Friday, August 19, 2022

Kathryn Abrams's "Open Hand, Closed Fist"

Kathryn Abrams is Herma Hill Kay Distinguished Professor of Law at University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

She applied the Page 99 Test to her new book, Open Hand, Closed Fist: Practices of Undocumented Organizing in a Hostile State, and reported the following:
Open Hand, Closed Fist explores the emergence and trajectory of a surprising political movement: a movement populated and led by undocumented immigrants, organizing against Arizona’s fierce campaign of anti-immigrant legislation and enforcement. Based on five years of observation and interviews with activists, the book asks how it was possible to organize and empower a group of participants who lacked any form of legal status, in the face of such concerted state hostility. It identifies three practices used by organizations to achieve these results: experiential storytelling; organizational “emotion cultures,”; and “performative citizenship” (mobilizing undocumented participants through actions or roles culturally associated with citizenship). The book shows how these practices allowed undocumented immigrants to become confident, effective public participants, and enabled the movement to adapt and persist in the face of changing governmental policies.

Page 99 is located in a transitional passage: it comes at the beginning of chapter 4, which moves from the explication of the three practices, to the larger story of change and adaptation. It introduces two campaigns that connected Arizona activists to a national movement and inaugurated new patterns in undocumented organizing. One of these campaigns, the campaign of undocumented youth for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is more familiar; the other, the “Undocubus” – a six-week, cross-country “freedom ride” by a multi-generational group of undocumented activists -- is less well-known. Page 99 describes the national movement-building organizations that helped to connect Arizona activists with the national movement, and introduces a central theme of these campaigns: the increasingly oppositional stance of participants toward the federal government.

Taken at face value, page 99 is not an ideal window on the book: it is a stage-setting passage, awash in logistical detail, that lacks the activist voices that set the tone and carry the narrative for most of the book. But viewed conceptually, this page introduces a pivotal moment for the movement. In this moment, undocumented organizing shifted form and focus, from the cheerful, institutional activism of highly accomplished youth, to a more adversarial, extra-institutional activism that amplified the less familiar voices of undocumented adults, and embraced a posture of frank demand toward a government that had failed in its promises to immigrants.
Learn more about Open Hand, Closed Fist at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Benjamin Parris's "Vital Strife"

Benjamin Parris is Visiting Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

He applied the Page 99 Test to his new book, Vital Strife: Sleep, Insomnia, and the Early Modern Ethics of Care, and reported the following:
Page 99 features some of the central claims animating my book’s third chapter, which discusses the status of sovereign sleep in William Shakespeare’s tragedies of Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear. In all three of these plays, Shakespeare imagines the sleep of the king as a moment of psychic and physiological vulnerability, when the majestic aura of the King’s Two Bodies retreats into a cocoon of slumbering life. Both King Hamlet and King Duncan fall victim to a kind of pestilent nocturnal influence associated with the death-like condition of sleep, while King Lear suffers from a corrosive form of monarchical insomnia that induces a cosmological rage modeled on Seneca’s depiction of the tragic hero, Hercules. In all three of these plays, Shakespeare suggests that sovereign sleep and insomnia are inevitable conditions that not only impinge upon the sovereign’s ability to maintain vigilance and constant care for the kingdom, but also alter the metaphysical bond between body natural and body politic that defines the mystical union of the King’s Two Bodies.

The Page 99 Test seems to work fairly well as a means of getting at some of my book’s core argumentative claims. Vital Strife shows that despite the Renaissance humanist and political-theological suspicion of sleep and related states of careless inattention, early modern writers value sleep’s transformative and restorative powers over mind and body. In doing so, the writers whose works I discuss reveal their indebtedness to cosmological principles associated with ancient Stoic thought and in particular the Stoic literary hero of Seneca’s tragedy, Hercules Furens. These writers envision sleep as a necessary therapy and form of restorative care for the self that attunes the soul to the cosmic motions of life, rebalancing mind and body alike. In this way, the works of literature and philosophy at the heart of my book investigate a uniquely early modern, biopolitical paradox involving the concept of care in relation to self and others: to sleep is the care for the bodily life that sustains waking attention, but only insofar as sleep abandons the forms of wakefulness that promote ethical and spiritual care. The page 99 test reveals how Shakespeare’s tragic drama uses sleep and insomnia in a similar way to reveal the contradictory demands of sovereign care.
Learn more about Vital Strife at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Paul Oyer's "An Economist Goes to the Game"

Paul Oyer is the Mary and Rankine Van Anda Entrepreneurial Professor, professor of economics, and senior associate dean for academic affairs at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Labor Economics.

He applied the Page 99 Test to his new book, An Economist Goes to the Game: How to Throw Away $580 Million and Other Surprising Insights from the Economics of Sports, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book gets into the fine detail of pitch selection in baseball, focusing on who should “call pitches” during a baseball game. For those who are not baseball experts, good pitchers will throw several pitches and part of their success is keeping hitters off balance by changing the speed, placement, and curvature of pitches. A successful pitcher will keep batters off balance so they are more likely to miss when swinging (or to watch a pitch go by altogether). The text leading up to page 99 lays that out, noting that the choice of pitch can get very complicated. In page 99, I address whether a pitcher or someone with more expertise (the catcher, the manager, or an analyst watching from elsewhere) should call pitches because, in order to maximize unpredictability (and batter discomfort), it’s critical to properly select the pitch.

I would argue that page 99 is not representative because it is very “in the weeds”. In general, I tried to keep the book light and focus on concepts like “Why do Korean women dominate professional golf?” and “Should you invest in your child’s sports career?” Page 99 gets into specifics related to the broader concept of the strategy and game theory of pitch selection. I think it fits nicely into the analysis of the book but I hope you will read it in its place after enjoying the broader conceptual material in the 98 pages that lead up to it. And, for the record, the basic economics of pitch selection just require remembering two things: how often to throw each pitch and randomizing so the batter cannot detect any pattern.
Follow Paul Oyer on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Camilla Hawthorne's "Contesting Race and Citizenship"

Camilla Hawthorne is Associate Professor of Sociology and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is coeditor of The Black Mediterranean.

Hawthorne applied the Page 99 Test to her new book, Contesting Race and Citizenship: Youth Politics in the Black Mediterranean, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Contesting Race & Citizenship lays out my claim that contemporary debates about access to Italian citizenship for the children of African immigrants who were born in Italy is closely tied to a much longer history of contestation over the boundaries of Italianness in relation to Africa and the Mediterranean. While discussions about race and nation in Italy are often temporally bounded to either the Fascist period or to Italy’s transformation into a country of immigration in the 1980s and 1990s, I argue instead that the entanglements of race, nation, and citizenship go back even further, to the unification of the Italian nation-state itself at the end of the nineteenth century. I write:
A closer look at the archives suggests that the entanglement of race and citizenship was in fact constitutive of Italian nation-state formation, in ways that remain deeply consequential to this day. As a matter of fact, debates about race in Liberal Italy were characterized less by anti-Semitism and more by an overwhelming preoccupation with Italy’s trans-Mediterranean relationship to the African continent. So, to understand the relationship between Italianness and Blackness (and how this relationship figures in contestations over the boundaries of Italian citizenship), it is necessary to begin with postunification Italy and efforts to consolidate the new nation’s racial identity.
Page 99 does give the author a sense of some of the broader themes and arguments that run through the book—histories and genealogies of Mediterranean racial formation; the centrality of the Mediterranean Sea (as a symbolic and material space) as a point of reference in debates over race, citizenship, and national belonging in Italy; the reproduction of racisms through ideas about geography and practices of spatial differentiation. At the same time, this page does not provide an accurate representation of the full methodological scope of Contesting Race and Citizenship. Page 99 is located within Chapter 3 (“Mediterraneanism, Africa, and the Racial Borders of Italianness”), which is the most historical and archivally-based chapter in the book. In that sense, it does not give the reader a sense that this book is, actually, primarily based on ethnographic research conducted with Black Italian antiracism activists during the last decade. Chapter 3 was written as a history of the present, but this “present” is perhaps less visible on page 99.

That being said, I still think that page 99 is important. Although I am a geographer trained in ethnographic methods, I was compelled to turn to historical research because I needed tools to help me challenge the “common sense” that racism is somehow exogenous to Italy. On this page, I write about finding a portrait of Sarah Baartman (the so-called “Hottentot Venus”) in the archives of Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso, even though she was never brought to Italy:
Rearticulating these lineages of pre-Fascist racial thought requires reading archives against the grain—in the University of Turin’s Archivio Storico del Museo di Antropologia Criminale Cesare Lombroso (Historical Archive of the Cesare Lombroso Museum of Criminal Anthropology), for instance, there is no dedicated file for Lombroso’s work on racial science. This points both to the evasion of race in the standard historiography of Liberal Italy and also to the way that racism suffused most aspects of Lombroso’s scientific research such that it could never truly be separated out from the rest of his scientific oeuvre. The archivists and I instead had to follow an elusive trail of bread crumbs through Lombroso’s notes, editorials, letters, and maps, as well as secondary commentary on his re- search. At one point, for instance, an archivist pulled out a large illustration of Sarah Baartman (the so-called Hottentot Venus) from a filing cabinet and turned to me hopefully: “Maybe this will be helpful for you?” Although Baartman herself was never taken to Italy, her spectral presence in the archive suggests the centrality of Blackness in efforts to ascertain the racial parameters of Italianness at the turn of the twentieth century.
Baartman’s spectral presence in the archive provided one powerful example of the way that Italianness has been suffused with ideas of racial difference since the formation of the Italian nation-state—a process that was in turn bound up the transnational and trans-Mediterranean circulation of racist knowledge-production undergirding European colonialism and imperialism.
Visit Camilla Hawthorne's website and follow her on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 15, 2022

R. V. Gundur's "Trying to Make It"

R. V. Gundur is a Senior Lecturer of Criminology at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.

Gundur applied the Page 99 Test to his book, Trying to Make It: The Enterprises, Gangs, and People of the American Drug Trade, and reported the following:
Page 99 wraps up a discussion where I canvass the operations of Barrio Azteca, a prison gang, in a chapter entitled “Violence.” In “Violence” I write about some of the most visible issues the public associates with the drug trade, the very things that are hot button topics on talk shows and political platforms. In the public’s eye, the drug trade is violent and destructive. That narrative peddles a threat narrative that drug-related violence is going to spill over into the US and ruin America. With that in mind, the discussion of Barrio Azteca ends with the following paragraph:
Despite the turmoil in Juárez, Barrio Azteca’s power struggles have not manifested in El Paso. The calm that Barrio Azteca maintains in its US operations reflects how the organization understands that the violence it uses in Juárez cannot be used north of the border, where violence could easily destroy its steady and profitable business activities. It’s a business sense that most drug trafficking organizations appear to share. In Mexico, clear hot spots of violence have appeared in mid- to large-size cities on or near the US-Mexican border. However, on the US side of the border, port cities and transportation hubs that import drugs or the precursor products used to synthesize them from South America and Asia are not hot at all; in fact, most of the time they aren’t even lukewarm.
This paragraph challenges the threat narrative by emphasizing two core themes of the book. First, the drug trade is a business, run by illicit businesspeople who, like licit businesspeople, make decisions to maximize their earnings. Second, high-level actors in the drug trade perpetuate little violence on US soil.

Trying to Make It is inherently about the business and banalities of the drug trade, and in this case, the Page 99 Test offers readers a core understanding of the former. The book aims, among other things, to demystify the drug trade; this page foreshadows that goal. Because Trying to Make It looks at various levels of the drug trade as it occurs at three different sites, there are several other themes and geographies that are canvassed in the book that don’t make an explicit appearance on page 99. These include the everyday lives of people who are or have been involved in the drug trade, the realities of various levels of business within the drug trade, and how the drug trade unfolds in the Phoenix and Chicago areas.
Visit R. V. Gundur's website and follow him on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Lesley-Ann Jones's "The Stone Age"

Lesley-Ann Jones is a bestselling biographer and broadcaster. She is the author of The Search for John Lennon; Bohemian Rhapsody: The Definitive Biography of Freddie Mercury; and Hero: David Bowie. A childhood friend of David Bowie, Jones has interviewed many of the world's most-loved artists, including Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Madonna, and Prince, often forming lifelong friendships with her subjects. Jones lives in England.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her latest book, The Stone Age: Sixty Years of The Rolling Stones, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Stone Age drops us in on a dilemma of Marianne Faithfull’s. It is April 1965. Mick Jagger’s teenage future beloved is pregnant again. Her fiancé, undergraduate John Dunbar, has returned to the University of Cambridge. Bob Dylan has landed in London. Marianne, who worships him, contrives to get to him and offer sex as a symbol of her adoration. Bob writes a poem for her. She tells him she is pregnant, and he throws her out: possibly fearful that she might be planning to pin the deed on him. She marries Dunbar, they honeymoon in Paris, and she gives birth to their baby Nicholas just before her nineteenth birthday.

Brian Jones, meanwhile, is with Anita Pallenberg. Who lures Marianne under her wing. Bored and trapped by young motherhood, Marianne leaves her baby at home with the nanny and spends more and more time round at Brian’s and Anita’s place. Keith Richards comes too. When Anita is away, Brian and Marianne get together. But he is too spilled out on Mandrax to perform. Marianne then falls for Keith Richards. They will go on to have what she will later describe as ‘the best night’ of Marianne’s life. Then Mick starts finding his way round to Brian’s place too. It doesn’t say so on the page, but over it: we know already that Mick too will soon find his way into Marianne. The only Stone she never had was Charlie. Didn’t make her one of the band, though, did it.

‘How fucked up was all this, how drugged, how detached, how dismally sixties,’ I write.

Yes, this page is coolly representative of the content and tone of the whole book. Debauched, decadent, self-serving, careless of the feelings of others, the Stones proceed to wench and wassail their way through the next five decades, using and abusing folk (not ‘just’ women) willy nilly. There are many casualties, some of them fatal.

But: there is a comprehensive musical dimension to the book that is not touched on here on page 99. Otherwise, in a nutshell, here you have it. Ladies and gentlemen, the contradictory, disturbing, granitic and unstoppable Rolling Stones.

The test works.

But the book is no mere dish-fest. I have gone to considerable lengths to see the Rolling Stones in the round; to present them in context at every stage of their existence. What they were, at the beginning, was a bunch of tykes from nowhere who copied musicians they admired, and who got lucky. Success, fame and money honed them into creatures worthy of global adulation. They have kept on keeping on because they are incapable of doing anything else. The Stone Age delivers the scandal and the gossip, all under one roof, as it were. But I also strive to capture the essence of what makes a working rock 'n' roll band tick. I conjure a primal image of the group, ‘captured in mono and preserved for all time, to remind the reader that Ground Zero for any musical fusion is the groove. ‘From such innocence and hope are legends made,’ I write. In the end, when they are dead and the Stones are long buried, we will still have, and we will always have, the music.
Visit Lesley-Ann Jones's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Jon Lewis's "Road Trip to Nowhere"

Jon Lewis is the University Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at Oregon State University. He has published a number of books, including The Road to Romance and Ruin: Teen Films and Youth Culture, Whom God Wishes to Destroy … Francis Coppola and the New Hollywood, Hollywood v. Hard Core: How the Struggle over Censorship Saved the Modern Film Industry, Hard-Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Postwar Los Angeles, and for the British Film Institute’s Film Classics series, The Godfather and forthcoming in October 2022, The Godfather, Part II. Lewis has appeared in two theatrically released documentaries on film censorship: Inside Deep Throat and This Film is Not Yet Rated. Between 2002 and 2007, Lewis edited Cinema Journal and had a seat on the Executive Council of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Road Trip to Nowhere: Hollywood Encounters the Counterculture, and reported the following:
Page 99 [inset, below left; click to enlarge] is quite crucial and central to the story (more like, stories) I tell in Road Trip to Nowhere: Hollywood Encounters the Counterculture. We are at the start of the second chapter, which is about Christopher Jones, a movie star who in 1970 walked away from Hollywood stardom at the very moment he achieved it. Jones’ story—and I will only hint at the particulars here—involved James Dean at the start and, as so many of counterculture Hollywood stories do, Charles Manson at its climax. Along the way Jones met and worked with movieland royalty: Bette Davis, Shelley Winters, Ralph Richardson, Anthony Hopkins, and Robert Mitchum. He hung out with rock stars (including his neighbor at the Chateau Marmont, Jim Morrison) and dated some of Hollywood’s most talked-about, most sought-after women (including Olivia Hussey, the star of Franco Zeffirelli’s sexy 1968 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet). Jones did some of his best work with some of the best young talent in Hollywood at American International Pictures (AIP) at a time when the B-movie studio employed a counterculture ensemble that included Karen Black, Ellen Burstyn, Bruce Dern, and Jack Nicholson. Among even such a talented troupe, Jones seemed at the time the actor most likely to succeed. He did, succeed. Briefly. And then he vanished—off the screen and off the grid.

Jones’s story proved to be a challenge to research and recount. It is more complicated and a lot sadder than I expected, a road trip to nowhere, to be sure. Just not the trip I expected or really wanted to find. A reminder, then: to understand Hollywood we need to get past the bright lights and big pictures—the best and the brightest. We need to focus as well on the things that go wrong, the people who get lost or abandoned, kicked to the side of the road, out of town, out of the business, out of this world. Jones fits this darker historical process, this darker Hollywood history. His story is profoundly revealing about the complexity of counterculture celebrity: its fundamental ambivalences (Hollywood opulence on the one hand, counterculture anti-materialism on the other; the aspirational core of celebrity countered by sixties-era anti-conventionalism) and its fundamental rifts (between an ensconced studio establishment and a very new breed of movie star).
Learn more about Road Trip to Nowhere at the University of California Press.

The Page 99 Test: Hard-Boiled Hollywood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 12, 2022

Elisabeth Griffith's "Formidable: American Women and the Fight for Equality"

Elisabeth Griffith has earned a reputation as a respected authority on women’s lives, past and present. She has marched for women’s rights, worked to elect women candidates, supported women’s causes as a leader in the National Women’s Political Caucus and the Women’s Campaign Fund, educated students, and motivated audiences to take up the banner.

Griffith's biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, In Her Own Right (1984), was named “one of the 15 best books of 1984” and “one of the best books of the century” by the editors of The New York Times Book Review and “one of the five best books on women’s history” by the Wall Street Journal in 2009. In March 2020, Oprah magazine recommended it for women’s history month reading. It inspired Ken Burns’ PBS documentary, Not for Ourselves Alone, on which she served as a consultant.

Griffith applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Formidable: American Women and the Fight for Equality: 1920-2020, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Formidable appears four pages into chapter four, “From Rosie to Rosa Parks, 1945-1959,” which covers the forced retirement of women working in war industries to make room for returning veterans, who were eager to start families. It introduces the baby boom and the voluntary isolation of white women into segregated suburbs, while Black women continued to fight racial discrimination in education, housing, jobs, and juries. While page 99 mentions Christian Dior’s “New Look,” crinolines, long-line bras, cinched waists, charm bracelets, and French bikinis (named for a Pacific atoll which was an atomic bomb test site; women brave enough to wear them were called “bombshells”), its theme is not fashion. It’s about the physical and psychological containment of women. The first line on page 99 recalls Wonder Woman having a nightmare, dreaming of becoming Steve Trevor’s “docile little wife.” The pressure on white women to conform to a new cult of domesticity wa part of the country’s effort to contain communism, curb racial conflict, condemn homosexuality, and defend the “American way of life.”

While page 99 is not the ideal introduction to the subject of my book, the century-long fight for equal and civil rights, by a diverse cast of female change agents following passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, it illustrates the variety of elements that contributed to that struggle, including comic book heroines and girdles. Women were historically confined to a female sphere of activity and criticized whenever they moved beyond their traditional maternal and domestic roles. To win the vote, even single suffragists relied on the moral authority of motherhood to make the case that the country needed good housekeepers. In the 1920s, many states had laws barring married women from working without their husband’s permission. In the 1930s, the federal government forbade the employment of the wives (but not the children) of its male employees. Those restrictions were removed when World War II required more factory workers, pilots and code breakers, but they returned in peacetime. In contrast, while Black women confronted racial violence and daily discrimination, the men in their communities respected and encouraged their political engagement. As teachers, housekeepers, public health nurses, agricultural agents, and church deacons, they kept working, quietly, in church basements and behind the scenes, to advance civil rights and end segregation. By the end of the 1950s, the work of Constance Baker Motley, Rosa Parks, Ella Baker, and Daisy Bates would inspire many white women to reignite their struggle for equal rights, as Black and white abolitionists had spurred the suffrage movement.

Patriarchy, the root of sexism and racism, remains powerful. No matter how far all American women have advanced in the past century, they remain victims of rape and violence, at risk of maternal death, underpaid in the workforce, undervalued in their caregiving roles, under represented politically, and without reproductive rights and agency. Formidable describes the strides women have made, the tensions and issues that have divided them, and the challenges and opposition that remain. It also offers models of courage and resilience, to inspire readers to keep up the fight.
Visit Elisabeth Griffith's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Abdulaziz Sachedina's "Islamic Ethics"

Abdulaziz Sachedina is Professor and Endowed IIIT Chair in Islamic Studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He has been conducting research and writing in the field of Islamic Law, Ethics, and Theology (Sunni and Shiite) for more than four decades. In the last twenty years he has concentrated on social and political ethics, including Interfaith and Intrafaith Relations, Islamic Biomedical Ethics and Islam and Human Rights. He is the author of numerous books, including Islam and the Challenge of Human Rights (2009).

Sachedina applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Islamic Ethics: Fundamental Aspects of Human Conduct, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book does reveal the quality of the whole book.

From page 99:
Scriptural Sources of Ethical Methodology 99

humankind with “upright nature” to achieve a balance between the “known” (the convictions determined through the process of reflection) and the “unknown” moral judgments by placing the known in history and culture at the same time. Consequently, the Qur’an anchors moral norms in the reflective process and invites human beings to ponder the consequences of their actions and learn to avoid any behavior that leads to perilous ends. Moreover, it appeals to the human capability for learning from past destructiveness preserved in historical accounts in order to avoid it in future. The assumption in the Qur’an is that there is something concrete about human conditions that cannot be denied by any reasonable persons endowed with “hearts to understand,” that is, a conscience to judge its consequences (Q. 22:46).

The concept of a known pre-revelatory moral language in the Qur’an does not fall short of acknowledging the concrete historical and social conditioning of moral concepts. But it stipulates that people living in different cultures must seek to elicit the universal ideal out of the diversity of concrete human conditions—a common foundation upon which to construct an ethical language that can be shared cross-culturally in the project of creating a just public order. Both the clearly stated and the implicit moral values in the Qur’an point to concrete ways of life in different cultural idioms that must be understood in order to extricate the universal values and to apply them in other contexts. The moral and spiritual awareness that ennobles human existence and leads it to carry out duties to God and other humans functions as a torch of the divinely created innate human nature, enabling it to discover the universals that can build bridges of understanding across cultures.

With the weakening of the critical emphasis on ethical reasoning in Muslim cultures, although Muslim societies are traditionally religious-minded, the importance attached to past juridical formulations without understanding their generalizable moral justifications has led to the neglect of undergirding moral norms as the most fundamental aspect of the overall scriptural guidance. This means that a religious worldview comprised of exclusionary Islamic beliefs about the supernatural and orthopraxy has continued to shape social and political attitudes and interpersonal relationships and to provide existential meaning as well as security in the ever-changing human relations in modern life. Nonetheless, the major source for the secular skepticism of the religious world-view and scriptural reason in general, and Islamic tradition in particular, is the historically disruptive character of religious politics, and the endless religiously inspired violence in many parts of the world that disrupts normalcy beyond repair.

Historically, religion in the public domain has been disruptive of necessary social cooperation and cohesion based on some consensus about the equality of all citizens in a modern nation-state. The classical interpretive jurisprudence
Page 99 is the key page in telling the readers the following:

Historically, the critical question for Muslim religious thought has been to establish a logical epistemological connection between the two fields of law and ethics to demonstrate a cognitively undeniable correlation between reason and revelation in derivation of authoritative orthopraxy. The debatable aspect of this attempt to affiliate law and ethics was whether such a relationship could be shown to be solely the product of a religious worldview firmly founded upon scriptural authority of the Qur’an and the Sunna, or whether it was possible to guide human moral conduct with minimal reference to revelatory sources. The idea about the correlation between the findings of reason and those of revelation was the result of the logical necessity connected with continuation of reliable guidance for the post-prophetic developing and culturally diverse Muslim societies.

The present study on Islamic ethics comes at almost the end of my career in academia. From all that I had studied in my history, philosophy, and Islamic studies courses I was confident that there existed a far-reaching connection between religion and ethics in Islamic tradition. My graduate work in Islamic studies further confirmed the contours of the debate among Muslim scholars who often deliberated about the priority of locating ethics as a fundamental source for deriving epistemic guidelines about human conduct. Historically, the critical question for Muslim religious thinkers has been to establish a logical epistemological relation between the two fields of law and ethics to validate a cognitively undeniable correlation between reason and revelation in derivation of authoritative orthopraxy. The controversial aspect of this attempt to affiliate law and ethics was whether such a relationship could be shown to be solely the product of a religious worldview firmly founded upon scriptural authority, or whether it was possible to guide human moral conduct without reference to any revelatory sources. The emerging idea was about the relationship between reason and revelation to provide continuous guidance for the developing and culturally diverse Muslim societies, principally by taking into consideration historical circumstances that determined the contemporary social and political practice. The main thrust of the classical Muslim intellectual development was to anchor moral epistemology reliably within the primarily religious sources to underscore its inseparable and logical relationship to interpretive jurisprudence that provided time-specific responsa in general to resolve pressing issues related to everyday practice. The universal moral truth that was endowed by God’s nature (fitrat allah) in humankind and was acquired rationally did not require religious affiliation or scriptural justificatory reasoning. The more immediate religious inquiry was not to explore the sources of human conduct; rather, it was to comprehend divine will as it related to human life in this and the next world. God’s will, as declared by the revelation, was embodied in the divinely ordained system that would define and formulate the boundaries of orthopraxy. This was the scope of the emerging field of interpretive jurisprudence (al-fiqh) in the classical period.
Learn more about Islamic Ethics at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Jayita Sarkar's "Ploughshares and Swords"

Jayita Sarkar is Senior Lecturer in Economic and Social History at the University of Glasgow and the Founding Director of the Global Decolonization Initiative.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Ploughshares and Swords: India's Nuclear Program in the Global Cold War, and reported the following:
Ploughshares and Swords: India’s Nuclear Program in the Global Cold War passes the Page 99 Test surprisingly well. The page is the conclusion at the end of Chapter 4, “Plutonium and Power Reactors, 1962-1964.” It is also one of the few longer conclusions in the book, thereby allowing the readers to get a more in-depth sense of what the chapter and the book are about.

Those reading page 99 of my book will be immediately introduced to some of the core themes of the book— freedom of action, hyperdiversification, unintended consequences, borderlands, and technopolitics, to name a few. The readers might also recognize that Indian policymakers’ responses to the Chinese nuclear weapons program is an important dimension of the book.

The fascinating part is page 99 does more “showing” than “telling.” The readers will watch the book’s many themes in action on page 99. As a result, if readers searched textual keywords corresponding to the book’s aforementioned themes, they might be disappointed. Instead, if after reading page 99, they decided to give the introduction a go, then most mysteries might be at least partially resolved.
Visit Jayita Sarkar's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Emily Michelson's "Catholic Spectacle and Rome's Jews"

Emily Michelson is senior lecturer in history at the University of St Andrews. She is the author of The Pulpit and the Press in Reformation Italy and the coeditor of A Linking of Heaven and Earth and A Companion to Religious Minorities in Early Modern Rome.

Michelson applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Catholic Spectacle and Rome's Jews: Early Modern Conversion and Resistance, and reported the following:
I would be dismayed to think that page 99 captures the whole of my book. It’s a necessary page that makes a key point, but it’s one of the least thrilling – a workhorse page. Page 99 argues that the job of Preacher to the Jews became a prestigious position in early modern Rome, and discusses the nature and origins of that prestige. This is a key aspect of my overall argument that early modern Rome benefitted from making a public show of converting Jews. But it’s an expository page, without the humanizing examples and other evidence, and without the book’s other innovations.

My book makes three main contributions to the history of religion and of Rome. 1. It reconstructs the history, process, and nature of forced conversion sermons to Jews, a public, well-attended event which took place roughly weekly from the late sixteenth century into the nineteenth. The book argues that this spectacle was a crucial platform for defining and defending the new Catholicism of the early modern period. Methodologically, it combines historical reconstruction, textual analysis of sermon literature, and vivid storytelling from the archives. 2. It publicizes the existence of a large collection of manuscript conversion sermons, catalogued but mostly unknown, covering a 40-year period and full of surprises. 3. It uncovers and pieces together evidence of a continuous and varied tradition of Jewish resistance to conversion sermons.

Page 99 contributes to only the first of these categories. It’s part of a chapter on the careers of conversion preachers. The chapter discusses how prominent men rushed to undertake these conversion sermons, eager to see them succeed, and how, subsequently, official Preachers to the Jews used their title to confer prestige on other activities. Page 99 is the third page of the chapter, a transition between the chapter’s opening hook and its meat. It begins to reframe the early history of this event, which has been reasonably well documented, by placing it in a longer-term, lesser-known perspective. Page 99 contains critical points about how important the sermon spectacle was to early modern Catholic Rome. For example: “a turn in the pulpit remained a prestigious move…the title alone added weight and authority to other enterprises.” In that sense, the test works. It accurately signals the book’s core argument. But a casual browser who read only page 99 would think this is a narrower and more boring book than it really is. They would miss its other more surprising findings, its drama, and its pain.
Learn more about Catholic Spectacle and Rome's Jews at the Princeton University Press website, and follow Emily Michelson on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 8, 2022

Justin Gregg's "If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal"

Justin Gregg is a Senior Research Associate with the Dolphin Communication Project and an Adjunct Professor at St. Francis Xavier University where he lectures on animal behavior and cognition. Originally from Vermont, Gregg studied the echolocation abilities of wild dolphins in Japan and The Bahamas. He currently lives in rural Nova Scotia where he writes about science and contemplates the inner lives of the crows that live near his home.

Gregg applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal: What Animal Intelligence Reveals About Human Stupidity, and reported the following:
Page 99 of If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal provides background information on how all animals evolved to be sensitive to the 24-hour cycle of the sun. It has a fun explanation as to how the length of a day used to be 23 and a half hours 72 million years ago. I provide this info so the reader understands that all animals are sensitive to the passing of time, and evolved behavioral patterns in sync with the rising and the setting of the sun.

The background info on page 99 sets up a discussion as to the extent to which animals understand what time is, and whether or not they know that they are destined to die one day. Knowledge of one’s own mortality being a trait that might be unique to humans. The idea I am exploring later in the chapter is that humans have unique cognitive traits that give us this “death wisdom,” but this knowledge of our own deaths might not help us very much from an evolutionary perspective. So it’s maybe not the best page in the book to provide an overview of what the book’s about since I don’t discuss that overarching message on that particular page. It would be a bit like turning to page 10 of an IKEA manual for an IDANÄS storage cabinet and seeing a picture of a dowel being shoved into a hole. You’d have no idea that the finished product was a dining room cabinet. For each of the chapters in the book, I try to take the reader on a journey through a series of arguments and examples to lead them to a fun conclusion about the nature of the human mind. This page is just a small part of that argument – like a solitary dowel looking for a hole.
Visit Justin Gregg's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Karen Eva Carr's "Shifting Currents"

Karen Eva Carr is associate professor emerita in the Department of History at Portland State University. Her books include Vandals to Visigoths: Rural Settlement Patterns in Early Medieval Spain.

Carr applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Shifting Currents: A World History of Swimming, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Shifting Currents: A World History of Swimming features the beginning of a major cultural split where Europeans identify as swimmers to separate themselves from non-swimming foreigners: “the Greeks and the Persians start to underscore their cultural differences and downplay their similarities.” This distinction accompanies others: “Greek men go naked while Persians cover up, they say. Greeks build temples, but Persians do not. Greeks have one wife, but Persians have many. And the Greeks can swim, but the Persians cannot.” And yet the Greeks have not always been swimmers. Page 99 explains that in earlier chapters, “we have been considering all these Central Asian northern non-swimmers and their descendants essentially as one group.”

This excerpt gives a fairly good sense of the tension at the center of this book. On the one hand, Europeans have not historically been among the world’s swimmers. Along with other northern Eurasian people, including the Persians, they didn’t know how to swim in the Stone Age or the Bronze Age. On the other hand, when Europeans began to learn to swim again in the Iron Age—one of the first indications is Odysseus’s swim to the island of the Phaeacians, about 700 BCE—they soon used their swimming skills as evidence of their own sophistication and intelligence, and put down their neighbors for not knowing how to swim. So we have this tension: Europeans never became very good swimmers. Africans and Americans, Australians and Southeast Asians were all much more at home in the water. But Europeans, proud of their swimming, used their skill to build a case for how much better they were than foreigners.

We can’t fully understand that tension from this page, though. While this chapter shows us Greek and Roman swimming, other chapters show the contrast by detailing how well people swam on the other continents: surfing in Hawaii, diving underneath warships to sink them in South China, swimming games among boys and girls in Suriname. We don’t get a sense of the class distinctions Europeans also drew, where rich, powerful people swam and poor people did not. And although this chapter is about classical antiquity, later chapters show how these same tensions are still with us, and still affect who swims and who doesn’t, even today.
Follow Karen Carr on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Peter Bellwood's "The Five-Million-Year Odyssey"

Peter Bellwood is professor emeritus of archaeology at the Australian National University. His many books include First Migrants: Ancient Migration in Global Perspective and First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies. He is the winner of the 2021 International Cosmos Prize.

Bellwood applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Five-Million-Year Odyssey: The Human Journey from Ape to Agriculture, and reported the following:
Page 99 deals with two topics. One concerns the first modern humans (Homo sapiens) in Europe and Asia at 50,000 to 45,000 years ago, and discusses how we might interpret their handiwork (e.g., art on cave walls). The other introduces the question of how our ancestors (as early modern humans) interacted with other ‘hominin” (human-like) species already present outside Africa. These included the Neanderthals and the Denisovans, with whom our ancestors both interbred and either replaced or assimilated in genetic terms.

My book is about the whole 5,000,000 year course of human cultural and biological evolution, starting from when our ancestors separated from those of living great apes, onwards to the several developments of agriculture, and to the creation of the human populations, cultures and languages that occupied the earth before the Columbian Exchange (1492 CE). My central viewpoint on all of this history is that we as H. sapiens are the sole surviving species of humanity left in the world today. If our rulers are going to create a harmonious future for all of us, they must at least realise this, appreciate and encourage our human diversity, share our wealth fairly, and convert our world away from endless growth for profit (and war) towards balance.

As for page 99, it most certainly does not summarise all of this, and I would never have expected it to when I wrote the book! I have tried to cover everything from Australopithecus to the migrations of the Polynesians In 313 succinct pages of text and diagrams that I hope can be understood by a general reader, and also be of interest to those who know enough to argue about interpretations. Please enjoy my book.
Learn more about The Five-Million-Year Odyssey at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 5, 2022

Jason C. Bivins's "Embattled America"

Jason C. Bivins is Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at North Carolina State University. His books include Spirits Rejoice!: Jazz and American Religion. He has written widely for popular and academic media, has taught for The Great Courses, and has recorded multiple albums of improvised music on guitar.

Bivins applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Embattled America: The Rise of Anti-Politics and America's Obsession with Religion, and reported the following:
Page 99 is very close to the end of a discussion of former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. In particular, this section surveys the oft-alarmed reactions – before and after the 2008 Presidential campaign – to Palin’s identity as a Pentecostal. Equally dismissive and panicked, critics of Palin judged her politically unserious because of her beliefs, while these claims became precisely the fuel needed for Palin’s supporters to avow that they, and not godless liberals, were the true Americans. The page (and the section) conclude by holding that Palin’s critics miss the point by doubling down on the idea that religion is at the heart of her, and America’s, political problems. I suggest here that a better focus on what good political representation is could cut through the endless culture wars repetition that bogs us all down.

Does the page work as a distillation of some of the book’s largest concerns? For the most part, page 99 of Embattled America turns out to be a fairly good one on which to ruminate. Dropping the needle without any setup or definitions can only ever capture so much, but what is clearly on display is the contrast between two different – and, I argue, similarly unproductive – kinds of public speech about political religion in America. Palin here stands in for a larger story about American life since the 1960s, where an endless reassessment of the resurgence of conservative Christianity begun in the 1970s has accompanied a steady deterioration of American democracy.

Palin is one of many conservative politicians who have employed strident religious speech to push Republican politics very far to the right since the 1990s. At all turns these politicians have been met with furious criticism, captured here on page 99 in all of its strident smugness. Yet in making this very critique – mockery of religion, warnings of witch trials – these critics play exactly the role politicians like Palin want them to: they don the mantle of the irreligious left that has been the most reliable conservative bugaboo since Jerry Falwell’s “I Love America” rallies.

More importantly, the heart of the book’s concern – that we should change the subject from bellyaching about conservative religion, which plays into the script, to key normative and institutional reassessments – is here on display. I begin to make the case that Palin’s version of political representation – inflexible mimesis of values, willingness to fight against one’s political others, social media vapidities – is deeply antithetical to what a pluralistic democracy requires.

This follows the general strategy of the book, which assesses the recent weakening of American democracy in light of regular scandals and obsessions over religion. By locating in these episodes a range of neglected political norms, my hope is to direct readers’ attention away from the sensationalism of religion and towards the reinvention of the political.
Learn more about Embattled America at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Mark Goodale's "Reinventing Human Rights"

Mark Goodale is professor of cultural and social anthropology and director of the Laboratory of Cultural and Social Anthropology (LACS) at the University of Lausanne. He is among a small group of scholars who are credited with the development of a distinct "anthropology of human rights," an alternative approach that emphasizes the relationship between human rights and praxis, affect, and cultural history. He is the author or editor of a number of other books, including A Revolution in Fragments: Traversing Scales of Justice, Law, and Ideology in Bolivia (2019) and Anthropology and Law: A Critical Introduction (2017).

Goodale applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Reinventing Human Rights, and reported the following:
Interestingly, the somewhat arbitrary Page 99 Test actually works beautifully in this case, in the sense that certain key qualities of the book are indeed revealed. Page 99 is the beginning of the all-important chapter in which I thicken what is probably the book's most radical argument: that a "reinvented" human rights must be grounded in an anthropological conception of pluralism rather than an outmoded philosophical conception of universalism.

In order to sensitize the reader to the kinds of pluralism I have in mind, page 99 begins with a haunting epigraph, an extract from the writings of the largely forgotten anthropologist Laura Watson Benedict, who conducted a pioneering ethnographic study on spirituality in the Philippines in the first decade of the twentieth century. She was also the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University, which she did in 1914 when she was 53 years old! In the extract, Benedict describes her research with an Indigenous population who believe that people have two souls—a right-hand, or good soul, and a left-hand, or bad soul. A boy of fourteen explains to Benedict that if he were to die, his right-hand soul would have to make a perilous journey to the Great City, but his "good" soul would not want to make this journey alone, so it would wait near his best friend and plead with his good soul to travel to the Great City with him, so that his right-hand soul wouldn't be so afraid. But as the boy tells Benedict, "if [my best friend] does not want to go with me, I do not force him, but I ask other friends—many."

So why begin the critically important chapter on "human rights otherwise" with an ethnographic vignette about a "people who have two souls"? I guess I would say that it is an admittedly obscure way to immediately confront the entire political, economic, and discursive history from which the idea of universal human rights emerges. What is the point of continuing to prop up the fiction of the universal human or the invented kinship category of the "human family"—as the Preamble to the UDHR puts it—in a world marked by deep and potentially emancipatory human and cultural difference?
Visit Mark Goodale's website and learn more about Reinventing Human Rights at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Rhonda D. Frederick's "Evidence of Things Not Seen"

Rhonda D. Frederick is an associate professor of African and African diaspora studies and English at Boston College in Massachusetts. She is the author of "Colón Man a Come": Mythographies of Panama Canal Migration.

Frederick applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Evidence of Things Not Seen: Fantastical Blackness in Genre Fictions, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Garcea uses the word “postulation”—defined as a proposition “that [is] not proved or demonstrated but [one that is] considered to be self-evident”—to describe a selection of four decades of academic research on Canadian multiculturalism, a choice that highlights a lack of quantifiable support for the policy’s so-called fragmentary effects (Joseph Garcea 157n3). As postulations, perspectives on the act’s fragmentary effects are based on what postulators “believe, rather than on the basis of facts produced by any systematic research and analysis” (Garcea 153). The role of belief in research by “social scientists and a few other prominent authors and analysts,” not to mention in opinions expressed by contributors to Canadian newspapers, is significant: postulators believe, proceed as if their belief-based conclusions are self-evident, and often maintain their beliefs in the face of evidence to the contrary (Karim H. Karim).

It is in this space of belief (the believable) that I turn to literary fantasy and science fiction, and inject critical analysis of the form and content of Brown Girl in the Ring. Since belief and affective truths play significant roles in political discourse, literature and literary analyses can shape ideas that influence policy. Creative imaginings, formalist maneuvers, and specified languages, particularly those constellated in fantasy and science fiction, offer imaginable insights into extant realities. When fantastical blackness critically intervenes, it brings its prodigious possibilities to bear on what it means to be part of a nation. With Garcea’s emphasis on postulations that influence public perceptions as well as scholarly evaluations of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, and Barrett’s attention to narratives of Canadianness that occupy the national imaginary, literary critical methodologies—close reading, genre and formalist critique, literature in social and historical contexts—reveal interpretations unique to this discipline and important to this extra-literary context. Even Karim H. Karim’s attention to views of multiculturalism that appear in op-ed pieces in Canadian newspapers is nicely unpacked using literature’s analytical tools: the op-ed, as Karim’s form, is the means through which postulations that influence his interpretations find voice. And it is from the perspective of literary studies that I approach the language of the Multiculturalism Act itself, to consider how its wording and emphases might influence its reception.
Page 99 is the end of “Canadian Blackness,” a part of chapter 3 that frames my fantastical imagining of national belonging in Nalo Hopkinson’s scifi/fantasy novel, Brown Girl in the Ring. This one page nicely represents an idea that motivates my book: that blackness, fantastically imagined in popular fictions, persuasively models how readers can re/imagine blackness in worlds outside of fiction. Each chapter of Evidence of Things Not Seen looks at a different genre and a differently imagined blackness, always with an eye on how imagining blackness in complicated ways changes how we live black in worlds that only sees black people negatively. This multi-genre, trans-disciplinary project—drawing from analyses of race in literature, history, sociology, and popular culture—considers what truths haunt, what myths fortify, and what kinds of imaginings enliven black being in Canada, the US, and the Caribbean. Chapter 3 reads Brown Girl through the lens of fantastical blackness, revealing a re/thinking of national belonging and Canadian multiculturalism. What, for example, are the critical implications for Canadian identity when the Canada-born child of Trinidadian and Jamaican immigrants uses Canada’s National (“CN”) Tower to channel Yoruba-derived gods? How can Canadianness be re/conceptualized when a Trinidadian woman’s heart, transplanted into the body of an incumbent Ontario politician, makes the public servant into a new woman who reassesses her conservative political platform? When considering the so-called divisive features of Canadian multiculturalism, particularly those driven by belief and postulation, attention to Brown Girl’s form and themes theorizes these questions’ imaginable possibilities. Experiencing characters who live inclusive and—at the same time—racially, spiritually, and culturally complex lives trigger re/considerations of the Multiculturalism Act’s allegedly segregationist impulses. Brown Girl’s fantastically different Canadianness realizes truths that challenge postulations about multiculturalism’s fragmentary effects and, armed with imaginable possibilities for complex subjectivities, readers might act according to these novel perspectives and positively impact how Canadian multiculturalism circulates in the public imaginary.
Learn more about Evidence of Things Not Seen at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Travis W. Proctor's "Demonic Bodies and the Dark Ecologies of Early Christian Culture"

Travis W. Proctor is Assistant Professor of Religion at Wittenberg University. His research has appeared in academic journals such as the Journal of Early Christian Studies, Harvard Theological Review, and Journal of Ecclesiastical History, as well as public venues including Religion Dispatches, The Bart Ehrman Blog, and the “Tell Me Something I Don't Know” podcast. His work has garnered numerous awards, including from the Society of Biblical Literature and the Research Center for International and Interdisciplinary Theology at Heidelberg University.

Proctor applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Demonic Bodies and the Dark Ecologies of Early Christian Culture, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book analyzes the role of demons and ancient gender stereotypes in the early Christian writer Justin Martyr’s scathing critique of the rulers of the Roman Empire of his day (i.e., the Antonine Dynasty). I note that Justin, who wrote a “defense” of Christianity in the 2nd century CE, argues that the rulers are not the wise paragons of manly virtue that they portray themselves to be in their imperial propaganda, but the unwitting dupes of demons, the hidden evil forces that lurked in the ancient Christian cosmos. These demons, Justin argues, have tricked the Roman emperors into worshipping the wrong gods and into unjustly persecuting Christians.

This has significance, I argue, for Justin’s gendered portrayal of the emperors: he subverts their claims to idealized masculinity by portraying them as passive, weak, and foolish. Justin accomplishes this portrayal by associating the emperors with demons, which Justin depicts elsewhere as the epitome of irrationality and foolishness. Thus, Justin shapes the portrayal of his human opponents in and through a concomitant portrayal of nonhuman (demonic) entities.

“Justin’s criticisms of the Roman emperors,” I conclude, “emerge as part of his broader construction of an interconnected ecology of cosmic bodies, including those of God, humans, demons, and even plants and animals.”

The Page 99 Test works remarkably well for my book. While the details of most of the page are distinctive to this chapter – i.e., the detailed discussion of Justin Martyr and his ire at the Roman elite – the analysis and concluding summary encapsulate nicely the overarching argument of the book. By reading this page, the reader would get a good sense of my book’s general method and argument.

Demonic Bodies and the Dark Ecologies of Early Christian Culture uses case studies on New Testament gospels, early Christian apologists, and other early Christian writings to analyze how ancient Christians constructed particular bodily attributes or behaviors (e.g., sexual immorality, gluttony, non-Christian religious practice) as “demonic” in order to demarcate the proper nature and performance of Christian corporeality. The Gospel of Mark, for example, constructs demons as debilitated bodiless entities that desire to inhabit the idealized flesh-and-spirit bodies of humans, a plight which can only be remedied by the exorcistic performances of Jesus of Nazareth and his followers (Chapter One). Clement of Alexandria, on the other hand, argues that demons are animalistic and gluttonous creatures, and thus insists that Christians take up ascetic lifestyles to avoid such demonic habits (Chapter Four). Christians fashioned the contours of the human body, then, within and among other cosmic forces, a point important not only for Christian conceptions of embodiment, but for the materialization of the Christian body through ritual practice (e.g., exorcism, dietary regimes). In this way, Demonic Bodies stresses how the Christian body materialized as part of broader human-nonhuman ecologies.
Learn more about Demonic Bodies and the Dark Ecologies of Early Christian Culture at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 1, 2022

Daniel White's "Administering Affect"

Daniel White is Senior Research Associate in Anthropology at the University of Cambridge.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Administering Affect: Pop-Culture Japan and the Politics of Anxiety, and reported the following:
At the top of page 99 of Administering Affect is an image of three young women posing for a photographer at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on March 12, 2009. They were named the “Ambassadors of Cute.” They were selected by advisors to the ministry to advance the image of “Cool Japan,” a government-led nation branding campaign that sought to build Japan’s soft power as a tool of geopolitics. Below the image is a long quote from a former official within the Public Diplomacy Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As this official was stationed in Iraq prior to his new post, he reflected on how he saw Iraqis’ feelings for Japan in the context of modernization:
Iraqi people also look to Japan as a model for the reconstruction of a nation, for nation building. I was often told how Japan is admired for its miraculous construction after the war in such a short time and in its own way. Not like the European way. So, they wanted to build their nation learning from Japan’s experiences because this is the first time Iraqi people have become able to build their nation.
I like to think the Page 99 Test shines in showcasing one of several things ethnography does well: juxtaposing two seemingly unrelated details that nevertheless compose part of a larger picture. What the test does not do is directly connect the dots. It does not spell out how young Japanese women selected to advertise cute (kawaii) fashion around the world might help administrators in Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs accomplish their geopolitical aims in Iraq.

The rest of Administering Affect completes the picture. It showcases several examples of Japan’s nation branding campaigns in order to tell the whole story of what I call “Pop-Culture Japan,” a new image of Japan conceived of largely by male Japanese bureaucrats to restore national pride via pop culture where they imagined Japan had lost it with the country’s stagnating economy since the 1990s. These bureaucrats attempted to use the positive feelings of foreign fans of Japanese pop culture to transform the negative feelings of domestic publics. For this reason, I call their strategies of nation branding a practice of “administering affect.” By showing how this happens in the case of Japan’s “Cool Japan” branding campaigns, formed in a context of geopolitical anxiety, the book sheds light on how the way state officials imagine the world can powerfully shape how others come to feel about it.
Learn more about Administering Affect at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue