Saturday, September 30, 2023

Kim Akass's "Mothers on American Television"

Kim Akass is Professor of Radio, Television and Film at Rowan University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Mothers on American Television: From Here to Maternity, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book concludes Ruth Fisher’s narrative journey in Six Feet Under which, at first glance, seems to disprove the page 99 theory. However, at the end of this page I quote E. Ann Kaplan (from her book Motherhood and Representation: The Mother in Popular Culture and Melodrama) and that beautifully sums up the aims of the book as a whole: ‘the Mother offers a possible way to break through patriarchal discourses since she has not been totally appropriated by dominant culture’ (11). Following this quote, I argue that the death of the patriarch in the pilot episode of Six Feet Under allows representations of mothering, especially the middle-aged mother of adult children, to become reconfigured which problematizes many assumptions about maternity and motherhood along the way.

In many ways the Page 99 Test works as my book focuses on how mothers and mothering are represented in a selection of quality American television series and argues that what we see onscreen reveals much about societal hostility towards mothers and motherhood as well as how women continue to be linked with, and oppressed by, their biology - as the overturning of Roe vs Wade confirms. By closely analyzing series like Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Handmaid’s Tale and Big Little Lies (among others) what is revealed is that, unless feminism gets to the bottom of how mothers are (dis)regarded, women will never achieve equality in a modern world. Looking at the way mothers are represented onscreen; my book offers a pathway through patriarchal discourses by utilizing feminist psychoanalytic theories revealing how the unconscious of neoliberal patriarchal America works.”
Follow Kim Akass on Twitter and Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 29, 2023

Danielle N. Boaz's "Voodoo: The History of a Racial Slur"

Danielle N. Boaz is an Associate Professor of Africana Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she offers courses on human rights, social justice, and the law. She has a Ph.D. in history with a specialization in Africa and the African Diaspora; a J.D. with a concentration in International Law; and a LL.M. in Intercultural Human Rights. She is Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Africana Religions. Boaz's research focuses on the intersection of racism and religious intolerance, with an emphasis on discrimination and violence against devotees of African diaspora religions.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Voodoo: The History of a Racial Slur, and reported the following:
Page 99 provides background information about the political situation in Haiti in the 1970s and 1980s which led thousands of Haitians to seek asylum in the United States. It also describes the changes to refugee laws and policies during this time period which resulted in very few Haitians being granted asylum.

Page 99 is part of Chapter 5, which is titled “‘Sacrifices at Sea’ and Refugees in the 1980s.” This chapter is about several cases in which boats full of Haitian refugees arrived in the United States in the early 1980s and the passengers claimed that the leaders of the voyages had sacrificed people in “voodoo” rituals during the journeys. It explores how these tales of “voodoo” sacrifices were manipulated in media reports about the status of Haitian refugees– in debates about whether they should be granted asylum and in descriptions of the terrible conditions in which they were being detained. Page 99, therefore, provides essential background information about this chapter but does not get into the meat of the argument (of both this chapter and the book in general) about public understandings of “voodoo” and how they shifted over time.

As the book title suggests, the core argument is really about one thing– “voodoo” is a racist term. It developed during the mid-to-late 19th century to question whether Black people should be emancipated and if they were fit for citizenship and voting rights. In the early 20th century, tales of “voodoo” practices were used to argue that Black people in Haiti and Cuba could not govern themselves. In the mid-20th century, the precursor to the Nation of Islam was denounced as a “voodoo cult.” Essentially, the book is about encouraging the reader to think about where the term “voodoo” comes from before flippantly calling something “voodoo science” or “voodoo economics” and to get the reader to question why popular understandings of “voodoo” (and African diaspora religions more generally) are so negative.
Learn more about Voodoo: The History of a Racial Slur at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 28, 2023

George Pavlich's "Thresholds of Accusation"

George Pavlich holds a Henry Marshall Tory Chair and is Professor in the Department of Sociology and the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta. He received his BA and BA (Hons) degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa), an MA from Simon Fraser University (Vancouver Canada), and a PhD from the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada). Pavlich's research interests include the overlapping areas of social theory, socio-legal studies, restorative justice, the sociology of law and critical criminology.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Thresholds of Accusation: Law and Colonial Order in Canada, and reported the following:
Applying Ford Madox Ford's test to Thresholds of Accusation places readers at a description of a report recommending that the Dominion of Canada use both military and civil power to instate settler-colonial social orders across the prairies. The Dominion government independently commissioned two intelligence officers, William Butler and Patrick Robertson-Ross, to evaluate how planned colonial settlement might be secured without provoking local wars. Page 99 forms part of a discussion around Robertson-Ross’ report and is thus rather too specific to give a fulsome or accurate rendering of the book’s overall arguments on criminal accusation. As such, the Page 99 Test is not a good one for the book’s theoretical ambitions, offering instead some contextualising background to what follows.

Even so, page 99 evokes some recurring themes. We see how Robertson-Ross' ‘intelligence’ — like Butler’s before it — drew upon an imperial sociopolitical logic to frame a cursory reconnaissance of the ‘west’. It concluded that a sustainable paramilitary force (with civil and military components) would be needed to assert Dominion sovereignty and legal jurisdiction. That force was calculated as part of dispossessing plans for settler colonialism, to overhaul a ‘primitive state of society in the province’ while quelling potential resistance. Page 99 intimates how Robertson-Ross’s empire-biased personal impressions largely ignored Indigenous appraisals of a changing ethos. Such preconceptions were recast as impartial intelligence that recommended both civil (law-and-order) and military forces be deployed to curtail Indigenous opposition to settlement. This force was to be sufficient to bring colonial order to supposedly ‘lawless’ lands — a deeply flawed view given the presence of age-old Indigenous legal systems. The report’s recommendations (and others) coincided with the Dominion’s creation of a Northwest mounted paramilitary police force. The latter was to assert Dominion law and sovereignty over vast prairie lands to which Indigenous Peoples had long-held storied relations and attachments.

Focussing on Alberta in the decade following the Mounties’ local arrival in 1874, this book highlights how Dominion paramilitary policing first set about declaring exclusive colonial jurisdiction over so-called disorderly crimes and criminals. Specifically, it analyzes how colonial criminalization stemmed from overlooked performances of accusation. Such performances were officially authorized to categorise perceived threats to settler-colonial plans via criminalizing idioms. Accusation thus formed thresholds that bridged local information of disorderly actions (relations or people) and legal categories of crime. Those thresholds then provided arenas where the Northwest mounted police could performatively assert criminal jurisdiction and represent the force as instilling colonial law.

To play such roles effectively, officers were trained to arrange, direct, and develop lead-actor characters in theatres and variously to perform criminal accusation in ways that transformed local social lore into colonial vernaculars of criminal law. For example, justices of the peace (often senior police officers) held preliminary examinations to hear information that accused subjects of crime to decide whether there was sufficient evidence to open or close gateways to further criminal trials. Through such performances, they claimed the jurisdiction not only to receive information of ‘crime’ and ‘disorder’, but to adjudicate which matters were criminalizable. Colonial accusations of this sort also reduced complex and divesting socio-political relations to matters of individual culpability. They demanded the creation of individually accused personas who could be held culpable for crime and social disorder — even when both were formed by legal and relational stresses born to settler-colonialism.

More than rendering criminalization possible, such accusatory thresholds formed the inauspicious beginnings of what now exist as massive, repressive, individually focused, and unequally marginalizing criminal justice systems. As is well known, those systems continue to grapple with a tenacious legacy of colonial inequities that afflict both the governors of, and those governed by, legal ideas of crime. This book’s ‘history of the present’ approach highlights a legacy of accusatorial performance as the grounds for a colonial legal and social ordering that proscribed selected individuals as criminal subjects. Holding individuals potentially culpable for legally framed disarray, theatres of accusations commenced processes of criminalization that obscured communal dispossessions unleashed by settler colonization.
Learn more about Thresholds of Accusation at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Melina Sherman's "How We Hurt"

Melina Sherman is a Researcher at Knology in New York City.

She was formerly a Postdoctoral Researcher at NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge and holds a Ph.D. in Communication from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Sherman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, How We Hurt: The Politics of Pain in the Opioid Epidemic, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Though this concept [pseudoaddiction] has since been widely disputed in pain management, it is still listed as an “up-to-date” concept under the umbrella of opioid addiction as defined by the Federation of State Medical Boards (Chabal et al., 1998; Greene & Chambers, 2015; Dowell et al., 2013; Vijayaraghavan et al., 2013). In recent years, however, the concept of pseudoaddiction has come under fire for the role it is seen as having played in the upsurges of long-term prescription opioid use that many consider to be the driving force of the opioid epidemic, at least initially. In media accounts of the epidemic, pseudoaddiction is often pointed to as a convenient and disingenuous answer invented by big pharma sympathizers for the many physicians who saw in their pain patients the symptoms of growing tolerance and, in some cases, opioid withdrawal (e.g., Deprez & Barrett, 2017; Kessler, 2017; Radden Keefe, 2017). A concept like pseudoaddiction—especially when presented in the pages of a respected medical journal—also works to legitimate long-term opioid prescribing and encourage the continued sale of opioid products, particularly in cases where it is unclear whether the pain patient’s relationship to that product has soured.

Moreover, it is not insignificant that one of the authors of the paper that introduced the pseudoaddiction concept, Dr. David Haddox, signed on as a paid speaker for OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma shortly after the article’s publication. Haddox has since been promoted to the company’s vice president of health policy and has been paid to travel all over the country and give talks that simultaneously spread the word about pseudoaddiction and promote Purdue’s latest opioid products. Moreover, pseudoaddiction has also made frequent appearances in the marketing materials Purdue released in its promotion of OxyContin, including in educational pamphlets designed to provide physicians and patients with reliable information about the safety of opioids and in the “I Got My Life Back” videos. Thus, while it would be difficult to say, unconditionally, that the understanding of addiction espoused in the concept of pseudoaddiction led to the opioid epidemic, it is certainly the case that such an understanding complemented the interests of the opioid industry, just as it complemented the interests of physicians (most of whom were well intentioned and simply wanted to help their patients find relief) and pain patients (nearly all or all of whom want to be pain free).
If you opened How We Hurt to page 99, it’s likely that you would get a good idea of several key concepts that are central to the entire text. First, you would get an overview of “pseudoaddiction,” an infamous yet widely debunked concept invented by David Haddox to help physicians distinguish pain “patients” from opioid “addicts.” Though Haddox’s intentions coining this concept may have been pure, and though the concept itself may have even been useful to certain gatekeepers of opioids, it’s also the case that Haddox was employed by one of the biggest opioid manufacturers, Purdue Pharma, to promote the concept (and Purdue’s drugs) and that pseudoaddiction appeared to many as an all-too-convenient way of encouraging all patients, regardless of their relationships with opioids, to continue taking these medications. Underlying the question of pseudoaddiction are many of the issues that are central to the opioid crisis as a whole. We see embedded in this concept the deep ties between science and the pharmaceutical industry and the thorny relationship of these two fields that is always at play where opioids are concerned. We also see confusion, and uncertainty – two phenomena which have plagued nearly every major stakeholder in the opioid industrial complex, and which laid fertile ground for the crisis we are currently attempting to manage. Finally, in pseudoaddiction we also see an attempt, repeatedly made by scientists, physicians, pharma reps, regulators, and others, to draw a line that separates opioid patients from opioid addicts. Though, as my book shows, this line is fuzzy at best, the insistence of so many stakeholders to render it more concrete has also shaped the opioid crisis and made it look the way it does today. Ultimately, then, I’d say that while page 99 does not exactly describe the entire book, it does lay down some of the most important ideas that are espoused within it and sets the stage for the more in-depth analyses contained in each of its chapters.
Visit Melina Sherman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Fabian Baumann's "Dynasty Divided"

Fabian Baumann is a visiting postdoctoral researcher at the Research Center for the History of Transformations (RECET), University of Vienna, and holder of a Postdoc.Mobility grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation. Following studies in Geneva, Saint Petersburg, and Oxford, he completed his PhD in history at the University of Basel in 2020. From 2021 to 2022 he was a visiting postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Dynasty Divided: A Family History of Russian and Ukrainian Nationalism, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The nexus between politics, business, and private life offers a fresh perspective on Kiev’s Russian nationalists. Dmitrii Pikhno’s professional successes and failures were inseparable from his national-political choices and his family network. His specific brand of agrarian nationalism was rooted both in his academic work as an economist and in his practical experience as a buyer and owner of several estates in right-bank Ukraine. During the political watershed of 1904–1905, Pikhno and his associates radicalized their vision of the Russian nation in reaction to several external threats. As the Russo-Japanese War and the following revolutionary agitation plunged the empire into a deep crisis, Kievlianin launched a powerful counterattack and became the vanguard of a nationalist movement that found fertile soil in an ethnically diverse region. After 1905, Pikhno and his son Vasilii Shul′gin transferred their nationalizing project from Ukraine to the grand political stage of Saint Petersburg. In doing so, the Pikhno-Shul′gins used family connections as a political vehicle—to the point of turning politics into a family business.
To my own surprise, the test works rather well! Page 99 is part of the introduction to the book’s third chapter and introduces readers to one of its main protagonists. Dmitrii Pikhno was a fascinating man: Born as a miller’s son in the Ukrainian countryside, he came to Kiev (now Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine) as a teenager and went on to make a brilliant career in Russian imperial society. Despite his relatively lowly social background, he became an economist, a newspaper editor, and finally, an influential politician in the imperial capital, Saint Petersburg. As the above excerpt states, these successes were intimately linked to his private life (which, frankly speaking, was rather peculiar, involving a long relationship with his stepdaughter and four sons born out of wedlock).

And this brings us straight to the book’s main themes. Dynasty Divided tells the story of a family of politicians, journalists, and intellectuals in nineteenth-century Kiev, a family that split up along national lines. The members of one branch came to think of themselves as Russians, the members of the other branch saw themselves as Ukrainians. Family members went on to become important leaders in both the city’s Russian and Ukrainian nationalist movements. My book argues that in Ukraine’s nineteenth-century intelligentsia, individuals’ nationality was not a matter of ethnic heritage but the result of conscious political choices. And these choices, as the case of Dmitrii Pikhno illustrates, were often connected with family life. Parents and siblings influenced individual activists’ nationalist worldviews, private households were the sites of political socialization, and family networks were exploited for organizational purposes. To find out more about how this ultimately led to a deep fissure in the local intelligentsia – a fissure that is part of the pre-history to Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine – you will have to read more than page 99, I’m afraid.
Learn more about Dynasty Divided at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 25, 2023

Kendra Coulter's "Defending Animals"

Kendra Coulter is Professor in Management and Organizational Studies at Huron University College at Western University and a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Defending Animals: Finding Hope on the Front Lines of Animal Protection, and reported the following:
Page 99 takes readers into Colombia to hear from the country’s leading forensic veterinarian, Dr. Julio Aguirre. It is very much a real-life example of what you could call “CSI: Animals.” We learn about the motivations for his courageous and path-making work on the front lines and how it connects with the evolution of national animal protection laws.

Page 99 is a good illustration of the texture and significance of the book, and how real people’s stories bring the animal protection landscape in all its diversity to life. Although most of the frontline work highlighted in Defending Animals is in North America, global examples, like the Colombian case, enrich readers’ understandings of how efforts in communities and parliaments can work together to strengthen how animals are protected in powerful ways. Plus, the country’s strategies and the lessons they offer will surprise many! A particularly powerful dimension is that Aguirre’s team provides its expert veterinary forensic diagnostics free of charge to many families who are living in poverty so there can be justice for their animals too. The importance of acting in solidarity with both people and animal is a central theme in Defending Animals.

Defending Animals highlights the remarkable work being done in communities, courtrooms, and boardrooms to build a more humane future. It highlights the accomplishments as well as where we could be building bridges and creating new or better approaches to ensure animals – and people – are treated with greater care. It was truly an honor to write this book and amplify the voices of animals and those at work defending them. I hope that wherever people are in their educational and career journeys, Defending Animals will offer food for thought and action -- and inspiration.
Learn more about Defending Animals at the MIT Press website and follow Kendra Coulter on Facebook, Instagram, and Threads.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Julian Go's "Policing Empires"

Julian Go is Professor of Sociology and Faculty Affiliate of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics & Culture and the Committee on International Relations at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Postcolonial Thought and Social Theory (2016). He is the winner of Lewis A. Coser Award for Theoretical Agenda Setting in Sociology given by the American Sociological Association and former President of the Social Science History Association.

Go applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Policing Empires: Militarization, Race, and the Imperial Boomerang in Britain and the US, and reported the following:
Policing Empires: Militarization, Race, and the Imperial Boomerang in Britain and the US examines the history of police “militarization” in Britain and the US: that is, those moments when police departments adopt the military materials, mindsets and forms. Existing discussions of police militarization see it as a relatively new phenomenon. But Policing Empires reveals that the history of police militarization reaches back to the very beginning of modern policing in the nineteenth century. Furthermore, Policing Empires shows how militarization has been inextricably entangled with empire and racialization. Historically and through the present day, police militarization has occurred as police officials perceived threats of criminality and social disorder from groups they deemed racially foreign and inferior – whether the Irish or freed slaves in the 19th century or African Americans, Chinese, Jamaicans and Muslims in the twentieth. To manage these threats, police officials militarized their forces but they did so by drawing upon the forms, methods and weaponry that were used by colonial police and imperial armies upon racialized peoples in the peripheral zones of empire. Policing Empires thereby shows that police militarization is an effect of the imperial boomerang. Militarization is what happens when the imperial state brings home its armies and military methods from the periphery to thrash imagined barbarians who dare enter the empire’s metropolitan spaces.

On page 99 of Policing Empires, we encounter the following passage: “In New York, the frontier militia that had been so crucial for settler colonialism was influential, and veterans of the Mexican-American War played a role in militarizing the police. The same is true for Savannah. And with Savannah, the influence of slave patrols and coercive forms of settler colonialism was direct and palpable, evidenced in the heavily armed and mounted features of the SPD. For the formation of police in the United States, the London influence was matched if not surpassed by local varieties of the boomerang effect.” This is part of the conclusion to Chapter Two, titled “Cotton Colonialism and the New Police.” The chapter shows how the first police departments in New York, Savannah, Manchester and other cities in the transatlantic sphere were influenced by colonial forms and practices. The passage on page 99 captures something not only of this chapter but also of the larger themes of the book. The Page 99 Test is passed!
Learn more about Policing Empires at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Patterns of Empire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 22, 2023

Feargal Cochrane's "Belfast"

Feargal Cochrane is professor emeritus and senior research fellow at the Conflict Analysis Research Centre, University of Kent. His many books include Northern Ireland: The Fragile Peace and Breaking Peace: Brexit and Northern Ireland.

Cochrane applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Belfast: The Story of a City and its People, and reported the following:
My page 99 focuses on the building of the Titanic in Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyard, a subject that sits right at the centre of the book. So from that perspective anyone who opens the book at page 99 will know instantly that it is a book about Belfast.

The Titanic is probably Belfast’s most famous export, and we have constructed a civic brand around the most famous ship to be built since Noah’s Ark. The huge ocean liner was the last word in opulent transatlantic travel and was heralded as the ‘unsinkable ship’ before it did just that on its maiden voyage in the icy waters of the North Atlantic in April 1912. My page 99 focuses on the building of the Titanic and its sister ship the Olympic and the importance of these liners for the prestige of the shipbuilding industry in Belfast and for the economic progress of the city as a whole.

However, what my page 99 doesn’t do (but the book does) is explain the wider economic, political and cultural dimensions of shipbuilding in Belfast. Bluntly put, not everyone got to build the ships as it was an industry dominated by the Protestant/unionist/British community in the east of the city. For most of the 19th and 20th centuries they controlled ship building and dominated the wider political, economic and cultural life of Belfast, while the Catholic/ nationalist/Irish minority were largely excluded. The political and legal system as well as the nature of the public buildings in the city has reflected that reality until very recently.

In addition to shipbuilding, the book also has chapters on the linen industry, the political radicalism of the United Irishmen, the architecture of the city as well as chapters on the political conflict, the tourism and the cultural flourishing of more recent times. These chapters all emphasise the interconnections between politics, economics and culture and the way in which our divided history is woven indelibly into all aspects of the past and present of the city. So, ships are not just ships and buildings are not just bricks mortar and glass, they are history, heritage and part of our divided past –artefacts in our cultural archaeology.

But my page 99 certainly provides a glimpse of the wider themes within the book so I think it passes the test.
Learn more about Belfast at Feargal Cochrane's website.

The Page 99 Test: Northern Ireland.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Hannah Forsyth's "Virtue Capitalists"

Hannah Forsyth is a historian of work, education and capitalism at Australian Catholic University where she has taught global history, historiography, history of capitalism, politics and Australian Indigenous History. She was an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow 2017-2019.

Forsyth is the author of A History of the Modern Australian University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Virtue Capitalists: The Rise and Fall of the Professional Class in the Anglophone World, 1870–2008, and reported the following:
Virtue Capitalists is about the capitalisation - investment for profitable return, in this case for both social and economic profit - of middle-class morality in the making of the professional class. Page 99 is not a bad place to see this, in fact. In the proofs, at least (this was written before the final copy was released), page 99 is the last page of chapter two, entitled 'Achieving Class'. It sums up the importance of merit. This is what made the professionals an ‘achieving class’, in that their class status was attained, rather than a matter of birth - though the chapter shows that merit also privileged certain things, including race and gender characteristics. Page 99 refers to a fictional character I had drawn on from an allegorical newspaper story, a ‘quack’ who made his wealth from a patent medicine called ‘Methuselah Mixture’ made from rhubarb and magnesium. Merit, page 99 shows, meant that in the system the professional class were bringing into being, this character’s commercial acumen would be subordinated to his honest application of expertise.

Readers opening Virtue Capitalists to page 99 will therefore get a fairly reasonable sense of the 'rise' of the professional class, but no idea at all about its 'fall'. The hierarchies we can see emerging on page 99 were forged in an Anglo world that was also ordered by race and gender distinctions. Later chapters of the book show that after decolonisation began to raise new questions about the hierarchies that had structured much of the twentieth century, each profession had something of a moral crisis. Seeking in each instance to re-consider the moral order of their profession, members of each occupation helped a rising managerial class dismantle their old-fashioned sense of 'character' and build systems for monitoring and evaluating virtuous behaviour. Risk and quality management, and the endless audit trails that followed, produced a kind of moral deskilling amidst a new ethic that success was now the only virtue that mattered.

Our experiences in workplaces, in politics and the public sphere affirm the consequences. Managerial priorities sometimes conflict with professional values. This is linked to a gender war, where one side characterises increasingly feminised professional expertise as 'nanny-ish', holding back a more masculine drive to entrepreneurship. This in turn contributes to toxic political conflict over the application of professional judgement to major, even existential, threats like climate change. It is a kind of class conflict, I argue - but not one leading to anything generative.
Learn more about Virtue Capitalists at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Elizabeth Horodowich and Alexander Nagel's "Amerasia"

Elizabeth Horodowich is Professor of History at New Mexico State University and the author of Language and Statecraft in Early Modern Venice and The Venetian Discovery of America: Geographic Imagination and Print Culture in the Age of Encounters. Alexander Nagel is Craig Hugh Smyth Professor of Fine Arts at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, author of The Controversy of Renaissance Art and Michelangelo and the Reform of Art, and coauthor of Anachronic Renaissance.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Amerasia, and reported the following:
About page 99:

It is 1507. The final preparations are being made to publish a new edition of Ptolemy’s Geography, the most famous atlas of the world produced in antiquity, with 26 plates showing maps of every region of the world. Fronting the treatise is a map of the world as a whole. But there is a problem. Ptolemy didn't know the whole world, and he knew that he didn't know it. His world map shows half the world, 180° of the globe’s surface, leaving the rest uncharted. Most of the rest of the world was ocean, he believed, but he also knew that there was more of Asia beyond what he knew, though how much more he couldn’t say.

In the 15 years before this edition of Ptolemy, between 1492 and 1507, a lot had been learned about the other side of the world. The geographer in charge of the maps in this edition of Ptolemy, Johannes Ruysch, had actually traveled to the New World in 1499, sailing from England across the ocean to what we know call Newfoundland. So it was decided that Ptolemy’s world map needed an update. A second world map was designed for this edition, a kind of insert that could be folded into the great treatise. This map, known as the Ruysch world map, shows the full 360° of the globe and was meant to be a triumphant contrast to Ptolemy’s world map. On the right side of the spread we see the world known to the ancients, and on the left we see the newly discovered lands. The new world map fairly proclaimed: “In these last years we have discovered the other half of the world!”

What we see on the left half of the map is farthestmost Asia, with places like Tibet, Bengal, and Mangi (a term for southern China). Towards the north we see the very accurately described coast of Newfoundland, here attached to the Asian continent. In the ocean off the coast of China are two islands, Hispaniola, where Columbus established his first colony, and next to it Cuba. An inscription placed in the ocean explains that Marco Polo believed Japan was 1500 miles off the coast of China, and therefore was to be identified with the island of Hispaniola. Columbus‘s colony was on Japan! Below we see a large landmass, not yet called South America, here labeled “Land of the True Cross, or New World.”

The Page 99 Test works well for our book. It explains how the Amerasian half of the world charted by Ruysch went through various changes and expansions in the centuries following the map’s publication, but essentially remained intact, providing an infrastructure for how Europeans thought about the new world as an Amerasian continuum. Moving beyond the content found on page 99, the rest of our monograph considers a series of Amerasian case studies in seventeen short chapters, each of which explores a text, object, painting, print, or map. For instance, an early sixteenth-century Portuguese painting depicts one of the three Magi with costume and adornments from both Brazil and “Calichut”. A copper bell gifted to the traveler Cabeza de Vaca as he made his way from Florida to Mexico City encouraged generations of Spanish conquistadors and explorers to believe that the lands of China lay somewhere beyond the valley of the Rio Grande, beyond the territory that we today call New Mexico. A great variety of early modern maps place Tenochtitlan and Quinsai—or Asia and Mexico—side by side. And pre-Columbian objects such as Aztec feather-shields and codices were described and catalogued as “Chinese” or “Indian” in European collections: labels that stuck for even hundreds of years. Prying open these and other accounts reveals a lost Amerasian continuum, and a way of thinking about the world that has both lain in plain sight and been eclipsed by modern understandings of global geography.
Learn more about Amerasia at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Paul Robinson's "Russian Liberalism"

Paul Robinson is a professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa. He is the author of Russian Conservatism and Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich.

Robinson applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Russian Liberalism, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Russian Liberalism falls near the end of the sixth chapter, which chronicles the fate of Russian liberalism during the 1917 revolutions and subsequent civil war. The page describes the economic policies of the liberal-led Provisional Government that governed Russia for a few months before being overthrown by Lenin’s Bolsheviks. It begins:
He [Trade and Industry Minister Vasily Stepanov] added that “the strong development of our productive forces is inconceivable without attracting foreign capital,” although state intervention was necessary “to regulate the main branches of the economy,” such as military industry and natural resource extraction. The new government faced a growing economic crisis. Workers’ committees sprang up in many factories and demanded a shorter working day and better pay and conditions. Eventually, these committees also sought to take control of management. Russian businessmen resisted these demands. The Moscow Committee for Commerce and Industry, for instance, rejected the eight-hour working day, saying that “at present time, when it is essential to conduct the war to a victorious end, everything should lead, not to a diminution of work production, but to an increase.” The Provisional Government agreed with the Moscow committee.
Russian Liberalism is primarily a book about ideas. It examines the development of liberal cultural, political, and economic ideology in Russia from the late eighteenth century to the present. Chapter 6, however, covers one of only two short periods in Russian history when liberals have held political power, the other period being the early 1990s. Consequently, the chapter describes what liberals actually did once in government and how their ideology fared when put into practice. This section thus fails the Page 99 Test, as it is not typical of the book as a whole.

That said, reading between the lines, hints at two key themes of the book can in fact be found on page 99. Among other things, the book concludes that Russian liberalism has historically suffered from two fundamental weaknesses. Evidence of both can be found on this page.

First, Minister Stepanov’s reference to foreign capital was coded language to say that Russian should retain its wartime alliance with its Western European co-belligerents, France and England. This in turn reflects one of Russian liberalism’s main characteristics – its strong association with the idea of the West. Russian liberals have consistently maintained that the West (however defined) represents the most advanced form of civilization, and that Russia must therefore align itself with the West and copy its ways.

Second, the Provisional Government’s dispute with Russian workers exemplifies the way in which Russian liberals have generally been at odds with the bulk of the Russian people. Russian liberalism is a movement of intellectuals. The mass of the population have often viewed liberals as members of a distinct social class whose values and interests are different from their own. They have also viewed them as people who prefer foreign culture over Russian culture and thus as unpatriotic. This helps to explain why Russian liberalism has failed ever to gain significant support among the Russian population and liberals remain to this day very much in the minority.
Learn more about Russian Liberalism at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 18, 2023

Naomi S. Baron's "Who Wrote This?"

Naomi S. Baron is Professor Emerita of Linguistics at American University in Washington, DC.

A former Guggenheim Fellow, Fulbright Fellow, Fulbright Specialist, and Visiting Scholar at the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, she has published ten books. Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World won the English-Speaking Union’s Duke of Edinburgh English Language Book Award for 2008. Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World appeared in 2015. How We Read Now: Strategic Choices for Print, Screen, and Audio was published in March 2021.

Baron applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Who Wrote This?: How AI and the Lure of Efficiency Threaten Human Writing, and reported the following:
Opening a new chapter (“Machines Emerge as Authors”), page 99 begins innocuously enough:
The title won’t zoom to the top of anyone’s bestseller list, though the author could care less. For Lithium-Ion Batteries, published by Springer Nature in 2019, was written by a computer (which the publisher dubbed “Beta Writer”). Enter the first machine-generated textbook. The accomplishment, while impressive, is hardly surprising. Computers are tailor-made for zipping through vast quantities of research and summarizing findings. It didn’t hurt that Springer has a massive online database to draw on.
Then comes another example, this time about Philip M. Parker’s
patented system incorporating a template and databases (plus internet searches) to automatically turn out books. He’s produced more than 200,000 of them, ranging from medical guides to collections of crossword puzzles to volumes filled with quotations. We might debate whether these are really books or more like compilations, but regardless, the sheer output is daunting. Interviewed in 2013, Parker envisioned the day when machines could write doctoral dissertations.
The page finishes with
Now a decade on – and with large language models as today’s text production tool du jour – that time could soon be now. How did we get here?
Page 99 is hardly the crux of Who Wrote This? Yet it captures the stylistic flavor of what comes before and after by using real-world examples in tracing historical evolution. The page might be described as a warm-up to what ensues in the rest of the chapter. Page 100 recounts the earliest case of machine as author when, in the early 1950s, Christopher Strachey cranked out insipid love letters on a Ferranti Mark I computer. More milestones then unfold, including Joseph Weizenbaum’s ELIZA program, James Meehan’s Tale-Spin, hypertext fiction, and contemporary text generation programs like Jasper, running on GPT-3. If you did away with page 99, the rest of the chapter would flow fine.

What’s missing from that opening foray on page 99 is the core theme underlying the book: What happens to human writing if “the dream comes true” and AI can write and edit language that’s indistinguishable from what a human can do. This question is given ample foregrounding in prior chapters, including discussion of the evolution of writing itself, the impact writing has on our minds and brains, the emergence of college-level writing instruction in America, and ETS’s introduction of natural language processing tools to assess student essays. Also absent from page 99 is any hint of what natural language processing is all about, especially for machine translation.

Then there’s what comes after page 99. Later chapters in the book discuss how AI’s efficiency potentially threatens the jobs of professionals such as journalists or translators, arguments for whether we can (or shouldn’t) call AI creative, ways in which everyday users rely on AI writing tools, and where individuals chose to draw the line between collaboration with AI and outright automation.

Had you only read page 99, you’d find two stories about harnessing computers to create books. But you would miss out on why those stories matter for the future of human writing.
Learn more about Who Wrote This? at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Christopher Michael Blakley's "Empire of Brutality"

Christopher Michael Blakley is Visiting Assistant Professor in the Core Program at Occidental College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Empire of Brutality: Enslaved People and Animals in the British Atlantic World, and reported the following:
Turning to page 99 of my book, readers will learn how plantation labor regimes led to dehumanizing and simianizing rhetoric among slaveholders in the Tidewater Chesapeake in the eighteenth century. Landon Carter, a well-known enslaver in Richmond County, Virginia, believed that enslaved laborers could “as little be humanized as bears”, and that people of African descent were “nothing but a brute in human shape.” Likewise, Thomas Jefferson, another slaveholder in the Piedmont, claimed that people of African descent were like “our horses, dogs, and other domestic animals” with regard to their intellect and beauty.

My discussion of these two slaveholders is embedded in a chapter on slavery, human-animal relationships, and plantation labor in both the Caribbean and the American South. This chapter fits into my larger thesis that material relations between enslaved people and animals––in this chapter I discuss labor, diet, and the accumulation of bodily waste––led to intellectual frameworks for dehumanization in the long eighteenth century.

Page 99 of Empire of Brutality does reflect the critical aims of my book’s larger project, which is to examine human-animal linkages and pairings in the British Atlantic world. The book opens with a prologue examining a 1723 letter written by a group of enslaved people to the Bishop of London, asking him to act on behalf of their rights as Christians and to “looket in to” their subjugation by enslavers who “doo Look no more up on then if wee ware dogs.” Building on the work of other historians like Virginia Anderson and Marcy Norton, I argue that looking at various human-animal networks produced by slavery engendered the dehumanizing rhetoric of slaveholders like Carter and Jefferson. From there the book begins an ocean-spanning itinerary of slaving and slavery, from the castle trade along the Gold Coast and Bight of Benin to plantations in Barbados and Virginia. Throughout the book I look at trade, labor, and specimen collecting as sites of enslaved peopel’s animalization by slavers and slaveholders. To understand enslaved people’s resistance to dehumanization, I look at community-wide efforts for sabotage on plantations through killing and injuring animals, and a final chapter look at fugitive advertisements of enslaved women and men who stole horses to ride away. I end by discussing Black intellectuals like Qubna Ottobah Cugoano, Mary Prince, and A Slave, who attacked the philosophical foundations of slavery and animalization.
Learn more about Empire of Brutality at the LSU Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 15, 2023

Bruce Dorsey's "Murder in a Mill Town"

Bruce Dorsey is Professor of History at Swarthmore College and writes about the history of gender, sexuality, religion, social movements, and popular culture in the United States. He is the author of Reforming Men and Women: Gender in the Antebellum City (2002), winner of the Philip S. Klein Book Prize from the Pennsylvania Historical Association, and Crosscurrents in American Culture, co-edited with Woody Register (2009). In 2016 he was awarded the LGBT Religious History Award for an article published in the Journal of the History of Sexuality.

Dorsey applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Murder in a Mill Town: Sex, Faith, and the Crime That Captivated a Nation, and reported the following:
“She took a stagecoach to Lowell at her own expense, making the rounds to friends and former ‘sisters’ seeking their forgiveness.” That’s how page 99 of Murder in a Mill Town begins, near the conclusion of the tenth chapter, entitled “Fornication and Lying.” With this opening, readers are directed immediately to the book’s two main characters: factory worker, Sarah Maria Cornell (called “Maria), and evangelical preacher, Ephraim Avery, who presided over Cornell’s excommunication from the Methodist church in America’s premier industrial city in 1830. Readers then learn that Maria Cornell’s plan to garner forgiveness and a return to her beloved Methodist community in another mill town also meant that she had written explicit confession letters to Avery outlining her sexual “sins” that the preacher kept in his possession. Although Avery offered a tepid verbal promise to forgive Cornell, a few days later he penned a letter to that other mill town’s Methodist minister (reprinted on page 99), sabotaging the young woman’s plan for reinstatement. Near the end of the page readers learn that “The news devastated Maria.”

Page 99 captures a key moment in a spiraling personal crisis that led ultimately to the tragic events that comprised America’s first “crime of the century.” Cornell was unable to regain the faith community that would have ensured her prosperity among the thousands of new women in the industrial workforce in cotton mills. According to her, Avery then used the confession letters to extort Cornell into seeing him alone on the grounds of a camp meeting, where he forced her into sex that resulted in pregnancy. (Yes, the preacher who kicked her out of the church for having sex, subsequently forced her to have sex with him in order to return to that church.) When, four months later, Cornell was found dead, hanging from a stake in a farmer’s haystack outside Fall River, Massachusetts, local mill town residents found a note that she had written on the night of her death, stating: “If I am missing inquire of Rev. Mr Avery Bristol he will know where I am.”

The Page 99 Test works! Murder in a Mill Town is chock full of important days and events behind what became, at the time, the longest trial in American history. Avery’s murder trial in Newport, R.I., in 1833, where hundreds of witnesses testified, lasted thirty days in an era when almost every capital crime trial took merely a single day. The trial covered everything—religion, gender, sex, abortion, venereal disease, the medical profession, and more—and it then provoked a national scandal that continued for a full year after the verdict, veering toward mob violence, conspiracy politics, fake news, and a new sensational popular culture. On page 99, then, Maria Cornell’s personal quest for a measure of independence as a young working woman, and Ephraim Avery’s efforts to assert his authority as a rising star in America’s fastest growing denomination, clashed and set off the spiral of events that culminated in her tragic death two years later.
Visit Bruce Dorsey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Karina Horsti's "Survival and Witness at Europe's Border"

Karina Horsti is Government of Finland/David and Nancy Speer Visiting Professor in Finnish Studies at the University of Minnesota. She is the editor of The Politics of Public Memories of Forced Migration and Bordering in Europe.

Horsti applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Survival and Witness at Europe's Border: The Afterlives of a Disaster, and reported the following:
On page 99, there is a photograph of unidentified migrant graves in Piano Gatta cemetery in Agrigento, Sicily. I took the photograph in 2018 and the victims in the graves were buried there in 2013. The picture tells a lot about how Europe treats migrants who die at its borders. There are numbers, no names. Concrete walls are barren but two vases of artificial flowers communicate that some people have visited these graves and paid their respects.

The book was set in motion by my curiosity about how one of the most mediatized incidents of border deaths in Europe, the October 3, 2013, migrant disaster in Lampedusa (Italy), lives on and evades oblivion through mediated representation and memorialization. The book traces trajectories of different kinds of witnesses to border deaths, and here I discuss how local Sicilians who buried 368 dead bodies responded. They witnessed the corporeality of the disaster. Through the ritual of prayer, the locals adopt the unknown dead within their own community of deceased.

A paragraph from page 99:
There, I met Nicola Coppola, who had been the town’s mayor in October 2013. When we met, he had just recently lost his position and had time to show me the cemetery and introduce me to other locals who were active in engaging with the memory of the migrant dead. Coppola (2018) told me how he had responded to the call that went out from Agrigento for burial sites. Castellamare del Golfo is a town living off fishing and tourism in Trapani province. By Sicilian standards, it’s barely a midsize town with about 15,000 inhabitants. Thus, it is quite interesting that instead of accepting “one or two” coffins from another province, Coppola wanted a significant number of dead.
If browsers open my book to page 99 they would get some sense of what the book is about. The test works partly, not completely inaccurately but also not exactly perfectly. The book is about different types of witnesses and on page 99 I discuss just one type of witnessing a migrant disaster.
Learn more about Survival and Witness at Europe's Border at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Shellen Xiao Wu's "Birth of the Geopolitical Age"

Shellen Xiao Wu is Associate Professor and L.H. Gipson Chair in Transnational History at Lehigh University. Her first book, Empires of Coal: Fueling China’s Entry into the Modern World Order, 1860-1920 was published in 2015. She has published articles in The American Historical Review, Nature, and other leading journals in history, history of science, and Asian Studies.

Wu applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Birth of the Geopolitical Age: Global Frontiers and the Making of Modern China, and reported the following:
From page 99:
A wide range of intellectuals including Annales historians like Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch, writers Thomas Henry Huxley, Ellsworth Huntington, Oswald Spengler, and Karl August Wittfogel shared with Semple a common interest in crossing disciplinary boundaries to find universal laws of historical development.
Page 99 of my book gives a reasonably good idea of what the book is about although the reader would need more context to fully understand the page. On page 99, I discuss the American geographer Ellen Churchill Semple (1863-1932), one of the founders and first female president of the American Geographical Association. Semple had studied with the German geographer Friedrich Ratzel, who coined the term Lebensraum – a concept about the necessary territorial size that a state needs to survive and prosper. She was the only woman among the 500 students in Ratzel’s economic geography seminar at the University of Leipzig and later helped to disseminate Ratzel’s geographical ideas in the United States. As a White woman from a privileged background, Semple’s career demonstrates both the opportunities and constraints for women of her time. Later in the book, I also discuss the Chinese translation of Semple’s work in the 1930s and its role in the growing interest in geopolitics in Asia.

Throughout the book I apply insights from network science to show how the geopolitical idea emerged in the twentieth century from influences in the sciences and social sciences. Semple is one example of how I use multiple and intersecting biographies as a global history method to break down the flattening effect of larger historical narratives into the individual trajectories of lived lives along with all their associated messiness, triumphs, and reversals of fortune. Individual lives give texture to broader concepts of “empires,” “frontiers,” and “nations” and cross the temporal and spatial boundaries we have created in the professionalization of modern history writing. Geopolitics is not just about moving people like chess pieces in a great power competition—it also extracted a steep human cost.
Learn more about Birth of the Geopolitical Age at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 11, 2023

Colleen P. Eren's "Reform Nation"

Colleen P. Eren is Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at William Paterson University. She is the author of Bernie Madoff and the Crisis (2017) and co-author (with Robert Costello) of The Impact of Supreme Court Decisions on U.S. Institutions (2021).

Eren applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Reform Nation: The First Step Act and the Movement to End Mass Incarceration, and reported the following:
Reform Nation: The First Step Act and the Movement to End Mass Incarceration takes that federal criminal justice bill passed during the Trump presidency, and uses it as a case study through which to understand the social movement dynamics operating in the national criminal justice reform movement over the past twenty-five years. Even though the First Step Act was not a revolutionary bill, it was symbolic of the movement's newfound power and its evolution, to where it consisted of powerful, sometimes "strange bedfellow" actors from the advocacy space on the right and left, of billionaire philanthropists, celebrities, and politicians, while also consisting of those most affected by the criminal justice system: directly impacted and formerly incarcerated people. This national movement entered the mainstream, and as it did, larger questions began to be raised about the influence of elites in that movement, how much it was being led by those affected by the criminal justice system, what the goals should be, and the very nature of democratic participation in political change in the United States.

Page 99 of my book, then, serves well to illustrate both the central themes of the book, and also an example of how we see those themes play out through specific groups within the criminal justice reform movement: celebrities. The first paragraph raises broad questions:
Identity-linked concerns about which celebrities--if any--can or should be a messenger for criminal justice reform; how representative they are of those impacted by the criminal justice system; how much presence celebrities should give; what their message should be; and for what objectives they should advocate are questions the movement grappled with at the start of the 2020s. After all, who speaks for a newly nationalized yet generally disaggregated movement battling for federal, state, and local change in multiple institutions, and actors having varying political ideologies leading to very different end objectives?
The rest of the page discusses the involvement of celebrity Kim Kardashian in the criminal justice reform movement, where she played a role in getting Donald Trump to grant clemency to a grandmother who was incarcerated for a first-time, non violent drug offense, as well as the First Step Act. It also then presents the tensions within the movement that come from such involvement, quoting formerly incarcerated activist Adnan Khan: "We're tired of celebrities trying to be our 'voice.' We don't need you to be our voice. We're out here. All the celebs are not centering or learning from the leadership of people who are formerly incarcerated."

Indeed, then, page 99 of Reform Nation gives you a 'teaser' of the overall theme and specific concerns of my book.
Learn more about Reform Nation at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Kalyani Ramnath's "Boats in a Storm"

Kalyani Ramnath is Assistant Professor of History at University of Georgia.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Boats in a Storm: Law, Migration, and Decolonization in South and Southeast Asia, 1942–1962, and reported the following:
Page 99 – from Chapter 3 titled ‘Tax Receipts’ – describes the impact of the postwar economic conditions in Burma (now Myanmar) on the Nattukkottai Chettiars, a diasporic trading and moneylending community from south India who had operations across South and Southeast Asia. By the time of Indian and Burmese independence from British rule, in 1947 and 1948 respectively, many Chettiar firms wound up operations in Burma, unable to navigate the strict restrictions on travel, movement, residence, trade, and land ownership placed on migrants, opting instead to invest in educational institutions or industry in India. At the same time, Chettiar firms also faced the prospect of income tax liability in two countries even as nationalization threatened to deprive them of their landed wealth. Page 99 describes how Indian income tax legislation was initially poised to take advantage of this “refugee capital,” suggesting that the tax residence of Chettiar firms had shifted during the War. But later, these moves were reversed because of the tax implications for those displaced by the India- Pakistan Partition in 1947 (“the Partition”) It describes how double taxation regimes to deal with the aftermath of the World War, the struggles for independence, and the formation of new national borders in India, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka were based on those developed for the Partition.

A browser who turns to page 99 might get a good sense of the context of the book – the postwar world in South Asia (India, Sri Lanka) and Southeast Asia (Myanmar, Malaysia) in the age of decolonization. They might also see an illustration of an important historiographic reframing that Boats in a Storm offers – that the unraveling of economic networks across these two regions in the aftermath of the War are the lesser-known “other partitions” in the region. As the seemingly banal example of income tax liability shows, the long shadow of the better-known territorial Partition and the violent and traumatic displacement that it occasioned – was cast over diasporic Indians unconnected with it elsewhere in Asia. This led, as in the case of the Chettiar firms, to unexpected and devastating consequences where they could not return to their homes and places of work. Everyday legal encounters – with the income tax authorities or the offices that issued immigration documents – rather than widely publicized courtroom trials, feature throughout the book. At the same time, the account on page 99 does not capture the broad sweep that Boats has – it is not only about migrant traders or moneylenders, but also about those who may not have had access to resources to help them navigate stormy legal seas, from laborers who worked on tea plantations in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and to dockworkers and clerks at the Singapore Harbor. The descendants of plantation laborers, for example, form part of marginalized communities in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. Page 99 also does not feature any lawyers, journalists, or trade unionists, many of whom figure prominently in the narrative elsewhere, such as SP Amarasingam, the lawyer and newspaper journalist who wrote about immigration across the Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka, and later, advocated for plantation laborers to be naturalized as Ceylon citizens before the Supreme Court. As the book proceeds – page 99 is chapter three of seven – the reader might also note how taxation regimes seeped into immigration and later, deportation regimes, unsettling and rearranging rhythms and patterns of migrant life: families spread out across two different countries had to choose one “home” to prove their political loyalties, people charged with being “communists” for engaging in activities perceived as political dissent in south India and Singapore, yet others faced the risk of statelessness for not possessing the right documents. In other words - to push the literary metaphor in the title of the book even further! - page 99 is a glimpse of the brewing storm, the aftermath of which the book chronicles.
Learn more about Boats in a Storm at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Zein Murib's "Terms of Exclusion"

Zein Murib is an Associate Professor of Political Science and affiliated faculty in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Fordham University. Murib's research and teaching interests are informed by feminist and queer theory and located at the intersection of scholarship on gender and sexuality, interest groups and social movements, and marginalized political identities in US politics.

Murib applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Terms of Exclusion: Rightful Citizenship Claims and the Construction of LGBT Political Identity, and reported the following:
My book forwards the argument that what I call "rightful citizenship claims" only bring those members of the group who can compellingly argue that they are being denied rights to which they are owed as citizens over the finish line. This strategy neglects those who are either not citizens or, more perniciously, those whose citizenship is shaped by laws and norms that afford them only what scholars refer to as "partial citizenship." This includes Black, Latine, Asian, Native, Arab members as well as people with disabilities. Excluding these members from political agendas helps to consolidate group membership as proximate to the prototypical normative citizen, or White men. With respect to the LGBT group, this means that it is only White gay men (and some lesbians) who fully enjoy rights wins.

On page 99 I advance this argument by explaining how Black and Third World lesbian feminist thinkers challenged their exclusion from White feminist spaces by putting forward a vision of political praxis that views difference is a resource to be harnessed, not an obstacle to overcome.
Visit Zein Murib's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 8, 2023

Mark Thomas Edwards's "Walter Lippmann"

Mark Thomas Edwards is professor of US history and politics at Spring Arbor University in Michigan. He has published articles in Religion and American Culture, Diplomatic History, Anglican and Episcopal History, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, and the Journal of Religious History. His first book, The Right of the Protestant Left: God’s Totalitarianism (2012) offers a new view of Reinhold Niebuhr, Christian Realism, and the geopolitics of the ecumenical movement.

Edwards applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Walter Lippmann: American Skeptic, American Pastor, and reported the following:
The Page 99 Test both does and doesn't work for my book. Page 99 is entitled “The Older Lippmann” and offers a brief overview of chapters four through seven. The concluding sentence, “Lippmann’s deepened affiliation with and distance from Christian and Jewish traditions, as well as his embrace and rejection of civil religions, is emphasized throughout,” does hint at major themes of the book, but it is not much to work with apart from reading the introduction of preceding text. That said, readers could infer that, if there was an “Older Lippmann,” there must have been a “Younger Lippmann,” and thus they would have stumbled upon the major organizational framework for the biography. For some time, Lippmann has served as a pawn in the culture wars, with liberals remembering him as a “Tired Radical” who abandoned socialism and conservatives embracing him for his critiques of New Deal liberalism. In fact, Lippmann can't be carved up so neatly in terms of his political, cultural, and religious affiliations. Lippmann did live long enough to endorse both Teddy Roosevelt and Richard Nixon for President twice. Yet elements of his self-professed conservativism of the 1970s could be seen in his Harvard term papers of 1909 when he identified as a socialist. Conversely, Lippmann expected Nixon to continue the Keynesian economics he had learned to love as a critical New Dealer. And so the notion of “Younger” and “Older” Lippmanns is predominantly chronological in nature: Lippmann was once young, then he became old. I do date his transition around 1932 when he began writing his “Today and Tomorrow” op eds for the New York Herald Tribune a Republican newspaper confident enough to bring someone on board that Time magazine had called the “Moses of liberalism.” Lippmann’s weekly tone after that time was more settled, mature, and clerical—“Older”—even if his books became more, in his own words, “incurably eclectic.” Yet my hope is that readers will find much to admire and despise in all of the Lippmanns.
Learn more about Walter Lippmann at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Laura Meckler's "Dream Town"

Laura Meckler is national education writer for the Washington Post, where she covers education across the country as well as national education policy and politics. She previously reported on the White House, presidential politics, immigration, and health care for the Wall Street Journal, as well as health and social policy for the Associated Press. Her honors include a Nieman Fellowship and Livingston Award for National Reporting, and she was part of a team that won the George Polk Award for Justice Reporting. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two sons.

Meckler applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Dream Town: Shaker Heights and the Quest for Racial Equity, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book comes near the beginning of Chapter 6, the story of how Jack Lawson, superintendent of the Shaker Heights City School District, led the community to adopt a voluntary school busing program to desegregate the elementary schools. The plan’s focus was on Moreland Elementary School, where 88 percent of the students were Black. This page describes Lawson’s planning. That includes how he and his staff developed the arguments he would make for the plan, as well as how he secured private foundation funding for it. It also covers his vision of busing children out of Moreland and into majority white schools and turning Moreland into a special services school, where students from across the district would rotate for certain programming and services. Finally, the page shows Lawson’s political savvy, as he scheduled a school board meeting to discuss the plan at a time when he correctly predicted board members would be in a good mood (right after a tax levy increase had been approved by voters). The very end of the page sets up one of the central tensions of the chapter: “It’s unclear how much, if at all, he consulted with the Moreland community itself about the details or even the general concept. A meeting in November 1969 suggests any attempt to win buy-in was minimal.”

After being invited to participate in the page 99 challenge, and after re-reading page 99, my first feeling was disappointment. Page 99 of my book is not all that exciting. There are no great scenes or interesting bits of dialogue or huge revelations. It does not contain particularly exciting or vivid descriptions. Other pages are far more compelling.

However, I do think my page 99 gives readers a sense of one of the book’s important themes: the work Shaker Heights has done over the years toward racial integration. This page deals with integration of the schools; previous chapters discuss housing integration; and subsequent chapters examine integration of classrooms. It also is important in setting up the events described in the rest of the chapter, where we learn how school Superintendent Jack Lawson’s busing proposal played out.

The page also speaks to another theme in the book. There generally are not heroes or villains--just good people with good intentions, making progress and making mistakes. In this case, we see Lawson’s good intentions and his truly visionary leadership. He led the district to adopt a voluntary busing plan at a time when other communities were fighting court orders to do the same. But we also see his limits. He proposed a one-way busing plan, where virtually the only students to be bused would be Black, even as the Black community made clear that they opposed this. Ultimately, the district adopted a more equitable two-way busing plan. But that change came about only after white parents also argued that a one-way plan was unfair and volunteered to bus their own children into the majority-Black elementary school. So while the district eventually arrived at a balanced solution, and while Lawson rightfully gets the credit for this plan, he also had some blind spots.

Understanding that leadership does not mean perfection, and that progress is often accompanied by setbacks, is critical to understanding the story of Shaker Heights and the greater story of almost any effort to do hard things.
Visit Laura Meckler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Miriam H. Baer's "Myths and Misunderstandings in White-Collar Crime"

Miriam H. Baer is Vice Dean and Centennial Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Myths and Misunderstandings in White-Collar Crime, and reported the following:
White-collar crime is a frustrating problem. It’s frustrating because it always seems to be with us. Pick up a newspaper or magazine and you will inevitably read a story about the corrupt politician, the CEO who lied to the public, even the manager or small-business owner who destroyed documents to avoid a fine or short-circuit expensive regulatory requirement. Everyone cheats, and too many people seem to get away with it.

That is, for most people, the standard narrative of white-collar crime and its enforcement. The government is perhaps tough on rank-and-file employees and ordinary citizens and allows the famous and the powerful to escape liability. This narrative is compelling – but it does not tell the whole story.

The aim of my book is to illuminate a series of myths and misunderstandings that hamper our understanding of white-collar crime and its enforcement. A series of pathologies – in lawmaking, enforcement and discourse – oversimplify the problem and undermine our ability to redress white-collar crime. The book is divided into chapters that focus on the ways we generate and craft criminal statutes, the ways we enforce (or fail to enforce) those statutes, and the ways we talk about our statutes and (more often) our failed efforts at enforcement.

Page 99 of my book falls in the middle of one of the lawmaking chapters. Criminal law is often said to be a “statutory” subject, meaning that it is the product of democratically elected legislatures who codify prohibitions in lengthy criminal codes. The federal criminal code is no exception, except that it is poorly put together, bundles numerous conceptually distinct crimes into single, umbrella-like statutes, and uses opaque terms that no ordinary person could easily understand. It therefore falls to other institutions – the judiciary, prosecutors, regulatory agencies – to “make” criminal law by interpreting statutory language and creating shadow rules alongside the written law. The aim of Chapter 4 (which includes page 99) is to demonstrate that “outsourcing” itself has many flavors. Some types of outsourcing – such as corporate criminal liability –are truly unilateral in that one institution (in this case, the Department of Justice) creates a quasi-legal system and no other institution (not even the courts) has the ability to impose any checks or balances. Other types of outsourcing – such as the judiciary and SEC’s joint creation of insider trading liability – reflects a sequential back-and-forth involving multiple agencies and many checks and balances. Thus, the aim of page 99 is to show readers that “outsourcing” as a label reflects different types of lawmaking. As I say in the middle of the page:
The insider trading and corporate crime examples teach us something about legislative outsourcing. Both doctrines rely heavily on the common law’s lawmaking modality, on administrative agencies (assuming one treats the DOJ as a quasi-administrator in the corporate crime context), and both concepts can be traced to profoundly underwritten rules.
Then I go on to say, “From a functional perspective, this is where the commonalities end.” My point is that insider trading’s trajectory looks a lot different -and frankly, a lot less threatening where rule of law values are concerned – than corporate criminal liability. And on the next page, I go on to argue that many of the common criticisms lobbed at outsourcing (it renders lawmaking “too easy” and creates an “imperial” unchecked prosecutor) cash out differently depending on the type of outsourcing. “[S]ay what you will about insider trading, but its evolution as a body of law could not be fairly be described as ‘easy’ or solely in service of prosecutorial power.” (p. 101).

So, the aim here, as in the rest of the book, is to teach readers that some of the behaviors that concern us, such as the legislature’s “outsourcing” criminal lawmaking, can produce “divergent outcomes” depending on context (p. 104). And we owe it to ourselves to explore those different contexts and outcomes if we are serious about reforming white-collar crime and identifying outsourcing’s drawbacks.

The chapter closes by highlighting a particular drawback that the rest of the book takes up in later chapters – namely, that by leaving our statutes underwritten, and thereby relying on other agencies to define their meaning, our legislature abandons any attempt to subdivide crimes into better and worse versions. That is, we spend so much time trying to figure out what is and is not “insider trading,” that we forego the attempt to create laws that describe and forbid different variations of “insider trading” from bad to worse. I thus end the chapter on page 106 with this critique:
We almost certainly would prefer a series of insider trading laws that recognize distinctions between insiders, misappropriators, and gift tippers and tippees. But we instead rely on courts to interpret a single, undifferentiated fraud statue to encompass all insider trading. A reflective legislature would ask why these activities are wrong, how much harm they cause collectively, and relative to one another, and how much culpability they reflect, as both an absolute and relative matter. A well-designed legislative code wouldn’t punt these distinctions to a prosecutor’s office or a sentencing judge; it would incorporate these principled distinctions into the code itself, signaling to both citizens and legal actors alike that these distinctions matter… That’s a far better world than the one we currently have.
Interested in how I try to resolve these issues and come up with a better code? Buy the book! And do be sure to take a look at several of the later chapters.
Learn more about Myths and Misunderstandings in White-Collar Crime at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue