Saturday, January 16, 2021

Stacy G. Ulbig's "Angry Politics"

Stacy G. Ulbig is a professor of political science at Sam Houston State University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Angry Politics: Partisan Hatred and Political Polarization among College Students, and reported the following:
Flipping to page 99 of Angry Politics, the table of correlations presented at the top of the page will likely capture the reader’s eye. The table examines the connections between media consumption and feelings of partisan hatred among a sample of college students. Perusing the remainder of the page, readers will take away the message that, in general, young potential voters, especially partisan Independents, who consume more media are more likely to express hatred of, and a desire to, physically harm those who hold partisan leanings different from their own.

After viewing page 99, a reader may infer that this tome focuses on the ways in which the mass media affect partisan attitudes. Yet the central thesis of this book does not focus on the influence of media or other demographic and attitudinal characteristics. Instead Angry Politics makes the argument that partisanship operates much the same as social identities to breed in-group affinity and out-group antipathy, and that they can operate in much the same way as connections to ethnic or religious groups to create and sustain hatred of out-group affiliates.

In light of the rancorous 2020 presidential election and the many protests that occurred across the nation, this may not seem surprising. Yet expressions of such hatred were prevalent as early as February, 2015, when the college students studied in this book were interviewed. Even nascent voters who paid little attention to politics expressed enmity toward, and a willingness to engage in physical violence against, people holding partisan attachments that differed from their own. Further, the book examines the ways in which such sentiments can lead to an unwillingness to socialize or cooperate with counter-partisans. Though much of this book offers a rather pessimistic view of American politics, it concludes by offering some specific ideas about the ways in which focusing on protecting an open market of ideas and discussion, and prioritizing critical exploration of a wide spectrum of opinion on college campuses might build a more civil and cooperative political future.
Learn more about Angry Politics at the University Press of Kansas website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 15, 2021

Gavin Weightman's "The Great Inoculator"

Gavin Weightman is a historian and former documentary filmmaker. He has written extensively on the history of science, and is the author of Eureka, The Frozen Water Trade, and The Industrial Revolutionaries.

Weightman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Great Inoculator: The Untold Story of Daniel Sutton and his Medical Revolution, and reported the following:
This page includes an account of the way in which Daniel Sutton and his brothers, all who made their living offering inoculation against smallpox in the 1770s in England, were branching out into new and a less certain fields. Daniel had made his fortune offering his skills to a middle class clientele who recognised his exceptional gifts. He had devised a way of injecting a small piece of smallpox infection, taken from a sufferer, into the arm of his patients. He accommodated them in rented houses where they ate and slept for weeks at a time until they were immune and no longer infectious. Inoculation was, for the most part, a luxury for those who could afford the hefty fees. But in time Sutton faced many rivals and was forced to adopt a new business plan. He would get together a scheme in which the wealthy funded the inoculation of the poor.

Daniel’s brothers, who were at times his acolytes and at other times his rivals, followed suit plying their trade in different parts of the country. A Mr Sutton in Newcastle-upon-Tyne who introduced himself as “ brother of Mr Daniel Sutton in London” proposed to “ inoculate the poor with the concurrence and support of the Nobility (and others) by subscription.. At this time, when the labour of the inferior mechanic and husbandman will scarcely provide clothing for their family…it is hoped than any proposal toward the benefit and preservation of that body of people will meet with due encouragement.”

By the time this advertisement appeared in 1770 general inoculations of whole towns and villages had become quite common. This got round the problem of the infectiousness of those inoculated. If there were just one or two treated in community they could start an epidemic if not kept in isolation. If everyone was inoculated at the same time there was no danger. The Suttons were called upon to carry out these mass inoculations which were lucrative. But an innovation introduced in 1798 wiped out Daniel’s reputation as the Great Inoculator.

Another country surgeon, Edward Jenner, successfully treated a boy not with smallpox but with a less virulent disease called cowpox. Jenner dignified cowpox with a Latin name variola vaccinae ,or “smallpox of the cow.” Jenner’s “vaccination” was safer than Sutton’s inoculation chiefly because those vaccinated could not spread smallpox. Jenner owed a great debt to Sutton but he never acknowledged it. The Great Inoculator seeks to restore Sutton’s rightful place in medical history.
Visit Gavin Weightman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Eureka: How Invention Happens.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Michael D. Hattem's "Past and Prologue"

Michael D. Hattem is Associate Director of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. He has taught history at Knox College and Lang College at The New School.

Hattem applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Past and Prologue: Politics and Memory in the American Revolution, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Colonists saw distinct parallels between the years leading up to the Civil Wars and their circumstances early in the imperial crisis. “As the King,” one patriot noted, “cannot by his sole authority lay a tax on the people of Britain without their consent, as in the famous case of ship money ... so the King and Parliament cannot, for the same reason, lay a tax on America without their consent.” Another asked rhetorically, “Was not the raising taxes by ship money, &c. Without the consent of the good people of England who were to pay them, and arbitrary courts of trial, contrary to the rights of Englishmen and the ... principal grievances and causes of civil war in the reign of Charles I?” The issue of taxation at the start of the imperial crisis—and, more broadly, the issue of the relationship between the authority of the state and the liberty of the subject—brought colonists’ historical memories of Charles I and the Civil Wars to the fore…. Describing the situation in 1768, the Reverend Andrew Eliot wrote to a friend, “I am sure this will put you in mind of 1641.”
At its heart, Past and Prologue is a book about how colonists (and, later, Americans) during the revolutionary era understood the past, how those understandings changed, and how they informed how people made sense of the present. Page 99 discusses how colonists during the crisis with Britain in the 1760s understood the history of England’s Civil Wars and how, to some extent, they saw their present through the lens of the past. So, while not somehow being indicative of the book’s arguments as a whole, page 99 of Past and Prologue, as shown by the excerpt above, is somewhat emblematic of the book’s memory-based approach to the topic of the American Revolution.

Page 99 is part of the crucial third chapter, which is a turning point in the book’s narrative because it explores how colonists started to think very differently about the meaning and legacy of the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Previously, the Glorious Revolution had served as a foundation of colonists’ identity as free subjects within a British empire. Much like many Americans today, colonists in the 1760s believed they enjoyed more freedom and liberty than people from other countries or empires and that 1688 had made it possible. But as Parliament sought to strengthen Britain’s administrative grip on the empire in the 1760s and 1770s, many colonists began to reconsider the Glorious Revolution, seeing it not as having laid the foundation of their liberty but as having created a situation in which Parliament could act as arbitrarily and without redress as any seventeenth-century tyrannical monarch. This reconsideration of British history contributed to colonists’ perception that perhaps they were not as British as they had thought and helped make conceiving a political break in the years that followed a viable possibility.

In many ways, this, too, is reminiscent of the present as many Americans in the last few decades have begun to reconsider the meaning and legacy of the American Revolution in a much more critical manner than previous generations. In addition to introducing readers to the topic of memory and its role in the American Revolution specifically, I hope Past and Prologue will also give readers the intellectual tools to think critically about how the past is used in our own contemporary political culture and society and to make these kind of connections for themselves.
Learn more about Past and Prologue at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Sabina Henneberg's "Managing Transition"

Sabina Henneberg is Adjunct Professorial Lecturer in the School of International Service at American University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Managing Transition: The First Post-Uprising Phase in Tunisia and Libya, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Managing Transition begins chapter 4, which analyzes the Libyan National Transition Council (NTC). The NTC is the second of the two cases of “first interim governments” studied in this book, alongside its Tunisian counterpart, the Tunisian Provisional Administration (TPA). The NTC and TPA both formed in the immediate wake of an authoritarian collapse in early 2011 and assumed the tasks of maintaining stability and organizing democratic elections. Page 99 gives a brief summary of how the NTC formed and the actions it took during its tenure, as well as the challenges it faced in fulfilling its tasks. Importantly, the page also alludes to the fact that each of the NTC’s actions as first interim government in Libya would have repercussions later on.

The information on page 99 is helpful for the reader in gaining an understanding of the book’s content, because it paints a broad picture of one of the case studies and highlights one of the book’s key arguments – namely that first interim governments play a decisive role in shaping the direction of an attempted democratic transition. It also mentions in passing certain points of comparison with the TPA, although these do not give an adequate understanding of the ways in which the book uses comparisons to illustrate the role first interim governments play during democratic transition. Indeed, page 99 cannot possibly give a full representation of the book because it focuses only on the Libyan case, which looked entirely different from the Tunisian case despite the remarkable parallels in circumstances under which the two interim governments formed.

The book as a whole sets out to achieve two broad goals only partially captured on page 99. First, it uses two empirical cases from North Africa to introduce the theoretical proposition that the phase between anti-authoritarian uprisings and first democratic elections is critical in understanding attempted regime change, and the authorities who manage this phase face enormous constraints, such as the need to move as rapidly as possible under extremely difficult conditions. Second, it provides a historical record of two instances of first interim governments, documenting in detail the actors, institutions, and strategies that defined each one and the ways their actions were both shaped by the past and had significant impacts on later post-uprising phases. In Tunisia, for instance, a historical shared sense of state and an existing network of legal experts and human rights/democracy activists helped the TPA draft key interim laws, including an electoral law for governing the first post-uprising elections. These laws laid the blueprint for later democratic reforms. In Libya, on the other hand, where a sense of national identity and strong state institutions have historically been absent, the NTC struggled to fend off internal challengers and ended up taking decisions that were later deemed mistakes. These included deputizing the large number of militias that emerged during the armed struggle against Qadhafi, leading to an inability to establish an effective state security apparatus, and revising the electoral law at the last minute such that the new elected congress would no longer be in charge of appointing an assembly to draft a new constitution. This in turn created confusion around the elections and ultimately stalled the constitution-writing process.
Learn more about Managing Transition at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Amanda Frisken's "Graphic News"

Amanda Frisken is Acting Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences and Professor in the American Studies Department of SUNY College at Old Westbury.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her 2020 book, Graphic News: How Sensational Images Transformed Nineteenth-Century Journalism, and reported the following:
Page 99 deals with a period of transition when daily newspapers moved beyond sensational headlines and news copy with dramatic line illustrations that made the news more sensational. “Illustrations attract the eye, and stimulate the imagination,” according to a young William Randolph Hearst (in 1887), in his bid to boost the visual power of his father’s San Franscisco Examiner. In late 1890, after months of speculation about the Ghost Dance among the Lakota Sioux, daily newspapers around the country named Sitting Bull the central instigator of the movement at the Sioux reservations, at least in part to gin up circulation. Page 99 shows how daily news producers combined familiar characters, faces, and story lines to misrepresent what was happening, even as they pioneered visual journalism.

Sitting Bull was a peripheral figure in the Ghost Dance, but as a well-known celebrity, established in American lore as “the man responsible for the killing of General George Custer,” his image helped make visual coverage easy for the commercial press. News artists far from the scene could rely on souvenir photographs and book plates to generate their line illustrations of the unfolding crisis in the Plains West. Through Sitting Bull’s image and other distortions, the Ghost Dance crisis became fodder for the illustrated dailies, such as Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and Hearst’s Examiner. In the process, daily news images shaped how people saw the story unfold, separate from text reporting.

Page 99 shows how illustrated dailies sought to maximize their audience through “playbill-style images of characters and settings that delivered dramatic punch.” Distorted images made the dance seem warlike; portraits of Sitting Bull exaggerated fears of indigenous resistance. Eye-catching news images that blurred the line between information and entertainment were effective news “bait,” as Pulitzer saw them. They proved attractive to news consumers – and to the advertising revenue that kept the dailies in business. Before it was technically possible to reproduce photographs in the daily press, sensational news illustrations proved that images were powerful – and lucrative – forms of mass communication.
Learn more about Graphic News at the University of Illinois Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 11, 2021

Francesca Polletta's "Inventing the Ties That Bind"

Francesca Polletta is professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine. She is the author It Was Like a Fever: Storytelling and Protest Politics and Freedom Is an Endless Meeting: Democracy in American Social Movements, and coeditor of Passionate Politics: Emotions in Social Movements.

Polletta applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Inventing the Ties That Bind: Imagined Relationships in Moral and Political Life, and reported the following:
On page 99 of my book, Inventing the Ties that Bind: Imagined Relationships in Moral and Political Life, I describe how New Yorkers—better known for their fractiousness than their harmony—worked together to come up with ideas for redeveloping Lower Manhattan in the wake of the 9/11 attack. They had participated in a series of public forums to solicit public input into the rebuilding process, and I was interested in how they, as distinct from forum organizers, understood their participation.

So yes, this page does provide a good sense of my overall argument, which is that Americans have a rich language for cooperating across differences. Indeed, it is richer than civic reformers often imagine. Today, we often hear calls for Americans of different backgrounds or political allegiance to meet one another, share personal stories, develop a sense of empathy for the other’s experience, and—it is hoped—develop the broader solidarity that can overcome our scarily deep political and social divisions. There is nothing wrong with such efforts, I argue, although, each one of the steps in that process is much harder than often recognized. More important, though, I suggest that we pay more attention to the ways in which ordinary Americans talk about cooperating.
Interviewees, especially those who participated in Listening to the City [one of the forums], also suggested that they were representative of the public in a more political sense. "I felt I was a representing a voice of the city," one said. Another explained her participation by remarking that "I think the voice of the residents [of Lower Manhattan specifically] needs to be heard." One interviewee was disappointed "that there wasn't more Hispanic representation." She went on, "The Hispanic community is abdicating responsibility here." Another observed that "the majority of people were in the demographic age thirty-five to fifty-four, so I would have liked to see more African Americans and other nationalities in that age group." An interviewee who found himself at a table with mainly Cantonese-speaking Chinatown residents wished that there had been "demographically a better cross-section ... so although in my table the Chinatown view was overrepresented, it means that on other tables that view wasn't even being expressed."

Two interviewees likened Listening to the City to the United Nations, again alluding to a body made up of representatives. It is also a body whose members are charged with finding compromises in the interests of the greater good, and this too seemed to have been important to participants. Many interviewees talked about the group's ability to reach compromises and, indeed, about their own willingness to compromise as something they had appreciated. As a Listening to the City participant recounted: "I guess I come from a higher income family than some of the people at the table, and other people have different priorities. You can’t ignore them when there is someone in front of you rather than just a statistic. You have to say, ‘I guess they’re right, we should compromise on this fact, on affordable housing,’ and things like that.” Another noted, “Some of my opinions were changed but nothing drastic, more compromises that I could see.” A woman said she was pleased to discover that “people are much more willing to compromise” than she had thought.
Organizers of public deliberative forums, like the ones in which these New Yorkers participated, are adamant that forum participants are not representative of the public. Thinking of themselves that way might lead them to believe that their joint recommendations should have the force of public will, which they do not. And forum organizers are adamant that compromise is antithetical to the spirit of deliberation. Compromise is about cutting the best deal one can, rather than being open to changing one’s opinions and interests based on what one learns in the forum.

But the participants I interviewed seemed to think about representation and compromise differently. They did not just want to speak from their own experience; they wanted to take into account the priorities of other groups—including people who were not at their table. They used the analogy of the United Nations to capture the diversity of views they wanted to consider—and to signal their determination to go beyond simply trading opinions. Compromise, too, they understood differently than organizers did. It wasn’t narrow bargaining aimed at preserving one’s interests, but rather a way to acknowledge change in one’s opinions without seeming to be a pushover. In sum, paying attention to the ways in which Americans think about the ties that bind—and act on those ties—offers possibilities for civic action and solidarity that we might otherwise miss.
Learn more about Inventing the Ties That Bind at the University Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Carolyn A. Conley's "Debauched, Desperate, Deranged"

Carolyn A. Conley spent her academic career at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where she served as Director of Graduate Studies and Department Chair. Her research focuses on criminal violence in the British Isles, and she also taught Celtic history, the history of Britain and the developing world, and historiography.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Debauched, Desperate, Deranged: Women Who Killed, London 1674-1913, and reported the following:
I would say that the page 99 test is partially valid for my book. Three spousal homicides on page 99 certainly match the title. One woman killed her husband during a drunken brawl, one killed her abusive partner out of desperation, and a third was suspected of poisoning her husband. The woman who beat her husband to death was acquitted, the battered wife received a relatively light sentence. The suspected poisoner was executed even though she argued that she had been “deprived of reason” and she had nearly died from eating the same dish that killed her husband. But the female poisoner represented premeditation as well as treachery. Further, the woman had violated the established order by “taking away the life of him to whom you owed allegiance.” Poisoning was one of the very few types of homicides in which men enjoyed no physical advantage.

Though the cases do demonstrate the three categories of female killers generally, women who killed their husbands represented a special category legally and culturally. The rate at which women were accused of killing their husbands remained flat for the entire two and a half centuries covered in this book, even though the rates for other types of homicide fluctuated wildly. However, the change in the response to such homicides did correspond to larger trends as women were increasingly likely to be seen as incompetent rather than evil. Killing a husband was legally an act of petit treason until 1828 and several women were burned at the stake for it during the late seventeenth and eighteenth century. By the early twentieth century many women who might have burned two hundred years earlier were acquitted or given light sentences on the assumption that a woman’s biology meant that she often “might have no very clear idea of what she was doing.” Women defendants were treated more leniently by the early twentieth century as the courts concluded that women’s inherent intellectual limitations meant they were not fully responsible for their actions. One of the most frustrating conclusions of this book is that such condescension saved many women from the gallows and progress is never strictly linear.
Learn more about Debauched, Desperate, Deranged at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Alison M. Parker's "Unceasing Militant: The Life of Mary Church Terrell"

Alison M. Parker is department chair and Richards Professor of American History at the University of Delaware.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Unceasing Militant: The Life of Mary Church Terrell, and reported the following:
Page 99 is part of a chapter entitled “The Black Elite: Finances, Militancy, and Family,” in my biography of the civil rights activist and feminist, Mary Church Terrell. On this page, Mary (“Mollie”) Church Terrell is writing to her husband, Robert (“Berto”) H. Terrell, lamenting that neither of their daughters seemed prepared to “represent the race” to the majority white population that was always ready to dismiss Black Americans as inferior:
It was particularly difficult for Mollie to see her daughter refuse to apply herself to her language studies. After all, one of her proudest moments at Oberlin College involved reciting Greek in front of an impressed Matthew Arnold, the visiting English writer, who openly declared he had not believed anyone “of African descent” could correctly pronounce Greek. Although stung by his racist presumptions, Mollie was gratified to have proved him wrong and to have represented her race well. Berto Terrell, of course, was also an accomplished linguist.

Other talented black parents shared the Terrells’ problems. On a visit to Memphis, after a conversation with a childhood friend about her sons, Mollie reported to Berto, “My darling Husband…. Fannie came over and talked several hours about the utter worthlessness of her two boys. It is really pathetic to see how utterly good for nothing children of well-to-do, ambitious parents are. The parents have all the pride and aspiration while the children have practically none.” Mollie then declared, “If Mary does not improve, if she continues to show such a lack of interest and pride in her High School course as she has manifested up to date, I am going to use heroic measures for a short while, at least.”

As it became clear that their daughters seemed unlikely to shine academically, Mollie and Berto decided to cultivate their musical talents. The desire to foster their daughters’ musical abilities derived in part from the valuable social and performative aspects of playing music as a form of cultural capital and status. They expected each daughter to become an accomplished musician who could play at least one instrument and sing well. Mollie began to find practice sessions more rewarding: “P[hyllis] is improving so much on the piano….She is such a comfort to me now. She seems to be taking pride in her work.” Genuine dedication, whether academic or musical, were precisely what Mollie was yearning for from her children.
The page 99 test gets at some of the key points of the chapter and, to some degree, the book. The Terrell couple were both born into slavery but ended up far surpassing the limitations and burdens of their family histories of enslavement to become well-educated, prominent activists and professionals. Mollie Church Terrell earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Oberlin College and Berto Terrell earned his Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and his law degree from Howard University. The couple met in the late 1880s while teaching Latin and Greek at the prominent M Street Colored High School. Mollie Terrell was appointed to as the first African American woman on the Washington, D.C. school board in 1895 and Berto Terrell became the first African American justice of the peace in 1901. As members of the Black elite, the Terrell couple deliberately used their education and prominence to advocate for civil rights and educational rights for all African Americans.

While raising their daughters, the Terrells hoped and expected that they, too, would show by their attainments and deeds what Black Americans could do and achieve, in spite of the painful legacies of enslavement. Their daughter, Phyllis, for instance, was born in 1898, at the peak of lynching in the U.S. and at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) allowed Jim Crow to take hold of the South and, ultimately the nation. It was terribly discouraging for prominent activist parents like the Terrells, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Booker T. Washington to find that their treasured, comparatively privileged children were not doing well in school and did not seem to have their fighting spirit. Leading Black activists often put intense pressure on their children, who did not always rise to their parents’ high expectations.

The rest of the biography moves on from page 99’s focus on her disappointed parental expectations, however, to reveal Terrell’s determination to continue being a leader in the struggle for civil rights. She gratefully accepted her mother’s help with childcare and her husband’s loving partnership and full endorsement of her radical activism, including her work with the likes of John Milholland, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Ida B. Wells to found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Mollie Church Terrell fought passionately for the rights of all Black children to live in a society without violence, segregation, and discrimination.
Learn more about Unceasing Militant at the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 8, 2021

B. Brian Foster's "I Don't Like the Blues"

B. Brian Foster is assistant professor of sociology and southern studies at the University of Mississippi.

Foster applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, I Don't Like the Blues: Race, Place, and the Backbeat of Black Life, and reported the following:
Page 99 finds me sitting at a coffeeshop in Clarksdale, Mississippi, talking with 27-year-old resident P.J. Echols. In the part of the conversation captured on page 99, there is a quote that does well to summarize what I Don't Like the Blues is about. P.J. says, "Clarksdale is not just the blues, right? Let's highlight the people who led those movements, that started those efforts, those visionaries." He clapped then held his hands together, giving his words a beat. "Those innovators, those creators, those disruptors…Those people made the blues, created the art, built the infrastructure." His voice took on the rasp of a preacher. As our conversation continues, P.J. continues emphasize his point: the town of Clarksdale, which has emphasized blues tourism in its economic plan since the early 1980's, has more to offer its residents than the blues.

The test works; and it actually works in two ways. First, at the most basic level, the conversation captured on page 99 pretty effectively the thesis of the book: black residents of Clarksdale, Mississippi are frustrated with and tired of the town's heavy emphasis on blues tourism. Among other things, they believe that by focusing only on the blues, local elected officials and stakeholders deemphasize other important parts of the town's history, and ignore a whole segment of local residents. The second way that the test works is that it requires us to sit with and think about a seemingly mundane interaction, a conversation between a local resident and I. That's also a part of the argument that the book makes: there is value and meaning in even the most mundane parts of black lived experience.

I Don't Like the Blues is informed by more than 200 conversations with black residents of Clarksdale, Mississippi—conversations like the one, with P.J. Echols, captured on page 99. In these conversations, which I had between 2014 and 2019, I heard something over and over again that confused me. In the world's most famous "blues place" the people who created the blues were telling me they didn't like the blues. Talking about the blues made them sad. It made them feel left out and ignored. It made them angry and skeptical. The point of the book is to document and unpack these feelings.

The punchline of the book is that the blues evokes different feelings because people see it as a stand-in for different things. For many, the blues represents "hard times from back in the day," times that they don't like to think too much about. For some, the blues represents a type of entertainment and recreation (e.g., a blues festival or blues club performance) that they aren't interested in. And for some, the blues represents a failed approach at economic development. However black residents defined the blues, at some point they were clear with me that they didn't like it.

You hear that on page 99 from 27-year-old P.J. and on page 5 from 71-year-old Mrs. Irene Sandiford, and on page 44 from 45-year-old Mac McIntosh
Visit B. Brian Foster's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

John M. Hobson's "Multicultural Origins of the Global Economy"

John M. Hobson is Professor of Politics & International Relations at the University of Sheffield and is a Fellow of the British Academy. His books include The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation (2004) and The Eurocentric Conception of World Politics (2012).

Hobson applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Multicultural Origins of the Global Economy: Beyond the Western-Centric Frontier, and reported the following:
Given that this is a 506 page book comprising some 190,000 words, so the objective chance of page 99 being significant for the whole book’s argument are slim – indeed a 1:506 chance! But if I could choose one page that is absolutely central to the book’s core argument it would be… page 99. This describes the twelve-sided Indian cotton textile (export) trading system that spanned Afro-Eurasia after 1500 and which reached out to the New World after about 1571. Its significance lies in my claim that India via its export of cotton textiles played one of the most important roles in weaving together what I call the “first global economy” (c.1500–1850). Moreover, India’s dominance of global cotton textile markets equipped its merchants with “global structural power”, through which much of the global economy was organised. For in addition to constituting the world’s single most important trading commodity, these textiles also became a universal means of exchange that both fuelled further transactions of non-textile commodities and enabled the emergence of other key global trading commodities. For example, the products/raw materials that the African slaves produced in the New World, including raw cotton, cacao, sugar, rum, coffee and tobacco, were made possible by the fact that the main commodity that the African slavers would accept in exchange for African slaves was Indian cotton textiles. But, while the British in particular had become dependent on re-exporting these textiles in order to purchase the African slaves, so the former became increasingly frustrated and sought to develop their own cotton textile sector. However, in order to compete with the superior Indian product, they had no choice but to mechanise production such that by the 1820s they finally came to export more of the British-made product. Accordingly, Indian cotton textiles and Indian structural power formed the basis not only of the first global economy, but they prompted the industrialisation of Britain through what I call the “Afro-Indian global cotton whip of necessity”, which in turn enabled the transition from the first to the second modern capitalist global economy after about 1850.

But why this emphasis on Indian cotton textiles? The key framework of the book is to challenge Western-centric conceptions of the global economy that award a hyper-agential power to the Europeans while the non-Western peoples are, by contrast, denigrated as but irrational and passive such that they contributed nothing to the creation of the global economy. This book instead focuses on the agential contribution of Indians, Chinese, West Asians, and Africans as well as Europeans, and reveals how they all entwined together not least through the trade in Indian cotton textiles as collectively they created the first and second global economy.
Learn more about Multicultural Origins of the Global Economy at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

M. Bianet Castellanos's "Indigenous Dispossession"

M. Bianet Castellanos is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of A Return to Servitude: Maya Migration and the Tourist Trade in Cancún (2010).

Castellanos applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Indigenous Dispossession: Housing and Maya Indebtedness in Mexico, and reported the following:
Page 99 poignantly gestures to the central focus of my book – to showcase how Maya migrants resist the disciplinary tactics of global finance by demanding rights as Indigenous people in urban centers. This page wraps up a wrenching tale of an Indigenous family’s experience with home foreclosure in Cancún, Mexico. It invites us to consider what protest looks like and to acknowledge that, for Indigenous communities, public demonstrations are not the only ways to make resistance audible. Maya migrants Mariela and Francisco turned to collective protest as a way to stave off foreclosure, only to find that it was impossible to mobilize a public challenge against mortgage companies. Their attempts to form a neighborhood association of debtors against eviction were stymied by the bureaucratization of individualized debt. Since mortgage loans varied across households and neighbors were at different stages in their foreclosure proceedings, it was difficult to form a consensus over the most effective strategies to confront lenders who refused to negotiate with a collective. A lack of trust also impeded their efforts. Neighbors, who primarily hailed from far-flung states like Veracruz and Tabasco, did not socialize together and thus did not trust each other.

Instead, Francisco and Mariela drew upon a history of Maya collective resistance in southeastern Yucatán to cultivate strategies of resistance. For their ejido (collective landholding) community, the struggle for autonomy makes revolt ongoing. Similarly, Francisco and Mariela opted to “wait out” the state, a term I use to capture their efforts to convert waiting (for foreclosure) from a disciplinary tactic into an act of resistance that calls for a recognition of Indigenous rights in urban centers.

Page 99 concludes by setting the stage for the next chapter of the book which examines a legal battle against eviction led by Maya women. These cases reveal that Mexico’s reliance on neoliberal housing policies that privilege mortgage finance over land redistribution is leading toward greater Indigenous dispossession through land loss and indebtedness. The financialization of Mexico has resulted in greater precarity for Maya peoples and made the political project of recognition even more vital.
Learn more about Indigenous Dispossession at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Theresa Keeley's "Reagan's Gun-Toting Nuns"

Theresa Keeley is Assistant Professor of U.S. and the World at the University of Louisville.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Reagan's Gun-Toting Nuns: The Catholic Conflict over Cold War Human Rights Policy in Central America, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the second-to-last page of Chapter 3, “Subversives in El Salvador.” Opening the book to page 99, readers will not know that they are in 1980 in El Salvador and that San Salvador’s archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated just months earlier, in March. The page discusses the growing tensions and violence in the country after Romero’s murder, and uses accounts by U.S. Maryknoll missionaries to do so. Maura Clarke wrote to family in the United States about how death squads targeted “anyone suspected of being in an organization or attached to the Church.” As she explained, the Salvadoran oligarchy aimed “to wipe out the farmers and workers who have organized for change and they do this in the name of fighting communism.” Another Maryknoller, Ita Ford, connected the violence to the United States. In a 1980 October interview, she frustratingly observed, “As a U.S. citizen I’m highly disappointed and mostly outraged by the type of support we’re giving this junta. . . . The government doesn’t represent anybody at this point. It’s fearful to think of the U.S. now training Salvadoran troops and sending in equipment. It’s reprehensible.” But the U.S. State Department saw things differently. It absolved the Salvadoran junta, stating that “the question of government responsibility is not as clear” and stressed that U.S. “long term interest in the area” tipped in favor of continued aid.

Page 99 highlights key aspects of the book’s arguments. First, the page juxtaposes how U.S. Maryknoll missionaries and the U.S. government characterized developments in El Salvador. While Maryknollers stressed how societal inequalities prompted calls for change, and even revolution, the U.S. government saw communism as the source of inspiration. In analyzing this difference of opinion, the book aims to illustrate the relationship between faith and human rights activism. Second, the page mentions how critics condemned U.S. military support as furthering repression in Central America whereas the U.S. government saw it as necessary for fighting the Cold War. Both of these issues raised a larger question present in the debates over U.S.-Central America policy in the late 1970s and 1980s: What role should human rights play in shaping U.S. policy?

At the same time, page 99 is not fully representative. The page discusses El Salvador; the book analyzes U.S. relations with Nicaragua as well. Page 99 briefly mentions the danger people associated with the church faced. It does not mention why or flesh out how liberation theology was a key factor in prompting the poor of El Salvador and Nicaragua to see themselves differently, and then to push for societal change. Finally, page 99 may suggest that the book focuses only on U.S. actors. Although Reagan’s Gun-Toting Nuns discusses U.S. policy and political debates in the United States, I also aim to show the exchange between Central America and the United States. For example, experiences in Central America shaped U.S. missionaries, which led them to call for change in U.S. foreign policy. Additionally, conservative Central American and U.S. Catholics worked together to further their vision of what the Catholic Church and U.S.-Central American relations should be, while liberal Central American and U.S. Catholics did the same.
Learn more about Reagan's Gun-Toting Nuns at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Allison R. Miller's "Kingly Splendor"

Allison R. Miller is associate professor of art history at Southwestern University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Kingly Splendor: Court Art and Materiality in Han China, and reported the following:
Page 99 features a map of the Shizishan (Lion’s Hill) royal mausoleum in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, China, that indicates the location of the site’s six terracotta warrior pits, the principal burial, the queen’s tomb, the accompanying burial area for officials, and architectural remains. The Page 99 Test, in one sense, succeeds here, because the Shizishan mausoleum makes appearances in three of the book’s six chapters and is a prime example of the type of tomb that the book focuses on—the tomb of a relative of the Western Han (202 BCE-9 CE) emperor—a king—who governed a local province on the emperor’s behalf.

On the other hand, after viewing page 99, a reader may assume that Kingly Splendor is simply another book about the top 1%: an account of how the aristocracy used funerary art to support their own status and political authority. Yet what distinguishes this book from other treatments of court art is that it focuses on a group of ruling elites whose circumstances did not resemble those of elites in contemporaneous societies in other parts of the world. China was unique in world history in that the authority of aristocrats was questioned earlier than in other civilizations. This book documents how aristocrats, living in an age where it was no longer acceptable to justify one’s rule based on one’s birth, utilized funerary art as a political strategy to generate support for their rule. It considers how local kings, as critical links between the imperial culture of the central court and the local culture of the provinces, negotiated these two environments, commissioning works that carefully represented their relationships with the imperial court, other kingdoms, and the local polities that they governed.

Kingly Splendor problematizes the contemporary notion that the highly centralized administration of the mid- to late Western Han was the best form of government that the Han could pursue, highlighting the advantages of the unique center-periphery dynamic that we observe in this early period. The book begins with a revisionist account of the early Western Han administration that counters prior views that the system of rule by kings was inherently doomed. Chapter 1 contends that the multicentered system, stabilized during Emperor Wen’s reign (180-157 BCE), fell apart only because later emperors, favoring expansion and centralized rule, dismantled it. The remaining chapters consist of five case studies of local art produced during this early period. Chapters 2-4 study rock-cut tomb architecture, miniature tomb figurines, and jade suits—genres based on imperial precedent, which were significantly transformed when produced in the kingdoms. Chapters 5-6 focus on unique local products: wall paintings and purple textiles, which I propose may have been dyed with shellfish or “murex” dyes. Overall, the diverse topics addressed in the book will appeal broadly to readers interested in court art, burial traditions, archaeology, politics, and material history.
Learn more about Kingly Splendor at the Columbia University Press website. 

--Marshal Zeringue