Saturday, October 31, 2020

Lyle Fearnley's "Virulent Zones"

Lyle Fearnley is Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at Singapore University of Technology and Design.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Virulent Zones: Animal Disease and Global Health at China's Pandemic Epicenter, and reported the following:
From page 99 of Virulent Zones:
The epistemological advantage of laboratory work lies in “the detachment of the objects from a natural environment and their installation in a new phenomenal field defined by social agents.” Detachment is an incisive term because it captures the spatial movement of material objects from their natural environments into the lab and it also describes how the laboratory reinforces a sociological separation between scientific experts (inside) and other lay actors (outside). Scientists work to maintain their detachment from laypeople—both defending their distinct professional status and protecting themselves from unwanted influences or bias. The laboratory is the tool that enables the interrelated detachment of both objects and subjects of science.
In Virulent Zones, I trace the global health effort to identify, study, and contain the “epicenter” of disease pandemics in China—a project that I show involved not only moving research programs from global centers (Atlanta, Rome, Geneva) to rural settings like China’s Poyang Lake, but also required a shift in the way science was practiced from laboratory-based studies of viruses to field sciences including wild bird tracking, landscape mapping, and geospatial modeling. Page 99 introduces a key conceptual framework of the book: the “laboratory” as a key model of scientific practice. Laboratory ethnographies provided such a powerful interpretation of the construction of scientific facts, that STS scholars often extended “laboratory practice” into a model for science in general. As Bruno Latour put it at one point, “for the world to become knowable, it had to become a laboratory.” Drawing on insights from scholars like Karin Knorr-Cetina (quoted in the passage above), I examine the “laboratory” as a tool that constructs both the ‘working objects’ and the ‘expert subjects’ of scientific research in a particular mode: the laboratory figures science as a mode of detachment. However, the scientists I followed to places like Poyang Lake, I argue, actually produced new knowledge by giving up their detachment, and instead allowing themselves to be displaced by their encounter with the field: for instance, when they unexpectedly came across unexpected practices like farming wild geese for food consumption.

What’s missing from page 99, however, are precisely these spaces outside of the laboratory, such as the wild swan goose farms on the shores of Poyang Lake. As a reader of Virulent Zones, you are as likely to find yourself listening to farmers talking about how they deal with bird diseases as you are learning from virologists about the molecular structure of the influenza virus. In my view, the ‘truth games’ of emerging diseases don’t take place only in the laboratory spaces that are comfortably dominated by experts, and the book enacts this journey into science beyond the laboratory walls -- following the scientific subjects that takes shape when scientists forego detachment.
Learn more about Virulent Zones at the Duke University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 30, 2020

Scott Peeples's "The Man of the Crowd"

In 25 years at the College of Charleston, Scott Peeples has taught a wide array of courses, with topics ranging from Gothicism to nineteenth-century American poetry to Bob Dylan. He has published extensively on Edgar Allan Poe and other nineteenth-century writers, including (as co-editor) of The Oxford Handbook of Edgar Allan Poe.

Peeples applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Man of the Crowd: Edgar Allan Poe and the City, with photographs by Michelle Van Parys and reported the following:
On page 99, I’m discussing Poe’s story “The Man of the Crowd” in relation to the rise of the modern city. I’m focused on the moment when the story’s narrator, looking out the window of a coffeehouse, first sees the man and why he is fascinated by him.

It so happens that the book’s title is also The Man of the Crowd, and the book’s about 200 pages in length, so it makes sense that if you open it to the middle, you’ll find a discussion of the story for which the book is named. And this discussion is important --- crucial, even --- to the book’s main idea, which is that Poe’s life and work revolved around rapidly growing American cities. And yet, since I spend only about 3 ½ pages discussing “The Man of the Crowd,” it’s also kind of a coincidence that it should be there on page 99. More significantly: reading that page, you might think that most of the book consisted of analysis of Poe stories, but in fact, that’s something I do only occasionally --- maybe a fourth or a fifth of the book describes or interprets specific works. Most of it is focused on biography and description of the cities where Poe lived.

The book is essentially a biography focusing on the cities where Poe lived. The Man of the Crowd seemed like a good title, since I’m trying to counter the image of Poe as a man who was somehow separated from his place a time, a man who lived in a world of his own imagination. His story “The Man of the Crowd” is actually set in London, where Poe lived for several years as a boy --- but I believe it also reflects the American cities where he lived, especially Philadelphia (where he wrote it) and New York (where he would move a few years later). While Poe lived in rapidly growing cities for most of his life, he didn’t really love cities. The story “The Man of the Crowd” reflects a kind of urban paranoia common to the mid-nineteenth century.
Learn more about The Man of the Crowd at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Jodi Rios's "Black Lives and Spatial Matters"

Jodi Rios is a scholar, designer, and educator whose work is located at the intersection of physical, social, and political space. Her research studies processes of racialization and the ways by which differentiated rights and degrees of citizenship are discursively produced in and through space, with a focus on US cities.

Rios applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Black Lives and Spatial Matters: Policing Blackness and Practicing Freedom in Suburban St. Louis, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The fragmented geography and postage-stamp size of many cities in North County often meant that residents experience what Patrice has described—amassing several violations from multiple cities, often on the same day for the same infraction, such as having a broken taillight or faulty muffler. Residents comment on the fact you can get pulled over in one jurisdiction and cross over into another ‘and in five seconds get the EXACT same ticket as you just did.’ Another stated, ‘In the county you can get ticketed almost every other day. I have tickets from municipalities I didn’t even know existed. Turns out, I was driving through five different towns when I thought it was all one—because they are literally the size of a football field.’ Yet another said, ‘I’ve been stopped three times in one week in three different municipalities on my way home from work because my windows were tinted. It is ridiculous. The only way you know you’re entering a different city is a different police officer stops you.’.... Residents throughout North County point to tickets that do not list court dates, or list the wrong court date, as intentional attempts at creating confusion about how to settle tickets or ploys to prevent citizens from appearing for court dates and thus to accumulate more fines or warrants for their arrest. Many also explain the difficulties they have encountered when trying to obtain information from part-time courts, which lack full-time staff, hold court only one or two nights each month, and often do not maintain websites.... As a result, the number of people who live with anxiety and fear over warrants for their arrest or mounting fines for small infractions in multiple cities is staggering. This dramatically affects decisions residents make, such as when and where to drive and whether or not to use public space and amenities, such as parks.
Page 99 of Black Lives and Spatial Matters: Policing Blackness and Practicing Freedom in Suburban St. Louis provides good insight into what this book is about and why I wrote it. First, it includes quotes from residents living in this geography. Ethnography, interviews, and the inclusion of residents’ voices are integral to both the research used and the stories told throughout this book. Stories like those found on page 99, which I heard over and over from residents when working in this area twenty years ago (in a different capacity), led to my original and somewhat unorthodox research question: “What the hell is going on in North St. Louis County and why is nobody doing anything about it?”

Second, the quotes that appear on page 99, although far from the worst, point to the extreme physical and political fragmentation of this area that is fundamental to the history and current experience of everyday life in the racialized suburbs of St. Louis County. These quotes additionally reveal a few of the specific experiences of policing overseen by elected officials and carried out by police officers, property inspectors, and the courts, all of which disproportionately impact poor Black residents. The chapter in which page 99 sits, “Racial States and Local Governance,” indeed lays out the unfathomable degree of everyday policing that depends on the conflation of blackness with risk in tiny historically white municipalities that are now majority Black. Blackness-as-risk not only creates the conditions for extreme forms of ‘policing for revenue’ to be deemed necessary, since tax-generating businesses and higher property values followed white residents to outlying suburbs, but it is also the reason these practices go seemingly unnoticed by the rest of the region.

Readers who know that the city of Ferguson sits in suburban St. Louis and are familiar with the details of Michael Brown’s death in 2014 may make the connection between policing practices described on page 99 and why Brown was initially stopped by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. This connection however is a stretch. Furthermore, page 99 does not allude to the radical practices of freedom that emerged from this area, although fragmentation and current policing practices are critical to understanding Ferguson resistance that, I argue, launched the Black Lives Matter movement as we know it. Part 2 of Black Lives and Spatial Matters, “Blackness as Freedom,” is therefore lost in the reading of page 99.
Visit Jodi Rios's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Frederic Clark's "The First Pagan Historian"

Frederic Clark is Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of Southern California.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The First Pagan Historian: The Fortunes of a Fraud from Antiquity to the Enlightenment, and reported the following:
From page 99:
What did William place after Dares and “Cato”? For the Benedictine scholar, like Fredegar’s continuator or the Lorsch compiler, the ending of the Destruction of Troy must have seemed a tantalizing cliffhanger. Having recorded the fall of Troy, and the deaths of hundreds of thousands on both sides, its very last lines enumerated those Trojans lucky enough to have sailed away. But it said noth­ing about what befell them afterwards. After all, Dares was an eyewitness who remained at Troy: by Isidore’s rules of historia he could relate only what he had seen. Accordingly, his book seemed to beg for some kind of sequel. William’s pseudo-Cato had ended with Priam and Aeneas, two central characters in Dares’ narrative. Hence, using their family tree as a kind of bridge, he continued Dares by documenting what happened to the Trojans after them.
Page 99 of The First Pagan Historian details how one of many medieval readers—the twelfth-century historian and Benedictine monk William of Malmesbury—responded to the eponymous protagonist of my book, the supposed “first pagan historian” Dares the Phrygian. The book takes its title from the assertion of the early medieval encyclopedist Isidore of Seville that, just as Moses was the first “among us” to write history (i.e. the Book of Genesis), so “among the pagans,” Dares the Phrygian was the first to bring forth a history, on the Greeks and Trojans.” This was the History of the Destruction of Troy; its “author,” Dares, claimed to be an eyewitness observer of the Trojan War. In the early decades of the twelfth century, William copied out the text of the Destruction of Troy in his own hand, and incorporated it into a highly elaborate—and beautifully decorated—volume that he devoted to the history of Rome.

Just a few pages before Page 99, I examine how William chose to begin this volume with Dares, a supposedly historically faithful account of what he understood to be Rome’s prehistory—i.e. the Trojan War and Troy’s consequent fall. He even introduced the text with what I term the best of all publisher’s blurbs: the aforementioned excerpt from Isidore claiming that Dares was the first pagan historian. I next describe how William continued the Destruction of Troy with a short Trojan genealogy that he mistakenly guessed was by the Roman statesman Cato the Elder. Page 99 then details what William added next to the manuscript, and it considers how the contents of Dares’ text itself motivated—or rather demanded—such continuation. As I argue, many of Dares’ medieval readers interpreted the ending of the Destruction of Troy as a cliffhanger. Its closing words mentioned various Trojans sailing away from their ruined city, but remained silent about what happened to them next. As a result, William decided to “continue” Dares in his manuscript. And one of his continuations documented how the Trojan Aeneas—best known today as the hero of Virgil’s Aeneid—sailed to Italy, and how his descendants founded Rome.

Page 99 offers a good taste of my method in The First Pagan Historian as a whole. In broadest terms, my book offers close readings of Dares’ many readers, from the early Middle Ages to the eighteenth century. William belongs to a crowded company, even if few of its members are known for reading a now-obscure Trojan pseudo-history. William also typifies a broader trend that I examine in this chapter (Chapter Two). He—like other scribes, compilers, chroniclers, and poets—felt compelled to continue or expand the Destruction of Troy. My book emphasizes how these readers, William included, used the technology of the manuscript codex to do exactly that. Medieval manuscripts were often compilatory affairs; multiple texts circulated together in the confines of a single book, and William proved especially adroit at assembling snippets of texts to make a new coherent whole. For him, that new whole was the history of Rome, but for many other readers of Dares, their new whole was an account of their own supposed Trojan pedigrees. Thus, Dares also circulated with texts like Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, which claimed that Britain was founded by the Trojan Brutus.

The example of William also points to one of the book’s largest themes: the relationship between truth and falsehood (or truth and fiction), and the ways that readers ancient, medieval, and modern have drawn the line between the two. William did not entertain the possibility that “Dares” had not actually been a Trojan eyewitness. In fact, he added another misattribution to it, joining the text to “Cato.” Yet this is not to deny William’s manifest achievements as a historian and classical scholar. On the contrary, his practices of attribution offer us rich insights into his conceptions of the ancient past.

Later in the book (Chapters Five and Six), I examine the unexpected legacies of these “webs of misattribution” in the early modern world, including the fate of pseudo-Cato’s Trojan genealogy. Dubious texts of all sorts had a tendency to stick to Dares. Even the humanists and philologists who attacked Dares as fake were never freed entirely of the associations he first formed in medieval manuscripts. Forgery and misattribution are not the products of any one historical milieu, but have rather flourished in all ages. Or to put it in more sanguine terms, ways of reading often prove more durable than we know.
Learn more about The First Pagan Historian at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Christian L. Bolden's "Out of the Red"

Christian L. Bolden is an associate professor of criminology and justice at Loyola University in New Orleans. From 2012-2013, he was the “Futurist in Residence” Research Fellow for the FBI Behavioral Sciences Unit. His research focuses on gang social networks, gang organizational processes, and human trafficking.

Bolden applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Out of the Red: My Life of Gangs, Prison, and Redemption, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Out of the Red: My Life of Gangs, Prison, and Redemption, readers will find themselves witnessing my first experience in a gang riot in one of the most violent prisons in Texas during the mid-1990s.
On Friday, July 12, someone got jumped on the recreation yard. I felt thankful that I stayed in that night as I preferred to avoid trouble, but it wouldn’t matter, because violence was about to explode everywhere. The weekend turned deadly when a 19-year-old Hispanic kid was being called for a visit. One of the prison gangs attacked and killed him while his family waited in visitation. I thought about the horror of the family being given that news, and it weighed heavily on my heart. It inspired me to go to church the following day, which I had been erratically and tentatively attending. This particular Sunday, my thoughts and prayers would have me in the wrong place at the wrong time….

Church was held in an extremely large tin warehouse, and the majority of inmates showed up for it on Sunday, whether they were Christian or not. Gangs often took the opportunity to conduct their business at these large gatherings, so their presence seemed normal. While everyone was clapping and singing praises to the Lord, the Mexican gangs erupted into fighting throughout the crowd. The guards rushed in with batons and gas guns, but flanked by hundreds of confused bystanders dressed exactly the same, the gangs had extra time to handle their business…The correctional officers tried to get everyone down, but people kept popping back up and going at it. The assaults seemed to have a life or death desperation to them, and the officers struggled to pull people apart, even as the fighters trampled and tripped over the other inmates beneath them.
The page 99 test would not give a reader an accurate understanding of Out of the Red, although it does exemplify the spirit of the text. The events of page 99 are occurring while I am questioning my own gang involvement and whether I wanted to continue in this violent subculture. This embodiment of the spiritual, mental, and social struggle I experienced in leaving the world of gangs and violence behind, as I simultaneously transitioned from adolescence to maturity while incarcerated in adult prison, is a thematic focal point for a portion of the book. As a whole however, the test would fail to provide readers with an accurate understanding of the book. Out of the Red is an autoethnography that is written both for the academic classroom and the casual reader. It weaves my life narrative of gang activity, prison sentence, and the unusual circumstances by which I overcame those detriments, with academic literature from multiple disciplines and enhances the context of understanding gangs by incorporating 41 in-depth interviews with gang members in San Antonio, Texas. The prison experience is recreated through 1,009 letters recovered from that time, and page 99 is a direct reflection of letters I wrote documenting the experience. Though my life narrative is the vehicle of the story, the book is about how the drivers and consequences of social forces related to gangs, the school-to-prison pipeline, mass incarceration, and obstacles to successful reintegration of former prisoners, play out in the life of an individual. Page 99 is embroiled in chaotic turmoil, but the book is about finding hope while facing seemingly insurmountable odds.
Learn more about Out of the Red at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 26, 2020

Philip C. Almond's "The Antichrist: A New Biography"

Philip C. Almond is Emeritus Professor in the History of Religious Thoughtat at The University of Queensland. He is the author of many books, including Afterlife: A History of Life after Death, The Devil: A New Biography; The Lancashire Witches: A Chronicle of Sorcery and Death on Pendle Hill; Adam and Eve in Seventeenth-Century Thought; and Heaven and Hell in Enlightenment England.

Almond applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Antichrist: A New Biography, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Antichrist: A New Biography is part of a discussion of Pope Gregory the Great’s opinions on the Antichrist. Much to my surprise, Gregory the Great’s advice on this page that we should all look within to ensure that we are not already doing the work of the Antichrist, foreshadowed the epilogue of this book.

There I argue that, whether we are Christian believers or not, the legend of the Antichrist lays upon us the ethical imperative that we take evil seriously in the here and now, as if it has metaphysical depths. In short, this is eschatology within the limits of the ethical alone.

In order to merit this conclusion, this book explores the idea of human evil through a history of the Antichrist from his origins in the New Testament to the present time in Western and Eastern Christianity, and in Judaism and Islam.

Who was the Antichrist? Simply put, he would be the perfectly evil human being who would arise shortly before the end of the world. As such, he was the Antichrist because he was completely opposite to the perfectly good human being, Jesus Christ. Just as Christians came to believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, so they thought the Antichrist was the Son of Satan. Jesus was born of a virgin. So the Antichrist would be born of a woman who was apparently a virgin, but was really a whore. Simply put, where Christ was God in the flesh, the Antichrist was Satan in the flesh.

Whether he appeared in the form of an apocalyptic tyrant outside of the Church or as the Papal deceiver within it, he provided the answer to the apparent failure of the life, death and resurrection of Christ to solve the problem of evil.

The Antichrist was the key component of a Christian providentialism that demanded, in spite of the redemption by Christ already effected, a final resolution of cosmic and human evil. For, not long before the end of the world, the resurrection of the dead and the Final Judgement, he and his armies would be decisively defeated. Death, suffering, and evil would be finally overcome.
Learn more about The Antichrist at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Afterlife: A History of Life after Death.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Elaine Farrell's "Women, Crime and Punishment in Ireland"

Elaine Farrell is a graduate of University College Dublin and Queen’s University Belfast. In 2010-11, she held the position of Lecturer in Modern Irish History at Queen’s University Belfast and was an Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) Post-doctoral Research Fellow at University College Dublin, 2011-2012. She took up her current position as Lecturer in Irish Economic and Social History at Queen’s University Belfast in September 2012.

Farrell applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Women, Crime and Punishment in Ireland: Life in the Nineteenth-Century Convict Prison, and reported the following:
I open page 99 gingerly, not sure what I’ll find. Hopefully not a typo! Isn’t that what they say, you proof read over and over and as soon as you open the book you see the mistake! I haven’t dared to open it since I took it out of its box a few weeks ago.

Turns out page 99 is a few pages into Chapter 2, which focuses on family ties involving women incarcerated in the nineteenth-century Irish convict prison, the prison for serious offenders. Page 99 is part of a section entitled ‘“My dear and beloved mother I take this pen in hand’: Convict letters’. At this point in the chapter, I’m analysing penned letters to and from the female inmates, using quantitative evidence (like that 283 women released between 1881 and 1900 wrote around 1,486 letters to relatives and friends on the outside) and qualitative evidence in the form of case study examples of the thousands of women who passed through Ireland’s female convict prison.

In one such example, I show how the letters written by inmates Catherine Lavelle, her mother Mary and her brother Thomas (in the male prison) document Irish migratory practices as evidenced through recipients’ changing addresses. Following their convictions for the manslaughter of Catherine’s father, the addresses show that Catherine’s siblings emigrated to England and onto America. Her sister married relatively soon afterwards, as evidenced by her change in surname.

I am surprised at how well the test works. In showcasing qualitative and quantitative evidence, as mentioned above, the page demonstrates my methodology. The book prioritises the stories of individual woman, and several women feature on this page. It’s important to give women their names, they were not just numbers in an institution. Many (although not all) had experienced hardship, poverty, abuse or family bereavement prior to incarceration. They had relatives and friends on the outside who noticed their absences; women’s incarceration also had a significant effect on the everyday experiences and life trajectories of their dependents. The crimes for which women were sentenced to the Irish female convict prison varied significantly and this is showcased by the examples on page 99, from Maria Collins who stole a coat in Dublin and ended up in the convict prison to Mary Lavelle who was sentenced to life for the manslaughter of her husband.

Catherine Lavelle who is mentioned on page 99, features on the front cover of the book and is the focus of one of the five case studies that precedes each of the five chapters. She was 15 years of age when she was arrested and tried for her father’s murder, along with her brother and mother in County Mayo in 1881. The photograph was taken after Catherine had served around three years in prison. She’s in uniform, badges on either arm showing her progress through the system, in the typical pose at the time.

I try to imagine what Catherine could see as this photograph was taken. She could see the photographer, a female staff member at the prison. Perhaps she encountered other inmates on her way to be photographed. The complexities of friendships, rivalries and networks behind bars, between inmates as well as employees, are explored in Chapters 3 and 4. Catherine could see the walls that would contain her until her early release in 1888. Women’s options on discharge and their post-prison experiences are examined in Chapter 5.

Though the case studies of individual women, we get a glimpse of nineteenth-century Irish society. They offer us a fascinating insight of lived realities at a point in time. But it’s important to remember that these stories are not fictional and that these women are not made-up characters. The photograph on the front cover reminds us of that.
Visit Elaine Farrell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 24, 2020

David Komline's "The Common School Awakening"

David Komline is Associate Professor of Church History at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. He holds a PhD from the University of Notre Dame and spent a year as a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Heidelberg. He has published essays in Religion and American Culture, Anglican and Episcopal History, and several edited collections.

Komline applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Common School Awakening: Religion and the Transatlantic Roots of American Public Education, and reported the following:
How do we best explain the rise of public education in the early United States? The Common School Awakening, the movement, culminated in the late 1830s when states across the country centralized oversight of their schools and began government-sponsored teacher training colleges. The Common School Awakening, the book, treats these famous developments in chapters five and six. But these reforms were decades in the making, as earlier chapters demonstrate. Page 99 comes towards the end of one of these chapters, chapter three, which treats failed efforts to introduce similar reforms in Massachusetts in the 1820s. Specifically, this page describes the founding of one enterprise that attempted to improve teaching: the American Institute of Instruction.

Does the Page 99 Test work? Yes and no.

In the middle of page 99 the following sentence appears: “The roster included major figures in education – Thomas Gallaudet and William Woodbridge; James Carter and Ebenezer Bailey; Nathan Guilford of Cincinnati and Roberts Vaux of Philadelphia.” By highlighting these particular people – each of whom appears elsewhere in the book, with Gallaudet appearing in every chapter after the introduction – this page does serve as a kind of microcosm of the whole.

This list also illustrates one way the book widens the frame of conventional scholarly conversations. Often, discussions of early American education center on one “great man” – Horace Mann. More critical historiography has emphasized how forces such as industrialization and urbanization affected educational policy. The Common School Awakening, by highlighting personal agency, turns our attention back to people – but not merely to one person. As page 99 notes later: “By gathering people from across the country, the institute solidified the networks of educational reformers that had already begun to develop …. It also helped to ensure that the Common School Awakening would be a national phenomenon, not merely a fad in the Northeast.”

But while this page picks up the book’s national emphasis, it gives no sign of the book’s transnational emphasis. The Common School Awakening argues that American reformers’ experiences with and understanding of education abroad strongly influenced them. As other parts of the book detail, reformers traversed the Atlantic frequently, bringing back ideas from Europe about how to improve education at home. A whole chapter focuses on how Americans engaged schooling in Prussia through a report authored by the Frenchman Victor Cousin and translated by the Englishwoman Sarah Austin. These transatlantic influences provided both material inspiration for reform and a way of advocating for it. But from page 99 alone, this transnational theme is not obvious.

The other major missing motif is religion. The opening paragraph of chapter three notes that the attempts at reform of the 1820s “serve as a foil for … later, more successful efforts.” Religion is absent from page 99, and indeed from action of this chapter. But its absence is one reason these initiatives largely failed. The religious rhetoric that reformers adopted in the 1830s carried the Common School Awakening to its height.

Page 99, then, gives a sense of the crucial role played by individual personalities across the nation in bringing about the Common School Awakening. But one must read further to see the transatlantic and religious currents that carried their work forward.
Learn more about The Common School Awakening at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 23, 2020

Richard Gaskins's "The Congo Trials in the International Criminal Court"

Richard Gaskins is Joseph M. Proskauer Professor of Law and Social Welfare at Brandeis University. He spent the past decade designing and directing student exchange programs in The Hague, which combined academic theory with hands-on practicums in courts and NGO's. He holds a Ph.D. (Philosophy) and J.D. from Yale University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Congo Trials in the International Criminal Court, and reported the following:
Wrenching violence struck a remote corner of the Congo in August 2002—far from the notice of international observers. Astonishingly, these events would eventually take center stage in the first full trials at the International Criminal Court (ICC), newly established in the Dutch city of The Hague. Page 99 describes the key moment in these Central African social dynamics, which would haunt the first two decades of the ICC’s existence. This is the pivotal turn for everything covered in the book.

The ICC had opened its doors one month before these fateful events in the eastern Congo. It was the culmination of the twentieth-century’s resolve to strike back against the human costs of war: a new permanent court to prosecute those responsible for “unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity.” All of that moral energy would be harnessed to slow-moving instruments of criminal-process. It had to start somewhere; and so the Court would look back, after almost twenty years, on its three landmark trials, featuring four Congolese suspects, and yielding a mixed record of two convictions and two acquittals.

Historic trials all have their roots in concrete events—which, in this institutional setting, became agonizingly difficult to reconstruct, years later, in a courtroom far from the scene of actual violence. Page 99 immerses the reader in those concrete events, in a chapter analyzing the structure of local struggles in Central Africa. Overall, the book describes wide cultural gaps separating these elusive details from the lofty legal categories used by the ICC, as the Court struggled to articulate new principles of global justice. Lessons drawn from the Congo trials indicate strong headwinds for this idealistic international court, still finding its way in a complex, culturally diverse world.
Learn more about The Congo Trials in the International Criminal Court at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Michelle Jackson's "Manifesto for a Dream"

Michelle Jackson is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Stanford University. She is the editor of Determined to Succeed? (2013).

Jackson applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Manifesto for a Dream: Inequality, Constraint, and Radical Reform, and reported the following:
In Manifesto for a Dream, I pose a question: What, exactly, would it would take for the United States to deliver on its promise of equal opportunity? The answer is that it would take nothing short of a radical overhaul of our most fundamental institutions. Minor interventions are inadequate to the task. Social scientists have devoted too much energy to incremental policy, and too little energy to designing more radical reforms needed to truly guarantee opportunity to all. This book makes the case for developing a social science of radical reform.

A reader opening the book to page ninety-nine would be thrown into a discussion of how the law could be used as a radical tool for eliminating inequality of opportunity. I describe two broad types of legal reform that are available to us: changes to the law that promote equality of opportunity, and changes that outlaw inequality of opportunity. In the former category, we might imagine introducing laws that guarantee a certain set of economic rights to all Americans, such as the rights to food, housing, education, and so on. In the latter category are instruments such as antidiscrimination law, which could be used to outlaw discrimination and unequal treatment on the basis of socioeconomic characteristics. Either type of legal reform would have profound effects.

The discussion of legal mechanisms to reduce inequality of opportunity comes near the end of Chapter 4 (“Grasp by the Root”). In the previous chapters, I ask whether the American Dream could ever be achieved in a society in which individuals face substantially different constraints on opportunity by virtue of their socioeconomic position. I describe how social institutions – such as schools, hospitals, and the police – are implicated in producing inequality of opportunity, and argue that we will only make progress towards eliminating inequality of opportunity if we rebuild these inequality-producing institutions under a new vision. While the first part of the book largely focuses on what has gone wrong with our inequality policy, the second part strikes a more optimistic tone, and Chapter 4 fully embraces the “can-do” ethos. Alongside legal mechanisms, I discuss policies from other countries that could be applied to good effect in the United States, such as universal healthcare, randomization of educational opportunities, and technological reforms.

Does the page ninety-nine test work for my book? Not perfectly. But it works reasonably well. A reader encountering the material on page ninety-nine would be hard-pressed to argue that this is a business-as-usual inequality book. To be sure, many features of the argument would be lost, and the discussion of legal reform is somewhat drier than the discussions of other radical policies. But it would be clear that the aim of the book is to consider policies that are usually written-off as “outlandish” or “beyond the pale”. In the current moment, when many are coping with the fallout of an economic and health crisis, there is a special obligation to ask whether our inequality policy is fit for its intended purpose.
Visit Michelle Jackson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

David Menconi's "Step It Up and Go"

David Menconi spent 28 years covering music and art for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., writing about everything from gospel to heavy metal. Those years in North Carolina’s musical trenches inform his new book Step It Up and Go: The Story of North Carolina Popular Music, from Blind Boy Fuller and Doc Watson to Nina Simone and Superchunk, a chronicle of nearly a century’s worth of The Old North State’s musical history.

In applying the “Page 99 Test” to the book, he reported the following:
From page 99:
That same year, Doc’s daughter Nancy also told me a story about a backstage well-wisher who had recently congratulated Doc on becoming a great-grandfather.

“Naw,” he drawled in his mountain deadpan. “I’m just average.”
It is entirely fitting that page 99 of Step It Up and Go falls within the chapter about the late great Doc Watson, who casts a long shadow across his native state in terms of both music and sensibility. One of the giants of 20th century music, Watson was discovered during the folk revival and became a beloved icon on the festival circuit – a blind man from the Western North Carolina mountains who could flatpick faster and cleaner than anybody ever had. Over the half-century before his death in 2012, Watson won just about every accolade and honor one could win in music.

But for all that, he also maintained the humble demeanor of a sideman and never cared much for people making a fuss over him. When the North Carolina town of Boone commissioned a Watson sculpture to be placed downtown, where he used to busk on the street in his pre-fame days, he would only give it his blessing if the plaque read, “Just One of the People” (which it does).

That is a mindset common to North Carolina’s greatest musicians, a roll call that includes luminaries like banjo master Earl Scruggs, R.E.M.’s early producer Mitch Easter and modern-day hip-hop producer Patrick “9th Wonder” Douthit. Across decades and styles, they all share traits including ingenuity, working-class populism and the sense that artistic independence trumps career concerns. If North Carolina seems like “The Dayjob State,” it’s because going pro doesn’t change much about the music people play there.

Elsewhere in Step It Up and Go, Watson’s sideman Jack Lawrence spoke to this when he noted that Watson had a very utilitarian view of music. Had Watson been able to see, Lawrence speculated, he probably would have been a mechanic or carpenter who just picked a little on the weekend.

“Ask Doc how he wants to be remembered,” Lawrence said, “and guitar-playing really doesn’t enter into it. He’d rather be remembered just as the good ol’ boy down the road.”
Visit the author’s blog.

The Page 99 Test: Ryan Adams: Losering.

My Book, The Movie: Ryan Adams: Losering.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Niklas Frykman's "The Bloody Flag"

Niklas Frykman is Assistant Professor of Atlantic History at the University of Pittsburgh.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Bloody Flag: Mutiny in the Age of Atlantic Revolution, and reported the following:
Page 99 is concerned with the aftermath of the 1796 mutiny on the Dutch frigate Jason, a mutiny that probably conforms to what most people think mutinies in the age of sail were like: an unruly crew rising up in the middle of the night, seizing the ship, and sailing it to the nearest port in a blaze of alcohol-fueled glory. In this case, there was also a political dimension, or so Captain Donckum claimed when afterwards he was called upon explain how it was that he had lost control of his men, and with that of one of the Dutch navy’s precious few frigates. The answer was simple, Donckum argued, for his men had not only been a bunch of unreliable “runaways and deserters,” they also had counted among them a good number of counter-revolutionary Orangist traitors, who clearly would stop at nothing to hurt the new Batavian regime, including even outright treason.

A reader who stopped at the bottom of page 99 would be left with the impression that Captain Donckum was right, and that the Jason mutineers, like many other malcontents in the Batavian navy, were driven by an intense hatred for the new revolutionary regime. But in the book I suggest that a close reading and careful contextualization of their politics paints a far more complex and complicated picture than simple reaction. Indeed, on the very next page I demonstrate that it was only a minority of primarily petty officers who professed genuine loyalty to the overthrown regime of Stadtholder William V of Orange, mostly because the revolution had brought to an end the upward trajectory of their careers within the service. Most ordinary seamen, by contrast, had initially embraced the promises of social renewal that came with the revolution, but when the conditions of service in the Batavian navy turned out to be as lousy and exploitative as they had been under the old regime, they turned on their new officers with a violent vengeance.

It was a pattern that repeated itself again and again, first in the French, then in the Dutch, and finally in the British navy. As war consumed the north Atlantic world in the mid-1790s, naval seamen in each navy initially rallied to their country’s cause, but anger and disappointment at the conditions of their service soon triggered waves of shipboard revolt that eventually flowed together into a single, genuinely Atlantic, transnational revolutionary movement at sea. Far from expressing a hope of return to the conditions that prevailed onboard European warships under the old regime, the cosmopolitan mutineers of the 1790s brought together elements of contemporary radicalism with the ancient egalitarian customs of the sea to forge a new form of politics we may think of as revolutionary maritime republicanism. Tracing the rise and decline, and lasting legacy of that political tradition lies at the heart of my recently published book, The Bloody Flag. Page 99, I am sad to say, does not quite capture it.
Learn more about The Bloody Flag at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 16, 2020

Tony Keddie's "Republican Jesus"

Tony Keddie is Assistant Professor of Early Christian History and Literature at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Class and Power in Roman Palestine and Revelations of Ideology.

Keddie applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Republican Jesus: How the Right Has Rewritten the Gospels, and reported the following:
From page 99:
For all of his disclaimers about not getting involved in politics, America’s favorite crusader [Billy Graham] was a vocal supporter of war for decades—from Korea to Iraq. Graham soothed any presidential or popular Christian anxieties about the injustice of war by depicting military intervention abroad as a strategy for spreading Christian democracy in an increasingly communist world. Graham envisioned the Third World as the site of an apocalyptic struggle between American Christianity and the Soviet Union’s pagan communism. “God may be using Communism as a judgment upon the West,” he warned about North Vietnam.

Graham was more influential than ever during the Nixon presidency. For the first time in history, Graham led a full-blown worship service as part of President Nixon’s inauguration in 1969. He also introduced the first of what would become regular Sunday worship services in the East Room of the White House. The ministers who presided over these services, which were attended by conservative Christian politicians and corporate leaders alike, were hand-picked by Graham to ensure that their politics aligned with his and Nixon’s—that is, that they preached a Jesus who favored Small Government, traditional family values, and whatever other Republican causes came to the fore.
Page 99 of Republican Jesus nicely captures the way that a key figure in the emergence of the American Christian Right, Rev. Billy Graham, used anti-Communist fear-mongering as a tactic to gain support for right-wing politics. It highlights how he contributed to the construction of conservative Christianity and capitalism as God’s antidotes to “pagan stateism”—a boogeyman created to conflate liberal Christians and supporters of the New Deal with communism, fascism, and Nazism abroad. This promotion of Small Government, free market capitalism as the proper and inevitable political expression of Christianity receives critical attention throughout the book. Graham, his allies, and his son Franklin also appear as major influencers in the shaping of right-wing Christian politics throughout the book.

This page also notes that Graham employed a tendentious interpretation of Jesus to bolster his politics, but it does not indicate that much of the book (particularly the second half) is devoted to debunking the Right’s version of Jesus—“Republican Jesus”—on the basis of biblical and ancient historical evidence. Whereas the first half of the book explains who the Republican Jesus is and where he came from (that is, his origins as an interpretive paradigm in the modern era), the second half of the book takes on the task of showing why right-wing influencers most common interpretations of gospel texts are historically and logically problematic. To do so, these chapters restore their cherry-picked texts to their original literary and historical contexts by closely analyzing them in light of their first-century Jewish and Greco-Roman settings.
Learn more about Republican Jesus at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn's "Ars Vitae"

Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn is professor of history at Syracuse University. She is the author of a number of essays and books, including Black Neighbors (winner of the Berkshire prize) and Race Experts.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Ars Vitae: The Fate of Inwardness and the Return of the Ancient Arts of Living, and reported the following:
A reader glancing through Ars Vitae (Latin for the art of living) and lingering on page 99 would find a brief introduction to a movement I describe in my second chapter, “A New Stoicism.” At the top of the page a paragraph mentions just a handful of the institutions, websites, and events that signal a resurgence of interest in our times in the ancient school of philosophy of Stoicism, which the chapter goes on to explore. At the bottom of the page, after the subheading “Ancient Stoicism,” a paragraph begins introducing the ancient school and some of its concepts and early luminaries.

Browsers would get a surprisingly accurate sense of the book as a whole through this window onto Stoicism, ancient and modern. Ars Vitae explores the ancient and contemporary versions of five movements or schools of thought—Gnosticism (a religious movement) and the Greco-Roman schools of Stoicism, Epicureanism, Cynicism, and Platonism—treated in each of the five main chapters of the book. By encapsulating the ancient and modern Stoic movements for the purpose of launching Chapter Two on the New Stoicism, page 99 suggests the organization of each of the chapters, which begin by introducing the modern renewal of interest, go back in time to delve into the ancient movement, and come forward again to investigate the new form of the school of thought. This page even suggests the organization of the book itself, which begins with an Introduction describing what I see as a new cultural movement we can discern in both popular culture and scholarly sources today, a kind of new classicism, and then goes back in each chapter to pick up main themes of the ancient schools and forward to assess the significance of the contemporary echoes and reverberations of those schools and, by the Epilogue, the movement as a whole.

This browser’s shortcut reveals a great deal about the book by presenting in miniature the design, conceptualization, and structure of argumentation—of our philosophical adventure, as one reader has described it. For a reader leafing through the volume, page 99 might act as a tiny microcosm of the work as a whole. I hope it, like the Introduction and the introductory sections of each chapter, might pique the reader’s interest with the fascinating signs of a resurgence of interest in ancient Greco-Roman philosophies of eudaemonia, happiness or well-being. I hope these pages might feel like an invitation to explore these schools of thought together via total immersion and partake in an ancient yet enduring conversation about how to live. Such an adventure can allow for deeper explorations of life questions than those of the more fleeting or superficial forms of self-help in our contemporary therapeutic and consumer culture and can help us in these fraught and divisive times to consider more practical and meaningful alternatives.
Learn more about Ars Vitae at the the University of Notre Dame Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 12, 2020

Craig A. Monson's "The Black Widows of the Eternal City"

Craig A. Monson is the Paul Tietjens Professor Emeritus of Music at Washington University in St. Louis and the author of several books, including Nuns Behaving Badly (2010), Divas in the Convent (2012), and Habitual Offenders: A True Tale of Nuns, Prostitutes, and Murderers in 17th-century Italy (2016).

Monson applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Black Widows of the Eternal City: The True Story of Rome’s Most Infamous Poisoners, and reported the following:
Page 99:
… Maria continued with a description that precisely matched Giovanna’s in every detail. The pair had simmered the mixture over the fire for about two hours, until they heard the Ave Maria sounding, then let it stand overnight. The next morning Giovanna unsealed the jar, and emptied it into a glass bottle. They threw the dregs from the jar down the privy and simply tossed the jar out into the street.

“A little of the dough from around the jar fell on the floor,” Maria concluded, “and a little cat of mine ate it. The next evening, I found her dead. I skinned her and discovered her flesh had turned tawny red. So I figured the dough had poisoned her.” Another house pet had unwittingly paid the ultimate price to confirm the lethalness of Giovanna’s brew. Significantly, a similar ruddiness had characterized the corpse of Giuseppe Cencietti, the barber of Tor di Nona, and the cadavers of other, more recently departed husbands.

Maria went on to make another eye-opening claim: she suspected Giovanna might even have begun exporting her liquid to the suburbs. Once, when Maria came to visit at Santa Prassede, Giovanna’s current young woman exclaimed, “Don’t you know there’s a woman from Palestrina who’ll pay ten scudi to get some of that liquid to kill her husband?” Giovanna had even enlisted another woman from Palestrina as a runner, to make deliveries: the cartel, it seemed, had continued to expand. From then on Maria could hardly pretend ignorance of the extent of the enterprise, even as she determinedly persisted in presenting herself as an innocent bystander, simply observing it all.

Maria Spinola only revealed her final details about the poison recipe some weeks later, when Stefano Bracchi eventually inquired about her friendship with Gironima Spana. Their acquaintanceship had blossomed almost a decade earlier, during the Jubilee of 1650, when their paths crossed at Santa Maria Maggiore, while both joined the throngs of pilgrims making the rounds of the papal basilicas to garner an indulgence.

In the midst of their pilgrimage, conversation turned from piety to poison. “We chatted about many things, and, in particular, Gironima confided to me that she knew how to make a certain liquid to kill people. When I asked how, she told me she made one type with arsenic and lead and another with cooked eggs, which she said was an oil, just perfect for putting people away. She also said she made one sort with a toad, boiled inside a cooking pot over a slow fire.”

According to Maria, one of Gironima’s concoctions thus contained that prime ingredient of stereotypical witches’ brew in the public imagination:...
Page 99 introduces several of The Black Widows of the Eternal City's recurring motifs, chief among them, the notorious poison that terrified Rome (especially its male residents) after police discovered several widows who had used it to kill their husbands—rumor said no fewer than 500. For centuries writers speculated about the poison’s ingredients, as toxicologists variously suggested drippings from a butchered pig smeared with arsenic, pig slobber, white phosphorous, or strychnine. But the pope kept the transcript of the investigation under lock and key, “so nobody could learn how to make this poisonous potion, with which these cruel murderesses did away with so many.”

Under interrogation, Maria Spinola, one of the five chief protagonists, eventually hanged in Campo de’ Fiori, solves this mystery. Her co-conspirator, Giovanna De Grandis, decocted the lethal elixir from lead and arsenic, acquired from a renegade priest. (Apothecaries refused to sell arsenic to women.)

Maria also describes alternative recipes from Gironima Spana, the case’s most notorious perpetrator, who would eclipse all others in subsequent accounts and appears in many modern compendia of “serial killers.” Maria did not get Gironima’s standard recipe quite right, however: she in fact added antimony to the lead-arsenic mixture, which gave it an extra kick “so that very little does the job.”

Maria’s allegation that Spana stewed up toads must have strengthened her reputation as a witch: toads were commonly recognized as witches’ familiars and a favorite ingredient in their cauldrons (“Toad, that under cold stone / Days and nights has thirty-one / Swelter’d venom sleeping got, / Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!” Macbeth IV, 1).

Maria’s cat was not the only poisoned pet. Animal victims become a leitmotif as poison purveyors and police investigators force the mixture down the throats of dogs and the occasional pig, then sit by to observe the results. Maria’s flayed cat’s inflamed flesh perhaps explains why murdered husbands often “looked better dead than alive.”

Page 99 does not address the book’s chief protagonists, however: the wives of innkeepers, lineners, barbers, and butchers, who turned to Maria, Giovanna, and Gironima for their lethal liquid and whom Spana eclipsed in subsequent accounts. These forgotten, ordinary women are at the center of this story. They represent the 17th-century Roman abused wife, her strength to fight back, her brief success, and her ultimate defeat by powerful men and a society that offered her little recourse.
Learn more about The Black Widows of the Eternal City at the University of Michigan Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Nuns Behaving Badly.

The Page 99 Test: Habitual Offenders.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Carl Smith's "Chicago’s Great Fire"

Carl Smith is Franklyn Bliss Snyder Professor of English and American Studies and Professor of History, Emeritus, at Northwestern University. His books include Chicago and the American Literary Imagination, 1880-1920; Urban Disorder and the Shape of Belief: The Great Chicago Fire, the Haymarket Bomb, and the Model Town of Pullman; The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City; and City Water, City Life: Water and the Infrastructure of Ideas in Urbanizing Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago.

Smith applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Chicago’s Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City, and reported the following:
The Page 99 Test would give the reader a good if not entirely complete sense of Chicago’s Great Fire. As it happens, there is less of my writing on page 99 than on most of the other pages, since more than half of page 99 is occupied by a haunting photograph of a lonely figure amidst the ruins of downtown Chicago [image left; click to enlarge]. The photographer was George N. Barnard, who only a few years earlier had documented the war-ravaged ruins of Atlanta and Charleston. He had moved to Chicago a few months before the fire. But Page 99 is still a good test because this photograph is one of some seventy powerful contemporary images, most from the collections of the Chicago History Museum, that are essential to the book.

My contribution to page 99 discusses the ways in which eyewitnesses to devastated Chicago marveled at how imaginatively suggestive the ruins were. While the city of Chicago was less than forty years old, the fire seemed to invest it almost magically with a history it didn’t have. The blocks and blocks of fallen buildings, “full of the charm of mystery and darkness,” recalled not a raw American, but the faded glories of distant and legendary places of the past. Post-fire Chicago evoked the ruins of ancient Cairo, the Parthenon, and the Colosseum.

While most other pages in the book present a compelling narrative of the titanic fire and the city’s rapid and robust recovery, they resemble this page in that the story is always told through the eyes of the people who experienced the events recounted. The book frames the disaster and rebuilding above all as a human drama. Of the thousands of sources that drive the narrative, the key ones are always the words of those who were there.
Learn more about Chicago’s Great Fire at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Shannon E. Reid & Matthew Valasik's "Alt-Right Gangs: A Hazy Shade of White"

Shannon E. Reid is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Matthew Valasik is Associate Professor of Sociology at Louisiana State University.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Alt-Right Gangs: A Hazy Shade of White, and reported the following:
Page 99 places the reader in the middle of a quintessential chapter on understanding the evolution and use of digital technologies (i.e., the Internet, social media, etc.) by the white power movement over the last three decades. Page 99 also examines the emergence of the broader alt-right social movement. The page starts with providing an example of a cloaked website, which intentionally disguises the authorship to conceal a political agenda and acts as a form of propaganda. These cloaked websites are a precursor to today’s “fake news.” As individuals are further removed from an event, either temporally (e.g., the Holocaust, the Civil War, etc.) or spatially, their ability to discern the legitimacy of a website is reduced. This is particularly concerning for youth who may be digitally savvy but lack literacy in critically evaluating media or lack an understanding of racial inequality making them susceptible to cloaked white power websites and providing an entry point for youth into the alt-right rabbit hole.

Page 99 then transitions to talking about an incident in video game journalism referred to as Gamergate. While the events behind Gamergate are tangential to the alt-right, the repercussions of this event are quite substantial for the alt-right in two distinct ways. First, alt-lite provocateurs (e.g., Mike Cernovich, Milo Yiannopoulos) gained notoriety among both the alt-right and manosphere, providing a bridge between the extreme and mainstream. Second, Gamergate greatly influenced the online activism of the alt-right, particularly their online trolling techniques, which mirrored the misogynistic practices of manosphere trolls.

While the Page 99 test does showcase an important element of alt-right gangs, their adeptness in the digital realm, it fails to capture the large argument that the book is setting out to make. The argument is that these white power groups, particularly alt-right gangs, may originate and exists in an online environment, however, their actions do not solely remain in a digital setting but transcend and manifest in the real world. The results of which are often violent in nature. As such, it is necessary to actually think of practical solutions that have been successfully used on similar groups (i.e., street gangs) on how these prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies can be adapted and utilized to combat alt-right gang violence. Overall, the Page 99 test does a mediocre job at introducing browsers to the gist of the book.

Alt-Right Gangs: A Hazy Shade of White provides a concise synthesis of alt-right gangs through an interdisciplinary perspective by engaging with an array of academic literatures to develop a more holistic understanding of these white power groups. It is through this broader perspective that enables one to identify the limits of existing studies and what research is still needed. The overall goal is to provide a foundation, such as a usable definition that is operationalized, for future studies and/ policy initiatives to be able to systematically examine alt-right gangs.
Learn more about Alt-Right Gangs at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Ernest Freeberg's "A Traitor to His Species"

Ernest Freeberg is a distinguished professor of humanities and head of the history department at the University of Tennessee. He has authored three award-winning books, including The Age of Edison.

Freeberg applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Traitor to His Species: Henry Bergh and the Birth of the Animal Rights Movement, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Traitor to His Species lands us in the midst of the event that first got me thinking about writing this book—the great horse and mule flu of 1872. That fall a mysterious epizootic disease broke out, first in Toronto and eventually all across the continent, that brought the American economy to the brink of disaster. In one city after another, the horses and mules that were essential to human well-being got sick. About 5 percent died, and most of the rest came down with a debilitating disease that could turn fatal if the animals were forced to work. Whole cities and major industries were forced to shut down, stranded without the partnership with horses. Reviewing the many devastating consequences of this horse plague, on page 99 I explain: “Shipping companies lost small fortunes every day that the disease continued. Wharves all along the Atlantic coast overflowed with boxes, crates, and bales that could not be moved…Perishable goods rotted on the docks….Some shippers ran newspaper notices imploring customers to come pick up their own packages if they could.”

In researching this brief but shocking event, what I have called “America’s First Energy Crisis,” I first encountered Henry Bergh, the founder of the ASPCA, the nation’s first animal welfare organization. Using the authority granted him by a law of his own devising, he parked himself in major intersections of New York City, halted trolleys and carts drawn by sick horses, and demanded that the animals be sent back to their stables—thus saving their lives, while inconveniencing many humans who were keenly feeling their dependence on horse power. Since Bergh ultimately became the central character of my book, and is notably absent on Page 99, then I’d have to say that this interesting test fails in this case.

Most of the other pages in the book would tell you this: Bergh was a fascinating character whose defense of animals made him a hero to many, a laughingstock to others, and a pest to those who resented his “meddling” with their right to use animals any way they pleased. Bergh came to the work in 1866, at the age of 53, after decades as a wealthy heir and failed playwright. A sudden conversion to the anti-cruelty cause made him what some called “The Riddle of the 19th Century,” a celebrated reformer who was soon joined by thousands of women and men who formed SPCA organizations across the country. Over two decades in the work, Bergh not only rescued sick horses, but fought against all sorts of animal abuse—from dog fights to elephant acts. His colorful career tells us much about how our relationship to animals has changed for the better, and how much of his campaign against cruelty remains unresolved.
Learn more about A Traitor to His Species at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Age of Edison.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Gregory A. Daddis's "Pulp Vietnam"

Gregory A. Daddis is professor and the USS Midway Chair in Modern U.S. Military History at San Diego State University. He is author of Withdrawal: Reassessing America's Final Years in Vietnam.

Daddis applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Pulp Vietnam: War and Gender in Cold War Men's Adventure Magazines, and reported the following:
What were the cultural sources of sexism and misogyny in Cold War America? Did sexual harassment stem, in part, from how women were portrayed in popular culture? When young American soldiers deployed to Vietnam in the mid-1960s, did some of them see sexual violence against Vietnamese women as somehow acceptable given what they were reading as young teenagers?

These were some of the core questions I pondered while reading through scores of Cold War era men’s adventure magazines, what some collectors call the “macho pulps.” These crowd-pleasing periodicals – which monthly sold in the hundreds of thousands – featured catchy titles like Man’s Conquest, Stag, and Adventure for Men. Within the mags’ pages, pulp writers fashioned their manly protagonists as both heroic warriors and sexual conquerors. These were “real men,” defending the nation from the foreign and domestic threats of the Cold War years.

In these same magazines, however, women were reduced to sexual objects that typified mid-twentieth-century sexism. In the pulps, men controlled women, whether in the bedroom or on the battlefield. (The magazines, meanwhile, often portrayed female spies using their bodies as weapons of war and luring unsuspecting American GIs to their demise.)

Take, for instance, an advertisement from Honor House Products promoted in the July 1959 issue of Battle Cry [image left; click to enlarge]. The tag line? “‘Stuffed’ Girl’s Heads.” For only $2.98, pulp readers could purchase a woman’s plastic head – with “saucy glittering eyes, full sensuous mouth and liquid satin complexion” – mounted on a genuine mahogany plaque. Here was a “unique trophy” that offered the chance for “every man to boast of his conquests.” While the ad drew attention to the heads’ life-like appearance, it also bragged that “one of the nicest qualities is that they don’t talk back.”

Such misogynistic representations of women filled the pages of adventure magazines. And yet they were not far, if at all, outside the cultural norms prevalent in the 1950s and early 1960s. While the pulps may seem anachronistic today, they resonated with their core audience – white, working-class men, the same demographic group that made up the bulk of American ranks in the Vietnam War.

Did men’s adventure magazines, and ads like the one I examined on page 99 of Pulp Vietnam, contribute to sexual violence in Vietnam? It’s difficult to prove, though certainly worth exploring. My sense is that the pulps opened up a rhetorical space for readers to think along the lines of sexual conquest, to deem most all women as objects and as opportunities – for sex, for proving one’s manhood, and for demonstrating power in the larger Cold War era.
Learn more about Pulp Vietnam at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test:Westmoreland's War.

The Page 99 Test: Withdrawal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Jane Caputi's "Call Your "Mutha'""

Jane Caputi is Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Florida Atlantic University. She is the author of The Age of Sex Crime; Gossips, Gorgons and Crones; and Goddesses and Monsters: Women, Myth, Power and Popular Culture. She has also made two educational documentaries: The Pornography of Everyday Life and Feed the Green: Feminist Voices for the Earth.

Caputi applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Call Your "Mutha'": A Deliberately Dirty-Minded Manifesto for the Earth Mother in the Anthropocene, and reported the following:
The page 99 test works only in part for Call Your “Mutha’” as the book’s structure is not linear. Rather it progresses one way and then flips the script. The book begins by naming the paradigmatic motherfucking (expressed in genocide, femicide, and ecocide) that is the basis of the new geological age, the Anthropocene (Age of Man), and then turns to an avowal of respect and devotion for the Earth, the ultimate “Mutha’” (always placed within quotes to acknowledge my debt to the genius of Black English). The Black oral tradition reports that motherfucker was invented by enslaved children to name the White slavemaster who raped and impregnated their mothers. His abuse, exploitation and commodification of the enslaved women’s productive and reproductive powers is mirrored in the master class’ aim to dominate and exploit Mother Earth (a complex scientific and spiritual concept, particularly in Indigenous traditions). The Anthropocene is the Age of the Motherfucker, with motherfucking understood as “forced sexualized entry into, harm, domination, possession, spirit-breaking, exploitation, extraction, and wasting of another for reasons of power, pleasure, plunder, and profit.”

The page 99 test does work for the first half. There, I discuss the ecological need for limits and quote Toni Morrison’s Beloved: “Good is knowing when to stop.” I contrast this with an “eco-modernist” demand for environmentalists to be more “positive,” to stress prosperity, and no longer rely on verbs like “’stop.” I disagree, concluding that: “words like ‘stop’ and ‘constrain’” are required “to address standard frontier violation, extraction, theft, occupation, trashing and dumping. Respect for the word stop is so necessary because the environmentally abusive culture is at root a rapist one.”

That page does not, though, indicate the theme of the second half of the book, focusing on the intelligence and autonomy of Nature-Earth as the “Mutha’”. As the word motherfucker evolved it developed an alternate meaning of a formidable and indomitable force. I identify a narrative characterizing Africana and Indigenous philosophies, art, popular culture, activist discourse, Afrofuturism and world myth warning that the environmental catastrophes now unfolding are evidence not only of Man’s spectacular destructiveness, but also that the “Mutha’” is turning away no longer sustaining the patterns that allow human existence. Hence, the imperative to call, to invoke, the “Mutha’”.
Learn more about Call Your "Mutha'" at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Adam Slez's "The Making of the Populist Movement"

Adam Slez is Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia, where he joined the faculty in 2013.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Making of the Populist Movement: State, Market, and Party on the Western Frontier, and reported the following:
If a reader were to open The Making of the Populist Movement to page 99, the first thing that they would see is a large graphic depicting the network of connections between South Dakota towns and the owners of the grain elevators used to load crops onto railroad cars. The surrounding text describes how to read the figure and the interpret the results. Insofar as it draws on network-analytic concepts such as tie density and blocks, the language used here is admittedly technical. At the same time, these technical details are also translated into substantive statements that bear on the larger historical argument regarding the origins of electoral Populism in South Dakota. For example, the last full sentence on the page reads, "In general, tie densities tend to be quite low due to the fact that the vast majority of owners are tied to a single place.” This line foreshadows a longer discussion regarding the position of independent elevator owners in a market network help together by owners operating elevators in two or more places.

Does the Page 99 Test work in this case? The test works in the sense that page 99 captures one of the defining elements of the book’s style, as well as one of the book’s main empirical findings. Stylistically speaking, one of things that distinguishes this book from a more traditional narrative history is the use of quantitative data. What the graph on page 99 shows is that the coupling between the railroad corporations and the companies that owned the grain elevators was so strong that you could see the organizing effect of the railroad simply by looking at the connection between towns and elevator owners. This is consistent with the book’s argument that the underlying geography of the market was a byproduct of decisions made by railroad officials who had the power to dictate where market infrastructure would and would not go. This created a situation in which the interests of the railroads and grain buyers came head-to-head with those of the farmers who depended on the market for their livelihood.

For as much as page 99 speaks to key aspects of the book, it is by no means a perfect reflection of the book as a whole. While the use of quantitative data sets the book apart from otherwise similar works, the style of writing seen on page 99 is far from typical. And while the findings reported on this page are critical to the development of the argument, they do not, in and of themselves, reflect the structure of the narrative as a whole. The main argument is that electoral Populism emerged as a response to the expansion of state and market in the American West. The book is structured accordingly, in the sense that the first part of the book examines the expansion of state and market, while the second part of the book examines the subsequent response, focusing in particular on the formation of social movement organizations, regulatory agencies, and political parties. This would not be apparent if you were to take page 99 on its own. Yet page 99 comes just pages before the transition to the second part of the book, at which point the connection between market-building and the Populist response is laid bare in anticipation of what is to come over the course of the next three chapters.
Learn more about The Making of the Populist Movement at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 2, 2020

Julie R. Posselt's "Equity in Science"

Julie R. Posselt is an Associate Professor of higher education in the USC Rossier School of Education and was a 2015-2017 National Academy of Education/ Spencer Foundation postdoctoral research fellow.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Equity in Science: Representation, Culture, and the Dynamics of Change in Graduate Education, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Equity in Science falls in chapter 5, which is titled, “Inclusive Design and Disciplinary Boundary Work in Applied Physics.” It is part of an extended profile of a powerful young Black man, Joe, working as an administrative staff member in a physics PhD program; in spite of the program having mostly white professors, it had earned a strong, positive reputation for serving Black students.

This reputation wasn’t an accident. On this page and the ones around it, we see how Joe’s presence and leadership enabled both more Black students to enroll and white faculty to learn how to best serve them.

Joe, on this page, helps the program chair understand a Black student's behavior in a closed-door, “heart to heart” conversation. “You know as much as I know that you care about students,” Joe says. "But I don’t think you’re quite getting it.” The chair, to his credit, is not defensive and at the end of the day, responds with gratitude. Joe’s work here is the work of cultural translation, which I define as sustained effort to decode, value, and apply perspectives that are different than the ones into which the mainstream has been socialized.

For illustrating an example of cultural translation, which is a core theme of the book, Equity in Science passes the Page 99 Test.

It also turns out to be a surprisingly good window into the book’s intellectual approach. The book presents a comparative case study of academic organizations that have been working to become more inclusive. I use these methods to build theory about institutional change toward equity in science, and page 99 presents both the examples described above as well as the following excerpt:
It is worth pausing here to ask why cultural translation is necessary. Decades of research indicate that it is not uncommon for white faculty to hold different expectations from doctoral students of color about what constitutes good mentoring and student performance, especially surrounding notions of rigor and support. These expectations are just one of many areas in science and graduate education where symbolic and social boundaries meeting can generate misunderstanding and friction…. Until the academic community institutionalizes a shared belief that ‘good science’ involves awareness of the ways that subject matter and social dynamics are entangled, those at the core of the academic community need cultural translators: people who make plain the social dynamics hiding in plain sight.
It was my hope in centering Joe’s role within the program to center the power and necessity of the invisible labor that people of color engage in daily without recognition or compensation. Case after case, I saw in my research -- and we can see our own workplaces daily-- how Black lives matter to the wellbeing of organizations. If we want a world in which protests and social disruption are unnecessary, white folks need to keep learning and provide for one another the cultural translation that is usually led by those who also bear the costs of interpersonal and institutional racism.
Learn more about Equity in Science at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue