Saturday, February 29, 2020

Michael Cavanagh's "Paradise Lost: A Primer"

Michael Cavanagh (1942–2017) was the Orville and Mary Patterson Routt Professor of Literature at Grinnell College. He published Professing Poetry: Seamus Heaney's Poetics, as well as poems in The Heartland Review, The Sewanee Review, The South Carolina Review, Rattle, The South Dakota Review, and elsewhere.

Cavanagh's last book, Paradise Lost: A Primer, was edited by Scott Newstok, the author of How to Think Like Shakespeare.

Newstok applied the “Page 99 Test” to Paradise Lost: A Primer and reported the following:
I was away from Grinnell College in the fall of 1993, when Michael Cavanagh offered his biennial Paradise Lost seminar. After I returned to campus, I envied my classmates, who regaled me with accounts of his contagious joy at the marvels of this poem. Given the laughter and insight I’d gained from his other courses, I lamented that I had missed my only opportunity to hear him revivify Milton.

He gave me a second chance. Some 15 years later, paralyzed at the prospect of teaching my own first Milton seminar, I begged him for advice, strategies, assignments, shameless shortcuts. His gently prodding emails that summer’s day persisted throughout the semester, bolstering my confidence. I would have drowned without him.

The timing was fortuitous. Having completed Professing Poetry, his study of Heaney’s prose, Cavanagh was drafting this book. Milton was on his mind. Over the next decade, he continued to share chapters with me. While he never explained why he elected to call it a “Primer,” I believe he modestly intended it to be not the last word on Milton, but rather something to “say first”—to prime you for reading, just as we prime a pump, or apply a primer before painting. In Milton’s era, primers were manuals for literacy or prayers, designed to be clear, concise, companionable. The instruction and delight that characterized Cavanagh’s classroom similarly suffuse his pages. He shared Marjorie Hope Nicholson’s conviction that “to know the poetry of Milton is to have a liberal education.”

Following an abrupt series of strokes, Michael Cavanagh passed away in 2017. I’ve helped his family edit the manuscript, which I’d long admired for its practicing poet’s sense of craft. As Alastair Fowler wrote of completing C. S. Lewis’s book on The Faerie Queene, “My aim throughout has been to make a readable book.”
[Joseph] Summers’s appreciation of the scene of Eve and Adam’s matins is a great example of how to read Milton. Paradise Lost, he says, is pervaded by a sense of delight in alteration for its own sake. As we learn in the next book, even in the all-light precincts of Heaven, the angels create “grateful vicissitude” (6.4–8)—a changing-light show in a cave—for no purpose than to amuse themselves. If this is not a sign of the intricacy of Milton’s universe, I don’t know what is. Likewise, because Milton values change, Adam and Eve pray in “various style” (5.146), that is, in an irregular manner, and the things they praise in God’s creation, from the angels circling God’s throne, to Lucifer, to the sun, the moon, the clouds, the winds, the falling waters, to the birds, are all in motion—are in fact celebrated because of their motion. In keeping with this idea of motion, the song ends by invoking the dispersal of dark at dawn, but the rhythm of the earth dictates that the dark will come back—just as Satan, chased off by the angelic guard, also will return. He has a place in our world, just as darkness and “error” are part of the Garden, and “wanton”ness is an attribute of Eve’s hair. Adam and Eve proceed to their day’s “rural work,” and, if we are tracking the poem, we notice already another sign of change and growth (5.211). Early in Book 4, we are told that toil in Paradise exists only to make refreshment more refreshing, that nothing is really required of Adam and Eve but that they keep God’s one commandment (4.411–39). But then Adam hints that their activity is a little more onerous than he suggested earlier. The garden’s alleys, Adam says, “mock” the labors of him and Eve and “require / More hands than ours” (4.628–29). Now in Book 5, we begin to sense something more like real work that Adam and Eve must do:

On to their morning’s rural work they haste
Among sweet dews and flow’rs; where any row
Of fruit trees over-woody reached too far
Their pampered boughs, and needed hands to check
Fruitless embraces
. (5.211–15)
Page 99 of Paradise Lost: A Primer is characteristic in two ways: for its generosity, in praising another critic’s reading; and for its genuine delight, marveling at the poem. I hope other readers come to share this delight.
Learn more about Paradise Lost: A Primer at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 28, 2020

Florence Passy & Gian-Andrea Monsch's "Contentious Minds"

Florence Passy is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

Gian-Andrea Monsch is a Senior Researcher at FORS, the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences based at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Contentious Minds: How Talk and Ties Sustain Activism, and reported the following:
Contentious Minds takes us into the head of activists and volunteers. Indeed, the book shows how activists make sense of their commitment. The page 99 test is a perfect illustration of the book’s core argument: that activists perceive state actors differently to the way the general population and volunteers do. Most notably, we show that defenders of migrant’s rights, human rights activists, environmentalists, and unionists have low trust in national executive and legislative authorities. Activists delegitimize federal authorities, whereas volunteers and the general population do the opposite.

More broadly, Contentious Minds argues that activists’ relation to politics and common good are the two most crucial dimensions to understanding why they sustain their commitment. When talk turns to commitment, the failure of state actors to provide the common good activists mobilize for (e.g. equal rights for all) is immediately the heart of the conversation. This allows them to contend that an active and vibrant civil society is needed to challenge and even oppose state decisions. Deep sentiments of injustice also inevitably arise when the conversation moves to the idea that a collective good can be unequally shared between members of a society (protection of autochthonous groups, of worker’s rights, or of the environment and settlement rights for immigrants, etc.).

Contentious Minds further unveils the extent to which supportive networks allow individuals to construct collectively shared understandings through discussions, talks, and disputes. It also crucially underlines how activists’ relation to politics and common good set their intentionality and help them sustain their commitment regardless of their field of action. These community specific understandings of politics and common good are what explain why someone commits to defending the rights of migrants or workers, or prefers to volunteer to care for the poor. The book ultimately shows that there is no one path to active participation in a democracy.
Learn more about Contentious Minds at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Joseph P. Laycock's "Speak of the Devil"

Joseph P. Laycock is an assistant professor of religious studies at Texas State University. He teaches courses on world religions, religion in America, new religious movements, and the intersection of religion and popular culture.

He is the author of several books including Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic Over Role-Playing Games Says About Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds and The Seer of Bayside: Veronica Lueken and the Struggle to Define Catholicism.

Laycock applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Speak of the Devil: How The Satanic Temple is Changing the Way We Talk about Religion, and reported the following:
Page 99 contains a subheading called “Kinder, Gentler Satanism.” It is part of a chapter called “The Satanic Reformation: How TST is Changing the Way We Talk About Satanism.” Most people associate Satanism with libertarian politics and brutal Social Darwinism. This connection is entirely the legacy of Anton LaVey who formed the Church of Satan in San Francisco in 1966. LaVey was rebelling against the “hippie” values of love and egalitarianism, which he regarded as naïve and disingenuous. The scandal of The Satanic Temple is that they claim values like social justice and compassion as Satanic values. Page 99 quotes Satanist Steve Hill, a black comedian and political candidate who once said, “To invoke Satan is to invoke the struggle for justice and equal rights for everyone.” To defend these values as Satanic, The Satanic Temple looks past LaVey to nineteenth-century Romantic poets of “The Satanic School” like Lord Byron and Percy Shelley who re-imagined Satan as a character motivated by a sense of justice and empathy for humanity rather than malice. One Satanist even cited Isaiah 14 where a character called “the Morningstar”––whom early Christians later identified as Satan––expresses his intention to be God’s equal. In the Satanic reading of this passage, the Morning Star is not rebelling against morality but against social stratification.

I think the test works well in this case because page 99 gives a nice glimpse into how The Satanic Temple understand themselves. Some people think The Satanic Temple worships evil. Those people will either have to conclude that they were wrong and that these are actually scrupulous, or else double down on their prejudices and conclude that all my interview subjects were liars who somehow managed to deceive me. Other people think The Satanic Temple is just a big joke created solely to freak out Christians. They will see that Satanic Temple members have a philosophy of Satanism and think a lot about what it means to call oneself a Satanist. There would be no need to do this if they only wanted to outrage people.
Learn more about Speak of the Devil at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Seer of Bayside.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 24, 2020

Alexander Watson's "The Fortress"

Alexander Watson is professor of history at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I, which won the Wolfson History Prize and the Guggenheim-Lehrman Prize in Military History, and Enduring the Great War, winner of the Fraenkel Prize.

Watson applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Fortress: The Siege of Przemysl and the Making of Europe's Bloodlands, and reported the following:
Anybody opening The Fortress at page 99 will find themselves in the midst of battle. It is October 5th, 1914, two months into the First World War, and the powerful imperial Russian army has just launched a furious assault on the Fortress of Przemyśl, the last, and painfully obsolete, defence of the hard-pressed Habsburg Empire. The page opens with a Russian shell slamming into an armoured observation cupola atop one of Przemyśl’s ring of thirty-five forts, spinning it round and round, deafening the poor soldier inside, but failing to penetrate.

The page focuses on the intense psychological strain and distress of the fortress defenders. The commander of one fort suffers a sudden nervous collapse. In the Fortress’s forward defences, frightened middle-aged Polish and Ukrainian troops hurriedly evacuate as soon as the Russians approach. One old artillery officer, whose coat has been eviscerated by shrapnel, describes “with wild eyes … how they had been smothered with pounds of iron fragments, and that hell couldn’t be worse.”

Ford Madox Ford’s “Page 99 Test” works well for The Fortress, because at its heart the book is about the shock and horror of the first great war in the twentieth century to devastate East-Central Europe. The men fighting reluctantly on page 99 were middle-aged reservists, whose military training lay long in the past, who mostly had families and who were deeply invested in the world of peace. None had imagined that their civilisation could so suddenly collapse. The book offers a vivid and intimate account of their extraordinary ordeal, from this first terrifying but successfully withstood Russian assault through the misery and starvation of Przemyśl’s subsequent 181-day siege – the longest of the First World War.

Of course, page 99 cannot alone convey the immensity and importance of the campaign around Przemyśl. Men from nearly every corner of Central Europe served in the 130,000-strong fortress garrison, and there were also 30,000 Polish, Ukrainian and Jewish civilians trapped in the city. Like Stalingrad for the Soviets in the Second World War, Przemyśl became a symbol of resistance for the Habsburg Empire. The bloodshed in both campaigns was comparable too: a staggering 800,000 men were lost in total by the Habsburgs through failed relief offensives over mountains in mid-winter and with the Fortress’s fall in March 1915. Most ominously, The Fortress argues that this vicious siege reveals the beginnings, already in the year 1914, of a catastrophe that paved the way for subsequent decades’ totalitarian genocide and ethnic cleansing. Bitter fighting, strategies of starvation, the aerial bombardment of civilians and mass deportations and killings fuelled by racial prejudice – brutality most usually associated with the Nazi and Soviet regimes in the Second World War – were, as the book reveals, all fundamental to Przemyśl’s ordeal as early as 1914-15.
Learn more about The Fortress at the Basic Books website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Aro Velmet's "Pasteur's Empire"

Aro Velmet is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Southern California.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Pasteur's Empire: Bacteriology and Politics in France, Its Colonies, and the World, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Pasteur’s Empire, I discuss Charles Nicolle’s ascension to the head of the Pasteur Institute of Tunis in 1903. I argue that unlike his colleagues at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, Nicolle thought of himself not as a monastic laboratory scientist, but as an agent of empire, who worked hand-in-glove with the colonial government. In Tunis, he oversaw the construction of the Institute’s building at the Jardin d’Essai, which was opened to great fanfare in 1905.
While Nicolle spent considerable time demonstrating the scientific facilities of the laboratory, he was equally interested in showing it as a space from which imperial power flowed; during the day of the inauguration, ‘outside, workers were paving roads, sanding the avenues, and painters on every corner were doing multicolor retouching.’ Arab workers were changing the very face of the city to celebrate the new institute.
I go on to discuss how Nicolle’s more extraverted approach to science led him to conflicts with his colleagues in Paris – in issues ranging from the economics of vaccine production to the representation of their intellectual father, Louis Pasteur.
Charles Nicolle turns out to be a central player in Pasteur’s empire, a network of microbiological laboratories that extended across France’s colonies, with outposts in Saigon, Hanoi, Dakar, Brazzaville, Algiers, Tunis, Casablanca, Tananarive, and elsewhere, including outside the French empire proper. Nicolle sponsored human trials of the Pasteur Institute’s yellow fever vaccine, when Émile Roux in Paris would not allow them; he supported Albert Calmette’s research on tuberculosis; he even attempted to take over the Paris Institute.

Pasteur’s Empire argues that different political and infrastructural conditions in different colonies, all of which had a Pastorian outpost, were a tremendous resource of French microbiologists: vaccine projects that began, for example, as promises to African politicians in Dakar could be developed in laboratories in Paris, tested in Tunis, and then rolled out across West Africa. Simultaneously, living and working in colonial territories changed the Pastorians. People like Charles Nicolle, Alexandre Yersin or Albert Calmette began to think differently about the role of the scientist once they gained experience with lobbying administrators and serving on colonial public health boards.

Page 99 focuses on Charles Nicolle’s changing scientific ethos, but the rest of the book delves into how microbes themselves could influence political struggles in various colonies. The reader will learn, for example, how French industrialists used Pastorian science to justify monopolizing alcohol and opium production in Indochina, why Vietnamese doctors and activists resisted BCG vaccination programs, how a yellow fever outbreak in Dakar led Africans to accuse French administrators of racism and kickstarted an unprecedented Pastorian mass-vaccination campaign with troubling consequences. Understanding colonial political conflicts requires understanding both the microscopic – the behavior and manipulation of yeasts and bacteria – and the macroscopic – the tricontinental network of Pasteur Institutes, their visions of imperial power, and the equally transnational ways in which colonial subjects, rival scientists, and frustrated administrators challenged them.
Learn more about Pasteur's Empire at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 21, 2020

James Wellman Jr., Katie Corcoran, & Kate Stockly's "High on God"

James K. Wellman Jr. is Professor and Chair of the Comparative Religion Program in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington.

Katie E. Corcoran is Assistant Professor of Sociology at West Virginia University.

Kate J. Stockly is a PhD candidate in the Graduate Program in Religion at Boston University.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, High on God: How Megachurches Won the Heart of America, and reported the following:
On page 99, we describe how individuals desire to experience joy and ecstasy and how megachurches meet that need by helping people “hack the happy” primarily through their elaborate worship services. These services are “fields of wonder that energize and synchronize human bodies and feelings with remarkable acuity.”

The 99 page test does moderately well at identifying a core argument of the book—that megachurches meet attendees’ desire for “wow” and awe. However, a desire for wow is just one of six desires that megachurches satisfy.

This book uses the concept of homo duplex—that humans seek to be individuals but know that this is only possible in communities—to understand the success of megachurches. Thus, humans struggle in integrating these two sides of their human nature. Megachurches have been enormously successful at resolving this struggle and making people feel as if they are high on God. The affective energies and emotional valences that characterize religious ecstasy are the primary focus of this study. Empirically, humans want and desire forms of what Randall Collins calls “emotional energy.” Drawing on extensive qualitative and quantitative data on 12 nationally representative megachurches, we identify six desires that megachurches evoke and meet: acceptance, awe and spiritual stimulation, reliable leadership, deliverance, purpose, and solidarity in a community of like-minded others. Megachurches satisfy these desires through co-presence—being in the presence of other desiring people—a shared mood achieved through powerful musical worship services, a mutual focus of attention on the charismatic senior pastor who acts as an emotional charging agent, transformative altar calls, service opportunities, and small group participation. This interaction ritual chain solidifies attendees’ commitment and loyalty to the group and keeps them coming back to be recharged. Megachurches also have a dark side—they are known for their highly publicized scandals often involving the malfeasance of the senior pastor. After examining both the positive and negative sides to megachurches, we conclude that they successfully meet the desire of humans to flourish as individuals and to do so in a group.
Learn more about High on God at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Alejandro de la Fuente & Ariela J. Gross's "Becoming Free, Becoming Black"

Alejandro de la Fuente is the Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics, Professor of African and African American Studies, and the Director of the Afro-Latin American Research Institute at Harvard University.

Ariela J. Gross is the John B. and Alice R. Sharp Professor of Law and History and the Co-Director of the Center for Law, History, and Culture at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Becoming Free, Becoming Black: Race, Freedom, and the Law in Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana, and reported the following:
Page 99 of our book describes enslaved Virginians’ lawsuits for freedom based on claims of illegal importation, in the last two decades of the eighteenth century and the first decade of the nineteenth. It describes the way people trying to become free used a law that was never intended for that purpose. Legislators had banned importation of slaves into Virginia as a way to keep prices in the Richmond market high, but because the penalty for illegal importation was emancipation, an enslaved person could sue for freedom claiming she had been illegally brought in from Maryland or elsewhere. Page 99 also discusses examples of people using the threat of a lawsuit to bring an owner to the bargaining table, so that they could purchase their freedom. By 1810, because of these and other claims for freedom, the population of free people of color in Virginia had grown significantly.

The page is quite representative of the book, which tells the story of enslaved and free people of color who took advantage of openings in the law and overcame extraordinary obstacles to claim freedom for themselves and their families – working overtime, finding lawyers, traveling great distances. Their claims and demands helped produce legal understandings, meanings, expectations, practices. In other words, what we see as something external—“the law”—owes much to the actions of the enslaved. So the ban on illegal importation became a lever for people of color to expand the possibilities of freedom. And free people of color were important because they challenged the equation of blackness with enslavement, and whiteness with freedom.

The question we ask in the book is: why is it that in all three of these places, colonists from Spain, Britain, France all begin by putting into place in the law distinctions based on race, building race into law, equating African descent with degradation and slave status – in fact, even earlier in Havana than in New Orleans or in Virginia … but by 1860, they look totally different -- a free person of color in Havana could be part of public life, but in Louisiana or Virginia, was excluded from public life. Why did citizenship become so tied to whiteness in Louisiana and Virginia, but not in Cuba? Our answer is that the law of freedom determined these different regimes of race. The story begins with legal traditions, and in particular the fact that the right to become free was never limited in Cuba, but the book also shows how important were the initiatives of enslaved people themselves. And we show that the politics of white men’s democracy in the American republic, where slaveholders had to appeal to nonslaveholding white people, made the position of free people of color especially precarious, so that citizenship became tied to whiteness in the law in a way it doesn’t in Cuba. We identify the age of Revolution as a key moment in this divergence, but not in the way you might expect – while in some ways, it was a moment in which freedom was expanding all over the Americas, key differences between Cuba and the U.S. were already developing.
Learn more about Becoming Free, Becoming Black at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Garett Jones's "10% Less Democracy"

Garett Jones is Associate Professor of Economics at the Center for Study of Public Choice, George Mason University. He also holds the BB&T Professorship for the Study of Capitalism at the Mercatus Center. His first book, Hive Mind: How Your Nation's IQ Matters So Much More Than Your Own (2015) was a Gold Medalist in the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards.

Jones applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, 10% Less Democracy: Why You Should Trust Elites a Little More and the Masses a Little Less, and reported the following:
On page 99 of 10% Less Democracy, I discuss conspiracy theories. A survey of regular Dutch citizens—not college students—reveals that people with less education are more likely to believe claims like:
People never really landed on the moon

Radiation from mobile phones is bad for your health, and the government knows this, but keeps the evidence a secret.

The financial crisis was deliberately caused by bankers for personal profit.
And the pattern is a pretty strong one: On a 1 to 7 scale, with 7 being strong belief in all of the conspiracies, 1 being complete rejection, the gap between someone with a community college degree and someone who never graduated high school is about 1.5. That’s bigger than the typical gap between any two random Dutch citizens—the standard deviation—which was about 1.0. That link—correlation, not necessarily causation—between education and bad thinking is the core message of page 99 of 10% Less Democracy. And that captures a core message of that chapter, the only chapter in the book that focuses on ways to tilt the weight of voting power slightly toward the more-informed.


If your goal is to use page 99 of 10% Less Democracy to understand my entire book, however, the core message is the chapter title, printed at the top of the page:
This Chapter Does Not Apply to Your Country
We should think about political reforms the way medical doctors are encouraged to think about their patients—with some personal detachment. The American Medical Association suggests that doctors shouldn’t treat their own family members: likewise, political reformers should ask themselves, “If I wanted to improve the political system in another rich democracy, which of 10%’s reforms would I suggest?”

And while 10% Less Democracy offers dozens of suggestions for how to set political power just a little further out of the reach of masses, those suggestions are items on the menu, not commandments to follow. If you don’t like a reform suggestion, if you think it will undermine the political legitimacy of your nation’s government, then don’t order that item. There are many paths to 10% Less Democracy: so avoid the bad paths.

Throughout 10%, I remind readers that violations 100% pure democracy are in fact already part of modern political life—and that many of those violations already yield big net benefits to citizens, whether it’s:
Handing entire sections of government over largely to unelected economists and lawyers

[As with our independent central banks and judicial systems: Chapters 2 & 3 of 10%]

A warm embrace of political “bravery”

[As with long terms in office, which make elected officials less accountable to voters: Chapter 1 of 10%]

Handing over real power to a group of people with skin in the game and an interest in the long run—government bondholders

[We’ll listen to those bondholders in a crisis—so let’s give them a formal voice today: Chapter 6 of 10%]
In all of these cases, historical evidence, social science theories, and personal reflection together remind us that 100% pure democracy is not an ideal to strive for: it’s an error to avoid. The rich “democracies” already combine control by the masses with control by the few—they blend democracy with oligarchy. And a bit less power in the hands of masses, if chosen wisely, would offer those very masses a good and sound return on investment.
Learn more about 10% Less Democracy at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Mark B. Smith's "The Russia Anxiety"

Mark B. Smith is University Senior Lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Cambridge and is a Fellow of King's College and the Royal Historical Society. He is the author of Property of Communists: The Urban Housing Program from Stalin to Khrushchev and the blog Beyond the Kremlin.

Smith applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Russia Anxiety: And How History Can Resolve It, and reported the following:
If you open my book on page 99, you’ll get the chance to introduce yourself to Nikita Khrushchev and Yuri Gagarin. Although most of The Russia Anxiety addresses sweeping questions about the Russian past (such as ‘has Russia ever been part of the West?’), page 99 comes part way through a chapter called ‘The Narrative Correction’, where I summarize Russia’s history from the beginning to the present in forty pages. By page 99, the reader has reached the Soviet Union in the post-Stalin period. Very few people made a more decisive intervention in Soviet history, or even in Russian history as a whole, than Nikita Khrushchev, whose Secret Speech of 1956 set the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc in a different direction. In that sense it’s a good page for a browser to chance upon.

It’s a good page for another reason, too. The purpose of my book, The Russia Anxiety, is to debate, contextualize and tell stories about the West’s long-term ‘Russia problem’. It’s a history book that ranges over many centuries, and does not make direct judgements about the present day, though it seeks to put current events in historical perspective. The central argument is that much of Russia’s historical experience is clarified by placing it in a ‘normal’ international framework. If readers are prepared to run with this hypothesis, their anxiety about Russia might -- will? -- subside.

I make the case, then, that Russian history is embedded into European history and that Russians are Europeans. And yet the first half of Russia’s twentieth century was exceptional. Between 1904 and 1953, the violence of repeated war, revolution, state terror, famine and breakneck modernization -- above all, the devastation of Stalinism -- were a purgatory for many Russians, Ukrainians and other Soviet peoples. But this period ended, and a new era -- post-Stalinism, or de-Stalinization -- began. I don’t seek to defend the post-Stalin USSR, which is described on page 99, merely to point out that it was different than the epoch that preceded it. A central fact of Soviet history is that the Soviet Union changed over time. Once again, after 1953, it becomes possible for historians to situate the Russian past in a wider, ‘normal’ framework. I return to Khrushchev’s Thaw more than once in the book, and page 99 offers a brief introduction to those exciting years that are so crucial to my argument as a whole.
Visit Mark Smith's Beyond the Kremlin blog, and learn more about The Russia Anxiety at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 17, 2020

Donna Kornhaber's "Nightmares in the Dream Sanctuary"

Donna Kornhaber is associate professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Wes Anderson: A Collector’s Cinema and Charlie Chaplin, Director.

Kornhaber applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Nightmares in the Dream Sanctuary: War and the Animated Film, and reported the following:
Remarkably, the “Page 99 Test” in many ways cuts to the heart of the book, although it takes a little context and explanation to make clear how this is the case. On the most basic level, page 99 [inset, below left; click to enlarge] discusses the transition that occurred between early works of post-World War One animation like Otto Messmer’s Felix Turns the Tide (1922) and Walt Disney’s Great Guns (1927), where Messmer and Disney drew from their wartime experiences to craft deeply unsettling accounts of modern combat, and the new approach seen in Disney’s later short Barnyard Battle (1929), which uses the imagery of the recent World War but removes the idea of reciprocal injury that made those earlier works so affecting. This transition maps to what I describe in the book as the move away from the proto-pacifist animation of those earlier postwar shorts towards the more sanitized version of war presented in Disney’s later account.

In many ways, the differences between shorts like Felix Turns the Tide or Great Guns and those like Barnyard Battle are fundamental to my overall argument across the book. As I state in the Preface, most of the attention paid to wartime animation concerns animated propaganda, which inevitably seeks to control and neuter the depiction of war. In contrast, I argue, there exists a broad array of animated films that seek to bear witness to the realities of war, channeling the wartime experiences of their creators into cartoonal or even fantastical visions of conflict that nonetheless try to capture the horror of those experiences. In the difference between the mass slaughter seen in Felix Turns the Tide and the nonlethal playfulness of Barnyard Battle lies the difference between animation’s divergent purposes in either revealing or obscuring war’s nature.
Learn more about Nightmares in the Dream Sanctuary at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Josh Seim's "Bandage, Sort, and Hustle"

Josh Seim is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Southern California.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Bandage, Sort, and Hustle: Ambulance Crews on the Front Lines of Urban Suffering, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Mark and Danny found Rob sleeping on the sidewalk a few blocks from the county’s flagship public hospital. Apparently, someone called 911 for a “man down.”

Surprised to encounter an ambulance crew, Rob nevertheless asked to go to a hospital. However, he didn’t want to go to the emergency department he was recently discharged from, the facility that was only a short walk away. At first, Rob said he had had a seizure, but upon further questioning from Mark and learning that this chief complaint would limit which hospital he could go to, he then said he did not have a seizure. Mark never told me how he classified the call, but he agreed to take Rob to a smaller hospital in a neighboring city of Agonia County. As he later told me, this was at least partially a strategy to get his and Danny’s ambulance out of the busy ghetto where they found Rob.

In some respects, this particular transport was a win-win for those in the ambulance. Not only did this transport bring the crew to a somewhat slower area of the county that they preferred to work in; it also brought Rob to an emergency department that he preferred. When Danny and Mark pulled Rob’s gurney from the rig and began to roll him toward the emergency department doors, Rob began to nod in approval. “One thing’s for sure,” he said, “Your damn ass will get a bed here.” The last emergency department that discharged him is a “sorry ass place,” where getting a bed is less likely and the meals are of worse quality. At least that’s Rob’s opinion.

Ambulance crews seem to be greasing a revolving door of emergency medicine. They bring back a number of people who have already been processed and discharged by emergency department personnel. Sometimes they bring them back to the same facility but they’re also frequently taking them to different ones.

This isn’t just a pattern for so-called frequent flyers or even those whom crews find with hospital wristbands, EKG electrodes, and other emergency department materials still attached to their flesh. Ambulance crews are often bringing in people who have visited the emergency department in the past month or two. It’s not uncommon for crews to draw on the history of these previous encounters to make their patients. For example, they frequently use discharge paperwork and other documentation held by the patient to help them fill out their own reports. EMTs often copy demographic information, insurance policy numbers…
The Page 99 Test works well for Bandage, Sort, and Hustle. There are more gripping and insightful pages in the book, but I’m reasonably proud of page 99. Of course, the Page 99 Test is a quality test, and quality is a bit subjective. I can only assume that those who find the above excerpt to be interesting would enjoy the rest of the book.

I nevertheless feel compelled to contextualize page 99 a bit. Bandage, Sort, and Hustle is a three-part book, and each part details a specific way that ambulance workers in Agonia County (pseudonym) handle suffering populations in the economically and racially polarized metropolis. Part I is titled “Bandaging Bodies” and it argues that ambulance crews offer superficial responses to deep structural problems. Part II is titled “Sorting Bodies” and it argues that ambulance crews help distribute suffering populations across an array of street-level institutions. Finally, Part III is titled “Hustling Bodies” and it argues that ambulance crews rush people through (but not necessarily toward) interventions.

Page 99 is in Part II and more specifically it’s in a chapter that details how ambulance workers distribute suffering bodies in and across emergency departments. Paramedic Mark and EMT Danny sort Rob into a particular hospital. Rob, however, is not just a passive object of paramedicine. He can, and does, influence how he is sorted by adjusting his chief medical complaint. This taps into an important claim made throughout the book: frontline labor can affect clientele but clientele can also affect frontline labor.

As a bonus, page 99 signals a few of the major sociological topics that Bandage, Sort, and Hustle covers: labor, medicine, city, and suffering. Those who read the rest of the book will also read about the sociologies of state, punishment, inequality, and more.
Learn more about Bandage, Sort, and Hustle, and follow Josh Seim on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Mary Beth Norton's "1774: The Long Year of Revolution"

Mary Beth Norton is the author of five books and co-editor of several others. Her textbook, A People and a Nation, a survey of U.S. history written with five other authors, has been published in ten editions and has sold more than 500,000 copies. Norton is the Mary Donlon Alger Professor Emerita of American History at Cornell University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, 1774: The Long Year of Revolution, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my new book describes some of the critical reactions in Virginia to news of the Boston Port Act, in which Parliament voted to close the port of Boston until Bostonians compensated the East India Company for the tea destroyed in the so-called “Tea Party” of December 1773. It also begins a description of similar responses in South Carolina and Georgia to the same act.

The page accurately reflects the book’s contents in one respect—its comprehensive view of the North American colonies, which differs from common treatments of the period that focus exclusively or primarily on events in Boston and Massachusetts. But in another respect, it is inaccurate, because preceding pages—though not 99, except for one brief comment on the page—describe vociferous arguments in the colonies about the Bostonians' destructive act.

My book’s major aim is to outline and analyze the widespread dissent and disagreement in America over the political choices that colonists had to make during 1774. It directly challenges the false notion that Americans in the 1770s were united in their opposition to Great Britain and consistent supporters of Boston’s radicals. In so doing, it gives voice to many moderates and conservatives—some who ended up supporting the Revolution and some who eventually opposed it—rather than privileging Boston's radical leaders, as have nearly all other historians. My discussion of the political discourse in this critical year rests on extensive reading of published and unpublished sources written by both men and women. It delineates the trajectory of events that led to the battles at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775 in a way that will be revelatory even to those readers familiar with standard narratives of the coming of the Revolution.
Visit Mary Beth Norton's faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Marla R. Miller's "Entangled Lives"

Marla R. Miller is the director of the Public History Program and a professor of history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of The Needle's Eye: Women and Work in the Age of Revolution and Betsy Ross and the Making of America.

Miller applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Entangled Lives: Labor, Livelihood, and Landscapes of Change in Rural Massachusetts, and reported the following:
Page 99 falls within a chapter on domestic service, and shares the conclusion of a story about a Native American woman, Rachel, who worked at the Hadley, Massachusetts, farm of Charles and Elizabeth Phelps, and Ralf, a hired man with whom she formed a romantic union. The narrative is part of a larger analysis of domestic servants who are, or become, mothers while laboring in another family’s home, exploring ways in which working women in Federal New England balanced parenting with the need to secure a livelihood.

This page is quite representative of the overall book, which follows closely a handful of women who lived and worked in Hadley in the half-century following the American Revolution. The exceptionally rich archival and artifactual record of late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Hadley affords unusual insight into the lives of women whose experiences too often lay beyond the reach of historical documentation; Rachel, for instance, is one of a handful of native women working in domestic service in late eighteenth-century Hadley, and the same sources that document her also help us consider poor white women on the margins of her rural economy, distressed immigrants, enslaved and free African Americans, and others whose experiences are generally difficult to document. My aim in the book is to show, as my subjects continually circulate between foreground and background in one another’s stories, how entwined and entangled women’s lives were on the rural landscapes of early Massachusetts. Popular historical imagination has a tendency to homogenize women’s experiences in this era; Entangled Lives recovers and reconstellates the lives of white, black and Native women on the rural New England landscape in order to explore how opportunity and constraint operated in the rural female economy in the decades before industrialization.

What page 99 doesn’t capture is the book’s effort—principally contained in a “coda”—to understand the evolution of how this work has been remembered in the community. We know about Rachel and the other women discussed here because of the paper, artifacts, and built environment preserved in Hadley, through the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Foundation (which stewards a large collection of family papers as well as a historic house museum), the Hadley Farm Museum (which opened in 1930 to preserve the history of rural life and work in the region), the Hadley Historical Society, and other efforts to preserve and interpret local history. What we remember, and what we have forgotten, about early American women’s work reflect generations of assumptions and preferences about the past, each with their own historical contexts. The project’s conclusion, then, contemplates the trajectory of pastkeeping in Hadley-- the ways women’s work was interpreted by nineteenth and early twentieth-century museum makers, and how their choices and priorities continue to shape historical understanding today.
Learn more about Entangled Lives at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Betsy Ross and the Making of America.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Joshua O. Reno's "Military Waste"

Joshua O. Reno is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Binghamton University. He is the author of Waste Away: Working and Living with a North American Landfill and the coeditor, with Catherine Alexander, of Economies of Recycling: The Global Transformation of Materials, Values, and Social Relations.

Reno applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Military Waste: The Unexpected Consequences of Permanent War Readiness, and reported the following:
If readers open up my new book to page 99, they might find themselves a bit at a loss as to what the book as a whole is about. Anytime you peak into a larger text at a random point, whether novel, treatise, play, or Twitter debate, you will get a distorted picture, at best. That might be even more true of my book, since each chapter is meant to shift the discussion further and further away from what we might expect military waste to be and to be used for.

The book as a whole is about many forms of military waste, each taken on their own terms. That part of my book mostly consists of a brief discussion of how best to view the economic side of deliberately sinking old military ships in order to restore coral reefs in the Florida Keys. Specifically, I argue that once you sink them, ships become worth something in the same way that a house or apartment is. You can lend your home to someone else for money, but it is still there to go back to, it is still yours. That’s the essential part of renting: a person that owns some kind of property can lend it out for money but never lose it. When you sink an old Naval craft, when you make it a wreck, in a weird way you make it last. It will always be there, on “eternal portal” as one veteran and videographer told me. The boat itself breaks down and is overtaken by marine life, people will pay to dive down to look for it, take pictures, and have an experience. This can’t happen if you instead scrap old military ships, that is, break them down into bits and pieces and sell these off. That is still a good way to make money, but you can’t sell the experience of that ship to others every again in the same way.

This is a very specific example for a book about military waste of all kinds, not only ships that are sunk or scrapped, but orbital space debris, old islands turned into wilderness areas, or – in what is perhaps the most unexpected example – young men turned into mass shooters by a culture that celebrates violent, gun-toting masculinity. And yet, that discussion of the difference between rent and commodity actually gets at the book as a whole. There are many ways to think about military waste and people do many things with it. Should something that used to be a home for sailors at war become a commodity, a rented asset, or something else entirely? There is no right answer, but if we keep having a permanent military apparatus, we will continue to be confronted with questions like these.
Learn more about Military Waste at the University of California Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Waste Away.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Alicia Ely Yamin's "When Misfortune Becomes Injustice"

Alicia Ely Yamin has spent half of her professional career working outside the United States, with and through local organizations. She currently leads the Global Health and Rights Project, a collaboration of the Petrie-Flom Center on Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics at Harvard Law School and the Global Health Education and Learning Incubator at Harvard University. Yamin is known globally for her pioneering scholarship and advocacy in relation to economic and social rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the right to health.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, When Misfortune Becomes Injustice: Evolving Human Rights Struggles for Health and Social Equality, and reported the following:
Page 99 sets out the concluding reflections in a chapter about the 1990’s, “Diverging Parables of Progress,” and indeed it does reflect many of the themes, as well as the approach of the book. The book weaves together vignettes of personal encounters and human stories with analysis of evolving frameworks of law, development and public health. On page 99, the concluding reflection on the events of that time opens with a vignette from a “Symbolic Tribunal on Maternal Mortality and Obstetric Violence” in Mexico City, where I participated as a ‘judge” in 2016. The page captures the duality of the narrative that plays out throughout the book: on the one hand, we see that much had changed in terms of using human rights to advance women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, and health rights generally, since the Zapatistas had launched their rebellion in 1994, which is where the chapter opens. There had been a dramatic evolution in norms, as well as institutions and procedures to enforce them. At the same time, the 1990’s marked a significant deepening of international economic governance along neoliberal lines (including through trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement) which over these years has increasingly limited the possibilities for achieving political transformation through human rights. Page 99 and the concluding reflections on “Diverging Parables of Progress” epitomize the balance struck throughout the book. On the one hand, dividing the narrative of deploying human rights for social justice in health and beyond into a temporal sequence, exposes why human rights strategies have not been able to adequately confront ballooning social and health inequalities within and across countries, which progressive critics of human rights have underscored in a number of recent books. On the other hand, the account undermines claims to ahistorical givens and rejects fatalism regarding the possibilities of reenergizing human rights struggles for the equal dignity of diverse persons across our shared and irreplaceable planet, which includes economic justice.
Learn more about When Misfortune Becomes Injustice at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 10, 2020

Megan Kate Nelson's "The Three-Cornered War"

Megan Kate Nelson is a writer and historian living in Lincoln, Massachusetts. She has written about the Civil War, US western history, and American culture for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Smithsonian Magazine, Preservation Magazine, and Civil War Monitor. Nelson earned her BA in history and literature from Harvard University and her PhD in American Studies from the University of Iowa, and she has taught at Texas Tech University, Cal State Fullerton, Harvard, and Brown.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West, and reported the following:
A browser turning to page 99 of The Three-Cornered War will find her/himself reading the first page of Chapter 10, “Glorieta.” The first section of the page describes the location of Henry Hopkins Sibley’s Confederate soldiers in early March 1862, as they move northward through New Mexico Territory after their victory against the Union army at Valverde.

“Glorieta” is one of only three of the book’s 22 chapters that bears the name of a battle in the Civil War West, rather than the name of one person. This is because I tell the story of the Battle of Glorieta Pass using two peoples’ experiences: Bill Davidson, a Texas lawyer and soldier in the Sibley Brigade; and Louisa Canby, the wife of the Union Army’s commander E.R.S. Canby, and a civilian living in Santa Fe.

Page 99 includes a “break,” which I use in this chapter to indicate that the narrative is shifting to another voice. On this page, the narrative moves from Davidson’s viewpoint as he marches from Albuquerque to Santa Fe to just one sentence that describes Louisa Canby waiting for Davidson and his fellow Texans to arrive in the city, which has been abandoned by Union troops.

Unless the browser knows a lot about the history of the Civil War West, she/he will likely be a little lost. The reason for this is directly related to the book’s multi-perspective narrative, an approach more often seen in novels than in histories. This means that readers turning to page 99 will not know who Bill Davidson and Louisa Canby are, while readers from page 1 will know all about them from previous chapters written from their individual perspectives.

So while the browser would get a good idea of the unique narrative style of The Three-Cornered War from page 99 alone, she/he would likely not understand the context or the significance of Davidson’s and Canby’s situations in the days before the battle at Glorieta Pass. And they would not get a sense of the book’s larger arguments about why the American Civil War was in fact a continental conflict, one that involved the North, the South, and the West.
Visit Megan Kate Nelson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Emma Copley Eisenberg's "The Third Rainbow Girl"

Emma Copley Eisenberg’s fiction, essays, and reportage have appeared in McSweeney’s, The Paris Review online, Granta, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House, Guernica, AGNI, The Los Angeles Review of Books, American Short Fiction, Electric Literature's Recommended Reading, The New Republic, Pacific Standard, Slate, VICE, 100 Days in Appalachia, and others. She is the recipient of fellowships or awards from the Tin House Summer Workshop, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Wurlitzer Foundation, the Millay Colony for the Arts, & Lambda Literary. Her short fiction has been awarded a Pushcart Prize and been distinguished three times over by the Best American Short Stories series and her nonfiction has been included in Longreads Best Crime Reporting 2017 and won awards from the New York Association of Black Journalists and the Deadline Club.

Eisenberg applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia, her first book of nonfiction, and reported the following:
On page 99 of The Third Rainbow Girl, we meet Walt Weiford, the Pocahontas County, West Virginia man who became the prosecutor in the criminal case of the state against a string of local men suspected of the killings around which my book orbits. Here is a passage:
[Weiford] was two years a married man in June 1980, and it was the summer between his second and third years [of law school], when he came home to intern for then-prosecutor Steve Hunter for nothing but experience. He came into work one day, and Hunter told him there had been a double homicide up on Briery Knob and that was all they were going to do that day. Weiford was twenty-eight.
What a fantastic tiny window into the book! In many ways, Weiford’s life and actions encapsulate the book’s project of working to show the truth that people’s actions can mean two things at the same time, two opposing people’s suffering can both be true at the same time. Weiford was by all accounts a smart, insightful, and empathetic man, a musician and a parent, genuinely trying to bring justice to his home community through the law, though in my opinion, the investigation and prosecution of these crimes may have created more violence and trauma in the community than it healed.

This page about Weiford is also a lovely window into the ways that the events I look into in the book stayed with and even perhaps defined the lives of so many interesting and disparate people in this one county in southeastern West Virginia. Weiford was twenty-eight when he went up on that mountain with his boss when the murders occurred and he went on to try this case twice, participating in its prosecution for more than twenty years, tanking his health in the process, and his daughter would become a key person to me, years later, when I moved into this community and began learning about the place and its history.

The Third Rainbow Girl has three “highways” if you will, the story of the murder of two women hitchhikers as we’ve discussed, the story of an interesting and rich community called Pocahontas County, West Virginia where the murders happened and its place in the broader history of the Appalachian region, and my own story of living in that place as an AmeriCorps “anti-poverty” volunteer and how that story intersects and rhymes with the other two. If you like history, memoir, or general nonfiction about criminal justice or America, there may be something here for you.
Visit Emma Copley Eisenberg's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Louise Callaghan's "Father of Lions"

Louise Callaghan is the Middle East correspondent for the Sunday Times (UK).

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to Father of Lions: One Man's Remarkable Quest to Save the Mosul Zoo, her first book, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Father of Lions jumps to a scene where the animals are being delivered to Mosul Zoo - which is at that point under Isis occupation. Abu Laith, the would-be zookeeper, is watching them arrive. He's wanted by Isis, and can't go into the zoo to look after the animals because he could be arrested. Snakes, Shetland ponies and Abu Laith's pet lion - Zombie - are all at risk of neglect because there's no one really looking after them in the zoo. Abu Laith is really worried.

It's an interesting point in the book to land at, because it's a point of tension where Abu Laith is deciding how he's going to keep the animals alive. He knows he can't go to the zoo himself, but can't see any other options. Soon after this, he comes up with a plan that sets a whole new chain of events in motion: he recruits a spy to look after the animals and report back to him.

Page 99 gives a good insight into Abu Laith, the book's main character, and his relationship with the zoo. But of course it misses some key elements of the story - particularly the terrible way that Isis treated local people in Mosul.
Learn more about Father of Lions, and follow Louise Callaghan on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 7, 2020

Ayelet Harel-Shalev & Shir Daphna-Tekoah's "Breaking the Binaries in Security Studies"

Ayelet Harel-Shalev is a political scientist. She is Associate Professor at the Conflict Management and Resolution Program and The Department of Politics and Government, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Harel-Shalev is the author of The Challenge of Sustaining Democracy in Deeply Divided Societies and co-editor (with Arthur A. Stein) of Affect, Interest, and Political Entrepreneurs in Ethnic and Religious Conflicts.

Shir Daphna-Tekoah is a senior lecturer in the School of Social Work of the Ashkelon Academic College, Ashkelon, Israel, and the Head of the Social Work Department, Kaplan Medical Center, Rehovot, Israel. Her academic interests include Gender, Health and Violence, Women Combatants, Child Abuse and Neglect, and Dissociation and Trauma.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Breaking the Binaries in Security Studies: A Gendered Analysis of Women in Combat, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the first page of chapter 6-

Narratives of Security and In-Security: The Theoretical Contribution of Analyzing Women in Combat
[A] dialogue between women in the after-life: The feminist says to the [woman] soldier, “We fought for your equality.” The soldier says to the feminist, “Oh, no, we fought for your equality.”
-MacKinnon 1987, 35
Catharine MacKinnon, in her oft-cited article “Difference and Dominance: On Sex Discrimination,” portrays an imaginary dialogue taking place in heaven between a feminist activist and a woman combat soldier, in which the two fight for acknowledgment of their respective contributions to the advancement of women in society. This dialogue draws our attention, among other things, to the traditionally held view that military service is one of the most distinctive symbols of full citizenship. Just as the service of men in the military often “translates” into many formal and informal rights in their civilian lives, so the exclusion of women from combat roles in the military in many countries remains inseparable from their diminished civic status (Barak-Erez 2007, Harel-Shalev and Daphna-Tekoah 2015). Nonetheless, women’s struggle for equal participation in the military is often criticized. Many scholars hold the view that the struggle for equality in the military has various negative side effects, including the possibilities of reinforcing militarism, of encouraging the militarization of…
If browsers opening our book to the page 99 they would get a fair idea of the whole work. Of the 153 pages in our book, page 99 is a good way to introduce a browser to what the book is about. The "page 99 test" is a quite good browser's shortcut to enter the core discussion of our book. Page 99 brings the readers to realize how the discussions and controversies over the integration of women to combat roles relates to larger issues of power, citizenship and equality. Militaries continue to be valued in societies as key frameworks for the making of men, regardless of women’s increased participation in various military roles. The stationing of women in a variety of combat and combat support roles in conflict zones and in conflicted border areas may challenge traditional concepts of security, war, and gender roles. What is missing from page 99 and is crucial to our book is the rich and authentic narratives of women in combat, revealing the most intimate and meaningful experiences of combat.

When discussing security issues, most studies focus on what is termed as “national security” and the State’s interests, and our book is concentrated on the people on the ground - the soldiers and veterans that are out there – “making war” and “doing security”. Moreover, our book focuses on the stories and experiences of women soldiers in combat and not the common knowledge of war stories by men. We urge scholars and readers to continue to break binaries in Security Studies, inter alia, through a critical appraisal of widely accepted knowledge and binary conceptions in military studies. More particularly, our study opens up a call for probing further into the meanings and interpretations of women’s presence in the battlefield in the era of new wars.
Learn more about Breaking the Binaries in Security Studies at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Hadar Aviram's "Yesterday's Monsters"

Hadar Aviram is Thomas Miller Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. She is the author of Cheap on Crime: Recession-Era Politics and the Transformation of American Punishment and a coeditor of The Legal Process and the Promise of Justice. She is a frequent media commentator and runs the California Correctional Crisis blog.

Aviram applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Yesterday's Monsters: The Manson Family Cases and the Illusion of Parole, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Toward the mid-1980s, the prosecutor begins to comment on the inmates' absence of remorse. Even before the birth of the concept of insight, remorse already proves slippery and difficult to express, especially for heinous crimes. Epstein, Susan Atkins' attorney in 1985, expresses frustration with the vagueness of remorse: "Just for Mr. Kay to say it doesn't exist because she hasn't talked about it--has anybody asked her about it? How does she speak to that? When--when you ask her if she has parole plans, should she say, 'I have a lot of remorse here'? Or should she it [sic] perhaps correctly at the closing of these proceedings when it's appropriate to tell you how she really feels about this?" Atkins herself says in 1988:
Remorse is not a tangible emotion. I cannot pull it out and put it on the table. If I could, I don't know that it could be recognized, or would be recognized or be acknowledged. What I've tried to do to show how I feel is to live my life in the opposite direction, by doing good, by changing, by growing, and I will continue to do that. I've been told I feel nothing for why I'm here, I've been told I deserve an Academy Award for my performances, excuse me, there are nine people that are, are not alive in this... and it, today, because of me.
The term insight emerges for the first time in the 1984 hearing of Bobby Beausoleil. At this point, it is not a buzzword or a term of art, but merely part of a conversation:
Jaregui: Did you gain any insight as to why you committed the crime?

Beausoleil: Well I know why I committed the crime. Because I allowed myself to be influenced, put under duress, to look up to people who were into things I had no business being involved with.

Jaregui: And how do you feel now?

Beausoleil: ... I like myself a lot. I don't like myself for what I did then. You know, it's the thing that I am most ashamed of. And I'm trying to out, outlive that. I'm trying to overcome that and be something I can be proud of.
Page 99 is a great way to introduce readers to Yesterday's Monsters. The book uses the Manson Family cases--relying on 50 years' worth of parole hearing transcripts, policy documents, and interviews--to discuss the California parole process, and the concepts of insight and remorse are essential to the parole board's inquiry. The text on Page 99 introduces remorse and insight and shows how difficult it is to express and perform them in a way that satisfies the board and at the same time feels authentic. What we see in this page is Susan Atkins' frustration with the conflicting pressures on how to express remorse as well as Bobby Beausoleil responding to the first-ever mention of "insight" at a hearing.

The two quotes on Page 99 are great examples of the Catch-22 bind of parole hearings. Inmates are supposed to offer insight about their frame of mind when they committed the crime, but are admonished for offering explanations that don't expound on their own accountability. On the other hand, if they "talk up" the seriousness of their crime (in an effort to show how much they've changed) they telegraph their dangerousness. They continuously have to come up more psychological excavation to show the depth of their "insight", but are then found to be inconsistent. They need to attend rehabilitative programming in prison (including, sometimes, programs that don't exist) but sometimes are admonished for their programming choices. They have to offer letters of support, but these can be interpreted as glorifying themselves and their criminality. They are encouraged to transform, but if they do so through religion they are seen as either liars or disruptive zealots. They are expected to show remorse, but are not allowed to directly address the victims in the parole room. What originally purported to be an instrument of hope has become--to a considerable extent because of the cautionary tale of the Manson cases--a Kafkaesque maze of carefully choreographed performance, guesswork and unscientific observations.
Learn more about Yesterday's Monsters at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Jennifer S. Hirsch and Shamus Khan's "Sexual Citizens"

Jennifer S. Hirsch is a professor of sociomedical sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, and codirects SHIFT, the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation, at Columbia University.

Shamus Khan is a professor and chair of sociology at Columbia University, and coheads the ethnographic team of SHIFT, the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation, at Columbia University.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus, and reported the following:
Readers first meet Esme in Chapter 1, “Sexual Assaults”, which details the story of her rape. Page 99, in Chapter 4, “What is Sex For?”, shares another piece of Esme’s story: what she describes as her best college sexual experience.
Esme …had grown up watching the television show Girls. It played a powerful role in forming her sexual values. Her college sexual project has a clear narrative arc: she wanted to make out with a lot of random guys, lose her virginity, and then settle into a committed relationship. During the fall of her junior year, Esme was out at her favorite bar with a friend when two guys came in. She’d already hooked up with one of them, and the other, James, she knew from a class. Esme and James “vibed,” she recalls, and spent several hours drinking, talking, and making out— first at that bar, then at another. They were both seeing other people— and Esme’s semi- steady boyfriend was actually James’s friend— so the whole episode felt “a little wrong.” To her, that made it all that much hotter. He invited her back to his place nearby, saying that she could sleep on his couch. She went along, knowing that sex was still very much a possibility. When they arrived, she said she didn’t actually want to sleep on the couch, and James admitted he didn’t want her to either. Esme described the rest of the night— her best sexual experience at college, as she recalled it— as “solid sex,” twice, followed by spending the night cuddling. What made it so fun? The recklessness— “it was not supposed to happen”; in fact, it was “generally destructive for both of us.” She remembered his “crazy nice” apartment and, laughing, how she declined to give him her number the next morning as she left. “The reason I love it so much, or like, really like the experience, is because I felt ice cold, being like, ‘No, I don’t think I should give you my number ... even though the sex was really good. I’m sure I’ll see you around.’ ” His pierced scrotum and fully tattooed arms provided lots of colorful details to share with her friends the next day.
The page 99 test works extremely well for Sexual Citizens.

One of the book’s central ideas, sexual projects, points to the range of goals that students – all people, really – seek to accomplish through sex: “becoming a skilled sexual partner, seeking pleasure, connecting with another person emotionally, defining oneself, and impressing others” (p. 91). We refrain from judgment about students’ sexual projects, but we do highlight the ways in which some of these sexual projects lend themselves to students forgetting that the people they are having sex with are people and not objects to satisfy their sexual desires. We argue that sexual interactions in which students treat each other like objects – particularly ones in which there are substantial power disparities between students – are part of the context that makes students vulnerable to assaulting a peer.

We leave room in the book for readers to decide for themselves what they think about Esme’s interaction with James: some may find it “emblematic of modern women’s sexual agency, while others may read it as cruel, coarse, or inconsiderate” (100). Indeed, provoking reflection among readers about what sex is for, and how people should treat each other during sex, is one of the main goals of Sexual Citizens.
Learn more about Sexual Citizens at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Jeffrey Zvengrowski's "Jefferson Davis, Napoleonic France, and the Nature of Confederate Ideology, 1815-1870"

Jeffrey Zvengrowski is assistant editor for the Papers of George Washington and assistant research professor at the University of Virginia.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Jefferson Davis, Napoleonic France, and the Nature of Confederate Ideology, 1815-1870, and reported the following:
Page 99 details some of the efforts during the 1850s of Secretary of War Jefferson Davis to renovate Washington, D.C., in emulation of French emperor Napoleon III's contemporaneous revamp of Paris. Davis hoped that his endeavors to build "the Paris of the Americas" would convince Napoleonic France that the Democrat-dominated United States could become a worthy ally against abolitionist Britain. Page 99, moreover, explains that even though he had been irked that Napoleon III's fledgling but very expansion-minded empire appeared to regard the U.S. as a potential client state at best, Davis concluded by the mid-1850s that the U.S. would have to accept becoming "a junior partner" of Napoleonic France due to "growing Republican power" as well as undeniable French organizational and technological superiority.

Happily, reading page 99 gives a good idea of my whole book. As mentioned on that page, Davis liked a new statue of George Washington in Washington, D.C., sculpted by Clark Mills, "whose 1853 New Orleans statue of Andrew Jackson had been inspired by a famous painting of Napoleon I crossing the Alps." Davis hoped by the mid-1850s that instigating and winning a new War of 1812 with Napoleon III's France for an ally of the United States would discredit the Republican Party. The pro-British Federalist ancestors of the ostensibly pro-British Republicans, after all, had fallen into disrepute following Jackson's victory over Britain's forces at New Orleans in 1815. That victory, though, did not change the fact that the U.S. and Napoleon I's France failed to defeat the British Empire despite fighting as de facto and nearly de jure allies. Taking abolitionist Britain and actual or perceived pro-British elements in the Americas to have been championing inequality among whites together with racial equality even as French Bonapartists espoused equality among whites and white supremacy much like the Democratic Party, Davis aspired during the Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan administrations to finally accomplish the principal goal of his "War Hawk" Democrat forebears by driving British influence from the Americas.

As Confederate president, Davis ended up leading what he deemed a new American Revolution against Republicans and other seemingly British-backed groups in North America. He would also promise Napoleon III's anti-slavery but white supremacist Second French Empire gradual emancipation under continuing terms of white racial dominance if France were to render the Confederacy an outright client under formal French protection. The Confederate president, however, overestimated the power of Napoleonic France, which only surreptitiously supported the Confederacy and collapsed half-a-decade later during the Franco-Prussian War. Having been hosted by Napoleon III as a guest of honor in 1869, Davis grudgingly adjusted to a South dominated by certain pro-British ex-Confederates who had disliked him for decades as anti-Bonaparte advocates of "slavery-in-the-abstract" and inequality among whites. Those same ex-Confederates successfully propounded the Lost Cause to alter memories of Davis's pro-Bonaparte Confederacy, which had implemented white equality and been coming to accept white supremacy sans slavery.
Learn more about Jefferson Davis, Napoleonic France, and the Nature of Confederate Ideology, 1815-1870 at the LSU Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 3, 2020

Michael Hunter's "The Decline of Magic"

Michael Hunter is Emeritus Professor of History, Birkbeck, University of London. He is the author of numerous works on early modern science and culture such as The Occult Laboratory and the award-winning Boyle: Between God and Science.

Hunter applied the “Page 99 Test” to his newest book, The Decline of Magic: Britain in the Enlightenment, and reported the following:
Page 99 forms part of a lengthy account of a famous poltergeist case, the 'Drummer of Tedworth', when strange and violent disturbances afflicted the house of John Mompesson in Wiltshire. It describes the visit to the house of two aristocrats on behalf of King Charles II, one of whom, the Earl of Chesterfield, recorded in his diary his deep scepticism about the whole affair -- which he wrote off as a "Cheat" -- and about the motives of its chief protagonist, the cleric and demonologist, Joseph Glanvill.

This conflict of ideas is at the heart of The Decline of Magic, which uses case-studies to pursue the antithesis between sceptical views put forward by the fashionable elite and the earnest efforts of scientists and other serious-minded figures to vindicate the reality of supernatural phenomena as part of the defence of religion against the supposed threat of "atheism".

It transpires that gradually the sceptical viewpoint triumphed, due to the efforts first of freethinkers – men like the Deist, Robert, Viscount Molesworth, who wrote: “As ignorance vanishes so does all Spectres, Second Sights, Hobgoblins, fayries, Haunted Houses, apparitions & 100 such fooleryes” -- and then of medical men like Sir Hans Sloane, who wrote a scathing critique of magic and believed that he could cure those susceptible to such beliefs by a regime of bleeding and purging. In fact, this more physiological tradition of scepticism became increasingly predominant, as accusations that magic was the result of fraud or ‘priestcraft’ dwindled in plausibility: superstitious beliefs thus came to be seen less as the result of imposture than of error, indeed potentially well-intended or even unconscious error. Yet the book ends by arguing that, with regard to magic, post-Enlightenment culture has tolerated a ‘balance of Antagonisms’, with the dominant culture rejecting phenomena that minorities vociferously espouse.
Learn more about The Decline of Magic at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Allan V. Horwitz's "Between Sanity and Madness"

Allan V. Horwitz is Board of Governors Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Sociology at Rutgers University. He has published over 100 articles and chapters about various aspects of mental health and illness as well as nine books, including Creating Mental Illness (2002), The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Misery into Depressive Disorder (2007, with Jerome Wakefield), All We Have to Fear (2012. with Jerome Wakefield), A Short History of Anxiety (2013), and PTSD: A Short History (2018).

Horwitz applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Between Sanity and Madness: Mental Illness from Ancient Greece to the Neuroscientific Era, and reported the following:
Page 99 in Between Sanity and Madness discusses the second stage of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s career. It highlights how The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) sharply turned away from Freud’s attempts in the 1890s to distinguish various neurotic conditions (e.g. hysteria, anxiety, neurasthenia) from each other. From this point until the end of his career, Freud emphasized the commonalities rather than the differences between normal and abnormal mental states. “But when it came to dreams,” Freud reflected, “it was no longer dealing with a pathological symptom, but with a phenomenon of normal mental life which might occur in any healthy person.” This book changed Freud’s focus from the psychopathological to a single framework that strove to understand all human behavior, not just neurotic behavior.

Page 99 is representative of my book because Freud is perhaps the best example of someone who did not sharply distinguish sanity from madness. Instead, he strove to show how both ordinary and neurotic behavior stemmed from common roots in universal childhood experiences such as unresolved oedipal complexes, parental giving and withholding of love and hostility, or toilet training practices. While the book itself does not adopt or endorse a psychoanalytic perspective, it is sympathetic to efforts – such as Freud’s – to ground the abnormal and normal alike in common psychosocial experiences.
Learn more about Between Sanity and Madness at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue