Sunday, December 31, 2023

Dana Lloyd's "Land Is Kin"

Dana Lloyd is assistant professor of Global Interdisciplinary Studies at Villanova University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book Land Is Kin: Sovereignty, Religious Freedom, and Indigenous Sacred Sites, and reported the following:
Land Is Kin offers five conceptions of land at play in legal cases about Native American sacred sites. Page 99 falls in the chapter about land as sacred, in a section where I survey past cases about Native American sacred sites. The point of the book is that seeing land as sacred is not enough, that courts tend to pit against each other ideas about land as sacred and about land as property as mutually exclusive, when, in fact, land means much more than that. And so, in a way, if you only read page 99 of Land Is Kin you might get the wrong idea about this book and my argument in it.

However, one sentence in the middle of page 99 does capture an important aspect of what I argue in the book as a whole: “Without acknowledgment of the colonial, genocidal history of the place in question, religion is doomed to be depoliticized and indigeneity essentialized.” Even if we think of a place primarily as sacred, we need to remember that its sacredness to Indigenous peoples has led to violence, and that protecting it today must include protection of Indigenous peoples from such violence.

The other ideas about land that appear in Land Is Kin center around home, wilderness, and kinship. I read trial testimonies and evidence, Supreme Court decisions, and legislation—both federal and tribal—protecting Indigenous lands. While Native American sacred sites cases are usually argued and decided as cases about religious freedom (the right of Indigenous nations to use places sacred to them for worship), I argue that these cases are actually about Indigenous sovereignty (that these places are not just sacred to Indigenous nations, that these places are their homelands and their kin).

What I say on page 99 is that even if cases about Native American sacred sites are decided as cases about religious freedom, judges should still take into account the settler colonial context of these cases. But the book’s journey takes us away from settler law and into Indigenous law (specifically, the Yurok Tribal Court) as a site where Indigenous sovereignty is enacted—where sacred land is protected as kin.
Learn more about Land Is Kin at the University Press of Kansas website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Tanya Ann Kennedy's "Reclaiming Time"

Tanya Ann Kennedy is Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Maine at Augusta. She is the author of Historicizing Post-Discourses: Postfeminism and Postracialism in United States Culture.

Kennedy applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book Reclaiming Time: The Transformative Politics of Feminist Temporalities, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the last page of chapter two, “Precarity and the Girl-Time Imaginary.” In this conclusion to the chapter, I wrap up my reading of Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones and remind the reader of some of the arguments I have made about Ward’s novel and several of the texts analyzed in the chapter such as Tupelo Hassman’s Girlchild. In the chapter, I analyze contemporary working-class fictions of girlhood and argue that some texts—such as Salvage and Girlchild— challenge what I term the “girl-time imaginary” as it is depicted in contemporary popular representations of American girls. I argue that Ward’s work in particular has been devoted to reframing those racialized discourses of class that present Black girls as symbols of sexualized poverty, “at-risk” because of their failure or inability to calibrate their lives to the demands of nationalist and capitalist tempos of bourgeois development. Ward’s Salvage the Bones is written expressly to speak to this representation of poor Black girls who “are silenced, they are misunderstood, and they are underestimated. Black girls period: pregnant young black girls, poor black girls—girls like that are diminished in American culture” (Ward, qtd. in Hoover 2011). I am specifically interested in how Ward’s depiction of the character Esch depicts the adultification of Black girls and how that adultification is seen as Black girls’ deviance rather than as an effect of patriarchy and racist capitalism. This is true more generally of the representations I examine in the chapter; I show how dominant representations articulate consumerist, sexualized sensibilities of working-class femininity that displace structures of capitalist patriarchy as a temporal frame for understanding girlhood. What I mean by this, is that successful girlhood is represented as the ability to develop along the lines of the chrononormative as defined by queer theorist Elizabeth Freeman, “Chrononormativity is a mode of implantation, a technique by which institutional forces come to seem like somatic facts. Schedules, calendars, time zones, and even wristwatches inculcate what the sociologist Evitar Zerubavel calls ‘hidden rhythms,’ forms of temporal experience that seem natural to those whom they privilege. Manipulations of time convert historically specific regimes of asymmetrical power into seemingly ordinary bodily tempos, which in turn organize the value and meaning of time” (Freeman 3). The adultification of Black girls excludes them from privileges of care practiced in social institutions such as education and the media where the time of girlhood is imagined as a platform for future success. In arguing that Ward reframes deviance as exclusion and social abandonment, I argue that Ward’s writing is reparative and, on this page, argue that Black feminist writing more generally can be argued to be reparative, inasmuch as it challenges the dominance of white time that values white life/time over Black life/times.

Readers of page 99 would a get a partial idea of my book, but would miss the theoretical concepts that I attempt to bring into conversation throughout the book, specifically reparative reading as introduced in the work of Eve Sedgwick and taken up by other queer theorists and reparative justice as theorized in critical race feminism. One quote from page 99 helps explain how this reading of Ward is related to the chapter as a whole, and more importantly, some of the key concepts of the book: “The harm of reprofuturity as with chrononormativity is that these are regimes of white time in capitalism, eugenic temporalities that depend on the social deaths of those who put national futures at risk” (99). It would be difficult for readers to understand this quote without reading the introduction to the book, but I hope that it is sufficiently intriguing to make them want to read more about the concepts discussed in the sentence, concepts key to critical time studies, queer theory, feminism, and critical race theory. If they did read the introduction and other chapters in the book, they might see that it’s in the later chapters that I make direct connections between reparative reading /writing and reparations by analyzing, for example, how contemporary feminist and queer writing has used medical and legal archives of eugenic sterilization to support reproductive justice movements for reparations to survivors of sterilization abuse, those who historically have been identified as a threat to national and capitalist futures.
Learn more about Reclaiming Time at the State University of New York Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 29, 2023

Mathew Creighton's "Hidden Hate"

Mathew J. Creighton is an Associate Professor at University College Dublin. His interests range from methodological to philosophical with a sprinkling of sociology. He has published widely on the topic of immigration, intolerance, and deception. He currently coordinates the Horizon Europe project EqualStrength and thoroughly enjoys teaching a class on lying and deception. He was the editor-in-chief of the Irish Journal of Sociology for a bit and currently lives in a village with his wife, the ceramic artist Yasha Butler, and his son. It’s a long commute, but worth it – for now. His next project is a book with Routledge on deception titled The Lies that Bind Us.

Creighton applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book Hidden Hate: The Resilience of Xenophobia, and reported the following:
Unlike the 99th bottle of beer, the 99th page of hidden hate is neither the start nor the end of the book. Nestled in chapter 4, we get the tail-end of an overview of the Brexit campaign and a succinct underlining of the crux of the debate – sociocultural intolerance and political opportunism. The page covers some of the key themes of the work in that the disingenuity of material arguments against immigration are shown to facilitate an overt expression of xenophobia that is more concretely anchored in concerns about who the migrants are in terms of their country of origin, religious orientation, and implications for English national identity. The seeds of the broader argument emerge in the following assessment,
The key pillars of the Brexit debate, at least as articulated by proponents of the leave campaign, were twofold: political and sociocultural. The political issue was generally framed as an issue of border control. The points of contention targeted the discretion the United Kingdom had over EU and non-EU immigration. The latter was not a direct concern because EU member states retain discretion over immigration policy pertinent to newcomers from non-EU states; thus, the leave argument focused on the recent and potential experiences of EU enlargement.
Although I would have loved to be a big winner with the Page 99 Test, I am not. I fall solidly into the category of “wait-till-you-get-to-110”. Seriously, 99 is okay, but 110 is a nice one. Here is a taste,
The rise of populist parties…, linked by antipathy toward migration and … and support for national control of borders, reveals the paradox of the contemporary xenophobe. Changes in context (e.g., economic crises, strident political campaign rhetoric) shape how the stigma of intolerance is anticipated. This shift leads to changes in the strategy by which the xenophobe navigates the public and private arenas, which is a view quite different from one that sees the xenophobe as a fixed and observable social actor.
This is really the core of the insight all those years of survey experiments revealed – particularly the ones before and after Brexit in the UK. The power and tragedy of the book’s central argument is that there is far more evidence that people mask their intolerances strategically than actually change their mind. We are solidly strategic in our choices of expression and controversial topics like xenophobia are when we are at our most cunning. To put it in my own words,
This finding should not be interpreted as giving up. It remains true that the xenophobe is relevant and of concern even in contexts in which there is little acceptability of intolerance in the public domain. In a sense, a multilayered perspective is a validation of the experience of those who find direct measures of public opinion or soapbox-level political discourse disingenuous. Such experience doesn’t mean that the overt xenophobe is irrelevant, but the evidence provided here points to the importance of seeing overt intolerance as only one aspect of a much more complicated and situationally specific object of study. The key is to understand that there is no generalizable, stable, and objective view of the xenophobe. Instead, each layer, in some contexts, is the xenophobe. Taking this nuanced understanding of who the xenophobe is prevents counterproductive debates about determinants of intolerance—in some absolute sense—from becoming the focus of the conversation.
That insight was from – wait for it – page 185. It leaves us with a collective task that requires more than just seeing the world as it is. Once the evidence from all the experiments done throughout the book settle with the reader, we can (and should) turn to trying to understand how masked sentiment contributes to covert acts. This is a next frontier for those who study intolerance public sentiment. The book helps convince us that the stigma of intolerance shapes what we say, but that is just the start.
Learn more about Hidden Hate at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Thomas Pert's "The Palatine Family and the Thirty Years' War"

Thomas Pert is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at the University of Warwick.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Palatine Family and the Thirty Years' War: Experiences of Exile in Early Modern Europe, 1632-1648, and reported the following:
Page 99 drops the reader into the middle of a discussion of the financial resources of the ‘Palatine Family’, a ruling dynasty whose involvement in the opening events of the Thirty Years’ War saw them reduced from the highest rank of the aristocracy of the Holy Roman Empire to landless, penniless exiles. The page in particular examines how the dispossessed Elector Frederick V of the Palatinate and his wife Elizabeth (the daughter of King James VI & I of Scotland and England) were able to ‘cash in’ on their family connection to the British royal family to obtain much-needed money. Influential figures at the Stuart court and in the royal government were willing to provide loans and financial gifts and bequests to their monarch’s exiled kin. For example, the Archbishop of Canterbury George Abbot, bequeathed Elizabeth £100 in his will ‘to make a pretty cup of gold, in token of my dutiful respect and service to her princely dignity’. Page 99 ends with an assessment of how a royal status could act as security to allow exiled rulers in early modern Europe to obtain credit from merchants and tradesmen for the procurement of food and other essential items. This was often vital for dispossessed rulers who frequently faced cashflow problems, resulting in them frequently being unable to pay for their own subsistence.

Whilst not necessarily encapsulating the entire scope of the book, page 99 provides a valuable insight into the central themes of the overall work. The page is at the very centre of Chapter 2, titled ‘Cannon, Cash, and Kin: The Resources of an Exiled Dynasty’, which examines the military, financial, and dynastic capital available to the Palatine Family and other dispossessed rulers and houses in early modern Europe, such as Duke Charles IV of Lorraine, Marie de Medici, and the Stuart dynasty. In addition to determining the extent to which exiled rulers could access such forms of capital, the chapter assesses the usefulness of each in helping exiles recover their lost lands and titles.

More broadly, the emphasis of page 99 on the dependency of the Palatine Family on the support from the Stuart monarchs and their subjects reflects a thread that runs throughout the book. The military, financial, and diplomatic assistance that the Palatine Family received – or did not receive – from Elizabeth’s homeland not only directly impacted the actions that they could take in recovering their lost territories, but it also directly influenced the support provided by other countries. Indeed, a French ambassador reported in 1634 that some powers ‘openly suggested the abandonment of the Palatinate’ if ‘England, which, has such strong ties of obligation, cares nothing about it’.

The ever-changing military and political landscape of continental Europe during the Thirty Years’ War meant that the value of different types of ‘capital’ similarly shifted depending on circumstances. When Civil War erupted in the England in 1642, Elizabeth and Frederick’s son Charles Louis had to weigh his options between loyalty to his uncle King Charles I, and the prospect of obtaining vital financial resources from the king’s parliamentarian enemies. My book examines these difficult choices and the challenging circumstances which were largely typical of the experiences of royal and noble exiles in early modern Europe.
Learn more about The Palatine Family and the Thirty Years' War at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Robert Zatorre's "From Perception to Pleasure"

Robert Zatorre is Professor and Canada Research Chair at the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, From Perception to Pleasure: The Neuroscience of Music and Why We Love It, and reported the following:
I am using page 98 as page 99 has only a few lines on it. On page 98 the reader will find a summary of the content of Chapter 3. I organized the book so that every chapter has a roughly one-page summary, which I label the "Reprise" to give a musical allusion.

If readers happen onto this page, they would get a succinct account of the previous 33 pages, which deal with the brain circuits involved in perceiving and processing patterns of sound, including of course music. The neural mechanisms described in this chapter are referred to as "the ventral stream" because information flows from the auditory cortex towards regions located down and to the front, as opposed to other circuits described in other chapters. This particular system is essential to perceiving musical structures such as melodies, harmonies, and so forth, because it enables individual sounds to be concatened together in memory. Music (or speech for that matter) would make no sense if one could only retain one sound at a time—the relationships between sounds have to be determined and retained over a short time period, and this is one of the key roles of the ventral stream. Another essential feature is that the processing in the ventral stream enables predictions to be made about upcoming events based on past events. This predictive capacity is critical to perception because we do not simply respond to events as they appear, but rather, we anticipate what events will happen at a given moment based on what just happened, or what normally happens. In music this capacity is essential, as every musician knows, because one can play with these expectations to provide novelty, interest, and pleasure. When this system breaks down, it results in the phenomenon of amusia, also known as tone-deafness. People with amusia do not perceive the relationships between tones and hence music makes little sense to them. Brain scans show that this condition is associated with less well-organized connections in the ventral stream.

Chapter 3 is important in terms of the organization of the book, whose title of course is "From Perception to Pleasure" because this chapter is within Part I of the book, "Perception" where many different brain circuits are discussed that enable us to perceive and produce music. It contrasts with Part II of the book, "Pleasure" where I discuss the reward system of the brain which is responsible for pleasure, motivation, emotion, and much else. The central thesis of the book is that musical pleasure arises from the interaction between the processing streams responsible for perception with the deep brain structures responsible for reward processing. So, reading the content of page 98 would give the reader a very good idea of the type of content in Part I of the book, but it would not give a very good indication of what happens in Part II. It's really in Part II that the ideas come together to explain why we feel such strong pleasure and emotion from music. But to understand the content of Part II, it is necessary to understand the fundamental brain circuitry described in Part I.

In putting this book together, I had a choice between writing a straightforward academic book, or something more geared towards the general public. I leaned more towards the former, but it’s a bit of a hybrid; I wanted to make it reasonably readable by interested, nonspecialist readers without sacrificing content. For that to work, I decided to include a few anecdotes and some personal angles, along with the facts and figures. I hope it will prove accessible to an educated person who is looking for something more than pop science, and who wants a thorough explanation of how our brains are exquisitely evolved for making and enjoying music.
Learn more about From Perception to Pleasure at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Aimee Loiselle's "Beyond Norma Rae"

Aimee Loiselle is assistant professor of history at Central Connecticut State University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Beyond Norma Rae: How Puerto Rican and Southern White Women Fought for a Place in the American Working Class, and reported the following:
An illustration fills over half of page 99. It’s the June 1974 cover for Image, membership magazine of the New York metro-area PBS affiliate, WNET 13. A subtitle announces, “‘Woman Alive!’: A Portrait of Feminists in Action,” and the layout foregrounds a photograph of Gloria Steinem standing close to another white woman with long hair. The photograph is set on top of a used script on a film cannister labeled Woman Alive!, which highlights the many ways women contributed to the feminist documentary as participants, producers, writers, and editors. The caption under the illustration lets readers know the woman with Steinem is Crystal Lee.

The remainder of page 99 is a paragraph that summarizes the beginning of the Woman Alive! pilot episode. It starts, “The first segment follows a married couple in western Massachusetts who reversed gender roles after the wife took a job in the Everywoman Center at the University of Massachusetts, but the husband is ambivalent.” The text, however, just starts to describe why Crystal Lee is in the photograph: “The show transitions to the Crystal Lee segment via [Ms. staff members’] conversation, in which they discuss her as a ‘new’ blue-collar woman and not as one of many southern women and men who challenged mill owners and managers for decades.”

In the caption, I also discovered the first (and hopefully last) typo. Before I published Beyond Norma Rae, I used to wonder how such blips ended up in lovely finished books. Now I understand the quantity of material an author manages and the intricate steps and multiple files throughout the publication process, particularly regarding images. This was the last image for which I could track down the copyright holder, gain permission, receive a high-resolution digital file, and negotiate a license. For months, I had a placeholder in case WNET 13’s lawyers didn’t grant my license criteria, which arrived just before the manuscript went to copyediting. But I’m surprised the assistant managing editor, copyeditor, and I all missed this one: the magazine cover says June 1974, but the caption says 1975 – a reminder that humans and all they create have flaws.

Readers who jump to page 99 get an intriguing essence of Beyond Norma Rae. The combined illustration and text capture the book’s focus on the 1970s, women’s labor history, and popular culture, even if they say little about the overall argument. The single page is like a teeny spoonful of ice cream out of an extra-large container.

As a teaser, the page is effective. The illustration prompts people to ask, who is that woman with Steinem? But page 99 readers don’t learn that Crystal Lee Jordan Sutton was a North Carolina mill hand and member of Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA) who became the basis of a “Crystal Lee” screenplay, which became the blockbuster movie Norma Rae. But they see that she was a worker who received popular attention. The page also hints at my argument about the inadequacies of mainstream media in representing blue-collar women and longer histories of poor working people’s activisms.

For general readers, Beyond Norma Rae challenges any romanticization of the celebrated movie and Sally Field’s participation in it. And it tells a good story about a working-class woman standing up to Hollywood professionals and jamming their plans. For scholarly readers, the book brings together women’s labor history and cultural history with tools from history of capitalism (1) to analyze the larger context of manufacturing that led to the contested production of Norma Rae and (2) to understand the cultural work the movie did to reconstitute a narrow notion of the white American working class and individualist defiance. By employing a transnational framework and cross-disciplinary lens, it questions the centrality of white southern mill workers in labor histories, emphasizes the significance of migrating women of color in a long history of global supply chains, and interrogates how culture shapes neoliberal political economy.
Visit Aimee Loiselle's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 25, 2023

Thomas W. Simpson's "Trust: A Philosophical Study"

Tom Simpson is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, and a Senior Research Fellow at Wadham College. At the Blavatnik School he co-directs the Master of Public Policy, and directs the Military Leadership and Judgment Programme.

Simpson applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Trust: A Philosophical Study, and reported the following:
I particularly like page 99. I did that rare thing, of checking a citation, and discovered that an author who is often quoted in support of a specific idea actually thought something subtly different. In this case the author is a titan of 20th Century philosophy, Elizabeth Anscombe, and she is often quoted as saying that it is possible for a hearer to wrong a speaker if she, the hearer, does not believe what he, the speaker, says. This is a very thought-provoking and fertile idea. But I think it is probably false, and it turns out that Anscombe wasn’t sure that it’s correct either. On page 99 I show that her view is carefully qualified, in support of the position I advocate. The discussion on page 99 is, then, a microcosm of the problems of trust—we certainly want others to trust us, and may feel offended if we are not trusted, but it is not clear that we have any right so to feel. What matters, rather, is that we are trustworthy.”
Learn more about Trust: A Philosophical Study at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Jonathan H. Ebel's "From Dust They Came"

Jonathan H. Ebel is Professor in the Department of Religion at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and author of G.I. Messiahs: Soldiering, War, and American Civil Religion.

Ebel applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, From Dust They Came: Government Camps and the Religion of Reform in New Deal California, and reported the following:
From Dust They Came is a study of the religious dynamics in and around the migratory farm labor camps established by the federal government in California during the Great Depression. Each of its seven chapters focuses on a particular space in the camp and examines its role in the camp’s program of cultural and religious catechesis. The spaces include the gate, the office, the tent platform, the sanitary unit, the community center, the camp newspaper, and, once again, the gate. My argument is that these camps operated as missionary spaces for the conversion of white migrants to more modern ways of living in the world and interacting with the divine, as they also worked to protect migrants from the dehumanizing environment of industrialized agriculture in California.

Page 99 is a snapshot of the soul of the book. It falls in the middle of the chapter on the camp manager’s office, in a section that presents a close reading of an inspection report from the Arvin Camp in the summer of 1936. The author of the report, Herbert Mensing of the Resettlement Administration, is describing the process by which migrants who enter the camp are registered, counted, and given permits to live there. This process involved an extended interaction with the camp’s manager - - Thomas Collins at the time - - and, through him, with the New Deal bureaucratic structure of which the camps were a part. Mensing wrote,
Upon arrival at the camp each family is registered upon a form containing the following information - - name, number in party, date of arrival, race, origin, probable destination, previous occupation, type of automobile, relationship of others in the party to its head...
This might seem an odd source and even an odder subject for a book on the religious history of North America. But part of my point on page 99 and throughout the book is that religion, understood as a set of beliefs and meaning-making practices related to an understanding of truth, appears in surprising forms, surprising ways, surprising places if we take the time to look.
Learn more about From Dust They Came at the NYU Press wesbite.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Syed Ali and Margaret M. Chin's "The Peer Effect"

Syed Ali is Professor of Sociology at Long Island University-Brooklyn. He is the author of Dubai: Gilded Cage, co-author of Migration, Incorporation, and Change in an Interconnected World, and co-editor of The Contexts Reader.

Margaret M. Chin is Professor of Sociology at CUNY Hunter College and the Graduate Center. She is the author of the award-winning books Stuck: Why Asian Americans Don’t Reach the Top of the Corporate Ladder and Sewing Women: Immigrants and the New York City Garment Industry.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, The Peer Effect: How Your Peers Shape Who You Are and Who You Will Become, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Latino students at the school is a big deal. It is a big deal for Black and Latino students who will miss out on the benefits of going to this kind of school with these kinds of kids. And it is a big deal for the White and Asian American students who miss out on the benefits of being peers with Black and Latino students. The White and Asian American students we interviewed who graduated in the 1970s and 1980s commonly commented about how one of the most important parts of their Stuyvesant experience was being able to befriend Black and Latino peers, and the ways that made them better, and these friendships were transformative and long-lasting. That is now largely a thing of the past.
* * *
Most of the upper-middle-class White kids who went to Stuyvesant were going to be fine, and would likely come out on top in life wherever they went to school. From Manhattan, from Brooklyn’s Park Slope and Queens’s Forest Hills and the Bronx’s Riverdale, they had plenty of financial and cultural resources. Their parents were high achievers with educational cachet and retirement funds. The kids went to “feeder” middle schools, assuming they would get into Stuyvesant or whichever elite private school they selected—and they were not wrong. But where Stuyvesant really shone through, where it was at its absolute best, was in the lives of students from the outer boroughs, children of immigrants, Black and Latino students, and poor kids. They went from being the “weirdos,” the odd ones out in their middle schools, from being raised among “provincial” views and tastes, to gathering all kinds of new social and cultural capital, all kinds of belonging. They suddenly had kids around them who shared their interests and who could tell them where and how to further those interests. Take a peer-driven culture of achievement, add structured independence, and start transferring cultural capital, and, well, you have made a mobility machine. Better yet, you have made a durable mobility machine. It has been working for over one hundred years. Kids from humble and racially diverse backgrounds and elite families alike have cycled through Stuyves-
Page 99 actually lands on the conclusion to a chapter and summarizes pretty well how peers and peer cultures work and affect us—so yeah, it gets pretty much to the heart of the book. It's also a really good summary of what kids learn from each other and how, and it shows why integrated schools are a boon for poor and minority kids, and also for privileged White kids, and it also implicitly shows why segregated schools are so harmful for their students.

The book more broadly is about how our behavior is shaped directly by peers (we want to be like them) and indirectly by peer cultures, which define social norms for the group, and rewards and punishments for doing things correctly or wrongly. The word "group" is key here. When we're part of bounded peer groups -- day care, high school, offices, retirement communities -- we learn and abide by (or chafe at) their ways. The book looks at a range of situations like this, from schools, to offices, to cops. It also looks at long-term effects of peer influences from Stuyvesant High School, a prestigious public high school in Manhattan. There the peer culture was so strong that the effects most people reported lasted well into adulthood. So if you want to know why people act the way they do and turn out the ways they turn out, take a good look at who their peers are.   
Learn more about The Peer Effect at the NYU Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 22, 2023

Kim Tolley's "Vaccine Wars"

Kim Tolley is a historian of education and professor emerita at Notre Dame de Namur University. She is the author of The Science Education of American Girls: A Historical Perspective and Heading South to Teach: The World of Susan Nye Hutchison, 1815-1845. She currently serves as managing editor of History of Education Quarterly, published by Cambridge University Press.

Tolley applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Vaccine Wars: The Two-Hundred-Year Fight for School Vaccinations, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book is from Chapter 3, “Taking Schools to Court: The Legal Battles.” If you open to this page, you’ll find the following passage:
In 1908, the public school district in Edgewood, Pennsylvania, refused to accept an altered certificate of vaccination presented by eight-year-old Dorothy M. Lee. Dr. W. R. Stephens, a homeopathic physician who served on the Wilkinsburg board of health, had given Dorothy an oral dose of vaccine matter. Pennsylvania’s official vaccination certificates required doctors to inoculate patients on an arm and confirm that they had observed a “resulting sore” on that arm several days after the procedure. The sore, which eventually turned into a small scar, indicated the vaccination had been effective. But oral doses produced no external sores or other visible signs on the body. Seeking to circumvent the requirement, when he signed Dorothy’s certificate, Stephens crossed out the words “I find a resultant sore” so the certificate simply stated, “I find a result, which in my opinion means a successful vaccination.” However, school authorities refused to accept the altered certificate, and when they excluded Dorothy from school, her father sued.
The Page 99 Test works well for my book, because this passage illustrates one of the many controversies over school vaccination laws that have persisted over time. Protests and lawsuits over school vaccination are nothing new in US history. Dorothy Lee’s doctor opposed traditional vaccination because he believed in alternative medicine. Others opposed vaccines for religious reasons. Some people believed vaccines were ineffective and unsafe. And school leaders sometimes opposed vaccine policies for fear of sparking parent protests, or because they feared the policies would lead parents to pull their children out of school.

My book focuses on three overarching questions: Throughout history, how have Americans understood the role of schools in the transmission and prevention of contagious disease? How have schools balanced their duty to educate with their responsibility to protect children from illness? Why does opposition to vaccination persist?

Vaccine Wars tells the history of efforts to achieve and maintain immunity in schools through vaccination. The story begins in 1800, with the introduction of the smallpox vaccine and an era of widespread public support for vaccination. It ends with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, a year that saw a dramatic decline in the routine childhood vaccinations required for school and a growing partisan divide over public health mandates to protect against the coronavirus. The book’s chapters are divided into two parts to reflect changing trends in vaccine opposition. Those in part I analyze a long shift, from broad support of vaccination against smallpox in the early nineteenth century to organized opposition in the early twentieth century. With the polio era serving as the pivot point, the chapters in part II analyze a similar shift from broad acceptance of school vaccination policy in the mid-twentieth century to increasing criticism of vaccines in the 1970s and 1980s, followed by a new era of organized opposition in the 1990s. The book’s conclusion outlines the ways America’s response to the campaign against COVID-19 has been shaped by this history.
Learn more about Vaccine Wars at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 21, 2023

David Sterling Brown's "Shakespeare's White Others"

David Sterling Brown is an award-winning, tenured Associate Professor of English at Trinity College (Hartford, CT), his undergrad alma mater. In 2021, he received a prestigious Mellon/ACLS Scholars and Society Fellowship that facilitated his yearlong residency with New York Times bestselling author Claudia Rankine’s The Racial Imaginary Institute, of which he remains a full-time Curatorial Team member. In Fall 2023, Brown launched a virtual-reality art gallery and exhibition—“Visualizing Race Virtually”—that is an interactive, immersive, direct visual complement to his new book, Shakespeare’s White Others. Currently, Brown is working on a few new research projects, including some shorter essays and his second book titled Hood Pedagogy. To date, he has published numerous essays and given myriad talks on Shakespeare, race, mental health and more.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to Shakespeare’s White Others and reported the following:
Upon turning to page 99 in Shakespeare’s White Others, readers will find themselves right in the middle of my book, in Chapter 3: “On the Other Hand: The White(ned) Woman in Antony and Cleopatra.” While page 99 offers useful insight into my book’s critically engaged concerns—racial whiteness, anti-Blackness, early modern English conduct, “white self-fashioning,” gender dynamics and tension, theatrical devices and intertextual connections, for example—page 99 does not enable readers to see how Chapter 3, and the book as a whole, offers so much more, especially as it pertains to the critical theories, the “white other” and “intraracial color-line,” that I deploy so the broad audience I dreamed of reaching can re(read) Shakespeare and reflect on how racial whiteness operates globally with or without the presence of Blackness.

In Shakespeare’s White Others, I define the white other as a covert tool for maintaining what bell hooks describes in Black Looks: Race and Representation as “the dominator imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchal culture.” The white other contrasts with idealized hegemonic whiteness; and reinforces popular and evolving stereotypes about racial Blackness. More significantly, the white other indicates how attitudes toward whiteness are mediated through Blackness and black images. Whenever necessary, in order to reinforce the goodness and supremacy of hegemonic whiteness, images of blackness appear as distant from whiteness through the white other construct. Such mediation creates racialized boundaries between white people along lines of superiority/inferiority, ingroup/outgroup—familiar social and psychological dichotomies of inclusion and exclusion that generate racialized harm. Building on sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois’ interracial “color-line” theory, the intraracial color-line delineates distinctions among early modern English white people that rely on the devaluing of somatically similar white people, the white others, who violate the dominant culture’s norms.

Through a full exploration of Shakespeare’s White Others, readers will discover how my book makes current the centuries-old lessons embedded in Shakespearean drama. Moreover, readers will sit with an accessible and rich critical-personal-experiential study that is deeply invested in raising awareness about various subjects and socio-political issues that impact us all: trauma, domestic violence, gun violence, gentrification, mental health, sexual violence, intimate partner violence, Black Lives Matter, family dynamics, misogynoir, identity, race(ism), sexism, stereotypes, English Black history, Black feminism, policing (of whiteness, of self, of Blackness), colonialism, colorism, enslavement, anti-Black state violence, child abuse, domesticity, Tupac (“Changes” song), Jewishness, psycho-sexual violence, lynching, art, interracial relationships, pedagogy, PTSD, addiction, borderline personality disorder, “racecraft,” Get Out (Jordan Peele), tragedy, white privilege, white supremacy, Michael Jackson (“Black or White” song), racial profiling and more.
Visit David Sterling Brown's website, and check out the virtual-reality art gallery exhibition that offers visitors an immersive, interactive experience that allows them to see the book’s key concepts in action through art.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Eline van Ommen's "Nicaragua Must Survive"

Eline van Ommen is Lecturer in Contemporary History at the University of Leeds.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Nicaragua Must Survive: Sandinista Revolutionary Diplomacy in the Global Cold War, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Nicaragua Must Survive brings us to the middle of chapter 3. It discusses how Western European solidarity activists and the Nicaraguan revolutionaries of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) responded to the election of the anticommunist hardliner Ronald Reagan, who became president of the United States in 1981. The Sandinistas – as the Nicaraguan revolutionaries were called – realized that Reagan would try to undermine their government and encouraged Western European activists to build an anti-intervention movement. Rather than focusing on the Sandinista Revolution’s domestic accomplishments, as the solidarity committees had done since the revolution’s triumph on 19 July 1979, they would now focus on Reagan’s foreign policy and the long history of U.S. imperialism in Central America. This also meant that Nicaragua solidarity groups needed to collaborate more closely with groups advocating for revolution and social justice in El Salvador and Guatemala. To make Western European audiences and politicians aware of the danger of U.S. military interference, the activists aimed to unite all individual Central America committees into a transnational anti-intervention network.

The second half of page 99 analyzes the Sandinista decision to collaborate with the Salvadoran solidarity movement in more depth. It argues that:
To some extent, the decision to join forces with other Central America committees was motivated by Sandinista ambivalence about the growing strength of the El Salvador movement in Western Europe. Even though the FSLN and FMLN were allies in the Central American context, as we have seen above, there was also an element of rivalry to their relationship since the two revolutionary organizations competed for public recognition and sympathy in the international arena. At a time when the Salvadoran civil war received extensive media coverage, the FSLN and its allies struggled to hold the attention of Western European audiences.
Indeed, the page continues, Sndinista representative Raúl Guerra specifically told solidarity activists not to switch allegiance to other committees, arguing that the best way to assist national liberation movements was by defending and publishing information about the Nicaraguan Revolution.

The Page 99 Test works quite well for Nicaragua Must Survive. One of the book’s main objectives is to show that the revolutionary diplomacy of the Sandinistas targeted not just government officials but also non-state actors, most notably solidarity activists. The page clearly demonstrates that transnational activists were crucial for the implementation and development of the Sandinistas’ revolutionary diplomacy. The page also highlights some of the difficulties that the Nicaraguans encountered in Western Europe, most notably how difficult it was to keep audiences interested in and optimistic about the revolution. One West German activist, for example, is quoted saying that it was simply more exciting to support a guerrilla movement still “fighting for freedom” than a revolutionary group already in power. This quotation also hints at some of the tensions that existed between the FSLN and the solidarity activists, as the latter were sometimes more concerned with their own experience and participation in a revolutionary process that was ultimately not their own, than with the actual concerns and needs of the Nicaraguan people.

Yet, based on page 99 alone, the reader would also get the impression that the book is only about solidarity activism, and that is not the case. Other sections of the book deal with the Sandinistas’ outreach to politicians and government leaders, the situation in Nicaragua itself, and the formulation of a distinct Western European foreign policy towards Central America. Moreover, page 99 does not explain why the Sandinistas thought it was worth reaching out to Western Europeans in the first place. This is an important aspect of Nicaragua Must Survive, as the Nicaraguan revolutionaries believed that Western European involvement in Central America would undermine the regional hegemony of the United States, thereby altering the Inter-American power balance in the FSLN’s favor. Page 99 thus shows how creative and ambitious the Sandinistas revolutionary diplomacy was, but to get a better sense of its rationale and implications for the Global Cold War, the reader would need to read the rest of the book, too.
Learn more about Nicaragua Must Survive at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Keira V. Williams's "Why Any Woman"

Keira V. Williams is a historian at Queen’s University Belfast who studies gender and race in the U.S. South. This is essentially a selfish endeavor, as she was born in and came of age in the South and she has been trying to make sense of it ever since. The research for her latest book, Why Any Woman: Feminism and Popular Culture in the Late Twentieth-Century South, started with the self-centered question of how, against great odds, she became a baby feminist during the Reagan era in the region that gave birth to the modern Right. The answer she found was popular culture.

Williams applied the “Page 99 Test” to Why Any Woman, and reported the following:
The first time I heard the word “feminist” was on the weekly sitcom Designing Women. Page 99 is in the middle of Chapter 3, which charts the New South, neoliberal feminist ideology of this show. Page 99 offers an analysis of one of the most controversial episodes of the show on which the four main characters watch the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991. Law professor Anita Hill’s detailed testimony in the hearings regarding Thomas’s history of sexual harassment did not tank his nomination, but it did spark an unprecedented public discussion that helped to bring about “third-wave” feminism.

Designing Women joined this conversation. On ”The Strange Case of Clarence and Anita,” Mary Jo Shively, one of the titular characters, delivers this monologue:
Oh, come on…The polls say too that most women aren’t feminists. But if you ask women about individual feminist issues, the majority of them are for them. They just don’t want to call themselves feminist because George Bush and Phyllis Schlafly want to make people believe that feminists are all these big-mouthed, bleeding heart, man-hating women who don’t shave their legs.... If believing in equal pay and mandated childcare make me a feminist, then I am damn proud to be one!
The Page 99 Test works very well in this instance, because these scenes from Designing Women get at the heart of how the show's "belles with briefcases" navigated gender politics in an inhospitable region and era. Mary Jo’s textbook “second-wave” feminism targeted the early 1990s “I’m not a feminist, but…” crowd, and the show’s take on the Thomas hearings was classic white feminism: Mary Jo and friends are the authoritative voices who position sexual harassment as the sole issue in the hearings, thus completely eclipsing discussions of the racial dynamics of Hill’s experiences. Page 99 gives readers a taste one of the many forms of complicated, confusing, and sometimes contradictory southern feminisms on offer by popular culture in the late twentieth century.
Learn more about Why Any Woman at the University of Georgia Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 18, 2023

Russell Blackford's "How We Became Post-Liberal"

Russell Blackford is a philosopher, legal scholar, literary critic based at the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. He is the author of Freedom of Religion and the Secular State (2012), Humanity Enhanced (2014), The Mystery of Moral Authority (2016), Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination (2017), The Tyranny of Opinion: Conformity and the Future of Liberalism (2019), and At the Dawn of a Great Transition: The Question of Radical Enhancement (2021). In 2014, he was inducted as a Laureate of the International Academy of Humanism.

Blackford applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, How We Became Post-Liberal: The Rise and Fall of Toleration, and reported the following:
How We Became Post-Liberal: The Rise and Fall of Toleration is about the evolution and seeming fall of liberalism in its traditional sense: a political tendency emphasizing individual liberty and especially freedom of speech. Page 99 begins an analysis of John Stuart Mill’s classic defence of free thought and discussion in his famous book On Liberty, first published in 1859. As I explain there, Mill saw value in the expression of diverse opinions – whether they turned out to be true or false – as a social resource for current generations and for posterity.

Mill’s argument was a crucial turning point in the history of liberalism, so my account of it is an equally crucial turning point in How We Became Post-Liberal. Readers of this one page wouldn’t be able to grasp my total thesis, but they’d get a good idea of the issues at stake and my style of thinking and writing about them. In all, the Page 99 Test works fairly well.

How We Became Post-Liberal goes beyond describing liberal values and principles, such as we’d find in Mill’s writings. It traces the history of liberal thought and its antecedents (going back to ancient history), and how it fell out of fashion in recent decades and is now attacked from all sides.

On the political Left, and among large swaths of the highly educated classes, including much of academia, “quality” journalism, and the legal profession, commitment to liberal values and principles is now superseded by a kind of political religion based around group identities. This provides something of a comprehensive guide to how we can live our lives and understand the world. Like other political religions, it tends to be highly intolerant of dissent.

But there’s also illiberal thinking on the political Right, which should not be surprising. Traditionally, opposition to liberal ideas came from the institutions of the Right (the Church, the autocratic state, defenders of Christian morals, etc.).

How We Became Post-Liberal explains how we reached our current predicament where, for example, no major political party in what we call the Western liberal democracies is strongly committed to liberal ideas. It is both a prequel (digging deeper into history) and a sequel (developing the ideas further and updating developments) to my earlier book The Tyranny of Opinion: Conformity and the Future of Liberalism. The two books complement each other, but they can each be read independently.

One difference is that I’ve grown more pessimistic. I don’t think it will be easy to escape our illiberal predicament, and I don’t have a magic bullet to offer. But a good start is to understand how the situation came about, and to see how it’s a product of historical contingencies.

It didn’t have to be this way. Even that much is a liberating thought.
Learn more about How We Became Post-Liberal at the Bloomsbury Academic website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Luke Griffith's "Unraveling the Gray Area Problem"

Luke Griffith is Professor of History and Government at New Mexico Junior College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Unraveling the Gray Area Problem: The United States and the INF Treaty, and reported the following:
My manuscript, Unraveling the Gray Area Problem: The United States and the INF Treaty, passes the Page 99 Test. Page 99 establishes a domestic and international context for the Reagan administration’s approach to the rapid buildup of Soviet SS-20 ground-based intermediate-range missiles.

Page 99 reveals several unique themes of my study about the United States and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty of December 1987.

Page 99 shows how Democrats in Congress and peace activists in the US nuclear freeze movement complicated American theater nuclear statecraft in the early 1980s. For instance, Congressman Ronald Dellums (D-CA) proposed to cancel funding for the Pershing II missile, a system that President Ronald Reagan planned to station in Europe.

In addition, page 99 contains fresh evidence about the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) story—my exclusive interviews with former US policymakers. For example, I included a novel anecdote from Ambassador Richard Burt, who remembered how peace protests in West Germany had a profound impact on Reagan’s thinking about nuclear weapons. Shocked to see protestors in Bonn, Reagan asked Burt, “‘what are they doing?” Burt replied: “Mr. President, they are protesting you.” “‘He was a guy who made a living…by being a popular, public figure,” Burt recalled, “so that had an impact. The anti-nuclear movement dovetailed with his own growing thoughts about nuclear weapons.”
Learn more about Unraveling the Gray Area Problem at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Elizabeth Eva Leach's "Medieval Sex Lives"

Elizabeth Eva Leach is Professor of Music at the University of Oxford. She is the author of Sung Birds and Guillaume de Machaut.

Leach applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Medieval Sex Lives: The Sounds of Courtly Intimacy on the Francophone Borders, and reported the following:
Turning to page 99 of my book you will find yourself in the middle of a discussion of the Marian songs that are included within the subsection of “grands chants” (high style songs) in the fourteenth-century song manuscript that is the book’s focus—Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 308. The point being set up on the page is about the interpenetration of sacred and secular discourses in medieval song, something the page established via earlier scholarship by Daniel E. O’Sullivan, Sarah Kay, Sylvia Huot, David J. Rothenberg, and Barbara Newman. In particular, the page situates this sacred/secular interchange within the practice of song contrafacture on the one hand (the provision of a new text for an existing song melody) and motet polytextuality on the other (i.e. the singing of different texts simultaneously in a polyphonic musical piece that is performed by two or more singers singing different melodies).

Page 99 only gives a very partial sense of what this book is about. It is not atypical in some ways in being quite heavily referenced (8 footnotes) and solidly dependent on earlier scholarship, but I have to admit to being disappointed that, given the book’s overall title, this page is somewhat tame because it is only the necessary set-up for one of my more provocative arguments, which is that the lexis of Marian song is not only about sublimated sexuality but might (also, or alternatively) offer some listeners a form of what Ela Przybylo has termed “asexual erotics”. To get to that, you’ll have to turn the page.

Asexuality is really only mentioned in this chapter and is different in many ways from the other kinds of sexuality and sexual practices that the book finds lurking in medieval courtly songs. These much more often involve paraphilias and kinky scenarios, which have been minimized, moralized, or dismissed as humour, but which I think it might be salutary to take seriously.
Learn more about Medieval Sex Lives at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 15, 2023

W. Jeffrey Tatum's "A Noble Ruin"

W. Jeffrey Tatum is Professor of Classics at Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand). He is the author of Always I Am Caesar, translator of Quintus Cicero's A Brief Handbook on Canvassing for Office, and co-translator of Plutarch's The Rise of Rome.

Tatum applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Noble Ruin: Mark Antony, Civil War, and the Collapse of the Roman Republic, and reported the following:
On page 99 I wrap up a controversial, I think engaging phase of Antony’s career (public life dogged by financial troubles and family troubles), but none of that here: it’s the happy resolution. Then it’s Antony elevated to the consulship by Caesar, which was exciting from him because it was exceptional, but the exceptional bits involve a few technicalities, so it’s a bit wonkish.

The content is vital and the style is (I hope) clear enough and engaging enough. But no purple patches here. In that sense, maybe it does give a good (goodish?) idea of the work as a whole.

A biography of this kind has to include a bit of technical explication in its narrative of important events in a society different from the one most of us live in. For that reason, not a few pages of A Noble Ruin will read like page 99. Looking at this page, I believe the wonky bits are painless and underline the historical importance of a moment which could come across as more straightforward than it really is. At the same time, much of what happens in Antony’s life is more colourful that what one encounters here, which at least raises the question of what should count more in a biography: the sensational bits or the rest?
Learn more about A Noble Ruin at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Barbara D. Savage's "Merze Tate"

Barbara D. Savage is Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought in the Department of Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her work includes Your Spirits Walk Beside Us, winner of the 2012 Grawemeyer Prize in Religion.

Savage applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Merze Tate: The Global Odyssey of a Black Woman Scholar, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Writing in 1943, Tate compares Nazism abroad with racism in the federal government and segregation in the military. She expresses her wish that the end of World War II usher in a “new global order with freedom guaranteed for all and an end to vast empires.” Arguing “that a return to pre-World War II status quo would not satisfy since so many soldiers of color had served in the military,” she lamented that as a professor at Howard University, she had worked to “help prepare the ‘best and brightest’ of her race for the potentially fatal dangers and disruptions of military service.”

After serving in a temporary faculty position at Howard for four years, Tate in 1946 finally “became a professor of history, at long last garnering the respect and academic freedom that came with that distinction, then an absolute rarity for women. She positioned herself as a diplomatic historian of international relations, a new field she conceptualized as broadly multidisciplinary. A trailblazer in this regard, she saw a reliance on many disciplines as essential to understanding global politics. This seemed especially important at a time when the interrelatedness of the world in which technological innovations in aviation and communications were shrinking the distance and space between economics and politics.”
Surprisingly, page 99 captures several important aspects of Tate’s life and her work in what she called a “race and sex discriminating” world. I had been skeptical about the Page 99 Test's application to a biography but it works.

First, it highlights her deep commitment to teaching and supporting her students, especially during a time of global war when as she feared, for good reason, that some of them would be killed or seriously wounded, as was the case. The complicated nature of black patriotism is also present – men and women serving in a military that continued to segregate and discriminate; that service was hoped once again to be a gateway to their full recognition as American citizens. As a 16 year old, Tate had made the same argument in an oratorical contest in the middle of World War I.

Second, this page captures one trailblazing moment in a life full of “firsts,” as the challenge of having to wait patiently (despite her degrees from Oxford and Harvard) for the opportunity to work as a professor at a time when women and black women in particular were excluded from that career. None of those achievements came easily and this excerpt is another reminder of that.

Finally, it also provides a glimpse of recurring arguments in her scholarship – anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism, and a commitment to end the political and economic exploitation of the “darker peoples of the world” whether in India, Asia, the Pacific, or Africa.

The only theme it misses is that Tate was an intrepid solo global traveler, an identity central to both her life and her work. But alas WWII blocked international travel despite her best efforts; but in 1950, she won an early Fulbright fellowship and lived in India for a year, traveling within and throughout Asia and the Pacific.
Learn more about Merze Tate at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Danell Jones's "The Girl Prince"

Danell Jones is a writer and scholar with a Ph.D. in literature from Columbia University and the author of The Virginia Woolf Writers Workshop; the poetry collection Desert Elegy; and An African in Imperial London, which won the High Plains Book Award for Nonfiction.

Jones applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Girl Prince: Virginia Woolf, Race and the Dreadnought Hoax, and reported the following:
A reader opening The Girl Prince at page 99 will find herself immersed in the Great Naval Review on the Thames: a 1909 extravaganza orchestrated to whip up enthusiasm for all things Royal Navy. This intoxicating spectacle of entertainment, pageantry, and technology ran for a full week and drew massive crowds from Westminster to Southend, wherever the mighty vessels were anchored.

Disturbingly, Black mariners were invisible in the news coverage of the Review although they had been serving the Royal Navy for hundreds of years. Since the seventeenth century, men—and sometimes even women—had worked a variety of jobs on Navy vessels as pilots, cooks, servants, or translators. That changed with the rise of pseudo-scientific ideas of race in the nineteenth century that classified people of African descent as inferior. Such ideas meant Black sailors were relegated to the grunt work of hauling and shoveling coal in the cramped, scorching engine rooms of steamships.

During the 1909 Naval Review on the Thames, the ship in the place of honor at the front of the fleet, the ship whose name every man, woman, and child knew as well as their own, was the H.M.S. Dreadnought.
For the entire week, the Dreadnought teemed with visitors. Ordinary citizens lucky enough to get aboard eagerly inspected its innovative turbine engines, gawked at the sailors’ hammocks in their sleeping quarters, inhaled the scent of bread wafting from its bakery, and ogled the twelve-inch guns. The smooth gray decks, it turned out, provided the perfect surface for roller skating, and the sailors enjoyed showing off their mastery of the latest popular craze. As the Commander-in-Chief’s flag ship, the Dreadnought offered fewer visiting hours than the other vessels, but when it was open, it hosted a never-ending stream of guests.
If people want to understand the significance of the Dreadnought Hoax, they must keep in mind that just seven months after this dazzling display of naval power on the Thames, Virginia Stephen (the 28-year-old aspiring writer was not yet Virginia Woolf) and her friends masqueraded as African princes and conned their way on board the famous ship. When they did so, they were not just playing a practical joke, they were stepping onto an international stage.

Page 99 provides a tantalizing glimpse of The Girl Prince. Although Virginia Woolf doesn’t appear on this page, it nevertheless creates a rich portrait of her world and captures the spirit of the book by considering Africans and Black Britons as part of the larger life story of the famous writer. In The Girl Prince, I explain how photographs taken by Woolf’s great aunt Julia Margaret Cameron connect Woolf both to the tragic life of an Abyssinian prince who was ripped from his homeland and brought to England as well as to a Jamaican swindler who impersonated African royalty and became a folk hero. Readers may be surprised to learn that Woolf had African neighbors in Bloomsbury, some of whom would go on to play crucial roles in the dismantling of empire. And it was Jamaican journalist and playwright Una Marson, who would rewrite the Dreadnought stunt for an anti-imperialist, anti-racist comedy. Woolf may have lived in an almost exclusively white social circle, yet Black lives edged and echoed her own, and whether she acknowledged them or not, they contributed to the rich fabric of British life and culture. One of the main points of The Girl Prince is that the story of the hoax is inseparable from talking about the lives of Black people in Britain.
Visit Danell Jones's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Julia Jorati's "Slavery and Race"

Julia Jorati is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She specializes in early modern philosophy with a particular focus on metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and ethics. In addition to numerous articles about Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and several other early modern philosophers, she is the author of Leibniz on Causation and Agency and the editor of Powers: A History.

Jorati applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Slavery and Race: Philosophical Debates in the Eighteenth Century, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the first page of chapter two, which focuses on Scottish debates about slavery and race in the eighteenth century. The page introduces readers to David Spens, an enslaved Black man who had been brought to Scotland by his enslaver and who contended in a court case in 1770 that his continued enslavement was illegal. Spens’s main argument was that his conversion to Christianity should have made him free. Here are his words, as recorded in court documents:
I David Spens formerly called Black Tom late slave to Dr. David Dalrymple of Lindifferen hereby intimate to you the said Dr. Dalrymple that being formerly an heathen slave to you and of consequence then at your disposal but being now instructed in the Christian Religion I have embraced the same . . . and of consequence I am now by the Christian Religion Liberate and set at freedom from my old yoke, bondage, and slavery.
The notion that enslaved people gain freedom if they convert to Christianity was controversial during this period, but Spens was not the only one who used it to argue for the right to freedom. Whether the Scottish court agreed with this argument is unclear because Spens’s enslaver died later that year, before a formal judgment was reached, and Spens became free as a result.

In some ways, this page is an accurate reflection of the book overall, which aims to explore the philosophical ideas employed in eighteenth-century debates about slavery. Spens is one of many authors whose arguments I discuss in the book. In other respects, however, the page about Spens is an outlier: the legal argument that freedom is a consequence of converting to Christianity is only of marginal importance to the book. After all, the book centers on the role that race—rather than religion—plays in debates about slavery. In particular, the book traces various versions of, and responses to, the racist proslavery argument that Black people are naturally destined for slavery based on allegedly inferior natural capacities. According to this argument, being Black means being a natural slave, or being naturally suited only for enslavement. This argument was central to eighteenth-century debates about slavery and we can learn a lot about the history or race and racism by scrutinizing the ways in which authors either defended or attacked it. While the book also mentions other proslavery and antislavery arguments, the idea of natural slavery is its focus.
Learn more about Slavery and Race at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 11, 2023

Alex Benson's "Sound-Blind"

Alex Benson is an associate professor of literature at Bard College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Sound-Blind: American Literature and the Politics of Transcription, and reported the following:
Page 99 drops us into a discussion of an obscure 1886 study of the human stride—particularly in some of its “afflicted” forms—by physician Georges Gilles de la Tourette. When a brief summary of the study went out on the newswire and was printed in dozens of American newspapers, there was no mention of Gilles de la Tourette’s interest in neurological disorders. Instead, the summary underscored the novelty of his basic method: measuring the average forms of a behavior, walking, almost never given any thought. Having discussed this theme in the reception of an obscure medical history, page 99 then explains how it connects to the chapter’s larger questions about ability, race, and rhythm.

Even for a reader who starts on page 1, that explanation offers some necessary orientation, since this chapter, “Gatsby’s Tattoo,” isn’t about gait analysis. Nor is the book as a whole about medical history. So the Page 99 Test may paint a slightly skewed picture of the texts and genres I mostly write about. Yet it does give a good sense of the moves the book likes to make. Page 99 touches on questions about how to represent a nonverbal event in text. It addresses the fraught concept of the “normal” body, a concept that bridges the politics of ability and ethnicity. And, following the walking study’s print trajectory across academic and popular contexts, it suggests the kind of archival methods I use to reconstruct histories of texts in their composition and circulation.

Most importantly, the page begins to indicate how the idea of transcription (the book’s real keyword) operates in the larger argument. At issue in the story of Gilles de la Tourette’s study is, first, how one can take the multisensory activity of a human stride and make it something graphic, textual, and interpretable. And then there’s the question of how, and with what political meanings, this representation gets mediated on a wider scale. The experiment I’m carrying out in Sound-Blind involves reading American literature across similar scales of transcription—thinking about the smallest graphic and sonic details of literary expression as articulated within and against large frameworks of settler-colonial power in which the very notion of textuality takes on a charged role. Drawn mostly from the late 19th and early 20th centuries (when “sound-blindness,” a term for certain auditory processing impairments, entered the lexicon of cultural theory), my case studies include a cattle brand printed in a short story, a poem recited before a statue of Sequoyah, an anecdote about Helen Keller receiving a delivery, and a poem that W. E. B. Du Bois decided not to write—along with The Great Gatsby and a forgotten study of how people walk.
Visit Alex Benson's website, and learn more about Sound-Blind at The University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken's "The Incorrigibles"

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken is an associate director for research at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. He is also an adjunct professor of history at Oklahoma State University.

Marcattilio-McCracken applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Incorrigibles: Eugenics and Sterilization in the Kansas Industrial School for Girls, and reported the following:
As much as I was hoping otherwise for the sake of some fun, page 99 of The Incorrigibles actually does a decent job of capturing the spirit and themes of the book. At its heart, The Incorrigibles is about how the ideas behind the early 20th-century eugenics movement in Kansas manifested in the form of forced sterilization regimes in, among other places, a juvenile reform school for young girls. Coming in the fourth chapter by page 99, we’ve by now shrunk our lens to its narrowest point in order to look at the sixteen-month window - September 1935 to June 1936 - when more than half of the girls at the school were sterilized by the superintendent.

The page gets to the heart of the question the book asks: Why were these girls sterilized? Should we believe Superintendent Lula Coyner and her Board, who said it was because they were so amoral, promiscuous, and socially undesirable that it was in the name of the greater good? Or the girls, who said they were being sterilized as punishment for acting out and as part of a campaign of terror by school leadership?

Chapter 4 runs through the gamut of scenarios – from the categories named in the state sterilization law, to the common justifications by eugenicists in other states, to the punitive scheme explained by the girls themselves. What does it find? Page 99 gives us a telling glimpse:
The Kallikak’s of Kansas study seventeen years earlier outlined the remaining “serious physical or family handicaps” Coyner might have been thinking of to qualify girls for sterilization, lest they be passed on to future generations: feeblemindedness, alcoholism, incest, interracial marriage, producing illegitimate children, degenerate parents, or a family history of pauperism are all mentioned in the 1918 report. Setting aside the shaky scientific ground on which many of these vague categories stood, this represents well the broad categories of people pursued by sterilization laws and eugenics activists elsewhere across the country. Alcoholism and family histories of degeneracy or pauperism are the least precise charges here in addition to being perhaps the most cited in the history of eugenics, from the first wave of eugenic family studies in the 1870s, to the Fitter Family contests in the 1910s, to the long monographs written by adherents of the movement through the 1920s. But as was found time and again, proving a contemporary genetic basis for degeneracy and pauperism was difficult, despite repeated attempts.

Agnes Kelley’s inmate history provides a good example of the qualitative evidence eugenicists would point to: it says that her mother and father and older sister all had “moral reputations,” that the mother had spent time at Lansing, that the mother and father were separated but not divorced, and that the family had eight children and were on relief. Thankfully, Agnes was lucky enough to be admitted in October of 1937, after the sterilization episode had passed.

Of the demographic data collected about arrivals, a parental history of intemperance remains the one category we cannot rule out. This was another example of something borrowed from H.H. Goddard and the project of measuring intelligence and constructing and defining feeblemindedness. Lela Zenderland writes in Measuring Minds that for eugenicists “chronic drinking was simply another consequence of diminished intellectual capacity,” and they were quick to assert that the condition was a hereditary one. Nine of the girls in the 1935 cohort answered yes to the question of whether they had a parent who was “intemperate,” with seven listing their fathers, one listing her mother, and one who cited both. All of the latter were sterilized. Lest we put too much weight on this one index, this accounts for just fifteen percent of those who were sterilized; fifty-one girls told GIS staff that neither parent had been intemperate, yet were nevertheless operated upon.

That those who were sterilized belong in the remaining categories above is a far less persuasive assertion. Of incest, neither the 1935 cohort inmate histories nor any of the other institutional data record no evidence of girls who were victims of abuse, though we know from the PWTC report in 1933 that roughly ten percent of the girls who arrived reported that they had been sexually abused or exploited by a family member...
In the end, as with so many things in life, we’re ultimately left unsatisfied - suspecting strongly that the girls’ accusations against Coyner are correct, but unable to prove it definitively.

What does the test using page 99 miss from The Incorrigibles? It doesn’t seem like much, actually, which makes me wonder how much of the narrative I could’ve axed, saving myself and the reader time, and the press some money…
Learn more about The Incorrigibles at the University of Nebraska Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue