Friday, December 31, 2021

William L. d'Ambruoso's "American Torture from the Philippines to Iraq"

William L. d'Ambruoso is a fellow with the International Security Program and the Project on Managing the Atom at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He previously taught courses on wartime violence and international security at Bates College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, American Torture from the Philippines to Iraq: A Recurring Nightmare, and reported the following:
The central puzzle of American Torture from the Philippines to Iraq: A Recurring Nightmare is why torture has recurred in America’s wars against weaker foes. Page 99 marks the dawn of the recurrence, following torture by U.S. soldiers in the Philippines decades earlier. Torture by the Central Intelligence Agency in Vietnam is best told as an origins story, beginning with how the CIA became empowered in the first place, and what the agency and its overseers understood to be its mission. Page 99 marks the rise of the CIA from the ashes of the Office of Strategic Services, the United States’ World War II intelligence agency. The OSS had garnered a reputation for daring and success during the war, and champions of a permanent peacetime intelligence agency wanted to retain the OSS’s clandestine capabilities and interest in “underhanded tricks.” Thus, the CIA became the agency to which presidents turned for activities that were “extra-legal and sometimes illegal,” according to an OSS agent who played a formative role in the agency’s creation. Harry Truman reluctantly signed off on the creation of the organization, and CIA research on “behavioral control,” among other interests, began. Dwight Eisenhower would prove much more enthusiastic about the CIA’s secretive arm, and his pick for CIA director, OSS veteran Allen Dulles, endorsed the development of psychologically coercive interrogation methods that eventually showed up in CIA interrogation manuals and in Vietnam. For Eisenhower, Dulles, and others, the United States was going to have to bend and sometimes break rules in order to compete with Communists who could fight the Cold War unencumbered by norms and laws.

The ninety-nineth page does not contain the heart of the book, but it functions as a bridge between the pre-CIA and CIA eras. Since the agency is a major character in my tale of American torture following World War II, Page 99 is, in a sense, the beginning of the rest of the story.

The “underhanded” and “psychological” methods were not just more easily hidden than scarring torture techniques; agents and supportive politicians could also attempt to play them down as something less than torture in the event of exposure. We see a similar pattern today with respect to democratic norms in the United States and elsewhere. Because democracy lies at the end of a sliding scale, vigilance is required to avoid slipping incrementally into quasi-authoritarian rule and beyond.
Learn more about American Torture from the Philippines to Iraq at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Jacob Doherty's "Waste Worlds"

Jacob Doherty is Lecturer in Anthropology of Development at the University of Edinburgh.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Waste Worlds: Inhabiting Kampala's Infrastructures of Disposability, and reported the following:
From page 99:
[Enviro Clean Services was the company that] “came closest to enacting the idealized geography of responsible disposal envisioned in the 2000 waste management ordinance. As such, they illustrated the challenges of operating strictly within the legal framework governing Kampala’s waste and reveal, by their absence, the constitutive role of parasites in the political ecology of disposal. Founded by Andrew Egunyu, a Soroti-born businessman who left Uganda to study engineering in the Netherlands, where he stayed on to work in the aviation industry for nearly twenty years, ECS entered the Kampala market in 2013. At the behest of old friends, now prominent in the Kampala business community, Andrew returned to Uganda with a business plan and an idealist’s urge to contribute to the development of his nation’s capital city. His urge for development led him to a principled commitment to formality, to operating exclusively above board and by the books, and to refusing to pay any bribes or cut any regulatory corners. This commitment to the normative waste stream’s infrastructure of responsibility, however, ultimately contributed to the collapse of the company.

Andrew ran ECS from a small office in a repurposed half shipping container situated on a dusty road across from a guesthouse in an emerging middle-income neighborhood in northern Kampala. Victor Opeda brought me to the office to meet his new boss on a rainy day in April 2013, and the three of us shouted through a conversation as rain loudly lashed the roof and walls of the office. After the downpour passed, Andrew told me that ECS had attracted capital from investors in Qatar to purchase six brand-new, modern garbage trucks. At the moment, however, they only had 150 clients, enough to send out one truck twice a week. Even then, the trucks reached the landfill only three quarters full and the company lost money every time they sent out a truck. Adding fifty more clients in the residential areas they were already serving would make the route profitable, and Andrew preached patience.

As a marketer for EnviroClean Services, Victor was trying to expand the company’s business to the suburbs on the south side of Kampala, near his home in Gaba. He needed just one big anchor client to open up the market. He targeted Speke Resorts, the plush lakeside resort owned by Uganda’s wealthiest man, Sudhir Ruparelia, known simply as Sudhir. Victor knew how much plastic went to waste at Speke Resorts and wanted to set up recycling bins to “get it when it is still clean.”…
Reading page 99 gives a good sense of Waste Worlds as a whole for both the argument being made and the way it is presented. The page introduces ECS, a private waste management company doing its best to comply with the legal framework governing waste in the city. This is the beginning of an ethnographic analysis of the company’s operations and their struggles to establish themselves in the market that illustrates the ways that the so-called formal and informal sectors of the waste economy depend on and mutually produce one another.

On page 99 itself we can see several critical elements of Kampala’s waste infrastructures in practice. Far from isolated or city-scale formations, they are entangled with trans-national movements of people, goods, and capital. Market incentives structure the provision of waste management services, making emergent middle class neighborhoods key sites for the elaboration of new modes of waste collection, marketing, and thus relations between people and their discards. Waste workers have an intimate knowledge of the materiality of the city’s waste streams and ways of capturing and realizing value from them; this knowledge is productive of new geographies of waste collection. The state plays a central role in the production of waste economies, differentially legalizing and criminalizing aspects of the city’s waste management infrastructure that appear as discrete economic sectors, but are in fact deeply enmeshed. This combination of the criminalization of and dependency on the so-called ‘informal sector’, Waste Worlds argues, is how disposability takes place not simply as exclusion, but as a form of injurious inequitable inclusion in contemporary urban space.
Learn more about Waste Worlds at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Steven L. Goldman's "Science Wars"

Steven L. Goldman is Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, Emeritus, at Lehigh University. He earned a BS in physics from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn and an MA and PhD in philosophy from Boston University. For two years, he taught at the Graduate Faculty of The New School for Social Research before becoming Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Pennsylvania State University. He taught logic and the history and philosophy of science and co-founded the STS Program at Penn State. He then moved to Lehigh where he held the Mellon Professorship for 39 years prior to his recent retirement.

Goldman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Science Wars: The Battle over Knowledge and Reality, and reported the following:
Page 99 uses Linnaeus' extremely influential system for classifying plants to illustrate my thesis that from its seventeenth century beginning, modern science incorporates an unresolved conflict between theories as interpretations of experience or accounts of reality.The difference is profound, especially with respect to the public's understanding of scientific knowledge claims with respect to public policies. The discussion of Linnaeus is one example of this with respect to taxonomies, which are employed at some point in all the sciences. Linnaeus was heir to a century-long debate among naturalists as to whether taxonomies of plants and animals could be 'natural", that is, could uniquely correspond to the way things were in nature, or whether they were only conventional, useful ways for us to organize available data, thus multiple and subject to change. On page 99 I explain that Linnaeus was deeply committed to formulating a natural taxonomy of plants, but ultimately was forced to acknowledge that his beautiful system (still in use today) was only conventional. I use an analogy with books to make the issue clear. Is there one correct way to classify a collection of books? Obviously, not. So why do scientists persist in seeking the one correct way to organize empirical data?

(2) Opening my book to page 99 will give a browser a good idea of what this book is about as well as the historical approach I adopt, using concrete examples, of which there are scores, from Plato to Quantum Field Theory.

(3) The test works as a window opened onto the central argument of the book, but, understandably, it gives only a partial view. From the beginning of the book, I use the words and ideas of scientists themselves to show how conflicted they are over the question of what the object of scientific theories is: experience or reality. From the seventeenth century to the present, scientists have known, intellectually, that it is logically impossible to prove that any theory corresponds to reality, no matter how many experiments confirm its predictions. Nevertheless, psychologically they seem unable to refrain from claiming that experimental confirmation "proves' that a theory does correspond to reality. This is just as true of the relativity and quantum theories as of Newton's theories of light and graviy. Through its examples, the book shows that scientists have been aware of this overestimation of scientific knowledge claims for centuries and have swept it under the rug, so to speak, in the face of increasingly strident criticism, climaxing in the Science Wars of the 1980s and '90s.
Learn more about Science Wars at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Neil Richards's "Why Privacy Matters"

Neil Richards is one of the world's leading experts in privacy law, information law, and freedom of expression. He holds the Koch Distinguished Professorship at Washington University School of Law, where he co-directs the Cordell Institute for Policy in Medicine & Law. He is also an affiliate scholar with the Stanford Center for Internet and Society and the Yale Information Society Project, a Fellow at the Center for Democracy and Technology, and a consultant and expert in privacy cases. He is the author of Intellectual Privacy.

Richards applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Why Privacy Matters, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Sometimes there is little or nothing we can do to prevent others from disclosing information about us. This can happen when companies set up pricing systems that rely on information disclosure, like “safe driver” discounts for car insurance contingent on your agreeing to have a black-box data controller in your car, especially if such boxes were to become standard in passenger cars. Or when your child’s school decides to use a “learning management system” or other software that has privacy practices only the school can agree to. Or when a company voluntarily discloses data it collected about you to the government. Or when someone discloses their genetic data to a company, which, since blood relatives have very high genetic similarities, means they have also shared sensitive information about their close family members.

This last example is how the notorious murderer and rapist known as the Golden State Killer was caught in 2018, using data from GEDMatch, a basic Florida website that allowed people to upload their genetic profiles to help with genealogical searches and filling in blank spots in family trees. Police took old genetic material from crime scenes and uploaded the sequenced genome to GEDMatch. That produced a pool of potential relatives of the killer, which the police used to identify Joseph James DeAngelo, a seventy-two-year-old man living in Citrus Heights, California. (They also confirmed his identity using DNA of his on a tissue they found in his trash, but that’s a different privacy issue.) And while it might be hard to muster too much sympathy for the privacy travails of a serial killer, the Golden State Killer example nicely illustrates how such privacy unraveling could also be used to reveal paternity, disposition to genetically linked diseases like breast cancer, and many other facts about us that (unlike being a serial killer) are no fault of our own. Perhaps even more important, the phenomenon of unraveling happens entirely outside the realm of consent, a gap in consent that is just further evidence that Privacy as Control cannot bear the tremendous weight that has been placed on it.

The limitations of Privacy as Control are thus numerous. Simple to state and noble in theory, it nevertheless operates in practice as a smokescreen under which companies control humans rather than humans controlling their data.
If someone were to open my book Why Privacy Matters randomly to page 99, they would get an excellent idea of what my book is about – and of why privacy matters! My book is about privacy, about human information, and about how our information confers power over us. To put it simply, privacy matters because in an information society, privacy is power. Privacy advocates, lawmakers, and even companies have argued for many years that the best way to protect privacy is to put us in control of our privacy by giving us choices about how our information is used. But in Why Privacy Matters, I show how control is an illusion in our modern, networked world. Thinking about privacy as control might seem great in the abstract, but in practice it is overwhelming, with innumerable choices about privacy for every one of the dozens of digital services and hundreds of websites the typical consumer uses or visits in a year. And on page 99, I argue that even if we could somehow solve the problem of overwhelming control, control is insufficient to protect our privacy because other people’s choices can affect what people know or do with our information. The example of the use of leaked DNA data to catch the Golden State Killer is one example of how other people’s choices about information can affect us, though there are many others. Instead of treating privacy as merely an individual value that can be bartered or frittered away by individuals, we need to recognize that the set of rules we put in place for how our human information is collected and used has social consequences for the society that we – and our children and grandchildren – will inhabit. We need better privacy rules, ones that advance the human values of letting us develop our political and personal identities as humans, securing our political and democratic freedoms as citizens, and protecting us as consumers and full members of the digital economy and society.
Learn more about Why Privacy Matters at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 27, 2021

Paul R. Deslandes's "The Culture of Male Beauty in Britain"

Paul R. Deslandes is Professor and Chair of the Department of History at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Oxbridge Men: British Masculinity and the Undergraduate Experience, 1850-1920 and of the Great Courses lecture series and short book titled Notorious London: A City Tour. He has also published multiple essays and articles on the history of education, masculinity, sexuality, fashion, hair, and dress and written on higher education pedagogy. His interests in beauty have led him to an editorial role overseeing a multivolume collection (for Bloomsbury) titled A Cultural History of Beauty. Deslandes is currently at work on a new book that examines transatlantic architectural and design exchanges between Britain and North America between the 1870s and the present.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Culture of Male Beauty in Britain: From the First Photographs to David Beckham, and reported the following:
Page 99 comes about a third of the way into the project’s third chapter, which is titled “Artists, Athletes, and Celebrities.” It is here that I examine how racial scientists, artists, and ardent physical culturists sought to define not only a particular vision of muscular and youthful manhood but also the peculiar abilities that late Victorian and Edwardian Britons thought they possessed to assess, judge, and categorize it. More specifically, page 99 discusses the important role that the painter Henry Scott Tuke (1858-1929) played in the culture of male beauty when he captured youthfulness, litheness, and Whiteness in his depictions of sailors and young men swimming off the Cornish coast. On this page, I focus on both reviews of his work and the ways in which certain same-sex desiring men like John Addington Symonds saw, within his canvases, great aesthetic potential. A full one half of my page 99 is taken up by a Tuke photograph of two unidentified male nudes on a beach.

In my own assessment of how the “Page 99 Test” holds up in my book, I would say, fair-to-middling. The project, which chronicles the history of male beauty, male body aesthetics, and male grooming and adornment from the rise of photography in the 1840s right up to the present, is concerned with documenting the influence that individuals, like Tuke, had in articulating standards of attractiveness and encouraging Britons to be active and informed consumers of the male nude. In this way, page 99 captures an important goal of the project: to illustrate the global reach of British artistic and body culture and to showcase how representations of certain physical types informed the complex racial histories and attitudes that characterized imperial Britain. Page 99 also contains a reference to a Cadbury’s Cocoa advertisement, highlighting the role that the beautiful male face and body played in commodity culture from the Victorian era on. The photograph that takes up fifty percent of the page’s space tellingly highlights the project’s great reliance on visual culture and visual sources in narrating this revealing history.

Despite the considerable insights about my book that might be gleaned from a quick glance at page 99, some topics are left unnoted. Not present on this page is the book’s prolonged emphasis on the role that good looks played in creating commercial or professional advantages in Britain’s capitalist society or the relationship that existed between grooming, attractiveness, and the rise of the modern psychological self. Also not evidently displayed on page 99 are personal accounts of grooming rituals, articulations of sexual desire, or aesthetic responses. Absent in the book, though, they are not. These are documented in the many places where I focus on letters, diaries, and, most interestingly, data gathered by organizations like Mass Observation (in the 1930s-1940s and, again from the 1980s) and projects like the National Lesbian and Gay Survey (in the 1980s-2000s). Intended to tell this story from multiple perspectives, The Culture of Male Beauty in Britain reminds readers not only that beauty matters but also that, when its history is uncovered, it is anything but skin deep.
Learn more about The Culture of Male Beauty in Britain at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Rashmi Sadana's "The Moving City"

Rashmi Sadana is Associate Professor of Anthropology at George Mason University and author of English Heart, Hindi Heartland: The Political Life of Literature in India.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Moving City: Scenes from the Delhi Metro and the Social Life of Infrastructure, and reported the following:
I think readers would get a fairly good idea of The Moving City by flipping (or scrolling) to page 99, which is a little less than halfway through the book. Page 99 does reveal the book’s style (accessible, first-person narrative), its main themes (metro/subway systems, the everyday life of city-dwellers, the impact of infrastructure on the urban landscape), and the “quality of the whole” (to quote Ford Madox Ford). Page 99 takes the reader into the home of Delhi’s former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who was in office during the building of the first three phases of the Delhi Metro (the first multiline metro system in South Asia). She gives a view from above about the political wrangling involved in the project and the need the city had for this kind of transport. Yet this page also contains an intimate look at a politician at the end of her career, surrounded by aides and suffering from various forms of loss.

What page 99 does not show readers is how The Moving City is mostly about the people who ride the Metro and how the system has affected their daily itineraries, their sense of place, and their broader aspirations in life. It’s mostly a book about different forms and intersections of social mobility through the prism of transport. My interview with Sheila Dikshit on page 99 reflects the parts of the book where I talk to politicians, urban planners, and architects in order to understand their involvement with the making of the Metro and their ideas about the city and its development. It’s a key part of the book, but not the only part. What readers also might miss by only reading page 99 is that the book is told as a series of ethnographic vignettes, very short stories or scenes, each ranging from a paragraph to a few pages in length. The 75 vignettes that make up the book are interlinked, but I tell readers in the introduction that they could read them in or out of order. The Moving City is a set of narratives, but the book also questions the linear narratives of stories, lives, ideas of progress, and the meaning of Delhi’s Metro. The form of the book mimics the starts and stops of the Metro itself. Readers get taken on a ride, in a sense!
Learn more about The Moving City at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 24, 2021

Ellen Schrecker's "The Lost Promise"

Ellen Schrecker is a retired professor of history at Yeshiva University and the author of numerous books, including No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America, and The Lost Soul of Higher Education: Corporatization, the Assault on Academic Freedom, and the End of the American University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, The Lost Promise: American Universities in the 1960s, and reported the following:
If the book’s readers reach page 99, they will have read only 28.7% of The Lost Promise. It’s a long book, but page 99, which deals with the immediate aftermath of the 1964 Free Speech crisis at Berkeley, comes at a major turning point in the story of how American higher education coped with the social and political upheavals of the 1960s.

The Berkeley Free Speech Movement was the first and most well-known student protest of the entire decade. It provided a foretaste of what was to come – students taking over a campus building to protest an official policy and an administration under outside pressure calling in the police. As page 99 shows, some of Berkeley’s eminent, yet confused, professors first voted to support the students and then had second thoughts. Those regrets presage the academic community’s internal conflicts over the campus unrest of the late 1960s and early 1970s that constitute a central theme of The Lost Promise.

Ten years ago when I began to work on this book, I did not plan to write the first comprehensive account of the most turbulent moment in the history of American higher education. My original project was a short quasi-memoir about my own cohort of faculty activists in the 1960s. But I could not tell my people’s story without explaining how the academy handled the two main challenges of the sixties: its own massive expansion and the social and political ferment sweeping through the rest of the country.

As America’s public colleges and universities doubled and tripled in size, they sought to provide a low-cost, high-quality college education to all students able to take advantage of it. That mission changed the culture of academe -- not only because of the previously excluded students and teachers surging onto the campus, but also because of the newfound emphasis on research imposed by almost every school.

The conflicts these changes produced were exacerbated by the social and political turmoil of the sixties. From the start colleges and universities were pulled into the struggles for racial equality and against the Vietnam War. In fact, many of those struggles began or intensified on the nation’s campuses. As the student unrest spread from top-tier institutions to lesser-known ones, professors and administrators found themselves blindsided by the totally unprecedented challenges they faced.

Because of the negative publicity the protests attracted, the public’s support for America’s once highly respected institutions declined. Buffeted by the economic crises of the late 1960s and 1970s, increasingly hostile lawmakers ended their previously unlimited generosity to their states’ colleges and universities. The 1960s’ bright promise of near-universal public higher education disappeared. We feel that loss to this day.
Learn more about The Lost Promise at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Thomas M. Truxes's "The Overseas Trade in British America"

Thomas M. Truxes is Clinical Professor of Irish Studies and History at New York University. He is the author of Irish-American Trade, 1660–1783 and Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York, among other books.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Overseas Trade of British America: A Narrative History, and reported the following:
There are many moving parts to the story of America’s colonial trade. Some relate to particular circumstances that transformed England from a peripheral second-rate kingdom into a major European military and commercial power in the sixteenth century. Others relate to the emergence of pockets of sustainable but fragile commercial activity in England’s geographically diverse American settlements. Still others touch on European rivalries that spilled into North American and West Indian waters and shaped the infant American economy. There are many more, of course, but it is this last point that is illustrated on page 99 of The Overseas Trade of British America: A Narrative History.

On display there is the moment in May 1655 when England’s Puritan army, emboldened by victory in the English Civil War, was routed by the Spanish defenders of Hispaniola. Much humbled, English troops succeeded in establishing a foothold on a smaller nearby island, Jamaica. The English presence in the Western Caribbean had enormous consequences for British America. It was through Kingston and other Jamaican ports that merchants in the northern colonies tapped into the river of silver that flowed out of the mines of Mexico and Peru into the Spanish treasury in Seville. With Jamaica as a jumping off point, North American ship captains in the eighteenth century became adept at dodging watchful Spanish guarda costas and circumventing the rigid trade barriers constructed by policy-makers in Madrid to block access by interlopers to the markets and resources of the Spanish Main.

In The Overseas Trade of British America, readers will learn how this casual disregard for international borders—when opportunity beckoned—became a characteristic feature of colonial trade. They will also see creative American entrepreneurship in action and learn how men and women of modest means could leverage small amounts of capital and participate in commerce with a global reach. It was a feat rarely matched elsewhere. They will discover, as well, how the light hand of British regulation (in the form of the Navigation Acts) fostered efficiency and competition until the tightening grip of London’s regulatory regime—beginning in 1763 following the end of the Seven Years’ War—ignited a flame of resistance that led to revolution and independence. Most significantly, they will see how both the Atlantic slave trade and the labor of enslaved African captives were connected to every aspect of colonial trade and, by extension, early American society.
Visit Thomas M. Truxes's website.

The Page 99 Test: Defying Empire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Erik Bleich and A. Maurits van der Veen's "Covering Muslims"

Erik Bleich is Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science at Middlebury College. He is the author, editor, or co-editor of several books, including The Freedom to Be Racist? How the United States and Europe Struggle to Preserve Freedom and Combat Racism (2011). A. Maurits van der Veen is Associate Professor of Government at William & Mary. He is the author of Ideas, Interests and Foreign Aid (2011), which examines the framing of spending on foreign populations by European politicians.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Covering Muslims: American Newspapers in Comparative Perspective, and reported the following:
Flipping through our book and landing on page 99, a reader will find four mini-figures and no text. While this is (thankfully) very unusual compared to the rest of our book, this page represents core elements of our project in important ways. Like a heart monitor, these four figures show the pace of articles mentioning Muslims or Islam published every day from 1996 through 2016 in the United States, Britain, Canada, and Australia. The rate is uniformly low through September 11, 2001, at which point it spikes three or four-fold. It subsides within a few months of that momentous day, but never recedes to its pre-9/11 level.

Page 99 thus encapsulates one part of a much larger story: Since 9/11, coverage of Muslims and Islam has become a much more prominent part of national media discussions in the United States and around the world. It also conveys the data-forward nature of our book. Many authors have written on media portrayals of Muslims, but our goal in this book was to analyze literally millions of articles using big data approaches. We use these techniques to compare coverage across countries on page 99; in other chapters we look more closely at US coverage of Muslims in relation to groups as diverse as Catholics, Jews, Hindus, African Americans, Latinos, Mormons, and atheists. The Ford Madox Ford-inspired Page 99 Test thus reveals a key element of our book, but leaves out many equally important aspects of this comparative project.

Our data-centric perspective shows more clearly than any previous study the extreme negativity of Muslim articles in the US and foreign media. We also demonstrate just how consequential this is through an experiment. We ask survey respondents to rate articles with different tone scores. This revealed that readers can indeed tell that coverage of Muslims is more negative than the average US newspaper article. Stories in the United States and in other developed democracies are so negative, in fact, that we urge readers to “tone-check” the media—in other words, to develop the habit of asking as you read them whether stories are more negative than they need to be. News consumers can thus counteract reflexive negativity through a conscious skepticism about the tone of coverage. Tone-checking helps challenge Islamophobia and other forms of subconscious bias that are reinforced by the words we read every day in the media.
Learn more about Covering Muslims at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Erik Bleich's The Freedom to Be Racist?.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Laura A. Henry and Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom's "Bringing Global Governance Home"

Laura A. Henry is a Professor in the Department of Government and Legal Studies at Bowdoin College. Her research investigates Russia's post-Soviet politics, focusing on state society relations, NGOs, and social movements. She is the author of Red to Green: Environmental Activism in Post-Soviet Russia and the co-editor of Russian Civil Society: A Critical Assessment. Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom is a Professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia. She is co-author of Courting Gender Justice: Russia, Turkey, and the European Court of Human Rights, author of Funding Civil Society: Foreign Assistance and NGO Development in Russia, and the co-editor of Russian Civil Society: A Critical Assessment as well as Global Commons, Domestic Decisions: The Comparative Politics of Climate Change.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Bringing Global Governance Home: NGO Mediation in the BRICS States, and reported the following:
Page 99 falls near the end of Chapter 3, our first case study chapter in which we examine the participation of NGOs from BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in the UNFCCC climate talks as well as the NGOs’ engagement with domestic climate politics. In that chapter, we offer a detailed comparison of how Chinese and Russian NGOs act as mediators in climate politics between the domestic and international spheres. The chapter fleshes out the main argument of the book, which is that a state’s global governance commitments remain meaningless unless there is an active effort to implement them back in the home country, and that NGOs can play a key role in navigating across levels of politics to engage in norm promotion, advocacy, and monitoring. However, features of the domestic political system will shape NGOs’ ability to effectively mediate.

The page 99 test works quite well for our book as the material on the page intersects with some key themes and findings. First, we show that there is stronger Chinese NGO engagement than Russian NGO engagement in domestic and international climate policy-making, which some may consider paradoxical given China’s more fully authoritarian political system. Second, we find that Chinese NGO modes of engagement are more cooperative with government actors than oppositional (in contrast to Russia), and this arguably has allowed NGOs a more influential role in policy. Third, we illustrate how domestic and international opportunities for NGO engagement interact in a given political system. China's domestic climate policy, focused on low-emissions technologies and increasing energy efficiency measures, has developed rapidly, starting with the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-2011). Domestic policy shifts then paved the way for Chinese NGOs to participate in global climate advocacy. Finally, the controversial concept of “environmental authoritarianism” is mentioned on page 99 as one means of achieving climate policy effectiveness.

However, a reader encountering only page 99 would be missing a number of important elements of the book as whole. For example, on page 99 the reader will discover supporting evidence for our argument, but little of our theoretical framework. Our key term “mediation” does not appear on the page, nor do our three “mediation dilemmas” for NGOs – the dilemmas of representation, autonomy, and rule flexibility – that we use as framing concepts in the book, although these terms do appear on the next page. In addition, if reading page 99 only, a reader would think this book was about China and Russia and would think it focused only on climate change as an issue, whereas our other chapters examine additional global governance policy areas (HIV/AIDS, sustainable forestry, and corporate social responsibility) with different in-depth country cases (including Brazil, India, and South Africa).
Learn more about Bringing Global Governance Home at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 20, 2021

Mark Tushnet and Bojan Bugarič's "Power to the People"

Mark Tushnet is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law emeritus at Harvard Law School. Before teaching at Harvard, he was a Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin Law School and Georgetown University Law Center. Bojan Bugarič is Professor of Law at Sheffield University, School of Law. Before teaching at Sheffield, he was a Professor of Law at the University of Ljubljana, School of Law.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Power to the People: Constitutionalism in the Age of Populism, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Power to the People discusses controversial developments in Polish and Hungarian constitutionalism under the leadership of the current governments, typically described as right-wing populist regimes. The page describes the techniques the governments used to “pack” the courts, including lowering the mandatory retirement age to force sitting judges out of office. It outlines the rather weak arguments available to the governments – mostly that sitting judges were too inclined to be sympathetic to the repudiated legacy of Communism. Finally, it connects these policies with a more defensible argument for court reform when a government comes into office with a comprehensive reform agenda and finds itself obstructed, or likely to be obstructed, by existing judges (or other “veto gates” in the constitutional system).

Page 99 captures one of our book’s themes: that we have to pay attention to the details of specific forms that populism takes if we’re to understand the relation between populism and constitutionalism. Populists “as such” aren’t always opposed to a thin but sensible definition of constitutionalism. They sometimes object to specific constitutional arrangements that block their ability to implement the programs they were elected to promote. In general we should evaluate the proposed constitutional revisions – such as court-packing or extension of presidential terms – by asking whether their adoption would make it easier to enact good programs (without making it easier as well to enact bad ones). We support this argument with a fair number of case studies of what populists have done when in power or as part of governing coalitions in Europe and Latin America, bringing together developments often treated only by specialists in each region. The scope of our case studies is one of the book’s important and distinctive features.

We argue that populists do often challenge existing constitutionally entrenched provisions, but aren’t “anti-institutional” in a general sense. We think that empowered democracy is more attractive than most of the alternatives on offer, such as technocratic governance, a libertarian-motivated reduction in the scope of government, or a continuation of existing, often gridlocked constitutional arrangements. We conclude the book with a discussion of what “power to the people” looks like in terms of institutions such as referendums, citizens assemblies, and deliberative polling. We think that the vision of such new institutions is quite attractive, and hope that their role in governance will continue to expand.
Learn more about Power to the People at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Mark Tushnet's Taking Back the Constitution.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Emily Greble's "Muslims and the Making of Modern Europe"

Emily Greble is Associate Professor of History and Russian and East European Studies at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of Sarajevo, 1941-1945: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Hitler's Europe.

Greble applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Muslims and the Making of Modern Europe, and reported the following:
Readers who open to page 99 of Muslims and the Making of Modern Europe will find themselves in the Balkans in the middle of World War I. The page opens with some of the insults, injuries, and pernicious prejudices that Muslim Europeans experienced during World War I and closes with a discussion of how some Muslim leaders in the Habsburg empire wrestled with what loyalty, citizenship and homeland meant. The page begins midway into a discussion about Muslim soldiers in the Serbian, Austro-Hungarian, and Montenegrin armies, describing how some commanders and institutions treated Muslims with suspicion, loyalty tests, and discrimination, while others saw Muslims as an important part of the citizenry. The middle of the page focuses on a particularly heinous episode in which Bosnian Muslim citizens of Austria-Hungary were imprisoned as traitors in the notorious Habsburg military prison, Arad, and were forced to eat pork and lard and were denied the right to practice their religious duties. Those who died were buried in Christian cemeteries with crosses erected on the graves. Furious, Muslim leaders in Bosnia questioned their place and their security in what had been their homeland for generations. Was feeding Muslim prisoners pork and burying them in Christian cemeteries a sign of Islamophobia, proselytization, or ignorance? This is a question that Muslim leaders are grappling with as readers turn the page and continue into the next part of the book. And it’s a question that Muslim activists, religious leaders, and citizens across Europe would continue to ask through the twentieth century.

The Page 99 test works!

The book asks readers to abandon their assumptions about Muslims in Europe by analyzing European history through the experiences and stories of indigenous Muslim communities. So many conversations about Muslims in Europe begin with the false idea that Muslims, categorically, are foreigners, migrants, guest workers, or refugees in Europe. These attitudes ignore the many Muslims living, working in, fighting for, and participating in European societies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This passage reminds us that Muslim citizens have a long history in Europe. It also draws attention to some of the difficulties and challenges Muslims faced. They fought in European armies and lived in European societies, but they were consistently treated as second- or third-class citizens who needed to prove their loyalty. To this end, it shows how Europe’s Christian identity was (and is) continually imposed on different confessional communities, often in offensive ways. What page 99 doesn’t capture is the extraordinary change over time from 1878 to the post-World War II era, when Muslim leaders and civil lawmakers negotiated a whole set of questions on how law and society would operate in formerly Ottoman Europe. But it nevertheless gives readers a glimpse of the balance between loyalty, service, betrayal, patriotism, fidelity, secular and religious community building, law and legal rights that characterized the Muslim experience of Europe not only during the First World War but throughout the modern period.
Follow Emily Greble on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Robert Asen's "School Choice and the Betrayal of Democracy"

Robert Asen is Stephen E. Lucas Professor of Rhetoric, Politics, and Culture at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is the author of numerous books, including Democracy, Deliberation, and Education.

Asen applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, School Choice and the Betrayal of Democracy: How Market-Based Education Reform Fails Our Communities, and reported the following:
Although it does not tell the whole story, page 99 of my book School Choice and the Betrayal of Democracy: How Market-Based Education Reform Fails Our Communities reveals important aspects of the push to reform public education in terms of the market. On this page, I begin a discussion of how former US Education Secretary DeVos argued for private school vouchers by contending that this option would advance civil rights by giving more choices to low-income families and families of color. However, even as she raised the important issue of educational inequality, Secretary DeVos discussed this issue in strictly individualistic terms. She did not acknowledge the larger structures that sustain unequal opportunities and disparate educational experiences for diverse children across the nation.

Debates over US public education have always broached broader topics about the values we want children to learn, the identities we construct for ourselves and others, the relationships we experience and imagine, and the future of ourselves, our communities, and our nation. In School Choice and the Betrayal of Democracy, I consider the prospects for vibrant public discourses for a democratic education in an era of expanding education markets and local modes of resistance. In the contemporary United States, a coalition of politicians, private foundation officers, business executives, academics, and others have argued that education works best when subjected to market rules that force schools to compete for students and position families as consumers. Against these pressures, networks of grassroots advocates have retorted that only public action for public schools can foster vibrant relationships that position public schools as keystones of local communities. These grassroots advocates have asserted an essential, multilayered relationship of education and democracy.

My book explores market-based and democratic visions of education over a series of case studies. I begin by considering the work of John Dewey and Milton Friedman and Rose Friedman as conceptual case studies, respectively, of democratically oriented and market-oriented visions of education. I then turn to the advocacy of former Education Secretary DeVos, who emerged as a high-profile critic of public education and an enthusiastic supporter of technological innovation directed toward expanding education markets. At the state level, I investigate legislative efforts in Wisconsin to implement publicly funded vouchers to support private education markets. I conclude with interviews of local grassroots advocates for public education in Wisconsin, who explain the importance of relating and critically engaging education, democracy, and community.

Exploring different visions of education, I argue that public schools need democratic communities, and democratic communities need public schools.
Learn more about School Choice and the Betrayal of Democracy at the Penn State University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 17, 2021

Kai Arne Hansen's "Pop Masculinities"

Kai Arne Hansen is Associate Professor of Music in the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences. He is co-editor of On Popular Music and Its Unruly Entanglements (2019, with Nick Braae) and Popular Musicology and Identity: Essays in Honour of Stan Hawkins (2020, with Eirik Askerøi and Freya Jarman), and he currently serves as editor-in-chief of the Norwegian Journal of Musicology. His research spans the topics of popular music and identity, gender and sexuality, contemporary media, audiovisual aesthetics, and children's musical cultures.

Hansen applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Pop Masculinities: The Politics of Gender in Twenty-First Century Popular Music, and reported the following:
Pop Masculinities investigates the many ways in which gender identity is inflected through pop performances. Page 99 takes us to the final two paragraphs of the conclusion of Chapter 3, which addresses Lil Nas X’s musical eclecticism and queer iconography in relation to racialized genre boundaries:
His example demonstrates the potential of pop culture for fostering and promoting what [Roderick] Ferguson has described as “historical evidence of queer and trans capacities to think and live beyond the gender, sexual, racial, and class prescriptions of the world that we have inherited” (2019, 7). Ferguson is concerned with the historical importance of activist groups for the advancement of intersectional and multidimensional queer struggles, but the argument is readily extended to encompass the significance of pop personae as cultural validations of marginalized subject positions. If, as Ferguson suggests, dominant interpretations of the struggle for gay rights as single-mindedly focused on sexual freedom have “helped to conceal the historical and political complexity of queer liberation” (8), Lil Nas X has brought renewed attention to the intersectional politics of queer pop expressions.

I want to conclude by restating the point that the black cowboy masculinity and country trap aesthetics that Lil Nas X presents in Old Town Road reinstate the black cowboy figure within American history and raise public consciousness about the role of African American performers in the development of country music. As an avenue of cultural resistance this process is closely entwined with his queering of cowboy imagery across a range of contexts, which reframes the movie by encouraging queer readings. In this way, the masculine configurations that are highlighted in Lil Nas X’s creative output make visible the gendered, racial, and sexual diversities that are suppressed in dominant accounts of the past, not to mention the present and the future.
This excerpt does indeed shed some light on how pop artists’ representations of identity are implicated in broader cultural circumstances and developments, in the sense that pop performances are simultaneously influenced by and have influence on the societies of which they form part. Inquiring into this state of affairs through the lens of masculinity engenders critique of pop music’s role in constricting and expanding possible ways of expressing and experiencing gender. The performative force of the creative employment of musical sound is at the core of these processes, even if the meanings attributed to songs and music videos must be understood as intimately connected with the artist’s articulation of identity through other channels (artwork, interviews, social media +++) and shaped by audiences’ subjective interpretations of the wealth of material that is available to them. While the content on page 99 does hint at the complexity of studying the performance and reception of masculinity in pop music contexts, however, it does not fully reveal my two principal ambitions for the book: 1) that it further denaturalizes gender by explicating various relationships between the aesthetic, discursive, and narrative processes from which representations of gender identity emerge; and 2) that it highlights the ways in which enactments of gender in pop tend to ambiguously uphold and subvert social norms and divisions. The critical study of gender is as important as ever during a period of time that is considered by many as characterized by significant upheaval or positive social change, given that conservative gender ideology and its attendant power relations have the capacity to persist even within seemingly new cultural paradigms. My hope is that Pop Masculinities provides readers with new insights into the chaotic state of gender politics in our time and encourages them to consider how music is implicated in their own understandings and experiences of gender.
Learn more about Pop Masculinities at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 16, 2021

John Heil's "Appearance in Reality"

John Heil is professor of philosophy at Washington University in St Louis and at Durham University, and an Honorary Research Associate at Monash University. He works primarily on topics in metaphysics and the philosophy of mind and is author of a number of books, including The Universe as We Find It (2012), From an Ontological Point of View (2003), Philosophy of Mind: A Contemporary Introduction (2012), The Nature of True Minds (Cambridge, 1992), and Perception and Cognition (1983).

Heil applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Appearance in Reality, and reported the following:
In addition to a typo (a missing period in line 30), page 99 of Appearance in Reality contains a portion of a discussion of primary and secondary qualities, focusing on colour. Taken by itself, the discussion is inconclusive, but it plays a part in a chapter devoted to a defence of the identification of mental states with physical states of conscious agents. The discussion is representative of a style of argument that runs throughout the book, a style that places a premium on clarity and ontological candour.

This approach to metaphysics reflects the influence of J. J. C. (Jack) Smart, David Armstrong, E. J. (Jonathan) Lowe, and most of all, C. B. (Charlie) Martin, all of whom, as Charlie would have put it, lived their philosophical convictions, and Keith Campbell who continues to live his. The idea is that you do not understand a metaphysical thesis unless you can feel its visceral pull. If it exerts no pull, it is unworthy of attention.

The book is meant to draw readers into the examination of metaphysical themes that, if we are honest, force themselves on us and refuse to go away. The guiding question concerns the relation the appearances – the ways tables, rabbits, scanning electron microscopes, and distant galaxies appear to us – bear to reality. All of us, you and I and scientists deploying sophisticated instruments in their laboratories, rely on the appearances to provide access to what there is. Too often, however, what the sciences, and especially physics, tell us about reality belies the appearances.

The passage on page 99 figures in a discussion of the coloured appearances of objects. Are the colours we experience in the objects or in us? If, as many suppose, they are in us, would that locate us, or our minds, apart from the physical universe? If that strikes you as objectionable, what are the options? Appearance in Reality offers an answer.
Learn more about Appearance in Reality at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Carl R. Weinberg's "Red Dynamite"

Carl R. Weinberg is Adjunct Associate Professor of History and Senior Lecturer in the College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University Bloomington. He is the author of Labor, Loyalty, and Rebellion.

Weinberg applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Red Dynamite: Creationism, Culture Wars, and Anticommunism in America, and reported the following:
A reader opening Red Dynamite to page 99 would get a good idea of the book as a whole. On that page, I begin my discussion of Mordecai Ham, Jr. (1877–1961), a Christian fundamentalist preacher who linked evolution, communism, and an alleged international Jewish conspiracy during the 1920s. Since the book is devoted to tracing this kind of thinking throughout the twentieth century, Ham is pretty representative of the cast of characters I cover. Ham is lesser known than fellow fundamentalists Gerald Winrod, J. Frank Norris and William Bell Riley (who I write about earlier in the chapter). If people have heard of Ham, it’s probably because he converted a young Billy Graham to the cause of Christ.

In some ways, Ham was a typical fire-breathing fundamentalist. In his sermons during the 1920s, he railed against the fruits of “modernism,” that is, the liberal Christian thinking of the day, as well as taking aim at the young Bolshevik Revolution. According to Ham, Moscow was undermining America by promoting immorality: the “false philosophy of evolution,” the liquor industry, prostitution, dancing, jazz, and Charlie Chaplin movies. Most dangerous was the impact of all this on the nation’s youth. As Ham typically ended his sermons, “The day is not far distant when you will be in the grip of the Red Terror and your children will be taught free love by that damnable theory of evolution.”

In one other way, Ham was atypical: he glommed onto the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Jew-hating conspiracy-mongering fabrication, earlier than those other fundamentalists did. By the mid-1920s, Ham, following Henry Ford, warned that Satan stood behind a communist-Jewish cabal with a “tremendous banking connection” that sought to “demoralize” America, overthrow Christian civilization, equalize wealth, and install the Antichrist as ruler.

Again, this is the preacher who won Billy Graham to Christ in the 1930s. In a number of ways, Graham was a far cry from Mordecai Ham. And yet, see endnote #30 on p. 315 for how at least one recent historian has obscured the possible connection between Ham’s anti-Semitism and Graham’s own ugly views on Jews. Those views emerged in 2009 when new portions of the secretly recorded Nixon tapes were released to the public. Graham can be heard on tape in 1972 blaming Jews in the “Synagogue of Satan” for pornographic literature and “obscene” movies. The truth hurts, but it seems that in some respects, Mordecai Ham’s views lived on through his most famous disciple.
Follow Carl R. Weinberg on Twitter and visit his website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Julia A. Stern's "Bette Davis Black and White"

Julia A. Stern is Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence and professor of English at Northwestern University. She is the author of The Plight of Feeling: Sympathy and Dissent in the Early American Novel and Mary Chesnut’s Civil War Epic.

Stern applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Bette Davis Black and White, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my new study of Bette Davis and American cross racial understanding, Bette Davis Black and White, unfolds an important historical background for my study. It does not, however, refer to Bette Davis herself or the texture of her cross racial collaborations.

Instead, page 99 offers a thick description of the educational and performance background of Black actor and underacknowledged co-star of Davis’s In This Our Life’s Earnest Anderson. This account of Anderson’s dramatic training at Northwestern University and the segregated lives Black students lived in Evanston in the 1930s is the backstory for my focus on Davis’s interactions and co-performances with Black artists. Anderson is hands down the most gifted of Davis’s African American on-screen collaborators who, I argue, constitute a dream team of their own: Hattie McDaniel, Sam McDaniel, Theresa Harris, Eddie Anderson, Matthew Beard, Dolores and Phillip Hurlic, and more.

In This Our Life offers the most powerful case study for my argument about the anti-racist dimensions of Davis’s oeuvre, though she plays a murderous bigot in the picture. In fact, Anderson composed and delivered his own antiracist screed for the end of the film, which earned censorship in Harlem and the South, where his transformative soliloquy from jail is cut. James Baldwin wrote movingly of the picture in The Devil Finds Work, his volume of film criticism, describing viewing the movie on Broadway and 42nd street, uncut, and seeing it in Harlem, where Anderson’s virtuoso performance was deleted.

Bette Davis Black and White is a film history, a study of Davis’s most racially charged pictures, and a personal memoir. I investigate Davis’s progressive racial politics: de-segregating the Hollywood Canteen; entertaining all-Black troops with Hattie McDaniel’s USO company during WWII; participating in Black voluntary associations; and mentoring Black actors. The book takes up Davis’s seemingly incomprehensible Blackface masquerade on her 70th birthday, a photograph of which she includes in her final autobiography and shows on The Tonight Show. I also explore my own coming into racial consciousness as a twelve-year-old Jewish girl in an all-white suburb of Chicago, with Davis’s films as my guide. Bette Davis becomes my lens through which to grapple with the dark and complicated history of racial representation and understanding in the United States in the second half of the 20th century.
Learn more about Bette Davis Black and White at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 13, 2021

Lorien Foote's "Rites of Retaliation"

Lorien Foote is the Patricia & Bookman Peters Professor in History. She joined the faculty at Texas A&M University in 2013 after teaching and researching for thirteen years at the University of Central Arkansas. Her books include The Yankee Plague: Escaped Union Prisoners of War (2016), which was a Choice Outstanding Academic Title, The Gentlemen and the Roughs: Manhood, Honor, and Violence in the Union Army (2010), which was a finalist and honorable mention for the 2011 Lincoln Prize, and Seeking the One Great Remedy: Francis George Shaw and Nineteenth-Century Reform (2003).

Foote applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Rites of Retaliation: Civilization, Soldiers, and Campaigns in the American Civil War, and reported the following:
I have always been a good test taker, so I am not surprised that Rites of Retaliation passes the Page 99 test, although I must admit that it barely passes. On this page I present key evidence for one of the important arguments of the book. A booklover who turned to page 99 would read that during the American Civil War, officials in the Confederate War Department were worried because President Abraham Lincoln had issued an order of retaliation against Confederate soldiers in order to protect freeborn Black Union soldiers from the 54th Massachusetts who had been taken prisoner. In response, these officials decided to change their policy and treat Black men born free in Northern states differently than they treated those who were formerly enslaved.

An important theme of Rites of Retaliation is the story of how Union and Confederate civilian and military officials used a ritual of retaliation that shaped the conduct of military campaigns. I argue that retaliation worked to alter policy and practice during the war, and on page 99 we get a glimpse of a major storyline in the book related to that argument. In the Department of the South, Black Union soldiers conducted raids along the rivers of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. In May 1863, the Confederate Congress issued a retaliation resolution that declared that all Black Union soldiers captured would not be considered legitimate combatants. Rather than being treated as prisoners of war, such soldiers would be turned over to state governments, where presumably they would be sold into slavery or executed. Federal officials believed that the Confederate resolutions violated the international laws of war and responded with a retaliation proclamation demanding that free-born Black soldiers be treated as prisoners of war. The U.S. War Department set aside three Confederate soldiers from South Carolina as hostages and threatened to execute them if Confederate officials did not treat Northern-born Black soldiers as prisoners of war. The Confederate War Department changed its policy, pressuring southern governors not to put on trial captured Black soldiers who had already been turned over to them, placing Black soldiers from northern states who were subsequently captured in military prisons with white prisoners, and delivering free-born Black soldiers for exchange as prisoners of war.

But something critical is missing on page 99, which makes my passing score disappointingly marginal. The word “civilization” is never used. Rites of Retaliation, at its heart, is about the worldview of civilization that Americans shared. It explores the kind of war they wanted to fight, one that separated them from savage peoples through its restraint of violence, its use of customs that stretched back to ancient times, and its confirmation of combatants’ honorable reputation before the world. Retaliation was a ritual they used, drawn from the international customs of war, to address the atrocious acts that seemed to abound during the war and threatened Americans’ view of themselves as civilized. A reader who turned to page 99 would not get a glimpse of the picture I paint throughout the book: of Americans fighting over the very meaning of civilization itself, and who could be included in the civilized world.
Learn more about Rites of Retaliation at the University of North Carolina Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Gentlemen and the Roughs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Matthew Gabriele and David Perry's "The Bright Ages"

Matthew Gabriele is a professor of medieval studies and chair of the department of religion and culture at Virginia Tech. He is the author of the book An Empire of Memory: The Legend of Charlemagne, the Franks, and Jerusalem before the First Crusade, many articles on medieval Europe and the memory of the Middle Ages, and has edited several academic volumes.

David Perry is a journalist, medieval historian, and senior academic advisor in the history department at the University of Minnesota. He was formerly a professor of history at Dominican University. Perry is the author of Sacred Plunder: Venice and the Aftermath of the Fourth Crusade, and his writing on history, disability, politics, parenting, and other topics has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Nation, the Atlantic, and CNN.com, among others.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe, and reported the following:
From page 99:
[The Vikings] traded with the Byzantines and Khazarars, but sometimes went into the region around the Caspian Sea, exchanging their ships for camels, and using those camels to bring their goods on the long journey to Baghdad, where enslaved eunuchs… interpreted for them. These camel-riding Vikings would pretend to be Christian, so as to pay a lesser tax than polytheists….

[But] one of the most disturbing elements of Ibn Fadlan’s encounter [with the Vikings] is his description of the ritual burial of a Rus leader, which focuses on an enslaved girl being drugged, serially raped by the elite men of the group, and then ritually murdered on a ship, next to her master.
In some ways, we couldn’t ask for a better encapsulation of the message of our book. The Bright Ages is about the messiness of history in the European Middle Ages, how people in the past were capable of both wonder and horror - and you see that here in our Chapter 7, with the Vikings.

As the first part of the above quotations shows, they were prodigious travelers who crossed the Atlantic, traded across the Mediterranean, and rode camels all the way into the Islamic Abbasid capital of Baghdad. We have ample sources, such as Ibn Fadlan’s account mentioned above, to explain how and why this all happened. The Vikings are, as we emphasize throughout our book, one example of how medieval Europe was fundamentally permeable - how the peoples within it moved and crossed what we consider today to be such rigid “borders.”

But then the second part of the quotation shows the other side of the coin. The Vikings were a slave society, one built upon violence and human trafficking. A large part of their travel was accompanied by (or predicated upon) raiding, upon suddenly appearing off the coast of settlements, attacking and killing, taking the wealth for their own, and enslaving the survivors (primarily women) to either keep or sell to enrich themselves. For centuries, these raids terrorized most of Europe.

The Bright Ages is about both sides of the coin, about burning back the myth of the “dark ages” with fire. But fire consumes even as it illuminates, destroys even as it protects. Our subjects lived in color and we aim to understand the full spectrum of their humanity - both good and bad.
Visit David M. Perry's website and Matthew Gabriele's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 11, 2021

J. Griffith Rollefson's "Critical Excess"

J. Griffith Rollefson is professor of music at University College Cork, National University of Ireland, and the author of Flip The Script: European Hip Hop and the Politics of Postcoloniality, (winner of the Society for Ethnomusicology’s Ruth Stone Book Prize), founding co-editor of the journal Global Hip Hop Studies (with University of Cape Town’s Adam Haupt), and Principal Investigator of the five-year, €2m European Research Council initiative CIPHER: Hip Hop Interpellation, which is mapping hip hop knowledge flows on six continents (2019-2024).

Rollefson applied the “Page 99 Test” to his newest book, Critical Excess: Watch the Throne and the New Gilded Age, and reported the following:
The first thing that strikes me in looking back at page 99 [inset below left; click to enlarge] of my new book is that I’m thankful it presents Kanye West in all his controversial “asshole one-percenter” glory. The book is called Critical Excess: Watch the Throne and the New Gilded Age and is my provocative close reading of Jay Z and Kanye West’s 2011 "luxury rap” album, Watch the Throne. When I started writing the book in the disorienting wake of Trumpism and Brexit in 2016, I had no idea that Kanye would end up as a MAGA fanboy. Since publication earlier this year I’ve been worried that the book would be misread as some sort of apologia for Kanye’s increasingly questionable and reactionary politics—which, if you read it closely, was never my point. It was nice to revisit this page where I make my core argument about the album’s historical importance, but do it in a way that also reflects all its ugliness and ambivalence.

A big part of Critical Excess’s argument is that on the album Jay and Ye systematically offended white bourgeois sensibilities—and did so to such an excessive degree that Watch the Throne became a tipping point in white resentment and ultimately led to the backlash election of a known racist, misogynist, and narcissist. In the book, I tell the story of how Obama’s presidency had troubled the unspoken laws of white privilege and how, with this album, Jay and Ye threw gas on the fire—leading directly to Trump’s “birther” candidacy. It may sound like an absurd claim, but I still stand by it: Watch the Throne and its images of unapologetic Black success caused Trump to be elected forty-fifth president of the United States of America.

This brings us to the main idea I’m working with on page 99—that the album plays with and ultimately dismantles “received ideas about Europe and/as nobility.” You’ll get the idea from the excerpt (where Ye proposes that Prince William shack up with some fellow entitled mediocre white people), but suffice it to say, the album makes connections that we’re still blind to—connections captured by Daniel O’Connell’s phrase: “the filthy aristocracy of race” and W.E.B. Du Bois’s prophetic sarcasm about “the obligation of nobility to the ignoble.” Indeed, this is the critique that we have failed to heed ever since Duke Ellington, Lady Day, and Count Basie ran the jewels.
Visit the Critical Excess website.

The Page 99 Test: Flip the Script.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 10, 2021

Peter Irons's "White Men's Law"

Peter Irons is a noted scholar on constitutional law and the acclaimed author of a dozen books on the Supreme Court and famous (and infamous) cases, including Justice at War, that the justices have decided since the Constitution's adoption in 1788. He is Professor of Political Science Emeritus at the University of California-San Diego. As an attorney, he has represented clients in state and federal courts, and is a member of the US Supreme Court Bar. Peter Irons is also a long-time civil rights and antiwar activist.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, White Men's Law: The Roots of Systemic Racism, and reported the following:
I put my book to the Page 99 Test and am pleased to report that it passed, at least in giving a prime example of one of its three main topics, showing how privileged White men have drafted, adopted, interpreted, and enforced laws--from the local to federal levels--designed to keep Black Americans in perpetual subjugation to Whites, even before birth and even after death, in every place that people go and every activity they engage in. In 300 pages, it covers more than four centuries of systemic racism, from the first purchase of kidnapped Africans in Jamestown in 1619, to the murder of George Floyd by a racist cop in Minneapolis in 2020. In painting this historical picture, it singles out and explores significant--but often ignored in American history textbooks--events and people on both sides of our ongoing racial chasm.

Back to page 99, which offers a prime example of how privileged White men in black robes have twisted the Constitution's promise of "the equal protection of the laws" to strike down laws designed to give that protection to Black citizens, in this case the first Civil Rights Act of 1875, the Reconstruction-era law banning racial discrimination in all places of "public accommodation." Ruling in 1883, after Reconstruction was literally buried by White "redeemers" who launched a wave of terror across the South, including thousands of lynchings and dozens of outright massacres of Blacks who dared to vote, the Supreme Court upheld their exclusion from "Whites-only" hotels, restaurants, theaters, and railroad coaches. For context, page 98 includes a patronizing lecture by the Court's majority to Blacks who wanted only to eat, sleep, travel, and be entertained in the same facilities as Whites: "When a man has emerged from slavery," the Court said, there must be some stage in the progress of his elevation when he takes the rank of a mere citizens, and ceases to be a special favorite of the laws." A more hypocritical statement would be hard to fashion. Page 99 includes the reply of the sole dissenter from this racism, Justice John Marshall Harlan. "It is scarcely just," he wrote, "to say that the colored race has been the special favorite of the laws. The statute of 1875, now adjudged to be unconstitutional, is for the benefit of citizens of every race and color." Another century would pass before the last of the Jim Crow laws were "adjudged to be unconstitutional" by a more enlightened bench of White men. But during this century, millions of Black Americans suffered from the "stigma" attached to their skin color, with no regard to "the content of their character," in the prophetic--but still unrealized--words of Rev. Martin Luther King. My accounts of famous--actually infamous--cases like Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson, and others less famous, begin with the stories of Dred and Homer Plessy, putting human faces on the dry pages of judicial opinions. In this respect, page 99 shows readers how White men have subverted the Constitution.

However, the book does much more than exposing the racism of the legal system, even after the historic and almost universally lauded 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. It looks at subsequent decisions in school segregation cases, beginning with the "all deliberate speed" invitation to Southern bigots to delay meaningful integration in Brown II in 1955, resulting in the violent resistance to judicial orders to admit nine Black students to Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. A second theme in the book illustrates in graphic and horrifying detail the extra-legal punishment of Blacks who violated--even accidentally--the power of White men over their lives. The book's Prologue frames the book around the lynching of a young Black man, Rubin Stacy, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1935. Accused of assaulting a White woman in front of her three young children, Stacy was dragged by a deputy sheriff into her back yard, hung by the deputy from a pine-tree limb until his neck snapped, his body then riddled with 17 bullets from lynch mob members and left to hang while dozens of White spectators gathered to gaze at Rubin's blood-stained body. Among those spectators was a seven-year-old girl, captured on film by a news photographer, dressed in virginal white, gazing at the body with an enigmatic expression. What would she pass on from that day to her children, and their children: revulsion or approval of Rubin's murder? The book looks backward in time from that gruesome event to colonial Jamestown and the regime of slavery that endured for 150 years; chapter 2 includes the defenses of slavery by prominent southerners--including John Calhoun and Jefferson Davis--who portrayed their slaves as "happy" and well-cared for by their masters, and the stories of former slaves--recorded in the 1930s--who recounted brutal beatings, even murder, by their masters. One of them, Charlie Moses of Marion County, Mississippi, spoke for all slaves: "Slavery days was bitter and I can't forget the sufferin'. Oh, God! God Almighty never meant for human beings to be like animals. Us Niggers has a soul an' a heart an' a mind. We ain't like a dog or a horse." But slaves had no more rights than dogs or horses.

The book's third theme looks closely in several chapters at the impacts of systemic racism on the Black residents of Detroit over the past century, forced by hostile Whites into overcrowded housing, their children squeezed into resegregated schools, toiling at low-paid menial jobs, denied quality health care, with little chance of escape from generations--centuries, in fact--of poverty. Documenting these damaging conditions, I ask: "If we can't find solutions for Detroit, we can't find them for the nation as a whole."

This is an important and timely book in this period of attacks on teaching the real and disturbing history of American racism, of which most White people are ignorant or indifferent. I'm pleased that Congressman Jamie Raskin (a former constitutional law professor) calls the book "mesmerizing and electrifying" and "achingly poignant," and that Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the UC Berkeley Law School, calls it "stunning" and urges that "at a time when society is trying to confront racial injustices, this beautifully written book is a must read." My challenge: read it and decide for yourself if it gives you a new perspective on America's oldest and most deadly crime against humanity, the racism of White Men's Law.
Learn more about White Men's Law at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue