Tuesday, June 6, 2023

William Chapman Sharpe's "The Art of Walking"

William Chapman Sharpe is professor of English at Barnard College, Columbia University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Art of Walking: A History in 100 Images, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Art of Walking does not fail its test! The image on that page is a stereoscopic view of New York in 1859, Broadway on a Rainy Day, photographed by Edward Anthony. The image appears halfway through my book’s tour of walking’s visual history, and it could hardly involve a more decisive moment. For the first time ever, technology made it possible to stop a step in mid-air and freeze it forever on a photographic plate.

What artists, scientists, and the general public discovered was how peculiar walking really is. It’s a “perpetual falling with a perpetual self-recovery,” wrote Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes in “The Physiology of Walking,” an essay published in the same year. Holmes himself had invented a stereopticon, which gives photos a three-dimensional quality, and he studied thousands of stereoscopic pictures, especially Anthony’s, to figure out what goes on in a single stride. Deciding that walking was actually “balanced vertical progression,” he declared that “no artist would have dared to draw a walking figure in attitudes like some of these.”

What he and Anthony’s audience found was that walkers raise the heel of the trailing leg almost vertically as they push off from it. They bend their knees significantly as the unweighted leg pendulums forward, while the head dips at the same time. Then as the heel strikes the leg straightens and the body surges not just forward, but upward, too. Holmes hired a professional illustrator, F. O.C. Darley to do line drawings of the photo-captured walks, so that artists and anatomists could study them.

This photo-frozen walk is just one of the 100 images that my book analyzes as it attempts to tell the story of human locomotion, from cave art to moon walks, from peripatetic Plato to the locked-down victims of the COVID pandemic. On the deepest level, what page 99 really shows is the inception of gait recognition systems and total pedestrian surveillance. With the stop-motion photo, the age of the Watched Walker had begun.
Learn more about The Art of Walking at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: New York Nocturne.

The Page 99 Test: Grasping Shadows.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 5, 2023

Robert Mann's "Kingfish U: Huey Long and LSU"

Robert Mann holds the Manship Chair in Journalism at the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. He is the author of critically acclaimed political histories of the U.S. civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and American wartime dissent. His book, Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds: LBJ, Barry Goldwater and the Ad that Changed American Politics, was named by the Washington Post as one of the best political books of 2011.

Mann’s essays and reviews have appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Politico and Smithsonian. He has discussed his research and appeared as a political analyst on numerous national television and radio programs, including MSNBC, CBS News, ABC News and National Public Radio.

Mann applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Kingfish U: Huey Long and LSU, and reported the following:
I'm not sure the Page 99 Test works with Kingfish U. Page 99 is the beginning of a discussion of Huey Long's relationship with his handpicked LSU president, James Monroe Smith:
Long could be brutal with Smith and others, which was not so much a matter of showing his displeasure or reprimanding them but dominating them. Richard Leche, a Long ally and appeals court judge who became Louisiana governor after Long’s death, observed Long’s response to a friend and supporter who entered the governor’s office one day. When Long saw the man, Leche recalled, “Huey’s face just clouded over, and Huey just gave him down the country. The fellow was completely crushed and finally left with his shoulders sagging.” When the man left Long’s office, Leche said, “Huey’s face became wreathed in smiles again.” Long turned to Leche and explained, “Did you ever see a [man] driving a mule down a country road? The old mule will just be going down the road and all of a sudden, the [man] will say, ‘Whoa.’ And the mule will stop and the [man] will get off and go over to a fence and pull a picket off, and he’ll just whale the daylights out of the mule. And then he gets up and off they go. Now, that mule wasn’t doing anything, but the [man] knows the mule and knows the mule might do something if he don’t teach him a lesson. Now, that fellow hasn’t done anything, but I got to do that to keep him a pretty good guy, which he is.” Leche concluded, “That’s how [Long’s] mind worked.”

For all his meddling in LSU’s affairs, Long found, in Smith, an able administrator and competent university leader. “In my humble opinion,” Fred Frey later asserted, “the best all-around and most effective president during all that time [Frey’s forty years at LSU] was James Monroe Smith.” Frey and others remembered Smith as a consummate politician, who knew how to manage Long and the legislature, who enjoyed great rapport with faculty, staff, and students, and who cared about research and graduate education. “His office door was always open to everyone,” Frey recalled, “from the top people to the bottom people, including the janitors. He was always glad to see anyone and to try and help them.” As further evidence of Smith’s capabilities, Frey submitted Smith’s personnel decisions, which included hiring three successive, respected deans of administration....
The page is as much about Smith as Long. One might not understand from this page, alone, that the book is about Long's domination of LSU from 1930 through September 1935. Long's relationship with Smith is an important aspect of the book, but it's only one part of the picture. It does not, for example, touch on how Long took over the football team and the band and presided over construction projects and other initiatives, large and small, at the school.

What this page reveals is important to the book. It discusses Long's innate understanding of human nature and how he used and manipulated people to achieve his goals. How Long established his dominance over officials at LSU was a microcosm of his domination of Louisiana government and what he likely had in mind for the rest of the country. However, I think it doesn't begin to explain the outrageous and unorthodox nature of Long's involvement with LSU, which is the purpose of the book.
Visit Robert Mann's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Mark Harrison's "Secret Leviathan"

Mark Harrison is Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Warwick.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Secret Leviathan: Secrecy and State Capacity under Soviet Communism, and reported the following:
Page 99 begins a story about secrecy, fear, and bureaucratic behavior. The context is this: in 1947, Stalin was enraged to find that Soviet biochemists had shared a potential cancer therapy with American scientists. The Soviet scientists thought they had official permission, but their superiors had failed to ask Stalin properly. The Soviet Union was already a super-secretive state, but now the dictator ordered a clampdown, directed not against spies but against all accidental, negligent, even well-meaning disclosure of state secrets. With ever more complex and demanding secrecy rules and harsher penalties for unintentional violation, a wave of fear rippled through the Soviet bureaucracy.

Among the top secrets of the Soviet Union were the names and locations of its forced labor camps. As far as the economy was concerned, each labor camp was just a business that was allocated supplies (like food and fuel) and delivered products (like timber or construction services). The effect of the new rules was to make labor camps so secret that their commandants could no longer communicate with suppliers and purchasers, or make and receive bank payments, without breaking the law.
A gap between rules and realities was not unique to this moment or this context. Generally, rigid adherence to rules might have made the entire Soviet system unworkable. All Soviet managers were compelled to break rules for the sake of their job, even those that aimed to do only just enough to be left alone to ‘sleep peacefully.’ They were used to an environment in which rules came into conflict with realities. Their skill lay in knowing which rules they could break and how much they could get away with. The evidence of our story is that Soviet managers saw the gap between secrecy rules and realities as particularly dangerous.
At first, fear paralyzed the labor camp officials. Then, they began to look for ways to work around the new rules while appealing to superiors for protection. That’s the story that begins on page 99.

Would going straight to page 99 give the reader a fair impression of my book as a whole? Yes and no. Yes, the story that begins there illustrates a core theme: secrecy was fundamental to the communists’ monopoly of power. But secrecy also carried large and varied costs that made their power less usable. That doesn’t mean they took secrecy “too far.” It simply means that Stalin was willing to pay a great price to guarantee security. (It’s probable that his successors did think he had gone too far. After he died, they let up on secrecy to a small but significant degree.) The story also illustrates that a monopoly of power and secret decision making do not endow authoritarian rulers with decisiveness and the ability to cut through red tape. What follows page 99 is the unfolding of a saga of bureaucratic time-wasting and indecision that went on for years without resolution. Eventually those involved just had to get used to living with absurd rules.

But no, page 99 doesn’t give the reader a full sense of what my book is about. For one thing, the story that begins there may be canonical, but it’s also one of the drier (dare I say boring?) stories in my book. Other stories in the book that might be more fun for the reader arise from the secret uses of the personal information that the secret police held on anyone who came to their attention, how secret police informers spread mistrust through society, and the frequency with which secret police officers lost secret documents by getting drunk in bars and forgetting their briefcases.

For another, my book is not just a collection of stories. It also offers a framework for understanding the different roles that secrecy has played in authoritarian states compared to modern democracies.
Visit Mark Harrison's Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Huaping Lu-Adler's "Kant, Race, and Racism"

Huaping Lu-Adler is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University. She specializes in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Western philosophy (particularly epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of science, and logic). She is the author of Kant and the Science of Logic (2018).

Lu-Adler applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Kant, Race, and Racism: Views from Somewhere, and reported the following:
Page 99 is a good window into this book. It begins with a question: “What are we to make of this picture?” The preceding page depicts how Kant relates to racism both as a prominent scholar and as a lecturer with a decades long teaching career. As a scholar, Kant developed a groundbreaking scientific theory of race. He dedicated three essays to that task (1775/77, 1785, 1788). Meanwhile, Kant the lecturer would drop racist remarks here and there in his popular courses on anthropology and geography, which he taught in alternate semesters for decades. He claimed, for instance, that the race represented by Amerindians were incapable of any culture whatsoever, whereas the race of “Negroes” (a special term referring to the Senegambian Africans) were suitable for none other than the “culture of slaves.” It is worth adding that Kant intended his anthropology and geography courses to equip his white students with the pragmatic world knowledge (Weltkenntnis) they supposedly needed in order to navigate the world as their “stage.”

Page 99 then describes how a typical Kantian today would respond to the above picture. The response makes the following basic assumptions. First, racism is a matter of personal prejudice on Kant’s part, which should be separated from his philosophy. Second, racism directly contradicts Kant’s “moral universalism,” understood as the view that fundamental moral laws—particularly the law that one ought to treat every human being respectfully as an end and not as mere means—apply to all humans without exception. With these assumptions, a typical Kantian would admit that Kant was a racist individual, only to insist that his philosophy is stronger than his racism and can—or even must—be read independently of the latter. Meanwhile, insofar the majority of Kant’s racist remarks are found in texts like student notes of his lectures, a typical Kantian would decline to give much weight to those remarks for the reason that they might not accurately represent his considered position. Furthermore, there is a tendency to think that Kant’s claims about race are simply ignorant and that he was mostly regurgitating what he gleaned from travelogs. He was, so to speak, just being a child of his time (Kind seiner Zeit).

On the next page, I challenge the assumption that racism is simply a matter of personal prejudice. This assumption is ubiquitous in the discourse on Kant and racism, which often dwells on whether or for how long he was a racist. This individualistic or atomistic approach, as I call it, ignores the fact that Kant was a social actor who occupied highly influential positions of power—both as an eminent philosopher and as a university professor. By writing and lecturing repeatedly about race from those positions, he must have played a crucial part in the formation of modern racist ideology. Chapter 2 of the book, which includes page 99, reconceptualizes “racism” as racist ideological formation to capture that observation. Chapters 5 and 6 then explore the far-reaching impact of the resulting ideology.

I challenge other assumptions behind the typical Kantian response elsewhere in the book. For instance, Chapter 1 shows how Kant’s lofty moral philosophy is in fact compatible with the racist claims he made about non-white races. The main thing to know is that, for Kant, it was not enough simply to articulate a highly abstract vision of humanity’s moral destiny—as he did in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785). He must also explain—as he did in his anthropology courses and writings—whether or how humanity, as a species, is equipped to eventually realize that vision here on earth. Even more specifically, given his views on how the various human races fundamentally differed from one another in temperament, talent, and other morally relevant characteristics, he wanted to know which of those races could work as agents to propel humanity toward its moral destiny. Needless to say, his conclusion was that the white race alone could play this agential role. And he would see no contradiction between this racist conclusion and the moral claims he made at an extremely abstract level in the Groundwork.

Meanwhile, Chapters 3 and 4 reject the view that Kant was a mere child of his time on the issue of race. To the contrary, Kant was a key player and pathbreaker in the process of racial knowledge production that extended from the 17th through the 18th century. This process implicated well-known natural philosophers from Francis Bacon and Robert Boyle in the 17th century to Carl Linnaeus and Georges Buffon in the 18th century. While those philosophers paved the way for Kant, he went beyond them in putting forward his own scientific account of “race” as a hereditary biological character. He was perfectly aware that his account was unprecedented and controversial. Facing criticisms, he defended it with a great deal of ingenuity and sophistication. I show how some of his signature philosophical ideas were deeply implicated in this endeavor.

Overall, the goal of this book is not to call Kant out as a “racist.” Rather, by uncovering Kant’s role in the formation of modern racist ideology, I hope that Kantians today will recognize that they have a special burden to help undo the lasting legacies of that ideology through their research and teaching alike.
Learn more about Kant, Race, and Racism at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 2, 2023

Jerry Emory's "George Meléndez Wright"

With four decades of conservation experience, Jerry Emory has written dozens of articles on the environment and science with a focus on Latin America and the Western United States. His books include San Francisco Bay Shoreline Guide and Monterey Bay Shoreline Guide.

Emory applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, George Meléndez Wright: The Fight for Wildlife and Wilderness in the National Parks, and reported the following:
Page 99 of George Meléndez Wright: The Fight for Wildlife and Wilderness in the National Parks not only announces the birth of Wright’s second daughter, but it also has a poignant quote mid-page, and then introduces a key issue he and his wildlife team worked on in the early 1930s in the western National Parks.

The page gives a clear, yet partial, snapshot of the book, covering some central themes, but by no means all. It highlights his family, which was very important to Wright. It displays his writing. And, the page ends with the topic of overgrazing in the parks.

Wright lost both of his parents by the time he was 8, and his brothers were sent to El Salvador to be raised. Wright was adopted by an elderly great aunt and stayed in San Francisco. “Auntie” died when he was 24, and Wright wanted to create his own family. His marriage, and the births of his two daughters, were monumental events for him. Wright died tragically at 31, but his young family eventually thrived and kept his memory alive.

The Wright quote demonstrates his close friendship with colleague Ben Thompson. Wright penned a note to an acquaintance in Yosemite lamenting the fact that he, Wright, couldn’t be in the field. “But next to being there myself it is nearly the same having Ben there,” he wrote. “We think and work so nearly along the same lines that it is like one person divided.”

Wright, Thompson, and another colleague, Joseph Dixon—all from U.C. Berkeley—were ground-breaking biologists in the Park Service in the 1930s. Wright created a Wildlife Survey for the western National Parks in order to introduce science-based management into the parks. At the time, feeding bears garbage for “shows” was common. Ramshackle zoos were kept by some parks, and large animals were corralled for easy viewing by visitors. Hundreds of thousands of predators had been killed in and around the parks by the government between 1916 and 1930, including over 8,300 wolves and 325,000 coyotes. Wright wanted to end that practice. The national parks were out of balance, and Wright knew it. Another major management problem, introduced on page 99, was overgrazing. Countless sheep and cattle were allowed to roam in the parks untethered. Wright’s effort to address all of these issues, and more, were mostly successful, though many persist to this day.
Visit Jerry Emory's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Antón Barba-Kay's "A Web of Our Own Making"

Antón Barba-Kay received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago's Committee on Social Thought in 2013. He was Professor of Philosophy at Catholic University from 2013–22. He is now Robert B. Aird Chair of Humanities at Deep Springs College-a liberal arts college on a cattle ranch in the Eastern Sierra.

Barba-Kay applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Web of Our Own Making: The Nature of Digital Formation, and reported the following:
From page 99 of A Web of Our Own Making:
But online communication does more than facilitate more-of-the-same. First, because there is an unstable distinction between the internet used as a supplement to offline relationships and the internet used as a substitute for them: There is an easy slope tending from the former to the latter. Reconnecting with an old friend, say, or speaking to grandchildren on Skype are extensions of existing relationships that are not primarily situated online. But even in such cases it is clear that, by allowing us to be in frequent contact at a distance, online associations make it easier to move away, to live at a distance from friends and family, to keep our neighbors at arm's length, to work from home, to spend more time entertained alone...The internet is, in this respect, a social lubricant, and therefore a social solvent.
If the Page 99 Test (as formulated by Ford Madox Ford) is meant to be diagnostic of the quality of the book as a whole, then I'm satisfied that nothing here embarrasses me. The most basic form of the book's thesis--the thesis regarded from nosebleed altitude--is also present here: that digital technology is not continuous with our analogue values, practices, and relationships, but qualitatively changes all of them to such a degree as to make it almost impossible to judge whether our lives are radically improving or deteriorating.

But this is (in itself) hardly news. There is also a hint in this passage of a theme that is better developed as the chapter goes on, namely, that digital relations are scrambling and disrupting the political goods that we've long taken for granted: democracy and liberalism, as well as the very idea of the nation state. While I don't indulge in much speculation about what the future of digital politics will hold (specifically), I try to identify the main trends that inhere in new media: a high premium on the exercise of individual choices and a low one on institutional legitimacy and personal authority, among others. And this, in turn, ties into the book's larger argument that digital media are a "natural" technology: a technology that is working to erase the boundaries between human nature and human design or programming. This erasure will come at the cost of the formative influences of earlier ways in which human beings have understood their identities (as in: tradition, convention, custom--all of which look merely "constructed" or "arbitrary" once regarded through a digital lens). To simplify my point a bit: tech will replace culture.

Writing a book on this subject has been flummoxing because I've felt all along as if I were aiming for a moving target; digital technology develops faster than print can write about it. (As soon as I had submitted the final ms. to Cambridge, Chat GPT appeared...) But my approach throughout has been to try to identify the deepest principles, trends, and biases that underlie the whole revolution in the long term. I doubt that Instagram or Chat GPT will be on anyone's mind twenty years or thirty from now. But I hope that my book still will be. (Assuming people are still reading books at all then!)
Learn more about A Web of Our Own Making at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Eric Helleiner's "The Contested World Economy"

Eric Helleiner is Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Balsillie School of International Affairs at the University of Waterloo. His books include The Forgotten Foundations of Bretton Woods, The Status Quo Crisis, and The Neomercantilists: A Global Intellectual History.

Helleiner applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Contested World Economy: The Deep and Global Roots of International Political Economy, and reported the following:
My book provides a history of the deep roots of the field of international political economy (IPE) by analyzing diverse perspectives about the world economy that existed across the globe in the pre-1945 era. One of these perspectives was Marxism, including its theories of imperialism that were developed by Vladimir Lenin and others in the early twentieth century. Following a description of Lenin’s theory on previous pages, page 99 of my book describes his creation of the Communist International after the Russian Revolution, a body that he hoped would cultivate anti-imperialist movements around the world as a means of weakening global capitalism.

Unfortunately, the Page 99 Test does not work very well in conveying the central goal of my book. My objective is to challenge the way in which IPE’s deep roots in the pre-1945 years are usually depicted. The conventional depiction in IPE textbooks focuses on a number of thinkers who are described as pioneering the three perspectives of economic liberalism (Adam Smith, David Ricardo), neomercantilism (Alexander Hamilton, Friedrich List), and Marxism (Marx and Lenin). My book describes the ideas of these thinkers, including Lenin’s, but its central purpose is to show how IPE’s deep roots can be told in a much wider way.

This widening of the history includes a focus on many thinkers from other regions of the world than the one from which those well-known figures came. It also involves an analysis of perspectives about the world economy that go beyond the conventional depiction of three-way debate between economic liberals, neomercantilists, and Marxists. By widening the history in these ways, this book shows how the deep roots of IPE are not just more interesting than textbook accounts suggest but also more relevant to many contemporary concerns about the world economy.
Learn more about The Contested World Economy at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Forgotten Foundations of Bretton Woods.

The Page 99 Test: The Neomercantilists.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Bart Elmore's "Country Capitalism"

Bart Elmore is associate professor of environmental history at The Ohio State University and the 2022 recipient of the Dan David Prize. His books include Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism and Seed Money: Monsanto's Past and Our Food Future.

Elmore applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Country Capitalism: How Corporations from the American South Remade Our Economy and the Planet, and reported the following:
I’m using an advanced copy of the book when applying this test, but page 99 of my book on my desk explores the backlash Walmart faced as it tried to break into new markets outside the American South in the 1990s. The point of this portion of the chapter was to explain how rurality proved both a key ingredient to Walmart’s business growth in the twentieth century as well as a weakness. In the preceding pages, readers learn how the unique commercial ecology of Bentonville, Arkansas, spurred Sam Walton and his executive team to make innovations in logistics that ultimately revolutionized our global economy. The fact that Walton decided to site his stores in small, rural towns of a few thousand people was an important factor in terms of how the company designed its retail system. For one, there was little initial competition from other big-box stores, such as Kmart and Target, in these rural communities, something Walton noted in his own biography when he said he could “hide there in the hills” of the Ozarks out of sight of his rivals (85). But more importantly, serving such rural and remote communities meant the firm had to make advancements in retail techniques. “We were forced to be ahead of our time in distribution and in communication,” Sam Walton said, “because our stores were sitting out there in tiny little towns and we had to stay in touch and keep them supplied” (90). In this sense rurality was a key asset that made Walmart the largest corporation in the world by the start of the twenty-first century. Yet, by page 99, we see that rurality could also be a problem for Walmart, especially as it expanded into towns that feared Walmart’s presence would change the very rural aesthetic many people valued. We see that battle on this page and in other sections of this chapter.

The Page 99 Test works here. This book traces the environmental history of five southern corporations—Coca-Cola, Delta, Walmart, FedEx, and Bank of America—and explains how these companies came to have outsized influence on our economy and the environment. There are two chapters devoted to each firm, and each chapter answers different questions. First, I seek to understand how each business’s unique geographic position in the American South contributed to its growth in the twentieth century. In answering this question for each firm, I discovered a pattern that became embedded in the title of the book. What I came to see is that each of these firms from the American South grew big in part by servicing the countryside, by seeing rural and less urban areas as an asset. I call this strategy for making money country capitalism and make clear throughout the book that southern firms were not the only businesses making money in this way in the twentieth century (think Sears in Chicago, for example). Nevertheless, I emphasize that the American South’s rural character meant that southern businesses found country capitalism particularly attractive. After exploring this question of the ecological roots of southern business success, I then turn to examine what that success meant for the ecological health of our planet. For each firm, I explore how an emphasis on long-distance transport of goods to and from remote markets and an obsession with have-it-now, instantaneous consumer gratification led to huge ecological impacts. My big point is to suggest that we need a new era of environmentalism and environmental regulations that recognizes that retail, logistics, and banking enterprises have become the dominant players in our economy, replacing industrial giants of old. With that understanding, it becomes clear that if we want to solve a problem as big as climate change, we need to focus our energies on these conduits of capitalism—these firms that have found a way to ship goods, people, and money so swiftly across our planet. In the end, this book suggests ways we might do just that, cutting supply chains that are feeding pollution problems warming our planet.
Learn more about the book and author at Bartow J. Elmore's website.

The Page 99 Test: Citizen Coke.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 29, 2023

J. Barton Scott's "Slandering the Sacred"

J. Barton Scott is associate professor of historical studies and the study of religion at the University of Toronto. He is author of Spiritual Despots: Modern Hinduism and the Genealogies of Self-Rule.

Scott applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Slandering the Sacred: Blasphemy Law and Religious Affect in Colonial India, and reported the following:
I love the quirkiness of the Page 99 Test, and I especially love the quirkiness that results from doing the test on my new book, Slandering the Sacred: Blasphemy Law and Religious Affect in Colonial India. My page 99 is almost entirely occupied by a photograph of Utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s mummified corpse, or “Auto-Icon,” on permanent display at University College–London. A snippet of text appears at the bottom of the page:
Utilitarianism’s calculating passions came at a cost, as Bentham knew. The truths of moral science, he wrote, do not flourish “in the same soil with sentiment.” One reason for this difficulty is soil itself, or, rather, territory. Although the body’s capacity for pleasure and pain is “much the same the world over,” its “corporeal sensibility” is shaped by historical and geographic circumstances.
As a point of entry into my book, page 99 is not just quirky. It is downright macabre, fixating on an extremely particular historical body, now voided of feeling. Either this is a terrible introduction to my book, or the best introduction possible. The book is all about bodies and their capacity to feel.

* * *
Slandering the Sacred tells the story of Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, which makes it a criminal offense to “outrage” the “religious feelings” of any class of person. Enacted in 1927 by the British-colonial state, this law remains a prominent feature of public culture in contemporary India, where it is often invoked to allege religious offense, especially concerning Hinduism. It also remains law in Pakistan, where it shaped later laws restricting insults to Islam.

When it was enacted, many people called 295A a “blasphemy law.” That, however, is a misnomer. Section 295A was an effort to secularize the British common law of blasphemy at a time when slandering Christianity was still a criminal offense in the U.K. (a London man had been jailed for the crime as recently as 1921). As a law about “religious feelings,” not religion per se, 295A was sort of a proto-hate speech law. It was trying to prevent all-too-human violence.

By exploring this law’s history, I argue, we can see how Western secularism emerged from colonial encounter: British secularism was arguably invented in India. We can also see how legal secularism can have the perverse effect of stoking the very religious feelings it tries to contain. By writing religious feelings into law, a statute like 295A works to educate its subjects in outrage.

How to make sense of such intimate-yet-public feelings? To do that, I delve into contemporary affect theory, as well as a longer history of philosophizing about emotion—including the writings of Jeremy Bentham, one of the architects of the Indian Penal Code. His Auto-Icon grew out of his larger philosophic project, a kind of performance art object attempting to do new things with the rationalized, de-sanctified body. The Auto-Icon thus points to many of the core concerns of my book: bodily sensations, philosophic experiments in feeling. It stands in for the many less-famous bodies that populate the rest of my book’s pages.
Visit J. Barton Scott's website.

The Page 99 Test: Spiritual Despots.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Carol Graham's "The Power of Hope"

Carol Graham is the interim Vice President and Director of Economic Studies at Brookings and a College Park Professor at the University of Maryland.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, The Power of Hope: How Wellbeing Science Can Save Us from Despair, and reported the following:
I have just published a book on hope and despair, which is both about the dangers of the extensive levels of despair in our society and what can be done to restore hope in populations and places where it has been lost. The first of these issues is daunting and the second is a difficult challenge. Neither of these are issues that would typically be addressed by economists, but they are now central to our society’s health, productivity, and democracy. We must make them a priority.

Uncannily, the opening text on page 99 highlights both:
Despair is a state where one does not care whether one lives or dies.…and where the narrative for one’s life is gone, with nothing to replace it. It is the analogue of hope, which combines the sense that things can get better with the will to make them better. How do people get from one state to the other? Why has this happened on a large scale in one of the wealthiest countries on earth? What can be done?
Our crisis of despair at both individual and collective levels is, indeed, unparalleled in our history. Since 2010, over one million Americans have died of “deaths of despair,” which are those caused by suicide, overdoses, and other poisonings among adults in their prime age years. Indeed, prime age workers who have permanently dropped out of the labor force – due to addiction, ill health, and associated despair - are disproportionately represented in these deaths. In 2021, we had over 100,000 deaths from opioid overdoses alone. Our premature mortality rate from these deaths has caused consistent declines in our life expectancy since 2015, rather than the increases that are typical for wealthy countries, reversing the longevity gains made by progress in curing cancer, cardiac disease, and other key factors driving our mortality rates.

How did preventable, premature deaths become so predominant in one of the world’s wealthiest countries? Perhaps the most important explanation, in my view and in my research, is the loss of hope among the cohorts who are most represented, such as the white working class, which has seen its livelihoods disappear and its communities and social structures such as marriages and civil society organizations unravel at the same time. In the past three years, though, minorities and youth have also begun to be part of this death count, due to the increasingly widespread availability of the relatively inexpensive and particularly lethal synthetic opioid, Fentanyl, and to the increase in depression and anxiety among the young.

Despair and deaths of despair constitute a vicious circle and are strongly associated phenomena and spread from individuals to communities and back again. In addition to the decline of manufacturing and other blue-collar jobs, there are also increasing challenges to the supply of low skill jobs, such as technology driven growth and artificial intelligence. The negative effects of these include increasingly uncertain lives and jobs, increasingly unequal access to health care, and increasingly unequal opportunity sets across the rich and the poor. The over-supply of legal opioids beginning around 2005, which primarily affected working class whites, and is now being replaced by the wide availability of illicit drugs such as fentanyl, added to a perfect storm, which is now encompassing a wider range of age and population cohorts.

What can be done? There are, of course, practical public policies that could help, such as expanding access to health care and particularly the reach of mental health care, support for low-income youth seeking to attain the new kinds of education required in the labor markets of tomorrow, such as socio-emotional and cognitive skills, critical thinking and problem solving skills, and technological skills, some of which can be acquired in college and others which are available in new forms of education, with community college often being a good entry point, and restoring the social and economic infrastructure which is in decline in deprived communities, such as access to broadband internet and to credible sources of local news.

Yet critical to the success of any of these and other practical solutions is restoring hope and aspirations of individuals in despair. Without hope, they are unlikely to take up any new opportunities and/or invest in their own futures. There are no established recipes for doing so, however. While psychiatrists, for example, often point to restoring hope as the starting point for recovering from mental illness, there are no clear guideposts for how to. Nor is there a clear, agreed upon definition of hope across the medical and social sciences. What we do know is that hope is different from optimism because of its agentic properties. One example is the comparison of the tragic optimist, who continues to think things will get better even when they are not, to the hopeful pessimist, who is trying to make things better rather than wishing they will get better. As such hope is key to future outcomes.

There are no magic bullets in this area, and at minimum, success will entail mental health treatment along with restoring community resilience and revival. There are also examples of strategies that work at different stages in the life course. One is the Be Well initiative in schools in declining regions of the UK, which teaches children in middle and high-schools socio-emotional skills such as self-esteem and resilience and coping strategies for loneliness and lack of hope. The initiative, which evaluates the participants at different points in their education trajectory and finds that it improves both the wellbeing and academic performance of the majority.

Other initiatives aimed at older adults in isolation and/or despair encourage participation in community activities, such as volunteering or participation in the arts. My research on inspiring hope and educational aspirations among young adults preparing for entry into the labor markets highlights the critical role of mentors who can both support the youth in their aspirations but also guide their efforts in training for the skills that will be required in tomorrow’s uncertain labor markets.

We indeed face a daunting challenge as a society and need to develop strategies for taking it on in a new and little-known field. If we do not take it up, though, having a next generation in despair will be an existential threat to our society.
Follow Carol Graham on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Happiness Around the World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Adam Hart's "The Deadly Balance"

Adam Hart is Professor of Science Communication at the University of Gloucestershire. A biologist, broadcaster and author, Hart works on a range of topics including African ecology and conservation, insects and citizen science. He has made more than 30 documentaries for BBC Radio and World Service, most recently the series Tooth and Claw, eight programs examining our complex relationships with predators. Hart's latest book, The Deadly Balance: Predators and People in a Crowded World, explores our difficult interactions with predatory animals such as lions, bears and wolves, and how we can balance conservation with development to create a world where both predators and people can thrive.

Hart applied the "Page 99 Test" to The Deadly Balance and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Deadly Balance focuses on tigers eating people. There’s an idea that big cats only attack people if the cats are injured or weakened. Page 99 discusses this idea and reflects that, whilst this may well have been the case 100 years ago, it certainly isn’t the case now. In India, healthy young male tigers are often responsible for attacks. The main issue now is that tigers breed well when humans aren’t persecuting them, and the protection tigers have is leading to large numbers of young males roaming the countryside looking for territories. This brings them into contact with livestock and people, both of which are easy prey.

I think that opening the book at page 99 gives a pretty good impression of the book. Several key themes are developed throughout the book, which examines how we can find a balance between the conservation needs of large predators and the needs of people living alongside them. Three of these key themes are represented on page 99. The first is that predators are a threat to people, and vice versa. The second is that the situation is complex, varying with location, time and species. Thirdly, a key theme is that conservation is difficult, and we must include people in our reckoning or we will likely end up getting poor outcomes. The ideas developed on page 99 for tigers in modern day India encapsulate a great deal of that thinking.

Two things that page 99 doesn’t reflect so well are the diversity of predators that may consider us as prey, and the multiple issues of living alongside them. The book is divided into chapters more-or-less arranged around specific animals that can hunt, kill and eat us. Tigers are without doubt, even in the modern world, a major player when it comes to eating people, but lions (Ch3) and crocodiles (Ch4) individually account for more people than tigers. Other chapters explore hyenas, leopards and other cats, wolves and other dogs, bears, and less obvious animals including eagles (rare, but it happens), chimpanzees (infants are particularly vulnerable), pythons, and even army ants.

In the developed world we often call for “better conservation”, but we seldom pay the price of living alongside wildlife. The book’s conclusion is that, until we have some empathy and understanding with those living in what we arrogantly call “habitat”, we will fail in conserving the wildlife we admire safely from afar.
Follow Adam Hart on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 26, 2023

Melissa Ditmore's "Unbroken Chains"

Melissa Ditmore is a freelance consultant specializing in issues of gender, development, health and human rights. She holds a PhD in sociology from the City University of New York and has published several previous books on sex work and prostitution. Her consulting clients have included the United Nations, the US Agency for International Development, and the Hilton Foundation. Her writing has also appeared in outlets such as HuffPost, The Guardian, and the Daily Beast.

Ditmore applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Unbroken Chains: The Hidden Role of Human Trafficking in the American Economy, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Unbroken Chains: The Hidden Role of Human Trafficking in the American Economy contains the last paragraph of a chapter about domestic work, which reads
Domestic work continued to be a source of employment for women, particularly Black women, throughout the Jim Crow era. Segregation did not stop at a home’s threshhold. Vinella Byrd described being a domestic servant during the civil rights era, saying, “The man didn’t want me to wash my hands in the wash pan” (that is, the kitchen sink). She was also denied access to the bathroom, so she prepared food without washing her hands. Hazel Rankins said, “I would not only clean the bathroom but I’d take a bath in the bathtub.”
The Page 99 Test worked well on Unbroken Chains, giving a good sample, containing some ugly information, examples of how this affected people’s lives, and how some people resisted or changed their situations. This paragraph about maids in mid-20th century sits alongside personal stories of people in trafficking situations in agriculture, manufacturing, sales crews, and prostitution, including historical examples involving indentured servants, enslaved people, and prison laborers.

Compulsory labor is woven into our economy since the colonial era, and the experiences of these individuals foreground the high cost of cheap labor. Unpaid labor is paid for in deaths, injuries, and isolated tragedies. The human costs involve missed opportunities for people to live well and shine. Unbroken Chains comprises accounts of indigenous and African enslaved people, European and Chinese laborers who borrowed money for their travel costs guaranteed against their future work, and Americans, Asians and Latin Americans who accepted job offers that were not as promised. Even as these personal stories can be sad, no one should doubt that their own actions can have impact, in actions like decisions about purchases, and larger movements with people organizing at their workplaces. The concluding chapter offers suggestions for individuals to take action.
Visit Melissa Ditmore's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Christopher Yeomans's "The Politics of German Idealism"

Christopher Yeomans received his PhD at the University of California, Riverside in 2005. He began his academic career at the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied primarily linguistics, literature, and literary theory. Eventually literary theory led him to critical theory and then to the classical German philosophy that serves as its foundation. After a dissertation on Hegel's theory of free will, he then became an assistant professor of philosophy at Kenyon College, joining the Purdue faculty in 2009. His broad project is to develop a political theory that integrates the conceptual riches of the Kantian theory of autonomy (free will), the phenomenological riches of an expressivist theory of moral psychology, and the political riches of concrete social and historical description.

Yeomans applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Politics of German Idealism, and reported the following:
Here is the most suggestive paragraph from page 99:
Fichte’s conception of the family is the most contracted of any of the German Idealists, and in that respect represents the civil- social nuclear family in its sharpest contrast with the corporate- social extended household. Fichte’s concep­tion not only eschews any relation to servants or the internal economic structure of the family; it is, in fact, almost exclusively focused on the marriage bond rather than the multigenerational nature of even the nuclear family. In fact, the discussion of relations to children is relegated to the fourth of four sections and proceeds along lines almost entirely distinct from those of the first three sections. In those first three sections, in which the concept of marriage is deduced and elaborated, everything turns on the tension between the purported natural differences between the sex drives of men and women, on the one hand, and their presumed equality in having reason, on the other. Marriage is necessarily heterosexual and monogamous. The marriage relation is deduced as that relation which will allow both sexes to express their natural sex drive in a way compatible with reason and thus with their own moral personality. The basic conflict is between the purported passivity of the female sexual drive with the activity of reason, and the resolution of this conflict is found in the voluntary subjection of the wife to the husband. It is important not to understate the extent of this subjection, nor the extent to which it is (almost) entirely limited to marriage.
I think the Page 99 Test works! It drops the reader straight into a typical analysis of one of the main writers (Fichte) on one of the main institutions (the family) that the book discusses. Among the things the reader will see here is the difference between the civil-social and corporate-social perspectives. One of the claims of the book is that the best way to understand the social context of German political philosophy at the turn of the 19th century is in the split of the new voluntaristic civil society from the older corporate or traditional society (the Ständegesellschaft), and then the attempt at state-building in the middle of that split. I argue that philosophical debates between Kant, Fichte and Hegel can be understood as structured by the way they take up those three different perspectives. On the family, Fichte demands of us the radical change to the nuclear family of civil society, Kant reconstructs the traditional extended economic household (including servants), and Hegel attempts to balance the different functions of the family from the perspective of state regulation. This is not to say, of course, that there are not philosophical conceptual differences between the philosophers—it is rather to say that those differences are representative of the social differences between the perspectives that they take up. The reader on page 99 might then think: so far, so Marxist. But I don’t read any of the three philosophers as a superstructural mouthpiece for any particular group. In fact, in the following chapter I show that when it comes to property the three philosophers take up different perspectives: Fichte the state perspective that treats property ownership as a precondition for political participation, Kant the civil-social perspective which treats property rights as flexible in the way required for economic innovations, and Hegel the corporate-social perspective which treats property as a personal extension of the will to the body and beyond.
Learn more about The Politics of German Idealism at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Larry Wolff's "The Shadow of the Empress"

Larry Wolff is the Julius Silver Professor of European History at New York University and Co-Director, NYU Florence.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Shadow of the Empress: Fairy-Tale Opera and the End of the Habsburg Monarchy, and reported the following:
On page 99 of The Shadow of the Empress I discuss the correspondence of Richard Strauss and his librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, collaborating on the creation of the fairy-tale opera Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman without a Shadow) during the month of July 1914, as Europe was about to go to war in World War I. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand had just been assassinated at the end of June, and the war would commence at the beginning of August, so July 1914 was a critical month for all of Europe, while Strauss and Hofmannsthal debated some of the more sinister aspects of the opera: the Mephistophelean role of “The Nurse” and her Hexentanz (witch’s dance) as she persuades the Dyer’s Wife to renounce her shadow and her fertility, so that the Empress may obtain a human shadow. Hofmannsthal wanted the unborn children of the Dyer’s Wife to cry out from the frying pan on the stove, in fairy-tale fashion, but Strauss worried that the audience might be disturbed to think that the children were actually being cannibalized as part of dinner. These dark reflections (described on page 99) were taking place as Europe was about to embark upon the deadliest war in European history till then.

This material on page 99 is really central to my book, as I am particularly interested in understanding how the coming of war shaped the creation and eventually the reception of this opera. In 1911 Hofmannsthal and Strauss first imagined this opera, dealing with a fairy-tale Emperor and Empress (and the Empress’s search for a human shadow), at a time when Europe was still ruled by emperors and empresses, notably in Hofmannsthal’s Austria-Hungary and in Strauss’s Germany. In fact, 1911 was the year of the imperial marriage between Habsburg Archduke Karl and Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma, who would become the very last Habsburg Emperor and Empress during the war. The book follows the parallel lives of the fictive fairy-tale Emperor and Empress of the opera and the real-life Emperor Karl and Empress Zita, culminating in the opera’s premiere in Vienna following the war in 1919, the same year that Karl and Zita were compelled to depart from Austria, now transformed into a republic. The book thus argues that the moment when the fairy-tale Emperor and Empress stepped onto the stage in Vienna in 1919 was also the moment when real emperors and empresses were removed from political life and became, in effect, fairy-tale figures for most of the world during the rest of the twentieth century. The book then follows the stagings of this fairy-tale opera during the rest of the twentieth century, as the Europe of emperors and empresses became increasingly remote. For instance, the book considers what it meant to perform Die Frau ohne Schatten in Nazi Vienna during World War II and then to revive it in 1955 in postwar Austria with the rebuilding of the bombed Vienna Opera House. The book also follows Empress Zita as she took refuge from Nazi Europe in the United States in 1940; eventually she would receive a fairy-tale funeral in Vienna in 1989— seventy years after being exiled from Austria in 1919. It follows Emperor Karl on the path to posthumous beatification by the Roman Catholic Church in 2004, the ultimate fairy-tale transformation into a prospective saint. I write a little about my own Austrian family emigrating to the United States at the same time as Empress Zita, and about my own role in the beatification process surrounding Zita following her death. Returning to page 99, I just want to note that the coming of World War I profoundly shaped the creation of this opera, both prolonging the collaborative process and marking the opera itself both musically and dramatically. And by the time the war was over, and the opera was finally staged in Vienna, emperors and empresses had become definitively fairy-tale figures.
Visit Larry Wolff's NYU faculty webpage.

The Page 99 Test: The Idea of Galicia.

The Page 99 Test: The Singing Turk.

The Page 99 Test: Woodrow Wilson and the Reimagining of Eastern Europe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Helen J. Nicholson's "Women and the Crusades"

Helen J. Nicholson is Emerita Professor in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion at Cardiff University, UK. She has published extensively on the crusades, the military orders, and various related subjects, including a translation of a chronicle of the Third Crusade and an edition of the Templar trial proceedings in Britain and Ireland.

Nicholson applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Women and the Crusades, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Women and the Crusades lies in the second half of the book, near the start of the fourth chapter of six, which considers ‘The Home Front’. The women on ‘The Home Front’ waved goodbye to their family members and tried to get on with their lives and look after family interests while their nearest and dearest were away seeking salvation on crusade. Page 99 considers some of the costs of crusading for those left behind. In theory, spouses, children and possessions of crusaders were under Church protection, but in practice such protection was not always enforced. Page 99 explains that crusaders ‘had to worry about their lands being seized and their wives and family attacked, evicted by their neighbours, or even murdered during their absence or if they died on crusade, when papal protection would lapse’. It goes on to give a few examples of women who were murdered or raped during family members’ absence. It also mentions a women who married during her father’s absence in the Holy Land, who might have simply taken advantage of her father being away to marry without asking his permission.

Page 99 gives readers some idea of the breadth of this book and how it approaches its subject through a broad range of examples. It considers women who neither initiated crusades (chapter two) nor took part in crusade expeditions (chapter three), but who nevertheless had their lives changed or even destroyed by crusading. Many of the women in ‘The Home Front’ chapter were looking after family estates during their loved ones’ absence, but not all held such heavy responsibilities. Some purchased ‘crusade indulgences’ to help fund crusaders, and some donated to organisations which ransomed crusaders who had been taken prisoner. Some had to cope with the death of family members on crusade and the administering of their wills (or the fall-out if they had left no will!), and a few had to cope with the reappearance years later of those who had been presumed dead. This chapter and this page show that even women who did not take part in crusading themselves would have been involved in it in some way or another.
Follow Helen J. Nicholson on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 22, 2023

Richard C. Hoffmann's "The Catch"

Richard C Hoffmann is professor emeritus in the Department of History at York University in Toronto.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Catch: An Environmental History of Medieval European Fisheries, and reported the following:
Interesting proposition, this Page 99 Test. I wondered how something meant to assess the readability of fiction might turn out for an academic’s big environmental history of a period, place, and sector in the premodern past. To my mild surprise this turns out OK, at least from the author’s perspective. Assuming the proof copy from December 2022 is replicated in the actual book (which I have yet to see), page 99 is quite representative of my approach.

Page 99 of The Catch is part of chapter 3 on subsistence fishing, the local fishing for a consuming household that prevailed across medieval Europe and especially in the period before about 1100 CE. This sample treats ‘direct subsistence’, the work done by ordinary people to feed their own household, not that for a superior or lord. In this sector I emphasize how capture methods were shaped by and transmitted local traditional ecological knowledge in peasant societies throughout medieval western Christendom, whether they exploited marine or freshwater aquatic systems. The page further displays something of the diversity and geographic spread of evidence on which the book rests as well as the different kinds of source materials which underlie my assertions about a distant, obscure, and little understood past.

Fishing is simultaneously an economic and ecological activity, a zone of interaction between a natural world with its own characteristics and dynamisms and a realm of human cultures with their own prerogatives and powers. This interaction is the domain of environmental history. The Catch engages the interplay of the natural and the cultural at the scale of the European subcontinent and cultural community of medieval Latin Christendom, so is meant for readers interested in environmental history and in medieval studies. As an environmental history it gives equal status and autonomy to the cultural evolution and drivers of human practices and the non-cultural forces of nature, which come together in human societies and their biophysical structures. Sometimes forces rooted in planetary physics, chemistry, and biology propelled and shaped the interaction; in other circumstances learned human prerequisites were the primary drivers. Neither is without effect on the other.

By around the turn of the millennium Europe’s rising market exchange sector included local artisanal fishing, the capture and sale of local fishes to local consumers, mostly in emergent urban centres. Over time and at local scale responses to increasing demand for fish resulted in perceptions of shortage, rising prices, assertion of property rights in fisheries, and governmental efforts to regulate them ‘for the public good.’ Both common rights and private lordship could succeed or fail at preserving fish stocks. More interventionist were later medieval creation of distinctive means for artificial culture of freshwater fishes and long-distance exploitation of hitherto unimpacted wild stocks on and beyond Europe’s marine frontiers. These innovations set templates for both greater future supplies and overexploitation. Yet under both the benign medieval climate anomaly and the difficulties of the subsequent little ice age local and regional communities found adaptations to new environmental conditions. Everyday lives of ordinary medieval people, -- eaters, traders, and catchers of fish -- played out in complex interchange with aquatic habitats and biodiversity. The millennium of medieval human perceptions and responses to these changes bears upon even present-day understandings of aquatic ecologies and their management.
Learn more about The Catch at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Alejandra Dubcovsky's "Talking Back"

Alejandra Dubcovsky is associate professor of history at the University of California, Riverside. She is the author of Informed Power: Communication in the Early South.

Dubcovsky applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Talking Back: Native Women and the Making of the Early South, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Talking Back marks the beginning of Chapter 4, when the violence of Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713) reached the gates of San Agustín, the main Spanish hub in colonial Florida. Women and non-combatants made-up the vast majority of those trapped inside the fort suddenly surrounded by enemy soldiers.
The women were screaming, and Florida governor Zúñiga y Cerda feared losing control of the situation. He had tried to ignore them, but he found their cries distracting, annoying, and above all else loud. And they were getting louder. Governor Zúñiga y Cerda had done his best to protect the main Spanish town in Florida from the large English and Native army that had laid siege to San Agustín during the first week of November 1702. Over one thousand people had crowded uncomfortably into the small Castillo de San Marcos as English and Native forces surrounded the town. The invasion had quickly faltered and become a stalemate. The English failed to penetrate Spanish defenses, and Spanish counterattacks failed to drive the English away.

On Christmas Eve, Spanish sentinels spotted two English supply vessels. News that the invading army had received reinforcements swept through the Castillo. Hushed whispers of surrender grew to a steady murmur, and within a matter of hours the fort was wrapped in a chaotic commotion. Defeat now seemed inevitable. And the women began making a bad situation even worse, the governor complained. Their wails soon proved infectious, increasing anxiety and lowering morale…
There are thousands of pages of correspondence, council meetings minutes, spy reports, military plans, and related documents about the siege of San Agustín. And from this Page-99 sample, you can see that in these materials about war, women were there. In fact, the women were so loud and their wails so infectious that the governor issued an order to silence them. That’s right, in the middle of this armed conflict, the governor thought it a priority to silence the women inside the fort. Talking Back argues that, in spite of the governor’s order, listening to these women’s voices is critically important.

The Page 99 Test gives a good sense of the type of evidence discussed in the book and provides some insight into how I center women’s experiences. Talking Back attempts to do this on a bigger scale, exploring how women, and in particular Native women, entered into colonial stories and accounts, how they recorded their experiences, and most importantly, why they chose to do so, arguing that these moments when women become visible (or audible!) help us interrogate the very content and structures that make them legible.
Follow Alejandra Dubcovsky on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Dinah Hannaford's "Aid and the Help"

Dinah Hannaford is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Houston. A cultural anthropologist, her work centers around the political economy of intimate life. As an experienced ethnographic field researcher with a strong linguistic foundation in French, Italian, and Wolof, Hannaford uses fine-grained ethnography to offer fresh insights into the conditions, challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. With an eye to questions of gender and power, her work provides a substantive contribution to crucial questions about mobility, technology, intimacy and inequality.

Hannaford applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Aid and the Help: International Development and the Transnational Extraction of Care, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the second page of chapter 3, a chapter called “Stratigraphies of Mobility.” Chapter 3 looks at the inequities of mobility between expat aid workers and the local people who do domestic work in their homes. This inequity, which I explore ethnographically in the chapter, illustrates one of the core arguments of the book, that the development industry brings mismatched rewards to its supposed “practitioners” and supposed “beneficiaries” and is built on colonial understandings of a hierarchy of humanity.

On this page, I conclude the opening ethnographic vignette about a European aid worker who admits she chose to work “in the field” in Africa because she knew she would have access to cheap domestic labor and thus access to a better work-life balance. I also lay out the main argument of the chapter:
In this chapter, however, I seek to explore the role of migration in this story of expatriate aid workers and their domestic workers. There are two stories of economic migration here—that of aid workers finding remunerative careers and enhanced lifestyles through North-South migration and that of rural Senegalese women coming to the city to find precarious employment as domestic workers. By putting them into conversation, I hope to highlight the interdependence of these two migration stories and the inexorable inequities of mobility they reflect. The migration of aid workers to Senegal gives them the means for increased status, financial well-being, and an enhanced work and family balance. The migration of rural Senegalese women to Dakar to work as their domestics can also provide some financial gain but just as often leaves domestic workers mired in economic and social precarity and separated from family.
The Page 99 Test works reasonably well for my book, in that it succinctly summarizes one of the book’s key takeaways and gives a glimpse of how ethnography and theory are woven together throughout the book. Missing, however, are the other key arguments about race, security, informality, guilt, and imperialism that add to this chapter’s claims to round out the central case made by the book. Absent too, is the ethnographic attention given to the stories and voices of Senegalese domestic workers.
Visit Dinah Hannaford's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 19, 2023

Margaret Gilbert's "Life in Groups"

Margaret Gilbert is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Melden Chair in Moral Philosophy at the University of California, Irvine.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Life in Groups: How We Think, Feel, and Act Together, and reported the following:
We often say that a particular group, such a sports team, has some belief, such as the belief that it is going to win the game. But what do we have in mind when we talk of what a group believes? Page 99 of Life in Groups references two philosophers who take pretty much the same position on this question. L. Jonathan Cohen says that “When a community or nation is said to believe or desire that p this is normally a figurative way of saying that most of its individual members, or most of its official representatives believe or desire that p.” Anthony Quinton says something similar: “With such mental states as beliefs…the ascriptions are what I have called of the summative kind”. I note that on first considering the question many people would agree that in order for a group to believe something, it is both necessary and sufficient that all---or most---of its members believe that thing. I call an account of group or collective belief a summative account if its core condition is that all or most of its members believe that p.

Someone opening Life in Groups at page 99 would be plunged into a discussion that is highly germane to the book as a whole: the nature of group or collective belief. However, it would not at that point be clear whether or not I endorsed or rejected a summative account. In fact, I do not endorse such an account. That emerges later in the chapter within which page 99 lies---chapter 4.

According to my account, in technical terms whose meaning I explain, a group believes that p if and only if its members are jointly committed to believe that p as a body. Importantly, as I understand this, a number of people can be jointly committed to believe that p as a body even though none of them personally believes that p. I do not say that it is often the case that a group believes something when none of its members personally believe it, but, as I note on page 100, that is a possibility, and doubtless sometimes occurs. My joint commitment account of collective belief respects this point among others.

A page of Life in Groups that does not at any point reference joint commitment cannot be considered to contain the key to the book with respect to its central idea or its central theme: that joint commitment lies at the heart of our thinking, feeling, intending, and so on as we understand these in our everyday lives.

That said, Part II contains five chapters devoted to collective belief, arguing against summative accounts, clarifying and defending my own account, connecting that to the process of scientific inquiry, and advocating for collective epistemology as an independent discipline. In sum, page 99 is a good indicator of the book's concerns, but hardly gives the game away.

In addition to chapters that focus on particular collective psychological states such as collective belief, others focus on an important class of rights and obligations. I argue that the joint commitments that constitute the core of our collective psychological states ground such rights and obligations, and link this point to the theory of rights, on the one hand, and the obligations of citizens, as such, on the other.
Learn more about Life in Groups at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Beth Bailey's "An Army Afire"

Beth Bailey is a Foundation Distinguished Professor in the Department of History and the Director of the Center for Military, War, and Society Studies at the University of Kansas.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, An Army Afire: How the US Army Confronted Its Racial Crisis in the Vietnam Era, and reported the following:
Page 99 of An Army Afire describes the events of a May night in 1970, when forty or fifty Black soldiers massed outside the headquarters building of the 1st Infantry Division in West Germany, demanding to see the commander. General Garth refused the summons—an action in keeping with the overall advice to officers on handling racial dissent—and sent a couple of majors in his stead. While the two majors were meeting with the soldiers and their leader, Sergeant Hobson, someone tossed a hand grenade through the window of the unit mess hall, where twenty enlisted men and officers–Black and white—had gathered following a softball game. Other grenades exploded outside the building.
The fragging brought General Garth to headquarters, where he was confronted by a furious Sergeant Hobson. Hobson told General Garth that he if had just come down to meet with the soldiers, none of this would have happened. He raised his voice. He called his commanding officer ‘incompetent.’ He threatened to report ‘the problems of racism’ to the ‘proper authorities.’

. . . Before long, Hobson had been charged with attempted murder and conspiracy, identified as the ringleader of a group of Black militants who had planned and carried out the fragging and the attempted arson. It turned out that the sergeant had been a gang leader on Chicago’s West Side; known by the street name ‘Caveman,’ he had fought his way up the ranks in the notoriously violent Vice Lords while he was still in his teens. James Hobson had cycled through thirty-one foster homes in less than seven years, slept on the streets from the age of sixteen, been convicted by the same judge in the Cook County Boys Court forty-three times for crimes of theft, battery, burglary, and mob action. If racial unrest was—as many white army leaders hoped and believed—due to a few militant troublemakers rather than to the underlying conditions in which Black soldiers served, Hobson was a perfect example of the problem they faced.

This fragging, however, was not a story of Black militancy. It was instead a cautionary tale about the failure of leadership, and some came to see it as such at the time....
Page 99 captures a lot of what matters in An Army Afire. It has at least the beginning of a good story. It captures a moment of Black protest, as well as the failure of an army leader to manage a potential crisis. It suggests the volatility of that moment in history. It offers a glimpse of the escalating violence that US Army leaders believed had come to threaten the institution’s ability to fulfil its mission of national defense. It raises the significance of leadership, a key element of the army’s “institutional logic” and one of the major tools the army, as an institution, employed in its efforts to solve “the problem of race.” And it makes clear that while the book is about the Vietnam era, it definitely doesn’t take place only in Vietnam.

But the payoff comes on the following two pages, where Sergeant Hobson turns out to be a hero, General Garth becomes “a rabid proponent of fairness” and “makes it his business to speak personally with every Black soldier in the division,” and the US Army embraces a creative solution that challenges its fundamental principles of rank hierarchy and control.
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The Page 99 Test: America's Army.

--Marshal Zeringue