Friday, August 30, 2019

M. David Litwa's "How the Gospels Became History"

M. David Litwa is a scholar of ancient Mediterranean religions and Research Fellow at the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry in Melbourne, Australia. His most recent books include Desiring Divinity: Self-deification in Ancient Jewish and Christian Mythmaking and Hermetica II: The Excerpts of Stobaeus, Papyrus Fragments, and Ancient Testimonies.

Litwa applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, How the Gospels Became History: Jesus and Mediterranean Myths, and reported the following:
Page 99 of How the Gospels Became History tells the story of the Roman astrologer and diviner Nigidius. It was he who accosted Octavian, father of Caesar Augustus, on the steps of the Senate House. There Nigidius publicly prophesied that “the ruler of the world has been born!” Octavian, fearing that his son would overthrow the Roman Republic, planned to kill the child. Yet Nigidius rebuked him, remarking that it is impossible for the child to evade his imperial destiny.

This story, told by the Roman historian Suetonius, I compare with the presentation of Jesus in the gospel of Luke (2:29-32). In this account, a hoary old man meets the parents of Jesus in the temple courts. Scooping up the infant Jesus in his arms, he bursts forth in prophecy. The child—called light and glory for Israel and the nations—is thus announced as the world ruler (Messiah) whom God had promised the old prophet he would see before closing his eyes in death.

Although this comparison cannot sum up the whole work, it well exemplifies my comparative method. I search ancient texts thought to be historical (here using a biography by Suetonius). In these works I examine fantastical stories (“myths”) made to look like past events but which better correspond to imagined literary templates. In this case, the old prophetic sage who prophesies the future world domination of an infant in a public building before many witnesses is one of these templates. Both the author of Luke and Suetonius molded this entertaining and poignant template to look like a historical account.

Nevertheless, this same template appears in so-called mythical texts. In one of these texts, the old Theban prophet Tiresias makes a prophecy before the infant Heracles about his future domination and glory. In a version of the myth told by Theocritus, Tiresias makes a private revelation to Alcmene, Heracles’s mother, which resembles the aside that Simeon makes to Mary, mother of Jesus.

This is one of the many comparative ventures readers will encounter in my book which argues that the gospels, though written in the form of history (as the ancients understood it), features many fantastical stories spun from literary templates.
Visit M. David Litwa's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Nicholas Jubber's "Epic Continent"

Nicholas Jubber moved to Jerusalem after graduating from Oxford University. He'd been working two weeks when the intifada broke out and he started traveling the Middle East and East Africa. His books include The Timbuktu School for Nomads, The Prester Quest (winner of the Dolman Prize) and Drinking Arak Off an Ayatollah's Beard (shortlisted for the Dolman Prize). He has written for the Guardian, Observer, and the Globe and Mail.

Jubber applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Epic Continent: Adventures in the Great Stories that Made Europe, and reported the following:
Page 99 finds me in the Balkans, in one of the most disturbing parts of my journey. Exploring the legacy of epic poems across Europe often brought me into exciting or even humorous experiences. However, my encounter in Sarajevo was more discomfiting. For there, I met Eset Muračević, a Bosnian poet who was imprisoned in a concentration camp in 1992. He recounted some of the horrors he witnessed and explained how he survived it: by writing poems. ‘It was necessary,’ he explained, ‘to keep me calm.’ Without his poems, he believes, he wouldn’t have made it through the war.

This page reflects a key point of the book: poetry can be powerful, for good and ill. It can stir people to terrible deeds (as did the Balkan epic known as the Kosovo Cycle, which was stirred and exploited by warmongers like Radovan Karadžić, the Bosnian Serb president), but it can also save their lives. This point is reflected in different ways throughout the book, from the impact of the Homeric epics on the formation of Greek nationhood to the enduring popularity of Icelandic poetry recitals. Page 99 is, I believe, a strong example, albeit a particularly dark one.

Before starting this journey, I knew the Balkans less than the other regions, and the Balkan epic was less familiar to me. So travelling across the Balkans was one of the most intense and eye-opening sections of the journey. Discovering that epic stories – which I loved very much – had been used as political weapons was disheartening but also illuminating. However, I had hoped to come across a more positive example of the impact poetry can have, so meeting Eset was really meaningful. His raw honesty captivated me, and I was fascinated to talk to him about his experiences, from which he had emerged with a heroic stoicism.

Throughout my journey, I sought out storytellers – poets, playwrights, singers, puppeteers and actors – and through them, I learned how Europe’s storytelling traditions continue to help us to look at the continent today. Eset’s poetry is very individual, rinsed in the pain of his wartime experiences, but it fuses with history and the interconnectedness of European culture. This is reflected in the title of one of his anthologies, The Last Circle, which references Dante’s Divine Comedy. As I learned from many other storytellers, when we refract our experiences through our literary past, it can help us to come to terms with the many problems we face today.
Visit Nicholas Jubber's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 26, 2019

Donald Stoker's "Why America Loses Wars"

Donald Stoker was Professor of Strategy and Policy for the US Naval War College's Monterey Program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, from 1999 until 2017. The author or editor of eleven books, his Clausewitz: His Life and Work (2014), is on the British Army professional reading list.

Stoker applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Why America Loses Wars: Limited War and US Strategy from the Korean War to the Present, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book examines the reasons for and the effects of President Lyndon Johnson’s decision to restrict American ground forces to operations in South Vietnam. This decision is often criticized because it allowed the North Vietnamese to have a form of military sanctuary in North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia (an issue relevant to today’s war in Afghanistan). This gave the Communists abundant flexibility in how they waged their war against South Vietnam.

Johnson’s decision was not completely unsound. He rightly feared a repeat of the Korean War debacle when the U.S. and UN forces invaded North Korea and the Chinese intervened. Though Johnson did not know it, the Chinese had promised to support the North Vietnamese in a similar fashion. But does this preclude U.S. action against North Vietnamese sanctuaries in Laos and Cambodia? The Chinese also exploded their first atomic bomb in 1964, which raises the important consideration of whether or not the U.S. wants to risk war with another power possessing atomic and later nuclear weapons.

The Page 99 test works fairly well in this case as my book deals extensively with the problem of ambiguity in warfare, the problems of decision making and assessing their respective effects, and the fact that the political constraints placed upon the waging of wars intrude more fiercely in wars fought for limited aims, because the political object being pursued often has less value than an unlimited one.
Learn more about Why America Loses Wars at the Cambridge University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Clausewitz: His Life and Work.

The Page 99 Test: Clausewitz: His Life and Work.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Holly Lawford-Smith's "Not In Their Name"

Holly Lawford-Smith is a Senior Lecturer in Political Philosophy at the University of Melbourne. She obtained her BA and MA at the University of Otago, and her PhD at the Australian National University. Her first permanent position was at the University of Sheffield in the UK in 2012, and she moved back to Australia in 2017 to join the University of Melbourne. Her interests are in social philosophy broadly construed, with a particular focus on collective agency and collective responsibility and their applications to climate change and the ethics of consumption.

Lawford-Smith applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Not In Their Name: Are Citizens Culpable For Their States' Actions?, and reported the following:
The first three quarters of page 99 are the remainder of a section that introduces problems for thinking about the distribution of responsibility from a collective to its members. We think that collectives can be morally responsible for what they do -- Australia can be responsible for offshore processing of asylum-seekers. But we don't know what that means for those people who are 'members' of the collective 'Australia'. (There are really two questions here: who/what is Australia? And can responsibility be passed from Australia to its members). The last quarter of the page turns to the thought experiment that drives the conclusion that citizens are not responsible for what their states do. I suggest that in groups where the relations between members are strong enough, the costs of holding the collective responsible can be distributed to members in a range of different ways (equally, proportionally, randomly). The most important thing on the page is this sentence: "The question for the remainder of this part of the chapter is whether that is also the case when relations between members are weak". The thought experiment, and subsequent discussion, will show that it is not. And because relations between citizens are weak, the upshot of this is citizens cannot be distributed their state's collective responsibility.

I think the page 99 test works surprisingly well for my book! A thought experiment / case is a great way into a topic. So reading only the thought experiment and thinking about what your intuitions are would get you a long way into being interested in the topic of the book, which is collective responsibility as it applies particularly in the case of the state. In the thought experiment, a small group of people cause some damage to property, and three variations of the case manipulate what the relations between those people are. In one case they act as an organized group, in another they don't know each other and are organized by a mutual friend, and in yet another they each act independently and just happen to (together) produce certain effects. The question is whether there could be collective responsibility for what is caused in the second and third kinds of cases. I think there couldn't be, and that the relations between individuals in these cases have the same structure as the accounts of the state that include citizens as members. So I conclude that citizens don't have distributed collective responsibility for what the state does, even when it does it in their name.
Visit Holly Lawford-Smith's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Jens Zimmermann's "Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christian Humanism"

Jens Zimmermann was born and raised in Germany. He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of British Columbia, Canada, and a PhD in Philosophy from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. He formerly occupied the position of Canada Research Chair in Interpretation, Religion and Culture, and is Professor of English at Trinity Western University (TWU) in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. His publications include Humanism and Religion: A Call for the Renewal of Western Culture (2012).

Zimmermann applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christian Humanism, and reported the following:
I tried the page 99 test and found it to work at least in part. After all, Ford Madox Ford claimed that this page would reveal the “quality of the whole,” and not the content of the whole work. Here is why the test kind of worked: My book Bonhoeffer’s Christian Humanism offers a new reading of this famous, important German theologian by placing his theology within the context of the greater Christian tradition. This tradition reaches back to the very beginnings of Christian theologizing in the patristic period, that is, to the time of the early theologians from the second to the sixth century, who understood the Christian gospel in a sense quite different from what we often hear in contemporary churches. For them the “Good News” was not so much a personal message of salvation to allow escape from God’s wrath or hell, nor predominantly a social gospel for turning earth into heaven. Rather, they preached that God became a human being in the person of Jesus in order to restore humanity to the kind of existence God originally intended for it.

Following other theologians who have studied these church fathers, I call this interpretation of the New Testament message “Christian humanism,” because the gospel is all about the “new humanity,” about becoming a genuine human being. On this interpretation of the good news, Jesus is not so much a moral teacher as the actual recapitulation of the human race and exemplar of what human existence should be like: to live a life of freedom in peaceful communion with and responsibility for others. In short, the goal of the Christian life was also the goal for all humanity. This goal entailed that human beings should become like Jesus in their love for God, and therefore for the world itself, and for other human beings. The patristic gospel of Christian humanism was expressed in the language of “the image of God” according to which humanity had been first created. For the early Christian tradition, this image or icon was the eternal word of God who became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. The whole of the Christian life, then, was to become shaped into this image. Early theologians called this process of becoming shaped into Christ-likeness deification or becoming like God.

What does all this have to do with the page 99 Test? Well, it is a central claim of my book that Bonhoeffer stood within this tradition, and page 99 takes the reader to the beginning of this central argument within a chapter of the book that shows the strong agreement between Bonhoeffer’s own interpretation of the gospel with the humanist reading of the church fathers. The most difficult part of this argument is that the notion of deification or becoming like God has been widely misunderstood (especially within Protestant traditions) to express the kind of sentiments we find in New Age philosophies, namely that human beings become actual gods, that they become divine by nature. Yet, as I show, early theologians never understood deification in this way. Indeed, they couldn’t because their view of reality, derived from Judaism, was based on a radical difference or huge gap between the being of God and every other creature or created thing.

Once this misunderstanding is out of the way, the way is clear for placing Bonhoeffer’s writings within the context of this earlier reading of the gospel as humanism. My desire for doing so in this book was by no means arbitrary but was motivated by the astonishing parallels between Bonhoeffer’s statements about the incarnation (God’s becoming human) and its importance for the Christian life. For example, his famous book Discipleship (in German, “Nachfolge”, i.e. following after Christ), is all about the new humanity as becoming transformed into the image of Christ. As I go on to show in the other chapters of the book, Bonhoeffer’s entire theology with its deeply interpretive character (Bonhoeffer put a premium on discerning God’s will with reference to reality rather than simply finding it dictated in the Bible or a sermon), his holistic view of reality, his support of all cultural traditions that had humanizing character, and indeed his political resistance against the inhumanity of Nazi politics—all these aspects of his thought and life are connect to and driven by the idea that God became a human being so that human beings be transformed into the humanity of God as accomplished in Christ.

There is much more going on in this book (for example, the reader will find a close examination of Bonhoeffer’s use of the Bible, of how he related faith and reason, or how he envisioned the relation of the church to society and the state, and also of what his enigmatic notion of religionless Christianity was all about), but page 99 of Bonhoeffer’s Christian Humanism indeed takes the reader to what one may consider the heart of this important Christian thinker.
Learn more about Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christian Humanism at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Brian Fox's "James Joyce's America"

Brian Fox is a senior assistant professor at Okayama University, Japan. His research interests are in all aspects of Anglo-American literary modernism, with a focus on Joyce. Fox was educated at Trinity College Dublin, l'Universite de Paris (7), and University of London (Goldsmiths and Royal Holloway). Before Okayama, he was a Visiting Lecturer at Kyushu University, Japan and is an active member in Japan's lively Joyce scene. He chairs the Kyushu-Chugoku Ulysses Research Seminar. In addition, he has worked as a co-translator on selected works of Kenji Miyazawa.

Fox applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, James Joyce's America, and reported the following:
From Page 99:
…[His] opening address to ‘Meesta Cheeryman’ (FW 516.03) suggests the ‘nigger dialect’ of minstrelsy that Joyce was so interested in, while also appearing to appeal to a ‘Mister Juryman’ of the court. With a reference to ‘Miles’ (FW 516.12) coming shortly after, it is possible to see an allusion to his trial in this passage. His hanging is suggested via an allusion to the notorious Major Sirr and the torture of ‘halfhanging’ used in suppress ing the rebellion of 1798: ‘half hang me, sirr’ (FW 516.15). That we are told this by a ‘Masta Bones’ (FW 515.32) who also describes HCE as ‘whiskying into a bone tolerably delicately’ (FW 516.07–8), suggests that the victims of Yawn’s ‘plantagonist’ (FW 516.24) can be found simultaneously in the plantations of Ireland and America. Hence, we see again amid the confusion a sustained interest in the question of colonial legacies as Joyce draws a connecting line between British law in Ireland and lynch law in America. In the end, Yawn so obscures his account (and identity) that his interrogator interrupts with a desperately confused attempt to recapitulate: ‘A sarsencruxer, like the Nap O’ Farrell Patter Tandy moor and burgess medley?’ (FW 516.31–2). Bringing blackface minstrelsy (Moore and Burgess Minstrels) and revolutionary minstrelsy (Napper Tandy in ‘The Wearing of the Green’) into proximity, Joyce yet again entwines two histories of subjugation through allusions to popular culture. But it is the very nature of blackface minstrelsy (fraudulent, silencing) that prompts the idea that, owing to the poisoned legacy of the ‘plantagonist’, the ‘land of the free’ shades in to its Wakean epithet as the ‘land of breach of promise’ (FW 442.13– 14).

Joyce, as I have argued, was particularly drawn to a specific kind of American popular culture, one with a strong sense of a connection to a history of empire. There is, for instance, more of black American culture (or rather its misappropriation through minstrelsy) than almost any other kind of American culture in the Wake. Moreover, he typically viewed this culture through the lens of Irish–British colonial relations. In Ulysses and the Wake, through the wide range of cultural allusions to issues of race in the United States, he took American history and focused on these colonial aspects, their future implications, historical reverberations, and contemporary legacies.

An interrogation of colonial legacies in the American republic through its culture is an especially apt pursuit for an Irish artist writing after 1922 and the founding of the Free State, whose citizens must now also negotiate the complex legacies of colonialism, revolution, and civil war. Indeed, in the passage we have just been looking at in III.3 in the Wake, we can hear in a musichall refrain (‘There’s hair like wire coming out of the Empire’) the explosive consequences of repressed emancipatory forces such as occurred in America in 1776 and the Civil War and in Ireland from 1916 to 1923: ‘like fire bursting out of the Ump pyre’ (FW 516.14–15). These dangerous sparks flying out from the funeral pyre of the British Empire connect Irish and American revolutions and civil wars. Certainly, Joyce is not prescriptive, and he raises far more questions than programmatic solutions about what America could teach Ireland through their shared histories of colonialism and revolt. But as this chapter has argued, the return of the ‘seim anew’ in America (the British imperial model being replicated by its former colony) strongly suggests a warning of sorts. The enjoining of KKK hoods and minstrels’ hats, Abraham Lincoln and lynching, Yankee Doodle and Zip Coon,…
I would say the Page 99 Test does a pretty good job of reflecting the overall argument of James Joyce’s America, helped no doubt by the fact that readers opening the book to this page would find themselves in the middle of the conclusion to a section in the second chapter on how Joyce alludes to blackface minstrelsy in his final work, Finnegans Wake (abbreviated above as FW).

Admittedly, this may also be something of a hindrance: Finnegans Wake, with its experimental hybrid language, is hardly the most accessible of texts to be quoting from by way of introduction! Nevertheless, page 99 includes a number of helpfully broad statements intended to sum up attempts to shine light into the corners of Joyce’s ‘book of the dark’ (FW 251.24).

Perhaps if I can briefly draw out just one of those statements as it applies to the book as a whole: the claim that, where America is concerned, Joyce’s work demonstrates a sustained interest in the question of colonial legacies. Joyce started writing Finnegans Wake in the immediate aftermath of revolution, civil war, and the founding of a new state in Ireland, and his allusions to America in that work often reflect a sense of a shared history of decolonization from the British Empire. But he also implicates America in the perpetuation of historical crimes by juxtaposing British colonial abuses in Ireland with historical and contemporary racial abuse in America: Finnegans Wake includes several allusions to the Ku Klux Klan, for instance, recently resurgent when Joyce began writing that work. Thus, Joyce viewed America through the lens of Irish colonial history, but it’s fair to say that he also viewed Ireland through the lens of American history: a decolonized America provided an obvious point of reference with which to interrogate the emancipatory forces and potential legacies at work in the Ireland Joyce was writing about. Finnegans Wake is often seen as an elaborate and rarefied word puzzle somewhat removed from the immediate politics of the day, but his interrogation of the legacies of colonialism in America and the ‘breach’ of its emancipatory ‘promise’ (through slavery and murderous racism) were undoubtedly connected to the recent founding of the Irish Free State, ‘whose citizens must now also negotiate the complex legacies of colonialism, revolution, and civil war’.
Learn more about James Joyce's America at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Rachel Kahn Best's "Common Enemies"

Rachel Best is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan. She studies political responses to social problems, focusing on how advocacy and culture shape whose concerns are addressed and whose are ignored.

Best applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Common Enemies: Disease Campaigns in America, and reported the following:
Does the National Institutes of Health spend the right amount of money to research various diseases? Or are some diseases over-funded, and others neglected? The trouble with answering this question is that there’s no obvious way to decide which diseases are most deserving of public research funding. Should we count up deaths? Ask which diseases inflict the most suffering? Account for healthcare expenditures? Page 99 jumps into the middle of these debates, discussing two other measures people sometimes use to prioritize diseases for research funding.

First, some scientists and health officials argue that we should prioritize research based on scientific opportunity, funding the areas with the greatest potential for new treatments and cures. This is a reasonable suggestion, but one that could reinforce inequalities in funding. “Since research funding attracts students and researchers to specialize in fields, develop expertise, begin projects, and make discoveries,… using potential to set priorities would widen the gaps between well-funded and neglected diseases.”

Second, scientists and officials also sometimes argue that we should base research funding on “the degree to which a disease is neglected by private industry.” This is another reasonable suggestion, but given that public research findings are often licensed to private companies, it raises concerns about providing a subsidy to the already lucrative pharmaceutical industry.

Page 99 gives a snapshot into the politics of ranking diseases. The rest of the book reveals the long history of disease campaigns, from the early twentieth century crusade against tuberculosis to contemporary fights against diseases like breast cancer. Other chapters explain why so much of American philanthropy and public policy focuses on campaigns against single diseases, and how this disease focus shapes how we distribute resources and the types of health policies we pursue.
Learn more about Common Enemies at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 16, 2019

Ricky W. Law's "Transnational Nazism"

Ricky W. Law is Associate Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania. He has received grants and fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Japan Foundation, and the Royster Society of Fellows. In 2013, he received the Dean's Distinguished Dissertation Award at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill where he earned his Ph.D., and the Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize of the Friends of the German Historical Institute.

Law applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Transnational Nazism: Ideology and Culture in German-Japanese Relations, 1919-1936, and reported the following:
From page 99:
… Japan’s perception of Germany. What a people invests in the human resources, time, and money to render from a foreign language says a lot about what it prioritizes as worthwhile from another nation. So the aggregate of translated works is one civilization’s evaluation of another. Seen from this perspective, interwar Japan esteemed Germany highly and broadly. It even imported works on obscure topics such as procedures for transporting corpses by rail or regulations governing horseracing. Where appropriate, this chapter analyzes translated volumes collectively as a gauge of what information from Germany piqued Japanese interest.

The chapter concentrates primarily on the few score books on current affairs, politics, culture, economy, and contemporary history. Their genres include monographs, biographies, travelogues, memoirs, and encyclopedic anthologies. Like pamphlets and lectures, these works purported to relay facts. Unlike speeches and booklets, nonfiction did not operate within such thin profit margins or tight publication schedules. The quick turnaround of pamphlets enabled, even demanded, responses to breaking news, such as the commentaries chiming in within days of the Anti-Comintern Pact. But book authors and editors could use the extra time and pages to incorporate in-depth analyses and wider contexts. The more generous profit and time margins also allowed books to indulge in themes deemed less pressing or practical than those in pamphlets. Information in books was meant to last far longer, like the paper it was printed on. Hardcovers were sold with a sturdy sheath for preserving the volume inside for years and even decades. Book writers should have felt less pressure than pamphleteers to sensationalize issues because their readers were probably more educated and committed in time and money than consumers of pulpy booklets. Whereas many pamphlets were adorned with graphics and slogans to boost sales, most books, especially hardcovers with a brown cardboard shell, were designed to be judged not by their covers but their contents.

The depictions of Germany in interwar Japanese nonfiction fall into two phases. In the first, spanning the 1920s, authors and translators explored a wide range of topics that reflected the relatively open, liberal Weimar and Taisho zeitgeists. Early publications dwelling on the postwar gloom soon gave way to those that marveled at Germany’s recovery in the mid-decade, though opinion makers could not agree what a resurgent Germany should look like. But just as the revival was accepted as a…
Page 99 gives a useful snapshot of the scope of the book, especially the first half, on the interwar Japanese media’s reception of Germany. Because of the distance between the two countries, Japanese and Germans learned about each other mostly through the mass media rather than experiences. The book analyzes German-Japanese mutual depictions in the media to explain the cultural context of Tokyo and Berlin’s political rapprochement in 1936. It argues that in the early 1930s an ideological outlook, transnational Nazism, enticed some Japanese to support Hitler and Nazism, and convinced some Germans to accommodate Japan in the Nazi worldview.

The page belongs to the beginning of Chapter 3, on Germany in Japanese nonfiction publications. It describes how they differed from other media categories and how their characteristics influenced or were influenced by transnational Nazism. Interwar Japan eagerly imported knowledge from Germany in translations and books written by Japanese authors. In the 1920s, such works tended to be apolitical and aimed to acquaint readers with a Germany transformed by World War I and revolution. But with the rise of Hitler and his movement in the early 1930s, Japanese nonfiction on Germany took on a partisan tone. Several writers emerged to praise Nazism and to advocate Japan approaching the Third Reich. The first Hitler biography – with several to follow – was published in this period. Transnational Nazism even affected the visual appearance of books: pro-Nazi works in Japan often stood out for their graphic, colorful covers and easy, simplistic language. Beyond nonfiction, similar transformations took place among Japanese newspapers, lectures and pamphlets, and language textbooks.
Learn more about Transnational Nazism at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Anna Sherman's "The Bells of Old Tokyo"

Anna Sherman was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. She studied Greek and Latin at Wellesley College and at Lincoln College, Oxford. Sherman worked as an editor at Millennium Journal of International Studies, Financial Times Energy, and then, after moving to Asia in 2001, for Hong Kong University Press and other imprints in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Bells of Old Tokyo, her first book, and reported the following:
The Bells of Old Tokyo evolved as voices in a labyrinth. Each speaker connects the reader to the city’s past and its future. Page 99 is an interview with Yamamoto Makoto, who rings the Bell of Time in Ueno Park, as his grandfather and then his mother had before him.

With a few brief words, Yamamoto sketches the history of time-keeping through the twentieth-century and the twenty-first: its evolution from radio announcements to television broadcasts to satellite signals beamed to mobile phones. How did anyone know what time it was before those modern technologies existed? I asked Yamamoto. Before the modern era, no one really cared about being so precise, he answered. ‘But now it’s the Digital Age, and things are different.’

I came away from the interview profoundly moved by Yamamoto’s fidelity to an ancient concept in a city famous for its cutting-edge technologies; also how lonely it is, ringing that bell every single day at 6AM and 6PM. (Yamamoto’s wife rings it at noon, when he is at work.) When Yamamoto retires, someone else will take over: his children will give up the house and the position. I asked Yamamoto if he himself, as a child, wanted to become the bell-ringer. ‘Absolutely not,’ he said, somber. ‘I wanted what everyone wants. I wanted the life other people had. When you’re the bell-ringer, you can never go away on holiday. You can never take time off to be sick…’

It’s eerie: page 99 is the crossroads of The Bells of Old Tokyo; its heart. The passage follows the book’s two great narrative fractures – the first is a break in Tokyo’s own history: the last shogun has just departed the city, after which Tokyo became the capital, and Japan began modernizing at breakneck speed. The second fracture happened in my own life: I left Tokyo after the 2011 tsunami and the Fukushima reactors exploded. Page 100 marks my return, but on page 99 I’m still outside Tokyo: an exile.

Page 99 is very characteristic of the book: I take the reader inside a private space, one out-of-bounds to most people living in the city. While writing Bells, I often visited hidden, forgotten places and sometimes forbidden ones: the inner sancta of temples; laboratories where physicists build atomic clocks tiny as rice grains; memorials to war victims in softly-lit chambers inside the earth; artists’ workshops. Places anyone can visit and others where you have to beg your way in. Yamamoto’s house and its bell tower were places I begged my way in, but once there, found richness – Yamamoto's family memories, the bonds that tie him to place, and the great bell itself.
Visit Anna Sherman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 12, 2019

Frank O. Bowman III's "High Crimes and Misdemeanors"

Frank O. Bowman III is a law professor, legal historian, and former federal and state prosecutor. He has written extensively on impeachment in legal journals and the popular press, including the New York Times, Politico, and Slate, where he is regular contributor. He has provided testimony to both Houses of Congress on multiple subjects including the meaning of 'high crimes and misdemeanors' during the Clinton impeachment crisis.

Bowman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, High Crimes and Misdemeanors: A History of Impeachment for the Age of Trump, and reported the following:
Interesting premise, this “page 99 test.” Can’t say it works perfectly for my book, but reading page 99 does land the reader at a kind of hinge in the argument and therefore hints at one important theme.

Page 99 falls in the middle of the explanation of how the Framers of the American constitution meant impeachment to fit into its system of checks and balances. It follows the account of how, in the summer of 1787, George Mason, James Madison, and the rest decided to include the impeachment power in their constitution, and why they settled on “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” as the definition of impeachable conduct. “High crimes and misdemeanors” was a phrase used by the British parliament since 1386 to describe conduct by ministers of the crown (and others) that parliament found to be impeachable. The question asked on page 99 is whether the American Framers intended these enigmatic words to mean much the same thing they had meant in England.

I argue that the answer is yes, and that this has at least three important implications:

First, the Framers adopted the British view that impeachment is an essential tool with which the legislative branch combats the tendency in hereditary or elected executives to autocracy and resistance to the rule of law.

Second, the Framers had a good understanding of the "high crimes and misdemeanors" for which parliament impeached royal officers: serious ordinary crimes, corruption, betrayal of the country’s foreign policy interests, gross incompetence or maladministration of office, and subversion of the constitution. They intended such behavior by American officials to be impeachable. They also intended Congress to have the same power as had parliament to decide that bad official behavior was impeachable even if not criminal in the legal sense.

Third, the Framers placed the power to impeach in the legislature, and adopted the ancient, and flexible, standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors” because they intended impeachment to be a political process in the large sense of a mechanism for defending constitutional order.

The Framers nonetheless made impeachment hard by adopting a 2/3 requirement for conviction in the Senate because they didn't want Congress throwing out presidents in partisan hissy fits. Still, the Framers meant it to be used if, somehow, a manifestly unfit person were to become president and endanger the constitutional order they so carefully constructed.

Most of the book examines the relatively few cases of American impeachment – Senator William Blount (1797), Justice Samuel Chase (1805) and other judges, Secretary of War William Belknap (1876), and Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton – for lessons on how the impeachment power should properly be employed. It closes by asking whether Donald Trump is the contingency for which the Framers gave us the weapon of impeachment, and, if so, whether our politics is so broken that we can no longer wield it.
Learn more about High Crimes and Misdemeanors at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Guy Ortolano's "Thatcher's Progress"

Guy Ortolano is an Associate Professor of History at New York University. He serves as an editor of Twentieth Century British History, and is also the author of The Two Cultures Controversy: Science, Literature and Cultural Politics in Postwar Britain (2009).

Ortolano applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Thatcher's Progress: From Social Democracy to Market Liberalism through an English New Town, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Thatcher’s Progress, the reader meets the American futurologist, Melvin Webber. It is 1968, and the British state is building a city for 250,000 people, from scratch, between Oxford and Cambridge. Planning for a world that does not yet exist, they enlist Webber to figure out what’s coming. He forecasts a fantastical world of nuclear power, limitless prosperity, and lifetimes spent in leisure. That leisure, however, will bring challenges of its own, as technological developments compel “enforced leisure” – that is, unemployment – that could exacerbate racial tensions. Fortunately, medical advances will enable societies to call upon the services of their greatest statesmen – the future equivalents of Aneurin Bevan and Winston Churchill – for up to 100 years.

Page 99 conveys several key aspects of Thatcher’s Progress. The book narrates the building of the new town of Milton Keynes, today a punchline in British culture. Fifty years after its founding, this suburban city is often seen as drab, disorienting, anti-urban, and un-English. But when Webber arrives from Berkeley, bringing tales of automotive bliss, readers can begin to understand how this peculiar place came to be. Webber’s vision of a world in which limits to prosperity, leisure, and even lifespans have been lifted helps to convey the thrill of MK’s founding. Sometimes his premonitions hit their mark, as when he warned that diversity could foster resentments no less than tolerance; but other times he misfired, as when he predicted that rising incomes would enable grateful wives to leave the workforce and return home.

What a single page cannot convey is the direction of this history. Subtitled “From Social Democracy to Market Liberalism through an English New Town,” Thatcher’s Progress follows this massive infrastructure project on either side of market liberalism’s ascendance. By contrast with more schematic accounts, which make “neoliberalism” seem inevitable, the building of a city illuminates the halting, contested, partial nature of that process. Rather than supposing that social democracy collapsed in the face of economic and political challenges, the daily work of social democratic actors shows them responding creatively to trying times. But the terms of political life did come to change, and seeing how these figures navigated that transition reveals how tactical adaptations helped entrench a politics contrary to their own.

We now inhabit the future that these characters on page 99 were straining to perceive. Charged with building a better world, they hoped to learn from us. Today our charge is not so different – can we learn from them?
Learn more about Thatcher's Progress at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Alexander L. Fattal's "Guerrilla Marketing"

Alexander L. Fattal is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California, San Diego. He is also a filmmaker. His research and creative work focus on questions of representation in Colombia’s armed conflict.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Guerrilla Marketing: Counterinsurgency and Capitalism in Colombia, and reported the following:
From page 99:
As the concert began, the minister of defense boarded a helicopter to La Gabarra to deliver the symbolic humanitarian aid. Citing lack of space in the helicopter, Marcela explained to the journalists that only one photographer could travel with him. The flood assistance was reduced to a photo op, raising the question: who is assisting whom in this “humanitarian” exchange? The more substantive exchange during the minister’s brief appearance in La Gabarra was of bullets. As his helicopter elevated to return to Tibú, the local police station took fire from the FARC’s Thirty-Third Front. Nobody was injured, but the skirmish left a few more pockmarks in the building’s facade. The FARC was sending its own message.

Marcel Mauss’s classic book on the gift and the literature it has spawned have provided anthropologists with an analytic framework for understanding humanitarian aid as an expression of power relations. In this line of critique, gifts given in the wake of an emergency or during or after a military confrontation assert a soft form domination over the receiver of the aid (be it a person, organization, or institution). Such a critique could be applied to the military’s distribution of token flood relief kits. The act places the military in the position of ameliorating the effects of recent inundations of roadways that have left the residents cut off from critical markets and struggling to access basic provisions. By showing its disposition to combat natural disaster, the military seeks to articulate its primary war-waging function with its ancillary role as an armed relief agency. One logical conclusion of this armed humanitarianism is that the FARC is but another disaster and the local population, which is receiving the ministry’s flood-relief kits, is symbolically subordinated to the military and interpellated as military collaborators.
As it so happens this page makes two key points in Guerrilla Marketing: first, massive media spectacles and military interventions are increasingly intertwined; and second, this convergence is often intended to represent militaries as humanitarian actors. Page 99 engages with the anthropological literature on “the gift” of humanitarian aid, which has argued that such assistance is often an expression of power relations. Elsewhere on page 99, I describe the hollowness of this particularly utilitarian gift exchange and question its efficacy.

Page 99 comes from Chapter 2, Operation Christmas, a pivotal chapter in the book. Operation Christmas was the name that a marketing firm that has stewarded the brands of Mazda and RedBull in Colombia gave its campaign to demobilize FARC and ELN guerrilla fighters during the holiday season. The idea was to “attack the heart” of guerrillas when they might be missing loved ones back home. This is a theme throughout the book — intimacy as a battleground, both in the media war and the physical war, two realms that I insist cannot be neatly separated. In fact, one of the big takeaways from the book is that we need to think about propaganda as something that is the centerpiece of warfare in the twenty-first century.

We see this in Colombia time and again. The cover of the book comes from the 2013 version of the Christmas campaign. That year the military-marketing partnership came up with the slogan, “Before being a guerrilla, you are my child.” The campaign featured photographs culled from the archives of guerrillas’ mothers that showed their sons and daughters as babies. In all of the efforts to “attack the heart,” this assault was the most direct.

At the other end of the binding, the book’s epilogue focuses on the FARC doing some marketing of its own at a giant conference/party in which it tried to rebrand itself as a political party in anticipation of the changes set up by the 2016 peace accord. Those who are following news out of Colombia know the conflict [and the “brand warfare” that goes along with it (see pages 11–23)] continues even as the country has been struggling to implement the historic agreement. Unfortunately, Guerrilla Marketing remains highly relevant to post-peace accord Colombia. Further afield, I hope that the case study will help shed light on the murky realm of propaganda in the early twenty-first century.
Learn more about Guerrilla Marketing at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Hugo Cerón-Anaya's "Privilege at Play"

Hugo Cerón-Anaya is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Director of Latin American and Latino Studies Program at Lehigh University. His work focuses on social hierarchies, inequalities, and privilege, examining how class, race, and gender inform the behavior and perceptions of affluent people. He is particularly interested in the wide array of ordinary and everyday practices that reproduce privilege.

Cerón-Anaya applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Privilege at Play: Class, Race, Gender, and Golf in Mexico, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Privilege at Play reads:
…asked for my ID and then talked to the tournament organizers through a walkie-talkie to confirm I was an expected guest. Once he had confirmed my status, the guard politely gave me instructions to meet up with the organizing team by walking along the outside perimeter of the clubhouse, even though there was a shorter route through the building. Once I reached the organizing team, the manager welcomed me kindly but then quickly excused himself and apologized for not being able to talk at the moment because he was frantically supervising several groups of people who were making last-minute preparations, including hanging banners with the names of tournament sponsors, erecting large tents in the middle of the course, setting up the registration stand, and directing the arriving golfers to the continental breakfast being served in the bar.

Another member of the team suggested that I should go to the bar and have breakfast with the participating golfers. As in all the other clubs I visited, the 19th hole (the bar) was a spacious room with lots of tables and plenty of comfortable chairs. One wall was filled with large windows, offering patrons a nice view of the golf course. The organization of space inside the bar on that day, however, did not follow the pattern I observed in other clubs. The bar was divided into two sections. On one side, several tables were set up in an “L” shape near two walls. The tables were covered with platters full of fruit, bread, and individual servings of assorted cereals as well as large urns of coffee and tea. In the narrow space between the tables and the walls, harried workers moved swiftly, refilling food platters, picking up used plates and cups, and cleaning up spills. In the other section of the room, there were several large round tables where about 30 people sat in groups. Unlike the workers bustling behind the food service tables, those seated at the round tables were unhurried as they chatted with each other, read the newspaper, looked at their phones, or enjoyed breakfast by themselves. As I hung my jacket and a small bag on a chair at one of the round tables, I noticed that most of the people who were sitting by themselves at the table were staring at me. I smiled at them and then noticed that some of the people sitting in groups had also begun to stare. Many of the golfers continued to watch me closely as I walked over to the food service tables. Their curiosity waned when I grabbed a cup of coffee, filled two plates with fruit and bread, and asked one of the servers for help bringing my food to the table. Most of the golfers ignored me for the next half hour as I ate and read.

I grabbed the newspaper at the center of the table and began to skim it. One section was entitled “Con Clase [With Class].” The front-page article…
This page offers an accurate sample of my book’s writing style, providing a glimpse into how privilege manifests through everyday interactions in Mexico—the central theme of the book. Page 99 vividly describes a scene that took place in one of the most prestigious golf clubs outside of Mexico City, right before the starting of a prominent amateur golf tournament. The passage contrasts golfers' relaxed and unhurried behavior with workers’ subservient and expeditious attitudes. The book includes multiple descriptions of similar events that demonstrate that privilege is not a possession, but rather a set of social relations that generate feelings of social superiority. Page 99 does provide an excellent short cut into one of the central arguments of my work.

The last sentences of page 99 and the following paragraphs introduce the argument that class privilege and racial ideas cannot be disentangled in Mexico. The section explains that people can modify how others perceive their race based on economic resources. Unlike other studies arguing a similar idea, my book demonstrates that all Mexicans do not see race in the same "flexible" way. People located in the lower and middle classes possess more fluid views. In contrast, the upper-middle and the upper classes possess more rigid notions on the topic. This change creates an invisible but firm class and racial barrier between lower and middle classes, on the one hand, and the upper-middle and the upper classes, on the other. The book illuminates the argument by analyzing the relationship between golfers and caddies (the workers who assist players on the course). Privilege at Play also examines the paradoxical situation that affluent women face in these clubs. Based on their economic position, female club members are highly privileged, like any other golfer in this country. However, traditional gender roles relegate women to a second class status inside these sites—remarkably, the limited research on the topic in the United States points out a similar finding. In short, this book offers a compelling and multifaceted analysis of how privilege is lived and experienced in Mexico.
Learn more about Privilege at Play at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Robert N. Spengler III's "Fruit from the Sands"

Robert N. Spengler III is the director of the Paleoethnobotany Laboratories at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany. He is a former Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World through New York University and a Volkswagen and Mellon Foundations Fellow.

Spengler applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Fruit from the Sands: The Silk Road Origins of the Foods We Eat, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Dioscoredes mentions making bread from rice flour (2000 [A.D. 64]) and Pliny the Elder is also familiar with rice, mentioning it several times in the Natural Histories (1855 [A.D. 77-79]). Archaeobotanical remains of rice from the second century A.D. (n=33 grains) were recovered from the Roman trading port of Quseir al-Qadim in Egypt and a few additional grains were recovered from excavations at the Roman trading center of Berenike. In both cases, the grains were found in very low overall abundance and interpreted as in imported good; interestingly, at both sites they remain in low abundance right through the Islamic period.

According to the Records of the Great Historian, The Shiji (1993 [91-109 B.C.], Book 123), the Han traveler, Zhang Qian, reported that rice was cultivated in the land of Dayuan. Most scholars agree that Zhang Qian was referring to Fergana of modern day Uzbekistan. Among other aspects of the local culture, the military ambassador recorded the main grains of a new region when he visited it, taking special care to observe whether rice was cultivated. He also noted that wheat fields and grape vineyards were abundant in Fergana. In book 123 of The Shiji, it is recorded that Zhang Qian claims that rice was being grown in Parthia and Chaldea. Although, many scholars have pointed out that these latter accounts are from word-of-mouth and not firsthand observations. It is not clear how reliable any of these accounts are, but the written accounts of the Great Historian take a central role in the core doctrine of early Chinese historical scholarship.

Archaeobotanical studies in Central Asia, have not recovered solid evidence for rice; although, these data are highly limited, especially for agriculturally rich regions like Fergana. There is a published claim from a 1970s Soviet excavation that a large quantity of rice grains were recovered from one site in a cluster of sites in the Nos 28, 29, and 61 group in the Ferghana valley of Uzbekistan, dating to the early first millennium A.D., but this claim has not been properly verified. Although, the claim may be supported by a second report from the 1980s of rice grains recovered from mudbrick fragments at the fifth to seventh century A.D. site of Munchak Tepe in the Osh Region of Kyrgystan near the town of Kerkidon. Today, rice is grown in parts of the Zerafshan valley in Uzbekistan and in some particularly humid river valleys as far north as southern Semirech’ye, but it is unlikely that rice was grown in most of this area in the past.
You have heard the phrase “as American as apple pie,” you know the Big Apple and who Johnnie Apple Seed was, and you are probably aware of the cultural significance of cider in southern England. However, it may shock you to learn that the apple originated in the southern corner of Kazakhstan, in the Tian Shan Mountains and that it was domesticated as it moved along the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road. In this book, I lay out the stories behind many of the grains, fruits, nuts, and spices in your kitchens today, summarizing significant discoveries in archaeobotany. I attempt to take the reader along a culinary journey from the ancient dynastic capital at Xian in central China, along the mountain foothills of the Pamir and through the Kyzyl Kum and Kara Kum deserts. I explore the lasting legacy of these ancient trade routes, and I step even further back in time to prehistoric cultural dispersals. I look at the East Asian origins of peaches and apricots and how they ended up in ancient Rome, and how grapes and the technology of wine productions spread across Eurasia.

Page 99 of the book opens halfway through the story of rice, looking at some of the early historical accounts of its spread out of East Asia and towards Europe. Rice is an integral component of the culinary traditions across West Asia today; it is hard to imagine Turkic food without pilaf or a plate of rice fried in animal fat. On page 99, I pull out some early references from Classical European texts that mention rice over two millennia ago. However, rice originated in what is now eastern China. The story of how rice crossed two continents by this time is still largely shrouded in history, but discoveries and more archaeobotanical research in Central Asia are clarifying aspects of the story. Despite the knowledge of rice in ancient Europe, this crop does not appear to have become prominent outside East Asia until the later medieval period. Advances in irrigation technology and greater public works projects were likely required to make this water-demanding crop suitable for the arid regions of West Asia. Ultimately, page 99 is not representative of the book at large, but it does provide an excellent excerpt from a case study that feeds into the bigger narrative presented in the book.
Visit Robert N. Spengler III's website and learn more about Fruit from the Sands at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 2, 2019

Lawrence A. Kreiser Jr.'s "Marketing the Blue and Gray"

Lawrence A. Kreiser Jr. is an associate professor at Stillman College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Marketing the Blue and Gray: Newspaper Advertising and the American Civil War, and reported the following:
On page 99 of my book is an analysis of how an old newspaper notice helped to change northern attitudes toward the recruitment of black men during the Civil War. In 1863, there was considerable backlash among many white civilians and soldiers over the expansion of the Union’s war effort to include the destruction of slavery. In his book on the attitudes of the Founding Fathers toward “Negroes as Slaves, as Citizens and as Soldiers,” published that same year, historian George Livermore reprinted a runaway notice for a “Molatto Fellow” that had run in a Boston newspaper in the late 1750s. Crispus Attucks was never apprehended and, when he next appeared in the newspapers after the Boston Massacre, it was as a martyr for the American cause. Livermore reminded his readers that, through the shedding of his “precious blood,” Attucks had demonstrated that black men were willing to fight and, if need be, die for their country. The fugitive notice helped to swing northern opinion toward the enlistment of black soldiers, with reviewers mentioning its emotional impact. Livermore was so persuasive in arguing for the enlistment of black soldiers that Abraham Lincoln reportedly gave him the pen he had used to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. The ninety-ninth page concludes with: “Had the runaway notice for Attucks not gone unmet, the flow of the nation’s history might have taken a different course by 1863.”

Arguing that a newspaper notice influenced the bloodiest war in American history is, perhaps, as much of stretch as when Lincoln supposedly remarked, upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, that she was the “little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” But perhaps not. Newspapers were widely circulated during the mid-nineteenth century, and advertisers poured money into them. They attempted to sell everything from biographies on political and military leaders to patent medicines that promised to cure almost any battlefield wound. Splashed across even the front pages, the sale columns drew readers’ attention. Contemporary observers described the notices as the “pulse and commerce of universal activity” and the “most suggestive and interesting portion of a daily newspaper.”

Like Livermore, I use the Union and Confederate advertisements for their historical value and, in that way, page 99 is an excellent representation of the book. Merchants commercialized the war, by offering their readers a sense of turning an everyday purchase into a political activity. A customer might strike a blow for the war effort without ever leaving the storefront. And, lest we, in the modern-day, fall into the historical sop about the past as a more simple time, some of the gimmicks were totally over the top. “Richmond Captured” and “No Compromise with Anti-Slavery” drew the eye of many northern and southern families, before leading into a sales pitch for dry goods and other material wares. Yet, by studying advertising in its early days, Marketing the Blue and Gray argues that shopping had become its own form of patriotism, one of the Civil War’s more enduring legacies.
Learn more about Marketing the Blue and Gray at the Louisiana State University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue