Friday, January 31, 2020

Gary A. Rosen's "Adventures of a Jazz Age Lawyer"

Gary A. Rosen has practiced intellectual property law for more than thirty years and is Adjunct Professor of Law at the Kline School of Law at Drexel University. He is the author of a book on popular music and copyright, Unfair to Genius: The Strange and Litigious Career of Ira B. Arnstein, and he writes a blog on law and popular culture called Jazz Age Lawyer.

Rosen applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Adventures of a Jazz Age Lawyer: Nathan Burkan and the Making of American Popular Culture, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Adventures of a Jazz Age Lawyer finds Charlie Chaplin at a career crossroads. After two years in Hollywood as a poorly paid contract player―an apprenticeship which allowed him to hone his cinematic art while becoming a worldwide sensation―Charlie has, with the help of his new lawyer, Nathan Burkan, signed a one-year contract with a new studio at the stupendous salary of $670,000 ($16.5 million in current dollars). The new contract gives him an unprecedented level of artistic control over his productions. But before he can even begin work, he learns that his former studio is about to release the last two-reel picture he had delivered to it, Charlie Chaplin’s Burlesque on Carmen, as a four-reeler, padded with 20 minutes of Chaplin’s outtakes and new, interpolated footage featuring another comic actor. Chaplin instructs Burkan to take legal action to stop distribution of the adulterated film.

The problem Burkan faces is that neither copyright law nor Chaplin’s prior employment contract gave him any legal basis to do so. Burkan’s solution is to implicitly invoke a concept imported from the European continent: the “moral right” of an author to defend the integrity of a work against alterations that are damaging to an author’s honor or reputation. By presenting the four-reeler as a “Chaplin brand” picture, Burkan argued, the studio created “an unfavorable and disappointing impression on the public and damaged Chaplin’s reputation as a motion picture star and as an author and producer of photoplays.” But moral rights, as distinct from any economic rights an author may have under copyright or contract, were not recognized in U.S. law in 1916, nor was it likely that any judge of that day would embrace a proto-auteur theory of cinema.

Indeed, Chaplin’s former employer hits back hard against the notion that Chaplin’s fame rested on anything other than “his eccentricities and peculiarities as a comedian” or that he had any “reputation as an author or producer of motion pictures of any kind.” Far from the solitary genius toiling away feverishly on every aspect of the pictures that bore his name―an image cultivated by Chaplin and supported by the great weight of contemporary accounts―the Chaplin described in these legal papers is an indolent, money-grubbing prima donna reliant on the technical skills of others, working within the standard Hollywood factory model.

The browser who turns straight to page 99 and stops there will learn two important things about Adventures of a Jazz Age Lawyer. First, that it is narrative history, not a densely-argued monograph. It makes its case for the importance of Nathan Burkan in the coming of age of the institutions, attitudes, and archetypes that define American popular culture through leisurely and engagingly told stories of his work on behalf of clients whose influence and importance scarcely require any argument. Second, the reader will encounter one of the recurring themes of the book, that Burkan’s work to secure compensation, freedom, and control for creators in what Gilbert Seldes called the “seven lively arts,” work that was often bitterly opposed by producers and distributors and which required the conception and making of wholly-new legal paradigms, stands as a testament that the technological dislocation, creative ferment, and shattering of social taboos roiling popular culture today is not a singularity, but rather just one phase in a historical continuum that slowly lurches toward greater creative freedom, artistic achievement, and cultural diversity.
Visit Gary A. Rosen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Julie Des Jardins's "American Queenmaker"

Julie Des Jardins is a historian of American women and gender who has taught and written extensively in the field, particularly on the history of women in the professions. Along with pieces on gender and women’s history for blogs, journals, and Oxford’s History of History Writing, she has written several books, including Women and the Historical Enterprise in America: Gender, Race, and the Politics of Memory; The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science; Lillian Gilbreth: Redefining Domesticity; and the study of American masculinity, Walter Camp: Football and the Modern Man.

Des Jardins applied the “Page 99 Test” to her newest book, American Queenmaker: How Missy Meloney Brought Women Into Politics, and reported the following:
The Page 99 Test amplifies a challenge I have had throughout writing American Queenmaker: encapsulating all that is important about Missy Meloney in a narrative with focus.

The subtitle suggests that Missy made her mark in American politics. In actuality, she also made it in American journalism, art, science, literature, media, reform, and diplomacy--and internationally too. No page of any book could possibly convey the totality of Missy's force, though I was hoping 99 might do a better job than others.

Missy Meloney (1878-1943) was a pioneering journalist, editor, presidential advisor, PR maven, and overall social, cultural, and political rainmaker. And yet page 99 merely explores one small, albeit crucial, facet of Missy's power: Her ability to sense the next best thing (in this case literary) and to seize on it for the sake of women. Here she is helping to make women authors culturally relevant in the 1920s, amidst the "Lost Generation" of men generally credited with shaping the literary tastes of the decade. As editor of national magazines, Missy paid female serial writers what she paid prominent men, offering Kathleen Norris $50,000 for a serial in the early 1920s, for instance, the same amount Sinclair Lewis fetched for a work of similar length. If Missy liked an author's work but couldn't make space for it, she took the time to find reputable editors who could. In years when newspaper book-review sections, Great Books groups, and Book of the Month Clubs helped to create the wide-ranging readership Margaret Widdemer called "the Middlebrow," Missy afforded women unprecedented opportunities to shape middlebrow tastes, both as literary producers and consumers. I defer to Page 99 on "the middlebrow" and Missy's determination not to make it a derogatory label:
Though not erudite, this demographic was increasingly educated; Missy would know, since she was pretty sure that her readers made up a good bit of its bulk. It's also why she figured women writers would best appeal to it. She valued writers' ability to make meaning for the masses over their ability to achieve critical acclaim, and hence she never had to rid herself of the notion that supporting female writers was commending lesser literature. She saw herself as a facilitator, introducing female readers to a diversified range of writers and vice versa, broadening palates and best-seller lists ultimately for the advancement of women, but also for the social good.

So Missy gave women their breaks and paid them like men. It was not always enough to eradicate women's deeply rooted insecurities as artists, but it was a start. She understood that it would take time to make them believe in their own voices and in their transcendent powers as shapers, communicators, and interpreters of the modern sensibility...
Visit Julie Des Jardins's website.

The Page 99 Test: Walter Camp: Football and the Modern Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Tamara Venit Shelton's "Herbs and Roots"

Tamara Venit Shelton is associate professor of history at Claremont McKenna College and author of A Squatter’s Republic: Land and the Politics of Monopoly in California, 1850–1900.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Herbs and Roots: A History of Chinese Doctors in the American Medical Marketplace, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Herbs and Roots, readers will find a discussion of how Chinese herbalists practicing in the late nineteenth-century United States borrowed advertising strategies from makers of proprietary (or patent) medicines. These strategies included the invocation of the “magical” and “miraculous.” Chinese herbalists promised to do what regular physicians could not: to cure the seemingly incurable with their remedies. What distinguished the advertising strategies of the Chinese from other makers of patent medicines was the former’s pairing of the “miracle cure” with the exoticism of the “Orient.” Page 99 begins to explain how Chinese herbalists self-Orientalized in their appeals to non-Chinese patients. They capitalized on their American patients’ racialized expectations of Asian alterity to articulate the superiority of their therapies over those of scientific medicine and to compete in the medical marketplace.

The Page 99 Test works very well for my book. Although Herbs and Roots chronicles a much longer history of traditional Chinese medicine in the United States and the lived experiences of its practitioners, the book’s principal concern is with the moment described on page 99: what historians call the “long Progressive Era,” the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In this era, Chinese herbalists became increasingly active in the American medical marketplace. As Chinese Exclusion shrank their co-ethnic clientele, Chinese herbalists reached out to new, non-Chinese patients, often via advertising in English- and Spanish-language media as described on page 99. This advertising tended to rely on easily recognizable, Orientalist stereotypes of the Chinese as mystical and otherworldly. The references to the “miraculous” were just the tip of the iceberg. The middle section of the book goes on to explore the varied and sometimes contradictory ways that Chinese herbalists repurposed the racist tropes used against them. They profited from their own social and professional marginalization and the perpetuation of anti-Chinese racism. The book concludes with an exploration of the persistence of these marketing strategies into our time and their implications for the place of traditional Chinese therapies in the American health care system.
Learn more about Herbs and Roots at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Larry Wolff's "Woodrow Wilson and the Reimagining of Eastern Europe"

Larry Wolff is Silver Professor of European History at New York University, Executive Director of the NYU Remarque Institute, and Co-Director of NYU Florence.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Woodrow Wilson and the Reimagining of Eastern Europe, and reported the following:
On Page 99 of Woodrow Wilson and the Reimagining of Eastern Europe, Wilson confronts the imminent collapse of the Habsburg monarchy at the beginning of November 1918, with World War One about to end. This is, in fact, a pivotal moment in my book, and a pivotal moment in European history. For Eastern Europe it represents the moment at which the prewar map of multinational empires was about to give way to the new twentieth-century map of interlocking national states. Wilson, at the Paris Peace Conference, would preside over this geopolitical transformation.

Though Wilson had advocated “autonomous development” for the peoples of Austria-Hungary as early as the Fourteen Points Speech of January 1918, he was hesitant to endorse the abolition of the Habsburg monarchy until the very end of the war. What I’m trying to understand in my book is how Wilson conceived of the whole region of Eastern Europe: his “mental mapping” of this region which he would never visit, but which he would fundamentally redesign through the peacemaking process. From 1917, when America entered the war, Wilson quickly accumulated knowledge and opinions, impressions and prejudices, about a region that had been hitherto of little interest to him, though many of the nations of Eastern Europe had representative immigrant groups in the United States. On Page 99, on November 5, 1918, Wilson was having a personal message to the nations of Austria-Hungary distributed from Switzerland, addressed to the peoples who were about to achieve “liberation from the yoke of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.” While Wilson was always inimical to the Ottoman empire, and enthusiastic about seeing it disappear from the map, he only persuaded himself to accept the abolition of the Habsburg empire by convincing himself that its peoples were living under a “yoke,” that they were “enslaved” as he sometimes said (an extreme overstatement), that he was fighting a war for their “liberation,” even their “emancipation.” In short Wilson—whose presidency coincided with the building of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington— convinced himself that he was fighting a Lincolnesque war for the emancipation of enslaved peoples: in Eastern Europe. At the same time, he came to feel that he himself possessed a special sensitivity to those peoples and their political hopes and dreams, and that he could speak to them directly, as he did in his personal message of November 5, 1918, promising “to assist the liberated peoples of the world to establish themselves in genuine freedom.” Wilson’s sense of his own mission in Eastern Europe was almost messianic in his conviction that he was leading these peoples into the promised land of freedom; his actual work at the peace conference, however, involved translating that messianic commitment into a geopolitical settlement. He would help to produce the modern map of interlocking national states in Eastern Europe, states that he would never visit, but where he would be long remembered. The statue of Wilson at the train station in Prague, erected after World War One, was taken down by the Nazis after 1939— but was returned to its prominent pedestal as recently as 2011.
Visit Larry Wolff's NYU faculty webpage.

The Page 99 Test: The Idea of Galicia.

The Page 99 Test: The Singing Turk.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 27, 2020

Philip G. Schrag's "Baby Jails"

Philip G. Schrag is the Delaney Family Professor of Public Interest Law at Georgetown University and the author or coauthor of sixteen books, including Asylum Denied.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Baby Jails: The Fight to End the Incarceration of Refugee Children in America, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Baby Jails is representative of the book, which relates the 35-year history of the legal and political effort to stop the U.S. government from jailing children who have fled from persecution and torture in their home countries to seek safety in America. Page 99 deals with the first “baby jail,” the T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center in Texas, a brainchild of the George W. Bush administration which was operated by a private prison company. It housed migrant mothers and children, sometimes for more than a year, while they awaited hearings on their asylum claims in overburdened immigration courts. When Barbara Hines, who directed the immigration law clinic at the University of Texas, heard about the horrific conditions for children in Hutto, she called in the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The case was assigned to federal judge Sam Sparks. Page 99 describes the hard time that Sparks gave to both Vanita Gupta, the ACLU lawyer, and to Victor Lawrence, who represented ICE.

Baby Jails starts with the now-famous Flores case. Jennie Flores from El Salvador was jailed during the Reagan administration. The class action case that she brought, seeking to end the arbitrary detention of children, went to the Supreme Court in 1993, but even though the plaintiffs lost in the high court, the Flores case continues to this day. For years, the government repeatedly violated court orders in the case that the Supreme Court had left in place, and in 1997 the Clinton administration settled with the plaintiffs. Thereafter, violations of the Flores settlement agreement continued to occur. The book devotes several chapters to the battle over Hutto, the Obama administration’s closing of that facility in 2009, and its policy reversal in 2014, when it authorized two other large family detention centers. In 2015, federal courts ruled that the Flores settlement barred the government from detaining children in those centers for more than twenty days. But 50 pages toward the end of the book reveal the Trump administration’s determined efforts to overturn the Flores settlement by litigation, by asking Congress to pass a new law, and by issuing a new regulation. Frustrated by its lack of success by all of those means, it tried the tactic of separating families in 2018, which turned into what was probably the biggest domestic policy debacle of the Trump presidency.

Baby Jails is based on court records, journalistic accounts, human rights reports, and the author’s interviews with many of the people who were involved in the controversy over the years. It concludes with recommendations for humanitarian treatment of child refugees while they await hearings to assess their claims for protection.
Learn more about Baby Jails at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Thomas Cole's "Old Man Country"

Thomas R. Cole is the McGovern Chair and Director of the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics at University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. His work has been featured in the New York Times, NPR, and PBS. Cole has served as an advisor to the President's Council on Bioethics and the United Nations NGO Committee on Ageing. His book The Journey of Life: A Cultural History of Aging in America was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He is Senior Editor of The Oxford Book of Aging, which The New Yorker cited as one of the most memorable books of the year. Cole's book No Color Is My Kind: the Life of Eldrewey Stearns and the Desegregation of Houston (1997) was adapted into the film, The Strange Demise of Jim Crow, which was broadcast nationally on over 60 PBS stations. In 2007, he co-produced Stroke: Conversations and Explanations, a prize-winning film about the invisible world of stroke survivors.

Cole applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Old Man Country: My Search for Meaning Among the Elders, and reported the following:
From page 99:
My tears are the closest thing I know to transcendence—the emotional experience of being swept up by a benevolent force beyond my thinking self. The music is a prayer filled with love. It is thrilling, expansive, hopeful.

I don’t think Downs yearns for God. I think he finds God in the purity of the highest forms of music and the most advanced forms of physics. The Greeks considered music to be a branch of physics; they showed us that harmony arises out of numerical ratios of sound waves. Instruments and voices produce vibrations that we hear as music--music that bursts into beauty and then fades silently into the universe. Listening to Downs makes me think about the beauty of aging, the beauty of each of us bursting into life and fading away after our lives have run their course.

When I ask Downs to talk about his own experience of deep old age, he talks about masculinity, particularly the challenge of reconciling manhood with physical decline. “Are you less of a man now than you were 30 years ago?”

“Well, it depends on what category you want to say,” Downs replies. “Sexually, I’m much less of a man. Athletically, I’m much less of a man. Intellectually, I think I’m more of a man than I was then, in what I pursue and what I enjoy and take pleasure from.” At the same time, he believes that he is more accepting of being an old man than when he was in his sixties:
It bothered me when—I bet I was not quite 60—when somebody wanted to help me out of a car. I was offended. Why would they think I needed help? It doesn’t bother me now that people think of me as old, because I am, and it is comfortable for me.
Throughout his career, Downs has challenged ageism—stereotypes of and prejudice against old people, along with discrimination in employment, inadequate and demeaning nursing home care, and a general cultural story of aging as decline. The PBS program Over Easy, which won an Emmy in 1981, set out Downs’ critique of ageism by emphasizing the uniqueness and value of all individuals, regardless of age. In 1979, when he was a mere child of 58, Downs published Thirty Dirty Lies about Old, an important popular book challenging pervasive negative stereotypes about aging and old people. Downs takes on such “lies” as: “Old Age is an Illness;” “Old people have no interest in sex;” “Intelligence declines with Age;” “You can’t do anything about getting old;” “Older people stand little chance in a country that accents youth.” Downs characterized these “lies” as sometimes conscious and sometimes unconscious, sometimes well-meaning and sometimes vicious.

“If we hang around long enough,” he says, “loose lies will victimize all of us.” In the end, Downs argues, it is a mistake to think that we have
This page gives a good sense of how it feels to read the book. It offers a good example of my encounter with one elder, Hugh Downs. It doesn’t provide a view of the book as a whole.

Old Man Country explores how twelve men face (or faced) the challenges of living a good old age. All who appear in this volume are highly accomplished. Some are friends. Some are strangers. Some are famous: Paul Volcker, the former head of the Federal Reserve under Presidents Reagan and Carter; Denton Cooley, the first surgeon to implant an artificial heart into a human being; Ram Dass, his generation’s foremost American teacher of Eastern Spirituality; and Hugh Downs, veteran TV broadcaster and creator of The Today Show.

The excerpt on Page 99 offers a glimpse of Downs’s successful, wide-ranging career. Over the course of this dizzying career—he worked in a puppet show, a soap opera, a game show, and hosted The Today Show from 1962-1971—he grew up professionally at the same time television emerged as a mass medium. As news programs sprouted up, he shaped them by developing his signature persona as a calm, thoughtful, and reassuring television presence. His smooth and affable demeanor secured his place as one of the most trusted news people in American television.

Before the interview, I had no idea that Downs was a polymath and tremendous adventurer whose career took him all over the world. In 1982, to cite just one example, he learned that scientists had determined more precisely the location of the earth’s axis at the South Pole and were traveling to mark the new spot. Downs contacted the head of the National Science Foundation and asked to accompany the team to Antarctica. On December 10, at 6:10 PM, he picked up the fifteen-foot bamboo pole (the South Pole is literally marked by a pole) and planted it in the correct position.

As the excerpt from Downs also shows, Old Man Country explores four basic questions that every man faces as he moves into the last stage of life: Am I Still a Man? Do I Still Matter? What is the Meaning of My Life? Am I Loved? The book suggests that, in deep old age, men (and women) can flourish if they have good and positive answers.
Visit Thomas Cole's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Shai M. Dromi's "Above the Fray"

Shai M. Dromi is a lecturer at the Department of Sociology at Harvard University, where he teaches courses in the areas of organizations, global and transnational sociology, and cultural sociology.

Dromi applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Above the Fray: The Red Cross and the Making of the Humanitarian NGO Sector, and reported the following:
Readers opening Above the Fray to page 99 will encounter a full-page reproduction of a sketch that appeared in The Sunday News Tribune in 1898. It depicts a smiling woman in nurse’s uniform pushing a wheelchair with a child seated. A young girl—perhaps 10 or 12 years old—holds the chair for support as she hobbles along on a crutch. The caption reads: “Peace hath her duties no less than war – A Red Cross nurse off duty, passing her vacation at New York’s seaside home for children.”

While browsers flipping to page 99 would only get a partial idea of the whole work, they would be touching on one of the central themes in the book: the honor that involvement in nineteenth-century Red Cross activities conferred on volunteers. The Red Cross Movement, which was established in 1863 as a network of volunteer aid societies for the war wounded, gained considerable international standing over the late-nineteenth-century. It popularized the image of the humanitarian aid worker as a courageous and impartial figure who represents common human (implicitly Christian) values in the face of rampant warfare. Red Cross societies offered volunteers significant symbolic rewards, such as medals and news coverage, which appealed in particular to women. While barred from front line military service, women found in Red Cross societies an alternate route to the battlefield. While this route confined women volunteers to caring, emotional duties in line with gender expectations at the time, it also allowed them to receive honors and social distinction that resembled those of veterans. With the influx of volunteers and donations, many Red Cross societies expanded their work from battlefield relief to other activities such as caring for the sick and for orphans at home.

The rapid expansion in size and influence of the humanitarian sector is explained, in part, by the way multiple types of professionals—nurses, journalists, international lawyers—leveraged their involvement in humanitarian activities to reap social rewards. This, in turn, reinforced the prestige of humanitarian organizations and drew additional volunteers and donations. Media depictions—such as the one on page 99—demonstrate the honorable social standing a Red Cross nurse could gain at the time, and the public interest in this then-new sector.
Visit Shai M. Dromi's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 24, 2020

Maxine Eichner's "The Free-Market Family"

Maxine Eichner is the Graham Kenan Distinguished Professor of Law at the University Of North Carolina School Of Law. She is the author of The Supportive State: Families, Government, and America's Political Ideals.

Eichner applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Free-Market Family: How the Market Crushed the American Dream (and How It Can Be Restored), and reported the following:
A reader of page 99 of my book would read a critical part – but only a part – of the story I tell in The Free-Market Family about how the US economy is failing American families. Page 99 summarizes research showing the importance to newborns of having a parent stay home during their first year:
[W]e know that parents taking longer paid leaves of up to a year reduce children’s death rates, and that leaves beyond six months improve mothers’ mental health, which leads to better parenting. Furthermore, significant research suggests that children suffer small but significant cognitive setbacks when parents return to work before a child reaches one year. Based on the incomplete knowledge we have today, the least risky course, and the one that gives children their best chance to thrive, is to allow a parent to take that first year off.
Empirical research like this is a key part of my book. But a reader who read only page 99 would miss what the book does with this research: namely, it considers how well our US system, which largely expects families to get what they need through the market, does in getting families the resources they need to thrive compared to the systems of most other wealthy countries, which take a more active role in supporting families.

In this inquiry, Free-Market Family shows that our system does a disastrous job in supporting US families. That’s true for the parental leave issue addressed on page 99: few US children have a parent stay at home with them during their first year, while almost all children in many other wealthy countries do. And far fewer US children get other important conditions we know serve children best, including high-quality daycare and prekindergarten, and regular loving care and attention from a parent all during childhood.

Furthermore, the book shows that the vast economic inequality our system has spawned means many US adults won’t ever form the stable partner relationships that most badly want. Our system also causes US parents to work harder, get less free time, and enjoy their kids less than parents in other wealthy countries. And when families aren’t sound, citizens aren’t sound. Hence the rise of the opioid epidemic, our skyrocketing rates of mental illness, and the decrease in US lifespans.

Finally, the reader of page 99 would miss the Free-Market Family’s critique of US policymakers’ treating the end goal of the economy as rising GDP. The correct end of the economy, the book asserts, is ensuring that all Americans have the resources they need to live good lives. Living good lives isn’t possible though, for children as well as most adults, unless families are sound. Ensuring that all Americans have the resources they need to support thriving family relationships must therefore become a key goal of US policymaking.
Learn more about The Free-Market Family at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Marion Kaplan's "Hitler’s Jewish Refugees"

Marion Kaplan is Skirball Professor of Modern Jewish History at New York University. She is the author of Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany and a three-time winner of the National Jewish Book Award.

Kaplan applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Hitler’s Jewish Refugees: Hope and Anxiety in Portugal, and reported the following:
Page 99 gives only a tiny peek into what the book is about. That page tells us about the relationships of Jewish refugees to Portuguese citizens. The first paragraph notes that the Nazis tried to poison those relationships by scaring the Portuguese, claiming that when the Nazis won the war, they would punish Jews and friendly Portuguese as “anti-Nazis.” Still, American organizations, other observers, and the refugees themselves found the Portuguese to be very welcoming to Jews. This page also describes the transitory nature of Jewish and Portuguese companionship, since most refugees saw Portugal as a temporary respite, hoping to cross the Atlantic as quickly as they could, leaving Hitler’s Europe behind them. Still, some refugees stayed, and the last paragraph tells about some marriages that occurred between Jews and Portuguese non-Jews.

The page 99 test doesn’t really work for my book which focuses on the emotional history of Jews fleeing to and remaining in Portugal during the war. In other words, page 99 offers a glimpse into Jewish-Portuguese relationships and is part of a section entitled “The Exasperations and Consolations of Refugee Life” – friendly Portuguese being part of the “consolations.” But that is not the essence of the book (see Table of Contents).

My book tries to answer several questions about Jewish refugees in Portugal: How did they get there? What did they do there? How did they make ends meet? Most importantly, how did Jews react emotionally to their frightening odysseys from impending doom to fragile safety and their fearful wait in an oddly peaceful purgatory. Fleeing Nazi armies during World War II, between 40,000 and 80,000 Jews headed toward Portugal. My chapters focus on the borders refugees nervously crossed; the consulates and aide organization lines they “waited, waited, and waited” on, the smoky cafés they uneasily inhabited, finding solace with other refugees from a variety of nations; and the “fixed residences,” distant fishing villages where some were incarcerated. These sites caused emotional reactions: sometimes feelings of anguish, other times relief, and often both. Throughout their stay, refugees dreaded Hitler’s troops at the French/Spanish border, knew that the Portuguese government wanted them to move on, and feared the Portuguese police, while taking comfort in the kindness of Portuguese citizens.

The book also shows how age made a striking difference in the ways children and adults reacted to their losses and displacement: children and young people could treat crossing borders for example, as an adventure even as their elders considered such dislocations nightmares. Gender, too, produced varied reactions. Although men and women faced similar insecurities and material losses, men had lost more in the public sphere (where only younger women had joined the labor force) and perceived their losses as greater. More generally, refugees had suffered drastic economic and social decline: Hannah Arendt saw “parables of increasing self-loss.” She observed that many of these refugees had “felt entitled from their earliest childhood” to the "accoutrements of middle-class status: “They are failures in their own eyes if this standard cannot be kept any longer.... They constantly struggle with despair of themselves.” She explained: “We lost our home, which means the familiarity of daily life. We lost our occupation, which means the confidence that we are of some use in the world.”
Learn more about Hitler’s Jewish Refugees at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Lauren Jae Gutterman's "Her Neighbor's Wife"

Lauren Jae Gutterman teaches American studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Her Neighbor's Wife: A History of Lesbian Desire Within Marriage, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Her Neighbor’s Wife: A History of Lesbian Desire Within Marriage discusses the depiction of wives who desired women in The Ladder, a magazine published by the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the nation’s first lesbian rights group, beginning in 1956. More specifically, this page examines why and how the magazine’s editors and contributors became more critical of wives who remained married and “passed” as heterosexual despite their conscious attraction to other women in the late 1960s. Yet even as The Ladder was beginning to demonstrate a more radical gay politics, to emphasize the political importance of “coming out” publicly, and to show less sympathy for wives who desired women, the magazine did not directly instruct wives to leave their marriages as lesbian feminist activists of the 1970s later would.

While The Ladder did not tell married women explicitly how to resolve the tension between their same-sex desires and their responsibilities to their husbands and children, this page of the book describes several personal stories published in The Ladder in the late 1950s and early 1960s in which women explained how they or their lovers had left marriages to build new lesbian lives. In addition, this page mentions a survey of DOB members from 1959 which found that less than a quarter of those members who had been married were married still. In other words, while The Ladder often stressed the hopelessness of lesbian wives’ situation, it did convey a subtle message that wives who desired women could remake their lives outside of marriage if they truly wanted to do so.

In turning to page 99, then, readers do get an accurate sense of this book. The page conveys that a significant number of wives experienced same-sex desires within marriage in the postwar United States. It suggests the struggles these wives faced in negotiating their attraction to women and their familial obligations in the context of rampant homophobia. Page 99 of Her Neighbor’s Wife also conveys something of the ways wives who desired women have been represented in the media, the political problems this population of women raised for openly lesbian activists, and the extent to which lesbian activists changed their interpretation of and response to wives who desired women over time. All of these issues are critical to the book as a whole.
Learn more about Her Neighbor's Wife at the University of Pennsylvania Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Vaneesa Cook's "Spiritual Socialists"

Vaneesa Cook is a historian, professor, and freelance writer on religion and politics.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Spiritual Socialists: Religion and the American Left, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Spiritual Socialists: Religion and the American Left details how the historical figures profiled in the book sought to advance their values and mission internationally. The test works in this case because page 99 introduces one of the major points of contention among leftist activists, generally, and spiritual socialists, specifically. Emphasizing religious values, spiritual socialists expanded the leftist agenda in the US to cultural issues of race and gender at mid-century, predating the New Left. They all believed in the possibility of creating the Kingdom of God on earth, via grassroots community building. However, they disagreed about how to promote and defend the Kingdom of God internationally, especially during times of war, and they debated whether non-violence or interventionism represented the best moral choice.

For instance, spiritual socialists held a diverse set of opinions about World War II in the 1940s. Some, such as A. J. Muste, Staughton Lynd, and Dorothy Day, were absolute pacifists, rejecting violence completely. Others, including YMCA missionary Sherwood Eddy and Henry A. Wallace, rationalized fighting the good fight on the grounds that Christians needed to root out the weeds of evil (i.e. fascism) lest it interfere with the cultivation of the Kingdom of God on earth. The debate among spiritual socialists, then, did not pivot on issues of war and peace, violence and nonviolence as ends in themselves. The debate was actually about which approach to war would yield the most effective results for the long-term project of building a socialist society from the bottom up. Day, Lynd, and Muste contended that the means must always match the ends, making violence counterproductive to God’s will for the world. Eddy and Wallace, on the other hand, argued that the objective to protect the seeds of the Kingdom from being trampled underfoot by fascist soldiers made a temporary resort to violence necessary and realistic.
Visit Vaneesa Cook's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 20, 2020

Shana Minkin's "Imperial Bodies"

Shana Minkin is Associate Professor of International and Global Studies at Sewanee: The University of the South.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Imperial Bodies: Empire and Death in Alexandria, Egypt, and reported the following:
The end of the first paragraph of page 99 of Imperial Bodies reads as follows:
Civil registers and inquests helped empires know their subjects, imperial bodies that could be divided into the categories that the empire might need. There was always a desire to delineate in empire; the imperial state needed to know the difference between citizen, subject, and protégé in order to function properly. The institutions of such divisions created [the] “liminal subject of empire,” the person who crosses those legal lines. In Alexandria, it was often the consulates that moved those lines in attempting to capture the body of that liminal subject. The French Consulate used registers to document, divide, and manage its dead. By doing so, it showed that the barriers between citizen, subject, and protégé were at times firm and at times supple. Nonterritorial empire moved and shifted as needed to fill the pages of its registers, to claim its subjects, including protégés, and citizens. The inquests, in memorializing British subjects who lived far beyond the boundaries of British community, did much of the same work. Together the registers and inquests reveal that the process of investigating and recording death intertwined the consulates with local space and governance. Thus were consulate bureaucrats turned into archivists of Egypt even as they produced the building blocks— or, rather, the building bodies—of imperialism.
This paragraph concludes the introductory section of the fourth chapter, “Dying to be British, Dying to be French.” It lays out the primary argument, which is that the documentary processes of death (registrations, inquests) facilitated the sorting of peoples into the categories of empire. These bureaucratic practices were tools of community, of the British and French empires, and of the nascent Egyptian state. This argument is a central feature of my book, which uses hospitals, funerals, and cemeteries alongside the documentation of death to demonstrate that death was essential to the building and maintenance of empire in Egypt.

Page 99 also introduces the reader to primary actors in my book: the British and French consular officials who played the role of the mundane creators of empire. A key finding of mine is that, in the realm of death, the central British colonial state was mostly irrelevant. Consulates worked with the Egyptian national state, and the British consulate and community had no special benefit evident in the struggle for land to build hospitals and cemeteries. In this chapter, consular workers serve as the primary interlocutors among the dead, the communities of the living, and the imperial and national states. As such, with its introduction to both the primary arguments and some of the main actors of this book, page 99 is a very good representation of what is in store for readers.
Learn more about Imperial Bodies at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Christina P. Davis's "The Struggle for a Multilingual Future"

Christina P. Davis is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Western Illinois University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Struggle for a Multilingual Future: Youth and Education in Sri Lanka, and reported the following:
Excerpt from page 99:
On the morning of their first O-level exam session in December 2007, the Hindu College grade 11 class went to do pujas at the Kandy Pillayar Kovil, a Hindu temple devoted to the god Ganesh. I arrived at the temple at 6:15 a.m. to wish them good luck on their exams. I joined a group of Hindu College girls who were standing in the paved space in front of the temple. The boys were huddled together a small distance away. The students chatted with one another in nervous excitement. The girls watched as the rest of their classmates arrived, saying, “Hi, morning” and “EppaDi?” (How’s it going?). When a boy named Michael approached the girls, one whispered to another, “Enakku Michaela kaNNulayee kaaTTaadu” (I hate Michael). A girl asked her friend for money for a sugar bun because she had forgotten to eat breakfast. Another girl relayed how she had walked to the bus stand without her national ID card so she had to run all the way back to her house to get it.
Page 99 represents my book well. It introduces a key chapter that investigates peer groups and Tamil identity inside and outside schools. This page demonstrates the book’s focus on everyday interactions by recounting conversations that occurred among Tamil students at a Hindu temple in Kandy, Sri Lanka. These girls and boys, who were all in the grade 11 class at a nearby Tamil-medium school, had come to the temple to do pujas before taking their Ordinary-level exams, the results of which would influence their educational and career trajectories. They spoke to each other in Tamil mixed with Sinhala (the majority language) and English words and expressions. This occasion was special in that it was one of the few times in which they were all together away from the immediate gaze of their teachers. Areas outside temples are commonly used as gathering places in South Asia, but these activities were restricted during the last phase of the Sri Lankan civil war (2006–2009) because of security concerns. This page shows the excitement and reluctance that the students felt as they broke away from the group to head to their separate testing locations.

The subsequent pages frame this introductory narrative by explaining the focus of the chapter on how the Hindu College students managed different forms of monitoring and the reinforcing of ethnicity in school and in other public spaces. In school youths’ ethnic identities were reproduced in relation to language of instruction and linguistic practice. Outside of school they navigated a Sinhala-majority setting, where the very act of speaking Tamil may be considered inappropriate or offensive or might even be seen as a security threat. This chapter shows how these Tamil youth created interactional spaces where others were not privy, whether in the classroom, at a temple, or on the street. It also incorporates recordings of their interactions to look at how they managed their status as lower-class ethnic minorities by building Tamil cocoons around themselves to insulate them in Sinhala-majority public spaces. This is an important chapter in the book as it moves from schools to public spaces to look at how language-based models of ethnicity were reproduced in everyday talk. The last section of the chapter returns to the opening narrative to discuss the students’ trajectories after finishing their Ordinary-level exams and losing the support of their school-based peer groups.
Visit Christina P. Davis's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Christopher Knowlton's "Bubble in the Sun"

Chris Knowlton is a former staff writer and London Bureau Chief for Fortune Magazine. He currently serves as Chair of the Board of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and Sea Center.

His previous book was Cattle Kingdom: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West.

Knowlton applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Bubble in the Sun: The Florida Boom of the 1920s and How It Brought on the Great Depression, and reported the following:
The ninety-ninth page of Bubble in the Sun is the opening of a new chapter and reads as follows:
Chapter 9: Trail Blazers

When Marjory Douglas first began to explore the Everglades, in the process developing her passion for bird watching, she would drive down a forty-mile unfinished section of a road that dead-ended deep in the Everglades. The unfinished road, known as the Tamiami Trail, was originally planned as the last leg of the Dixie Highway, a leg that would bridge the cities of Tampa and Miami by traversing the Everglades at a point roughly level with Miami. Carl Fisher and the other proponents of the road believed it would be a boon to land development on both coasts, as well as an attraction and convenience for tourists traveling around the state. For years it had been the holy grail of Florida road building, championed by newspapers on both coasts.

The story behind the road’s construction is notable as a cautionary tale because road and land development so often go hand in hand, and in turn, have impacts on the environment—too often to the detriment of the environment, sometimes to the detriment of the development, and occasionally both, as we shall see in the larger story of the land boom.

The road’s construction began in 1916. After a promising start, with spurs of highway extending towards each other from the opposite coasts, the project stalled with neither county able to procure the funds to complete it. Then, in early April of 1923, a group of Tampa businessmen dreamed up a promotional stunt to rekindle interest in the project. Twenty-three men in nine automobiles led by two Miccosukee guides decided to traverse the Everglades along the projected route, still made up mostly of old Indian trails and rough grade roads known as “Wish to God” roads—short for “Wish to God I had taken another road!” The convoy included seven model T Fords, a brand new Elcar limousine, and one Overland commissary truck. None of the men had any significant experience as woodsmen.
Happily for this author, the excerpt validates Ford Madox Ford’s clever adage. One third of the way through the book, with the setup mechanics complete and the lives of the protagonists set firmly in motion, I chose to make a slight digression from the central thread of the narrative to tell the side story of the construction of the Tamiami Trail. This brief, breath-catching interlude doubles as a historical analog for the all the reckless and heedless development that took place across Florida—and the country as a whole—in the 1920s and teed us up for the calamity of the Great Depression.

What makes the passage so apposite thematically, as well, is that it explicitly marries the economic story in the book to the environmental story. A central argument here is that we can no longer separate economic wellbeing from environmental wellbeing. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, an unlikely spokesperson for the environmental movement, may have put it best in an address to The Royal Society some thirty years ago, when she remarked that “the health of the economy and the health of our environment are totally dependent upon each other.” The World Wildlife Fund elaborated on this sentiment when it noted in 2018 that, “all economic activity ultimately depends on services provided by nature.” In this chapter, Florida’s major aquifer is eviscerated in the name of progress and development. What could be more shortsighted than that?

The passage also conveys the haplessness of the Trailblazers, who were every bit as ignorant of the ecology of the Everglades as Florida’s great developers were of the coastal environment that they so systematically destroyed. So page 99 provides something of a tip-off to the reader on how to interpret the book as a whole: as a high stakes morality tale where the price of environmental and/or economic ignorance can be ruinous.
Visit Christopher Knowlton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 17, 2020

Richard Lachmann's "First Class Passengers on a Sinking Ship"

Richard Lachmann is a Professor at the University of Albany-SUNY and the author of Capitalists in Spite of Themselves: Elite Conflict and Economic Transitions in Early Modern Europe, States and Power and What Is Historical Sociology?

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, First-Class Passengers on a Sinking Ship: Elite Politics and the Decline of Great Powers, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book is the first page of Chapter 3. On that page I present a historical problem: Why were Habsburg Spain and France under both Louis XIV and Napoleon unable to parlay their military domination within Europe, and in the case of Spain the largest global empire of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, into economic domination. Those failures demonstrate the limits of empires and of geopolitical power.

Chapter 3 goes on to explain why Spain and France never achieved hegemony. In brief, my answer is that elites at home and in the colonies manage to appropriate most colonial and state revenues for themselves, starving their countries’ domestic economies of investment and the governments of resources needed to fend off the rising power of the Netherlands and Britain. In the following chapters I trace how the Dutch and British achieved global economic hegemony and how, quickly in the Netherlands and much more slowly in Britain, elites appropriate state powers and resources and placed those countries on the path to decline.

The Page 99 Test works fairly well for my book: that page does present a central problem that my book tries to solve. However, readers who turn to that page wouldn’t know that most of the book is concerned with the contemporary United States. I wrote the book to explain how the US is losing its decades long advantage as the most educated, militarily successfully, and economically vibrant country.

I show how American elites, like their European predecessors, consolidated control over governmental offices and powers and extracted revenues both from government and from the businesses they controlled rather than investing in innovation and the infrastructure that could maintain US supremacy. In the US, as in Britain and the Netherlands as they began their declines, finance became the leading sector, resulting in speculative booms and busts. Today American dominance is largely in finance. The dollar remains the world currency and the Fed the global regulator, which enriches bankers and speculators but harms the real economy. I explain why the US military, despite enjoying a technological edge and ability to project force around the globe unprecedented in world history, has been unable for the last half century to achieve its objectives in wars.

My analysis is not a happy one, and I avoid the temptation to conclude with empty hopes that America can renew it self if only we turn off our screens or become public minded. Elites will not give up their power voluntarily, and this country’s future can best be predicted by looking at what happened in Britain and the Netherlands after their declines.
Learn more about First-Class Passengers on a Sinking Ship at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Peggy Orenstein's "Boys & Sex"

Peggy Orenstein is a New York Times best-selling author whose books include Don’t Call Me Princess, Girls & Sex, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, and Waiting for Daisy as well as Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Kids, Love and Life in a Half-Changed World and the classic SchoolGirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Confidence Gap.

Orenstein applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity, and reported the following:
Page 99 turns out to be a pretty interesting one. So much of the book is about the message boys still get, perhaps more strongly than ever, that sexual conquest is the measure of a man, that having as many hookups as possible (and often treating your partners poorly in the process) is the surest path to status and "fun." But they also talked about a desire for something different and how difficult it could be to find that. Page 99 picks up in the middle of a conversation with a college junior who's had three not-very-satisfying hookups since starting school but doesn't know how else to meet girls. He tells me that asking someone on a date would be weird, and I respond by asking why making out with a girl he barely knows on a dance floor and maybe going home together seemed more "weird" than asking someone from class out to a movie. He says, "Absolutely. I think about that all the time."

The page goes on with the quote from a second boy:
"I've had two one-night stands in college, and both of them have left me feeling empty and depressed. I have no idea what I gained from those experiences other than being like, ‘Yeah, I had sex with someone.’ There were no feelings of discovery or pleasure or intimate connection, which are really the things that I value. I mean, what is this dance we’re doing right now if all we take away is a number?”

Then there was the college sophomore in Los Angeles, one of the more sexually active young men I met, who fell silent when I asked about the most intimate act he’d ever engaged in, finally saying, almost reverently, “Holding hands.”
I think it captures the spirit of the book both in the sense that it's about the boys' voices; that they are candid, a little raw, in what they're saying to me; and that our interviews gave them the rare opportunity to express emotion in a way that boys are often denied.
Visit Peggy Orenstein's website.

The Page 69 Test: Waiting for Daisy.

The Page 99 Test: Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Matthew Landauer's "Dangerous Counsel"

Matthew Landauer is assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Dangerous Counsel: Accountability and Advice in Ancient Greece, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Dangerous Counsel, Xerxes, the fifth-century BCE Great King of Persia, faces a difficult problem. As the Greek historian Herodotus tells it, at a critical moment in his invasion of Greece, Xerxes has to decide whose advice to trust. A defecting Spartan king, Demaratus, claims to know how to defeat his former people. Xerxes’ own brother, Achaemenes, offers opposing advice and slanders Demaratus, claiming that Greeks cannot be trusted. In previous interactions with advisers Xerxes has proved volatile, and Achaemenes fully expects him to punish Demaratus for trying to manipulate Persian war policy. Xerxes surprises everyone: while he sides with Achaemenes, he chastises his brother for attempting to sow distrust. Xerxes proves himself capable of listening to multiple viewpoints, and able to understand the value of trustworthy counsellors. But his decision to listen to his brother is also a mistake: Achaemenes’ advice ultimately leads to the total defeat of the Persian navy at Salamis.

A reader turning to page 99 would get a sense of some of the book’s central arguments, its method, and its tone. In the book I show how ancient Greeks used stories like this one, dramatizing the unaccountable power of kings and tyrants, to help them think through political concepts such as accountability, responsibility, advice, and control. They applied the insights they gained across diverse political contexts. While page 99 is about advice to a king, the book focuses as much on democracy as autocracy. Conscious of the differences between democracy and tyranny, Greek thinkers also recognized that a collective body of citizens (the demos) might sometimes act tyrannically — including in their interactions with orators and advisers.

Articulating a theory of advice is difficult. Theory trades in generalities while advice — and deciding which adviser to trust — is highly contextual and particular. The method of the book tracks the approach the Greeks themselves used: the careful consideration of particular cases. When Thucydides or Herodotus depicted scenes of counsel, playing out in the democratic assemblies of Athens or the courts of Persian kings, they were not offering simple, programmatic lessons for would-be political decision-makers and their advisers. Instead, they were dramatizing the complexity of real-world politics and giving their readers model cases to reflect on and learn from. The vignette on page 99 thus also captures something of the spirit of the book. The stories and historical incidents that ancient Greeks used as fodder for their theorizing about accountability and advice were often high stakes, full of drama and uncertainty. In Dangerous Counsel I try to preserve that sense of excitement. Stories of tyrants and demagogues from Peisistratus to Pericles and beyond are not only fertile grounds for political theorizing: they are also entertaining, ironic, weird, and fun.
Learn more about Dangerous Counsel at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Rachel Hammersley's "James Harrington: An Intellectual Biography"

Rachel Hammersley is an intellectual historian with particular expertise in the political thought of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. She has carried out research on concepts such as republicanism, democracy and revolutions during this period and have written extensively on the exchange of ideas between Britain and France. Her books are French Revolutionaries and English Republicanism: The Cordeliers Club, 1790-1794 and The English Republican Tradition and Eighteenth-Century France.

Hammersley applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, James Harrington: An Intellectual Biography, and reported the following:
Page 99 of James Harrington: An Intellectual Biography presents the argument that Harrington's innovative theory that political power depends on landed power was the product not just of his concern with inequality in wealth, but of his ambitious aim in The Commonwealth of Oceana to design a form of republican or commonwealth government that could function in a large, modern nation-state. Most previous republics had focused on single city-states or federations of towns. Consequently, it had come to be assumed that republics could only flourish in small states. In proposing a commonwealth suitable for seventeenth-century England, Harrington was therefore doing something new and controversial. He used several strategies to counter the traditional view and to justify his claim that a large republic was possible. The most important of these was his insistence that the problem of size could be alleviated through the use of representative government.

While all the arguments of a long and complex book will never be found on one page, the test works reasonably well in this case. Certain key points that are important in themselves are presented on page 99 and they in turn point towards broader ideas.

In turning to page 99 the first thing that struck me was the heading 'Creating a Commonwealth in the Modern World'. The idea that this was Harrington's aim, the notion that this aim was innovative for the time, and the suggestion that this helps to explain Harrington's importance in the eighteenth century, are all central claims of my book. Moreover, these claims are connected to two broader arguments. First, that Harrington was an innovative thinker. He introduced novel ideas rather than just repeating those of his predecessors; and he encouraged and embraced, rather than avoiding, controversy. Secondly, that he was one of the first political thinkers to advocate representation as the solution to political problems of governance.

Harrington was concerned with how government involving an element of popular participation could be made workable in a state covering a large area and population. This was an issue that came to the fore in the eighteenth century, and the introduction of modern representative democracy is usually associated with the revolutions of the later part of that century, and with thinkers such as James Madison in America and Benjamin Constant in France. Here on page 99 we can see Harrington pioneering the idea in the mid-seventeenth century, demonstrating both his credentials as an innovative thinker and the importance of his thought for the development of the modern understanding of representative government that remains relevant today. He also addressed the problems that representation can bring - not least the issue of how to keep representatives accountable to their constituents - a question that we still grapple with. These resonances, and others that can be found in the book, show why Harrington deserves to be better known in the twenty-first century.
Visit Rachel Hammersley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 13, 2020

Sun Sun Lim's "Transcendent Parenting"

Sun Sun Lim is Professor of Communication & Technology and Head of Cluster (Dean) of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. From 2003 to 2016, she was Assistant then Associate Professor at the Department of Communications & New Media; and from 2014 to 2016, Assistant Dean for Research at the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, National University of Singapore.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Transcendent Parenting: Raising Children in the Digital Age, and reported the following:
Page 99 provides an interesting glimpse into my book because it features interview quotes from two of my respondents who share the mixed feelings they have about their use of technology in parenting. While both quotes reflect these parents’ recognition that they can use mobile communication to keep an eye on their children, this sense of assurance is also at odds with their resentment towards such surveillance and the stress it induces in them.

Someone turning to page 99 may well be intrigued by who these quotes are from, and what their lives are like. Questions may be piqued such as: Who are these people speaking about their children? How old are their kids? What are these technologies they refer to? Why are they using such technology to perform their parenting duties? Why do they feel the need to care for their children in this way? Why do they sound ambivalent about these functionalities?

My book focuses on digitally-connected families whose use of technology has lubricated their lives but also intensified the parenting burden and complicated the parent-child relationship. Hence page 99 offers a tantalising peek into my concept of Transcendent Parenting, where parents transcend the physical distance between them and their kids, they need to transcend every online and offline environment their children transit through, and they must also transcend ‘timeless time’ and parent relentlessly.
Visit Sun Sun Lim's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Purnima Bose's "Intervention Narratives"

Purnima Bose is associate professor of English and international studies at Indiana University in Bloomington, and also serves as chairperson of the international studies department. Her publications include Organizing Empire: Individualism, Collective Agency & India and co-edited volumes with Laura E. Lyons: Cultural Critique and the Global Corporation and a special issue of Biography on “Corporate Personhood.”

Bose applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Intervention Narratives: Afghanistan, the United States, and the Global War on Terror, and reported the following:
If you open Intervention Narratives to page 99, you will find several paragraphs on the culture of pet ownership in the United States. The page begins by drawing on Heidi Nast’s insights that pets, particularly dogs, have displaced children as objects of affection in post-industrial societies that are oriented toward hyper consumerism. Dogs are less expensive to raise, and they are expendable if they become nuisances in ways that children are not. In the US, the anthropomorphism of dogs into family members has been accompanied by the emergence of a dizzying array of products and services oriented toward canines. On page 99, you would read that American consumers spent a staggering $69.51 billion on their household animals in 2017 compared with the $42.4 billion that the US government allocated to foreign aid for 140 countries. You would learn that corporations such as Paul Mitchell and Omaha Steaks, which have traditionally sold products for people, are developing shampoos and high-end food for pets to cash in on these markets.

At one level, the page 99 test yields an inaccurate snapshot of the book, which is about the stories that Americans tell about their engagement with Afghanistan since the Cold War. There is no obvious connection between Americans’ expenditure on pets and the US intervention in Afghanistan. Page 99 is in chapter three, which explains the relationship between American pet culture and foreign intervention by analyzing recent memoirs and popular films focused on US soldiers and Marines, who have either rescued stray dogs in Afghanistan or gone to great lengths to safeguard their military working dogs [MWDs]. I argue that these accounts efface the violence of military occupation against Afghans, whose conditions are rarely mentioned, and instead elicit our emotional identification with helpless strays and heroic MWDs. These stories have happy endings that narrate the successful immigration of these dogs to the US and their adoption by American families. While the achievements of the war remain dubious, Americans can believe the compensatory fantasy that we have saved blameless canines.

The page 99 test also does not adequately represent the range of stories I examine in Intervention Narratives, including Cold War depictions of the Mujahideen, Afghan women entrepreneurs, members of Seal Team Six, and Osama bin Laden. I make two central arguments that are invisible on that page: first, American representations of Afghanistan are contradictory, and, hence, have a wide appeal across the political spectrum; second, US policy toward Afghanistan since the Cold War is not anchored in realities on the ground and is largely based on fictions, a conclusion that a recent extensive Washington Post investigation validates.

At another level, the page 99 test accurately conveys how I contextualize the stories we tell of Afghanistan in facts and figures, particularly in terms of flows of money. Given the US Department of Defense’s shoddy accounting practices, we may never know how much money this conflict has cost. More importantly, the human costs of this war remain hidden because of the US military’s refusal to disclose the number of civilian casualties. Countless lives have been lost as a direct result of US military power; the indirect consequences of war such as disruptions to agriculture, food distribution, and the delivery of healthcare have meant untold misery for many other Afghans. Intervention Narratives interrogates American stories about the Afghan war to indict the rationales and prosecution of this most imperial of conflicts.
Learn more about Intervention Narratives at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 10, 2020

Nitsan Chorev's "Give and Take"

Nitsan Chorev is the Harmon Family Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs at Brown University. She is the author of The World Health Organization between North and South and Remaking U.S. Trade Policy.

Chorev applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Give and Take: Developmental Foreign Aid and the Pharmaceutical Industry in East Africa, and reported the following:
On page 99 you will find a discussion on the historical origins of one important aspect of the local pharmaceutical industry in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – the fact that at least initially the industry was dominated by East Africans of Indian descent. On page 99 I discuss the case of Tanzania and show that it was discriminatory practices during colonial rule that led to the exclusion of indigenous Africans from commercial and industrial sectors. In addition to unequal educational opportunities (discussed on a different page), Africans were not given trading licenses at the same time that commerce was almost the only business opportunity available to Indians.

Would browsers opening Give and Take to page 99 get a good or a poor idea of the whole work? It depends! Possibly, page 99 offers a “poor” idea of what the book is about since it happens to focus on the colonial era whereas the main events of interest to the book take place much later, from the 1980s to the 2010s. And yet, page 99 also offers a great idea of the whole work because it points at what I consider to be one of the strengths of the study – my interest in the historical (both colonial and post-independence) roots of contemporary industrial production in East Africa.

Page 99 also happens to focus on domestic policies whereas the main argument of the book is about foreign aid. And yet, page 99 again offers a great idea of the whole work since it points at another potential strength of the study – my interest in the interplay between transnational (foreign aid) and local factors (state capacity, entrepreneurship) as they shape industrial production in East Africa.

I like page 99 exactly because it captures the complexity of what I try to argue. The book attempts to explain the presence of “pockets” of industrial capabilities in resource-poor countries by looking at local drug manufacturing. Why the emergence of pharmaceutical production in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in the 1980s/1990s? And how to explain the unlikely improvement of quality standards in that industry in the 2000s/2010s?

These questions led me to foreign aid. I find that foreign aid was instrumental for both the emergence and the upgrading of the pharmaceutical industry in East Africa (although, as page 99 begins to reveal, local conditions also mattered). This doesn’t mean that critics who argue that foreign aid is inefficient or exploitative are wrong. Rather, that under certain conditions foreign aid could be effective and valuable for the recipients. What the book tries to do is identify those conditions, that is, the policies and programs that benefited the pharmaceutical sector.

I found that it was a combination of three interventions: the creation of markets encouraged local entrepreneurs to produce the kind of drugs that donors would buy; effective monitoring encouraged local entrepreneurs to follow high quality standards; and mentoring in the form of technical transfer provided local entrepreneurs the necessary know-how to do so successfully. And although the book focuses on the pharmaceutical sector the lessons travel not only to other industrial sectors but to services as well.
Learn more about Give and Take at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Navin A. Bapat's "Monsters to Destroy"

Navin A. Bapat is Dowd Professor in the Study of Peace and War and the Chair of the Curriculum of Peace, War, and Defense at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Monsters to Destroy: Understanding the War on Terror, and reported the following:
Page 99 of the book discusses the effect of the Afghan surge on the counterinsurgency effort against the Taliban in the Helmand and Kandahar provinces. There is a plot at the top of the page indicating that violence in both provinces was trending downward. Although the U.S. has long avoided body counts as a metric of success, these initial trends seemed positive for U.S. efforts.

Although these passages are important to the study as a whole, the page 99 test does not work particularly well for the book. Rather than focusing specifically on the Afghan surge, the book asks the question: why did the U.S. government spend trillions fighting the war on terror when the risk of dying from terrorism is lower than the risk of being struck by lightning, murdered by firearms, or killed in a traffic accident?

The book argues that while terrorism is indeed insignificant, the randomness and the shock of terrorist attacks typically convinces citizens that the risk is substantial. In these times of fear, citizens may turn to their governments, and will demand that governments adopt policies to protect them. Since the risk of terrorism is so low, any policy adopted by governments would appear effective. And since the risk of terrorism may always be present, governments may justify a continuation of policies they favor if they appear to be reducing the risk of terror.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks therefore offered the U.S. an opportunity to shape the world in a way that would preserve American dominance in perpetuity. Using the cover of preventing terror, the U.S. attempted to cement its control over the world’s global energy market. The U.S. engaged in military attacks against its adversaries in Afghanistan and Iraq, and promised protection to its key allies critical to the extraction, sale, and transportation of energy.

However, since the U.S. would only protect these leaders if a terrorist threat existed, the leaders of these regimes had no incentive to disarm their terrorists. These dynamics led to the growth of more powerful and virulent insurgencies in the territories of U.S. allies, which ultimately increased both the economic and the human cost of the war to the U.S. When the U.S. indicated it could no longer pay the price of the war, it weakened its commitment to its allies, which encouraged leaders to become more aggressive to protect themselves before the U.S. abandoned them. Although the U.S. began the war to maintain its dominant status, it is now continuing the war to preserve what power it has left in global energy markets.
Learn more about Monsters to Destroy at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Sarah M. Stitzlein's "Learning How to Hope"

Sarah M. Stitzlein is a Professor of Education and Affiliate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cincinnati. She is also President of the John Dewey Society, Co-Editor of the journal, Democracy & Education, and Co-Director of the Center for Hope & Justice Education. As a philosopher of education, she uses political philosophy to uncover problems in education, analyze educational policy, and envision better alternatives. She is especially interested in issues of political agency, educating for democracy, and equity in schools.

Stitzlein applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Learning How to Hope: Reviving Democracy through our Schools and Civil Society, and reported the following:
Page 99 begins with an important point about democracy, explaining that it’s not “merely a formal matter—bound up in documents, officials, policies, and procedures—but rather, is a way of life.” As a way of life, democracy is something that we enact regularly in our daily lives and we develop habits that enable us to do so.

Page 99 gets as an important idea in the book: developing democratic habits. These are habits that help us to engage in democracy as a way of life. The book overall argues that hope is a democratic habit. Hope is a habit that disposes us toward possibility, urging us to improve our lives and those of others. As a habit, hope is something that we can nurture and develop through education.

This book responds to hopelessness in America today and growing frustrations between political parties and with democracy as a whole. I explain what hope is, why it matters to democracy, and how we might teach for it in schools and civil society.
Visit Sarah M. Stitzlein's website.

The Page 99 Test: American Public Education and the Responsibility of its Citizens.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Christina Dunbar-Hester's "Hacking Diversity"

Christina Dunbar-Hester is associate professor of communication in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. She is the author of Low Power to the People: Pirates, Protest, and Politics in FM Radio Activism.

Dunbar-Hester applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Hacking Diversity: The Politics of Inclusion in Open Technology Cultures, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Everyone in the room was enrolled into cryptodancing. One of the first instructions was for people to partner up and one person to lead while the other followed. The leaders were instructed to move around the room, across the floor space, and also shift planes of height: crouching, standing. The leader was supposed to guide the follower, whose eyes were closed, through space by holding her hand… The squawks and squalls of the electronics took on increased urgency, and people moved deliberately into the frame of the camera projecting our movements. Someone extended a hand toward the theremin and an ethereal squeal pierced the room.
This page both is and is not representative of the book as a whole! What is representative is that the reader encounters a detailed and lively description of a very idiosyncratic event—a “cryptodance” at a hacking event in Montréal, in 2016, where people attempted to embody the principles of public key cryptography through an improvised choreography. Sounds weird? It is. But the event was very interesting, and my description—based on having participated in the event—helps to illuminate some of the main ideas in the book. One of its objectives is to chronicle how people have been thinking creatively and critically about novel ways of engaging with technologies, and “hacking” their cultures to open up participation to new kinds of folks. Needless to say, the cryptodance is a different way of encountering the principles of cryptography than one would learn in, say, a computer science class.

What is not representative is that this page is only a narrative of an event I attended while doing research. It does not contain the wider points of the book, analysis or main arguments, which place the event above and others like it in a wider context of history of computing and hacking.

Page 99 is also not representative in that it does not contain any pictures—though 98 and 100 do!
Learn more about Hacking Diversity at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue