The page is about an animal - a tokay gecko, in this case – and expands on some of the physics behind that animal’s daily life. Geckos use miniscule adhesion forces to run around upside down on the ceiling, reaching the insects that insect-eaters without these powers can’t.

On the other hand, page 99 is part of chapter two, which showcases animals that employ the physics of forces. The other chapters cover different branches of this science that help animals survive – heat, fluids, sound, electricity and magnetism, and light. And we don’t just write about reptiles, although we do cover red-sided garter snakes, loggerhead turtles, Saharan sand vipers and Komodo dragons as well as geckos. There are mammals – dogs, cats, bats, elephants, California ground squirrels, and mice that lift their tiny pink front paws off the ground whilst they shake themselves dry. Invertebrates like giant squid, octopus and California spiny lobster make an appearance, as do birds such as peacocks and a cuckoo from the slopes of Mount Fuji, and plenty of insects – bees and hornets are arguably the top animal physicists since they make it into the chapters on heat, fluids, electricity and magnetism, and light.

The gecko is similar to some other animals featured in Furry Logic in that scientists have used its physics powers as a model for developing their own technology, making “Geckskin” to help us shin up vertical glass walls. Researchers investigating the harlequin mantis shrimp, for example, have copied the structure of its shell to make impact-resistant panels for aircraft, and designers of micro-air-vehicles are scrutinizing insect flight.

But overall the book is not about the technology inspired by animals. Instead, the animals themselves are the stars of the show, exploiting physics – even if they're not aware of it – to eat, drink, stay warm, communicate or move. Sometimes the physics is simply about attracting a mate. Peacocks woo female peahens by shaking their tail feathers and emitting a sound so low in frequency that we humans can't hear it. They're like an even deeper version of soul crooner Barry White.
Visit the Furry Logic website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Traci Mann's "Secrets from the Eating Lab"

Traci Mann is a Professor of Social and Health Psychology at the University of Minnesota. Her research aims to identify and understand the behaviors associated with eating regulation and body image as well as the process of self-control during health behavior changes. Mann is principal investigator of the Health and Eating Laboratory, which uses diverse research methods to study interesting topics such as increasing food consumption in NASA astronauts, increasing vegetable intake in elementary school children, and the ability of foods to reduce social and physical pain.

Mann applied the “Page 99 Test” to her book, Secrets from the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Secrets from the Eating Lab talks about how "high maintenance" vegetables are, and then gives suggestions for removing this barrier (and others) to eating vegetables. This is actually a good representation of the half of the book that gives scientifically-tested strategies for healthy eating. None of the strategies requires dieting or using willpower (because willpower is a terrible strategy for weight loss and everyone is terrible at it!). All of the strategies are meant to help people reach their leanest livable weight -- the weight at the low end of their set weight range. I argue that people should aim for that weight, because if they go much lower than that, their body rebels and makes it very difficult to keep that weight off. But it is fairly easy to get to and stay at the low end of the set weight range, and that is a perfectly healthy place to be.

The other half of the book talks about why diets don't lead to long term weight loss for most people, and provides evidence that it is not about willpower, but instead is about the physical changes to your body that are caused by dieting. Those changes make it incredibly hard to continue sticking to a diet. That is why most people are better off not dieting.
Visit The Mann Lab website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Jessica O'Reilly's "The Technocratic Antarctic"

Jessica O'Reilly is Assistant Professor in the Department of International Studies at Indiana University Bloomington. She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Technocratic Antarctic: An Ethnography of Scientific Expertise and Environmental Governance, and reported the following:
From page 99:
At this New Zealand biosecurity border, it is assumed that the samples are alive and the ministry required them to be rendered not alive. When that takes place, the danger lies in the samples being compromised to the extent that the anticipated scientific knowledge cannot be credibly read from them. Also, officials from the MAF (now the Ministry for Primary Industry) were not the only ones who conducted the government’s work of giving samples clearance to travel around New Zealand. In this case, as an expert scientist, Demelza participated in this work too, refusing certain devitalization techniques and offering suggestions that were more appropriate for the specific scientific possibilities her Antarctic water contained.
Page 99 of The Technocratic Antarctic takes us into the ethnographic weeds of my fieldwork in and about Antarctica. In this case, my friend Demelza, an Antarctic biogeochemist based in Christchurch, New Zealand, was dealing with her bottles of Antarctic pond water that she brought back to New Zealand to analyze. Her samples got stuck repeatedly in national security borders in the interest of environmental security. Demelza’s samples made it out of the airport after some questioning but it took her over a year to fly them up to the North Island, where the analytical equipment she needed was located. We shared an office in Christchurch, and she spent hours on email and the phone with her advisor and New Zealand officials trying to get those bottles of water cleared for transport.

The samples eventually made it to the proper lab after I moved back to the US. What struck me, as I wrote about it in the book, was the negotiations among experts. Scientists and bureaucrats were invested in projects of national interest—security, broadly defined, and the production of new scientific knowledge, which contributes to policy making as well as state power and legitimacy. Neither group of experts was subservient to the other—the scientists especially refused to “devitalize” their samples in a way that rendered them unable to be analyzed (or defended as robust scientific methods). The New Zealand government representatives, mindful to the expensive, government sponsored research that led to the dilemma, worked with Demelza and her team to find a solution.

This case study is one example of what I call epistemic technocracy, systems of governance enabled by knowledge. Antarctica, with its extreme and sublime nature and isolation, is a continent set aside in the 1959 Antarctic Treaty for “peace and science.” The continent is at once both transnational and intensely national, a place requiring military or military-like logistics to get to and stay alive and a strong measure of environmental protection and scientific cooperation to manage. As such, the spectacular Antarctic is a generative site for knowledge-based governance. The ideals are lofty, but the practice often requires collaborations of experts among disciplines, agencies, interests, and nations that can be bumpy, like the example above.

The people who enliven The Technocractic Antarctic are scientists and policy makers mobilizing their expertise and the technocratic skills to manage a continent through and for scientific research. Resilient, smart, and flexible, these people helped me reconsider bureaucracies as potentially generative sites for working through new ideas and solving problems using service-oriented practices of expertise. Antarctica is a place governed by expertise, with no non-expert public. However, these experts at the bottom of the world connect their work to the rest of the planet, through climate research, policy, and international cooperation.
Learn more about The Technocratic Antarctic at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 13, 2017

Kevin R. C. Gutzman's "Thomas Jefferson - Revolutionary"

Kevin R. C. Gutzman is the New York Times best-selling author of five books, including Thomas Jefferson—Revolutionary: A Radical’s Struggle to Remake America. Gutzman is Professor and Chairman in the Department of History at Western Connecticut State University, and he holds a bachelor’s degree, a master of public affairs degree, and a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin, as well as an MA and a PhD in American history from the University of Virginia.

Gutzman applied the “Page 99 Test” to Thomas Jefferson—Revolutionary and reported the following:
Thomas Jefferson—Revolutionary: A Radical’s Struggle to Remake America argues that Thomas Jefferson was the most important statesman in American history. After an introduction laying out some of his one-off reforms, such as relocating Virginia’s capital to Richmond, conceiving the world’s first decimal currency, and abolishing the Old Dominion’s feudal land tenures, each of the book’s five chapters describes a long-term reform effort.

Page 99 is found toward the beginning of the chapter on freedom of conscience. The chief subject on which it touches is the source of Jefferson’s devotion to this idea. The following excerpt, in which quotations retain Jefferson’s punctuation, amounts to nearly all of page 99:
In short, power in the Virginia elite ultimately depended on ownership of land and slaves, which led to places on courts, on vestries, as militia officers, and in the House of Burgesses. How odd, then, that Jefferson should set out to undermine the Virginia elite’s social position by eliminating the religious establishment, thereby putting religion entirely on a voluntary basis.

Here he seems to have been under the influence of the most radical English thinkers, including John Locke, John Milton, and Anthony Ashley Cooper, the third earl of Shaftesbury. We have no evidence to substantiate the idea that Jefferson was ever a Trinitarian—that is, a Christian. Jefferson was seventeen when he went to the College of William & Mary, and though he had a pretty low opinion of the faculty, he did greatly admire and appreciate the sole layman of the group: Professor William Small. Jefferson credited Small with extensive “rational” conversation and with exposing him to “the system of things in which we are placed”—which is Jefferson-speak for Enlightenment teachings concerning, among other things, religion.

We have extensive notes, apparently compiled when he was in his early thirties, from Jefferson’s reading of Locke and Shaftesbury on matters of government and religion. Those notes tend to support the ideas that government involvement in religion is intellectually inconsistent, that it is contrary to Christ’s example, and that it is a usurpation of the duty of every man. In his notes on Locke and his separate “Notes on Episcopacy,” Jefferson also advocates the sola scriptura–based claim of the radical Protestants, in England and abroad, that “Christ ... does not make it essential that a bishop or presbyter [elder] govern them.”

The notes on Locke’s “A Letter Concerning Toleration” (1689), in particular, foreshadow Jefferson’s later writings on the subject. “Our savior,” he says, “chose not to propagate his religion by temporal pun[ish]m[en]ts or civil incapacitation, if he had it was in his almighty power, but he chose to extend it by it’s influence on reason, thereby showing to others how they should proceed.”
Somewhat to my surprise, Ford Madox Ford’s statement that reading page 99 of a book would reveal “the quality of whole” is true in the case of Thomas Jefferson—Revolutionary: A Radical’s Struggle to Remake America.
Visit Kevin R.C. Gutzman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Louis A. Pérez Jr.'s "Intimations of Modernity"

Louis A. Pérez Jr. is J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as the Academia de la Historia de Cuba, Perez is author of numerous books on Cuban history and culture, including On Becoming Cuban: Identity, Nationality, and Culture and The Structure of Cuban History: Meanings and Purpose of the Past.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Intimations of Modernity: Civil Culture in Nineteenth-Century Cuba, and reported the following:
It happens that page 99 of Intimations of Modernity is the first page of Chapter Four, taken up mostly with epigrams containing quoted passages from three nineteenth-century books by Edward Sullivan (1852), George Walton (1871), and Maturin Ballou (1885), and bearing witness to far-reaching social change overtaking Cuba. Foreign travelers to Cuba were often shrewd observers and faithful chroniclers of a time and place. Many understood the significance–if perhaps not always the implications–of what they observed. They paid attention to detail and were attentive to nuance and subtlety. They moved freely among Cubans, visited homes and workplaces, walked the city streets and traveled the country roads, they sensed the local mood and observed national developments, they recorded conversations and collected anecdotes.

Each traveler quoted on p. 99 took note of a phenomenon: “I fear you cannot always say [that Cuban ladies] lead an innocent existence, flirting being by far their most engrossing occupation,” wrote Sullivan. Walton wrote that he had observed Cuban women “from early morning till late at night . . . coquetting with their fans.” And Ballou wrote of the evening open-air concerts in Havana where “flirtations are carried on.”

The three travelers discerned what serves as one of the principal themes of the book: far-reaching social change registered in changing gender roles. Sugar had lifted Cuba aloft into the heady swirl of foreign commerce, among the advanced capitalist nations of the world–Cubans exulted–to register a presence in transnational market networks. The book explores the culture of capitalism, the way that market forces insinuated themselves into the multiple facets of the daily lives of the men and women of an emerging urban middle class as moral systems and cultural practices. Page 99 speaks to one of the salient transformations wrought by market forces as changing material circumstances altered moral systems, affected cultural forms, and modified social conduct–all revealed in changing gender relations.
Learn more about Intimations of Modernity at the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Lindy Grant's "Blanche of Castile, Queen of France"

Lindy Grant is professor of medieval history, University of Reading, and was previously medieval curator at the Courtauld Institute, London.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Blanche of Castile, Queen of France, and reported the following:
Page 99 lands the reader in the thick of Blanche’s first regency, when she ruled France during the eight year minority of her son, St Louis, between 1226 and 1234. Blanche dealt firmly, as all contemporary rulers did, with fractious barons and a church which disliked contributing to the costs of protecting the realm. Page 99 finds her dealing with equal firmness with the newly-constituted University of Paris. In 1229 the students had got drunk, rioted, and trashed a tavern. They had done much the same in 1200, claiming that they were members of the clergy and could not be prosecuted under secular law. The king, Philip Augustus, determined to retain Paris’s reputation as the ‘new Athens’, supported the students against his own police force. But in 1229, Blanche faced the students down. The tavern they had trashed was church property, and Blanche had the support of the bishop of Paris and the papal legate, Romanus Frangipani. The students went on strike. They left Paris, and scattered to other cities in France. King Henry III of England, who was doing his best to get back French lands lost by his father, King John in 1204, wrote to encourage the disaffected students to move their university to England. He wrote from Reading Abbey – I teach at the University of Reading – and rather suggested the Paris students should reconstitute their University there. I always find it a shame that they went a bit further up the Thames and founded the University at Oxford! The students also attacked Blanche in scabrous songs, accusing her of being the mistress of the papal legate, Romanus. Blanche did what even the formidable king Philip had not dared to do. She held her ground against the students, and within a couple of years they came back. Page 99 shows why a contemporary chronicler compared her to the legendary Persian Empress, Semiramis.
Learn more about Blanche of Castile, Queen of France at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Cat Urbigkit's "Brave & Loyal"

Cat Urbigkit is an author and photographer of nonfiction books for both children and adults. She lives on a working sheep ranch in western Wyoming with her family and her livestock guardian animals, including guardian dogs and burros.

Urbigkit applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Brave and Loyal: An Illustrated Celebration of Livestock Guardian Dogs, and reported the following:
While most of Brave and Loyal tells the stories of livestock guardian dogs and their skills in protecting a weaker species, Page 99 sets the stage for our journeys across Europe to view working guardians and the environments in which they live. As Americans, we were struck by the differences in agricultural systems in Europe.

As page 99 of my book explains:
Although agricultural systems in Europe are much less efficient than similar systems in the United States, we found that difference to our liking, as the result is that more people are involved in, and employed by, agriculture. Rather than crop harvests involving large pieces of mechanical equipment, much of the harvest is conducted with smaller equipment and human labor. Much of the livestock production systems we observed were small subsistence operations. Local diets rely heavily on locally produced foods, especially milk and cheese products from sheep and goat production. The average citizen throughout the regions we visited is more familiar with food production and livestock grazing than most Americans. Most citizens had parents or grandparents recently involved in agricultural production. Society overall seemed to be more aware of pastoral lifestyles than the American public.
Although pastoralists around the globe have many things in common, their political and environmental climates are varied. One common denominator is that their livestock guardian dogs remain in place, doing the same job as they have done for thousands of years: The shepherd’s companion, and flock protector.
Learn more about Brave and Loyal: An Illustrated Celebration of Livestock Guardian Dogs and visit Cat Urbigkit’s Paradise Sheep website.

Coffee with a Canine: Cat Urbigkit & Rena.

Coffee with a Canine: Cat Urbigkit & Hud.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 6, 2017

Joshua Kurlantzick's "A Great Place to Have a War"

Joshua Kurlantzick is Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of the new book A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA. He applied the “Page 99 Test” to the new book and reported the following:
A Great Place to have a War uncovers the biggest covert operation in U.S. history, which took place in the tiny Southeast Asian nation of Laos in the 1960s and early 1970s. The operation has, in its entirety, only recently been revealed. The book tells the story through the lives of four characters, including the CIA operative who masterminded the war, the ethnic Hmong general who managed the war and ultimately saw the battle end in disaster, the U.S. ambassador who expanded the conflict to include the biggest bombing program in American history, and the rogue CIA operative who turned into a kind of real-life version of Marlon Brando’s character in Apocalypse Now. That man, a CIA operative named Tony Poe, wound up living in a jungle fortress in northern Laos surrounded by a tribal army and taking no instructions from his bosses.

The book also shows how the Laos war remade the CIA from a small organization mostly devoting to spying into a massive player in U.S. foreign policy, and one with significant powers to wage war – war with little oversight. The CIA never really gave up these powers, and indeed in many ways the Laos war was the template for the post-9/11 global war on terror. Like in Laos, today’s global battle is a twilight war, led by the CIA, and fought with Americans, including the media and the U.S. Congress, knowing little about it. This twilight type of war has vast implications for the future of foreign policy and the American way of battle.

From page 99:
In 1963, Laos already received more American aid, per capita, than South Vietnam or any other countries in Southeast Asia. Money was power: It meant that the CIA officers could at least claim they would be supported all the way up the chain of command. “The money for Laos was going up, that meant the operation had patrons at higher levels in CIA,” explained John Gunther Dean, a longtime diplomat in Southeast Asia.
Indeed, the Laos war would rapidly expand throughout the 1960s, to include a training program for tens of thousands of Laotian forces and, in part, a massive bombing program designed to support the war and wipe up communist forces. The CIA, and the U.S. embassy in Laos, would try their best to keep U.S. military advisors, the ones who knew the most about actual war-planning, from having any oversight or impact on the battle at all; they kept the U.S. military advisor who was supposed to be co-managing the Laos war out of Laos itself. And so, the CIA gained more and more control over the battle, and the conflict strengthened the CIA enormously. A generation of paramilitary officers came through the CIA during the Laos war, and the Agency’s mission was forever changed. It became a war-fighting organization as much as a spying one, a legacy Laos left for today.
Learn more about A Great Place to Have a War.

The Page 69 Test: Charm Offensive.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Nina Sylvanus's "Patterns in Circulation"

Nina Sylvanus is assistant professor of anthropology at Northeastern University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Patterns in Circulation: Cloth, Gender, and Materiality in West Africa, and reported the following:
Page 99 is about the political significance of the Nana Benz in the small West African nation of Togo. It captures the key themes for chapter 3: “Branding Cloth, Branding Nation,” by showing how human actors, capitalist forces, and the state are bound together in the materiality of cloth. The term Nana Benz refers to the powerful Togolese cloth traders who controlled the West African wax cloth trade from the 1950s to the 1990s, until political crisis and global shifts in production derailed their hold on the economy. Emblematic of the clothing styles of countless women in West Africa and beyond, wax printed cloth has a unique history full of historical twists and turns, spanning colonial circuits of commerce between Europe, Southeast Asia and West Africa, and more recent controversies over piracy, appropriation, and China’s role in Africa. Togo was long the West African center of trade for this kind of wax-print cloth, produced in Europe specifically for West African markets, which brings us back to page 99 and the story of the Nana Benz. The passage below invites us to consider how rituals of state power were shaped by the Nana Benz in material and affective ways.

From page 99:
Echoing Filip de Boeck’s (2012) provocation to think about urbanity as a space that is being scaled and built through the infrastructure of the body, we can make a connection between the grand infrastructures of modernization and the infrastructure of the body that the Nana Benz made possible. They provided corporeal substance and superficial allegiance to Eyadéma’s national-developmentalist state as well as material infrastructure, including their cars. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Nana Benz became part and parcel of Eyadéma’s cult of the dictator. They were folded into his national narrative and became attached to the dictator himself, albeit in ambivalent ways. They would perform rituals of various kinds, including sponsoring a soccer tournament in his honor that showcased a group of younger Nana Benz playing to defend the values of the nation. Like other groups that stood by the dictator and willingly performed their national allegiance by giving their physical bodies to the body of the nation, the Nana Benz also acted as a cultural group that emitted a core economic essence.
Long considered one of the most potent economic and political forces in Togo, the Nana Benz legendarily defined the nation and became a brand unto themselves. But how secure is the link between the Nana Benz and the national heritage brand “Nana Benz”? Questions of brand ownership and authorship arise anew in the neoliberal context as a new generation of cloth traders, “Les Nanettes,” pursue control of the national Nana Benz brand but have the cloth copied and made in China, as later chapters of Patterns in Circulation reveal.
Learn more about Patterns in Circulation at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Thomas J. Hrach's "The Riot Report and the News"

Thomas J. Hrach is associate professor of journalism at the University of Memphis.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Riot Report and the News: How the Kerner Commission Changed Media Coverage of Black America, and reported the following:
The Riot Report and the News is not a long book, only 164 pages in total. So by Page 99, more than half the story of the Kerner Commission has already been told. The commission was an 11 member body appointed in 1967 to study the causes of the riots in American cities. The commission produced a report of more than 500 pages. So on page 99 of my book that focuses on the media criticism contained in the report, a reader would find that writing the report was a bit like trying to write a term paper with more than 20 authors. Everyone had his or her own ideas about what the report should say, and that made putting together a massive 500-page report a daunting task.

But the task was well done. Any reader of the Kerner Report today would find that the document was exceptionally well written. The writers of the report had a bit of history to guide them. It was just four years earlier when the Warren Commission, the group that studied the assassination of John F. Kennedy issued its report. That report was an 888-page tome that was too long and too dense for anyone to digest. But not the Kerner Report. It reads well, which is why to this day the Kerner Report is still often quoted and cited. No one these days quotes any of the prose from the Warren Commission’s report.

On page 99, Bruce Paisner, who was hired to help write the news media part of the Kerner Report, reveals how passionate he was about it saying “at one level we felt we were doing the Lord’s work.” Perhaps that is why people are still writing books about the Kerner Commission and still quoting passages from it.
Learn more about The Riot Report and the News at the University of Massachusetts Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Matthew Lange's "Killing Others"

Matthew Lange is Professor of Sociology at McGill University. He recently published Killing Others: A Natural History of Ethnic Violence and is also author of Educations in Ethnic Violence, Lineages of Despotism and Development, and Comparative-Historical Methods.

Lange applied the “Page 99 Test” to Killing Others and reported the following:
Killing Others explores historical trends in ethnic violence and focuses on two questions: What caused a large increase in the global prevalence of ethnic violence over the past two centuries? How did Western Europe and North America become global leaders in ethnic peace over the past 70 years despite having been world champions of ethnic violence over the previous century? Page 99 is part of a chapter describing how states, education, and religion played important roles creating and popularizing abstract ideas of ethnic and national community. These new communities of strangers contrast starkly with the smaller communities of acquaintances that were common throughout most of human history. The chapter presents a core part of the book’s argument: The development of certain communication and organizational technologies was necessary for ethnic and national consciousnesses to spread among populations, and such consciousnesses are a necessary condition for ethnic violence. Page 99 catches the tail end of the section on religion and the very beginning of a final section describing how—once created—ethnic consciousnesses can sustain themselves without support from states, education, and religion but wax and wane in strength depending on the social context. Considering the Madox test, the page is equally split between two sections and has a big section header in the middle of the page, with insufficient information in either of the sections to know what they are really about. Taken by itself, the page therefore lacks both flow and a clear message. Ford Madox Ford’s method might therefore suggest that this is a book best left alone, so I’m hoping people either take a deeper look or try a different page.
Learn more about Killing Others at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue