Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Jennifer Caplan's "Funny, You Don't Look Funny"

Jennifer Caplan is the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati Chair in Judaic Studies at the University of Cincinnati. She is the author of numerous works on Judaism and popular culture, including publications in Bulletin for the Study of Religion, Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, Shofar, and the Journal of Jewish Identities.

Caplan applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Funny, You Don't Look Funny: Judaism and Humor from the Silent Generation to Millennials, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Funny, You Don’t Look Funny would give the casual browser the flavor of my book, but without a sense of the real ingredients. The page consists of the end of the analysis of Kissing Jessica Stein and the beginning of the analysis of This is Where I Leave You. On the one hand, Mel Brooks happens to be mentioned in the first line of the page, which would give even the most casual observer a sense of the content of the book. On the other hand, unfortunately, page 99 leaves a few things to be desired as a snapshot of the larger work because it consists largely of biographical information about Jonathan Tropper and a discussion of funeral practices. Additionally, because the book is about the relationship between the various generations of American Jewish comedians this single page loses some of its shape. Dropping into the middle of the chapter on Generation X does not give the browser the context from the earlier generations, or the look forward to the subsequent generations.

Page 99 does have the distinction of containing the following sentence: “Westfeldt understood that the film needed the religious aspects to save it from being precisely the kind of caricature Guttmann would have accused it of being.” While the page as a whole can’t covey the scope of the book, that sentence does encapsulate a big element of the book. The difference in the way Gen X comedians treat religion compared to their Silent Generation parents or grandparents, is at the heart of the argument. And that single sentence, highlighting Jennifer Westfeldt’s sympathetic inclusion of religious practices in her film, is one way of seeing the book in a nutshell.
Visit Jennifer Caplan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 27, 2023

Melanie Heath's "Forbidden Intimacies"

Melanie Heath is Associate Dean of Graduate Students and Associate Professor of Sociology at McMaster University. She is the author of One Marriage Under God: The Campaign to Promote Marriage in America (2012) and co-author of The How To of Qualitative Research, second edition (2022).

Heath applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Forbidden Intimacies: Polygamies at the Limits of Western Tolerance, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Forbidden Intimacies opens to the first page of chapter 4 on gender, power, and agency, capturing one of the key questions that animates this book: Is polygyny (one man married to more than one wife) intrinsically harmful to women? We hear from Samantha, a plural wife, who tells us that women in plural marriages (another term for polygyny) are not victims, brainwashed, or incapable of making intelligent choices. Samantha married into a plural family at age 18 and never regretted it. She exclaimed during our interview: “I had no way to comprehend all that [polygyny] could be when I was making that choice.” In contrast, Amelia told me that, after leaving her plural marriage and the religion that required it later in life, she realized that she had been brainwashed to believe that polygyny was the only choice she could make and remain in her religion and community. “That’s all you know,” she emphasized. These two contradictory perspectives speak directly to how regulating a forbidden intimacy such as polygyny is complicated by questions of women’s agency.

Forbidden Intimacies examines the ways that governments regulate “bad” types of intimacy like polygyny, resulting in negative consequences for the populations that practice them and for society more generally. The contradictory discourses and logics that animate the debate over polygyny—such as whether it is harmful to women, children, and society—are key to this regulation. Comparing legal prohibitions in the United States, Canada, France, and Mayotte (an island in the Indian Ocean whose inhabitants are French citizens), the book draws on ethnographic research, including 145 interviews with 165 participants, to examine how states shape and are shaped by intimacies that are seen as antithetical to “progressive” Western values. This often takes the form of racial projects in which Western states govern forbidden intimacies to define themselves against a repudiated, racialized other. For example, governments focus on patriarchal control and gender inegalitarianism as inherent to polygyny, making women’s agency in these relationships suspect and justifying banning it as a “barbaric” practice.

Rather than one singular and harmful polygyny, the book explores the flourishing of polygamies or multiple ways that nonmonogamies are lived—even in the case of polygyny which receives the most disapprobation. I examine the ways that polygamies are experienced in the context of what I call labyrinthine love, a structure of emotions that blends varying types of love, jealousy, and commitment. Labyrinthine love challenges the assumption of a simple continuum of polygamies, such as bad polygyny and good polyamory (a philosophy where all partners consent to the intimate relationship). There is a complex range of emotions in non-monogamies from honesty and communication, such as when husbands and wives make decisions together, to those characterized by more coercive forms of intimacy, such as when a wife learns of her husband’s marriage to another woman after the fact. My analysis of these complex polygamies shines light on the negative impact of governments regulating polygyny as inherently harmful.
Follow Melanie Heath on Twitter and visit her website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Chiara Galli's "Precarious Protections"

Chiara Galli is a sociologist and Assistant Professor of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Precarious Protections: Unaccompanied Minors Seeking Asylum in the United States, and reported the following:
I wasn’t familiar with the Page 99 Test, and I can’t claim to have done this on purpose, but I was pleasantly surprised that page 99 of my book is just about the most succinct summary of the book’s overall argument that I’ve written!

Page 99 is the conclusion that wraps up a chapter about how Central American unaccompanied youth experience their interactions with the US border patrol and detention facilities, and what they learn about the law, their rights, and the US immigration system in the process. This page prepares the reader for what is to come, which is the key story of the book: how unaccompanied migrant kids who have escaped from violence in Central America and non-profit legal advocates work together to navigate the challenges posed by a US asylum system that, while ostensibly protective, actually does more to undermine their potential to be recognized as refugees than to protect them.

But really, I put it better on page 99, which reads as follows:
As unaccompanied minors interact with legal brokers, their legal socialization continues in important ways. Youths learn how to navigate another series of bureaucracies: immigration court, the asylum office […] As we will see, some youths are better positioned than others to learn about and understand how complex US immigration laws apply to their individual circumstances. For youths to be formally recognized as refugees in the US asylum process, they must not only have experienced the right types and amount of suffering in their home countries, but they must also learn to describe their experiences in the language of the law.

While the asylum process is rife with indeterminacy, as the tragic example of the disparate treatment of Danny and Hector shows, legal brokers adopt a variety of strategies to mitigate risk and maneuver in the system to obtain favorable outcomes for their young clients. Thanks to this support, some unaccompanied minors are indeed able to obtain protection and legal status. Protection from deportation back to insecurity and danger in the home country is invaluable. Yet, as we will see, the price to obtain it can be high, particularly when youths are made to compete for the scarce good of free legal representation and for compassion in shrinking supply.
What you really can’t get, however, from reading page 99 is a sense of the book’s style, which is filled with quotes and examples centering the perspectives of my two groups of key respondents: Central American unaccompanied minors (such as Hector and Danny, mentioned briefly on page 99) and their immigration attorneys. For that, you will need to keep reading!

