Wednesday, July 31, 2019

E. Tory Higgins's "Shared Reality"

E. Tory Higgins is the Stanley Schachter Professor of Psychology, Professor of Business, and Director of the Motivation Science Center at Columbia University. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He is the author of Beyond Pleasure and Pain: How Motivation Works (2012). He has received the Distinguished Scientist Award (the Society of Experimental Social Psychology), the Anneliese Maier Research Award (Alexander von Humboldt Foundation), the William James Fellow Award for Distinguished Achievements in Psychological Science (the American Psychological Society), and the American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions. He is also a recipient of Columbia University's Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching and the Ambady Award for Mentoring Excellence (Society for Personality and Social Psychology).

Higgins applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Shared Reality: What Makes Us Strong and Tears Us Apart, and reported the following:
From page 99:
We have all heard about “horse whisperers.” We recognize that they have a special gift. What is this gift? It is the gift of listening to the inner state of the horse, by carefully studying its expressions and movements (the body language), and responding appropriately. Horse whisperers signal to the horse that what matters to the horse also matters to them. And over time this builds trust. The horse and the whisperer become partners.

Creating a relationship with an animal as a “whisperer” is not restricted to horses as partners. It can be done with many other animals. Dogs are an obvious example because dogs are highly responsive to human social cues. Although most humans who have pet dogs love and care for their dog, this does not make them dog whisperers. Indeed, even among professional dog trainers who know much more than most of us about how to train dogs, only some are dog whisperers. Among dog trainers, the highest level of human-dog relationship is called an “adult-adult relationship.” This is when both the dog and the trainer behave as adult individuals, in contrast to having an adult-child relationship where the trainer takes on the adult role and the dog is given the child role.

What does this adult-adult relationship between dog and trainer look like? A dog and its trainer approach another dog. The trainer’s dog wants to play with this other dog. But it first looks at the trainer to check how the trainer is reacting to this other dog. Is my trainer, my partner, having a positive or a negative reaction to this other dog? If positive, then approach. If negative, then avoid. Importantly, the reverse situation also occurs: where the trainer checks the reaction of his or her dog to a new dog that is approaching them. Is my dog, my partner, having a positive or a negative reaction to this other dog? If positive, then approach. If negative, then avoid. This is an equal, adult-adult relationship where the trainer and the dog as partners learn from each other how to react to a third party. They may not begin with the same emotional reaction to the third party, but they share the relevance of the third party from the beginning. And, then, they converge on how to react to the third party.

This is an example of a dog whisperer. It illustrates how shared relevance can be created with an animal that builds connectedness and trust. For example, if your dog stops and looks at something or sniffs at something, and then checks back with you, you can make eye contact and then pay attention to what he or she is looking at or sniffing at. You can signal that what your dog is treating as being worthy of attention is worthy of your attention too. You create a moment of shared relevance with your dog. It is these moments of shared relevance that we need to experience with other animals. We need to reconnect with them in this way for their sake…and our own sake. We need to overcome the downside of domestication that came with civilization.
If browsers opened my book to page 99 [plus the sentence before and the sentence after], they would get a pretty good idea of a major takeaway message of my book on shared reality: it begins with shared relevance. To connect to other animals and one another, we need to share what matters in the world, what is worthy of our attention. This is what connects us to others. The phenomena of “horse whisperers” and “dog whisperers” illustrate how this works. A human and an animal truly connect when they signal to one another that what you take seriously, I also take seriously. The next step is signaling that how you feel about it, I also feel about it. Page 99 also states the importance of humans reconnecting to other animals by sharing what matters in the world.

These themes in page 99 relate to two important issues that are central to the book. First, in our current world of social bubbles, with each bubble having alternative facts, we need to connect to one another by recognizing that we often have shared relevance—we agree that health matters, education matters, jobs matter, and peace matters. By having this shared reality, we can begin a conversation. Second, the shared reality that produced civilization as a benefit also produced domestication of animals and domestication of ourselves that had downsides as well. We lost the ability to relate to other animals that we had as hunter-gatherers. Learning again how to be “whisperers” can be a very good thing for our relations to other animals, and benefit our own well-being. The upsides and downsides of civilization highlight how our human motivation to create shared reality is central to what makes us human—the best of us and the worst of us.
Learn more about Shared Reality at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 29, 2019

Ethan Schrum's "The Instrumental University"

Ethan Schrum is Associate Professor of History at Azusa Pacific University, and an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Instrumental University: Education in Service of the National Agenda after World War II, and reported the following:
Page 99 is about the search that led to the appointment of G. Holmes Perkins as dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Fine Arts (today known as the Stuart Weitzman School of Design) in 1951. Penn president Harold Stassen created a search committee mostly of professionals from outside the university, including Ralph Walker, president of the American Institute of Architects. Chaired by Penn alum James Kellum Smith of the celebrated architecture firm McKim, Mead, and White, the committee gave Stassen three finalists. Stassen selected Perkins, who was chair of Harvard’s Department of Regional Planning and editor of the Journal of the American Institute of Planners. At Harvard, he had collaborated with famed German émigré Walter Gropius, a pioneer of modernist architecture. Previously, Perkins had worked for the federal government as part of the National Housing Agency and Housing and Home Finance Agency. Perkins accepted the deanship only on the condition that Penn create a city planning program, which led to the establishment of the Department of Land and City Planning (today known as the Department of City and Regional Planning).

The Instrumental University explains how elite research universities reconceived their missions after World War II, reconfiguring themselves in order to stimulate economic growth and solve social problems. The search that produced G. Holmes Perkins’s deanship is not central to this explanation, but the description of the search on page 99 illustrates key points about the book’s message and craftsmanship. Readers opening The Instrumental University to page 99 thus would not immediately grasp the book’s main theme, but the material on page 99 would lead them there. Because the account on page 99 is drawn largely from Stassen’s correspondence, the page exemplifies the craftsmanship of the book, which is based on detailed research in university archives, particularly in the papers of presidents of key institutions.

Penn’s hiring of Perkins as Fine Arts dean is important to the larger story of postwar research universities because it led to perhaps the most influential institutionalization of city planning, a young academic field that exercised outsize influence on those universities. Under Perkins’ deanship, Penn’s city planning program quickly became the country’s largest and most prestigious, attracting celebrated faculty such as Robert Mitchell, William Wheaton, and Martin Meyerson (who would later become Penn’s president). They contributed to the physical transformation of Penn’s campus and its relationship to its Philadelphia surroundings. This transformation included the creation of the West Philadelphia Corporation and the University City Science Center, which embodied new modes of American universities’ relationship with the larger society.

Perkins remained dean for 20 years and exemplified the ethos of the instrumental university in several aspects of his work: his career illustrated the widespread cross-currents between institutions of the New Deal state and universities; he created an organized research unit, the Institute for Urban Studies, intended to promote economic development and tackle social problems such as housing; he solicited patronage for the Institute from government and industry; and he participated in the widespread project of overseas institution building by helping to create the Middle East Technical University of Architecture and City Planning in Turkey. Consequently, page 99, by introducing Perkins, begins to lead the reader to an understanding of some key features of the postwar research university and its role in American life.
Learn more about The Instrumental University at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Liz Skilton's "Tempest: Hurricane Naming and American Culture"

Liz Skilton is an Assistant Professor of History and holds the J.J. Burdin M.D. and Helen B. Burdin/Board of Regents Endowed Professorship in Louisiana Studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Skilton specializes in the history of disaster and human response to it. Her research has been featured in venues like National Geographic and the Washington Post.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Tempest: Hurricane Naming and American Culture, and reported the following:
From page 99:
[…] So it was that, a week after she had first addressed the Steering Committee, Bolton would have a chance to meet with the committee again, this time to plead her case informally. Again, Bolton proposed that alternative names be used, such as those for birds; and again, Bolton’s suggestions were dismissed. Bolton was not dismayed by this response, though. She later recounted how the weathermen fell right into her trap: by denying the use of birds’ names because of the Audubon Society’s objections, they illustrated the negativity associated with the use of names for hurricanes. This was something Bolton pointed out as the debate continued.

Despite Bolton’s vigorous presentations, both in the formal debate and at the luncheon, the committee decided to defer the discussion to the following year. Three weeks after the conference ended, the Weather Bureau’s Steering Committee chair, Karl Johannessen, responded officially to Bolton’s comments. He commended her ‘calm manner of presentation,’ stating that they believed that ‘the majority of women do not hold Mrs. Bolton’s views on the naming of hurricanes.’ This view was based on the information collected from Director Robert Simpson, who stated that, for every letter the NHC received from women requesting the names be changed, there were ten requesting that their name be added to the list. Nor did Johannessen believe that the hurricane-naming system was flawed: ‘The committee did not agree that the present practice of naming hurricanes is derogatory to the female sex, or is viewed as being derogatory by people at large.’ In fact, he further argued, ‘The practice is widely adhered to by all nations involved with hurricanes and typhoons.’ Because no ‘suitable alternative methods’ have been proposed, and because ‘the present practice has the support of the general public, including women,’ the Steering Committee voted to retain the current system.

In the months after Bolton’s first appearance at the Interdepartmental Hurricane Warning Conference, newspapers throughout the country applauded the Weather Bureau’s decision to keep the current system of hurricane naming. “By maintaining the tradition,” declared US Meteorological Director George Cressman, weathermen were simply continuing ‘a part of American heritage.’[…]
Opening Tempest to page 99 is like eavesdropping on a heated conversation. It is easy to pick up the context of the drama and its cast of characters. There is a spirited debate underway over the National Weather Bureau’s (then-current) practice of naming hurricanes exclusively after females (like Audrey, Betsy, and Camille). On one side are preeminent Weather Bureau officials in favor of the feminine system: the chair of a steering committee tasked with reviewing the storm naming practice, the director of the National Hurricane Center, and the overall director of US meteorological affairs. On the other side is a 1970s feminist named Roxcy Bolton.

While page 99 provides little detail on Bolton’s background or the situation that led her to crusade for a change in hurricane names, it is clear from the excerpted text that this is not her first attempt to change the names, nor is it the Weather Bureau’s first attempt to defend the system. The latest round situates them in the heat of the current argument—whether the female-only hurricane naming system could be replaced with a system containing the names of birds (or other wildlife) to remove the association of women with destructive objects. Not surprisingly, weather officials do not agree. With an offhanded retort that “the Audubon Society might object,” they fell into Bolton’s “trap” of pointing out the hypocrisy of a naming system that favored the inclusion of one sex and not the other. Following this verbal misstep, the Weather Bureau scrambled to defend the naming system using well-researched data and proclamations of tradition, eventually deciding to defer a decision on this issue to another day.

As page 99 comes to a close, we are left wondering about the conclusion of the naming debate. Would feminist Roxcy Bolton win? Or the weathermen? Reading past page 99, we already know the final result: eventually, the names changed. Today's system alternates between male- and female-named storms because of debates like the one illustrated on page 99 and others over whether to adopt, keep, and alter a naming system meant to describe disastrous objects. Seventy-five years after first use these names are still highly contentious, causing us to wonder about their origins every year. But as the latest storm–Barry–develops in the Gulf [ed. note: this entry was written on July 11, 2019], we are reminded that no matter what we call them, the hurricane continues to form.
Visit Liz Skilton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Jeremy Slack's "Deported to Death"

Jeremy Slack is Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Texas at El Paso. He is editor of The Shadow of the Wall: Violence and Migration on the U.S.-Mexico Border.

Slack applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Deported to Death: How Drug Violence Is Changing Migration on the US–Mexico Border, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The people who tried to fight back, who resisted, were quickly killed and disposed of in the vats. Those who joined the Zetas “put on the hoods” and disappeared among the ranks of torturers and enforcers, explained Juanito. Then, they are sent off to one of the battlegrounds, such as the western state of Nayarit, or into Central America.

Juanito’s testimony also troubles the very idea of who, exactly, is a Zeta. Was Juanito a Zeta? He worked for them, but certainly against his will. How many so-called “Zetas” are like Juanito, doing the work because to do otherwise means a bullet in the head and your body being dissolved out of existence? This is not to absolve people who participate in these heinous acts as purely victims of a monolithic edifice of unjust drug and immigration policies. We must not lose sight of the fact that there are people with real power and wealth who have actively provoked the misery and death of thousands of people because of their greed and lust for power. However, the brunt of the violence that has reshaped Mexico, and particularly, Mexico’s northern border, in recent years is born by low-level operatives, mostly poor, young males. In the past, people frequently engaged in the illegal economy sporadically, as a supplement to meager wages in Mexico. However, this took a turn during recent years as the level of violence associated with the once rather innocuous activities of drug or human smuggling skyrocketed. These changes have an enormous impact on the lives and activities of people who were once only peripherally involved.

As Shaylih Muehlmann has noted, the slippery slope of involvement creates mental borders between people’s self-defined roles within illegal enterprises that are far harder to distinguish in the material world than in common discourse. Juanito is adamant that he is not and never was a Zeta, and likely, the Zetas would agree, but at what point does participation for survival become participation? Presenting the facade that he was passive and nonthreatening allowed Juanito to avoid recruitment as a full-fledged member of the Zetas. However, this was a ruse to mask his inner strength, which can easily be seen through the sheer evidence of his survival.
Page 99 provides an important insight into some of the key themes in my book. This discussion comes from an interview with Juanito, a survivor of kidnapping by the feared drug cartel Los Zetas. He details how torture is employed to coerce people into joining drug cartels, giving migrants an option to join the criminals by inflicting the same harm on others who are kidnapped. One of the goals of this book is to explore how our prohibitionist drug and immigration policies place people in precarious situations, namely after being deported, dropped on the streets of unfamiliar and highly dangerous border cities, which, in turn, increase violence along the border. In many ways our punitive immigration policies have served as a boon for drug cartels in search of new labor, and an income from constant ransom and extortion. If security along the border were indeed a priority, ensuring the safety of the nearly half million individuals returned to Mexico each year would be an important goal. By incarcerating and removing people to towns, often thousands of miles away from people’s hometowns in Mexico, it creates a group people who are essentially homeless, vulnerable to extortion or kidnapping since no one knows where they are, and with little support or understanding of the current situation in Mexico.

This page is a good example of the type of complicated realities I faced during the over ten years of fieldwork that went into this book. The fourth chapter explores the issue of kidnapping through the experience of Juanito and others, who show how ransom may be an important part of this phenomena but it is far more complex as individuals are tortured, interrogated and forced to participate in inhumane acts. Through interviews and ethnographic fieldwork with migrants and deportees along the entire U.S. Mexico border, Deported to Death explores what happens to people who suddenly find themselves alone in an unfamiliar city, without contacts, resources or protection in some of the most dangerous cities in the world.
Learn more about Deported to Death at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Alyshia Gálvez's "Eating NAFTA"

Alyshia Gálvez is a cultural and medical anthropologist and starting in the Fall of 2019 will be a professor of food studies and anthropology at The New School. Her books include Patient Citizens, Immigrant Mothers Mexican Women, Public Prenatal Care and the Birth Weight Paradox (2011) and Guadalupe in New York: Devotion and the Struggle for Citizenship Rights among Mexican Immigrants (2009).

Gálvez applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Eating NAFTA: Trade, Food Policies, and the Destruction of Mexico, and reported the following:
A reader interested in grasping the basic argument of Eating NAFTA: Trade, Food Policies and the Destruction of Mexico would be well-served by opening to page 99. Page 99 falls in the middle of chapter 4, “NAFTA: Free Trade in the Body,” and on that page, I explain how NAFTA represents a much more drastic change to the food system in Mexico than any prior technological or economic innovations did.

While every historical phase following European conquest and colonization of the Americas implied a march away from indigenous foodways and systems for food production and distribution, none of those prior changes threatened the centrality of a corn-based diet for Mesoamerican people. Even though the Spanish, and later, criollo elites and even modernizing revolutionaries favored wheat over corn and greater consolidation and mechanization of agricultural production, corn and corn tortillas, especially, continued to make up the bulk of the diet of the vast majority of Mexicans well into the 1990s. Small-scale corn production continued to ease economic transitions, modernization, and urbanization, feeding the bulk of the working class and peasant populations in times of change.

NAFTA, however, not only resulted in a massive shift away from small-scale agriculture (discontinuing state programs for subsidizing and supporting distribution of agricultural products) but favored the expansion of industrial food production, distribution and retail. On page 99, readers will learn that Oxxo, a chain of convenience stores owned by Coca Cola subsidiary Femsa, opened its 14,000th store in 2015 and an average of 3 new stores per day, and that for every one that opened, 5 small scale “tiendas” closed. Oxxo, Soriana and Walmart are the main retail food sellers in Mexico, overtaking a food landscape previously dominated by farmers’ markets and food distributors of unprocessed foods. This is not only an expansion of consumption, bringing brand-named snacks and beverages into the reach of Mexicans across the republic, even in geographic locations formerly neglected by industrial food distribution systems, but also a transformation of consumption, making Mexicans some of the world’s leading consumers of soda and processed foods. This is not without consequences: the public health implications of this transformation, including the precipitous rise of Diabetes to number one killer in Mexico, are the subject of much of the rest of my book.
Visit Alyshia Gálvez's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

James Tharin Bradford's "Poppies, Politics, and Power"

James Tharin Bradford is Assistant Professor of History at Berklee College of Music, and Adjunct Lecturer at Babson College. He has published in the Journal of Iranian Studies, Oxford University Handbook of Drug History, and Illegal Cannabis Cultivation in the World.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Poppies, Politics, and Power: Afghanistan and the Global History of Drugs and Diplomacy, and reported the following:
Jumping into page 99 of Poppies, Politics, and Power, puts the readers into one of the most significant shifts in the history of drug policy in Afghanistan. Prior to 1956, Afghanistan was engaged in the quasi-legal sale of raw opium to many European and American pharmaceutical companies. Although in 1945, the Afghan government had announced a ban on the production and sale of opium it did not, however, pass legislation or enforce the law, mainly using the prohibition to convince the United States to sign a massive economic aid package in exchange for a ban on drugs. More important, the lack of legislative action was due in part largely to the fact that the production of opium was common in many parts of Afghanistan, and in some cases, had developed into an important export crop throughout much of the early twentieth century. Many Afghan officials within the Afghan government were reluctant to prohibit a product that could be a potential lucrative source of revenue for one of the poorest countries in the world. By page 99, we are in the thick of the Afghans rationale…
A legal opium industry could become a core export for a state in dire need of one, and through increased trade with the United States, the state would become a powerful ally in a vital region of the world…Seventy-five tons a year would hypothetically add $1.5 million in foreign exchange reserves. Given the outflow in foreign exchange that started at the end of World War II, this was advantageous. The opium export would also provide a stable source of revenue for poor regions of Afghanistan, Badakhshan in particular. (pg 99)
As you are reading this, much of the Afghan rationale for a legal opium industry probably makes sense. However, one of the keys for ratification for legal production and export under the Opium Protocol was that the government needed to demonstrate control over production. And this was the death knell for a possible legal opium industry in Afghanistan. The Afghan government was limited in its capacity to control much of the country, let alone control the opium trade. Recognizing that legalization was unlikely, Daud Khan announced a nationwide prohibition of opium in 1957.

This page 99 test captures an interesting period in Afghan history given that in 1956, the Afghan government almost became an internationally recognized producer of licit opium. However, as the rest of my book details, in the decades following the 1956 deliberations the illicit drug trade in Afghanistan expanded dramatically, to the point where it now supplies nearly 90% of the world’s illicit supply of heroin. It is certainly interesting to think where Afghanistan would be today if they had been granted legal status, and whether the opium trade would be a beneficial part of the legal economy, rather than the world’s leading source of illicit heroin.
Learn more about Poppies, Politics, and Power at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 22, 2019

Nemata Blyden's "African Americans and Africa"

Nemata Blyden is associate professor of history and international affairs at George Washington University. She is the author of West Indians in West Africa, 1808–1880: The African Diaspora in Reverse.

Blyden applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, African Americans and Africa: A New History, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The new nation did not allow for easy acceptance of African Americans as equal and full citizens. By labeling blacks inferior white Americans could justify their shameful treatment of them. In the new century the expansion of democratic rights for whites accompanied a lessening of black rights. The swelling number of free blacks in the postrevolutionary period posed a major problem, particularly in the South. The United States essentially had a free black problem, as those newly emancipated faced more legal restrictions. The flexibility and mobility they had enjoyed in the seventeenth century was gone by the nineteenth. Although Northern blacks had a little more autonomy than their counterparts in the South, they still confronted restrictive legislation and racism. The federal government itself behaved in discriminatory ways, passing immigration and naturalization laws limiting citizenship to whites, and restricting blacks from enlisting in militias or serving as mail carriers, among other things. Individual states also imposed onerous legislation curbing the rights of free blacks. In the South free blacks, especially those who thrived, like the Jones family, exposed the myth of black incapacity. The many successes of free blacks belied Southern justifications that slavery was necessary because those of African descent needed the care and protection of whites to survive. The expanding number of successful blacks like Jehu Jones challenged the very idea of black inferiority.

Slaveholders feared a thriving free population might incite the enslaved to rebel or run away. Consequently, they assigned them to the inferior category in which slaves had been placed. With the growing number of them in the North at war’s end, Southern legislatures passed restrictive laws targeting the free blacks in their states, and curtailing the possibility of freedom for those still in slavery. There were very few free blacks in states like South Carolina and Georgia, although Charleston and Savannah had small populations of affluent blacks. Although laws in many Southern states recognized free blacks, their status was conditional, relying on recognition and validation from white citizens. Regardless of their class and status, all blacks faced restrictions and prohibitions. In most Southern states free blacks had no voting rights and were forced to prove their status. This required them to register with authorities, sometimes to...
I was not necessarily skeptical of this test, but was curious about how it would work for my book which is such a long sweep of history and a particular focus on African American engagement with Africa. I was, therefore, quite pleased with my results. Is it a good “browser’s shortcut?” I am not sure, but it does highlight a very important theme I address throughout the book – the discrimination African Americans have faced in the United States which has sometimes made (makes) them turn their gaze towards Africa. Page 99 (particularly the first paragraph) addresses the diminution of black rights in the United States during the nineteenth century. Increasing discrimination and marginalization of black Americans resulted in loss of rights, increasing racism, and even violence. The nineteenth century saw a hardening of slavery in the South, while blacks in northern states faced legal restrictions and economic competition from a growing immigrant population from Europe. What I have shown in previous chapters is how African descended women and men came to be in the United States, the many adjustments they had to make, how they coped with life in enslavement, the ways they tried to maintain a connection to Africa, and their growing claims on America and its ideals. The chapter from which this page comes, shows the frustration felt by African Americans as they tried to assert their right to citizenship, equality, and to find a place in American society. For some the increasing hostility was a sign that blacks would never be fully accepted as equals in the United States, and they looked to Africa as a possible solution. For many more African Americans, however, the solution was not emigration, but an opportunity to mobilize and fight for equality in the country of their birth, engage in activism against slavery, and assert their right to citizenship. Unfortunately, as subsequent chapters show African Americans continued to face rejection, relegation to the sidelines, and unequal opportunities which ensured that Africa would remain in the consciousness of many.
Learn more about African Americans and Africa at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Pamela D. Toler's "Women Warriors: An Unexpected History"

Armed with a PhD in history, a well-thumbed deck of library cards, and a large bump of curiosity, author, speaker, and historian, Pamela D. Toler translates history for a popular audience. She goes beyond the familiar boundaries of American history to tell stories from other parts of the world as well as history from the other side of the battlefield, the gender line, or the color bar. Toler is the author of eight books of popular history for children and adults, including Women Warriors: An Unexpected History. Her work has appeared in Aramco World, Calliope, History Channel Magazine, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, The Washington Post and

Toler applied the “Page 99 Test” to Women Warriors: An Unexpected History and reported the following:
I went into Women Warriors with a simple definition of women warriors as women for whom battle wasn't a metaphor. It was a nice starting point, but I quickly realized I needed more detailed standards as I sifted through the thousands of possible stories and decided which ones to tell. These were the main criteria that I worked with:
  • Women had to have been part of an army, served as what the modern American military calls a combatant commander, or physically wielded a weapon, even if that meant throwing rocks down from the wall of a besieged city.
  • There had to be some reason to believe a woman actually existed, even if she acquired some mythical elements over time.
  • I wanted women from a variety of time periods, cultures, and social standing. (In other words, not just women from Western Europe and not just queens and their equivalents.)
Twice I consciously chose to fudge on my definitions. To my amusement, page 99 deals with one of those exceptions.

My chapter on warrior queens ended with the story of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who did not lead her forces at the front in World War II even though she had in fact planned to "share the fate of the soldier be the last man to fall in the last ditch." Thwarted in her desire to be a literal warrior queen, she became an emblem of resistance.

I chose to include her story because it illustrates beautifully that the time of warrior queens has largely passed. Wilhelmina took on a new role as queen at the same time that thousands of women had new opportunities to enlist in their countries' military forces as a result of desperate manpower shortages.

Here's Wilhelmina's story as it appears on Page 99:
Informed the army could no longer guarantee her safety, Wilhelmina reluctantly left The Hague and boarded a British destroyer. Once aboard, wearing a life jacket and a steel helmet, she instructed the commander to set his course for Zeeland province, at the southwestern tip of the country, where Dutch and French troops were fighting the Germans. The British commander informed her the sea route to the southwest was too dangerous. His instructions were to go directly to England. She had no choice but to agree. Once she landed, she demanded an immediate return to Holland, and was politely refused. Clutching a gas mask and the steel helmet she had worn on the destroyer, Wilhelmina boarded the train to London.

Unable to join her troops on the battlefield, Wilhelmina found another way to fight. The queen, who had always been separated from her people by custom and her own stiff personality, became the heart of her country’s resistance. Hours after the German attack began, she made her first radio broadcast against the Nazis, declaring over Dutch radio, “I raise a fierce protest against this flagrant violation of good faith, this outrage against all that is decent between civilized states.” She made her next broadcast the day after she arrived in Britain. Every day thereafter, the queen spoke to her people at the start of the Radio Orange program broadcast to the Netherlands by the BBC. Her radio speeches were passionate and personal; with one exception, she wrote them herself. Again and again she told her subjects the war was a struggle between good and evil. There could be no compromise with Hitler and his “gang of war criminals.” She urged her people to resist the invaders and berated the Dutch “scoundrels” who cooperated with the Third Reich. The Dutch joked that the queen’s grandchildren weren’t allowed to listen to her broadcasts from their refuge in Canada because she used such foul language when she talked about the Nazis.

Late in World War II, Winston Churchill quipped, “I fear no man in the world but Queen Wilhelmina.” A ferocious chess player, he recognized the power of a queen in motion.
Visit Pamela D. Toler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Joseph M. Adelman's "Revolutionary Networks"

Joseph M. Adelman is an Assistant Professor in the History Department at Framingham State University in Framingham, Massachusetts.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Revolutionary Networks: The Business and Politics of Printing the News, 1763–1789, and reported the following:
A section break sits in the middle of page 99 of Revolutionary Networks; reading the conclusion of one section and the introduction of another, it turns out, is an awkward way to represent the argument of a book. Nonetheless, it actually provides a decent window into what I aim to accomplish in Revolutionary Networks. The page begins with the conclusion of a section on the interaction between newspaper printers and the Boston Committee of Correspondence, an extralegal organization formed in 1772 to circulate news and information about anti-imperial efforts in the colonies. For obvious reasons, the Committee wanted to enlist the help of Boston printers to circulate their letters and arguments in print (especially their newspapers), but printers balked because committee members sent dozens of requests for printers to publish notices for free. Though many of them had political beliefs that roughly aligned with those of the Committee, they stood up to the Committee and refused to print the letters unless the Committee subsidized their publication.

Members of the committee also tried to build networks beyond Boston, which is where we find them at work on page 99. As they received correspondence from towns around the colonies, they would forward those letters back to newspaper printers in the area from which they came to be reprinted:
For instance, the committee ordered that a copy of resolves from the town of Ashford, Connecticut, offering support for Boston during the Port Act crisis, be delivered “to the Printer of the New London Gazette, desiring him To Print the same.” Along the same lines, Samuel Adams struck up a correspondence with Charleston printer Peter Timothy in the early 1770s and continued the connection after the Tea Act crisis, when Timothy had become secretary to the Charleston Committee of Correspondence.
The final part of page 99 opens a new section on how newspaper printers, the Boston Committee of Correspondence, and others mobilized the pathways they had developed (and which I outline in Revolutionary Networks) to generate opposition to the 1773 Tea Act and then circulate news about the Boston Tea Party. Their efforts form part of the larger story of Revolutionary Networks, in which colonial printers—men and women who were middling artisans rather than elite members of society—shaped the political arguments and actions of the American Revolution through the prism of their commercial interests.
Visit Joseph M. Adelman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Robert Samet's "Deadline: Populism and the Press in Venezuela"

Robert Samet is assistant professor of anthropology at Union College in New York.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Deadline: Populism and the Press in Venezuela, and reported the following:
Deadline is based on fieldwork with crime reporters in Venezuela during the Hugo Chávez era. It began with a seemingly simple question. Why was urban violence out of control? The question was complicated by an atmosphere of extreme political polarization that pitted the private press against the Chávez government. Page 99 lays bare this dynamic. Readers who open to this page find themselves in the middle of a murder mystery. At the center is Jorge Tortoza, a crime photographer killed during the failed April 11, 2002 coup d’état against President Chávez.

I’ll admit that I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized page 99 was occupied by the intertwined stories of Tortoza’s death and the failed coup against Chávez. These materials encapsulate the substance of the book. No episode in recent Venezuelan history has been more closely scrutinized than April 11. On page 99 I am explaining what is widely known among Venezuelan journalists—the private press openly supported the coup.
In the months leading up to April 11, news coverage returned time and again to two subjects: the president’s declining popularity and loud rumblings of discontent within the military. Press elites fanned rumors of a coup, and in at least one important case these elites actively and intentionally planted them. The press also played a pivotal role in promoting the march. The time and place of the demonstration were a relatively last-minute decision and it took a Herculean effort on the part of the private television and radio stations to get the word out. Without the massive pro bono publicity campaign, it is unlikely that anyone would have showed up on the morning of April 11. In addition to promoting the march, some of the more radical news outlets pushed it toward a confrontation. For example, on the morning of April 11 the headline of El Nacional read, ‘The Final Battle Will Be at Miraflores.’ It is not simply that this headline used combative imagery. It seemed to publicly proclaim intent to violate the marching permit by crossing into chavista [i.e., Chávez’s supporters] territory.
April 11 is crucial evidence for the book’s argument. For half a century, the private press has been the main channel for populist mobilization in Venezuela. This point may surprise some readers. Most discussions of Venezuelan politics cast Hugo Chávez as the populist and his opponents in the press as liberal democrats. Working with crime reporters revealed to the contrary the logic of populism suffused everything in Venezuela.

There are parallels between the Venezuelan case and events unfolding in the United States. Chávez’s feud with the Venezuelan press echoes the war of words between our president and the Washington news corps. Conservative media outlets propelled this rising tide of rightwing populism and mainstream journalism has adopted an increasingly populist tone.

It would be a mistake, however, to blame the media for our predicament. This is exactly what happened among Chávez’s supporters in Venezuela. They came to see journalists like Jorge Tortoza as the enemy. His fellow crime journalists believe that his press credentials made him a target. After his death it became known that Tortoza supported the Chávez government. Eventually, both sides of the political aisle—chavismo and the opposition—claimed him as a martyr for their cause. None of this benefited Tortoza, his family, or his fellow crime journalists. Instead, it shows how the spiral of polarization dehumanizes people who might otherwise be allies. As I conclude:

“Setting aside the question of responsibility, there is no doubt that Venezuela’s main media outlets threw their weight behind the effort to oust Chávez. If the people driving these efforts were owners, high-ranking editors, and opinion makers, it was beat journalists like Tortoza who were literally and figuratively caught in the crossfire.”
Learn more about Deadline at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Tyson Reeder's "Smugglers, Pirates, and Patriots"

Tyson Reeder is an editor with The Papers of James Madison at the University of Virginia.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Smugglers, Pirates, and Patriots: Free Trade in the Age of Revolution, and reported the following:
On page 99, Smugglers, Pirates, and Patriots reveals the plummet in Portuguese wine sales occasioned by U.S. independence. It focuses on the Portuguese Atlantic island of Madeira—the most important source of wine in British America before the American Revolution. The page describes the decline with statistics but also with anecdotal evidence of U.S. merchant firms that declined to do business with Madeirans. In the depressed markets of the 1780s, Madeira could no longer turn a profit in America.

On page 99, the audience would read very little about smugglers, pirates, or patriots. They would see, however, a snapshot of an important trend. Prior to independence, British Americans purchased and consumed vast amounts of Portuguese wine, especially from Madeira. Due to their commercial freedom following the American Revolution, Americans explored new wine markets in Spain and France, so they severed most of their commercial ties with Portugal. As a result, Brazil surpassed Portugal as the most enticing destination for American goods in the Portuguese Empire. Because Portugal prohibited trade with their South American colony, U.S. traders targeted Brazil by smuggling.

Convinced that independence and republicanism would free trade from imperial controls, many Americans conspired and cooperated with Brazilian revolutionaries to throw off monarchy in Brazil. Some even accepted dubious commissions from revolutionaries to prey on Portuguese commerce, inhabiting a shadowy legal space between a pirate and a privateer. During the Age of Revolution, empires fractured as they contended with smugglers, pirates, and revolutionaries who sought to trade on their own terms. After independence in 1822, Brazilians adopted a monarchy—a turn unanticipated by most Americans. Free traders in the United States came to accept that Brazil would not become a fellow republic in the Western Hemisphere. Instead, the two nations became fellow slave powers.
Learn more about Smugglers, Pirates, and Patriots at the University of Pennsylvania Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 15, 2019

Nick Haddad's "The Last Butterflies"

Nick Haddad is a professor and senior terrestrial ecologist in the Department of Integrative Biology and the W. K. Kellogg Biological Station at Michigan State University. He lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Haddad applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Last Butterflies: A Scientist's Quest to Save a Rare and Vanishing Creature, and reported the following:
Two threads that connect The Last Butterflies, natural disturbance and the marriage of basic and applied conservation, are in full display on page 99. The butterfly featured on Page 99, the Miami Blue, is iconic in its rapid decline, its extinction, and its resurrection. Once widespread in southern Florida, it was considered extinct in 1992 in the wake of Hurricane Andrew. It was rediscovered in 1999 at Bahia Honda Key, only to die out there again in 2009. A second population was found in the Marquesas in 2006, which is now the only known population, leaving Miami Blues still vulnerable to hurricane driven extinction.

What I did not know at the time I travelled into the tropical storm on page 99 was the role of hurricanes, both positive and negative, for imperiled butterflies. Hurricanes have been implicated in butterfly extinction twice, once when the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane struck Schaus’ Swallowtail’s entire range, and again when Hurricane Andrew struck all remaining Miami Blues in 1992. In both cases, the butterflies were resurrected by later re-discovery. When a hurricane’s eyewall strikes, the wind and storm surge can completely wipe out local butterfly populations.

As with other natural disturbances featured in The Last Butterflies, hurricanes can also have positive effects. Distant from the storm’s eyewall, strong winds can fell trees that overgrow grasses and herbs that caterpillars need. The disturbance can be a regenerative force critical to healthy ecosystems, and to imperiled butterflies.

One central theme of The Last Butterflies crystallizes on Page 99. Basic scientists and applied conservationists must interact closely to pull the rarest butterflies back from the precipice of extinction. Inevitably, given so many actors working in different professional roles on urgent issues, opposing opinions clash.

Page 99 summarizes a poignant case of tension between academics and government agencies. To a lesser degree this issue arises with every butterfly in the book. Agencies carry responsibility for endangered butterflies and invest great effort in conservation. At the same time, we have learned repeatedly that aspects of basic biology are missing for the rarest butterflies. Simple questions (what plants do caterpillars eat?) are later learned to have incomplete answers; discoveries (for example, of a second plant species caterpillars require) arrive nearly too late. Just as applied conservation requires advances in basic science, basic scientists need to take cues from conservationists who have identified barriers and pitfalls in restoration. Knowledge does not flow down a one-way street; an ongoing exchange of knowledge between scientists and conservationists is essential to conservation of the last butterflies.
Visit Nick Haddad's website and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Robin Wolfe Scheffler's "A Contagious Cause"

Robin Wolfe Scheffler is the Leo Marx Career Development Chair in the History and Culture of Science and Technology at the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Contagious Cause: The American Hunt for Cancer Viruses and the Rise of Molecular Medicine, and reported the following:
Opening a copy of A Contagious Cause: The American Hunt for Cancer Viruses and the Rise of Molecular Medicine to page 99 places a reader in the middle of an important episode at the beginning of chapter five, “Managing the Future at the Special Virus Leukemia Program.” On page 99, I discuss the clash of philosophies regarding the pace and urgency of cancer research as they stood at the beginning of the 1960s, just as interest in developing a human cancer vaccine started to peak. In 1958, Congress awarded an immense sum of money—one million dollars—to support the National Cancer Institute’s research into cancer vaccination. However, the leadership of the National Cancer Institute was not yet willing to let public enthusiasm for a cancer cure reshape how it pursued research. One of its administrators approvingly quoted a line from the novelist HG Wells, who wrote in 1929 that “The motive to conquer cancer will not be pity or horror, it will be curiosity to know how and why….Desire for service never made a discovery.” Against this view was the advocacy of anticancer advocates such as Mary Lasker, who had exercised political influence to increase the budget of the National Cancer Institute on the expectation that it would aggressively seek to cure—rather than understand—cancer. A confrontation was thus brewing between the respect for scientific autonomy written into the National Cancer Institute’s practices and the demands for a big science project to rapidly confront cancer.

Applying the page 99 test to A Contagious Cause works surprisingly well. One of the central political and historical questions which attended the rise of molecular medicine is how the study of disease relates to the cure of disease. As the challenges faced by the National Cancer Institute in the 1950s demonstrate, many of the researchers who were supported by the federal government on the expectation that their work would produce a cure for cancer did not embrace this as the goal of their research. Programs such as the Special Virus Leukemia Program and it successors sought to close the gap between biological research and medical advances by managing scientific research using models drawn from the defense industry to accelerate and direct these biomedical researchers. The critique of peer-reviewed research at the National Cancer Institute represented by these programs carried over into the demands for a “moonshot” to cure cancer during the War on Cancer of the 1970s. This created notable battles between molecular biologists, such as James Watson, and the federal government regarding the obligations and rights of scientists supported by public funds.

However, what a reader will miss from page 99 is a sense of why these debates mattered not only as a matter of politics but as a matter of how we have come to understand life at a molecular level. Although efforts to plan and direct biological research met with widespread opposition from biologists of many stripes, the resources funneled into fields such as cancer virus studies—over six billion dollars in contemporary terms—had a transformative effect on the kinds of work that molecular biology could do in the 1970s and 1980s. The infrastructure of these programs was not an incidental but an integral part of important discoveries in the migration of molecular biology from simple to complex organisms, and in the expansion of molecular biology from a niche discipline to a foundational part of the biological sciences as a whole. These are developments I cover in later chapters, but they were not envisioned consequences of the first discussions regarding the organization and accountability of research.

Placing these two stories together—the political and the experimental—is the most important contribution I think A Contagious Cause can make to our understanding of the history of cancer—enabling us to understand how our framing of cancer makes new research possible and in turn how that research presents new ways of understanding cancer possible—but not always in the ways we anticipate.
Learn more about A Contagious Cause at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 12, 2019

Jacquelyn Dowd Hall's "Sisters and Rebels"

Jacquelyn Dowd Hall is the founding director of the Southern Oral History Program and the Julia Cherry Spruill Professor of History Emerita at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of Sisters and Rebels: A Struggle for the Soul of America, Revolt Against Chivalry: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women’s Campaign Against Lynching, and coauthor of the prize-winning Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World.

Hall applied the “Page 99 Test” to Sisters and Rebels and reported the following:
From page 99:
As head of her college YWCA, Katharine helped to redirect students toward doing “our bit” for the soldiers “over there” in pace with the nation’s unprecedented mobilization of resources, achieved in part through the blunt exercise of federal power and in part through an intense propaganda campaign.... Ninety-nine percent of the student body attended self-organized “world democracy classes,” which aimed to “train women for citizenship during and after the war.” Soon they were characteriz­ing themselves ... as “citizens of this great nation of ours.... A new world-order was being established,” explained the student yearbook, “and as we awakened to this fact we began to prepare ourselves for service.”
I definitely wouldn’t choose this page to introduce browsers to my book. It serves more as a bridge to than as an expression of the main points of the chapter in which it appears. Still, read in context, it does forward my story. That context is set on the previous page: “‘If the war didn’t happen to kill you,’ a char­acter in one of George Orwell’s novels observed, ‘it was bound to set you thinking.’ For the first time, many Southerners found themselves with money in their pockets, jobs in industry, or plans to set sail for distant shores.... Coming to adulthood during these world-changing years, Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin and her sister Grace Lumpkin joined a postwar generation of women who found new routes to self-making in the opportunities opened by the war.”

Born into a former slaveholding family at the end of the 19th century, the Lumpkin sisters had been drilled in the tenets of white supremacy, reverence for the Confederacy, and acceptance of male authority and women’s “secondary and supplementary” role. On page 99 Katharine is a student at a small, all-white college for women in North Georgia. She has already encountered the eye-opening message of the social gospel and thrown in her lot with the YWCA, the most influential progressive force on college campuses at the time. In the pages that follow, the war creates unprecedented opportunities for black women to participate in the organization, and Katharine finds herself called to work on a basis of equality with her black peers for the first time. Her assumptions about racial superiority and inferiority begin to fall away. But she is still vulnerable to the pull of a racist past. Similarly, while she and other student activists had opposed U.S. entry into the war, they, like many others, were swept away by Woodrow Wilson's promise that this war would end wars and make the world safe for democracy. Page 99 shows young women succumbing to nationalist propaganda, but it points forward to a fount of future peace and antiracist activism, as many come to see the war as a catastrophic con­flict driven by imperialist rivalries and war profiteering. It also anticipates the ways in which their involvement in war work, both at home and abroad, leads them to see themselves as full-fledged citizens in a way they never had before.
Visit Jacquelyn Dowd Hall's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Kajsa Norman's "Sweden's Dark Soul"

Kajsa Norman, a London-based investigative journalist and author, has previously published books on Cuba, Zimbabwe and Venezuela. She has also served as a press and information officer for the Swedish Armed Forces in Afghanistan and Mali. Her books include Bridge Over Blood River: The Rise and Fall of the Afrikaners, and A Hero's Curse: The Perpetual Liberation of Venezuela.

Norman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Sweden's Dark Soul: The Unravelling of a Utopia, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Sweden’s Dark Soul – The Unraveling of a Utopia, the reader accompanies one of the book’s protagonists, Chang Frick, as he meets his father for the first time since he was a young boy:
Every so often, growing up, Chang catches a glimpse of his father. He sees him drive past, or turn a corner somewhere in the village, but he never stops.

Sometimes Chang bikes past his house. He can describe every white brick of the bottom floor with his eyes closed. The second floor is yellow and made of wood, as though it was added at a later stage. The yard is full of trucks, the odd excavator, and lots of old-school American cars parked on the grass. Most vehicles stay around for a week or two before being sold. By keeping track of the inventory parked outside the house, Chang has a pretty good idea of the state of business.

One day, Chang decides to stop and ring the doorbell. He has been told he is the spitting image of his father, but the man who opens the door is old and white-haired. There is an air of virility and authority about him that Chang did not expect. If Georg is surprised to see him, his face does not betray it. He simply steps aside, allowing Chang in, as though visits from his son are normal and expected.
Chang was born and raised in Sweden, but his dark hair and features, combined with his parents’ inability to adjust to the strict norms that govern life in rural Sweden, make him an outcast. In a country that claims to be open and accepting of all, Chang never feels welcome. Over time, the tendency of Swedes to emphatically maintain a moral position while at the same time actively participate in its violation becomes a thorn in Chang’s side. As an adult, he sets out to expose this hypocrisy. The reader will get to know him intimately as it is he who uncovers the heinous crime that forms the backdrop of the book – the mass sexual assaults of teenage and pre-teenage girls at a music festival in Stockholm. Hundreds of girls are assaulted in a public place, at a tax-financed event, under the supposed supervision of responsible adults, but for some, unspoken reason, there is no action, no justice, no story.
Visit Kajsa Norman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Sharon Marcus's "The Drama of Celebrity"

Sharon Marcus is the Orlando Harriman Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She is a founding editor of Public Books and the author of the award-winning Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England and Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London.

Marcus applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Drama of Celebrity, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Drama of Celebrity starts with a discussion of an image reproduced on page 98: a splendid color portrait of the actress Maude Adams, which a scrapbook compiler tore out of a magazine and glued into an album. I describe the act of placing a magazine page in an album as “resituation.” Media scholars often talk about remediation: examples of that include turning a record into a CD, or a piece of paper into a PDF. Resituation is even more bare bones: the medium doesn’t change, someone simply moves a piece of media – from a magazine to an album, or from one website to another.

Page 99 then shifts to discussing a typical page from a typical theater scrapbook compiled in 1892. In the 1890s, millions of people attended the theater every year, and the woman who compiled this 1892 scrapbook went to the theater a few times a week. Her album featured preprinted rubrics that prompted the compiler to list “Impressions of the Play,” “Criticisms of the Performance,” and “Criticism of Individual Actors.” Like many compilers, this one was as interested in describing her social experience as her theatrical one. She did comment on the actors, but under “Impressions of the Play,” she talked about where she went to dinner.

Page 99 is typical of my book in several ways. The page discusses theater, and my book argues that to understand celebrity culture, we need to understand its theatrical origins, to go back before the Internet and before Hollywood. Page 99 is about scrapbooks, and my book draws on hundreds of 19th- and early 20th-century scrapbooks to reconstruct how fans responded to celebrities before the Internet. Most tellingly, page 99 discusses how fans interact with media that represent celebrities, which exemplifies my book’s definition of celebrity: it results from the unpredictable interactions of publics, media, and celebrities themselves. Throughout, I try to focus on the most ordinary fans – not the stalkers, not the energetic, creative folks who write fan fiction, but the millions of people whose “brief acts of attention,” such as compiling scrapbooks, sustain celebrity culture. When it comes to twentieth-century stars, we usually have film or video footage that allows us to see them in action and witness how audiences responded to them. For nineteenth-century celebrities, we need to turn to neglected sources like these scrapbooks to understand how publics perceived them.
Learn more about The Drama of Celebrity at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Adia Harvey Wingfield's "Flatlining"

Adia Harvey Wingfield is Professor of Sociology at Washington University in St. Louis. She is a regular contributor to Slate, Harvard Business Review, and the Atlantic. She is the author of several books, including No More Invisible Man: Race and Gender in Men's Work.

Wingfield applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Flatlining: Race, Work, and Health Care in the New Economy, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Callie is a black woman who works as a patient care technician on a mother-baby floor in a university hospital on the East Coast. She describes it as a “very prestigious hospital,” and it is in fact affiliated with one of the best universities in the United States. Most of the patients she sees are white and well off, and though some patients of color are admitted to the hospital, they are in the minority. After working there for several years, Callie, like many other technicians in this study, came to view her work as a stepping-stone in her career progression. She really wanted to move into nursing and was taking classes that would go toward her nursing degree. She saw this as a way to have more of an impact and to focus more fully on patient care.
Page 99 is the beginning of a chapter about black technicians and the ways that changes to how we work affect them. Since it’s the beginning of a chapter, it only gets half a page, so the page 99 test is at a bit of a disadvantage! Callie’s narrative is the beginning of one segment of a much larger story.

What happens to black professionals in a new economy where the social contract between organizations and labor is increasingly frayed? In an era of technological advancement, diminishing protections for workers, and growing income inequality, organizations today prioritize shedding labor, cutting costs, and increasing shareholder returns. These changes mean that even in “good jobs,” workers have fewer protections from downsizing or termination, rely heavily on social networks when seeking employment, change jobs more frequently, and experience greater economic uncertainty. At the same time, many organizations also profess an interest in meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse population, and many express support for including workers of color in professional jobs. How does this tension between greater diversity and shrinking support for workers impact black professionals? How do they navigate professional jobs in an environment where organizations tout a commitment to diversity but labor power is weakened?

Flatlining focuses on black professionals in the health care industry to answer these questions. Using multiple methodological approaches, I show how broader economic and structural changes fundamentally reoriented professional jobs, impacting the work black professionals do within and outside of their places of employment. This labor varies by occupational status and gender, leaving black men and women with divergent responsibilities depending on their position in the organizational hierarchy. As a result, professional work today comes with a different set of challenges for black employees, revealing complicated issues for organizations and new mechanisms of racial inequality in the workplace.
Learn more about Flatlining at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 8, 2019

John White's "The Contemporary Western"

John White teaches film studies at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. He is co-editor of Fifty Key British Films (2008), Fifty Key American Films (2009) and The Routledge Encyclopedia of Films (2014). He recently contributed chapters to books on Budd Boetticher and Delmer Daves in the Edinburgh University Press ReFocus series, and is the author of Westerns (2011) and European Art Cinema (2017).

White applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Contemporary Western: An American Genre Post 9/11, and reported the following:
From page 99:
In acknowledging Glass’s story as one amongst many used in the formation of U.S. national identity, we are beginning to consider the concept of ‘American exceptionalism’. In order to understand America and Americans as in some ways ‘special’ and ‘exceptional’ when measured against other peoples of the world it is necessary to continually re-work and re-present the foundation myths of national identity to Americans (and to the world). Hilde Eliassen Restad suggests the idea of ‘American exceptionalism’ is ‘a real and significant phenomenon’ that has had a profound influence on U.S. foreign policy. ‘American exceptionalism entails viewing the United States as better than all other nations,’ says Restad. ‘This is different from patriotism… If one does not believe that American exceptionalism means better rather than different, one’s Americanness is open to questioning.’ While challenging the way the concept has been employed in recent decades, Godfrey Hodgson recognises the crucial importance of the idea. ‘Each phase of American history has strengthened the perception among many Americans that the United States is not just one nation among many but a nation marked by the finger of destiny,’ he says. In The Rhetoric of American Exceptionalism: Critical Essays, Jason A. Edwards and David Weiss recognise the importance of ‘American heroes’ as ‘embodiments of American exceptionalism’ representing ‘everything that the United States is and could be’ while also pointing out that ‘the images of these heroes are malleable.’ William V. Spanos suggests ‘the myth of American exceptionalism’ took its lead ‘from the exemplary self-reliant pioneering or westering spirit of the archetypal backwoodsman or frontiersman’ which is where Glass and others of his ilk would seem to come in.

Spanos says the idea of exceptionalism became ‘accepted as the essence or truth of the American national identity until it was rendered problematic during the Vietnam War (only to be recuperated in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001).’ After the Vietnam War, he suggests there was a ‘systematic forgetting’ of ‘historical actualities’ that was achieved ‘by way of the combined efforts of the American government, the media, and Hollywood… to recuperate the consensus, that is, the American identity.’ In his phrase, ‘the narcotics of the culture industry’ was part of the processing of the Vietnam War by American society that enabled the Gulf War of 1991 to be undertaken. Amnesia over Vietnam was then aided by the events of 9/11 to create a ‘fervor’ out of which it was possible to announce, ‘more or less unilaterally… and in defiance of international law,’ a ‘global “war on terrorism”.’
I didn’t think for a minute that this approach to a book could work but (in my mind, at least) it seems to in this case. Page 99 from The Contemporary Western: An American Genre Post-9/11 (as above) is part of a chapter in the book that considers The Revenant (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2016) with its focus on the brutal and brutalising experience of life faced by Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio). In its intense focus on the United States and its position as seen by itself (and others) on the world stage this page captures very nicely the central hub of the book.
Learn more about The Contemporary Western at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Mike Jay's "Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic"

Mike Jay has written extensively on scientific and medical history. His books on the history of drugs include High Society: Mind-Altering Drugs in History and Culture and The Atmosphere of Heaven. He lives in London.

Jay applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic, and reported the following:
Page 99 describes the isolation of mescaline from the peyote cactus in 1897 by the chemist Arthur Heffter in Leipzig, Germany. Heffter had discovered that peyote contained a large number of resins and alkaloids that might account for the hallucinations it produced. He made various extracts and tested them on himself. The resins produced nausea but no hallucinations. By a process of elimination, he came to suspect they were produced by one alkaloid compound that he had named ‘Meskalin’, after ‘mescal’, an alternative name for the peyote cactus.
On 23 November he took 150g [of mescaline]. The violet and green spots came first, then ‘images of carpet patterns, ribbed vaulting etc.’ Soon he was immersed in the visionary ‘landscapes, halls and architectural forms’ of peyote. ‘The results’, he concluded, ‘show that mescaline is exclusively responsible for the major symptoms of peyote (mescal) poisoning. This applies especially to the unique visions.’
Apart from a brief discussion in the prologue, page 99 is the first time that mescaline appears in the book in its pure chemical form. Up to this point I have followed the mescaline-containing cacti, the San Pedro and the peyote, from their ancient and traditional use in the Andes and Mexico, through their adoption by the Plains tribes of the Southwest USA, to peyote's discovery by western science in the 1890s.

This page is one of a the few places where I discuss the chemistry of mescaline in any detail, so in that sense it's not particularly representative of the book as a whole. But it is an important turning point in the story - the moment when mescaline crosses ‘a great divide into modernity: from plant spirit to chemical compound’. A central theme of the book is that mescaline has two distinct histories - one traditional and indigenous, the other western and modern - and this is one of the key moments of transition between them.

It also features another of the book's recurring themes: stories of scientists experimenting on themselves, an essential step in understanding the subjective effects of mind-altering drugs. Arthur Heffter was in a race with another chemist to isolate the vision-producing drug in the cactus. His rival, Louis Lewin, was far more prominent and distinguished, but was not prepared to test the resins and alkaloids on himself. Instead he fed them to dogs, but was unable to tell from observing them whether or not they weere hallucinating. As I conclude on page 100, ‘Heffter made the breakthrough in the laboratory of his own mind’.
Visit Mike Jay's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Radcliffe G. Edmonds III's "Drawing Down the Moon"

Radcliffe G. Edmonds III is the Paul Shorey Professor of Greek in the Department of Greek, Latin, and Classical Studies at Bryn Mawr College. His many books include Redefining Ancient Orphism and Myths of the Underworld Journey.

Edmonds applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Drawing Down the Moon: Magic in the Ancient Greco-Roman World, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Faraone points out the interesting way in which such philtra were imagined to work, increasing the benevolence of the target toward the agent by relaxing him and taming his aggressive impulses. Like the effects of wine, which in moderate quantities seems to enhance erotic feelings but in larger quantities can bring about incapacitation, such philtra at first made the target relaxed and happy, but further application or overdose could bring about sedation of the target or even, in certain cases, death. A prostitute in Alciphron seeks a potion that will not only keep her client from straying, but also tame his drunken bad temper and make him a more docile lover. In a speech from fourth-century Athens, a concubine anxious about being dismissed puts pharmaka in the wine; but, instead of making the man more affectionate, the philtron killed him. Later references to cases in which a man was poisoned by an attempt to secure his affections with a love charm show that the woman could either have been acquitted on the grounds that she did not mean to kill him or condemned on the grounds that she did in fact cause his death. Plutarch warns the young bride not to meddle with such philtra, since she is likely to end up with a husband whose sedated virility would leave the relationship crippled.

Faraone compares the effects of these philtra with a type of spell known as the thumokatoxon, the spell for restraining anger, for binding down the thumos, the seat of strong emotion. He suggests that the thumos can be understood almost as machismo, the impulse toward displays of masculine forcefulness, whether sexual or not. Just as modern people might loosely refer to an excess of testosterone as the cause of either violently aggressive or oversexed masculine behavior, so the ancient Greeks might have been concerned about an excess of thumos and sought to restrain it, either to prevent violence or to halt indulgence in sexual activity.
The discussion of “love potions” or philtra that appears on page 99 is only somewhat representative of the book as a whole. Those paragraphs provide a distillation of previous scholars’ work on the subject (specifically here the work of Christopher Faraone), rather than my own further developments, so it is not really the best sample to show what I am doing in the book. On the other hand, one of the aims of the book is to draw together the latest currents of scholarship on ancient magic and present them in a comprehensible form.

The page does provide a good example of the kind of material that I explore in Drawing Down the Moon, the evidence for the practices labeled as magic in Classical antiquity. All these love potions from across the centuries and all over the ancient Greco-Roman world create an extra-ordinary effect, altering the emotions and mental states of the target in ways that a normal substance would not. The label of magic is always applied by someone in a particular situation, so it is crucial to examine the evidence within its social context. In this sample, all of the potions are being used by a woman to manipulate the affections of a man in her life. Such a gendered pattern also fits the literary tropes of erotic magic used by women against men, but it also provides a contrast with other kinds of erotic magic, which I discuss elsewhere in the chapter, where gender figures in quite different ways.

The study of ancient magic provides insights into such social dynamics as the interactions gender and erotic relationships that the more canonical literary and historical sources fail to offer.. The evidence for what is labeled as magic often gives voice to the marginalized others in ancient society, the ones who are not writing the histories but who nevertheless leave witness (in, for example, the lead curse tablets) of their hopes and fears, their passions and their hatreds. The evidence for erotic magic in particular provides often disturbing glimpses of the way the ancient Greeks and Romans dealt with gender, passion, and violence in their relationships. The other chapters of the book likewise provide insights into aspects of the ancient world that are unavailable from other kinds of sources.
Learn more about Drawing Down the Moon at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Jay Wexler's "Our Non-Christian Nation"

A professor at Boston University School of Law, Jay Wexler is also a humorist, short story writer, and novelist. A one-time clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former lawyer at the US Department of Justice, he has written for National Geographic, The Boston Globe, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Salon, and many other outlets. His books include When God Isn't Green and Holy Hullabaloos.

Wexler applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Our Non-Christian Nation: How Atheists, Satanists, Pagans, and Others Are Demanding Their Rightful Place in Public Life, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book consists of a partial description of the relatively new religious group known as the Satanic Temple (TST), a fast-growing atheistic Satanic organization founded in 2012 and now counting tens of thousands of members across the world, maybe as high as a hundred thousand total. On this page I describe some of the lesser-known activities of TST, both political and non-political, including its opposition to corporal punishment of children in schools, its work aimed at fighting misconceptions about Satanism borne from the “Satanic Panic” era of the 1970s and 1980s, and the various rituals that TST members engage in around the country.

Page 99, and continuing on for a paragraph onto page 100, is a very important part of the book, but it is not representative of the book as a whole. The point of the book is to describe the various ways that minority religious groups and Atheists have attempted to take advantage of a series of Supreme Court decisions to partake in public life alongside the Christian majority (by, for instance, giving invocations before town boards and putting up displays or monuments on public property) and to argue that this movement is one that should be celebrated and continued. TST is probably the most important organization that has participated in this movement—because Satanism is so misunderstood and feared by mainstream groups, TSTs demands to participate in public life are often met with a horror that demonstrates quite clearly how the majority tends to only favor Christian participation in public life rather than pluralism and religious equality.

Many people believe that TST is a parody group rather than a genuine religious organization and that they therefore do not deserve the respect of either the religious majority or the judicial system (TST often sues for equal treatment in the courts). I firmly believe that TST is a genuine religious organization that is multifaceted and does not exist purely to troll Christians and seek attention from the media. What I’m doing on page 99 of the book is making this important point. By explaining that TST does so many things other than fighting for separation of church and state through demands for equal participation in public life, I’m trying to argue that TST is a legitimate religious organization that deserves the equal respect that it has demanded.

In effect, then, page 99 is a bit of a diversion from the main argument of the book. Someone reading just page 99 would probably not get a sense of what the book is about or why I wanted to write it. So I guess I have to say that the page 99 test doesn’t really work for this book. But that’s okay—someone just reading page 99 of the book would still learn something important about my subject matter, and when that person at some point confronts TST in the news or in person, they will undoubtedly know something quite important about this fascinating organization.
Visit Jay Wexler's faculty webpage.

The Page 99 Test: Holy Hullabaloos.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 1, 2019

Louise K. Comfort's "The Dynamics of Risk"

Louise K. Comfort is professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and former director of the Center for Disaster Management at the University of Pittsburgh. Her books include Shared Risk: Complex Systems in Seismic Response.

Comfort applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Dynamics of Risk: Changing Technologies and Collective Action in Seismic Events, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Dynamics of Risk describes the types of organizations participating in response operations for the November 12, 1999 Duzce Earthquake in Turkey and makes a brief comparison to response operations for the larger, more destructive 1999 Marmara Earthquake that occurred a scant three months earlier in Turkey. The reader would learn that the book is about response operations following earthquakes, but would not know which earthquakes, where they occurred, what time frame is being considered, or why the issue of seismic risk is important. The reader would learn that there is some disconnect with the humanitarian aid system of the United Nations in response to the Duzce Earthquake, but would not fully grasp the global responsibility of UN member-states to assist nations afflicted by disaster.

This page 99 test provides only a limited glimpse into the set of twelve earthquake response systems included in the book’s analysis and misses the escalating danger of seismic risk to an increasingly interdependent, global world. As populations move steadily into urban regions located in seismic zones, interconnected systems of communication, transportation, trade, and finance increase the potential size, scale, and cost of losses from major earthquakes that can shatter the existing built and organizational infrastructure in seconds.

Importantly, the reader would miss the book’s hopeful argument that innovation in information technologies now offers a means to anticipate risk more accurately, share basic information regarding mitigation of seismic risk more widely, and coordinate actions among multiple organizations, jurisdictions, and nations more effectively. People do learn from previous seismic events, but this knowledge needs to be shared, and adapted to changing conditions of technology, social organization, and culture. No single community or nation can manage seismic risk alone, and all nations will benefit when the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to reduce risk is shared collectively. The challenge is to design and implement a global commons for the continuing search and exchange of information, knowledge, and effective strategies for mitigating seismic risk.
Learn more about The Dynamics of Risk at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue