Friday, June 30, 2023

Elizabeth Cross's "Company Politics"

Elizabeth Cross is Assistant Professor of History at Georgetown University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Company Politics: Commerce, Scandal, and French Visions of Indian Empire in the Revolutionary Era, and reported the following:
Exploring corporate intrigue, financial scandals, and imperial competition in an age of revolutionary upheaval, Company Politics is a history of the last French East India Company (Compagnie des Indes) in the period between the Seven Years’ War and the French Revolution. By focusing on a non-state, corporate actor, the book delves into France’s informal, commercial empire in South Asia and argues that the strategies, ideas, and innovations of French economic actors represent key contributions to the histories of capitalism and the modern corporation itself.

Page 99 comes at a transitional moment right in the middle of Chapter 4, which focuses on the history of the Company’s operations in India in the 1780s. The chapter is composed of three case studies on the Company’s three principal trading sites: Pondicherry (Coromandel Coast), Chandernagor (Bengal), and Mahé (Malabar Coast). Page 99 marks the transition between the latter two. As a result, it does not give a great sense of many of the book’s overall themes, but it does highlight one of its key contributions, in that it asks readers to expand their own geographical understandings of the French colonial empire to include places over which France did not have formal territorial dominion. The British East India Company claimed control over Bengal in this era, which meant that the French Company’s trade there was effectively illegal. Similarly, on the Malabar Coast, the French Company was relentlessly challenged by Tipu Sultan of Mysore, who sought to manipulate the company’s access to goods and markets in the name of negotiating a formal military alliance with the French crown against the British.

Accordingly, page 99 reveals one key aspect of this book, in that the book is a story about a French empire that French imperial actors did not – and could not – easily control. It reminds us that despite its extravagant claims of supremacy, imperial power could often be not only exceedingly fragile, but subject to both colonial rivalries and local resistance.
Follow Elizabeth Cross on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Michael Laver's "The Dutch East India Company in Early Modern Japan"

Michael Laver is Professor in the Department of History at Rochester Institute of Technology.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his most recent book, The Dutch East India Company in Early Modern Japan: Gift Giving and Diplomacy, and reported the following:
From page 99:
On May 10, 1657, the Dutch invited a number of Japanese guests to the island of Deshima to partake of a feast. The chief merchant records that he served his distinguished guests “a well-prepared, young, fat billy-goat,” but that the Japanese didn’t seem to like it, preferring instead “bean soup and lean greens.” Here the matter may have rested but, as we have seen in other chapters, although the Japanese always responded to being entertained with a small token of appreciation soon after, on this occasion, only one of the ten guests sent a word of thanks to Deshima, and that was the young son of one of the interpreters. The chief merchant likened the other nine guests to the nine lepers whom Jesus healed in the Gospels but who couldn’t be bothered to come back and thank Jesus for his efforts on their behalf (although likening the chief merchant to Jesus doesn’t seem really in keeping with Dutch Reformed piety!). Be that as it may, the chief merchant goes on to write that this is against all good manners and custom, and speculates that perhaps it’s because the Japanese didn’t like the goat: “If this is true, I think these fussy men should be treated to a young roasted donkey.” He goes on to note, probably with some pent-up bitterness, that it would rather be to the company’s advantage if the Japanese guests wouldn’t come around so much to be entertained as it would surely save the company a pretty penny.

The aforementioned feast was not a rare occasion on Deshima. We read of several occasions when the Dutch entertained their Japanese hosts with a formal meal, and even more occasions when Japanese officials called at the island and were invariably entertained with food and drink. In short, much like today, food and drink served a number of functions depending on the occasion: sharing a meal could serve as a social lubricant between people who were of very different social and economic classes, not to mention from totally separate cultural worlds; food and drink could serve as an expression of gratitude for service rendered, or in other words, a thank-you gift given either by the Japanese or by the Dutch; a shared meal could serve as a venue in which to discuss matters both personal and professional; and finally, food and drink were often used by both the Japanese and the Dutch as formal gift items, both between individuals and between the company and the shogunal officials in Nagasaki and Edo.
For this book, the Page 99 Test works in part, but only in part. The reader is given a snapshot of how material culture was used on the Dutch trading post in Japan to break down barriers between Dutch merchants and Japanese officials. Food and drink were used as formal gift items, for example gifts of wine for the shogun and his officials, but they were also used as informal mechanisms with which to curry favor with local officialdom. In that sense, page 99 illustrates the general premise of the book, which is that gift giving was both a formal and informal mechanism to smooth relations between the Dutch and the shogunal court, especially when relations between the Japanese and foreigners were quite strained in the seventeenth century. The fact that gift-giving was such a prominent part of both personal and professional life on the tiny island of Deshima century after century is a testament to its importance.

Another way that page 99 serves to illustrate the premise of the book is to highlight the exasperation the Dutch felt at having to continually ply their Japanese hosts with gifts, both large and small. These gifts were often accompanied by intrusions into Dutch personal space as officials and their entourages came to gawk at the foreignness of the Dutch and to receive the requisite hospitality. It was one thing to write formal gift giving off the cost of doing business in Japan, which the Dutch East India Company did year after year, but quite another altogether to entertain Japanese guests of varying degrees of importance on an almost daily basis.

What page 99 leaves out is the larger context within which Dutch gift-giving should be viewed. The Japanese had expelled all European merchants in about 1640, save for a handful of Dutch merchants on a tiny, man-made island in the far southwest of the country. Dutch gift-giving served initially as a way to demonstrate that the Dutch were essentially paying tribute to the Tokugawa family which consolidated control over all of Japan only a few decades earlier. In this context, Dutch gifts served to bolster the authority of the Tokugawa vis-à-vis other prominent warrior families after a long period of political instability, and also served to illustrate, through ostentatious and highly orchestrated Dutch visits to the shogun’s capital, that the Tokugawa were the rightful rulers of Japan.
Learn more about The Dutch East India Company in Early Modern Japan at the Bloomsbury Academic website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Ken Dark's "Archaeology of Jesus' Nazareth"

Ken Dark is an archaeologist and historian principally researching the 1st millennium AD in Europe and the Middle East, and the relevance of the past to contemporary societies. He has a PhD from the University of Cambridge and taught at Oxford, Cambridge and Reading Universities before moving to King's College London. He has also been a visiting Professor at the University of Navarra. He is the author of over 100 academic publications, has directed many excavations and surveys, and is an elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, the Royal Historical Society, and Royal Anthropological Institute.

Dark applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Archaeology of Jesus' Nazareth, and reported the following:
Most of this page outlines the career of the American scholar, Dr Eugenia Nitowski (1949-2007), at various times in her varied career a student of healthcare, African ‘bush pilot’, a Carmelite nun, and – importantly for this book – a ‘biblical archaeologist’. Nitowski is relevant to the archaeology of Nazareth as the only person prior to the author to propose a programme of fieldwork on the crucial site of the Sisters of Nazareth convent subsequent to the (literally) ground-breaking excavation by the convent's nuns in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and the important subsequent studies by Henri Senès, a Jesuit priest, in the mid-twentieth century. Nitowski’s proposed study of the site was never realised, and was misguided in its methodology, but is significant for the history of the archaeological study of the Sisters of Nazareth site.

Looking at page 99 alone would give a misleading impression of the book as a whole.

Page 99 is part of a three-chapter history of the archaeological excavation and survey of the Sisters of Nazareth site, including an account of my own work at that site between 2006-2010. Using up to date 21st-century archaeological methods, this enabled me to disentangle more than century of discoveries at the convent, revealing a long sequence of structures from a first-century house to what may be the city's Byzantine cathedral and a Crusader pilgrimage church. The sequence is of importance for the archaeological study of Nazareth and more broadly for a wide range of themes in the archaeology of the Roman, Byzantine and Crusader periods.
Learn more about Archaeology of Jesus' Nazareth at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Meg Russell & Lisa James's "The Parliamentary Battle over Brexit"

Meg Russell is Professor of British and Comparative Politics and Director of the Constitution Unit at University College London. She is particularly known for her work on parliament, having published books on the House of Lords, the legislative process and parliament's policy influence.

Lisa James is a Research Fellow at the Constitution Unit, where she focuses on the UK parliament. From 2019-22 she worked on the ESRC-funded 'Brexit, Parliament and the Constitution' project.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, The Parliamentary Battle over Brexit, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Parliamentary Battle over Brexit falls, neatly, at the very start of a chapter:
Theresa May had won the Conservative leadership contest in 2016 on a promise to steady the party, and to deploy her considerable political experience to deliver Brexit. She also explicitly pledged that she would do so without calling a potentially destabilizing early general election. However, as the reality of implementing Brexit sank in, and with the new Prime Minister riding high in the polls, she was persuaded to break that pledge. But rather than increasing May’s majority, and strengthening her hand in parliament, the June 2017 election resulted in the loss of the Conservative majority, and she spent the remainder of her premiership as head of a minority government. This was a governing form relatively unfamiliar at Westminster, which required both skills and strategies inaccessible to May.
This brief summary paragraph is a fair representation of our aims in writing the book. We sought to blend a narrative account of the Brexit process in parliament with more thematic reflections – both explaining a lengthy and complex story, and asking what it can tell us about bigger political science questions such as the role of legislatures versus executives, the dangers of populism or, as here, how minority governments can operate in majoritarian systems.

However, the page is a little less representative when it comes to subject matter. Brexit is a multi-faceted topic, and other authors have written compelling analyses of public opinion, the negotiations with the EU, and the machinations at the heart of Number 10, among other subjects. We address Brexit as an essentially parliamentary story: from the backbench pressures for a referendum on EU membership, through the painful and extended wrangling in the House of Commons over the form Brexit should take, to Boris Johnson’s unlawful prorogation of parliament. But inevitably, in a story driven partly by the major electoral events of one referendum and two general elections, some chapters must focus on events outside Westminster. This is one of them.

Its events are critical to the overall narrative. Theresa May had become Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party shortly after the 2016 referendum, following David Cameron’s resignation. She inherited a slim parliamentary majority, and a divided and bruised party. The task of uniting Conservative MPs around anything more concrete than the general principle of leaving the European Union would have been near-impossible for even the most imaginative and unifying leader; it fell to the tribal and rigid May. So, having triggered Article 50 – i.e. formally notified the EU of the UK’s decision to leave – she called a general election, hoping to win a large enough majority to sideline dissenters in her own party. But the gamble failed, and May’s authority was wrecked. As we describe in the later chapters of the book, this outcome – a minority government, a divided party, and a weakened leader – lay the ground for two years of increasingly bitter wrangling and, ultimately, for the populist premiership of Boris Johnson.
Learn more about The Parliamentary Battle over Brexit at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 26, 2023

Patti Tamara Lenard's "Democracy and Exclusion"

Patti Tamara Lenard is Professor of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Democracy and Exclusion, and reported the following:
It is common to believe that states have a right to control their borders, and thereby can make choices about whom to admit – as tourists, labourers, immigrants – and whom to exclude. One of the most visible ways in which states control admission and exclusion is via the visa systems: as many readers will know, if you wish to enter another country, a first step is to acquire the appropriate visa.

As page 99 of Exclusion and Democracy summarizes, acquiring this visa is a multi-step process, and whether the process is difficult or easy to manage depends a good deal on where one holds citizenship and where one wants to go. Visas are one of many ways that states exclude unwanted people from its territory; and states also exclude individuals who reside on their territory from acquiring citizenship and the protective benefits this status offer. Indeed, page 99 is emblematic of the theme I explore in my book, namely, whether and when exclusion from a state’s territory and membership can be justified. I argue that exclusion, from territory and from membership, can rarely be defended.

Exclusion and Democracy is a case-based assessment of the permissibility and justifiability of states’ choices with respect to whom to include and whom to exclude. It takes seriously that exclusion is harmful – in several recent introductions to my book, I say to audiences that its origin story is in the choice a classmate made to exclude my oldest daughter from her birthday party, and the harm this choice generated, even though it was perfectly within the classmate’s right to do so. This harm is sometimes impermissible, as for example it is when states adopt racist criteria to exclude refugees and immigrants or when they refuse to grant citizenship to stateless peoples. But sometimes it is permissible according to the rules of democratic justice, but should be avoided anyway, since it is harmful to those who are excluded, as is sometimes the case where states adopt strict rules around citizenship tests and citizenship oath ceremonies. In nearly all cases, we can be guided by what democratic theorists call the “all-subjected” principle, to understand who deserves inclusion: all those who are subject to the law of a state, on an ongoing, life-shaping basis, are entitled to be protected from forced exclusion, in the form of citizenship status.

My objective is to speak to many audiences, including applied political theorists who are keen to discuss the relevance and application of principles of democratic justice; policy-makers who have the discretion to press policies in the direction of justice, even if only at the margins; and those who have no real experience of the harms that travel with exclusion and, importantly, with persistent threats of exclusion from one or both of territory or membership.
Learn more about Democracy and Exclusion at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Lorraine Mangione & Donna Luff's "Mary Climbs In"

Lorraine Mangione, professor of clinical psychology at Antioch University New England, focuses on women in many aspects of who they are; creativity and artistry; group therapy; spirituality and religion; aging, loss, and grief; Italian American culture; mentoring; and #MeToo in her clinical and research work and publications. She is the coauthor of Daughters, Dads, and the Path through Grief: Tales from Italian America, as well as articles integrating Springsteen and psychology.

Donna Luff is a British-born writer and sociologist, an educator at Boston Children’s Hospital, and faculty at Harvard Medical School. She has published on gender, sexuality, and health care innovations and taught widely on qualitative research practice. She is author of several personal essays, as well as articles on Springsteen, and coauthor of a prior chapter on Springsteen’s women fans.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Mary Climbs In: The Journeys of Bruce Springsteen's Women Fans, and reported the following:
“Who am I? How did I come to be who I am? What am I meant to do and to be in life?” (McAdams, 2013). Those are the central questions raised on page 99, as part of a narrative psychologist’s view of how it is people figure out who they are and what the meaning and purpose of their life might be, what Dan McAdams calls the autobiographical author approach to constructing one’s identity. Figuring that out, becoming the author of one’s own life, is a developmental process that involves the culture, one’s history, the present, and the future, and is especially important during emerging adulthood although it can continue throughout the life span. For some women, their fan relationship with Springsteen and his work are highly intertwined with this process of figuring out who they are and how to make meaning in their life. The words “spiritual expedition” open the page and signal the depth of Springsteen’s meaning.

Page 99 dives deeply into the psychology behind our book, the emphasis on spiritual, psychological, and personal growth and identity. But the heart and soul of our book are the words of women fans who responded to our two surveys through, a Springsteen fan website. And that is what is missing on this page. So, while it doesn’t fully represent the book, it does hint at some critical elements of it. We showcase women fans’ journeys through life as interwoven with Springsteen and his work, and psychology helps us to understand those processes. These themes, taken from page 99, underscore our message:
  • "Some women see Springsteen as mirroring their own struggles, including how they might grow through them"
  • "McAdams emphasizes the importance of the stories that people live by and of authoring one’s own sense of meaning and identity throughout the life span."
  • "This developmental process may be occurring with some women fans, and it continues on in life."
The concepts of personal growth and development underlie our work, but the most essential parts are the responses from women fans: the emotions, honesty, thoughtfulness, faith, and love they share.

Women’s stories illuminate how Springsteen fandom has shaped their lives. The book’s themes, that emerged from their responses to our surveys, are about relationship, meaning-making, healing, personal growth, creating the self and identity, as well as the power of belonging to a fan community. Centrally, we explore how many women experience their fandom as a kind of relationship. Women referred to Springsteen variously as like a close friend or family member, a guide or teacher, or even a therapist. Here are just a couple of examples of their words, from a long-term fan and from a young fan:

“I sure do (have a relationship with him), he is a part of my life as a friend who gives me comfort, makes me happy and ... he just belongs to me! Although I know, he doesn’t know me and doesn’t even know I exist.”

“I feel like he means everything he says, he cares about the issues, and he cares about the E Street Band….it is because of his strong and passionate love that he fights against the injustices in the world, and has the energy and power to do so, thus inspiring me and my family to love more and fight more for what we love.”
Learn more about Mary Climbs In at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 23, 2023

Brian McAllister Linn's "Real Soldiering"

Brian McAllister Linn is professor of history at Texas A&M and the author of The Philippine War, 1899–1902, The Echo of Battle: The Army’s Way of War, and other books.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Real Soldiering: The US Army in the Aftermath of War, 1815-1980, and reported the following:
Page 99 provides examples of the ’skeletonized’ US Army officer corps in the decade after the end of World War 1. It briefly discusses the careers of officers who would later become famous such as Dwight D. Eisenhower and Matthew B. Ridgway and the inadequate pay and wretched living conditions that most junior officers endured.

Real Soldiering is a comparative historical analysis of the US Army’s experience in the decade after every major war. The book’s central argument is that in many ways this experience follows a common pattern of a brief period of reform followed by a long period of stagnation, insufficient resources, and the ‘hollowing out’ of the field forces. The book looks at similarities in the how the lessons of the recent war were assimilated, the adaptation to new missions, continental and overseas deployments, the officer corps (and especially the experience of junior officers), the acquisition, training, and retention of (or inability to retain) enlisted personnel, and how the army prepared for the next war. Page 99 would provide the reader with a basic understanding of a primary argument in Real Soldiering—that armies transitioning from war to peace have to engage in a prolonged and traumatic period of recovery.

Real Soldiering grew out of my belief that neither soldiers nor civilians had much understanding of what happens when a professional army after a war is over. In most histories, postwar armies are of interest as prewar armies—and historians focus on the individuals, doctrines, technologies, etc. that proved decisive in the next conflict. My book argues that postwar armies need to be studied as distinct military entities. By examine the US Army from the decade after the War of 1812 to a decade after the Vietnam War, I am able to make comparisons, highlight similarities, and challenge much of the existing literature.
Learn more about Real Soldiering at the University Press of Kansas website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Robert P Crease's "The Leak"

Robert P Crease is a philosopher and historian of science at Stony Brook University. In 2021 he received the Lord Kelvin medal and prize for 21 years of his “Critical Point” column explaining humanities concepts for scientists, and scientific ideas to humanists.

Crease applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Leak: Politics, Activists, and Loss of Trust at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and reported the following:
Page 99, prefaced by a sentence and sentence-fragment from page 98 for comprehension:

The trio were frustrated at how little their voices were being heard. Week after week, militant activists turned up at meetings – some dressed in lurid costumes – stated their positions in over-the-top language, and instead of staying to discuss with the scientists they would leave to be interviewed by reporters. The activists were more colorful than the scientists, and the ones who got standing that night on the news.

Over the next few days, Graves, Ocko, and Shanklin canvassed friends to see if any wanted to create an informal action group. They shared “a sense of outrage,” Shanklin put it, over the difference between “the way Newsday, politicians and activists reported news about the lab” and their own experiences. Shanklin, who had been at the lab half a dozen years, found it “a place where intellectual contribution was valued above numbers of published papers. A place where, if someone was ill, people got together to help the family. A place where newcomers from the outside were welcomed with information, help and support. In short, it just seemed like a place that had values that really mattered.”

Bioinformatics specialist Sean McCorkle was interested. He had attended a Forbes town hall and had been terrified. “I thought, ‘This is what it must have felt like to be a 14-year-old girl charged with witchcraft in the 1600s,’” he said. “People were saying that Brookhaven had nuclear weapons and was carrying on human radiation experiments and was poisoning the water. It was like an X Files episode—but they believed it was real. When I came home I had to have a couple of beers to calm down.” In McCorkle’s high school days in Maryland he had read science books with pictures of Brookhaven and its discoveries. “I assumed everyone knew about the lab,” he said. “I found it astounding that people who lived a mile away didn’t know much about it, and shocking that some people thought it was evil.”

Joanna Fowler, who was still running her “Looking for Trouble” group, was also interested. “We were in a place we’d never been,” she recalled. “We were realizing how precious the lab was, the freedom we had in it, and how important that was to young scientists. I loved the lab, and I was afraid we’d lose it.”

Astoundingly, readers of page 99 find themselves at the core of the story. The book is about people from different backgrounds and disciplines who suddenly find themselves joining together to confront an existential threat. Agenda-driven politicians, sensationalizing media, and militant activists have promoted fake facts and unfounded conspiracies to destroy the work of their important, safely operating, scientific laboratory. Page 99 happens to be the transition moment, when it dawns on these individuals that it’s not enough to think “Science will prevail” or that the government will step in and set things right. They have to act.

The book is about an early warning signal what’s happening today in episodes like global warming, vaccines, and other areas where science matters – and what needs to be done long before page 99.
Visit Robert P Crease's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Joshua May's "Neuroethics: Agency in the Age of Brain Science"

Joshua May is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is the author of Regard for Reason in the Moral Mind (2018) and co-editor of Agency in Mental Disorder (2022).

May applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Neuroethics: Agency in the Age of Brain Science, and reported the following:
Readers who open Neuroethics to page 99 will find themselves in the chapter on mental illness, which asks whether having a mental disorder excuses one from blame for unethical behavior. Consider the case of Eddie Ray Routh, a former marine who like many other veterans suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, among other afflictions. In 2013, at a shooting range in Texas, Routh killed two men, one of whom was military hero Chris Kyle (the subject of Clint Eastwood’s 2014 film American Sniper).

Such crimes are extremely rare among those with psychiatric disorders. But is blame inappropriate for these or other immoral actions—such as lying, cheating, and stealing—even if caused in part by a neurological condition?

Page 99 begins the argument that having a mental disorder does not by itself excuse immoral acts. We should adopt a more nuanced approach that takes into account that mental disorders present along a wide spectrum. Some people with PTSD exhibit great levels of agency and autonomy. Others don’t, or do so only occasionally. It depends on the individual and the circumstances—not on whether a diagnostic label is appropriate.

Mental illness is just one topic among others in the book, from free will to brain reading technologies. But the Page 99 Test works quite well, since this nuanced view is central to the book’s framework and overall message. Neuroethics urges us to approach all of neuroscience with nuance. Labeling someone with a neurological condition doesn’t tell us anything about their self-control, identity, or moral responsibility.

Instead, neuroscience increasingly demonstrates that the neurotypical and atypical are more alike than unalike. Neurotypical humans are frequently driven by automatic and unconscious processes that render us less free will than we tend to think (chapter 2). Even neuroscientists themselves can be found rationalizing questionable research practices (chapter 8). Ultimately, the neurotypical exhibit less agency than we often accord them, while patients with psychiatric conditions generally exhibit more agency (chapter 4). The same goes for addicts whose brains are manipulated by dopamine (chapter 5) and patients whose brains are manipulated by drugs and implants (chapter 3). Agency abounds in all of these cases, even if it ebbs and flows over time for the neurotypical and atypical alike.

Neurotechnologies are rapidly becoming more commonplace in medicine, law, and the marketplace. Brain stimulation and psychedelics are being used to treat mental disorders, including addiction and depression. Brain scans are being used in the courtroom to help determine guilt or innocence. And brain-computer interfaces, such as Elon Musk’s Neuralink, are being developed for ordinary consumer use. Neuroethics urges us to keep nuanced ethical analysis trained on these exciting and ominous advancements without alarmism or overhype.
Visit Josh May's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Felicia Arriaga's "Behind Crimmigration"

Felicia Arriaga is an Assistant Professor role at Baruch College in the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs. Her research interests are in the areas of race and ethnicity, immigration, and crimmigration (criminalization of immigration policy and procedure) aka La Polimigra.

Arriaga applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Behind Crimmigration: ICE, Law Enforcement, and Resistance in America, and reported the following:
Page 99 is a great introduction to what Behind Crimmigration is all about, but readers may not understand the full complexity of the term collective amnesia that I’ve included without reading the whole chapter. Page 99 is the concluding page of Chapter 4 titled, "Collective Amnesia: White Innocence and Ignorance in the Devolution of Immigration Enforcement."
As previously discussed, at first, community members noted the blatant policing of their communities in the initial years of the program, but once that overt form of policing ended, more covert practices were not interrogated, contributing to the normalization of the program. The lack of transparency regarding the number of deportations and practices within the jail also bolstered this normalization. Many community members (both pro-and anti-immigrant) who may have involved themselves in the adoption process did not remain involved in accountability processes. In communities where a formal community input process was undertaken, pro-immigrant forces became frustrated with the silencing of their voices, and some settled for limited versions of immigration enforcement. By no means did these community members remove themselves entirely from related efforts, but many saw that traditional routes (appeals to city and county governments) to combat the program were exhausted. On the other hand, overtly anti-immigrant segments of these communities, albeit not entirely pleased by the level of immigration enforcement practices, were more aligned with the desires of law enforcement to enter into such agreements.

Collective amnesia of the impetus of the program (both in process and rhetoric) ensured these practices became invisible. Changes in 2015, requiring sheriff departments to host 287(g) steering committee meetings to discuss the mission and results of the program, are making the program more visible. In the initial adoption of the programs, county commissioners signed off on the MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) between the sheriff’s departments and ICE. In subsequent renewal periods, only the sheriff’s department signed off on the agreement, neutralizing the need and responsibility of county commissioners to be involved in the process. In recent 287(g) meetings, sheriff department representatives ignore the initial impetus for the program and deflect any anti-immigrant sentiments that previously existed by suggesting, “that was a different administration,” although they are unwilling to describe any adjustments in the implementation of the program. Financial benefits of the program were one of the most visible aspects of the program, yet also part of this collective amnesia, even when elected officials and law enforcement leadership were certainly aware of this.
While the book is about North Carolina, page 99 also reflects a process that I’ve seen happen in other localities across the country (without mentioning NC in this excerpt), so the summarized process is something I’m interested in exploring further in my research. While readers may be able to draw their own conclusions about the term collective amnesia, earlier in this chapter I describe this term as it was developed by Charles W. Mills in The Racial Contract. While conducting research for this book, I was surprised to hear justifications and rhetorical maneuvers to distance from what I call blatantly racist beginnings of these immigration enforcement partnerships. And I was even more surprised that people were surprised to know that the partnerships still existed—a phenomenon I call the normalization of the programs. In looking for relevant literature to help me process this, I found The Racial Contract to be useful in explaining why this was the case. In that book, Charles W. Mills writes that collective amnesia, as it pertains to race, allows for “conflicting judgements about what is important in the past and what is unimportant” and as the quote shown below states, “so applying this to race, there will obviously be an intimate relationship between white identity, white memory, and white amnesia, especially about nonwhite victims.”

This idea of memory making and understanding the overall narrative of immigration enforcement was not the initial focus of this book but has become central to future projects, especially because the “official” record and narrative often demonizes immigrant communities without including their voices. I wanted to pinpoint this in the book to also encourage white people who might read the book to consider how their non-involvement (either never being involved or some involvement that has stopped) contributes to the continuation and proliferation of immigration enforcement practices.

On a related note, what’s also missing from this page is an introduction (which briefly comes on the next page) to the resistance aspect of the book. The following chapter is called "Melting ICE," which dives into the places across the state where community members pushed back against the normalization of immigration enforcement partnerships.
Visit Felicia Arriaga's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 19, 2023

Debbie Sharnak's "Of Light and Struggle"

Debbie Sharnak is Assistant Professor of History and International Studies at Rowan University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Of Light and Struggle: Social Justice, Human Rights, and Accountability in Uruguay, and reported the following:
Page 99 falls in chapter 3 of the book, which is focused on U.S.-Uruguayan bilateral relations. In the text itself, I provide some analysis of Carter’s initial human rights policy that I explain was “vague and general” as the administration went through a broad policy review to figure out how the new administration would bring the rhetoric of human rights into action items in diverse contexts around the globe. By the bottom of the page, I show how Carter initially sought to focus on a “limited number of ‘worse’ cases”, of which Uruguay was one, in part due to the work of activists and congressional representatives that consistently brought the violations in the country to international attention in the first four years of the dictatorship.

In many ways, the snapshot is emblematic of a central theme of the book where I analyze how grassroots actors, with a particular focus on the situation in Uruguay, helped shape the understanding and implementation of human rights on an international level. On the other hand, the page is limiting as a window into the book because it is one of only two chapters that does not take place at least in part ‘in’ Uruguay. During the most difficult years of the dictatorship, there was limited activism at a domestic level, and the story of human rights work and discussion was most vibrant and accessible from a documentary perspective through the work of those abroad. Therefore, while the book does have a distinct foreign policy focus, tracing the trajectory of Richard Nixon all the way through Ronald Reagan’s policy toward the country, it is not just a story of U.S. policymakers. Rather, they are one of a myriad of actors that helped shape and contribute to human rights work in the Southern Cone.
Visit Debbie Sharnak's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Thomas F. Remington's "The Returns to Power"

Thomas Remington is a Visiting Professor of Government at Harvard University and Goodrich C. White Professor (Emeritus) of Political Science at Emory University. He is the author of a number of books and articles. His books include The Returns to Power: A Political Theory of Economic Inequality (2023); Presidential Decrees in Russia: A Comparative Perspective (2014); and The Politics of Inequality in Russia (2011). Remington's current research concerns the political sources of economic inequality in the United States, Russia, China and Germany, as well as issues related to education, skill formation, and workforce development.

Remington applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Returns to Power and reported the following:
The material on page 99 gives a straightforward account of the way that tax cuts in the US over the past 40 years have led to greater economic inequality but not higher economic growth. This passage is one of the kinds of evidence that the book cites to show the way our policies in recent decades have been skewed in favor of the wealthy through the political alliance of powerful economic interests with policymakers. Much of the book presents similar kinds of factual evidence about other policy areas making the same point. These include our policies toward financial regulation, labor, health care, education, and antitrust, when we reversed course from the postwar era of economic regulation and labor union strength. So page 99 is a reasonable indication of the kinds of data and graphs the book presents, but the theoretical argument of the book is presented in other parts of the book. The book combines a lot of economic data and analysis with political science research to build a fuller explanation of the reasons economic inequality in the US is so high and why it has been so harmful for economic opportunity as well as for democracy.

The book looks outside the US at other cases to show that a paradigm shift to economic liberalization and deregulation can have similar long-term effects--but doesn't have to. Separate chapters on Russia and China show that the opening to a market economy after dismantling a communist planned economy led to highly concentrated wealth and a stifling of any opening for political liberty. In contrast, Germany's economic reconstruction is discussed in another chapter and shown to be a case where the liberalization of a totalitarian, centrally controlled economy was accompanied by safeguards against high economic inequality and unbalanced political power. The result has been a robust democracy with a high level of economic well-being without a high level of economic inequality.
Visit Thomas F. Remington's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Zeynep K. Korkman's "Gendered Fortunes"

Zeynep K. Korkman is Assistant Professor of Gender Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Gendered Fortunes: Divination, Precarity, and Affect in Postsecular Turkey, and reported the following:
The Page 99 Test promises to foretell a book’s quality by simply opening and reading this fateful page. What an exciting way to engage with a book on divination! Page 99 of Gendered Fortunes: Divination, Precarity, and Affect in Postsecular Turkey, as it turns out, offers an intriguing yet incomplete taste of the book.

Page 99 is from “Chapter 3: Feeling Postsecular,” which features women and young and gay men who read fortunes as a way to broker their precarious positioning as Muslim, non-pious, and secular subjects in the context of declining secularism and rising Islamist authoritarianism in 21st century Turkey. Page 99 features the subtitle “Don’t Believe in Fortune-Telling, but Don’t Do without it Either,” a popular saying that I have repeatedly heard from fortunetellers and their clients who were part of a burgeoning divination economy in millennial Turkey. The saying succinctly summarizes the prescribed secular Muslim way of engaging with fortune-telling, and more broadly, with religion; it recommends faith and practice with a dose of skeptical distance. Fortunetellers and their clients offer this saying to rhetorically and pedagogically claim a secular(ist) subject position and to distinguish themselves from the people who they deem believe too much and from those who they deem to take advantage of naïve believers. They strive to distinguish themselves from “those hodjas” (religiously-accented, often male fortunetellers) who they insist abuse their naive (female) clients economically, psychologically, and sexually. They also speak against “those Islamists” who they insist mobilize religion to manipulate their gullible fellow citizens. Reading fortunes to lift their spirits in the face of their perilous social and personal futures as secular Muslim women and LGBTIQ individuals, people featured in my book do not naively believe but still invest in their hopes in divination.

While page 99 provides a good preview of the book’s analysis of religion and secularism, not captured here is the broader substantive argument of the book that secular Muslim women and LGBTIQ individuals of a postsecular neoliberal era navigate not only their secular anxieties but also their gendered vulnerabilities and economic precarities through divination. Fortunetelling is a feminized idiom that brings together women and young and gay men to feel out their intimate desires and fears at some distance from the reignited gender conservatism of the government pushing against feminist and queer movements in the mainstream public sphere. This happens, however, only at the expense of the devalued, precarious, stigmatized, and even criminalized labors of fortunetelling women and LGBTIQ folk, who assist their more economically privileged counterparts in exploring their aspirations and worries.

Also missing from page 99 is the book’s methodological and theoretical argument that “feeling” as an analytic renders visible how ordinary people register and traverse at the affective level otherwise distanced and occulted social processes such as neoliberalism, secularism, Islamism, and gender conservatism, feeling their way into, through, and away from them. The book thus forwards attention to the disregarded realms of the minoritized and to the deployment of feeling as a lens into these realms as a feminist analytical and methodological strategy.
Follow Zeynep K. Korkman on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 16, 2023

Erin Raffety's "Families We Need"

Erin Raffety is a Practical Theologian who uses ethnographic methods to study congregations and communities. She is currently a Lecturer in the Princeton Writing Program where she teaches on disability justice.

At Princeton Theological Seminary, Raffety serves as the Senior Researcher on the Isaiah Partnership (a study of pastors leading innovation for theological education), the Empirical Research Consultant on the Imagining Church Project (a nationwide study of thriving congregations) and the Associate Research Scholar for the Institute for Youth Ministry. She is also a Research Fellow at the Center of Theological Inquiry, where she is conducting a study on worship access for Christians living with Long COVID and chronic illness.

Raffety is also the author of two books, one on disability ministry in the United States, From Inclusion to Justice (2022), and the other on foster care in China, Families We Need (2022). She is ordained as a Teaching Elder in the PC(USA), holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from Princeton University, and is a proud parent of a daughter with multiple disabilities.

Raffety applied the “Page 99 Test” to Families We Need and reported the following:
At first I did not want to like Huilan or the other orphanage monitors and INGO workers I met in Southwest China, because they seemed callous and were critical of the foster mothers I was so eager to understand. But on page 99 Huilan reveals to me that behind this bureaucratic exterior is a young woman who is torn between families.

At the top of the page, Huilan brims with pride as she watches foster children, placed from the state orphanage into private foster homes with mostly older retirees, thrive in their new village, but she also expresses guilt about spending so much time building and nurturing emotional relationships that are not her own. “I was there when [these foster children] were abandoned into the orphanage,” she tells me.
“When they lived there, I was there everyday; when they cried, when they laughed, I watched them grow. And when they go into foster homes, I can’t believe how well they’re doing. And I’m so happy…” Her voice trailed off. “But they also get to spend so much time together—these old men and women, they can be with their children all day. And I’m with them, while my husband, my in-laws, and my daughter are back at home.”
I remember that in this moment in the hotel room, literally naked under our towels, my simplistic judgments about foster care monitors like Huilan were exposed to me. That moment softened me, because Huilan let me into her inner life, yet I struggled to comfort her. It made me a better fieldworker because it made me realize that in order to understand Chinese foster families, I needed to understand the other families with which they were emotionally intertwined.

On page 99, I come to a critical conclusion about this emotional tension: “I realized that underneath some of the disparaging comments foster care monitors like Huilan made about foster mothers or their seemingly manipulative efforts to reform them lay a deep-seated envy and a personal longing for this emotional intimacy they so vicariously and eagerly sought to effect in foster families. Underneath the seeming austerity of policing contractual relationships that struggled to elevate lower-class women to upper-class parenting practices lay a murky, emotionally fraught ambivalence that left middle-class women struggling to build family relationships within a societal contact in which the roles were constantly shifting under their feet.”

This insight about envy was critical to the overall argument of the book that shows families to be “porous and permeable” (also page 99!), even though in modernity we obscure and elevate some families as permanent, autonomous, and independent. Page 99 shows how fieldwork is also permeable, porous, and emotional. On page 99 my emotional guard comes down, and it is a turning point for apprehending the emotional complexity in family making that the book strives to illuminate.
Follow Erin Raffety on Twitter and visit her website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Peter Thompson's "The Gas Mask in Interwar Germany"

Peter Thompson is an Assistant Professor of the History of Science at Lyman Briggs College at Michigan State University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Gas Mask in Interwar Germany: Visions of Chemical Modernity, and reported the following:
Nominally, page 99 of the electronic edition of The Gas Mask in Interwar Germany introduces the reader to the olfactory experience of chemical warfare for the average World War I soldier. The page begins with the title “A Deadly Bouquet: The Smells of Gas Warfare,” but I begin by discussing the ways in which many German soldiers meticulously maintained their gas masks in order to avoid falling victim to sudden chlorine, phosgene, and tear gas attacks. The page maintains a quote from a 1916 German military magazine that reads:
the soldier is inseparable from [the gas mask], and so, too, he leads it into the quiet divide…the rifle was his original bride, but he has elevated the gas mask to his cousin. This, too, expresses a very intimate relationship, for the soldier usually attends to his cousin as his second bride.
In both a thematic and topical sense, this quote and the text that surrounds it pass the Page 99 Test. Undoubtedly, my book is a historical investigation of subjective German relationships to the technologies that either delivered or protected against chemical weapons in World War I, the interwar years, and World War II. As the book’s title would suggest, I am particularly focused on the gas mask and its ability to mediate the human body and a presumably toxic atmosphere. Thus, I find this quote quite interesting, as the writer seeks to anthropomorphize the gas mask and place it both physically and emotionally near the harried soldier in the trenches. As his second wife, the gas mask supposedly provided a sense of comfort and protection against the often unseen and ethereal dangers of newly developed poison gasses.

Thematically, the section title points to the subsequent pages, which are perhaps even more representative of my book. Using a collection of trench journals, diaries, memoirs, and correspondence, I seek to reconstruct the emotive and sensory experiences of chemical warfare. To do this, I have broken the section into studies of the five senses and the language used to describe gas attacks and the gas mask. In attempts to convey moments of heightened tension, soldiers wrote of burning sensations, eerie hissing, and strange smells of almonds, hay, and garlic. But they also wrote extensively on the gas mask, noting how it reeked of rubber, smothered normal breathing, and soaked the face in sweat.

This then leads me to the way in which the above mentioned quote on page 99 is not fully representative of my study. I do not doubt that many soldiers viewed the gas mask as a lifesaving tool and a necessary appendage in all future forms of warfare. Indeed, I historically trace the way in which this utilitarian relationship to the gas mask informed technical knowledge and national policy on poison gas protection in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. However, I try to balance this vision with the ever-present sense among my historical subjects that gas masks were imperfect technologies, that they might always fail, and that modern chemical weapons might place humanity on the permanent brink of existential crisis. In this way, The Gas Mask in Interwar Germany describes the development of a burgeoning subjective relationship to technological and environmental risk that predates and prefigures what we often refer to as the Atomic Age.
Learn more about The Gas Mask in Interwar Germany at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Robin Waterfield's "Plato of Athens"

Robin Waterfield is an independent scholar and translator living in southern Greece. Among his numerous translations of Greek works are Plato's Symposium, Gorgias, and Republic. His previous works of history include Creators, Conquerors, and Citizens: A History of Ancient Greece and Taken at the Flood: The Roman Conquest of Greece.

Waterfield applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Plato of Athens: A Life in Philosophy, and reported the following:
By this stage of the book, which is a biography, we find Plato at the start of his writing career in the 390s and 380s BCE. Page 99 begins with a paragraph that concludes a section pondering why Plato chose the written word when he was aware of the possible pitfalls, and why he wrote dialogues in particular. “He wrote dialogues because many of Socrates’s ideas, and those that he would later put into Socrates’s mouth, are radical; it helps if we can see the thinking behind them, spelled out in conversations with interlocutors who are in relevant ways like ourselves.” Then the rest of page 99 begins a section in which I describe the nature of the dialogues that Plato was writing in this first phase of his career.

Does the content of page 99 reflect the content of the book as a whole?

Well, there’s little overt biography on page 99, but both its parts address issues that are central to the content of the book as a whole. Plato was a writer, so naturally discussion of his writings plays a major part in his biography. Elsewhere in the book I return to the question of why Plato chose the dialogue form, suggesting inter alia that it was supposed to stimulate us, the readers, to engage with the texts in a secondary dialogue of their own. And I discuss the dialogues of each period of Plato’s life at the appropriate points of the book – the early dialogues here, and later in the book the middle-period and later dialogues. We have little information about the details and minutiae of Plato’s life, so I spend quite a bit of the book on such discussion. Not that I think that the lack of information about his life means that much has been lost. Apart from the few highlights – the visits to Syracuse, the foundation of the Academy – I think the lack of information is a true reflection of Plato’s life. His was largely the quiet life of a thinker and a writer. Plato’s fundamental importance was that he more or less invented the discipline that we now call philosophy; that is by far the most important and interesting aspect of his life.
Visit Robin Waterfield's website.

The Page 99 Test: Taken at the Flood.

The Page 99 Test: The Making of a King.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Xiaofei Kang's "Enchanted Revolution"

Xiaofei Kang is Associate Professor of Religion at the George Washington University. She is the author of The Cult of the Fox: Power, Gender and Popular Religion in Late Imperial and Modern China and co-author of Contesting the Yellow Dragon: Ethnicity, Religion, and the State in the Sino-Tibetan Borderland.

Kang applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Enchanted Revolution: Ghosts, Shamans, and Gender Politics in Chinese Communist Propaganda, 1942-1953, and reported the following:
Religion has been commonly upheld as the archenemy of Communist revolutions around the world. Enchanted Revolution, however, goes beyond the familiar stories of suppression and resistance. It examines the intertwined discourses of religion, gender, and revolutionary propaganda in the Chinese Communist Party’s quick rise to dominance from the 1940s to the early 1950s. The book demonstrates how Party propaganda deployed religious resources to implement Mao’s mass-line politics. Furthermore, it shows how the Party relied on traditional tropes of demonology and ritual exorcism to construct a new gendered narrative of salvation for the revolution.

Page 99 captures a critical moment in this process of propaganda production. It discusses a popular news story during the Party’s campaign to eliminate village shamans in 1944. The news story reports how grassroots Communist cadres successfully arrested a shaman villain who had presumably sent out a “Red-Shoed Demoness” to haunt people at night and to wreak havoc in village life. The proclaimed Party victory in the news story encounters unsettling realities on page 99. First, legal and ethnographic sources reveal that instead of incarceration, the shaman actually fled and resumed a prosperous career in the neighboring county. The shaman’s quick return to his trade suggests that the Party’s campaign may have barely scratched the surface of local society. Second, while the shaman faded from the campaign, popular fascination with female ghosts and ritual exorcism kept the “Red-Shoed Demoness” alive. Propaganda workers were compelled to create multiple versions of the same story, all revolving around the irresistable charm of the demoness that they were supposed to eradicate from rural life.

Page 99 comes from Chapter 5 of this nine-chapter book. The titular heroine, the “Red-Shoed Demoness,” appears in the aforementioned Party newspaper report, a folk drama, and two folk storytelling tales during the Communist campaign in 1944. The demoness stands at the center of multiple intersections: between Party directives and stage performances, between the historical narrative of ritual exorcism and the campaign’s political contingencies, and between rural “superstition” and the revolution’s anti-superstition claims. The different ways to tell the same ghost story testify that the Communist construction of a new rural culture rested on a foundation of the underlying attraction to its audience of ghosts, shamans, and exorcistic battles between officials and spirits. Moving from Chapter 5 to the final two chapters of the book, one will find that female ghosts evolved into a critical trope in the Maoist metanarrative of revolution. To save the female ghosts would be to liberate the peasants in the land reform, to civilize the minority nationalities on the ethnic borderlands, and to deliver the Chinese people from the historical darkness of class oppression to a new world busked in Mao’s radiant sun. Chinese religion was therefore not so much shunned as it defined the Maoist discourse of revolution.
Learn more about Enchanted Revolution at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 12, 2023

Katherine Giuffre's "Outrage: The Arts and the Creation of Modernity"

Katherine Giuffre specializes in the sociology of art and culture and studies social networks and communities, as well as Polynesian society. She is the author of Communities and Networks (2013), and Collective Creativity (2012), among other publications. She is Professor Emerita of Sociology at Colorado College.

Giuffre applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Outrage: The Arts and the Creation of Modernity, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Outrage comes near the beginning of Chapter 5, which discusses The Ballets Russes and the infamous riot that occurred in 1913 on the opening night of Le Sacre du printemps, choreographed by the dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. This is one of six historical case studies that I examine. An excerpt:
Although critics praised the male dancers’ agility, strength, virtuosity, vigor, and technique, they, like the female dancers who came before them, were also presented as sexualized spectacles. …

An important ingredient of the sexualization of the male dancers was the way in which they embraced androgyny. Expressions of gender were unmistakably queer, in the 21st century sense. Nijinsky’s roles combined both the kind of sensitivity usually thought of as female and the strength and athleticism usually thought of as male. (Burt 1995, 84) Karthas writes: “The Ballets Russes’ androgynous imagery differed in that its bodies did not aim to entirely erase masculinity or femininity, but rather to present a modern vision of its fluidity.” (Karthas 2015, 112)

Nijinsky was presented in ballet after ballet in gender-bending ways. Some were subtly coded to appeal only to those in the know; others were less so. In Le Spectre de la rose, for example, Nijinsky played the title role dressed in a pink body-stocking decorated with rose petals, flouting conventional heterosexual norms. Garafola writes: “Masculine in the power of his leaps, feminine in the curving delicacy of his arms, he emitted a perfume of sexual strangeness; he seemed a living incarnation of the third sex, a Uranian reveling in the liberation of his true self.” (Garafola 1989, 33) As a result, the audience for ballet shifted and became more inclusive of gay men. Not only did it feature gay men in important roles both on stage and behind the scenes, the performances themselves provided opportunities for gay men (and many others who lived outside the social norms) to come together for socializing openly and without fear. (Garafola 1998, 65)

This added to the aura of the decadence. While Paris may have been less repressive than other places in Europe, it was certainly not all together free from homophobic biases. As the Ballets Russes dominated the Paris social season and as Nijinsky’s sexually fluid persona captured the limelight, there were those who pushed back, tapping into negative stereotypes.
This excerpt is a shockingly good slice of what Outrage is all about. In this particular chapter, I tie the violence directed at Le Sacre to two fears pervasive in France on the eve of World War I. Both were tied to larger social shifts that were important to the creation of modernity. The first was a fear of foreign invasion and the second was a widespread societal worry about a loss of “masculinity” following France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and the changing mores about the very definition of what it is to be a “man.” Although this particular passage doesn’t directly address the xenophobia and rhetoric of invasion, it does discuss the queering of ballet (a cultural form proudly held dear in France) by the Ballet Russes in general and by Nijinsky, an out queer artist, in particular. The homophobic backlash against The Ballets Russes was important for brewing the riot which took place on the opening night of Nijinsky’s new ballet and which, indeed, began even before the curtain rose.

Page 99 begins to get at one of the central arguments in my book: Audiences do not become outraged by works of art that they merely do not find to their taste or that they do not understand or appreciate. Outrage is directed at some cultural productions (literature, art, dance, etc.) precisely because audiences do understand what the work is about – an assault on the central conventions (and underlying ethos) of the society just at the moment when those conventions are at the breaking point. In this chapter, the example of the riot at the opening night of Le Sacre was not about – or not only about – a ballet. It was about changing ideas of masculinity itself.
Learn more about Outrage at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Thomas Hofweber's "Idealism and the Harmony of Thought and Reality"

Thomas Hofweber is Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He specializes in metaphysics, the philosophy of language, and the philosophy of mathematics. He is the author of Ontology and the Ambitions of Metaphysics (2016) as well as numerous articles.

Hofweber applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Idealism and the Harmony of Thought and Reality, and reported the following:
Page 99 contrasts the underspecification view of quantification with some alternatives and elaborates on certain aspects of this view. In particular, it distinguished the view that quantifiers are underspecified from the view that there are two different quantifiers, and it makes clear that the motivation for the underspecification view does not come from individual examples, but from the general role that quantification has in communication. The underspecification view essentially says that quantifiers can be read in more than one way: their semantics at the level of language leaves open how they are to be specified at the level of an utterance. They are polysemous, like many other expressions in English. For example, the verb “get” appears in slightly different readings in the sentence “Before I get home I need to get beer to get drunk.” Similarly, the quantifier “everything” can be read in different ways in the sentence “Everything exists”. On the one had, that sentence seems to be trivially true, since all things exist. But on the other hand it seems to be trivially false, since we know of counterexamples: Santa. Santa doesn’t exist, so how can you say that everything exists. The resolution of this tension is to hold that quantifiers have more than one reading: they can be read to make a claim about a language-independent domain of things, or they can be used to inferentially relate to instances in our own language. This view is motivated just before page 99, in a different way than how I illustrate it now, and then clarified on page 99.

I am afraid that page 99 is not indicative of the book as a whole and looking only at it doesn’t give a good sense of what is going on in the book, nor does it make much sense out of context. Page 99 focuses on a particular aspect of an argument from the philosophy of language that is crucial for the defense of the overall position of the book. It deals with a more narrow technicality rather than some grander issues that are the focus of the book as a whole. The overall goal of the book is to defend the position that human beings have a special, distinguished place in reality as a whole. This place is supposed to be secured not via a connection to God, but via an argument that reality itself is not independent of our human minds. This is an idealist view, in the traditional philosophical sense, since it gives minds, and our minds in particular, a special metaphysical place in the world. The way this form of idealism is defended is via considerations about a harmony between our conceptual thought and reality. In essence, harmony obtains when every fact that obtains is representable in human conceptual thought or language. I argue that harmony must obtain via considerations about language: every fact must be representable, because of an issue connected to the quantifier “every fact”. That issue is tied to the underspecification view of quantification, which is clarified on page 99. Essentially the idea is that when we quantify over facts we use the quantifier in its inferential reading. It is the part of the book deepest into the weeds of the philosophy of language behind the defense of idealism and our special place in the world. After that part the book discusses other, grander, out of of the weeds, issues like ineffable facts and concepts we cannot rationally replace. Don’t judge the book by page 99! Better to start reading from the beginning to see if you like it enough to read on.
Visit Thomas Hofweber's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Yanna Yannakakis's "Since Time Immemorial"

Yanna Yannakakis is Associate Professor of History at Emory University, author of The Art of Being In-Between: Native Intermediaries, Indian Identity, and Local Rule in Colonial Oaxaca, and coeditor of Indigenous Intellectuals: Knowledge, Power, and Colonial Culture in Mexico and the Andes.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Since Time Immemorial: Native Custom and Law in Colonial Mexico, and reported the following:
Page 99 falls toward the end of Chapter 3 “Framing Pre-Hispanic Law and Custom,” a little over a third of the way through the book. In the chapter, I compare two iconic sixteenth-century accounts of Mesoamerican Indigenous custom: the Codex Mendoza, a pictographic text produced by Native painter-scribes for a Spanish audience sometime in the 1540’s, and a royal survey known as the Relaciones Geográficas, conducted by Spanish King Phillip II from 1579-85. On page 99 I analyze several responses to the Relaciones Geográficas by Indigenous communities from the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca that focus on Native laws and customs prior to the Spanish conquest. The first concerns a pictorial map produced by a Native mapmaker from the Ñudzahui (Mixtec) community of Teozacoalco. The map evinces an Indigenous perspective of space and uses Native iconography to delineate the territory, landscape, and ruling genealogy of the town. At the same time that it draws from Indigenous pictorial conventions, the map also conforms to Spanish norms of dynastic inheritance: straight-line succession, preferably to a direct male descendant. This Spanish norm clashed with pre-Hispanic Indigenous laws in which lateral kin – brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces – were eligible for rulership. Gradual accommodation to Spanish expectations of dynastic rulership appeared across Ñudzahui pictorial texts over the sixteenth century as complex, lateral webs of Native royal succession gave way to vertical king lists that expressed straight-line succession. The pictorial texts had the paradoxical effect of convincing Spanish officials that straight-line succession was in fact Indigenous custom. This became clear in 1614 when Spanish King Phillip III issued legislation requiring viceroys, judges, and Spanish governors to maintain the “ancient law and custom” of succession by linear descent in the entailed estates of Native nobles (cacicazgos). After discussing the Teozacoalco map, I move on to analyze Indigenous customs of noble funereal pageantry, testation, and sartorial styles. In survey responses about these aspects of Native custom, analogies were often drawn between Indigenous practices and Spanish ones. The editorial flourishes – perhaps inserted by the interpreter, notary, or the respondents themselves – served to reconfigure Native customs through a mirroring process in which survey participants recognized elements of Spanish practice in Native guise, thereby aligning Native and Spanish norms.

Page 99 captures a central point of my book: rather than being ancient and autochthonous as often assumed, Indigenous custom in colonial Mexico was the product of intense interaction between Native and Spanish norms over time and in a variety of contexts, including remote provincial capitals, Native communities, Christian missions, and Spanish courts. Custom was a European juridical category that originated in medieval Roman law. Broadly construed, it referred to social practice that over time took on the normative power of law within a territorially based community. Spanish conquerors and administrators established a multi-jurisdictional legal-administrative framework through which to govern the territories they claimed in the Americas. Custom figured centrally in this system since Spanish legislation recognized the semi-autonomous jurisdiction of Native rulers and allowed them to govern their communities according to their “old laws and customs” provided that they did not contravene Christianity and Spanish law. With this in mind, Native people brought claims to Spanish courts that they legitimized through recourse to custom. They tailored their versions of custom to the circumstances of the claim or dispute and modified them to align with Spanish norms and expectations. When Spanish judges ruled in favor of those claims, they became the local norm, and sometimes made their way into Spanish legislation. In this way, Native custom shaped Spanish law, and Native people wove colonial norms into the fabric of everyday life, including practices of self-governance, marriage, inheritance, labor, and land tenure. Over the long term, imperial recognition of Native custom provided Native people with a constrained space within which to fashion and refashion their communities and adapt to colonialism.

Page 99 also reveals the centrality of translation to the making of Native custom in colonial Mexico. Missionary friars produced bilingual dictionaries, grammars, catechisms, and confessional manuals that translated Christian concepts and legal terminology from Spanish into Native languages, thereby creating new meanings that drew from Native and Spanish epistemologies. The translation of ideas recorded in Indigenous pictorial writing and mapmaking and the modification of Native forms of expression by European ones represented another facet of colonial translation and meaning making. The map of Teozacoalco provides a clear example.

So yes, the Page 99 Test works for my book – at least partially. It does not encapsulate the whole book in a single page; rather, it points to key themes and approaches that undergird my argument and method.
Learn more about Since Time Immemorial at the Duke University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 9, 2023

Wendy E. Parmet's "Constitutional Contagion"

Wendy E. Parmet is a George J. and Kathleen Waters Matthews University Distinguished Professor of Law at Northeastern University. Her books include The Health of Newcomers: Immigration, Health Policy and The Case for Global Solidarity with Patricia Illingworth (2017).

Parmet applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Constitutional Contagion: COVID, the Courts, and Public Health, and reported the following:
The Page 99 Test works only partially for Constitutional Contagion. Page 99 appears in Chapter 5, "The Mandate Wars." Almost midway through the book, the chapter recounts the legal contests over mask and vaccine mandates that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, the reasons for those battles, and their impact on the course of the pandemic. To set the stage for this discussion, page 99 provides critical background information about the state of vaccine law before the pandemic, explaining why courts had long held that vaccine mandates were constitutional and did not have to include religious exemptions. As the chapter later shows, that consensus broke down during the pandemic as the Supreme Court altered its approach to religious liberty and separation of powers cases. The uncertainty created by the Court’s new approach, in turn, fueled contestation, litigation, and vaccine resistance. The chapter ends warning that “childhood vaccination rates may well fall, giving rise to outbreaks of measles, chicken pox, and pertussis, among old killers,” and that due to the Court’s new approach, the government may be less able to address new public health challenges, including those posed by climate change.

Although page 99 is critical to appreciating the dramatic and dangerous shifts in public health law that occurred during the pandemic, the page on its own does not develop the book’s larger themes. In particular, page 99 does not explain, as the book does, why the individualism of contemporary constitutional law leaves us vulnerable to pandemics and other forms of contagion. It also does not discuss the asymmetry of rights protected by American courts or show why that asymmetry privileges a thin conception of liberty that threatens health. Most importantly, page 99 does not show, as the chapters that follow do, how a multitude of pre-pandemic judicial decisions relating to race discrimination, immigration, access to health care, free speech, election law and many other issues helped to lay the foundation for America’s catastrophic response to COVID-19, shorten Americans’ lives, and magnify health inequities. In short, page 99 offers only one small step in a much broader argument about how constitutional law helped to make Americans unhealthy.
Learn more about Constitutional Contagion at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Health of Newcomers by Patricia Illingworth and Wendy E. Parmet.

--Marshal Zeringue