Their stories and points of view are uniquely revealing of what is wrong with the US asylum system, as well as how we could do a better job of protecting vulnerable youth fleeing violence today.
Visit Chiara Galli's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Christopher J. Preston's "Tenacious Beasts"

Christopher Preston's essays have appeared in Atlantic, Smithsonian, Aeon, and on the BBC website. books and journal articles explore technology, wildlife, climate change, justice, and numerous other topics in environmental philosophy. Preston teaches environmental philosophy at the University of Montana and lives in Missoula, MT.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Tenacious Beasts: Wildlife Recoveries That Change How We Think about Animals, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Taking milt and eggs from hundreds of salmon is a challenging way to spend an afternoon. It’s cold. The rain gear is uncomfortable. Everything smells of water and slime. But it doesn’t take much imagination to realize something remarkable is going on. Despite the absurdity of spraying sperm from an unconscious fish into a bucket of gelatinous spawn, you are a witness to the culmination of thousands of years of evolution. The banter of college-age fisheries students and the scrape of buckets against cold cement masks a breathtaking act of creation.

Hatcheries like this one in Prince William Sound provide a glimpse of the astonishing productivity of fish. One mating pair can hatch thousands of young alevin. When you add this to the hardwired drive of salmon to spawn, you get an eye-popping potential for resurgence. This is true across much of the fish world. The sheer fecundity of fish makes possible rapid recoveries in rivers restored to their former health.

The story of river recoveries is both inspiring and exasperating. It is always complicated. River restorations involve laborious clean-ups, spectacular dam removals, and controversial hatcheries. They also involve a whole heap of arguing. When they go right, the rewards can be astonishing feats of wildlife recovery. But to go right, they demand an honest answer to a pressing question. It’s a question that a species inclined toward great feats of technical manipulation finds difficult to ask, let alone to answer. The question is this: can humanity reign in its insatiable desire to engineer the flow of water?
The test works! Page 99 offers a solid feel for the book and nicely illustrates the techniques I employ.

The story is anchored in personal experience, in this case, an afternoon spent manually spawning salmon at a hatchery in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Salmon are one of a dozen species I profile in the book with massive potential for recovery. Many fish have an “eye-popping potential for resurgence” thanks to the thousands of eggs each female deposits. In this section, we are witness to a biological miracle in action, a system fine-tuned by evolution to generate life.

This is one of the cases of wildlife recovery profiled in the book. These are species that can – or have – come back from the brink of extinction. I revel in the potential of tenacious beasts. There is hope out there!

The section gives a hint of a deeper lesson teased out from species recovery. Sometimes it’s a species that wants to be left alone and will recover spectacularly on its own (e.g. humpback whales, wolves in Europe, and sea otters in the Pacific). In others, it’s a species that needs concerted help to inch its way back from the precipice (e.g. Marsican bears, Iberian lynx, and the northern spotted owl). Whichever it is, there are profound lessons to be learned from recovering species about how to improve our relationship with wildlife.

The “Rivers” section focuses on salmon and beavers. Dams and fish hatcheries treat rivers as soulless machines. We spent a century forcing “an industrial glove onto a biological hand.” But when we take out dams and let beavers work their magic, the system immediately springs back to life.

There’s a lesson in humility spilling from the banks of rivers. If you want a river restoration to be successful, ask the experts. What would beavers do?
Visit Christopher J. Preston's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 24, 2023

Kathy E. Ferguson's "Letterpress Revolution"

Kathy E. Ferguson is Professor of Political Science and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and the author of several books, including Emma Goldman: Political Thinking in the Streets.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Letterpress Revolution: The Politics of Anarchist Print Culture, and reported the following:
Page 99 continues my discussion of the relations among Pearl Johnson Tucker, the partner of printer and editor Benjamin Tucker, who for many years edited the Boston-based journal Liberty, with her sister Bernice Johnson and with Agnes Inglis, the first curator at the Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan. In one of her letters to Agnes, Bertha wrote, regarding the informal relations connecting anarchists to one another, “The endless chain of fellowship is a source of satisfaction to me.” She described the assemblage of relationships within the anarchist movement with the striking term filament: “you and Alice [Furst] and the dear Ishills and the filament reaching out to your friends and my friends.” A filament, appropriately, can be a flexible carbon or metal thread that conducts electric current, or it can be a long, thin, organic fiber that is part of a plant or animal. Filament is a good image for the connective material – organic, inorganic , semiotic, and social – that branches across the anarchist landscape, connecting people and things in horizontal relations.

Page 99 is a surprisingly appropriate window into my book. The three women discussed here are examples of relatively unknown but politically significant participants in the anarchist movement. Anarchism’s big names, including Emma Goldman and Peter Kropotkin, frequently urged the public to appreciate the movement’s lesser-known contributors, yet the spotlight frequently stays on the better-known people. My book is trying to shift that focus: I want to portray not just influential individuals but influential relationships among people and things that make up the collective presence of anarchism. Bertha’s image of a filament is perfect for my purposes because it can be organic or inorganic connective tissue. It resonates with philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s idea of assemblages as horizontal networks of relationships through which forces flow.

The epistolary filaments among these three women, who corresponded for decades about their shared archival work in their respective anarchist libraries, light up anarchist assemblages. Material practices can embody ideas. As I have gotten closer to these and other anarchists’ understanding of their work, I’ve come to see that people were not the only meaningful agents of anarchism. Non-human and non-organic entities brought their own energies to the movement. Political theorist Jane Bennett calls this thing power: things interacted with people, they enriched the sensorium of anarchism’s political culture. The presses, ink, paper, and publications were actants in the movement, contributing to the sensorium. Mutually touching and being touched is a creative opportunity for political practice. I speculate that the anarchist movement was successful in creating many alternative sites of prefigurative politics, including schools, unions, workshop, and publications, in part because there was so much potent thing power in their immediate surroundings. When people make things together, and are made by things together, a resonant political energy can emerge.
Learn more about Letterpress Revolution at the Duke University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Paul J. Gutacker's "The Old Faith in a New Nation"

Paul J. Gutacker holds a PhD in History from Baylor University and the MA and ThM from Regent College (Vancouver, BC). He has published in Church History, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Fides et Historia, and The International Journal of Christianity & Education. In addition to lecturing in the History Department at Baylor University, Gutacker serves as director of Brazos Fellows, a post-college fellowship centered on theological study, spiritual disciplines, and vocational discernment.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Old Faith in a New Nation: American Protestants and the Christian Past, and reported the following:
From page 99:
One reviewer who highlighted Child’s conclusion still missed its gendered implication. John A. Gurley, a Universalist pastor and editor of the Cincinnati newspaper Star in the West, worried that Child’s history “will prove a source of much injury to the cause of Christianity, by multiplying skeptics, especially among her own sex.” Gurley insisted that genuine Christianity had nothing to do with the corrupt traditions that Child traced. “Romanism and Calvinism are not Christianity,” Gurley explained. “Here is where Mrs. Child mistakes. Human creeds, filled with the omnipotent wrath of God, and endless hell torments, are not Christianity. To find Christianity we must find Christ. Christ, the gentle, the lowly, the compassionate.” Child, of course, had described Christ in these terms and named them feminine—a point that Gurley failed to notice even as he worried about Child’s account damaging the faithful hope of pious women.

Child was not the only woman whose work was misread by contemporary reviewers. Hale’s Woman’s Record, which opened this chapter, intended to show the importance of education, opportunity, and advancement for women. But if Hale hoped to show the historical significance of her sex, male reviewers read her book as proof of their own superiority. The Evening Post took its review of Woman’s Record as an opportunity to belittle women: “From the creation to the present day . . . the 5,857 years which have passed have only bequeathed to us 2,500 distinguished women—less than half a distinguished woman per annum.” The review suggested that many of the women included hardly deserved such commendation, pointed out that even the “most brilliant . . . are sadly behind their masculine rivals,” and speculated that a work that compiled every distinguished man since creation would make the woman’s record appear a trifle.
Yes, page 99 gives a fairly good idea of the book.

The reason this page “passes the test” is that it summarizes several reviews written by men about books written by women. These women (Lydia Maria Child and Sarah Josepha Hale, respectively) were for their part producing innovative accounts of the history of Christianity that foregrounded their sex’s contributions to that history. These reviews reveal a major theme of the book, which explores how American readers and authors engaged with the Christian past—how they remembered and used that past toward various ends. It also shows male reviewers being relatively dismissive of these books, evidencing how much the remembered history of Christianity was a story about men and their achievements. In other words, this page illustrates the ways in which the Christian past was created, contested, and employed in nineteenth century America.
Follow Paul J. Gutacker on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Amy Dockser Marcus's "We the Scientists"

Amy Dockser Marcus is a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal. She won a Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting in 2005 for her series of stories about cancer survivors and the social, economic, and health challenges they faced living with the disease. Dockser Marcus is the author of The View from Nebo and Jerusalem 1913. She has a master of bioethics degree from Harvard Medical School and lives in Boston.

Marcus applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, We the Scientists: How a Daring Team of Parents and Doctors Forged a New Path for Medicine, and reported the following:
Page 99 in my book comes at a crucial moment in the narrative. A group of parents whose children have a fatal cholesterol metabolism disorder called Niemann-Pick disease type C have been working together with scientists to identify a drug that might treat the condition. They have gathered at a pivotal meeting to review the data and determine next steps. It quickly becomes apparent that the scientists are not sharing all the available information. One leading drug candidate is described in the scientists’ presentation only as “New Hit.” When the parents ask for the name, the scientists refuse to share it. The tension reveals fissures in the nascent partnership that call into question whether the scientists and families can truly work together.

Despite the importance of the moment, the Page 99 Test falls short because there are only a few lines on that page. There is not enough information for readers to understand what is at stake or the contours of the dispute. The goal of the collaboration is to find promising drugs and rapidly advance their development to the point that drug companies might step in. The scientists are holding back publicly sharing the name because they want to first secure a patent, a crucial step to establish rights to the intellectual property. Without a patent, the scientists argue, companies won’t want to commercialize the drug, the goal of the project. From the parents’ perspective, though, sharing the name of New Hit is a test of the collaboration. Do the scientists truly believe that parents and scientists each offer essential expertise? If so, then their partnership should include weighing evidence and making judgements together. How can they devise a strategy for drug development if only some of the people have access to all the information? Finding a way to answer these questions and advance science is the heart of the book.
Follow Amy Dockser Marcus on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Samantha Barbas's "Actual Malice"

Samantha Barbas is the author of several books on media history and law, with a focus on journalism, privacy, libel, and the First Amendment. She is a Professor of Law at the University at Buffalo and has a Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Award.

Barbas applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Actual Malice: Civil Rights and Freedom of the Press in New York Times v. Sullivan, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The town of Bessemer launched a new tactic in the attack on the press—prosecuting reporters for criminal libel. A grand jury indicted Harrison Salisbury on criminal charges for his “Fear and Hatred” article. This illustrated vividly the state-sponsored nature of the “libel attack.” Reporters were now facing loss of their liberty for writing critically about segregationist brutality in the South.
The Page 99 Test works well. My book is on the landmark First Amendment decision from 1964, New York Times v. Sullivan. The Supreme Court declared that public officials must show “actual malice” or reckless disregard of the truth in order to win a libel suit. This freed the press to report on public officials without fear of devastating libel judgments.

Sullivan grew out of battles over news coverage of civil rights activity in the South. Segregationists waged a fierce battle against the press, hoping to thwart its coverage of the civil rights movement-- coverage that would prove critical in building support for civil rights that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Segregationists assaulted journalists, boycotted newspapers, and brought massive libel suits against the press. Before Sullivan, libel laws, which impose liability for false and defamatory statements, were strict, and there were no First Amendment protections for speakers.

In 1960, four Alabama officials sued the Times and four leaders of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference for millions of dollars over minor errors in an advertisement that accused the officials --correctly -- of being complicit in brutal attacks on civil rights protesters. These lawsuits would be meritless today, but they weren’t under the laws that existed in 1960.

Seven Birmingham officials proceeded to sue the Times for $6 million over articles that portrayed local authorities, including police commissioner “Bull” Connor, as violent and racist-- accusations that were, in fact, true.

This is where page 99 comes in. Officials in the town of Bessemer, outside of Birmingham, whose officials had been criticized in the Times, went as far as to use criminal law to silence journalists. Times reporter Harrison Salisbury was brought up on charges of criminal libel, which could have subjected him to six months’ imprisonment.

As a result of this state-sponsored “libel attack,” the Times took its reporters out of Alabama. The nation’s newspaper of record didn’t have a single journalist in one of the most important sites of civil rights activity during the movement’s critical years. Other newspapers followed the Times’ lead and took reporters from the South.

Sullivan turned back the segregationists’ “libel attack,” saved the Times and the SCLC from bankruptcy, and allowed the press to report fully and freely on the civil rights movement, enabling major advances in civil rights. Sullivan helped foster public discourse on public issues that is “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.”
Visit Samantha Barbas's website.

The Page 99 Test: Laws of Image.

The Page 99 Test: Newsworthy.

The Page 99 Test: The Rise and Fall of Morris Ernst, Free Speech Renegade.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 20, 2023

Ryan Donovan's "Broadway Bodies"

Ryan Donovan is Assistant Professor of Theater Studies at Duke University. His new book, Broadway Bodies: A Critical History of Conformity, examines the body politics of casting Broadway musicals in the five decades beginning in 1970.

Donovan applied the "Page 99 Test" to Broadway Bodies and reported the following:
If you open to page 99 of Broadway Bodies, you’ll land in the middle of a chapter called “Must Be Heavyset: Casting Fat Women in Broadway Musicals.” This chapter is the second (of two) in a section on body size and casting; the first focuses on the 1981 musical Dreamgirls, while this chapter mostly centers on the 2002 musical Hairspray. On page 99, I am looking at the intersections of size and Blackness in Broadway musicals and how the writers of Hairspray depend upon the trope of the “Big Black Lady” (to use scholar Dan Dinero’s phrase). This page gives readers a clear view of the kinds of arguments I make in the book about how Broadway musicals seem inclusive, yet if you dig a little deeper you’ll discover a great deal of ambivalence toward non-conforming bodies.

On page 99, I explain that the musicals I cover in the book “give the appearance of inclusion without addressing core issues of exclusion: the vast majority of musicals remain directed, designed, produced, and written by white men for audiences comprised of primarily white women.” Hairspray, in particular, centers on questions of inclusion and exclusion that are resolved only in its narrative. The following sections of the book look at similar yet not identical ways that Broadway casts sexuality and disability. As the book’s tagline says, “Broadway has body issues.” It also gives them.
Visit Ryan Donovan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Peter H. Wilson's "Iron and Blood"

Peter H. Wilson is the author of Heart of Europe: A History of the Holy Roman Empire, an Economist and Sunday Times Best Book, and The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy, winner of the Distinguished Book Award from the Society of Military History. He has appeared on BBC Radio and has written for Prospect, the Los Angeles Times, and Financial Times. President of the Society for the History of War and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Wilson is Chichele Professor of the History of War at the University of Oxford. His work has been translated into Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, and Spanish.

Wilson applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Iron and Blood: A Military History of the German-Speaking Peoples since 1500, and reported the following:
Page 99 discusses the alleged ‘mercenary’ character of sixteenth-century German and Swiss soldiers which lay at the heart of what made them proficient in battle, but frequently unreliable and insubordinate. Solidarity amongst soldiers enabled them to fight effectively in large, cohesive units, but it equally lent itself to strengthening collective action when bargaining with warlords. However, mutinies were primarily caused by the authorities’ failure to pay soldiers or by requesting them to do something not previously agreed, such as assault undamaged fortifications. Conversely, participation in mutinies entailed a breach of oath, risking soldiers’ personal honour and salvation. Warlords recognised that effective leadership required trust and respect, while fear and the threat of punishment alone were insufficient to instil discipline.

The page conveys something about the book and its approach, but certainly not all. The inclusion of the Swiss in the discussion is indicative that the book ranges well beyond modern Germany, the boundaries of which are relatively recent origin and make little sense to frame a discussion covering five centuries. The book is divided into five chronological parts, each subdivided into three chapters to follow key themes across time whilst still providing a narrative. The opening chapter in each part deals chronologically with the relationship between war and politics, focusing on why wars were fought and how far German history was ‘made on the battlefield’. Each part’s middle chapter examines the exercise of command, planning, and intelligence, as well as how forces were recruited, organised, equipped, and trained. The final section of these chapters covers naval warfare with an additional section for that on the twentieth century discussing airpower. Each part’s third chapter examines attitudes to war, soldiers’ motivation, legal status, and their relationship to society, as well as the demographic and economic impact of warfare.

On page 99 we are in the third of the three sixteenth century chapters. Coverage of the sixteenth through to eighteenth centuries is important to the book’s central argument that militarism has indeed been integral to the German past and has shaped how Germans have conducted wars, but that it was neither an end destination, nor a single trajectory of development. Germans have not possessed a unique ‘genius for war’, nor can their military history be read entirely through Prussia’s experience. Today’s Germany was indeed partly forged through violence, but warfare was also significant in shaping Austria and Switzerland in often surprising ways, while the relative significance of conflict can only be gauged when military history is integrated with the wider story of these countries’ pasts.
Learn more about Iron and Blood at the Harvard University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Thirty Years War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 17, 2023

Natalia Mehlman Petrzela's "Fit Nation"

Natalia Mehlman Petrzela is a historian of contemporary American politics and culture and associate professor of history at the New School. A certified fitness instructor, she has worked out at home and in gyms for nearly three decades. She is the author of Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture, and her work has appeared in outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and CNN. She is coproducer and host of the acclaimed podcast Welcome to Your Fantasy and cohost of the Past Present podcast. She lives in New York City.

Petrzela applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Fit Nation: The Gains and Pains of America’s Exercise Obsession, and reported the following:
Page 99 begins with a reference to a 1960s article in a Black periodical expressing concern that Black teenage girls aren't exercising enough, and that when they do, it is for the wrong reasons -- beauty and weight loss -- rather than health and self-discipline. It concludes with a reference to Bonnie Prudden, who just a decade before had had to plead with policy makers to pay any attention to the need for American youth, especially white suburbanites, to exercise. She made the case in terms of physical health and national security, and first encountered intense resistance to the idea that exercise should be an individual or civic priority. In between is a description of the sensibility shift that gathered steam in these intervening years: "a revolution in ideas and attitudes about exercise was afoot, as many Americans came to recognize exercise as imperative not only to physical health and civic duty, but to social and emotional thriving."

I am in disbelief at how well this page crystallizes the essence of this book! First, one overarching goal of Fit Nation is to explain how exercise evolved from a "strange subculture" to a "social imperative." While I offer multiple explanations of how this shift occurred, a crucial one is the intellectual transformation described in the center of page 99. While exercise was considered narrowly physical, and thus superficial and even a narcissistic distraction for much of the 20th century, in the 1950s this began to shift, as a surprisingly wide swath of Americans embraced the notion that mind and body were inextricably connected, and that physical cultivation was important to overall civic and personal physical, psychic, and even spiritual health. Furthermore, people were increasingly expected to take an active role in pursuing this higher state of holistic health. This idea was appealing across the political spectrum, from progressive activists, many of them who had felt marginalized by the medical system and embraced this opportunity for self-determination and bodily autonomy, to conservatives who relished the emphasis on personal responsibility. Skepticism of experts, a longstanding American tradition, had cross-cultural appeal. Prudden was an important figure in initiating this shift by mobilizing the state to promote physical education and public recreation in the 1950s as a civic project, and by the late 1960s, the change she helped spark was felt far beyond the upper middle class New York suburb where she first noticed children’s bodies paradoxically becoming weaker due to American prosperity, and thus unfit to defend the nation. The 1968 quote from the Milwaukee Star, a Black Wisconsin newspaper, emphasizing the need to encourage more Black teenage girls to exercise, reveals how widespread the ethos that exercise was imperative was becoming. Lastly, page 99 hints at the range of the book. I am chronicling a lofty shift in attitudes and ideas, and doing so by drawing on the diverse lived experiences of Americans in cities and suburbs, of varied backgrounds and politics, and whose perspectives I sought out through sources from the newspaper you see quoted here to policy, television, diaries, business records, periodicals, and more.

Fit Nation spans over a century to illuminate how the idea of exercise as salutary became a national fixation — and a consumer good rather than a human right — and page 99 exemplifies my approach to telling this story as richly and inclusively as I could over the remaining 423 pages! Enjoy!
Visit Natalia Mehlman Petrzela's website.

The Page 99 Test: Classroom Wars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Marissa A. Harrison's "Just as Deadly"

Marissa A. Harrison is a research psychologist, author, and associate professor at Penn State Harrisburg. Her studies on serial murder and human sexuality have been covered in popular media such as The Washington Post, The New Yorker, and Time.

Harrison applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Just as Deadly: The Psychology of Female Serial Killers, and reported the following:
Readers opening Just as Deadly: The Psychology of Female Serial Killers to page 99 will get an accurate and disturbing snapshot of what the book is all about. Page 99 continues the case study of female serial killer (FSK) Rhonda Belle Martin. Using arsenic, she murdered six people—three of her children, two of her husbands, and her own mother. She told authorities, "I don't know why I did it. I don't understand it. I loved my family. I guess I loved them to death." A psychiatrist testified she had schizophrenia. (I must emphasize, however, that most people with mental illness do not harm anyone.)

The Page 99 Test works very well for my book. Page 99 features a FSK, the crime, the victims, and the mental state of the murderer. According to consistent feedback I have received from readers or audience members, these are the most sought out details. Moreover, presenting the heinous crimes of Rhonda Belle Martin—the murder of six people close to her—illustrates my point that women can be just as deadly as men.

I don't know that I could have found a single, better page to represent the entire book. In Just as Deadly, as a research psychologist, I aimed to present the data I collected over the years about the backgrounds, crimes, motives, and victims of FSKs. Whereas some people believe that women are incapable of such heinous acts, evidence speaks loudly to the contrary—as shown on page 99. Further, I delve into the psychology of why someone might go down the dark path of becoming a murderer. I explore traumagenic, clinical, historical, cultural, and biological contributions to serial murder. Further, as I am a science writer, there are over 1200 references/footnotes in the book, making this a fact-based effort. It is important for the reader to know that, whereas the themes herein are disturbing, I do not sensationalize. We remember that there were real victims of these terrible crimes.
Visit Marissa A. Harrison's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Patrick Bringley's "All the Beauty in the World"

Patrick Bringley worked for ten years as a guard in the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Prior to that, he worked in the editorial events office at The New Yorker magazine. He lives with his wife and children in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Bringley applied the "Page 99 Test" to All the Beauty in the World: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Me, his first book, and reported the following:
On page 99 I’m talking to one of the most venerable security guards at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, an erudite native Oklahoman called Troy. Troy was twice my age, a very dignified man, and at this point in the narrative I’ve just started opening up to my fellow guards, having initially relished my role as a solitary watchman.
“Hey Troy,” I say, “how did you come to have this job?”

“Well, I worked in insurance for twenty years,” he tells me, “and one day my boss assigned us a career aptitude test, supposed to show which job in all the world we’re best suited for (don’t ask me why). Well, I looked at the thing and I thought to myself, You know, the only thing I’ve ever wanted to be is an independently wealthy patron of the arts. This,” he concludes, tugging on his blue suit’s lapels, “comes the closest.”
I think that sums up one element of the book very well: the unique role of the museum guard and the almost proprietary relationship he enjoys with the treasures under his watch. Whereas most people in the modern world are busy — rushing about, engaged in projects — a museum guard is duty-bound not to be busy. She has all the time in the world to look around her, pace about, and commune with great masterpieces over eight- and twelve-hour days. For someone like Troy, this made him feel like a working-class prince, and he carried himself that way.

This is also a critical page because, as I mentioned above, it’s a hinge point in the narrative. I spent my first couple of working years valuing the stillness in the galleries, the silence, the beautiful lonesomeness of the job. I had suffered the loss of my older brother, which left me speechless, and speechless I remained. But on page 99 I’m just beginning to fall back into the rhythm of life, in large part by connecting with people: museumgoers from all over the world, and my talented fellow guards.

The last few lines of the page hint at those talents (though it’s really the tip of the iceberg). It mentions a journal featuring art, prose, and poetry by the guards, and an associated launch party where people took the stage to perform. “Colleagues play jazz together, noise out in a Sonic Youth-like ensemble, belt show tunes, perform stand up, rap under…”
Visit by Patrick Bringley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Ashoka Mody's "India Is Broken"

Ashoka Mody is an economic historian at Princeton's School of Public and International Affairs. Formerly, he worked at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He is the author of EuroTragedy: A Drama in Nine Acts (2018), and his writing appears often in outlets such as Financial Times, Project Syndicate, and Bloomberg View.

Mody applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, India Is Broken: A People Betrayed, Independence to Today, and reported the following:
The Page 99 Test works remarkably well for my book. On that page, I describe the alarming rise in the difficulties Indians faced in finding a job. And I relate that failure to a poorly educated workforce unable to compete in the markets for global labor-intensive exports. The context is the final years of Jawaharlal Nehru’s tenure as prime minister. As I write,
Official Indian documents reported the rise in underemployment and unemployment in blunt words. The draft outline of the Fourth Plan impatiently said of the previous three plans (1951-1965): “Successful plans on development are unable to find gainful employment for the net addition to the labor force and continue to add to the backlog of unemployed persons.”
In contrast, Korea, with a well-trained and well-educated labor force, was “outcompeting Japanese producers in labor-intensive exports.”

Fast forward to 2004, I write of “India’s most intractable problems: substandard education and weak job creation. Together, they represent the broken rungs of India’s economic ladder.” By now, the global competitors were Vietnam and Bangladesh. Vietnam was following the classic East Asian playbook that Korea and Taiwan had used in the 1960s. Bangladesh was racing to catch up and, by 2012, go ahead of India in the export of clothing, bringing women into the workforce in the process. Every success story reflected better education, greater agency of women, and more jobs.

More broadly, I depart from the convention of using GDP as a metric of economic progress. Instead, with my focus on jobs and public goods such as education, health, livable cities, clean air and water, and fair and responsive judicial system, I place the spotlight on the lived reality of Indians through the 75 years since India’s independence. That lived reality is getting harder as social norms and public accountability continue to erode, placing India at a dangerous impasse. Large stretches of most rivers are dying because of rampant abuse and a marauding climate crisis is further damaging prospects for honorable living.

The erosion of norms and accountability is also inflicting huge damage on Indian democracy, leading a recent international assessment to rightly conclude India is an electoral autocracy.

India set off on a hopeful journey 75 years ago. Despite the current hype of an India on the move—stirred up by elite Indians living in first-world gated communities—and echoed by international elites, persisting Indian dysfunctions may be hard to roll back.
Follow Ashoka Mody on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Alison M. Downham Moore's "The French Invention of Menopause and the Medicalisation of Women's Ageing"

Alison M. Downham Moore is a historian and medical humanities scholar. She is Associate Dean of Research in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts, Western Sydney University. She has previously held positions at the University of Queensland and at the University of Sydney, as well as visiting research fellowships at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies and at the Hanse Wissenschaftskolleg in Germany. She holds a UK AdvanceHE Senior Teaching Fellowship. She is author of Sexual Myths of Modernity: Sadism, Masochism and Historical Teleology (2016) and co-author with Peter Cryle of Frigidity, an Intellectual History (2011).

Moore applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, The French Invention of Menopause and the Medicalisation of Women's Ageing: A History, and reported the following:
Page 99 is mostly footnotes with a short section of a longer paragraph where I am discussing some other scholars' views of two writers on whose work the chapter focuses heavily. The book does not do a lot of this kind of scholarly discussion, but here I had to engage with other scholars more because one of the individuals I am talking about, the late 18th-century medically-trained journalist Pierre Roussel, has been much written about (for reasons different to my own in this book, but with some overlapping concerns).

Alas the Page 99 Test does not work so well for this book. Page 99 is not very indicative of the book which spends much more time talking about nineteenth-century doctors and writers than it does talking about other recent scholars who have written on a related topic. The book does have a lot of footnotes, but page 99 is especially dominated by them!

This is a book that sought to understand how the term 'menopause' became an important topic of medicine and uncovered a richly complex untold story of how French medicine not only invented this term, but fundamentally altered the western biomedical frames that are still used today for differentiating men's and women's ageing. It traces several different conceptual threads that allowed doctors in France to define menopause, as well as several different pathways through which they made it matter to medicine of the 19th century. It also looks at how women health writers and novelists reacted to the cultural frames emerging in this time in relation to their ageing.
Follow Alison M. Downham Moore on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Eric Porter's "A People's History of SFO"

Eric Porter is Professor of History, History of Consciousness, and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, A People's History of SFO: The Making of the Bay Area and an Airport, and reported the following:
Page 99 comes about half way through a chapter on Black labor and antidiscrimination struggles at San Francisco Airport. The chapter covers such activism from the late 1950s into the 1980s while illustrating how individual and group efforts by Black people to secure jobs and economic advancement at SFO were shaped by the interfaces of heterogeneous actors and systems that redistributed power at the airport and beyond. These include shifts in the national and global economy; public and private capital investment; government and corporate antidiscrimination and affirmative action programs; the work of local and national networks of business elites, labor organizers, and activists; and a concomitant symbolic economy regarding the Black presence in the Bay Area. On this page we see how primarily white unions and employers opposed some of the City of San Francisco’s early, airport-related affirmative action programs but also how local Black activists tried to push the City of San Francisco to do more about employment discrimination at the airport by mobilizing opposition to a general obligation bond measure designed to fund an airport expansion.

This chapter marks a pivot in this book’s narrative, as it shifts some focus away from the powerful and toward those less powerful actors who sought to make more reasonable lives for themselves by entangling themselves in expanding sets of relationships manifest at the airport. A significant theme of the book is how efforts to gain access to and justice in a region known for its hospitality and cos­mopolitanism could reproduce inequalities and exclusions in complicated ways. The test works pretty well in illustrating this theme. Page 99 indeed gives a hint of the complexity of such social justice struggles and their outcomes as it touches upon successes and failures, conflicts and contradictions. The remainder the chapter offers more in this regard by examining the work of Black labor organizations and employee groups, entrepreneurs, and participants in anti-discrimination lawsuits.
Learn more about A People's History of SFO at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 10, 2023

Martin Puchner's "Culture: The Story of Us, From Cave Art to K-Pop"

Martin Puchner, the Byron and Anita Wien Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard University, is a prize-winning author, educator, public speaker, and institution-builder in the arts and humanities. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Puchner applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Culture: The Story of Us, From Cave Art to K-Pop, and reported the following:
From page 99:
though the new script was initially seen as less sophisticated, it ended up giving rise to works of the greatest originality and significance, in part because it created a space for women writers to innovate outside the strictures of male, Chinese-oriented literature, with its set canon and literary conventions. (It also gave rise to the first court-sanctioned Japanese poetry anthology, the Kokinshu.) The mostly female diaries written in the kana script were so fresh and successful that male writers started to imitate them.

Despite this newfound independence, Chinese culture continued to be a hugely important reference point in Japan. Murasaki's Tale of Genji, for example, includes almost eight hundred Chinese-style poems and makes frequent reference to Chinese literature. Murasaki is also one of the few contemporaries to have written about Sei Shonagon, whom she regarded as a rival: "Sei Shonagon has the most extraordinary air of self-satisfaction. Yet, if we stop to examine those Chinese characters of hers that she so presumptuously scatters about the place, we find that they are full of imperfections." Even centuries after the end of imperial missions to China and the flowering of the kana script, the best way to put down a rival was to criticize her faulty Chinese writing.

THE CLEAREST EXPRESSION OF THE NEW SPIRIT OF INDEPENDENCE is another account of an imperial mission, one produced with considerable hindsight around the same time as The Pillow Book and comparable to its story of the Chinese emperor's testing of the Japanese. It is a scroll combining text and image to recount the travels of one Kibi no Makibi, a legendary minister who went on an imperial mission to China.

According to other sources, the historical Kibi had mastered thirteen areas of Chinese learning, which included the five Confucian classics, history, yin-yang, calendars, astronomy, and divination, as well as the game of Go. This impressive knowledge of Chinese culture served
The page captures the main thrust of the book surprisingly well in that it speaks about cultural borrowing. Over a period of several hundred years, Japanese emperors sent diplomatic missions across the sea to China to learn about new forms of architecture, literature, and worship. Buddhism played an important role in these deliberate acts of cultural import. The chapter focuses on a Buddhist monk, Ennin (794 AD - 864 AD), who kept a journal of his travels in China, where he collected manuscripts and studied new ways of representing the Buddha through sculpture. He also experienced the sudden persecution of Buddhists in China, which made it even more important for him to bring the latest Buddhist thought and art to Japan.

I think of this kind of cultural transfer as an act of grafting, of one culture deciding to graft elements of another culture onto its own traditions. (Something similar happened when Rome decided to graft elements of Greek culture onto its own traditions.)

Page 99 focuses on the aftermath of this entirely voluntary act of cultural transfer (no one was forcing Japan to send cultural missions to China), especially on two women writers, Sei Shonagon and Murasaki Shikibu, who were writing around the year 1000 AD, after the official cultural missions had come to an end. Their work shows that cultural grafting doesn't imply inferiority or lack of originality. Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book is a great work of social and aesthetic commentary, and Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji, the first great novel in world literature. (The chapter--and page 99--concludes with a visual account of these earlier cultural missions, the Kibi scroll, which anticipates Manga comics today.)

The view of culture that emerges from the book is that cultures thrive on borrowing, from the earliest surviving art works to K-pop. With the book, I hope to bring a deep historical perspective to our current debates about culture, from so-called culture wars and debates about the return of looted art to cultural appropriation. Above all, the book celebrates humans as a culture-producing species.
Visit Martin Puchner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Christina Dunbar-Hester's "Oil Beach"

Christina Dunbar-Hester is a science and technology studies scholar and associate professor in the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication. She is the author of Low Power to the People: Pirates, Protest, and Politics in FM Radio Activism, winner of the McGannon Award for Social and Ethical Relevance in Communications Technology Research, and Hacking Diversity: The Politics of Inclusion in Open Technology Cultures, winner of the Information Science Book of the Year Award from the Association for Information Science and Technology.

Dunbar-Hester applied the "Page 99 Test" to her latest book, Oil Beach: How Toxic Infrastructure Threatens Life in the Ports of Los Angeles and Beyond, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Oil Beach is in the chapter on sea otters in Southern California, which surveys the last few decades in these otters’ longer arc from pelt-bearing commodities to charismatic objects of conservation. (The book’s four chapters each concern a different life form that lives in or passes through San Pedro Bay, focusing on birds, bananas, otters, and cetaceans.)

Page 99 actually contains one of my favorite quotes in the whole book, from a 1999 Los Angeles Times story about the local aquarium’s inauguration of its otter exhibit. Its author wrote:
A little girl named Summer arrived in Long Beach last month with what sounds like a Hollywood crisis: a lousy fur coat, a weight problem and a dependency issue. Summer, an 11-month-old sea otter at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, also would be distressed to know she’s missing her spot in the limelight. This Saturday the aquarium will launch Sea Otter Summer, but the budding diva will be in rehab.
When I say “favorite” here, I don’t mean that I necessarily like this quote. It’s rather unsettling how the reporter equates an orphaned otter who probably suffered pollution or environmental injury to a Hollywood celebrity in rehab. (As I explain on page 99, aquarium handlers knew the young otter’s so-called “addiction” to suckling towels “was an unfortunate effect of her separation from her mother when she was only one week old...”) Nonetheless it’s evocative and placeful, as it attempts to “translate” the struggling otter by way of a Los Angeles trope, and anthropomorphizes her to enroll the reader into caring about her (while also, true to Hollywood, making a spectacle of her).

In making an otter’s life history interchangeable with a Hollywood stereotype, the quote inadvertently gets at some of what I’m trying to do in the book: to provide an “unnatural history” of arguably one of the most incredibly manipulated, managed places on earth, the Los Angeles coastline in San Pedro Bay. The aquarium is a striking setting: it showcases marine ecologies of the Pacific Ocean, and it tries to offer a “good life” to a struggling wild animal who’s a member of a heavily managed, endangered population; but it’s built on infilled “land” literally created by pouring concrete in the estuarial LA River mouth, using revenue generated by the Los Angeles- Long Beach container ports and oil drilling.

So the mise-en-scène of Oil Beach, in all its messy contradictions, is at least hinted in this page. At the same time, I’m not sure the page-99 description of the otter’s life at the aquarium gives the reader much preview of the analysis of the book. But it does foreshadow major themes of multispecies life and death, and the entanglement of industrial infrastructure and spaces for living; and evokes place in a meaningful way.
Visit Christina Dunbar-Hester's website.

The Page 99 Test: Hacking Diversity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Kyrill Kunakhovich's "Communism's Public Sphere"

Kyrill Kunakhovich Kyrill Kunakhovich is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He is coeditor of The Long 1989.

Kunakhovich applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Communism's Public Sphere: Culture as Politics in Cold War Poland and East Germany, and reported the following:
From page 99:
…Under these constraints, a national communism was at least better than its previous version, and most Poles welcomed Gomułka’s reforms. New challenges and disappointments would come soon enough. But in the fall of 1956 embracing National Communism was a winning strategy for Polish leaders, supported by the party and the public alike.

This strategy was far more problematic for the SED, even though East German officials were some of the first to use it. After June 17, 1953, the GDR’s leadership adopted an early version of National Communism, vowing to become more responsive to the public’s needs—including the need for greater contact with West Germany. But draping the SED in German colors was a dangerous game. Amid national uprisings in Hungary and Poland, even loyal party members pushed its policies to their logical endpoint, calling for German reunification and the erasure of the GDR. In Poland, championing the nation bolstered the PZPR’s authority because it brought the party closer to the people. In East Germany, however, it only exposed the gulf between them. So long as East Germans saw themselves as Germans first, reforms like Gomułka’s—decentralization, democratization, de-Sovietization—would inevitably fuel the drive for German unity and therefore undermine the GDR. The tactics that had stabilized communism in Poland were unavailable to the SED, unless it could instill a very different kind of national identity.

Shortly after June 17, 1953, the playwright Bertolt Brecht mocked the SED’s response in an unpublished poem titled “The Solution.” Officials insisted that “the people / had forfeited the confidence of the government,” he wrote. “Would it not be easier / in that case for the government / to dissolve the people / and elect another?” The question was meant to be absurd, inverting as it did the standard relationship between people and government. But in effect, electing a new people is precisely what the SED did. Protest in 1953 and criticism in 1956 made clear that most East Germans waited for reunification instead of committing themselves to the GDR. To get through to such people and win their support, the SED had to rewire their sense of belonging. It had to uproot their lives, expose them to the party’s teachings, force them to get engaged in civic life, and distance them from West Germany. The government thus set out to elect its people through a Socialist Cultural Revolution that forced even the most reticent to participate. It sought to make East Germans out of Germans—and in the process to make the SED a truly national party.
This is a real success case for the Page 99 test! My book compares the workings of the public sphere in two Eastern Bloc countries, Poland and East Germany. Naturally, most pages focus on one country or the other, but here the two are side by side, as they are in the book as a whole. One of my central arguments is that the Bloc was deeply intertwined. For all their differences, Poland and East Germany evolved in tandem, partly because they watched each other closely.

Page 99 falls at the end of a chapter on nationalism, which shows that between 1953 and 1956 both states faced the same challenge: how to adjust communist rule to public opinion? Each country’s leaders set out to create a National Communism that would be more reflective of the people’s will. But they had to do it in strikingly different ways, as page 99 explains. Because of Germany’s division, East German leaders could not champion national traditions the way that Polish leaders could. Instead, they had to build a new East German nation in their image.

Page 99 captures some of the big-picture arguments of Communism’s Public Sphere. What it misses, though, are my sources and methods. The book’s starting point is that political discussions in the Eastern Bloc unfolded in cultural spaces – theaters, galleries, cinemas, youth clubs. Since communist regimes suppressed free speech, such spaces were rare outlets for dissenting voices. Taking advantage of their platform, artists presented visions that challenged the party line. Audiences, too, spoke for themselves by booing, clapping, or refusing to show up. Instead of a transmission belt for state officials, cultural institutions functioned as a public sphere: a space where many actors could weigh in on public affairs. I show how this worked in two cities, Kraków and Leipzig, between the Red Army’s invasion of Poland in 1944 and German reunification in 1990. Looking beyond page 99, a reader will find rock and roll, a workers’ opera, underground art shows, smuggled recordings, and a great deal more.
Learn more about Communism's Public Sphere at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Jason Danely's "Fragile Resonance"

Jason Danely is Reader in Anthropology and Chair of the Healthy Ageing and Care Research Innovation and Knowledge Exchange Network at Oxford Brookes University. He is the author or coeditor of Aging and Loss, Vulnerability and the Politics of Care, and Transitions and Transformations.

Danely applied the "Page 99 Test" to his latest book, Fragile Resonance: Caring for Older Family Members in Japan and England, and reported the following:
What's on page 99: The end of a section titled 'Dancing with Danger' and the start of another titled 'Eating Intimacy'. These are two of my favourite sections, both looking at Japanese carers' descriptions of embodied and responsive care.

The test: Page 99 introduces some of the main themes of the book, but it doesn't capture the cross-cultural comparative approach, so the test was about 1/2 successful.

As page 99 suggests, the book is about the stories of carers' ordinary experiences and how these developed over time into new ways of attending to and responding to the world. Care entails a kind of attunement, like a dance, but cultivating this sensitivity can be exhausting, isolating, and little appreciated. Page 99 extends this with the Japanese notion of compassion. One of my favourite lines on this page is "Carers dance creatively, carefully, often on the edge of a cliff of dangerous compassion."
Visit Jason Danely's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 6, 2023

Kelsey Klotz's "Dave Brubeck and the Performance of Whiteness"

Kelsey Klotz is Lecturer in the Department of Music at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her research focuses on jazz, race, identity, and privilege. Her articles have appeared in Dædalus, the American Studies Journal, Jazz Perspectives, and the Journal of Jazz Studies. She holds a BA in Music (piano) from Truman State University and a PhD in musicology from Washington University in St. Louis.

Klotz applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Dave Brubeck and the Performance of Whiteness, and reported the following:
The first thing browsers would likely be drawn to on page 99 of Dave Brubeck and the Performance of Whiteness would almost certainly be the image at the bottom of the page. The image comes from the Dave Brubeck Collection, and was taken by photographer Lonnie Wilson during a “Dave Teaches Teachers” program in California in 1954. The image shows Brubeck playing at the piano, with about 30 viewers looking mostly intently at his playing. The viewers are predominantly white women. The text on page 99 shares the text of a review of one such piano class. One reviewer used a range of reactions explained within a feminine sphere of musical consumption when describing these women: “Some of the ‘girls’ squeaked and squealed like ecstatic teenagers while others dug it like supper club sophisticates and took notes for later study.”

I’m a bit mixed as to whether browsers would get a good or poor idea of the whole work. As to approach, page 99 reflects the importance of archival research and primary sources to my project as a whole. However, the text on the page simply recounts the review; analysis comes in subsequent pages. This section of the book connects whiteness with respectability through these women’s interest in a certain kind of jazz (jazz performed by Brubeck). In this time period, critics and other writers were positioning Brubeck’s jazz (and some other cool jazz musicians) as uniquely respectable. For example, one writer declared to the readership of Good Housekeeping magazine that, “Jazz used to be the boy with dirty hands whom you wouldn’t let come into your house…and now, with clean hands, it is to be found in the concert halls, the music conservatories…and in the nicest living rooms.” But while you wouldn’t necessarily get that important connection from the text of page 99, the image truly paints a picture of white middle-class women’s musical interest (there is only one Black woman in the image, positioned at the back of the room). In that way, page 99 has the potential to reveal quite a lot about whiteness as an intersectional performance visible both onstage and off.

On a more personal note, page 99 comes smack dab in the middle of one of my favorite moments in my book. There has long been a narrative in jazz that women simply do not like or understand jazz music as much or as well as men (you don’t have to look too far today to see similar narratives still thriving). However, the Brubeck Collection showed me how strong midcentury women’s interest in jazz was—fan letter after fan letter recount self-described housewives’ varied ways of engaging with the music, whether as listeners, players, or idea creators. So for me, page 99 presents a jumping off point for another potential project on jazz and gender.
Learn more about Dave Brubeck and the Performance of Whiteness at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Garett Jones's "The Culture Transplant"

Garett Jones is Associate Professor of Economics at the Center for Study of Public Choice, George Mason University. He is the author of 10% Less Democracy: Why You Should Trust Elites a Little More and the Masses a Little Less (2020) and Hive Mind: How Your Nation's IQ Matters So Much More Than Your Own (2015).

Jones applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Culture Transplant: How Migrants Make the Economies They Move To a Lot Like the Ones They Left, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Cultural conflict is risky enough, but when different cultural worldviews match up roughly with different ethnicities, the risk is even greater. We’ve already seen that cultural differences tend to persist for generations across different ethnic groups in the United States, Canada, and Europe, so the risk of cultural conflict is certainly there.

And as in the Dr. Seuss story of the Sneetches—where some birds have stars on their bellies and discriminate against those without—small ethnic differences can easily be both self-reinforcing and a focal point for the cultural outrage of others. So, both real and imagined cultural differences can make ethnic conflict more dangerous, more costly, more deadly than other cultural conflicts. It’s a multiplier effect, with risks of downsides all around. The more we dive into the scholarly research on ethnic diversity, the harder it becomes to say that ethnic diversity is usually a strength.

But at least publicly, elites in Western Europe and North America have gone all-in on the theory that our ethnic diversity is our strength—even though the research suggests it’s a double-edged sword in the workplace, a nudge toward lower trust in the local neighborhood, and a multiplier of social conflict for the nation.

Yes, there are plans and proposals and training programs and social media memes designed to reduce the costs of ethnic diversity, but at this point those treatments are the ivermectin of social science—possibly good, possibly bad, possibly pointless. And if things don’t go well, there’s no FDA-certified rescue treatment for the costs of ethnic diversity.
Page 99 of The Culture Transplant falls toward the end of the chapter, so it’s making references to studies discussed at length over the previous twenty or so pages. Page 99 does an excellent job capturing the way I use evidence throughout this book: I use simple, clear language to sum up scholarly research in a way that would make an expert in the field nod along in agreement. And that isn’t just my opinion, it’s the view of a leading expert in the field of cross-country income differences, Professor Areendam Chanda of LSU. In his generous blurb, he said The Culture Transplant was
A unique and authoritative treatment of the deep persistence of cultural attributes that permeates across generations, and through migration, shapes institutions and contemporary outcomes…. Jones's treatment of the literature is a master class in distilling rigorous research and presenting it in a breezy fashion that is hard to put down once you get started.
But far more than most pages, page 99 editorializes, pointing out the jarring conflict between what we find in academic research on ethnic diversity versus the confident pronouncements of politicians, CEOs, and pundits. Part of what I needed to do with The Culture Transplant was to let readers know about the yawning gap between scholarly findings and mainstream media discussions of the long-term effects of migration on national economies. Page 99 of The Culture Transplant turns a spotlight on one important example of that gap, the potential costs of ethnic diversity.

That potential cost of ethnic diversity stands in sharp contrast with a clear potential benefit of skill diversity, a finding that also shows up in the chapter’s review of business research: teams that bring together diverse skills to a new task have a good shot at creating a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Different forms of diversity bring different benefits, different challenges. That’s a reminder that bringing candor to discussions about different forms of diversity is the first step to building the best possible world for all.
Follow Garett Jones on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: 10% Less Democracy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Ditte Marie Munch-Jurisic's "Perpetrator Disgust"

Ditte Marie Munch-Jurisic is a philosopher specialized in the field of emotions and negative affect with a particular focus on the implications for majority-minority relations. I am currently a research associate at the University of Virginia, working remotely in The Moral Injury Lab, and a teaching associate professor in Minority Studies, University of Copenhagen.

Munch-Jurisic applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Perpetrator Disgust: The Moral Limits of Gut Feelings, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Perpetrator Disgust contains a brisk summary of the book’s unfortunate thesis:

“By rejecting the nativist assumption that human beings are essentially good and possess an instinctual resistance to killing, we arrive at a much more convincing account of the phenomenology of perpetrator disgust.”

We may wish to believe that it is against human nature to kill, and that perpetrator disgust represents the revolt of this benevolent nature against violence, but evidence across continents, conflicts, and time periods shows this account is too simple to be true. Page 99 is typical of the book in casting doubt on comforting conclusions. By pointing to instances of soldiers who enjoy war and the careful, systematic manner in which military organizations manage the emotions of soldiers in order to facilitate killing, the page reinforces a central argument of the book: that gut feelings are not reflections of nature, and that a more complex account of the relationship between our emotions and morality is required.

Through the disturbing lens of perpetrator disgust, we observe that gut feelings can be molded in many different directions and to different purposes. Our emotions are biological templates onto which particular values are imprinted. Gut feelings speak to the social facts of our time and place. Emotions, as a result, must be interpreted through a contextual understanding of the concrete emotional episode, an agent’s broader environment, and the available frameworks for interpreting an emotional experience.
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--Marshal Zeringue