Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Jesse Wozniak's "Policing Iraq"

Jesse S.G. Wozniak is Associate Professor of Sociology at West Virginia University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Policing Iraq: Legitimacy, Democracy, and Empire in a Developing State, and reported the following:
Summary of page 99: Students and trainers alike at the Sulaimaniyah (Iraq) police training center discuss the high levels of education and physical fitness they believe are of central importance to those who would like to join the force. These interview excerpts are offered as evidence of the message police personnel are receiving regarding their role and the functions they are asked to fulfill. These desired recruit qualities speak to the powerfully originative role police play (and will continue to play) in the shaping of the young Iraqi state. Similar in many ways to American police training, where technical discussions are emphasized over basic principles of law, democracy, or basic human relations, this focus on the physical requirements and aspects of the job sends a clear message of what is considered “real” policing and serves to marginalize the myriad other activities police will be called on to perform.

In this case, the page 99 test is moderately successful. This page obviously omits a great deal of the study, but would give the reader a fairly accurate understanding of one key argument. The overarching argument of the book is that the United States did not even set out to create a democratic police force in Iraq, but instead one that would prove useful in their drastic restructuring of the Iraqi state and economy, most centrally ensuring continued access to oil and the forced implantation of extreme neoliberal economic reforms. The priorities offered by interview respondents demonstrate some of the central problems with both the design and implementation of the reconstruction of the Iraqi police force. While high educational standards sound great, the reality of policing in Iraq is that the job is more often seen as a last resort of desperation. So while there are some highly educated police, most are people who have no interest in being police officers but only joined to escape still-pervasive unemployment. One respondent argued that a common piece of advice given to the homeless is to go join the police because they’ll accept anyone. The emphasis on physical perfection and domination, while similarly as unmet among recruits as were ideal educational standards, reveal many of the problems with the very conception of policing found in the US-instituted training regime. In a democratic police force, physical abilities should be dwarfed in importance by interpersonal skills – the ability to talk to and understand a wide swath of community members, de-escalate situations, and the like. However, in the training of Iraqi police, such skills are virtually unheard of, as are any discussions of the plethora of new rights guaranteed by the new constitution or really any discussion of the rights and responsibilities of police in a constitutional democracy. Rather, police are clearly designed to be essentially an auxiliary army, rooting out subversives to prop up the fledgling, US-backed government and its dictates.
Visit Jesse Wozniak's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Megan A. Stewart's "Governing for Revolution"

Megan A. Stewart is an Assistant Professor at American University's School of International Service. Her research investigates how and why political actors create new social, economic and political orders, and the enduring consequences of these endeavors.

Stewart applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Governing for Revolution: Social Transformation in Civil War, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Governing for Revolution, I introduce my first case study: the Eritrean War of Independence. On that page, I talk about my main motivating puzzle: why do some rebel groups undertake costly or challenging governance programs during war? I also describe the methods and data I use in the chapter. To that end, the 99th page test is about 40% accurate: there is a taste of the motivating question and some description of the archival data I use in what is probably my most compelling case. But readers do not get an answer to my puzzle, and I'd like to hope that my answer is at least slightly more compelling than the question I pose.

What is my answer, then? I argue that to understand why rebels implement challenging governance programs during war, we have to first understand the actions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during the Chinese Civil War. During the war, the CCP invested heavily in transforming the social order, including attempting to fundamentally restructure status hierarchies, such as inequalities between classes, races and genders. To achieve such change, the CCP introduced certain governance programs that directly altered status hierarchies, such as land reform, but these programs were sometimes unpopular and met with occasional resistance. The CCP could have saved these programs until after war, when it would be easier to do, but the CCP did not. Throughout the process, the CCP also propagated their wartime governance strategy globally, referring to their experience as a model to be imitated by others.

Later rebel leaders emerged in a global context saturated with information about the CCP, but not all rebel leaders rely on this information. What determines the extent to which leaders use the information about the CCP’s experience are rebel groups’ long-term goals. Once rebel leaders decide what their goals are, they need to figure out how to achieve them. When rebel groups have revolutionary goals, they have similar ambitions to the CCP. These shared ambitions caused rebel leaders to decide to imitate the CCP’s model and they implemented the same governance strategies during war as the CCP did. Over time, rebel leaders with revolutionary goals sometimes even received material benefits by conforming to the CCP's model. When rebel goals are less revolutionary, however, they copy less of the CCP's governance strategies and they are less likely to implement the same challenging governance programs that the CCP did.
Visit Megan A. Stewart's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Elesha J. Coffman's "Margaret Mead"

Elesha J. Coffman is an associate professor of history at Baylor University. Her first book was The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline (2013).

Coffman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Margaret Mead: A Twentieth-Century Faith, and reported the following:
All of the books in the Oxford “Spiritual Lives” series are compact, intended to introduce readers to the spirituality of figures who were famous for something other than being spiritual. Page 99 is almost exactly the midpoint of the book, and it finds Margaret Mead and the rest of the world at a crossroads.

The year is 1942. The United States has recently entered World War II, and the famous anthropologist has published And Keep Your Powder Dry, a book that she hoped would give Americans confidence to fight and help the British better understand the thousands of American servicemen arriving on their shores. Mead’s extended lecture tour of the UK that year kept her away from her third husband, Gregory Bateson, and their baby daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson. Referring to And Keep Your Powder Dry, page 99 notes,
The book is not remembered as one of Mead’s best, but its domestic focus and religiously tinged moral earnestness marked an inflection point in her life. Her years of traveling the world for new bits of information and developing her own personality through a rapid succession of relationships were mostly behind her. She was marshaling the resources of maturity, and she would need them all as the violent end of World War II birthed the challenges of the Atomic Age. Not everyone she was close to would accompany her through these transitions.
Page 99 represents the book in several ways. There’s a lot going on in just a few lines, as there had to be in a brisk biography of a woman who lived a very full life. The published bibliography of her work lists nearly 1,400 print publications, and her archive, with more than 530,000 items, is the largest in the Library of Congress. The pace of major events during her life span (1901-1978) was staggering as well.

While tensions were especially high in 1942, Mead was always trying to change the world while holding a few key relationships together. It was never easy. Lastly, although Mead insisted that she never lost her religion after choosing to be baptized into the Episcopal Church at age 11, for much of her career her faith was subsumed under moral earnestness. The missing half of the phrase in her book title exemplifies this hiddenness. Mead used the full quote only in the book’s last line: “Trust God—and keep your powder dry.”
Learn more about Margaret Mead: A Twentieth-Century Faith at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 26, 2021

Helen McCabe's "John Stuart Mill, Socialist"

Helen McCabe is assistant professor of political theory at the University of Nottingham.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, John Stuart Mill, Socialist, and reported the following:
Page 99 is in Chapter 3 of my book, which is about Mill’s critical engagement with contemporary forms of socialism, and specifically in the sub-section about Mill’s conceptual account of socialism – that is, how did he define socialism philosophically rather than (as he did elsewhere) looking at the details of specific forms of socialism (e.g. Saint-Simonism, Fourierism, Owenism). “The distinctive feature of Socialism”, Mill says, “is not that all things are in common, but that production is only carried out on the common account, and that the instruments of production are held as common property”. In addition, the “division of the produce” of labour was done publicly, and in accordance with “rules laid down by the community” based on principles of justice rather than – as in contemporary society – chance, and the accident of birth. If there were inequalities, these were justified by, and to, the whole community, and justified by the principles of justice endorsed by that community.

Page 99 also details how Mill drew four key distinctions between types of socialism: how the “physical means of life and enjoyment” are distributed; the “scale” of the association (from small communities to the whole state); the means advocated for implementing socialist schemes (from instrumental to immediate, through violent revolutionary overthrow of the state); and the extent to which the schemes were intended to be self-sufficient and self-contained, or to interact with other, mutually-dependent socialist associations.

The first of these distinctions is the key to his differentiation between “socialism” and “communism”: communists want an equal division of the “physical means of life and enjoyment” (i.e. of articles of consumption), and socialists allow for some inequalities, depending on the principles of distributive justice they employ. The Saint-Simonians and Fourierists were socialists: Owen and Cabet communists, as was Louis Blanc, though only endorsing equal shares only “as a transition to a still higher standard of justice, that all should work according to their capacity, and receive according to their wants”.

Does this give a good idea of the book?

This page would be a good place for a browser to explore a number of key themes and points from my book. Firstly, it makes plain Mill’s serious intellectual engagement with socialism – which itself may be something of a surprise, as Mill is most famous as a “founding father” of liberalism.

Secondly, it shows that socialism, to Mill, was a varied set of ideas for social reform, with some key shared commitments. Importantly, it was not Marxism. We tend to have quite a monolithic view of “socialism” as being “Marxism”, and page 99 reminds us that socialism has a long and varied history, both pre- and post-Marx.

Relatedly, the way Mill draws distinctions between forms of socialism gives a guide to his own preferences: some justified inequalities in the distribution of articles of consumption; (mainly) small-scale; gradualist and organic; and mutually-dependent. This is one of the radical elements of Mill’s socialism, as a common, though stereotypical, view of socialism is of a state-wide, revolutionary/violent, insular system, “levelling down” to achieve equality.

Similarly, page 99 highlights key elements of Mill’s own socialism (though this becomes clearer later in the book), and how he could see his ideas as “under the general designation of Socialist”. Mill supported collective ownership of property via producer-cooperatives (with some state ownership of land, and industries which tend to monopoly, though this might still be at a local scale). He also endorsed several socialist principles of distribution (especially Fourier’s) as better than the current unjust and indefensible distributions based on inherited structural inequalities (of class, race, and sex); equal shares having some advantages; and Blanc’s idea being “still higher”. This insight into Mill’s principles of distributive justice is key, as this is little-studied in Mill scholarship, and is central to his socialism.

Lastly, labouring on the “common account” with a “public” determination of distribution links to another important element of Mill’s socialism – a transformed social ethos whereby people see themselves as part of a community of equals. This does not mean there may not be any inequalities (of power, wealth, status etc.) but that these need to be justified, and everyone needs to acknowledge that these inequalities are for the common good. This is the fundamentally “social” element of “socialism”, and stands in contradistinction to the received view of Mill as a defender of “individualism”, particularly in his most-famous book On Liberty, which my book seeks to challenge.
Learn more about John Stuart Mill, Socialist at the McGill-Queens University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Jennifer Koshatka Seman's "Borderlands Curanderos"

Jennifer Koshatka Seman is a lecturer in history at Metropolitan State University in Denver. Her work has appeared in Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses and the Journal of the West.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Borderlands Curanderos: The Worlds of Santa Teresa Urrea and Don Pedrito Jaramillo, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Borderlands Curanderos: The Worlds of Santa Teresa Urrea and Don Pedrito Jaramillo falls under the subheading “The Journey is Part of the Cure.” In part, it tells the story of Priscilliano Martínez, a Tejano laborer who came to the curandero, Don Pedrito Jaramillo in the late 19th century for a cure for a wound to his head. On his way to Don Pedrito’s rancho in Los Olmos (in the South Texas Rio Grande Valley), Martínez claimed that he began to feel better. This was a common description by those who were healed by Don Pedrito: the afflicted began to feel better on the journey to the cure.

If a reader opened to page 99 of Borderlands Curanderos they would get a sense of this book – of the stories it tells and the arguments it makes. Curanderismo, the Mexican faith healing practice that the two subjects of this book, Don Pedrito Jaramillo (1829 -1907) and Santa Teresa Urrea (1873-1906) practiced, strengthened and healed individual bodies, like Priscilliano Martínez. But the curanderismo practiced by Jaramillo and Urrea also healed the social body, those people on the margins of state and institutional power in the turn of the century borderlands who faced governments, as well as the growing institution of professional medicine, that deemed non-white “others” as dangerous, outside the bounds of the nation, sometimes even diseased or more prone to carrying disease.

Borderlands Curanderos is a dual biography (part one examines Teresa Urrea, part two Don Pedrito Jaramillo) that shows how two popular curanderos provided culturally resonant healing, sustenance, and inspiration to many in the turn-of-the century borderlands, like Priscilliano Martínez.
Learn more about Borderlands Curanderos at the University of Texas Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Benjamin Holtzman's "The Long Crisis"

Benjamin Holtzman is an Assistant Professor of History at Lehman College. He studies the intersection of political and social history in the United States, with particular focus on politics, capitalism, race and class, cities, and social movements.

Holtzman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Long Crisis: New York City and the Path to Neoliberalism, and reported the following:
A daring reader who tosses caution aside and begins The Long Crisis on page 99 would find themselves thrust into a discussion about the condition of parks across twentieth-century New York City. The page comes early in the book’s third chapter, “Remaking Public Parks,” which is about the transformation of the municipal park system in the late twentieth century. On page 99, I describe how throughout the history of the park system, New Yorkers “had reason to grumble about park maintenance.” By the time John Lindsay was elected mayor in 1965, “‘dissatisfaction with maintenance and supervision of parks’ had become near universal.” Lindsay and several spirited Parks Department Commissioners pledged to improve park conditions and to reverse the decline in park usage. These officials, I note, began to encourage non-traditional uses – hippie ‘be ins,’ puppet shows, large musical performances – as they attempted to bring New Yorkers back into parks.

Because 99 is among the initial few pages of the chapter, it largely serves to set the stage for the narrative that follows: how over the 1970s and 1980s the park system became reliant on private organizations to run city parks. The page 99 test therefore receives a passing, though not stellar, mark. On the one hand, this page would give readers a sense of the dissatisfaction residents had long felt about a critical municipal service like the park system – a frustration that heightened as decreased municipal budgets over Lindsay’s terms resulted in worsening park conditions. It was in part this dissatisfaction that spurred city residents to begin to look beyond government and to private sources in order to improve public services like parks. On the other hand, page 99 does not show this process in motion. It does not, for example, discuss how working-class residents began to form community groups to care for their neighborhood parks or how more affluent New Yorkers began to fundraise for – and then demand a greater say over the management of – parks in more wealthy areas and business districts.

Ultimately, the heart of the book lies in tracing how urban dwellers responded to the tumultuous conditions of 1970s and 1980s New York and illustrating how their actions transformed the city toward one more reliant on private sector and market-based solutions. Though I hope page 99 provides an enticing glimpse of The Long Crisis, readers would be more likely to gain a better picture of how these processes unfolded on other pages of the book.
Visit Benjamin Holtzman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 22, 2021

Peter Baldwin's "Fighting the First Wave"

Peter Baldwin is Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles and Global Distinguished Professor at New York University. His publications include Disease and Democracy: The Industrialized World Faces AIDS (2005), Contagion and the State in Europe, 1830–1930 (1999), and The Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle (2014).

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Fighting the First Wave: Why the Coronavirus Was Tackled So Differently Across the Globe, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Fighting the First Wave, deals with the speed at which various nations imposed their first attempts to control the pandemic when it hit their territory. This can be measured in various ways – from the 100th case, say, or from the third death. Not all such measures reveal anything interesting, but some do suggest that those countries that imposed measures quickly and decisively were more likely to control the pandemic better than the laggards.

Page 99 is not a bad place to get a sense of what the book is about. Its subject is why the world’s 200 nations dealt so differently with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The disease is the same everywhere, our scientific understanding of it was achieved at the very start of the pandemic, as the virus was identified, and so the problem that each nation faced was broadly the same. Nonetheless, there followed a Noah’s ark of different attempts to tackle it.

Broadly, these can be grouped into three categories: (1) those nations, in Asia especially, but including Australia and New Zealand, that imposed targeted quarantines on the sick, the infected, and their contacts, thus isolating them and protecting the vast bulk of the population; (2) those, such as Japan, the Netherlands, Belarus, Venezuela, Brazil, Nicaragua, and Sweden, where the aim was to slow the spread of the pandemic so to spare the hospital system being overwhelmed, but otherwise let the pandemic rip in hopes of achieving herd immunity and thus a return to normal life before a vaccine was developed; and finally (3) those countries in North America and Europe that realized it was too late to clamp down any longer, yet were not willing to tolerate the high mortality entailed by herd immunity, and therefore imposed arguably the most painful and expensive strategy, namely massive shutdown of society and the economy and its attendant violation of individual civil rights and huge economic costs.

Why different nations came to such various conclusions is the question the book seeks to answer.
Learn more about Fighting the First Wave at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Raksha Pande's "Learning to Love"

Raksha Pande is a lecturer in the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology at Newcastle University in the UK.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Learning to Love: Arranged Marriages and the British Indian Diaspora, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book comes towards the beginning of Chapter 7, which is titled ‘The Ties that Bind,’ and subtitled ‘Marriage, Belonging and Identity’. I use ethnographic and participant-observation research methods in my work. On page 99, the reader will meet one of my key respondents, Dr Shusheela Sharma (pseudonymous name). Most of page 99 includes a long section of dialogue from a transcript of the interview I conducted with her.
Dr Sharma: Well, we are a very traditional family. So, we wanted a traditional girl who would be following the way we have lived our life and been brought up rather than someone from here, who would be more Westernised in every way. Westernised in every way means language; most of the girls who are brought up here don’t know our language, they have forgotten it a long time back, they don’t dress in our Indian way, they don’t eat our food. I have no objection to eating Western food but as a regular thing just Western food and not Indian food. No. Westerners don’t know much about our religion, they don’t follow our religious ways; so, I can’t see why we should forget everything we ever learned and become Western. You’ll never become British or whatever if you live outside your own country, you will never be able to become a person of that country, you’ll always be a foreigner. If I am going to be a foreigner, I prefer to be my own country foreigner rather than sort of half and half, you know, neither here nor there...that’s the reason why we prefer arranged marriage.
The page 99 test works well for Learning to Love by answering a question, I am sure, most readers of my book will ask – Why do British Indians have arranged marriages? The verbatim quote also gives the reader a flavour of the Indian-English register of the speech of my first-generation participants.

The interview excerpt shows that the compelling need to preserve their identity as a migrant in a foreign country is behind the British Indian desire to encourage their children to have an arranged marriage. Dr Sharma’s refrain that she would rather be ‘my own country foreigner’ illustrates her unapologetic view that she will never fully belong to foreign Britain and as such she needs to cling to her Indian identity. However, Dr Sharma’s view was a minority opinion among my participants. Most believed that arranged marriages (which they claimed to have modernized) were not antagonistic to the ‘British way of life’ but are an essential component of their British and Indian identity.

The test does not work so well in highlighting one of the core findings of the book which shows the various modifications that have been made to traditional forms of arranged marriages to give them a modern British Indian makeover. The book examines different types of marriages such as semi-arranged marriages, love-cum-arranged marriages and arranged weddings that make up the spectrum of practices that fall under the umbrella term arranged marriage. This spectrum of arranged marriage practices with the different degrees of choice and agency that it affords is seen as evidence of their commitment to the modern values of their adopted country. It also highlights several instances of how romantic love is weaved into arranged marriages through the idiom of ‘learning to love’ - whereby British Indians incorporate the rituals of dating and romance within arranged marriage. Their focus on recoding arranged marriage as a practice marked by the conscious exercise of embracing a kind of British modernity can be read as the affirmation of a desire to highlight the contestations over what it means to be British and Indian. Overall, the book shows that for British-Indians, the different ways in which they modify and modernize traditional arranged marriages were reflective of something more than the natural evolution of this cultural practice – it was a conscious act of laying claim to a British identity and performing British Indian citizenship.
Discover more about Learning to Love at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Matthew Gavin Frank's "Flight of the Diamond Smugglers"

Matthew Gavin Frank’s new nonfiction book is Flight of the Diamond Smugglers: A Tale of Pigeons, Obsession, and Greed Along Coastal South Africa.

He is also the author of the nonfiction books, The Mad Feast: An Ecstatic Tour Through America’s Food (2015), Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer (2014), Pot Farm (2012), and Barolo (2010); the poetry books, The Morrow Plots (2013), Warranty in Zulu (2010), and Sagittarius Agitprop (2009).

Frank applied the “Page 99 Test” to Flight of the Diamond Smugglers and reported the following:
From page 99:
“A vast heaving crater. A world of dust, drought, dysentery, and flies, disease and despair, where some dug up a fortune, and others dug their graves.”

In order to further demonstrate their loftiness here, and to deprive those who lived in this “vast heaving crater” of even the most meager of distractions, Rhodes and Barnato once kidnapped as many of the diggers’ pet pigeons as they could. With these abducted birds, they staged “gentlemen’s” shoots with visiting magnates on the muddy streets around the corner from Barnato’s boxing club (the restored heartwood floor of which still bears the silver crescents of many coin edges pressed between the slats, and, in one corner, an amoebic spread of white threads that appear to be the barbs of a 130-year-old pigeon feather, coffined in shellac). Rhodes and Barnato believed they’d live, if only in the corporate argot—like the diamonds themselves—forever.
Page 99 of Flight of the Diamond Smugglers is more wormhole than microcosm. Like the string of a tin can telephone, page 99 tethers the late 19th-century horrors that attended the founding of the De Beers corporation in the diamond fields of Kimberley, South Africa to the present-day consequences of those horrors. Here, we have De Beers co-magnates Cecil Rhodes and Barney Barnato aggressively carving out lives of luxury from the sludge of the diamond pits, oftentimes at the expense of the health and comfort of those workers who labored therein. Many of the workers trained and kept pet pigeons as a distraction from the working conditions, and the attendant despair.

But, in 1893, Rhodes felt that the birds could be used to smuggle diamonds out of the mine, and so his security officials, were given off-the-books, commission-based benefits for catching smugglers, which resulted in many a fabricated charge, which itself resulted in the beating or maiming of the falsely accused. Rhodes hired mercenaries to slaughter the Matabele peoples who lived along the South African-Zimbabwean border, clearing the land for his mining endeavors. Rhodes renamed Zimbabwe “Rhodesia,” after, of course, himself. Each mercenary was given a specific reward depending on the number of kills, beginning with two claims and nine square miles of personal property. Once the mines were established, some of these mercenaries stayed on as mine security.

And yet, still today, there stand lionizing statues of Rhodes throughout the UK and South Africa, (though, at the urging of protestors, some are slated for removal). Page 99, then, addresses history’s long wake, and influence on the present. It addresses various founding principles of the diamond industry. The “illicit” pigeons (who loom large in the book, of course) also make a doomed cameo appearance. If page 99 can’t be said to be representative of the entire book necessarily, it can be said that the page contains a sprinkling of many of the book’s ingredients.
Visit Matthew Gavin Frank's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Lesley Newson and Peter Richerson's "A Story of Us"

Lesley Newson is Research Associate at the University of California, Davis. Peter Richerson is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California, Davis.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, A Story of Us: A New Look at Human Evolution, and reported the following:
A person who opens our book at page 99 will find three and a half paragraphs about marriage and sex! The text is however, hardly titillating. We are biologists and look at the role marriage and sex played in human evolution. Every human alive today is part of a lineage. We exist because our ancestors produced offspring that survived to produce offspring themselves. Marriage makes the survival of offspring more likely. It’s a “social tool” that binds families together and helps to ensure that babies will have the support of a father’s family as well as its mother’s family.

On page 99 we summarize the evidence that leads us to believe that the culture of our ancestors who lived in Africa 100,000 years ago already included the custom of marriage. One reason is the near ubiquity of marriage customs in the cultures of humans living today.

Another reason we give is that the human body is adapted to a life of restricted sexual relationships. Compared to our closest living ape relatives (chimpanzees and bonobos) human males have quite small testicles and they make weak underpowered sperm. This suggests that, during our recent evolutionary history, sperm from different men didn’t have to race up the uterus and fallopian tubes to fertilize an egg. Human sperm are joggers, not runners, probably because restricted mating customs gave them an open field. Our immune system is also poorly adapted to unrestricted mating. We are very vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases. Some of the people who lived 100,000 years ago might have mated in an unrestricted way, but they are less likely to have been our ancestors. The support network for their babies would have been less secure and they would have been more at risk of being made sick or infertile by sexually transmitted bacteria and viruses.

Page 99 gives readers some idea of the nature of our book. It’s a book that aims to help readers understand themselves by describing their ancestors and the lives they lived, based on research from a wide range of disciplines. The ancestors described on page 99 had a much simpler culture than any humans living today but they were very similar physically and genetically.

In the case of our book, however, the usefulness of the page 99 test is limited. Our book isn’t just about our ancestors who lived 100,000 years ago. It begins with our ape ancestors who lived seven million years ago and finishes with the present day.

But a more important limitation is that page 99 reveals only one of the three styles of writing that make up the text of our book. Chapters 2 through 8 each contain a story (a science fiction story about the past) that illustrates what we think a life might have been like for one of our ancestors born during the featured time. Afterwards we summarize the evidence we drew on to write the story. Other pages (e.g., page 91) are partly fiction and partly evidence summary but page 99 is made up entirely of text that summarizes evidence. These evidence summaries don’t talk much about specific research, but they are linked to notes at the back of the book which contain the third style of text. The notes give more details and/or recommend further reading.

(We have written the book in this “multilevel” way because we think that a story of our origins should be for everyone, not just people trained in science.)
Learn more about A Story of Us at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Hsiao-Hung Pai's "Ciao Ousmane"

Hsiao-Hung Pai is a UK-based journalist and the author of Chinese Whispers: The True Story Behind Britain's Army of Labour, which was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize; Scattered Sand, winner of the 2013 Bread and Roses Award; Invisible; Angry White People; and Bordered Lives.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Ciao Ousmane: The Hidden Exploitation of Italy's Migrant Workers, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Ciao Ousmane brings you to a Calabrian village in southern Italy called Camini, facing the Ionian Sea. Camini has followed a similar path of regeneration as the much better-known village Riace, dubbed as “integration village” by world media for years.

Like Riace, the young of the village had deserted Camini two decades earlier, seeking employment outside the region or even outside the country. It was one of Italy’s dying villages until well-meaning people thought up the idea of bringing in migrants and reviving it as a model of “integration”. This has been celebrated as a positive example of migrant contribution and highlighted as a ‘win-win situation’ where Italy receives migrants and they “pay back” the country’s hospitality by re-populating its villages. However, the trade-off for the village’s regeneration is the migrants’ agrarianisation (which they did not choose).

Page 99 touches on the situation of several Syrian families as well as introducing a Nigerian family. Here we meet Charlotte, the Nigerian mother, for the first time. She had spent several years in Camini trying to make a living and struggling to raise her children. When her time on the “integration” project ended, her support also came to an end and she could no longer cope with the lack of employment opportunities in the village.

Page 99 gets you beyond the subhuman living conditions and exploitation in the world of agricultural work, and explores the myth of “integration”. This has been a dominant ideological component in the asylum reception system and part of the “common sense,” fund-securing phraseology that has been operating in the profit-making business of “welcoming new arrivals” for at least a decade.

In the name of “integration,” dozens of municipalities in northern and central Italy have been setting up volunteer projects in the years since 2011, where migrants are made to work for free. The idea that Africans and other migrants are put to work for free comes from the deep-seated racism that permeates Italian society. The idea is that migrants must contribute economically to become ‘deserving.’ It is also reflected in the state’s integration programmes which are always based on the thinking of national security and the idea that “it is safer to integrate migrants.” “Integration” is a recurring theme throughout the book and we return to Camini several times across the following chapters.
Visit Hsiao-Hung Pai's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 15, 2021

John D. Ciorciari's "Sovereignty Sharing in Fragile States"

John D. Ciorciari is an Associate Professor at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan. He teaches about international law and politics and has written widely on transitional justice and peacebuilding.

Ciorciari applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Sovereignty Sharing in Fragile States, and reported the following:
Page 99 offers concluding thoughts on one of the most important recent cases in international criminal law—the prosecution of senior surviving Khmer Rouge leaders for atrocities of the Pol Pot era. The locus for the case is a “hybrid” criminal tribunal operated and staffed jointly by the United Nations and the Cambodian government.

The page 99 test works well here, because the case exemplifies the potential and pitfalls of “sovereignty-sharing” arrangements that involve international actors in normally sovereign state functions. Such joint ventures aim to blend national and international knowledge and resources to deliver sounder services than the host government can provide alone. In some respects, the case against surviving Khmer Rouge leaders fulfilled that promise. The case was dauntingly complex, covering myriad crimes across Cambodia in the late 1970s. The hybrid tribunal’s budget, technology and staff expertise helped it manage the case far more ably than cash-strapped, rudimentary domestic courts could have done. This led to the conviction of two key architects of the Cambodian genocide, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan—a crucial step in Cambodia’s long trek toward justice.

However, the same case illustrates the many challenges of sharing sovereignty effectively. As page 99 notes, lawyers complained about the court’s confusing mixture of Cambodian and international procedures. More damningly, Cambodian authorities stonewalled international judges’ attempts to summon senior government officials for testimony. Cambodian judges at the court also were accused of excluding evidence that could impugn incumbent leaders. These problems foreshadowed a more serious showdown over the tribunal’s next two cases, favored by international court appointees but blocked by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his national court appointees. Those stillborn cases, pertaining to crimes by Khmer Rouge military officers and subnational chiefs, have damaged the tribunal’s legacy and public legitimacy. Unable to transcend the political interference that plagues the domestic judicial system, this sovereignty-sharing venture risks reinforcing the notion that law is more an instrument of power in Cambodia than a constraint upon it.
Learn more about Sovereignty Sharing in Fragile States at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Sophie Bjork-James's "The Divine Institution"

Sophie Bjork-James is an assistant professor in the anthropology department at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She is the coeditor of Beyond Populism: Angry Politics and the Twilight of Neoliberalism.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Divine Institution: White Evangelicalism's Politics of the Family, and reported the following:
The first full paragraph on page 99 introduces Dustin Henry (a pseudonym):
I met Dustin when he worked for a conservative, evangelical organization in Colorado Springs that worked to oppose LGBTQ rights. Over a decade earlier he was living as an out gay man in Washington, DC, where he told me:
I knew I could be out and proud and it wouldn't be a big deal. And it wasn't! For 13 years. And, um, in a way it was a big deal because in a sense I didn't feel quite right about it. But, I was going to a gay church, lived in a gay neighborhood, I went to a gay gym, I was in a gay bowling league, I was in a gay volleyball league, I lived in a gay world. I had a gay boss: he had a gay boss. I mean, life in some ways was really awesome, in terms of being out. But, you know, deep down, I was still like, I'm not sure this is really right.
Dustin was raised in a liberal Protestant church but hadn’t been going to church regularly, and when he did it was to a liberal, gay-affirming church. One evening he had an experience he describes as a personal encounter with the divine where he felt enveloped in a white light full of grace and mercy that left him in tears. Dustin felt that God was offering him forgiveness in exchange for returning to God’s plan and he quickly began to change his life in dramatic ways. He told me, ‘I woke up the next day and I just knew for the first time that I was wrong about abortion.’
Surprisingly the Page 99 test works here. The book explores how an emphasis on the patriarchal family and heterosexuality within white evangelicalism link personal practices to political perspectives. In this passage I write about an interviewee whose conversion to conservative Christianity as an adult resulted in changes to both his sexual identity and his politics. In interviews with around one hundred evangelicals and ex-evangelicals, I found that sexual and gender identity are at the center of evangelical religious identity and that defending heterosexuality and patriarchy become a focus of white evangelical politics as this is seen as a way to defend God.
Learn more about The Divine Institution at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Marit Tolo Østebø's "Village Gone Viral"

Marit Tolo Østebø is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Village Gone Viral: Understanding the Spread of Policy Models in a Digital Age, and reported the following:
On page 99, which concludes chapter 4, I very briefly discuss why Awra Amba – a small rural village in Ethiopia that has become a model for gender equality and sustainable development – has concealed its historical links to a Sufi-inspired, marginalized Muslim community known as Alayhim. Given that Awra Amba once also was an ostracized society I suggest that this narrative may be a means of self-protection; of preserving the wide recognition the community currently holds. ““Is it unethical to write about and reveal this connection? If I do, whose interests do I serve?” I ask, before I promise the reader that I will return to these questions in chapter 8. I then end the chapter with two transition sentences: “But how and why did Awra Amba become a traveling model in the first place? These are the questions I turn to in the next two chapters.”

When I applied the 99 Page Test to my book, I first thought this page would not give the reader a good idea of what the book is all about. But after giving it a thought, I realized that the page touches upon key issues I discuss in the book. I wrote Village Gone Viral, because I wanted to make sense of the role and politics of models and model making in an increasingly digital and transnational world. What constitutes models within the policy world and how do they come into being? What characterizes the models that gain status as ‘best practices’ and go viral? And what happens to the original model once it becomes a traveling model? In Chapter 4, which is dedicated to the first question, I argue that model making can best be understood as a process of idealization; of ordering a complex assemblage. This is a process in which actors who benefit from the model and its status as an ideal type or utopia accentuate certain desirable elements of a perceived reality, while erasing or silencing elements that may create unwanted complexity. In the Awra Amba case, the disruptive elements are most clearly captured in its partly hidden past – more specifically, in the community’s historical and ideological links to Alayhim.

To reveal hidden stories, or to tell a story that challenges dominant narratives, is always challenging. Words and stories are not only powerful; just like a virus, they tend to have a life of their own, often independent of the author’s intentions. As I have been researching what I in the book call “the Awra Amba viral assemblage” concerns about ethics have therefore been on my mind. Should I even tell this story? When I finally made up my mind to write a book that would challenge the official Awra Amba narrative I did so for two reasons. First, I felt ethically obliged to convey the hidden stories because they are revealing of the inequalities and injustices that models create and hide. Second, I was convinced that the ethnographic account I offer has the power to create a much-needed contextual understanding of the strengths and limitations inherent in the model paradigm.
Learn more about Village Gone Viral at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Van Gosse's "The First Reconstruction"

Van Gosse is professor of history at Franklin and Marshall College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The First Reconstruction: Black Politics in America from the Revolution to the Civil War, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Rather than single-party dominance, therefore, a two-and-a-half (and sometimes three) party system operated in Pennsylvania.

Accounts of statewide partisan rivalries obscure local differences. In the early 1800s, feuding Republicans in Philadelphia created parallel ward-based structures which prefigured modern urban politics. A few landholders still dominated many rural counties, however, especially in the west where Ulster emigrants had claimed large tracts before the Revolution, and functioned as Republican agents. Their networks of relatives, tenants, and former slaves exerted considerable electoral weight. An 1817 “letter to the editor” from Franklin County detailed how these networks functioned. The writer boasted that his side had beaten (gubernatorial candidate William) “Findlay’s whole connexion,” even though it counted “twenty-three families, amounting from thirty-seven to forty voters, amongst whom are from ten to fifteen judges, generals, magistrates, militia captains, &c., who, with from thirty to thirty-five negroes, voted in solid column for Findlay.”

Besides innovations in party organization, Pennsylvania anticipated the performative mass partisanship of the “Age of Jackson.” The franchise was nearly universal; adult men qualified by paying a tax as little as twenty-five cents. The electoral calendar was nearly continuous, with annual elections for state representatives and county officers. Every fall included two election days in October, with the general election preceded by voting for inspectors and judges of election, crucial since control of those offices meant one could apply a strict standard to exclude an opponents’ backers and a looser one to admit one’s own. Presidential elections doubled the number of election days to four, since congressional and state balloting was held weeks before the presidential vote.

From late summer, each party deployed committees of vigilance to publicize its local tickets, bring voters to the polls, and serve as “broad political bases for disseminating ideas among the people of the townships.” The poll itself was very different from today’s. Each county’s “high sheriff” published a “public notice, to the electors of the said county,” typically that “a general election will be held on the second Tuesday of October next, at the several election districts to wit—The electors of Washington district, to meet at the court house….The electors of Somerset district to meet at the house of George McIlvaine.” In rural areas, private homes usually served as polling places. Men assessed six months previously and therefore entitled to vote handed in ballots for each office (hand-written or printed by a party), at a window. Sometimes access was fought over, as in an 1837 Bucks County case between rival newspaper publishers. A Democrat charged that “the political party to which [the Whig] Hodgson belonged, were purposely obstructing the window at which the votes were taken in, in order to prevent the Democratic…
This passage reflects a main emphasis of my book—how African Americans fit into the larger political system in ways specific to particular locales (in this case, Pennsylvania during the so-called “era of good feelings” the 1810s). It also does another piece of work for me, which is to convey exactly how voting worked; minus that, accounts of how black men lined up at the polls, or were excluded, will mean little.

The question becomes: do you think “politics” is a general term for whatever people do to assert or defend themselves, to express their individual and collective agency? Or do you understand it as specific structures (“orders,” if you want) of power? If you agree with the latter, then the mechanics and nuances of those structures matter a great deal. This excerpt is my attempt to show one of them in the very decentered federal union, at a time when black men were voting in most of Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia.
Visit Van Gosse's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Jan Bardsley's "Maiko Masquerade"

Jan Bardsley is Professor Emerita of Asian Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is the author of Women and Democracy in Cold War Japan and the award-winning The Bluestockings of Japan: New Woman Essays and Fiction from Seito, 1911–1916.

Bardsley applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Maiko Masquerade: Crafting Geisha Girlhood in Japan, and reported the following:
The test is 50% effective. Page 99 gives readers a taste of the book’s topic and readability. Page 99 also shows the appeal of books by and about geisha and their apprentices published in Japanese in the 2000s. However, Page 99 does not point to the wide range of popular literature, manga, and movies on the topic, as analyzed in Maiko Masquerade. The book focuses on how this literature depicts the transformation of an ordinary Japanese girl into Kyoto’s idealized apprentice geisha (maiko), revealing assumptions about girlhood in contemporary Japan. Page 99 misses this analysis. This is the first academic study on Japanese representations of the maiko.

Page 99 captures moments in a humorous memoir about a year in the life of Kyoto geisha Kokimi. In public, she presents the glamorous persona of a stylish geisha and star dancer. But her 2007 memoir takes readers backstage, revealing an approachable, comic, and imperfect young woman. Page 99 reveals Kokimi as a diehard Hanshin Tigers baseball team fan, happily losing weight without trying during the busy April dance season, and perpetually trying not to procrastinate. She is a serious dancer, sometimes jumping out of bed in the middle of night to practice if she dreams of making a mistake onstage. The following pages discuss how Kokimi describes “switching on” her geisha persona when preparing for work and “switching off” back home, invoking the notion of masquerade. This chapter also analyzes the memoirs of an older, retired geisha and a teenage apprentice.
Learn more about Maiko Masquerade at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Margarette Lincoln's "London and the Seventeenth Century"

Margarette Lincoln was a Visiting Fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London from 2015 to 2020, and is Curator Emeritus at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, where she was Deputy Director until 2015.

Lincoln applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, London and the Seventeenth Century: The Making of the World's Greatest City, and reported the following:
Page 99 describes the panic in London after King Charles I had tried (and failed) to arrest opposition MPs in the House of Commons. His bold action was regarded as an attack on the institution of parliament itself. Afterwards, there were rumours that royalist mercenaries were about to take the town. At night, ‘men ran from door to door, rousing citizens and warning them to arm themselves. The City portcullises were lowered, chains were put across streets, barricades of tubs and benches were erected to obstruct cavalry, and women boiled water to pour over attackers.’

The test works well on my book. Obviously, page 99 describes just one brief episode, but it does indicate the importance of London to the history of seventeenth-century England; it relates to the key issue of the people’s struggle to uphold parliamentary representation in the face of absolute royal power; and it shows the role of women.

Page 99 goes on to explain that Londoners were worried that the same bloody outrages that Catholic rebels were currently inflicting on Protestants in Ireland were about to take place in their own streets. Clearly, events in Ireland strongly resonated in the capital – as did events in Scotland; this is a book that looks beyond London itself. Mass demonstrations then followed in London, with citizens’ unrest fuelled by a slump in trade. This reflects other key themes in the book: the role and importance of ordinary Londoners, not just royalty and military figures, and the history of London as a port alongside its social and political history. Crucially, page 99 also points to the religious division that helped to make the seventeenth century one of the most turbulent in London’s history.
Visit Margarette Lincoln's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 8, 2021

Darren R. Halpin and Anthony J. Nownes's "The New Entrepreneurial Advocacy"

Darren R. Halpin is Professor of Political Science at the Australian National University in Canberra. He researches the organization of interests and interest representation in the policy process in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and comparatively. He is co-editor of the international journal Interest Groups and Advocacy and founding director of the Policy Advocacy Lab.

Anthony J. Nownes is Professor of Political Science at the University of Tennessee. His research interests include lobbying, non-profit advocacy, and celebrity politics. His latest book is Organizing for Transgender Rights.

Nownes applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, The New Entrepreneurial Advocacy: Silicon Valley Elites in American Politics, and reported the following:
On the first part of page 99, my co-author and I summarize some of our findings on Silicon Valley company founders’ and CEOs’ campaign contributing behavior. We report that of the 384 founders we studied, 33% made at least one disclosable federal campaign contribution during the 2015-2016 election cycle. We do not know how this percentage compares to other populations of corporate elites because there are not many studies of corporate elites’ political behavior. We do know that only about 10 percent of Americans make campaign contributions in any given election cycle. The second half of page 99 notes that as a group, business leaders tend to lean Republican in their campaign giving. But this population…not so much. Silicon Valley business leaders give overwhelmingly to Democratic candidates and organizations.

The page 99 tests works reasonably well for our book. We say this because page 99 highlights two general findings that tend to recur in our empirical analyses: (1) Silicon Valley corporate elites are politically active but not hyperactive as some media reports might have us believe; (2) Silicon Valley elites are overwhelmingly Democratic in their partisan identification and liberal in their ideology.

Page 99 highlights a couple of general points, but it does not hint at the other forms of political participation we describe in the rest of the book. One of our goals was to describe the wide range of ways Silicon Valley corporate elites try to affect public policy. In addition to contributing money to candidates, these corporate elites donate money to political parties, advocacy groups (e.g., environmental groups, LGBT rights groups, civil rights groups), and Super PACs. Also, many speak out on political issues publicly via new (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) and old media (newspapers, magazines, radio, and television programs). And some even go as far as starting their own advocacy groups. Finally, many Silicon Valley corporate elites engage in philanthropy that has political overtones. We found 44 grant-making foundations associated with the Silicon Valley elites we studied, and together these foundations made approximately $1.775 billion in contributions in 2015 (the year we studied).

Page 99 also obscures one crucial thing about Silicon Valley elite political activity: Though it is decidedly Democratic and liberal, it is hardly anti-business or anti-regulation. Yes, Silicon Valley elites disproportionately support Democrats over Republicans. Yes, Silicon Valley elites disproportionately support Democratic-leaning organizations over Republican-leaning organizations when they support advocacy groups. And yes, Silicon Valley corporate elites disproportionately speak out in favor of liberal causes over conservative causes when they “go public” with their advocacy. But Silicon Valley corporate elites seldom favor firebrand economic liberals such as Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, choosing instead to support more fiscally conservative and business-friendly Democrats. Similarly, when they speak out on issues or contribute to advocacy groups, they focus upon issues such as LGBT rights, the environment, immigration, education, and transportation, rather than more traditional New Deal Democratic issues such as social welfare benefits, the minimum wage, collective bargaining and unionism, and other “bread and butter” economic issues. Silicon Valley elites are, in short, “new liberals.”
Learn more about The New Entrepreneurial Advocacy at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Josephine Ross's "A Feminist Critique of Police Stops"

Josephine Ross is a professor of law at Howard University School of Law, Washington DC. She was a public defender in Massachusetts for seven years, then served as an interim executive director of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders before beginning a teaching career at Boston College Law School. She has published numerous law review articles, first on marriage equality and then on topics involving criminal (in)justice. 

Ross applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, A Feminist Critique of Police Stops, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Police officers might view any exercise of any right as disrespectful. That includes the right to pull out one’s phone and record the exchange. The culture of coercion underscores the central argument in this book that consent stops, consent searches and ‘voluntary’ interrogations are neither voluntary nor consensual.
The test works beautifully here. Page 99 pulls together two threads to end the fourth chapter of this book. One thread explains how the law puts the burden on the individual to exercise their rights during police stops, while the second thread illustrates through stories, why it is dangerous to do so.

Readers understand the term “consent stop” from chapter 2. An officer engaged Michelle Cooks in a “consent stop” which means that had she stayed to answer his questions, the law would say that Ms. Cooks waived her right to walk away. But when Ms. Cooks exercised her constitutional rights by walking away, the officer tackled her, even though she was innocent and eight months pregnant. No wonder most people consent to do whatever police ask.

What courts call “consent” in these situations, feminists would call submission. Years ago, a woman who reported that she was raped must show that she fought back. Feminists were able to show how fear and power imbalance can lead a woman to unwillingly submit to a more powerful man. Similarly, officers have all the power in these relationships. People who are stopped, often those who are the least powerful members of society, must say “no” to police even though they feel powerless and vulnerable.

The downside to focusing on page 99 is that it leaves out other important feminist analyses. Let’s take bodily integrity. Even constitutionally approved frisks might feel like a sexual assault because they are so intrusive. A feminist approach to the law sees the frisk from the point of view of the powerless civilian. My book takes a feminist lens to see how the law works, where it doesn’t work, and where we must fix it, as we did by creating laws against sexual harassment.
Learn more about A Feminist Critique of Police Stops at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Renée Ann Cramer's "Birthing a Movement"

Renée Ann Cramer is Chair and Professor of Law, Politics, and Society, and the Herb and Karen Baum Chair of Ethics in the Professions at Drake University. She is the author of Cash, Color, and Colonialism (2005) and Pregnant with the Stars (2015).

Cramer applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Birthing a Movement: Midwives, Law, and the Politics of Reproductive Care, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book comes towards the beginning of Chapter 3, which is titled "Mostly Happy Accidents," and subtitled "Successfully Mobilizing for Legal Status." I am a law and society scholar, trained originally as a political scientist, and I use ethnographic and participant-observation research methods in my work. This page is absolutely more “political science” than “sociolegal” – and honestly, I find it more tedious than other pages of the book. When I first thought of writing this book (a decade ago!), I could only conceive of it as a rather standard political and legal mobilization text – which bored me to think about, in large part because I know there is more to what is going on in the cases I study than what a straightforward examination of mobilization would give us. It took quite a while for me to decide on a structure of the book that allows considerable narrativization. Throughout the text, I tell stories about myself, about my research participants, about birth, about conferences, and disciplinary fields – and this is the work I find most exciting to read and write. Page 99 doesn’t have this narrative thread.

This page is, though, important to the over-all argument of the chapter, and the book. It offers concrete examples from my field work of the various ways that lobbyists engaged state-level organizers in learning about and navigating their political systems. The page shows the absolute locality of each success or disappointment – the contingency upon which legislative success rests. This contingency is deeply related to the theoretical underpinning of the whole book, and relates to a favorite quote of mine, written by Elizabeth Mensch in an essay on American legal development, “the most corrosive message of legal history is the message of contingency.” This message denaturalizes the idea that everything is inevitable, that systems have simply arisen and are hegemonic. It makes clear that changing deeply institutionalized norms is possible – but also that it takes a bit of luck, a bit of happy accident. In other words: things get done when people work together, tirelessly, and wait for openings and the right moment. Preparation and pragmatism has to merge with magic.

The other thing I really like about page 99 is that it shows clearly how involved in the process my research assistants were. As an undergraduate student, Jamie (Wall) Hanna was closely tied to this project (she is now a PhD student in Sociology at Northeastern, yay Jamie!). On the morning Jamie and I were supposed to fly to California for fieldwork, my mom had a medical emergency. I trusted Jamie so much that I sent her alone. She came back with two full notebooks of fieldnotes, and an insight into the project that I hadn’t yet had (“Why didn’t you tell me this was about legal pluralism?” she texted me from a hotel conference room). So I really love this page because on it I write, “one organizer told my research assistant ….” And it makes me happy to acknowledge that partnership.
Learn more about Birthing a Movement at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Paul Lichterman's "How Civic Action Works"

Paul Lichterman is professor of sociology and religion at the University of Southern California. He is author of the award-winning books Elusive Togetherness and The Search for Political Community, and the coeditor of The Civic Life of American Religion.

Lichterman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, How Civic Action Works: Fighting for Housing in Los Angeles, and reported the following:
The reader who opens How Civic Action Works to page 99 gets a remarkably suggestive glimpse of an important theme in the book and hears a good sample of how different voices come into the book’s narrative. The page pictures a meeting of a new coalition of housing advocates (pseudonymous acronym: ISLA) that was fighting gentrification and displacement. Participants are talking about how to get residents of a South Los Angeles neighborhood to join the coalition’s fight on behalf of “the community”:
Marina said that “a lot of the community is not as aware as we are … of the past, the history.” Being fully “aware” meant recognizing dangerous agents of unwanted neighborhood change. Among these, Marina and others included commercial developers and a local college with building plans that members thought would lead to more displacement. Members pointed out that some low-income tenants did not want to criticize the local college, though, because they liked the college-sponsored programs for local kids. To Marina, college-sponsored youth programming was a sugarcoated pill for the neighborhood: “They say ‘here’s a candy’—then they kick your ass!” Ethan did not disagree, but cautioned that when it comes to the possibility of displacement by people, especially students, who could pay higher rents, “a homeowner doesn’t feel the same as someone else.” Marina agreed that homeowners might appreciate the boost in property values that could accompany higher rents. Ethan added, however, that “there are homeowners who don’t want the whole block taken over,” and coalition leader Victor finished the thought: “We have to find them.”

It is exactly that enticing opportunity as well as tension lurking in the gap between ISLA participants’ vision of the community and the diversity of views held by the local population that would generate crucial tests for ISLA.
Many U.S. social activists fighting for affordable housing, cleaner water or better schools, say they are working on behalf of “the community.” The phrase can mean vastly different things. For activists in ISLA, like counterparts throughout the country, it is an imagination of a locale whose residents identify closely with each other, often on the basis of being socially and culturally marginalized, and proudly defend themselves against outsiders, especially powerful ones who don’t identify with the community. Yet not all residents of a locale necessarily fit the vision of the community that activists project.

The book explores the resulting trade-offs, some of which are implicit on page 99. This version of community-based activism elicits an emotionally compelling, powerful solidarity. On the other hand, it sets high boundaries between “aware,” angry and empowered members of the community, and others who don’t have the same image of the community. Outsiders may not all be exploitative; some have resources and expertise that activists could use to achieve their goals and enlarge their circle of supporters.

Page 99 also displays something about the book as a piece of writing: Intentionally it toggles between voices of housing advocates and a scholarly if friendly voice that points out the patterns in how activists work together. Recognizing those patterns may help activists reduce the crosstalk and the sometimes over-moralized understandings that limit some social change coalitions, potentially even leading them to break apart, as we see elsewhere in the book.
Learn more about How Civic Action Works at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Lincoln Mitchell's "The Giants and Their City"

Lincoln A. Mitchell is a native San Franciscan and has been a Giants fan since the mid-1970s. He is an adjunct research scholar at Columbia University’s Arnold A. Salesman Institute of War and Peace Studies and the author of several books, including San Francisco Year Zero: Political Upheaval, Punk Rock, and a Third-Place Baseball Team.

Mitchell applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Giants and Their City: Major League Baseball in San Francisco, 1976-1992, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Giants and Their City: Major League Baseball in San Francisco, 1976-1992 is a description of the eighth inning of a game between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers on the last day 1982 baseball season. The page begins with a description of Dodgers’ manager, the late Tommy Lasorda, deciding to pinch hit for his ace pitcher Fernando Valenzuela with the score knotted at two. I then describe the Giants’ rally in the bottom half of the inning. The page ends just as Joe Morgan is coming to the plate. Spoiler alert-Morgan hit a three-run home run and the Giants knocked the Dodgers out of the playoffs that day.

In some respects, page 99 provides a good sense of The Giants and Their City as the book is, in large part, about baseball and the Giants. I recount numerous anecdotes and important games from the seventeen seasons covered in the book. The particular game described on page 99 captures something else about the Giants and the book. The Giants were not a very good team during most of the period covered in the book. From 1976-1985 they never finished above third place. Morgan’s home run was one of the two biggest moments for the Giants on the field during these years, but it did not launch them into the playoffs. It simply knocked the Dodgers out, but for Giants fans like me in those years, that was almost as satisfying. A theme of this book, which can be seen on page 99, is that even bad teams have stories and moments that mean a lot to their fans. The book also covers the better Giants years including their World Series appearance in 1989-and the earthquake that disrupted that World Series.

This page does not capture everything about the book, because The Giants and Their City also focuses on the Giants off the field. This includes how the franchise, and the team’s owner Bob Lurie, navigated the changes in the game such as free agency and strikes. Another major off the field focus of the book is the relationship between the Giants and San Francisco, and their struggle throughout this period to find a new home. During these years they played at Candlestick Park, a cold unwelcoming stadium poorly served by public transportation. Because of Candlestick, the Giants always struggled to draw fans and were frequently rumored to be leaving the city, building a ballpark downtown, doming Candlestick or something else. The Giants and Their City is a fun and readable book about the Giants and San Francisco during a fascinating and overlooked period that includes anecdotes and baseball stories and also draws on interviews with several players, executives and others around the Giants.
Visit Lincoln Mitchell's website.

The Page 99 Test: San Francisco Year Zero.

--Marshal Zeringue